Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.06.01

Susan E. Alcock and Robin Osborne, Placing the Gods: Sanctuaries and Sacred Space in Ancient Greece. Oxford: 1994. Pp. x + 271. $55.00. ISBN 0-19-814947-6.

Reviewed by John K. Papadopoulos, Antiquities, The Getty Museum (

The study of sanctuaries and of cult activity has always held a privileged, if not elevated, position in both classical archaeology and Aegean prehistory. The central role of cult in ancient Greek society and its impact on both an individual and a communal level would be disputed by few scholars. This meticulously edited and usefully illustrated volume focuses on the significance of where the worshipping of gods took place. The point of departure is François de Polignac's now classic La naissance de la cité grecque: Cultes, espace et société VIIIe - VIIe siècles, published in 1984, in which it was argued that the geographical placing of cult centres played a major part in establishing the concept of the city-state in the Archaic period. De P. stressed that the sacred landscape was dynamic and that the physical construction of such a landscape went hand-in-hand with the construction of Greek polis. De. P's general theory not only significantly shifted focus from earlier works which considered the placing of sanctuaries in the Greek landscape, such as Vincent Scully's The Earth, the Temple, and the Gods, but provided a new avenue of enquiry and understanding in the formation of the Greek state by suggesting that religion and politics were more intimately intertwined than was previously thought. It also sought to account for phenomena previously considered separately, thereby producing an interpretative model. In essence, de P. succeeded in combining anthropological structuralism with a concern for social archaeology, particularly the brand espoused by Anthony Snodgrass, to inspire a revival of interest in early Greek religion. The plethora of recent publications, including the present volume, is ample proof.1 Not all scholars have accepted de P.'s conclusions,2 but this has led to healthy debate and a much clearer understanding of a formative period of Greek history.

Versions of several of the papers were presented at an Archaeological Institute of America Colloquium in 1991: "Sanctuaries in Outer Space: Locating Cult in Ancient Greece."3 As a collection of essays by well-known, mostly younger scholars, Placing the Gods has many strengths, not least of which is its broad geographical coverage and its diachronic scope. The latter extends de P.'s analysis back to the Minoan and Mycenaean era and well beyond the Archaic period by extending the study to Hellenistic and Roman Greece. For all this, the editors are to be highly commended. Another strength is the sharp focus of the book, as various essays continuously refer back to de P.'s central theory, reading like a virtual Festschrift for him.

The eleven essays presented in this volume vary so much in scope and in time that to treat them collectively by way of a review would lose much of importance. Rather, I will treat each of the papers separately.

The first essay, by de Polignac himself, "Mediation, Competition and Sovereignty: The Evolution of Rural Sanctuaries in Geometric Greece" (pp. 3-18), is a succinct, well annotated, and compelling restatement of de P.'s own position ten years after the publication of La naissance. Translated from the French by Osborne, the essay is vital reading for any student of Greek religion. New finds since 1984 have undermined de P.'s emphasis on profound change in the 8th century, and the present essay modifies some of his views about the abruptness of these changes. The concepts of Mediation, Competition and Sovereignty form the basis of de P.'s evolutionary model across the Bronze to Iron Age transition. Such an evolutionary model, as de P. insists (p. 18), is not a positivist concept of gradual and linear evolution, but rather a path from mediation to sovereignty against a backdrop of change from one state to another. De P.'s point of departure is the extra-urban cult-place, whether it is a simple altar, a sacred grove, or a monumental temple. The urban nucleus itself is only one component of the landscape of the city: "the territory of a city is understood as the 'space of the citizens'" (p. 3). Although territory is defined, more could be said about what the city actually is, particularly in the 10th-9th centuries. Whatever the vicissitudes of regional diversity, the majority of rural cults, including the Argive Heraion, are seen to have been, in their original form, rallying and meeting points for the local population. Such locations gave rise to festivals, likened to fairs, which are considered as occasions for exchanging hospitality and for sharing between neighbouring communities.4 It was here that trade deals were settled, alliances and marriages made, at the level of peer-polity interaction. The "citizens" in this early phase are seen as participants interacting on a relatively equal footing. The cults are located at convenient points within a regional or local network of settlements, none of which can yet aspire to dominate the sanctuary. The Early Iron Age sanctuary at Isthmia is considered a classic example of this form of mediation, located close to communication routes forming the only fixed point at which the local population, seen as scattered and living in mountain areas (p. 5), can meet and exchange goods. Although not far from the sea, Isthmia is categorized as a "mainland" form of sanctuary. There is much emphasis here, as there is elsewhere, on Isthmia, since archaeologically visible cult installations in the immediate post-Mycenaean period (i.e. in the 11th century according to conventional chronology) are exceedingly rare. This represents just one departure from La naissance, where Isthmia received far less attention. A second form of mediation is considered to be the result of an increase in sailing and maritime commercial activity in the Aegean from the 10th century B.C. on. This leads to the appearance, "almost everywhere" (p. 6), of cults on coasts, promontories or at the mouths of rivers. Again, the use of such sites reflects the important place these cults held in formal processes of exchange. De P. points to the cults of Artemis in Attica as examples of this form of mediation, particularly those at Brauron and Mounykhia.5 Moreover, some of these sanctuaries provided an intermediary in contacts and exchange between foreigners, especially Phoenicians, and coastal residents, presumably Greek. It is here that Phoenician maritime expansion is briefly considered and reference made to the sanctuaries of Herakles/Melquart, along the route leading to metal-rich Thrace and Thasos, and the sanctuary of Aphrodite/Astarte at Kythera. De P. is quick to note that the Phoenician foundations of such cults, later "Hellenized" by the Greeks, have not been confirmed archaeologically, although he does list Kommos as a probable example of a Phoenician sanctuary. A good deal more could be said about the Phoenician and eastern complexities of many early sanctuaries in Greece,6 and certainly much more could be said about the economic motivation of such foreigners,7 but de P. prefers to draw attention to the Samian Heraion, which he calls "a purely Greek sanctuary" (p. 7). The diverse, international dedications found at Samos are regarded as a chain of complex and variable exchanges; both gifts and pillage played a part, as did Phoenicians, Cypriots, Samians and other Greeks travelling across the Aegean. Hera on Samos reigns over maritime space in the same manner that Hera at Prosymna protects the Argive plain and the relations which unite its communities.

