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Sanctuaries and Sacred Topographies of Ancient Greece


Introductory Description

Sanctuaries were the physical stage on which Greek culture, competition, and identity evolved and played out. The
remains of sanctuaries such as Delphi, Olympia, or the Athenian Acropolis present us with some of the most instantly
recognisable and iconic remains from the Greek world. Yet, the vast majority of the hundreds of sanctuaries and
shrines of ancient Greece remain relatively unknown. This module will look at the origins of Greek sanctuaries, and
their development from the Early Iron Age (ca. 900 BCE) until the Roman period. This module will introduce some of
the key sanctuaries of the Greek world and will examine how their remains reflect larger shifts in society including
colonisation, tyranny, oligarchy, democracy, conquest and plague. We will examine and analyse the key elements of
sanctuaries, and the role that these played in ritual practice. Finally, we will consider why some sanctuaries thrived,
while others failed. This module will examine a range of Greek sanctuaries within their landscape contexts. It will
examine artefact remains and inscriptions, as well as evidence of ritual practice from Greek and Greek-related
sanctuaries including Delphi and Olympia, Dodona, Mt. Lykaion, Bassae, Artemis Orthaia, Artemis at Bauron, the
Agrive Heraion, the Samian Heraion, Siwah, Cumae and Epidaurus. This module will provide a 15 CAT material based
complement to our Greek Religion module during the 2021/2022 academic year.

Principal Module Aims

• An understanding of current research methodologies for identifying sanctuaries and ritual.

• Critical awareness of the advantages and limitations of written and visual material in the study of the ancient world.

• An familiarity of the methodological differences when researching material of the prehistoric and historic periods.

• The ability to evaluate the merits of different methodological approaches to the material.

• The ability to select and present material clearly and with a coherent argument both verbally and in writing.

• Finalists will develop the ability to set their findings into a wider comparative context, drawing in other aspects of the study of the ancient world.

Learning Outcomes

• Enhance research, writing and communication skills.
• Have gained an understanding of the availability, uses & limits of primary source material.
• By the end of this module students should expect to have deployed electronic technologies for their learning.
Understanding of the general relationship between social concerns and ritual practice from the Early Iron Age
to the Roman periods.

Photo of the Greek sanctuary at Delphi. Photo shows the ancient theater in the foreground, the temple of Apollo in the mid-ground, and the valley and mountains that surround Delphi. Photo by Conor Trainor