Introduction to the Volume

In: Acta Archaeologica
Jesper Tae Jensen
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George Hinge
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Cult in ancient Greece was primarily defined through rituals set in a sacred space accompanied by music, song, and sacrifice. Processions, festivals, art, architecture, and votive offerings were the major vehicles by which the Greeks honored their deities. Cult buildings and their adornment served both to distinguish and project the identity of any given cult. Since cult is grounded in both space and material culture it has left concrete traces – archaeological, epigraphical, and literary – in the ancient record.

Erik Hansen’s renowned three-volume work Le Temple d’Apollon du IVe siècle from 2010 is already a standard handbook for all students of ancient Greek architecture as well as for Classical archaeologists in general. With over 500 designs and drawings, Erik Hansen has documented the construction phases and building techniques used in raising the third largest temple on the Greek mainland. This achievement, in combination with Erik Hansen’s influence as a scholar, teacher and not least as a mentor, is the reason why we have dedicated this publication to his honor.

Aspects of Ancient Greek Cult II includes 17 contributions presented to Erik Hansen written by an international team of American, British, Danish, French, German, Greek, Italian, and Swedish scholars. The volume treats the subject of ancient Greek cult in its physical, political, and social contexts, including studies from the fields of history, archaeology, philology, art history, musicology, and the history of religion.

The book is divided into four major parts. Since this volume is written in honor of Erik Hansen, the first part is an introduction to the scholar and the man Erik Hansen with three articles and a selected bibliography of Erik Hansen’s academic works. In the first article, Dominique Mulliez presents an overview of Erik Hansen’s work for the French School at Athens, especially his invaluable contributions to the reconstruction of the whole building process behind the Apollo Temple.

Gregers Algreen-Ussing starts with a personal anecdote, a journey together with Erik Hansen on the Peloponnese to visit an old cypress. He describes Hansen’s empathetic working method, which leads to a better understanding of the whole construction process of the temple.

In Jesper Tae Jensen’s contribution, we are introduced to two of Hansen’s restoration works in Denmark, the Marble Bridge across Frederiksholm’s Canal (erected 1739–1745) and his personal house in Wildersgade (built ca. 1725), both in Copenhagen. These two examples demonstrate Hansen’s unique approach to architecture.

The first part ends with a selected bibliography of Erik Hansen’s most important contributions to Classical archaeology.

After this personal section, we present fourteen scholarly contributions, divided into three sections with the titles “Sacred Architecture,” “Sacred Space,” and “Sacred Objects.”

Part 1, “Sacred Architecture,” begins with a contribution by Erik Hansen himself. He analyzes the construction of the fourth-century BC temple of Apollo at Delphi, taking into consideration the unique epigraphic buil‑ ding accounts that have been made accessible to non- philologists with Jean Bousquet’s edition and French translation of the fragments published in 1989. Hansen offers a revised calendar of the building process.

Manolis Korres enters a detailed discussion of the outline and all essential elements of the Stoa of Eumenes at Athens. It is a preliminary study for a more trustworthy reconstruction of this central architectural monument, presented by one of the most renowned experts in the field.

After these two case studies, Mark Wilson Jones takes a more general view of what a temple is in a Greek context and how the cultural function of the temple defines how it is designed architecturally and artistically. All interested in ancient Greek architecture and cult should read this reflective contribution since it deals with essential topics within these two major areas.

Antonio Corso analyzes a scene on an amphora by the Andokides Painter, dated around 520 BC. The painting has four bathing girls in front of a building with a column. The author suggests a new interpretation: The girls are young, Athenian females who gathered in the sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron. The activities of the girls and the representation of the temple are in keeping with what we know of this Archaic sanctuary of Artemis, which had been renewed by Peisistratos just a few years earlier.

Ditte Zink Kaasgaard Falb puts the Greek temple in a larger historical and cultural context, comparing it with Near Eastern and especially Syrian temples. The author argues that the Syrian temple in antis had played a significant role in the development of the Greek prostyle temple.

In the last article in the first section, Spencer Pope looks at the development of monumental temple building in Sicily and Magna Graecia in the early Classical Period. He demonstrates that intense constructions in the aftermath of the Battle of Himera led to a coherent style that eventually influenced mainland Greek architecture.

Part 2, with the title “Sacred Space,” begins with an article by Gunnel Ekroth, who explores the immediate surroundings of Greek altars and the cultic functions of such installations: While previous research has focused on the altars themselves, this article studies the deposition of ash, bones and votives in the surrounding space, allowing a better understanding of the complex ritual reality of the ancient Greeks.

The article of David Scahill explores the architectural manifestations of ritual and public dining spaces in the ancient Greek world as defined by architectural characteristics or other material remains. Analyzing the architectural record in conjunction with literary testimonia, the author presents a more precise typology of the different dining spaces and the associated practices.

Drawing on art, architecture, archaeobotany, and literary and epigraphic sources, Elena C. Partida underlines the importance of the landscape in the ancient Greek sanctuary and the close connection between vegetation and cult. She also touches on the attempts to reconstruct the ancient landscape.

The article of Hedvig von Ehrenheim argues that the cult of Asklepios developed and spread fast due to a shift in mentality in Classical times, making the cult more democratic. It is argued that the development of Greek medicine influenced religious healing in the cult of Asklepios in Archaic times and the ease and low expense of consulting a Hippocratic doctor in Classical times.

We have given Part 3 the title “Sacred Objects.” The first article in this section is written by Gil H. Renberg, who presents the first survey of the full range of sources for the giving of paintings as gifts to the gods in the Greek-speaking world, including Egypt. The author collects not only the paintings that still survive on terracotta, stone, and stucco but also a varied and intriguing body of literary and epigraphical testimonia. The result is a study that, for the first time, provides scholars of Greek religion and Greek art with a detailed overview of this aspect of the Greek cult.

The article of Marta Saporiti uses the tragedies of Euripides as evidence for a reconsideration of the topography of the Athenian cults of Apollo, particularly Apollo Pythios, Hypoakraios and Delphinios. Euripides’ references to these cults are generally well known among topographers of Athens, but they are typically considered only as disembodied quotations. However, reading and analyzing the literary sources more deeply as unitary wholes can enrich and complicate the traditional debates about the topography of these cults.

Christian Ammitzbøll Thomsen challenges the traditional taxonomy of cult-associations (as groups of “venture capitalists”) by way of a re-examination of the literary and epigraphic evidence and a comparison between eranistai and other cult-associations, primarily thiasōtai and orgeōnes, with a specific focus on various aspects of organization, membership, and activities in Hellenistic Athens.

The last article of the volume, written by Anne Marie Carstens, focuses on the materialization of cults of the Anatolian goddess in her various guises. It offers a preliminary investigation of the Late Bronze Age roots of later ritual practice in the major sanctuaries of the great goddess of Western Anatolia and the Aegean Islands. It is, in essence, a field study of the nature and transmission of cult tradition and the conservative power of ritual.

Previous research on ancient Greek cult and rituals has been based primarily upon ancient literary sources; seldom does it draw on the rich repository of archaeological evidence. Iconography, architecture, topography, ceramics, and art all have much to teach us about ancient Greek religion. We anticipate that this interdisciplinary anthology will significantly impact our understanding of ancient Greek cult and the communication between deities and humans, between mortal and immortal, in ancient Greece.

This book takes inspiration from Erik Hansen’s work on ancient Greek architecture, cultural contexts, and musical studies. In honor of Hansen’s commitment to ground-breaking methodologies and interdisciplinary scholarship, all articles presented in the book use new approaches and methods in order to interpret aspects of the ancient Greek cult in a fresh light.

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