In attempting to explain the origins of an extra-urban sanctuary de P. has to manoeuvre across the Bronze to Iron Age transition. This he does by trying to balance the opposing notions of continuity and rupture, and by arguing that a simple comprehensive social model should not be applied on account of differing conditions. Be that as it may, de P.'s analysis is firmly rooted in the Early Iron Age, and his reluctance to tackle the nature of Bronze Age cult results not only in a certain level of superficiality, but a lack of temporal depth. On the one hand, he sees sacred landscape as shifting and fluid in nature, on the other, he begins his diachronic analysis at a time when our evidence is paltry. Is the structure of the archaeological record so radically different in the Early Iron Age that his hypothesis of mediation cannot, and should not, be applied to what went before? Here we are hampered by a real lack of archaeologically visible evidence, but if a notion of profound changes is embraced, then it is necessary to explain what the new Early Iron Age pattern has changed from. If, however, one accepts de P.'s statement that the first generation of cults appears in the 10th century, then this genesis corresponds, in de P.'s reckoning, to a period of stabilization of contacts and exchanges, following the instability and contraction of earlier centuries. Such contacts could be established between neighbouring regions (e.g. Olympia, Kombothekra, Tegea, Kabirion, Hyampolis, Hymettos, the Cretan caves) or with passing sailors (Samian Heraion, Mounykhia, Brauron, Polis cave on Ithaka, Kommos). But the spectacular development in the visibility of these cults is not in the 10th century, but rather in the 9th and 8th centuries. In order to explain this change, a new transforming factor is introduced: the phenomenon of ritualized social competition (p. 11). The materialization of this phenomenon is the notable increase of metal prestige offerings, especially the tripod cauldron. De P.'s notion of ritualized competition is not just one of the victor's prize, but rather a concept in which the sanctuaries were becoming theatres of increasingly ostentatious rivalry between aristocrats in the expression of power and authority. The tripod is not only a prize, but a symbol of authority. The obvious problem of why such competitions had to occur in extra-urban sanctuaries is essentially explained by the argument of "energy expenditure". De P. sees remoteness as a determining factor; hence "distance confers a greater price, a greater prize, and a greater prestige on gathering at certain places" (p. 11).

