Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.03.32

Matthias Haake, Michael Jung (ed.), Griechische Heiligtümer als Erinnerungsorte: von der Archaik bis in den Hellenismus. Erträge einer internationalen Tagung in Münster, 20.-21. Januar 2006. Alte Geschichte.   Stuttgart:  Franz Steiner Verlag, 2011.  Pp. 163.  ISBN 9783515098755.  €36.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Nathan T. Arrington, Princeton University (

This slender edited volume presents papers from a 2006 conference held at the Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität Münster, which aimed systematically to analyze Greek sanctuaries as lieux de mémoire that shaped historically based group identities. In an introductory chapter, Michael Jung outlines the methodological premises and scholarly aims of the conference. He adopts the concept of a lieu de mémoire from Pierre Nora’s multi- volume work, which offered a melancholic, nostalgic history of France and “Frenchness” in terms of its shifting conceptualizations and configurations of memory.1 Jung seeks to use this concept to analyze the relationship between ancient Greek memories and the construction (political and social) of group identities. Greek sanctuaries as places of communication, display, and representation offer ideal venues for examining the dynamics of the formation, deployment, contestation, and impact of collective memories. In these spaces rich in myths, dedications, and rituals, particular moments from the past may coalesce into orientation points for living communities. Memory was a means of appropriating the past.

Jung provides a succinct overview of the social and political dynamics of memory and coherently outlines the possible roles of sanctuaries (12-16). Yet the concept of lieux de mémoire as formulated by Nora cannot easily be applied to the ancient Greek world. Certainly Jung is aware of the differences in approaches (13-14), but this reviewer wonders if Nora’s terminology retains heuristic usefulness. For Nora, lieux are not necessarily physical places, but include persons, texts, songs, natural features, and so forth. These lieux play a crucial role in the formation of a specifically national identity. They are modern and post-modern phenomena, distinguished from milieux de mémoire, which were authentic, lived memories that (once) imbued the present with meaning. Lieux de mémoire represent a rupture with the past. In Nora’s words: “Lieux de mémoire are fundamentally vestiges, the ultimate embodiments of a commemorative consciousness that survives in a history which, having renounced memory, cries out for it. The notion has emerged because society has banished ritual. It is a notion produced, defined, established, constructed, decreed, and maintained by the artifice and desire of a society fundamentally absorbed by its own transformation and renewal.”2 In contrast to Nora, Jung and the volume’s other contributors (with one exception) focus on physical places (sanctuaries), non-national identities, and pre-modern communities with plenty of rituals.3 And yet the term “milieu de mémoire” does not appear once in this book. While Jung reconceives Nora’s terminology, he eschews Jan Assmann’s concept of cultural memory, deeming Assmann’s emphasis on elite or specialist configuration of canonical memory inapplicable to ancient Greece (10-12). 4 But this is only one aspect of cultural memory’s methodological repertoire (as Jung notes). Assmann’s emphasis on ritual and his elucidation of time horizons seem more applicable to ancient Greek sanctuaries than Nora’s lieux.

Seven chapters follow the introduction, four of them concerning panhellenic sanctuaries.

Anne Jacquemin begins her contribution (“Le sanctuaire de Delphe comme lieu de mémoire”) by contextualizing Nora’s work in the French social and political developments of the 1970s and 80s, briefly considering its relevance for other nations. This leads to the question of the applicability of Nora’s concept to the ancient Greeks. The oracle and the games represent possible Greek (i.e., panhellenic) lieux de mémoire. In contrast, historical events with panhellenic significance involving Delphi – particularly the Sacred Wars – leave few signs of having acted as lieux de mémoire. Jacquemin accurately notes: “… témoigner d’un événement ne suffit pas à faire un lieu de mémoire” (23). Finally, Jacquemin turns to votive monuments for battles. But rather than interpret these as lieux de mémoire for the ancient Greeks – which would profoundly distort Nora’s terminology, since the monuments celebrate combats between shifting constellations of Greek cities rather than symbols of Hellenic identity – Jacquemin shows that they became lieux de mémoire in the Imperial period. Roman writers stressed the votive aspects of the monuments and wove a simplified, Athenocentric, anti-Barbarian, moralizing discourse around Delphi. Jacquemin notes the important role of the elite in creating this memory, but oddly does not correlate her observations with Assmann’s concept of cultural memory.

