Samothrace temple complex

The Samothrace Temple Complex, known as the Sanctuary of the Great Gods (Modern Greek: Ιερό των Μεγάλων Θεών Ieró ton Megalón Theón), is one of the principal Pan-Hellenic religious sanctuaries, located on the island of Samothrace within the larger Thrace. Built immediately to the west of the ramparts of the city of Samothrace, it was nonetheless independent, as attested to by the dispatch of city ambassadors during festivals.

It was celebrated throughout Ancient Greece for its Mystery religion. Numerous famous people were initiates, including the historian Herodotus, one of very few authors to have left behind a few clues to the nature of the mysteries, the Spartan leader Lysander, and numerous Athenians. The temple complex is mentioned by Plato and Aristophanes.

During the Hellenistic period, after the investiture of Phillip II, it formed a Macedonian national sanctuary where the successors to Alexander the Great vied to outdo each other's munificence. It remained an important religious site throughout the Roman period. Hadrian visited, and Varro described the mysteries. The cult fades from history towards the end of Late Antiquity, when the temple would have been closed during the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire.

Map greek sanctuaries-en
Samothrace among the main Greek temples

Cult of the Great Gods

The identity and nature of the deities venerated at the sanctuary remains largely enigmatic, in large part because it was taboo to pronounce their names. Literary sources from antiquity refer to them under the collective name of "Cabeiri" (Greek: Κάβειροι Kábeiroi), while they carry the simpler epithet of Gods or Great Gods, which was a title or state of being rather than the actual name, (Μεγάλοι Θεοί Megáli Theí) on inscriptions found on the site.

The pantheon of Samothrace

Plan Samothrace sanctuary-en
Site plan of the sanctuary, showing chronology of major construction

The Pantheon of the Great Gods consists of numerous chthonic deities, primarily predating the arrival of Greek colonists on the island in the 7th century BC, and congregating around one central figure – the Great Mother.

  • The Great Mother, a goddess often depicted on Samothracian coinage as a seated woman, with a lion at her side. Her original secret name was Axiéros. She is associated with the Anatolian Great Mother, the Phrygian Mount, and the Trojan Mother Goddess of Mount Ida. The Greeks associated her equally with the fertility goddess Demeter. The Great Mother is the all-powerful mistress of the wild world of the mountains, venerated on sacred rocks where sacrifices and offerings were made to her. In the sanctuary of Samothrace, these altars correspond to porphyry outcroppings of various colours (red, green, blue, or grey). For her faithful, her power also manifested itself in veins of magnetic iron, from which they fashioned rings that initiates wore as signs of recognition. A number of these rings were recovered from the tombs in the neighbouring necropolis.
  • Hecate, under the name of Zerynthia, and Aphrodite-Zerynthia, two important nature goddesses, are equally venerated at Samothrace, their cult having been distanced from that of the Great Mother and more closely identified with deities more familiar to the Greeks.
  • Kadmilos (Καδμίλος), the spouse of Axiéros, is a fertility god identified by the Greeks as Hermes; a phallic deity whose sacred symbols were a ram's head and a baton (kerykeion), which was obviously a phallic symbol and can be found on some currency.
  • Two other masculine deities accompany Kadmylos. These may correspond to the two legendary heroes who founded the Samothracean mysteries: the brothers Dardanos (Δάρδανος) and Iasion (Ηετίων). They are associated by the Greeks with the Dioscuri, divine twins popular as protectors of mariners in distress.
  • A pair of underworld deities, Axiokersos and Axiokersa, are identified to Hades and Persephone, but do not appear to be part of the original group of pre-Hellenic deities. The legend (familiar to the Greeks) of the rape of the goddess of fertility by the god of the underworld also plays a part in the sacred dramas celebrated at Samothrace; although less so than at Eleusis.
  • During a later period this same myth was associated with that of the marriage of Cadmos and Harmony, possibly due to a similarity of names to Kadmilos and Electra.

The rituals

Samothraki Hieron
General view of the remains of Hieron, from the southwest (site plan, number 13)
20020800 Sanctuary of the Great Gods Palaiopolis Samothrace island Thrace Greece
A picturesque view of the Hieron

The whole of the sanctuary was open to all who wished to worship the Great Gods, although access to buildings consecrated to the mysteries was understood to be reserved for initiates. These rituals and ceremonies were presided over by the priestess in service to the people. The head priestess, and often a prophetess, was titled a Sybil, or Cybele.