In contrast to the extra-urban, cults as enacted at intra-urban sanctuaries consisted of sacrificial meals within a building in which the resident aristocracy gathered round their kings. Here the meal, not the dedication, is of importance, and access to such meals, by way of cult, clearly expressed the authority of the local dominant group(s). The sacrifice, along with the sharing and consuming of the goods, "allowed the basileis regularly to bring into play and to strengthen the multiple networks of alliance, solidarity, and dependence which gave them authority over the inhabitants of the region" (p. 12). Whereas sanctuaries at a distance from centres of power remained secure from seizure of direct control, sanctuaries close by found themselves in the midst of complex processes of appropriation. By the 8th century B.C., de P. argues, two rivalries find expression in the common sanctuary. The first between aristocracies of different small towns of the region; the second where the basileis display in each community. Because of its central and shared status the rural cult becomes the principal place in which conflict is repeated and ritualized. De P. argues that the rural sanctuary became the site of an appropriation which was at first symbolic and then actual. It is here that we move from mediation and competition into the realm of sovereignty, and the genesis, in de P.'s estimate, of a first form of state. Such a mechanism saw different situations arising in accordance with different conditions. The classic scenario is represented by Argos and the Argive Heraion, against which the experiences of Sparta and Athens-Attica are compared and contrasted. Different blends of mediation and competition explain the various developments at the majority of rural sanctuaries: sanctuaries expressive of the territorial sovereignty of the city; sanctuaries promoting regional federation; sanctuaries suitable for interregional or Panhellenic gatherings. I was surprised that the Geometric settlement on the promontory at Zagora on the island of Andros, was not only neglected by de P., but by all authors in the volume. This site represents the most fully excavated Geometric settlement in the Aegean. With regard to cult it provides an interesting case, which does not easily fit into de P.'s model, nor into alternative models such as temples replacing a ruler's dwelling.

Having developed and modified his model for mainland Greece, de P. turns his gaze to the colonies. The path between mediation and sovereignty is seen as retaining a fundamental place in colonial cities. The Heraion on Cape Lacinium south of Kroton is compared, for example, with the Samian Heraion. Despite such a comparison, the colonial roles are played out at the level of the city as a whole, and, as such, the field of competition is moved from within the city towards the outside and towards "the other" -- indigenous populations. For de P., non-urban cult in the colonial Greek world conveyed a clearly identifiable cultural model, offering "indigenous elites a theatre in which they could all compete for prestige by adopting these forms as distinctive signs of social superiority" (p. 17). Central in de P.'s argument is the notion that, in comparison to the Greek mainland, colonial societies in their early days were egalitarian. Despite the fact that a society of full equality may be an ideal never realized,8 de P.'s argument with regard to the colonial experience oversimplifies a number of more complex processes (we will return to these in the essay by Susan Cole).9

I have concentrated too long on de P.'s paper, but as an updated summary of La naissance it represents a significant contribution and forms the basis by which the following papers are defined. Chapters 2 and 3 critically examine the importance of sanctuary placement in the Minoan and Mycenaean worlds. In "After the 'Big Bang' -- What? or Minoan Symbols and Shrines Beyond Palatial Collapse" (pp. 19-36), Alan Peatfield seeks to understand the nature of changes in Minoan religion from the Neopalatial to the Postpalatial period. His two basic questions are 1) was there a religious fragmentation concomitant with the political and economic fragmentation evident in the Postpalatial period? 2) what does the proliferation of different cult places in the Postpalatial period tell us about contemporary society?10 His paper begins with an historical perspective in which he attempts to define his own study as a diachronic one and to cast it as "progressive". He also points to the relative neglect of the Postpalatial period and his contribution attempts to address this imbalance. P. proceeds to describe the salient features of rural sanctuaries in the Neopalatial period, drawing much on his earlier work on Minoan peak sanctuaries.11 He summarizes the significant topographic characteristics of the peak sanctuaries and notes that they appear late in the Prepalatial period, that all are in use by the Protopalatial period, but only a few (those associated with palatial/urban centres) survive into the Neopalatial period. He sees in this transition a fundamental transformation from a diffuse peasant/popular cult to a centralized, elite-dominated one (p. 23). As important as this transformation is, P. is content to describe it and seems reluctant to provide any explanatory thesis. This is to be regretted since there is much fertile ground here. To his credit, P. notes that there is some correlation of Neopalatial peak sanctuaries with the palatial polities. He dutifully cites the important contributions in this field by John Cherry,12 but does not seize the opportunity to consider how these materializations of cult bear on the question of state formation in the Palatial period, nor whether they may have contributed to his "Big Bang" theory. P. also discusses other cult manifestations in the rural landscape, namely caves and "sacred enclosures". He argues persuasively that both of the latter are far fewer in number than previously supposed.13 This in itself is an important contribution and goes far in addressing an earlier imbalance where scholars were quick to see religious significance in all manner of things Minoan. P. draws attention to the important distinction in material features between the peak sanctuaries, on the one hand, and the caves and sacred enclosures, on the other. These are important observations, but I was surprised by P.'s failure to distinguish between extra-urban/palatial sanctuaries (peak sanctuaries, caves and enclosures) and the alleged intra-urban/palatial sanctuaries or shrines, of whatever form, whether real or imaginary, that have been a preoccupation of Minoan archaeologists since the days of Arthur Evans.14 This is a serious omission, particularly in the light of de Polignac's framework, which ultimately effects P.'s conclusions on the Postpalatial period. For P. the primary evidence for Postpalatial religion is the phenomenon of the Goddess-with-Upraised-Arms (henceforth GUA). The presence of such figures allows the recognition of Postpalatial shrines, since P. states that many have been found in shrines, mostly bench sanctuaries, frequently with "snake-tubes". Dripping as they do with symbolism, P. lists a minimum of 18 sites which participated in this cult. Such sites are invariably independent sanctuaries within settlements; according to P. they are public shrines and the GUA is a manifestation of public cult rather than an object of private devotion. In contrast to the settlement sanctuaries, there is very little evidence for rural shrines in the Postpalatial period. On the basis of this evidence P. concludes that "this strongly indicates that the centralized Neopalatial structure of integrated palatial and rural cults simply ceased to exist" (p. 32). Although this may be true, P.'s failure to analyze the Neopalatial intra-urban shrine leaves much to be desired. Moreover, is the Palatial Minoan "snake goddess" really that different from the Postpalatial GUA? And does this constitute, as P. states, a "redefinition of fundamental importance" (p. 33)? Part of the problem lies in the "Big Bang" analogy; a catchy phrase for a title, but not the most enlightening model. In order to posit such a cosmic fragmentation or rupture, one has to look at the society at large, not just supposed religious manifestations.