Kai Trampedach continues the discussion of Delphi (“Götterzeichen im Heiligtum: das Beispiel Delphi”), focusing on the damage to Spartan and Athenian monuments before the Battle of Leuktra (371) and the Sicilian Expedition (415), in that order. Gold stars dedicated to the Dioskouroi disappeared from the sanctuary, while a crown of tangled weeds appeared on Lysander in the Monument of the Admirals. Similarly, before the disastrous Athenian expedition to Sicily, crows pecked at the Athenian monument commemorating victory at the Eurymedon. Trampedach reconstructs the iconography of the monuments and notes that both the Spartan and Athenian dedications marked the beginning of their hegemonies. Accordingly, the damage to these monuments signaled the end of their dominance and regional leadership. He argues that these divine signals had a basis in reality – placing particular weight on local oral reports – and that they indicated the manifestation of the god’s presence across the sanctuary. Such divine signs carried panhellenic significance (in contrast to signs that appeared in any individual city’s sanctuary) and marked Delphi as a panhellenic Erinnerungsort.

Elizabeth R. Gebhard elucidates the memories that framed Titus Quinctius Flamininus’s proclamation of freedom in the Isthmian stadium in 196 BC (“Poseidon on the Isthmus: Between Macedon and Rome, 198-196 B.C.”). Monuments would have evoked Greek successes in the Persian wars, while recent ruins indexed Roman destruction of Antigonid power. This chapter includes a discussion of the date and formation of this destruction evidence (excavated in 1989), and a lucid overview of the late third and early second century sanctuary’s historical context.

Klaus Freitag turns our attention to a third panhellenic sanctuary: Olympia (“Olympia als ‘Erinnerungsort’ in hellenistischer Zeit”). The author seeks to counter the notion that the Hellenistic period marked a caesura in the sanctuary’s use, arguing that cultic and agonal life continued and the sanctuary flourished, even while certain patterns of dedication may have changed. He traces the ways in which dedications responded to shifting political realities, and outlines how they rendered Hellenistic monarchs present, honored particular persons, illustrated alliances, and legitimized rule. Though he hesitates to draw generalizations, Freitag emphasizes the active role that Elis played in fostering a seemingly neutral zone for display. He argues that this panhellenic sanctuary always constituted an Erinnerungsort, and one that offered particular benefits to Elis.

Michael Jung discusses the burials of Leonidas and Pausanias in Sparta, reconstructing the chronology, motivations, and changing meanings of their interments (“‘Wanderer, kommst du nach Sparta…’ Die Bestattung der Perserkämpfer Leonidas und Pausanias im Heiligtum der Athena Chalkioikos”). Pausanias was first buried near Kaiadas. Later, following the Delphic oracle’s instructions for atonement, the Spartans reinterred his body in (perhaps rather near?) the sanctuary of Athena Chalkioikos. Jung hypothesizes that the Delphic oracle was consulted following the earthquake of 461, and that heroic games were established at this time. Leonidas’ corpse, too, was moved. Desecrated by the Persians then respectfully buried at Thermopylai, later it was transported back to Sparta. Jung argues that this reinterment occurred on the eve of the Peloponnesian War, and explains the act in the context of Athenian and Spartan competition over the memories of their participation in the Persian Wars. Spartan claims to sacrifice at Thermopylai responded to Athenian claims to leadership at Marathon. The burial of Leonidas next to Pausanias transformed the sanctuary into an Erinnerungsort for the Persian Wars centered on Spartan sacrifice at Thermopylai and Spartan vengeance and victory at Plataiai. This is a compelling reading, although it must remain somewhat speculative given the nature of the evidence. Polly Low’s treatment of the Spartan dead now can be added to Jung’s bibliography.5