The most common rituals were indistinguishable from practice at other Greek sanctuaries. Prayer and supplications accompanied by blood sacrifices of domestic animals (sheep and pigs) burnt in sacred hearths (εσχάραι/escháre), as well as libations made to the chthonic deities in circular or rectangular ritual pits (βόθρος/vóthros). A large number of rock altars were used, the largest of which was surrounded by a monumental enclosure at the end of the 4th century BC (site plan, number 11).

The major annual festival, which drew envoys to the island from throughout the Greek world, probably took place in mid-July. It consisted of the presentation of a sacred play, which entailed a ritual wedding (hieros gamos); this may have taken place in the building with the Dancer's Wall which was built in the 4th century BC. During this era the belief arose that the search for the missing maiden, followed by her marriage to the god of the underworld, represented the marriage of Cadmos and Harmonia. The frieze (see photo below) on which the Temenos is indicated may be an allusion to this marriage. Around 200 BC, a Dionysian competition was added to the festival, facilitated by the construction of a theatre (site plan, number 10) opposite the great altar (site plan, number 11). According to local myth, it is in this era that the city of Samothrace honoured a poet of Iasos in Caria for having composed the tragedy Dardanos and having effected other acts of good will around the island, the city, and the sanctuary.

Numerous votive offerings were made at the sanctuary, which were placed in a building made for the purpose next to the great altar (site plan, number 12). Offerings could be statues of bronze, marble or clay, weapons, vases, etc. However, due to Samothrace's location on busy maritime routes the cult was particularly popular and numerous often very modest offerings found their way there: excavations have turned up seashells and fish hooks offered by mariners or fishermen who were likely thanking the divinities for having protected them from the dangers of the sea.

The initiation

A unique feature of the Samothracean mystery cult was its openness: as compared to the Eleusinian mysteries, the initiation had no prerequisites for age, gender, status or nationality. Everyone, men and women, adults and children, Greeks and non-Greeks, the free, the indentured, or the enslaved could participate. Nor was the initiation confined to a specific date and the initiate could on the same day attain two successive degrees of the mystery. The only condition, in fact, was to be present in the sanctuary.

The first stage of the initiation was the myesis (μύησις). A sacred account and special symbols were revealed to the mystes (μύστης); that is to say the initiate. In this fashion, Herodotus was given a revelation concerning the significance of phallic images of Hermes-Kadmylos. According to Varro, the symbols revealed on this occasion symbolized heaven and earth. In return for this revelation, which was kept secret, the initiate was given the assurance of certain privileges: Hope for a better life, and more particularly protection at sea, and possibly, as at Eleusis, the promise of a happy afterlife. During the ceremony the initiate received a crimson sash knotted around the waist that was supposed to be a protective talisman. An iron ring exposed to the divine power of magnetic stones was probably another symbol of protection conferred during the initiation.

Samothraki Arsinoe rotunda 2
Frieze with bulls from the Arsinoé rotunda (Samothrace Museum) (site plan, number 15)

The preparation for the initiation took place in a small room south of the Anaktoron (site plan, number 16; literally the House of the Lords), a type of sacristy where the initiate was dressed in white and was given a lamp. The myesis then took place in the Anaktoron, a large hall capable of accommodating numerous already initiated faithful, who would attend the ceremony seated on benches along the walls. The initiate carried out a ritual washing in a basin situated in the southeast corner and then made a libation to the gods in a circular pit. At the end of the ceremony, the initiate took his place seated on a round wooden platform facing the principal door while ritual dances took place around him. He was then taken to the north chamber, the sanctuary where he received the revelation proper. Access to this sanctuary was forbidden to non-initiates. The initiate was given a document attesting to his initiation in the mysteries and could, at least during the later period, pay to have his name engraved on a commemorative plaque.