In Chapter 3 James Wright looks to the Mycenaean era in "The Spatial Configuration of Belief: The Archaeology of Mycenaean Religion" (pp. 37-78). This contribution goes a long way in revealing how little we really know about Mycenaean religious beliefs. The map (p. 39, ill. 3.1) lists a grand total of six sites as certain Mycenaean sanctuaries (Aigina [Aphaia], Amyklai, Asine, Mycenae, Phylakopi and Tsoungiza). W. begins his study by listing three broad categories of Mycenaean religious sites: 1) megaron with central hearth and throne; 2) "shrine building"; 3) open air settings. He notes that there has been little agreement among scholars as to how the available evidence can be fitted into these categories and also a lack of rigour, even neglect, in stating the criteria for their selection. In order to rectify this situation, W., following Colin Renfrew,15 moves "towards establishing the theoretical basis of an archaeological recognition of religion and in constructing a methodology for its reconstruction" (p. 39). In so doing W. casts his net wide; he begins with the work of Geoffrey Conrad, Arthur Demarest, Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens, and then moves on to cite a multitude of scholars from Emile Durkheim and Arthur Saxe, to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. There is overkill here, and it is not always clear that the anthropological and economic theory cited is well digested. The thrust of this theory is to establish, first of all, "the fundamental relationship between belief and culture" (p. 40), and, secondly, that "it is theoretically possible to examine and to some extent derive meaning from the archaeological record of a society by studying the organization of dwelling, the spatial form of settlement and distribution in the landscape, especially if a long-term record can be documented" (p. 41). It is a feature of Aegean prehistory and classical archaeology that the fewer material remains one has, the more theory one uses, and vice versa. The lack of evidence for cult installations in the Mycenaean world, especially in the Early Mycenaean period, forces W. to look at what evidence we have. There is much of value to such a holistic approach but in the end we are left with a shaky physical referent. In W.'s framework geographic places and their components are invested with a sacred meaning that frequently refers back to the human body. Thus the components of the human body are seen as metaphors for social and cosmic structures. In this way W. attempts to give substance to cognitive space. He proceeds to give his study temporal depth, by beginning his analysis with the Middle Bronze Age and moving into the Palatial (Late Helladic). In keeping with his theoretical framework, W. analyzes the spatial organization of the settlement. There is, however, in what W. means by "spatial organization", a hint of good old "ground-plan" archaeology. Walls, defined spaces, and permanent installations, such as pithoi, dominate this perspective. W. is careful to incorporate burial evidence, and this adds an important dimension to his study. But throughout his analysis it is the hearth, physically and conceptually, that forms the inner core, the "holy of holies". Although conceding that the hearth symbolizes the centre of state, W. believes that it also describes a cult institution of power and authority, not only reinforcing the state, but also demonstrating "the priority of religion in the organization of the seat of power" (p. 58). Here there is much grey area between the secular and the divine. Even the columns surrounding the hearth are imbued with symbolism, "they are not merely decorative" (p. 58). Although I do not doubt the deeper symbolic meaning of the column, I feel that W. has gone a little too far. Moving from the megaron, W. discusses the "Cult Centres" within citadels and then the locales of cult activity outside the palaces (pp. 61-72). One is again reminded about how little we know about visible Mycenaean cult activity. Even the shrines within the citadels considered as "certain", such as the "Cult Centre" at Mycenae and the "Shrine" at Phylakopi, are not as straightforward as W. would have us think. In dealing with the East and West Shrines of so-called Sanctuary at Phylakopi, Emily Vermeule wrote: "... in the end it is not even certain whether they were workshops or religious storage areas rather than shrines in a formal sense ..."16 Indeed, many of the features ennumerated by W. as common to "cult centres within citadels" do not disallow that these buildings were for the storage of cult paraphernalia. W.'s study attempts to view old, well-known, material in a new way, but it is the material itself that is problematic, much of it poorly preserved, quantitatively meagre and archaeologically invisible. In one sense, W.'s approach to the material overwhelms the information it actually yields. The challenge, posed by de Polignac, of continuity and rupture over the Bronze to Iron Age divide is taken up by Carla Antonaccio in "Placing the Past: the Bronze Age in the Cultic Topography of Early Greece" (pp. 79-104). A. aims to contribute towards an understanding of the development of the sacred landscape of the protohistorical Greek Iron Age. Her essay summarizes and builds on material covered in her recently published monograph, and in several articles discussing similar themes (and sites).17 A. believes that the developments seen in the Late Geometric period were the result of a continuous and intensifying development. She draws attention to tomb and hero cult at Mycenaean tombs during the Early Iron Age and goes on to consider how Bronze Age sanctuaries, tombs and habitation sites structured the landscape in certain parts of Greece. She hammers home de P.'s idea of how sanctuaries articulated the territory of the nascent poleis and she distinguishes between de P.'s "monocentric" pattern, assigned to Athens, and the "bipolar" model used for other communities. This done, A. proceeds to discuss Bronze Age sanctuaries, tombs and palace/settlement sites. Her map of Bronze Age sanctuaries (p. 87) does not completely match that provided by Wright (p. 39). She focuses on Argos, de. P's classic "bipolar" model,18 Athens. The case of Sparta is thrown in between and presented as another model, different from Argos and Athens, essentially in its distinction (politically and geographically) between the helots and the Spartiate masters. Unlike other poleis, the Spartans did not try to bind the different elements of their population, but rather to keep them apart. A. concludes by drawing the various threads of evidence together, particularly how cult is located to structure the physical territory and to articulate borders at points of contact between different groups (or ethne). The use of tomb cult, followed by hero cult, fully treated in her monograph, adds much to her discussion. A.'s insistence, however, in concentrating on Argos, Sparta and Athens, already treated by de P., reworks well-trodden ground and leaves the Early Iron Age landscape reliant on the same few major sites.