The last two contributions discuss inscriptions related to sanctuaries. Matthias Haake examines a deme decree from Rhamnous in honor of Antigonos Gonatas (“Antigonos II. Gonatas und der Nemesistempel in Rhamnous. Zur Semantik göttlicher Ehren für einen hellenistischen König an einem athenischen ‘lieu de mémoire’”). The decree moves that the Rhamnousians offer sacrifices and crowns to the monarch during the Nemesia festival.6 Haake is interested in the significance of this physical and ritual context. He argues that by the Late Classical period the sanctuary of Nemesis was a lieu de mémoire in which confrontations between Greeks and Barbarians repeatedly were evoked and commemorated. The connection of Helen to Nemesis – and hence the connection of Nemesis to the Trojan Wars – helped prepare the ground for the later stories that Nemesis aided the Athenians at Marathon and that her cult statue was shaped from marble brought by the Persians for a trophy. In honoring Antigonos Gonatas in the Nemesis sanctuary, the Rhamnousians alluded to his victory over the Gauls at Lysimacheia, weaving this success into a history of victory over foreigners and defense of Attica.

The chapter by Renaud Gagné offers a slightly amended French translation of an article that appeared in Classical Antiquity on “The Pride of Halikarnassos,” a late Hellenistic inscription found at Bodrum (“Une carte de mémoires: l’épigramme de Salmacis”).7 It is interesting to note that the paper in Classical Antiquity was not framed as a memory study. Gagné shows that each foundation myth in the epigram presents an aition for a local ritual that evokes and delimits the city’s spaces. Ritual time implicates the individual reader by organizing commemorated events, such as birth and marriage, into coherent human time. The most relevant portion of the chapter for the edited book’s theme is a discussion of how the epigram negotiates competing memories of the city’s ethnic history. Imbued with references to Karian identity, the text still leaves room for Greek and panhellenic readings and associations.

Each chapter in this book makes a concise contribution to scholarship on Greek sanctuaries, history, and archaeology. The Archaic period receives surprisingly little treatment. Jacquemin’s discussion of Delphi and Jung’s treatment of Spartan burials benefit the most from engaging with the topic of memory. But overall, the concept(s) of memory remain(s) somewhat vague. More cross-referencing amongst the contributors and an introduction or conclusion that summarized and tied together the loose threads between the papers would make the collection more coherent. An index would help, too. As a group, the papers succeed in suggesting the potential to consider the workings of memory in sanctuary settings.


1.   P. Nora, ed., Les lieux de mémoire, Paris, 1984-1992. Portions of this project were translated into English in two separate publications: L. D. Kritzman, ed., Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, New York, 1996-1998; D. P. Jordan, ed., Rethinking France: Les Lieux de Mémoire, Chicago, 2001-2010. German version: E. François and H. Schulze, eds., Deutsche Erinnerungsorte, Munich, 2001.
2.   P. Nora, “General Introduction: Between Memory and History,” in Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, Vol. 1: Conflicts and Divisions, New York, 1996, 6.
3.   Cf. the more comprehensive approach of the papers gathered in E. Stein-Hölkeskamp and K.-J. Hölkeskamp, eds., Die griechische Welt: Erinnerungsorte der Antike, Munich, 2010.
4.   Recently translated: J. Assmann, Cultural Memory and Early Civilization: Writing, Remembrance, and Political Imagination, Cambridge, 2011.
5.   Low, P. 2010. “The Power of the Dead in Classical Sparta,” in M. Carroll and J. Rempel, eds., Living through the Dead: Burial and Commemoration in the Classical World, Oxford and Oakville, 1-20.
6.   SEG XLI 75.
7.   SEG XLVIII 1330; “What Is the Pride of Halicarnassus?,” Classical Antiquity 25 (2006), 1-33 = SEG LVI 1192.

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