Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
The focus of this thesis is on ancient archaic and classical Greek cult statues and how their placement reflects both the role of the statues themselves and the continuity in worship. Greek sanctuaries generally exhibited a strong continuity of cult in terms of building successive temples directly on top of the remains of their predecessors. The sanctuary of Hera on Samos and the sanctuary of Apollo at Didyma are two such sanctuaries in Asia Minor that exhibit this type of continuity even though their early temples were replaced by large superstructures. The temple of Athena Nike in Athens is another example of continuity, since the larger Classical temple was built on the same site as the archaic one. The Athenian Parthenon, the temple of Zeus at Olympia, the Classical Heraion at Argos and the Classical temple of Dionysos on the south slope in Athens, however, were not built on the same site as the archaic temples. The relation to the archaic site varies in each instance, but old statues or old sites continue to play a role. The erection of these temples seems to correspond with a recent political victory in each city; I believe that these achievements provided the impetus for the building of these large temples and statues. This seems quite evident considering that each temple contained quite vivid victory imagery: the architectural sculpture was usually symbolic of various conquests made by the Greeks, and the colossal statue housed in the cella often depicted the same themes. Were they built primarily to showcase their newly acquired power and prosperity? They certainly would have provided the sanctuary with a new and very impressive physical focus, monumental in both scale and expense. But did they also serve as a new spiritual focus? I do not think that they became the new focus of the cult, although they were likely involved in it to some degree. I believe that the focus remained on the ancient cult site and on the ancient cultic traditions. I think that the new adjacent temple was primarily built as a type of victory monument, as an ostentatious display of wealth and power that was meant to both impress the visitor and to thank the deity for helping the city achieve their success. This study will examine the traditional religious conservatism evident in the archaic period and see how it relates to the new needs of the fifth century polis. The study of the location of the cult statues seems to reveal evolving priorities in Greek religious life from the sixth to fifth centuries BC.
Dawson, Sherri, "The Setting and Display of Cult Images in the Archaic and Classical Periods in Greece." (2002). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6813.
McMaster University Library