In chapter 5, Catherine Morgan, having previously dealt with Olympia and Delphi within the framework established by de Polignac,19 turns her attention to the Corinthia in "The Evolution of a Sacral 'Landscape': Isthmia, Perachora, and the Early Corinthian State" (pp. 105-142). In 1984 de Polignac discussed the region briefly, mentioning Perachora and listing Isthmia as a border sanctuary in the 8th and as the site of a major temple in the 7th century B.C. M. outlines the evidence for the origins of the Isthmian shrine and the early activity at the site, before focusing on the "real changes in the material expression of religious belief" in the 8th century (p. 125), also a period of great expansion at the sanctuary of Hera at Perachora (pp. 129-135). M. then moves to Corinth proper (pp. 135-138) and to the final piece in her puzzle, the temple on Temple Hill at Corinth (pp. 138-139). Her essay concludes with a lucid overview of continuity and change in Corinthian religion (pp. 139-142). A great deal of space is devoted to early Isthmia, and this provides a useful summary of the Mycenaean and Early Iron Age material from the site which M. will be publishing soon in a forthcoming volume in the Isthmia series. Although there is evidence for Mycenaean activity at Isthmia from Late Helladic I to IIIC, M. goes to lengths to show that the origins of religious activity can be placed at the very beginning of the Protogeometric period (mid 11th century B.C.). Such a date, if correct, would make the site one of the earliest post-Mycenaean religious centres. Although the site produced no evidence of any building earlier than the first large temple (terminus post quem now 690-650 B.C.), cult activity is "assured" in the Early Iron Age on the basis of the deposit found in the SE temenos. This consists of a concentration of redeposited ash, packed with bone (burnt and unburnt), unburnt pottery, as well as a small quantity of figurines and jewellery, and eight 8th-century tripods. The non-ceramic material of earlier date is not great, nor is it possible to distinguish the deposit stratigraphically from earliest Protogeometric through Protocorinthian. The primary pottery shapes are drinking vessels, mainly cups, but a wide range of other shapes is also represented. Though considered "cultic", is such a repertoire that different to the fills of contemporary wells in the area of the later Athenian Agora, or at the Toumba building at Lefkandi? Be that as it may, M. does not provide any details of the bone (no mention of species, nor whether any of it is human). The earlier Mycenaean remains consist of "small scatters of pottery with no spatial focus, plus a few small Psi and Phi figurines" (p. 110). For M. there is nothing to suggest that during Mycenaean times there was anything more than a modest settlement, whereas the homogenous ash deposit of the Early Iron Age is cultic. No doubt this will be fully explained in the forthcoming volume, and the bone properly detailed, but on the basis of the evidence presented here, this reader is dubious about pre-8th century cult. One final point is that in dealing with Corinthian cult in general, M. is firmly rooted in the Greek perspective; the Phoenician and eastern complexities of Corinthian cult, many of them dating back to the 7th century, if not earlier, are nowhere considered.20