The second degree of the initiation was called the epopteia (ἐποπτεία, literally, the contemplation). Unlike the one year interval between degrees which was demanded at Eleusis, the second degree at Samothrace could be obtained immediately after the myesis. In spite of this, it was only realized by a small number of initiates, which leads us to believe that it involved some difficult conditions, though it is unlikely that these conditions were financial or social. Lehman assessed that it concerned moral issues, as the candidate was auditioned and required to confess his sins. This audition took place overnight in front of the Hieron (site plan, number 13; literally the holy place). A foundation was recovered here which could have supported a giant torch; generally speaking, the discovery of numerous lamps and torch supports throughout this site confirms the nocturnal nature of the initiation rites. After the interrogation and the eventual absolution awarded by the priest or official the candidate was brought into the Hieron, which also functioned as an epopteion (place of contemplation) where ritual cleansing took place and sacrifice was made into a sacred hearth located in the center of the "holy of holies". The initiate then went to an apse in the rear of the building, which was probably intended to resemble a grotto. The hierophant (ἱεροφάντης / hierophántês), otherwise known as the initiator, took his place on a platform (bêma), in the apse where he recited the liturgy and displayed the symbols of the mysteries.

During the Roman era, towards 200 AD, the entrance to the Hieron was modified to permit the entrance of live sacrificial offerings. A parapet was constructed in the interior to protect the spectators and a crypt was fitted into the apse. These modifications permitted the celebration of the Kriobolia and the Taurobolia of the Anatolian Magna Mater, which were introduced to the epopteia at this time. The new rites saw the initiate, or possibly only the priest by proxy, descend into a pit in the apse. The blood of the sacrificial animals then flowed over him or her in the fashion of a baptismal rite.

Description of the sanctuary

Samothraki Arsinoe rotunda
Foundation of the Arsinoé Rotunda and fragment of the dedication (site plan number 15)

The Samothrace site may appear to be somewhat confusing at first glance; this is due to a combination of the unusual topography and the two century long period over which the site was developed. The sanctuary occupies three narrow terraces on the west slopes of mount Hagios Georgios, separated by two steep-banked torrents. The entrance is in the east through the Ptolemy II propylaeum, also known as the Ptolemaion (site plan number 20), which spans the eastern brook and functions as a bridge. Immediately to the west, on the first terrace, there is a somewhat circular paved depression, containing an altar in the centre, which was undoubtedly a sacrificial area; although the precise function of this place has not further been determined.

A winding path descends towards the main terrace, between two brooks, where the main monuments to the cult can be found. A large tholos, the Arsinoëion, or Arsinoë Rotunda (site plan number 15), the largest covered round space in the ancient Greek world (20 m in diameter), may have served to welcome the theoroi, sacred ambassadors delegated by cities and associations to attend the great festivals at the sanctuary. The decoration of rosettes and garlanded bull's heads leads some to believe that sacrifices may have also taken place here. The rotunda was built on an older building of which only the foundation has remained. The Arlington Massachusetts Reservoir is an exact copy of the rotunda.

Right at the opening of the path leading to the sanctuary, one finds the largest building, the Building of the Dancer's Frieze (site plan number 14), sometimes called the Temenos, as it corresponds to a monumental enclosure marking a much older sacrificial area. There is a great deal of variance in reconstructed plans for this portion of the site (compare for example the different editions of Lehman's archeological guide — the plan used in this article reflects the 4th edition). It is in essence a simple court preceded by an ionic propylaeum decorated with the well-known dancer's frieze (photo below). The celebrated architect Scopas may have been the designer.

The most important building of the cult, the epopteion, is located to the south of the Temenos. This building bears the inscription of Hieron (site plan number 13). It is not known who dedicated this building, but given the magnificence was likely a royal. It is some type of temple, but there is no peripteros (surround of columns) and only a single prostyle (partly restored – see photo above). The architectural ornamentation of the facade is noteworthy for its elegance. The interior boasts the largest unsupported span in the ancient Greek world – 11 metres. The south end of this building is an apse (fr: abside inscrite), which constitutes the most sacred portion. This apse may represent, according to R. Ginouvès, a grotto for conducting chthonic rituals. The main altar, and the building for displaying votive offerings, are located to the west of the Hieron (site plan numbers 11 & 12).

Samothraki propylon griffin
Capital of the front of the west facade of the Ptolemy II Propylaeum: Griffons devouring a doe (site plan number 20)

The Anaktoron, the building for greeting the myesis is located north of the Arsinoë Rotunda, though the version currently visible dates to the imperial era.

