ElAnt v2n1 - REVIEWS - Marinatos, N., & R. Hagg, eds., Greek Sanctuaries: New Approaches

Volume 2, Number 1
June 1994

Greek Sanctuaries: New Approaches

edited by Nanno Marinatos and Robin Hagg 
(London: 1993)
pp. 336 + illustrations

Reviewed by Carol G. Thomas, 
Department of History,
University of Washington,
WA 98195,
e-mail: carolt@u.washington.edu

The volume contains ten articles and one synthetic overview whose collective purpose is "to look at the totality of functions that a Greek sanctuary might encompass" (cover description). Careful reading of all the contributions may fulfill this purpose but the individual discussions are specialized in nature, providing only partial views of the larger picture. The contributors are archaeologists and historians of religion, a division clearly reflected in the nature of the contributions. Those by Helmut Kyrieleis and Elizabeth Gebhard represent the method of excavators of single sites, K. giving a full account of the excavation of the Heraion at Samos from the early eighteenth century to the present and G. recounting the history of the Isthmian sanctuary from its eleventh/tenth century origin into Roman times.

Archaeological in nature but confined to a particular ritual aspect is the contribution by Nancy Bookidis - "Ritual Dining at Corinth". Material evidence testifies to the facilities for washing, cooking and dining; the very stewpots and pitchers used in the rituals are fully described.

Kevin Clinton balances the physical evidence against written sources in his recreation of the Mysteries in "The Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Eleusis". The origin of the Mysteries, C. argues, is to be found in the Thesmophoria and other similar cults practiced by women. Both accounts offer the present-day reader a window on the actual activities of ancient participants in the two sanctuaries.

Joining documentary material to the physical evidence, Rob W. M. Schumacher and Ulrich Sinn treat one specific function of sanctuaries that is not as well known as their more traditional uses. "Three Related Sanctuaries of Poseidon: Geraistos, Kalaurei and Tainaron" points out the nature and role of asylum sanctuaries. In Schumacher's discussion, a close correlation between function and location is convincingly argued: the marginal position of suppliants is reflected in the marginal situations of the sanctuaries. Location also figures importantly in Sinn's more general discussion of asylum, "Greek Sanctuaries as Places of Refuge." He reminds us that entirely practical considerations such as adequate space for potentially large numbers played a part in the siting of sanctuaries.

Deliberate juxtaposition marks Walter Burkert's treatment of the sanctuary of Samothrace. In "Concordia Discors", he asks to what extent the archaeological findings and the literary tradition confirm each other on important issues from origins of the site to the ritual role of iron rings. In addition to the merit of his findings on these questions, the exercise is a valuable demonstration of the different pictures presented by the two kinds of data. It urges caution whenever we draw upon such varied data.

Widest in their reach are the chapters by Christiane Sourvinou- Inwood, "Early Sanctuaries, the Eighth Century and Ritual Space: Fragments of a Discourse" and Catherine Morgan "The Origins of Pan-hellenism". The first examines the distortions in reading the data that arise from "certain unexamined expectations about what we should find. . . ." (2). Theories advanced by De Polignac and Ian Morris exemplify this danger. Beyond arguing against these specific theories, S-I's wider discourse stresses the continuity of development of sanctuaries from the Dark Age into the Archaic Age. Equally sweeping in scope is Morgan's search of the archaeological record for the origins of pan-hellenism. Focussing on Olympia, Delphi and Ionian sanctuaries, she, like S-I, finds roots in the Dark Age. Thus it is not surprising that no single description suits every case. In pan-hellenism, as in every facet of culture, regionalism is the defining feature of Dark Age Greece.

The tenth article is a bibliographic essay by Erik Ostby, 35 pages of representative sampling of publications since 1965, organized primarily by location. While the book has "an intentional inclination towards Anglo-Saxon scholarship" (xi), the bibliography demands competency in a range of modern languages. For that very reason, it is not "complete". Still the compilation is rich and will be very helpful for students of Greek sanctuaries.

Thus the contributions are mixed in approach and manner. They also vary considerably in length and style. Kyrieleis' long historiographic account of the Heraion runs smoothly and engagingly as we experience, for example, the joy of the excavators in finding the face of the gigantic Archaic kouros. Absorbing the detail of the far shorter discussion of ritual dining at Corinth is more difficult as one learns differences between Room 1 of Building L-M:28 and Room 3 of Building M-16-17. Knowing that there are telephone facilities at modern Geraistos (Kastri) and that a rectangular building at Tainaron became a chapel for the Ayios Asomato is not essential to an understanding of Poseidon's asyla sanctuaries.

Level of detail in every case indicates that this is a collection for specialists. Although not as technical, perhaps, as the Swedish Institute Proceedings, it is worth noting that Marinatos and Hagg are regular editors of the Swedish volumes and that four of the contributors to Greek Sanctuaries also have papers in the symposium on Early Greek Cult Practice (Stockholm, 1988).

The collection under review is very unlike Greek Religion and Society , edited by P. E. Easterling and J.V. Muir (Cambridge, 1985) which is well suited for student use. Muir and Easterling's collection has another admirable feature that is missing from Greek Sanctuaries : its foreword written by Moses Finley provides a setting for the individual pieces and imparts a strong coherence. A masterful introduction by John Gould - "On Making Sense of Greek Religion" - then directs the readers' attention to the most fundamental issue in the study of ancient religion. By contrast, Greek Sanctuaries concludes with a brief synthesis by Nanno Marinatos. While it addresses four major points - beginnings, sanctuaries in a competitive culture, sanctuaries as places of refuge, sanctuaries as cultural centres - it is too general to draw together the disparate contributions of the articles. Nor do the articles often interact with one another. Schumacher is exceptional in pointing to concurrences with Sinn's discussion and Morgan refers to the perspective of Sourvinou-Inwood. This is not to say that the individual contributions are without value; their value would be enhanced if they had been given a larger context. I will return to many of the articles for clarification of specific points but to understand the full nature of Greek sanctuaries, I will look elsewhere.

The book is carefully produced. Illustrations, essential to many of the articles, are numerous and of high quality.

Carol G. Thomas, e-mail: carolt@u.washington.edu

COPYRIGHT NOTE: Copyright remains with authors, but due 
reference should be made to this journal if any part of the above is 
later published elsewhere.

Electronic Antiquity Vol. 2 Issue 1 - June 1994
edited by Peter Toohey and Ian Worthington
ISSN 1320-3606