In chapter 6, "Archaeology, the Salaminioi, and the Politics of Sacred Space in Archaic Attica" (pp. 143-160), Robin Osborne returns not only to his preferred hunting ground, Attica, but also to the 7th century, a period he previously characterized as a crisis in archaeological history.21 He rightly points to a lack of dialogue between historians and archaeologists and states that too much interest has been concentrated on two separate areas in the study of the sacred geography of Attica. The first is the development of the polis in the 8th century, firmly based on archaeological evidence; the other on the Peisistratid centralization of cult, deeply rooted in literary evidence. The study of these two poles fails to consider developments between 700 and 550 B.C. Having set his sights on the 7th century, O. launches into a full-frontal assault on the "orthodox" view, represented by Catherine Morgan and Alan Shapiro,22 of the development of cult and Archaic Athens. Two crucial aspects in his argument are: the continued spread, first of all, of cult activity in the face of declining evidence for other forms of activity. Secondly, the persistence with which energy and material goods continue to be devoted to cult activity on sites far from the centre (p. 151). By questioning the orthodox view, O. considers the priestly family known as the Salaminioi and the generally held assumption that they did not come into Attica until the 6th century. By relocating the Salaminioi and their cults to the 7th century, O. demonstrates how radically our understanding of the political developments of sacred geography in Attica is transformed. Not all historians will agree with such a relocation, but O.'s arguments are compelling, not least because he musters both the literary and archaeological evidence, to argue for the use of cult to stake a claim to territory as well as town before 700 B.C. Moreover, the 7th-century expansion of cult activity is seen in terms of marking out claims for the whole community, rather than as a mark of division. By exploiting the Salaminioi as a model, O. views Athenian cult practice and politics as linked from the beginning, a link that had nothing to do with Peisistratos.

It is not until chapter 7, "Sanctuaries in the Chora of Metaponto," (pp. 161-198) that we move from Greece to her colonies. In his opening statement (p. 161), Joseph Carter sets the tone of his study: "A major criticism of current theorizing about Greek rural sanctuaries and their relation to the 'birth of the city' is that elaborate theoretical structures rest on inadequate factual bases.... What is needed ... are detailed studies of the phenomena, case by case." This is exactly what C. proceeds to provide. Succinct and well-illustrated, the chapter is a useful overview of cult activity both in the urban centre of Metaponto and the territory of its chora. Cast in the genre of a preliminary report, in the best tradition of classical archaeology, C. draws on the results of both excavation and surface survey in one of the better documented archaeological regions in the Mediterranean. No fancy French theory for C., however. The name of de Polignac is cited only twice, both times with reference to the Italian translation.23 On the second occasion he takes exception: on p. 177 C. argues that a large number of rural shrines came into existence in the chora of Metaponto in the 6th century B.C., at about the same time as the area was extensively occupied. The majority of these are located along river valleys, often in close proximity to farmhouses. "As they appear in the context of a densely occupied territory, they cannot be, as has been urged by de Polignac, territorial markers for the polis, nor do they occupy, except in a few cases ....., a frontier between the familiar world of the chora and ... the no-man's land at the edge of the chora" (p. 177). Here I would have welcomed more debate between C. and de P., especially since C.'s views directly challenge those of de P. Methodical in its detail, though devoid of stimulation and challenge, the chapter is essential reading for English-speakers interested in this region of southern Italy without wishing to plough through numerous Italian reports and conference proceedings. The paper provides the necessary base from which this region may be more fruitfully explored in the future.

