Distant Deities, Central Places

Conference Paper

Session 2: Center and Periphery: Defining Extra-urbanity
Friday 2023-04-07
09:00 | 12:00

Temenos and topography. Relations between urban – non-urban location of sanctuary space and its terminology

Gunnel Ekroth (Uppsala University), 2023-04-07, Time: 09:00 - 09:40


An opposition between city and countryside is often emphasized in scholarship on ancient Greek religion. The difficulties of actually applying such a dichotomy has been brought out by several scholars, who instead highlight the need to consider the local dimensions of ancient Greek religion and the idiosyncrasies of each city, community and context.

            This paper will address the supposed importance of the city-country or urban-non-urban division from another perspective, that of the terminology of sanctuary space. Greek sanctuaries could be designated by a range of terms, such as hieron, temenos, abaton, alsos, heroon and sekos, as well as be named after the worshipped deity, like Theseion, Aphrodision or Pythion. My particular focus will lie on the use and meaning of the term temenos in the epigraphical record. The most common and generic Greek term for a sanctuary was hieron, but why are some sanctuaries also, only or never called temenos? To what extent is the choice of terminology related to the location or the sanctuary? Or are there other factors at play, such as their importance, size and appearance of the sanctuary, or even the deity worshipped? The question is if the modern notion of extra-urban sanctuaries in any way can be connected to manner in which ancient Greeks called their sanctuaries and if there was an emic Greek designation of sanctuary space which reflects or captures a perception of extra-urbanity.


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