The third and final terrace, West of the spiritual centre of the sanctuary, is primarily occupied by votive buildings such as the Miletean Building, so named as it was dedicated by a citizen of Miletus (site plan number 5), and the Neorion, or naval monument (site plan number 6). It is also the location of a banquet hall (site plan number 7). Three other small Hellenistic treasures are not well known (site plan, numbers 1 to 3). Overlooking the central terrace, the space is above all dominated by a very large portico (104 m long; site plan number 8) which acts as a monumental backdrop to the sanctuary, above the theatre.

It is in this area of the site that the most recent traces of occupation can be found: a square Byzantine fort in effect built of treasure; as it re-used building material from the original site.

Diodorus Siculus (III.55) relates a legend of the temple being founded by Myrina, before she was defeated by Mopsus and Sipylus, and slain:

“After that, while subduing some of the rest of the islands, she was caught in a storm, and after she had offered up prayers for her safety to the Mother of the Gods, she was carried to one of the uninhabited islands; this island, in obedience to a vision which she beheld in her dreams, she made sacred to this goddess, and set up altars there and offered magnificent sacrifices. She also gave it the name of Samothrace, which means, when translated into Greek, 'Sacred Island', although some historians say that it was formerly called Samos and was then given the name of Samothrace by Thracians who at one time dwelt on it. However, after the Amazons had returned to the continent, the myth relates, the Mother of the Gods, well pleased with the island, settled in it certain other people, and also her own sons, who are known by the name of Corybantes; who their father was, is handed down in their rites as a matter not to be divulged; and she established the mysteries which are now celebrated on the island and ordained by law that the sacred area should enjoy the right of sanctuary.”

A Macedonian national sanctuary

“And we are told that Philip, after being initiated into the mysteries of Samothrace at the same time with Olympias, he himself being still a youth and she an orphan child, fell in love with her and betrothed himself to her at once with the consent of her brother, Arymbas.”
(Plutarch, Life of Alexander [1], II, 2)

According to Plutarch, this is how Macedonian king Phillip II met his future spouse Olympias, the Epirote princess of the Aeacid dynasty, during their initiation to the mysteries of Samothrace. This historical anecdote defines the Argead dynasty's allegiance to the sanctuary, followed by the two dynasties of the Diadochi; the Ptolemaic dynasty and the Antigonid dynasty who continually attempted to outdo one another in the 3rd century BC, during their alternating periods of domination over the island and more generally the Northern Aegean.

The first sovereign of whom epigraphic traces remain was the son of Philip II and half-brother of Alexander, Philip III of Macedon, who would be the principal benefactor of the Sanctuary during the 4th century BC: he probably commissioned the Temenos by 340 BC, the Main Altar in the next decade, the Hiéron by 325 BC, as well as the Doric monument and the border of the eastern circular area; these dedicated in his name as well as that of his nephew Alexander IV of Macedon, who jointly ruled from 323–317 BC.

Samothraki choral dancers
Dancer's Frieze from the Temenos (site plan number 14)

The second surge of major construction commence started in the 280's with the Arsinoe II Rotunda, which may date from the period (288–281 BC) when this daughter of Ptolemy I was married to the Diadochi Lysimachus, then king of Macedon. Widowed after his death in battle in 281 BC, she married her half-brother, Ptolemy Keraunos and later her brother Ptolemy II in 274 BC. Of the monumental dedication which surmounted the door, only a single block remains, and it is thus not possible to determine the complete inscription. Ptolemy II himself had the Propylaeum built across the entrance to the sanctuary: the powerful Ptolemaic fleet which allowed him to dominate the bulk of the Aegean up to the Thracian coast, and the construction at Samothrace bear witness to his influence.

The re-establishment of the Antigonid dynasty on the Macedonian throne with Antigonus II Gonatas, soon led to a clash for maritime supremacy on the Aegean: Antigonus Gonatas celebrated his victory at the naval battle of Kos by dedicating one of his victorious ships to the shrine by 255–245 BC; displayed in a building constructed on an ad hoc basis on the west terrace; the Neorion (site plan number 6). It may have been inspired by another Neorion, at Delos, probably built at the end of the 4th century BC, which he re-used and dedicated to another of his ships at the same time.

The naval war between the Ptolemaics and the Antigonids continued intermittently through the second half of the 3rd century BC, until Philip V of Macedon, the last Antigonid king to attempt to establish a Macedonian thalassocracy, was finally beaten by an alliance between Rhodes and Pergamon. A monumental column was dedicated to him in front to the large stoa of the upper terrace by the Macedonians by 200 BC. It was probably during one of these episodes that the monumental fountain containing a ship's prow of limestone and the famous Winged Victory of Samothrace statue were built. This could actually be a dedication from Rhodes rather than Macedon, as analysis of the limestone used for the prow and the type of vessel indicated that it came from Rhodes.