The colonial experience is further discussed, in a more penetrating way, by Susan Cole in "Demeter in the Ancient Greek City and its Countryside" (pp. 199-216). Demeter was rarely the principal deity of a Greek city, but she was worshipped by Greeks wherever agriculture was practised. De Polignac in 1984 characterized the typical sanctuary of Demeter as "peri-urban", providing a link between city and chora. This link was magnified, according to de P., in the colonies, since "peri-urban" sanctuaries offered indigenous populations the opportunity of assimilation by adopting Greek cultural forms. The true picture, however, as envisaged by C. is more complex. By surveying over fifty Demeter sanctuaries in the Greek world mentioned by Pausanias, C. is able to speak with authority on the cult of this goddess. Sanctuaries of Demeter can be found on city acropoleis, though usually remote from primary habitation areas, in a village outside, in the suburban countryside, or at the borders of the territory. C. shows that there were a variety of determining factors in the choice of site for such sanctuaries, including topographical considerations (water source, hillside, separation from inhabited areas, clear visibility of agricultural territory), as well as local history. Moreover, C. demonstrates that votive deposits for Demeter are not only very consistent, wherever they are found, but that by the 7th century B.C. Greek cities had formalized women's rites for the goddess in remarkably similar ways. This is the first time in this entire volume that the question of gender in cult activity is aired. It is done subtly and to great effect. By concentrating on the cult of a single, but well-distributed, deity, and bringing into play the question of gender, C. provides important insights into the structure, function and context of social organization, against the backdrop of the agricultural needs of the city, whether in Greece or abroad. This is an important essay that in its own quiet way shakes de Polignac's foundations for its lack of gender view.

In Chapter 9, Madeleine Jost discusses "The Distribution of Sanctuaries in Civic Space in Arkadia" (pp. 217-230), a sequel to her previous work on sanctuaries in Arkadia.24 This is the only paper in the volume to provide illustrations of the region discussed. From the outset, J. underlines that the distribution of sanctuaries in a region is related to the physical geography, its human geography and its political life. She places much emphasis on the physical landscape: "In Arkadia, as elsewhere, certain places seem destined to be considered sacred, and certain types of landscape attract cults of one divinity rather than another" (p. 217). J. begins by discussing the various physical features of the landscape which dictated choice of site (spring, grove, cave, peak, hillock), then the landscape preferences of individual gods (pp. 219-220), before considering the network of sanctuaries (pp. 220-225). These display a variety of configurations, and sanctuaries in the countryside outnumber those of the town. Having set the Arkadian stage, J. concentrates on the case of Megalopolis, which provides a revealing link between city and countryside. She writes: "Few political facts or events have a significant influence on the religious topography of a region" (p. 225). Synoecisms, however, are an exception, since they bring about a partial remodelling of the religious landscape. The example of 4th-century Megalopolis is interesting. Despite the displacement caused by synoecism, old rural sanctuaries were maintained, while urban cult centres were created in order to avoid the total deracination of the traditional population. The link between rural and urban cults, referred to as "doublets", is discussed within the framework established by de Polignac. But J. goes further by revealing two contradictory sentiments that lie behind the politics of cult: "the idea that the principal sanctuary in the countryside has a character of its own that is bound to the place where it is situated and cannot be transposed elsewhere; and the desire to create some reminder in the town of the rural sanctuary, not to rival its prestige or assume control of it but rather to recognize its importance and the loss which its total absence from the town would create" (p. 228). This adds a new slant to de P.'s concepts of mediation, competition and sovereignty. The complementarity between rural and urban sanctuaries was made concrete by religious processions and sacrifices, which increased the cohesion of social groups by means of common activity. J.'s thorough knowledge of this large and varied part of the Greek mainland, allows her to point to subtle correspondences, varying from city to city, between the sanctuaries of the countryside and those of the town.

In Chapter 10, "Trees in the Landscape of Pausanias' Periegesis" (pp. 231-245), Darice Birge looks at an aspect of cult activity that few archaeologists can ever see. A natural element, trees differ from all human constructed features in the landscape. As B. shows, trees may serve as spatial markers within a physical territory on account of their being stationary and visible, as well as temporal markers because of their longevity. By exploiting the testimony of Pausanias, B. distinguishes between stands of trees as features of the physical landscape, single trees, stands of trees at hero shrines, and stands of trees at shrines of gods. The importance of trees in cult activity serves as a warning to archaeologists and provides just one aspect of religion that is, in the main, archaeologically invisible.

In more ways than one, the final essay by Susan Alcock, "Minding the Gap in Hellenistic and Roman Greece" (pp. 247-261) is not only the most refreshing, but the one that extends the discussion of sanctuaries and sacred space furthest. A.'s focus is Greece in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. She emphasizes the need to consider sacred landscapes through time, as well as the need to reinforce contemporary literary sources with sophisticated archaeological evidence (primarily the carefully and critically scrutinized evidence from surface surveys, which is addressed on pp. 248-253). A.'s point of departure, however, differs radically from that of all the other papers in this volume. She turns her attention first to that most abundant and copious of all archaeological finds: negative evidence, that is, the absence of material traces of human activity. While other papers in the volume are concerned with where sanctuaries were placed, A.'s concern lies in the problem of where they were not, or rather by cases where known sanctuaries disappear or cease functioning. Continuing the contrast, A. moves away from the larger cults, toward the smaller. Many of the latter are not particularly large, nor particularly rich in votive offerings; moreover, they rarely appear, with the exception of Pausanias, in our literary and epigraphic sources. By focusing on the negative and neglected, A. provides a penetrating avenue for enquiry and exposes the complex pressures which reworked both the political and religious landscapes of Greece under Roman rule. In so doing she points to the inadequacy of traditional explanations, which have relied heavily on notions of economic distress and demographic collapse. By invoking the proverbial glass -- either half-full or half-empty -- A. reveals how much the negative evidence can provide. It remains for someone to apply her method to the Early Iron Age.


