Twilight of the Gods: Greek Cult Places and the Transition to Late Antiquity

Conference Paper

Regional Studies I
Saturday 2021-10-16
09:30 | 11:30
Place: Swedish Institute at Athens & Zoom

Persistence, Suppression, Extinction: The Transition to Late Antiquity in the Sanctuaries of Phokis and East Lokris

Dimitris Grigoropoulos, 2021-10-16, Time: 10:10 - 10:50


Situated between the Northern Euboean and the Corinthian Gulf, the regions of East Lokris and Phokis were home to some of the oldest sanctuaries in ancient Greece. With the exception of the sanctuary of Delphi, which has seen important work on its Late Roman and Early Byzantine phases in recent times, our knowledge about the end of pagan cults and the fate of sanctuaries in Late Antiquity (here taken to encompass ca. the later 3rd to the 7th c. AD) in this part of the Greek mainland is limited. Equally little is known about the process of Christianization (or more correctly, Christian monumentalization) in the towns, countryside, and sanctuaries of this wider region, as suggested, for instance by church building projects. This paper reviews the archaeological, epigraphic and historical evidence for this transition, placing emphasis on the changing nature of sanctuary spaces, as well as on the breaks and/or continuities in cult. It is argued that, while the transition varied between larger urban centres and the countryside (including smaller urban communities), pagan cult sites suffered serious destructions already by the middle to later 4th c. AD which may be linked to various causes. At the same time, the transition was far from smooth, as suggested by the evidence for damages to cult places and/or (in some cases also) for their modification in order to house Christian cults. Although the chronology of these changes is far from clear, it appears that already by the later part of the 5th c. AD, a new landscape, in which pagan cults had little or no place, began to be emerging, as suggested by the expansion of church building, especially on the coastal areas and on sites of strategic (incl. symbolic) importance.

About the Author(s)

Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (DAI), Abteilung Athen

Grigoropoulos Dimitris
Grigoropoulos Dimitris

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