The sanctuary became the final refuge for the last king of Macedon, Perseus of Macedon, who went to the island after his defeat at the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC and was there arrested by the Romans.

Site exploration

Winged Victory of Samothrace, displayed in the Louvre (site plan number 9)

Fascination with mystery religions renewed interest in the site during the 17th and 18th centuries. Following the 1863 discovery of the Winged Victory of Samothrace statue – now in the Louvre – by French consul Charles Champoiseau (posted to Adrianople), the French team of Deville and Coquart carried out the first archeological digs of the site in 1866. The Austrian A. Conze was next to excavate the site in 1873 and 1876: he cleared the Ptolémaion and the stoa and carried out some superficial digs at the Hiéron, the Arsinoéion as well as the Temenos. This work was published in two volumes of unusually high quality for the time. Under an agreement with the Turkish government, the Austrians shared their discoveries: numerous architectural fragments went to the Vienna Kunsthistorisch Museum, while others where sent to Gallipoli and then on to the Istanbul Archeological Museum — part of this material unfortunately disappeared in transit. Champoiseau returned in 1891 to look for the blocks which formed the ship's prow upon which the Winged Victory of Samothrace statue had been installed in Paris, and at this time discovered the theatre. The École française d'Athènes and the Charles University in Prague (Salač and Fernand Chapouthuer) also carried out joint work between 1923 and 1927, before the Institute of Fine Arts (at New York University) started their first excavations in 1938, which uncovered the Anaktoron. Interrupted by the war, during which time the site suffered greatly as a result of Bulgarian occupation, they returned in 1948 and continue to the present. In 1956 a partial reconstruction (anastylosis) of the Hiéron facade was carried out.

See also


  • Karl Lehmann, Samothrace: A Guide to the Excavations and the Museum, 5th ed. Thessaloniki: J J Augustin, 1983.
  • ‹See Tfd›(in French) René Ginouvès et al., La Macédoine: De Philippe II à la conquête romaine. Paris: CNRS, 1993.

External links

Coordinates: 40°30′03″N 25°31′48″E / 40.5008°N 25.5301°E

Ancient Macedonians

The Macedonians (Greek: Μακεδόνες, Makedónes) were an ancient tribe that lived on the alluvial plain around the rivers Haliacmon and lower Axios in the northeastern part of mainland Greece. Essentially an ancient Greek people, they gradually expanded from their homeland along the Haliacmon valley on the northern edge of the Greek world, absorbing or driving out neighbouring non-Greek tribes, primarily Thracian and Illyrian. They spoke Ancient Macedonian, a language closely related to Ancient Greek or a Doric Greek dialect, although the prestige language of the region was at first Attic and then Koine Greek. Their religious beliefs mirrored those of other Greeks, following the main deities of the Greek pantheon, although the Macedonians continued Archaic burial practices that had ceased in other parts of Greece after the 6th century BC. Aside from the monarchy, the core of Macedonian society was its nobility. Similar to the aristocracy of neighboring Thessaly, their wealth was largely built on herding horses and cattle.

Although composed of various clans, the kingdom of Macedonia, established around the 8th century BC, is mostly associated with the Argead dynasty and the tribe named after it. The dynasty was allegedly founded by Perdiccas I, descendant of the legendary Temenus of Argos, while the region of Macedon perhaps derived its name from Makedon, a figure of Greek mythology. Traditionally ruled by independent families, the Macedonians seem to have accepted Argead rule by the time of Alexander I (r. 498–454 BC– ). Under Philip II (r. 359–336 BC– ), the Macedonians are credited with numerous military innovations, which enlarged their territory and increased their control over other areas extending into Thrace. This consolidation of territory allowed for the exploits of Alexander the Great (r. 336–323 BC– ), the conquest of the Achaemenid Empire, the establishment of the diadochi successor states, and the inauguration of the Hellenistic period in West Asia, Greece, and the broader Mediterranean world. The Macedonians were eventually conquered by the Roman Republic, which dismantled the Macedonian monarchy at the end of the Third Macedonian War (171–168 BC) and established the Roman province of Macedonia after the Fourth Macedonian War (150–148 BC).