  • [1] Especially R. Hägg, N. Marinatos and G.C. Nordquist (edd.), Early Greek Cult Practice. Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium at the Swedish Institute at Athens, 26-29 June 1986 (Stockholm 1988); C. Morgan, Athletes and Oracles: The Transformation of Olympia and Delphi in the Eighth Century B.C. (Cambridge 1990); N. Marinatos and R. Hägg (edd.), Greek Sanctuaries: New Approaches (London and New York 1993).
  • [2] The most recent is C. Sourvinou-Inwood, "Early sanctuaries, the eighth century and ritual space: Fragments of a discourse," in Marinatos and Hägg, ibid., pp. 1-17, who suggests that de P.'s hypothesis radically falsifies ancient realities.
  • [3] Abstracts published in AJA 96, 1992, pp. 348-349.
  • [4] Cf. L. Gernet, "Frairies antiques," in Anthropologie de la Grèce antique (Paris 1968), pp. 21-61.
  • [5] For the Sanctuary of Artemis at Mounykhia see now L. Palaiokrassa, To hiero tes Artemidos Mounichias (Athens 1991).
  • [6] See, for example, S.P. Morris, Daidalos and the Origins of Greek Art (Princeton 1992); M. Kochavi, "Some connections between the Aegean and the Levant in the Second Millennium B.C.: A View from the East," in G. Kopcke and I. Tokumaru (edd.) Greece between East and West: 10th - 8th Centuries B.C. Papers of the Meeting at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University March 15-16, 1990 (Mainz 1992), pp. 7-15. Note also de Polignac's own paper, "Influence extérieure ou évolution interne? L'innovation cultuelle en Grèce géométrique et archaïque," in the same volume, pp. 114-127.
  • [7] See especially S. and A. Sherratt, "The growth of the Mediterranean economy in the early first millennium BC," World Archaeology 24, 1993, pp. 361-378.
  • [8] See P.K. Wason, The Archaeology of Rank (Cambridge 1994), p. 1.
  • [9] See also I. Edlund, The Gods and the Place (Stockholm 1987).
  • [10] See further AJA 96, 1992, p. 348.
  • [11] See references given on p. 20, n. 3.
  • [12] Cited on p. 21, n. 10.
  • [13] E.g. B. Rutkowski, Cult Places of the Aegean (New Haven and London 1986).
  • [14] These feature prominently in Rutkowski, ibid., pp. 21-45, and especially pp. 119-153.
  • [15] C. Renfrew, The Archaeology of Cult. The Sanctuary at Phylakopi (BSA Suppl. 18, 1986).
  • [16] E. Vermeule, Review of Renfrew, The Archaeology of Cult, in AJA 92, 1988, pp. 293-294.
  • [17] C.M. Antonaccio, The Archaeology of Ancestors: Tomb Cult and Hero Cult in Early Greece (Lanham, Maryland 1995); her published papers are cited on p. 269.
  • [18] The Argive Heraion forms one pole and the settlement of Argos, with its sanctuaries, the other.
  • [19] Morgan (n. 1).
  • [20] The most succinct account of these is by C.K. Williams, II, "Corinth and the Cult of Aphrodite," in M.A. del Chiaro (ed.), Corinthica: Studies in Honor of Darrell A. Amyx (Columbia, Missouri 1986), pp. 12-24.
  • [21] R.G. Osborne, "A Crisis in Archaeological History? The Seventh Century in Attica," BSA 84, 1989, 297-322.
  • [22] Morgan (n. 1); H.A. Shapiro, Art and Cult under the Tyrants at Athens (Mainz 1989).
  • [23] F. de Polignac, La nascita della città greca: Culti, spazio e società nei secoli vii e viii a.C. (Milan 1991).
  • [24] M. Jost, Sanctuaires et cultes d'Arcadie (Paris 1985); ead., "Sanctuaires ruraux et sanctuaires urbains en Arcadie," in A. Schachter (ed.), Le sanctuaire grec (Geneva 1992).