Authors, historians, and statesmen of the ancient world often expressed ambiguous if not conflicting ideas about the ethnic identity of the Macedonians as either Greeks, semi-Greeks, or even barbarians. This has led to debate among modern academics about the precise ethnic identity of the Macedonians, who nevertheless embraced many aspects of contemporaneous Greek culture such as participation in Greek religious cults and athletic games, including the Ancient Olympic Games. Given the scant linguistic evidence, it is not clear how closely related the Macedonian language was to Greek, and how close it was to the Phrygian, Thracian, and Illyrian languages.

The ancient Macedonians participated in the production and fostering of Classical and later Hellenistic art. In terms of visual arts, they produced frescoes, mosaics, sculptures, and decorative metalwork. The performing arts of music and Greek theatrical dramas were highly appreciated, while famous playwrights such as Euripides came to live in Macedonia. The kingdom also attracted the presence of renowned philosophers, such as Aristotle, while native Macedonians contributed to the field of ancient Greek literature, especially Greek historiography. Their sport and leisure activities included hunting, foot races, and chariot races, as well as feasting and drinking at aristocratic banquets known as symposia.

Archaeological Museum of Samothrace

The Archaeological Museum of Samothrace is located in Samothrace of the Evros regional unit, in Greece. It has four rooms and an atrium, presenting the following:

Reconstructed architectural remains of the sanctuary;

Restored architectural features, sculptures and coins found in the sanctuary;

Sculpture, miniature objects and pottery from the sanctuary and ancient city ;

Archaeological finds from cemeteries;

A collection of inscriptions (in the Atrium).The museum was designed by Stuart Shaw, an architecture based at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and built by the American School of Classical Studies, Athens in 1939–55. A north wing was added in 1960–61.

Among its collection are:

a winged Nike, found by Dr. Phyllis Williams Lehmann, part of the American School of Classical Studies in 1949

a plastercast of the Winged Victory of Samothrace in Louvreand various items from the Samothrace temple complex.

Arlington, Massachusetts

Arlington is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, six miles (10 km) northwest of Boston. The population was 42,844 at the 2010 census.

Arlington Reservoir (Arlington, Massachusetts)

The Arlington Reservoir is a large water storage tank located on Park Circle in Arlington, Massachusetts. It was constructed by the Metropolitan Water Works (now MWRA) between 1921 and 1924 in the Classical Revival style, to provide water storage for Northern Extra-High Service area, consisting of Lexington and the higher elevations of Belmont and Arlington. The design is said to have been inspired by the rotunda from the Samothrace temple complex in Greece.It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

Arsinoe II

Arsinoë II (Koinē Greek: Ἀρσινόη, 316 BC – unknown date between July 270 and 260 BC) was a Ptolemaic queen and co-regent of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of ancient Egypt.

Arsinoe was queen of Thrace, Anatolia and Macedonia by marriage to King Lysimachus (Koinē Greek: Λυσίμαχος) and co-ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom with her brother-husband, Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus (Πτολεμαῖος Φιλάδελφος "Ptolemy the Sibling-Loving"). Arsinoe was given the unprecedented Egyptian title "King of Upper and Lower Egypt", marking her as a full pharaoh.


Bucranium (plural bucrania; Latin, from Greek βουκράνιον, referring to the skull of an ox) was a form of carved decoration commonly used in Classical architecture. The name is generally considered to originate with the practice of displaying garlanded, sacrificial oxen, whose heads were displayed on the walls of temples, a practice dating back to the sophisticated Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in eastern Anatolia, where cattle skulls were overlaid with white plaster. In ancient Rome, bucrania were frequently used as metopes between the triglyphs on the friezes of temples designed with the Doric order of architecture. They were also used in bas-relief or painted decor to adorn marble altars, often draped or decorated with garlands of fruit or flowers, many of which have survived.

A rich and festive Doric order was employed at the Basilica Aemilia on the Roman Forum; enough of it was standing for Giuliano da Sangallo to make a drawing, c 1520, reconstructing the facade (Codex Vaticano Barberiniano Latino 4424); the alternation of the shallow libation dishes called paterae with bucrania in the metopes reinforced the solemn sacrificial theme.

While the presence of bucrania was typically used with the Doric order, the Romans were not strict about this. In a first-century fresco from Boscoreale, protected by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, bucrania and cistae mysticae hang on ribbons from pegs that support garlands, evoking joyous fasti. At the Temple of Vesta, Tivoli, designed using the Corinthian order, motifs interpreted by the architect Andrea Palladio as conventional skull bucrania adorn the frieze, although these are actually fleshed ox heads with eyes. Similarly, the Temple of Portunus in Rome, designed using the Ionic order, has bucrania in its frieze.In later years, the motif was used to embellish buildings of the Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical periods. Garlanded bucrania provide a repetitive motif in the plasterwork of the fine 18th-century Staircase Hall of The Vyne (Hampshire), inside the Pantheon at Stourhead (Wiltshire) and at Lacock Abbey (Wiltshire).


In Greek mythology, the Cabeiri or Cabiri (Ancient Greek: Κάβειροι, Kábeiroi), also transliterated Kabiri , were a group of enigmatic chthonic deities. They were worshiped in a mystery cult closely associated with that of Hephaestus, centered in the north Aegean islands of Lemnos and possibly Samothrace—at the Samothrace temple complex—and at Thebes. In their distant origins the Cabeiri and the Samothracian gods may include pre-Greek elements, or other non-Greek elements, such as Thracian, Tyrrhenian, Pelasgian, Phrygian or Hittite. The Lemnian cult was always local to Lemnos, but the Samothracian mystery cult spread rapidly throughout the Greek world during the Hellenistic period, eventually initiating Romans.

The ancient sources disagree about whether the deities of Samothrace were Cabeiri or not; and the accounts of the two cults differ in detail. But the two islands are close to each other, at the northern end of the Aegean, and the cults are at least similar, and neither fits easily into the Olympic pantheon: the Cabeiri were given a mythic genealogy as sons of Hephaestus and Cabeiro. The accounts of the Samothracian gods, whose names were secret, differ in the number and sexes of the gods: usually between two and four, some of either sex. The number of Cabeiri also varies, with some accounts citing four (often a pair of males and a pair of females), and some even more, such as a tribe or whole race of Cabeiri, often presented as all male.The Cabeiri were also worshipped at other sites in the vicinity, including Seuthopolis in Thrace and various sites in Asia Minor. According to Strabo, Cabeiri are most honored in Imbros and Lemnos but also in other cities too.

French School at Athens

The French School at Athens (French: École française d’Athènes, EfA; Greek: Γαλλική Σχολή Αθηνών) is one of the seventeen foreign archaeological institutes operating in Athens, Greece.

List of archaeological sites by country

This is a list of notable archaeological sites sorted by country and territories.

For one sorted by continent and time period, see the list of archaeological sites by continent and age.

Macedonia (ancient kingdom)

Macedonia ( (listen); Ancient Greek: Μακεδονία, Makedonía), also called Macedon (), was an ancient kingdom on the periphery of Archaic and Classical Greece, and later the dominant state of Hellenistic Greece. The kingdom was founded and initially ruled by the royal Argead dynasty, which was followed by the Antipatrid and Antigonid dynasties. Home to the ancient Macedonians, the earliest kingdom was centered on the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, and bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south.

Before the 4th century BC, Macedonia was a small kingdom outside of the area dominated by the great city-states of Athens, Sparta and Thebes, and briefly subordinate to Achaemenid Persia. During the reign of the Argead king Philip II (359–336 BC), Macedonia subdued mainland Greece and Thrace through conquest and diplomacy. With a reformed army containing phalanxes wielding the sarissa pike, Philip II defeated the old powers of Athens and Thebes in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. Philip II's son Alexander the Great, leading a federation of Greek states, accomplished his father's objective of commanding the whole of Greece when he destroyed Thebes after the city revolted. During Alexander's subsequent campaign of conquest, he overthrew the Achaemenid Empire and conquered territory that stretched as far as the Indus River. For a brief period, his empire was the most powerful in the world – the definitive Hellenistic state, inaugurating the transition to a new period of Ancient Greek civilization. Greek arts and literature flourished in the new conquered lands and advances in philosophy, engineering, and science spread throughout much of the ancient world. Of particular importance were the contributions of Aristotle, tutor to Alexander, whose writings became a keystone of Western philosophy.

After Alexander's death in 323 BC, the ensuing wars of the Diadochi, and the partitioning of Alexander's short-lived empire, Macedonia remained a Greek cultural and political center in the Mediterranean region along with Ptolemaic Egypt, the Seleucid Empire, and the Kingdom of Pergamon. Important cities such as Pella, Pydna, and Amphipolis were involved in power struggles for control of the territory. New cities were founded, such as Thessalonica by the usurper Cassander (named after his wife Thessalonike of Macedon). Macedonia's decline began with the Macedonian Wars and the rise of Rome as the leading Mediterranean power. At the end of the Third Macedonian War in 168 BC, the Macedonian monarchy was abolished and replaced by Roman client states. A short-lived revival of the monarchy during the Fourth Macedonian War in 150–148 BC ended with the establishment of the Roman province of Macedonia.

The Macedonian kings, who wielded absolute power and commanded state resources such as gold and silver, facilitated mining operations to mint currency, finance their armies and, by the reign of Philip II, a Macedonian navy. Unlike the other diadochi successor states, the imperial cult fostered by Alexander was never adopted in Macedonia, yet Macedonian rulers nevertheless assumed roles as high priests of the kingdom and leading patrons of domestic and international cults of the Hellenistic religion. The authority of Macedonian kings was theoretically limited by the institution of the army, while a few municipalities within the Macedonian commonwealth enjoyed a high degree of autonomy and even had democratic governments with popular assemblies.

Outline of classical architecture

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to classical architecture:

Classical architecture – architecture of classical antiquity, that is, ancient Greek architecture and the architecture of ancient Rome. It also refers to the style or styles of architecture influenced by those. For example, most of the styles originating in post-renaissance Europe can be described as classical architecture. This broad use of the term is employed by Sir John Summerson in The Classical Language of Architecture.

Outline of classical studies

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to classical studies:

Classical studies (Classics for short) – earliest branch of the humanities, which covers the languages, literature, history, art, and other cultural aspects of the ancient Mediterranean world. The field focuses primarily on, but is not limited to, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during classical antiquity, the era spanning from the late Bronze Age of Ancient Greece during the Minoan and Mycenaean periods (c. 1600-1100 BCE) through the period known as Late Antiquity to the fall of the Western Roman Empire, c. 500 CE. The word classics is also used to refer to the literature of the period.

Phyllis Williams Lehmann

Phyllis Williams Lehmann, (November 12, 1912 in Brooklyn – September 29, 2004 in Haydenville, Massachusetts) was an American classical archaeologist who specialised in the Samothrace temple complex, where she discovered a third statue of Winged Victory (1949), which is kept today at the Archaeological Museum of Samothrace and recovered missing fingers of the hand of the famous Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre.


Samothrace (also Samothraki, Samothracia) (Ancient Greek: Σαμοθρᾴκη, Ionic Σαμοθρηΐκη; Greek: Σαμοθράκη, [samoˈθraci]) is a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea. It is a municipality within the Evros regional unit of Thrace. The island is 17 km (11 mi) long and is 178 km2 (69 sq mi) in size and has a population of 2,859 (2011 census). Its main industries are fishing and tourism. Resources on the island include granite and basalt. Samothrace is one of the most rugged Greek islands, with Mt. Saos and its tip Fengari rising to 1,611 m (5,285 ft).

Tourism in Greece

Tourism in Greece has been a key element of the economic activity in the country, and is one of the country's most important sectors. Greece has been a major tourist destination and attraction in Europe since antiquity, for its rich culture and history, which is reflected in large part by its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among the most in Europe and the world as well as for its long coastline, many islands, and beaches.

Greece attracted over as much as

24 million visitors in 2018, 22.1 million visitors in 2017 and 21 million in 2015,

making Greece one of the most visited countries in Europe and the world, and contributing around 25% to the nation's Gross Domestic Product. Its capital city Athens, as well as Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Corfu, Crete and Chalkidice are some of the country's major tourist destinations.

In recent years, Greece has also promoted religious tourism and pilgrimages to regions with a significant historical religious presence, such as the monasteries in Meteora and Mount Athos, in cooperation with other countries.

Winged Victory of Samothrace

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace, is a marble Hellenistic sculpture of Nike (the Greek goddess of victory), that was created in about the 2nd century BC. Since 1884, it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world. H.W. Janson described it as "the greatest masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture", and it is one of a small number of major Hellenistic statues surviving in the original, rather than Roman copies.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.