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Moving Down the Mountain: Pathways for Sacred Landscape Transformation at Ancient Epidaurus and Nemea


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This paper explores the reciprocal relationship between landscape, human attention, and time. It presents two sacred landscapes: Epidaurus and Nemea, located in the northeastern Greek Peloponnese. In both landscapes, worshipers created sanctuaries on prominent mountains. Eventually, their attention shifted downhill where they built larger, monumental sanctuaries on the flat ground. I trace each mountains’ role as a sacred landmark; I question what other social functions they had – if at all – after the new sanctuaries were built. I consider a wide range of evidence: beginning with a comparative example from Mount Fuji in Japan, and moving onto the archaeological excavation and survey data, ancient testimonials, and modern tourist reviews about the Greek sanctuaries. I also use Geographic Information Systems to quantify each Greek sanctuaries’ visual impact in comparison to the surrounding topography. Woven together, these data reveal generations of sacral continuity. The Sanctuary of Asklepios and the Sanctuary of Zeus encircled new sacred temenoi, but worshipers’ collective memory guided their pathways and vision; the mountains remained sacred landmarks.
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Time and Mind
The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture
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Moving down the mountain: pathways for sacred
landscape transformation at ancient Epidaurus
and Nemea
Natalie M. Susmann
To cite this article: Natalie M. Susmann (2021): Moving down the mountain: pathways for
sacred landscape transformation at ancient Epidaurus and Nemea, Time and Mind, DOI:
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Moving down the mountain: pathways for sacred
landscape transformation at ancient Epidaurus and
Natalie M. Susmann
Visiting Lecturer, Department of Classics, College of the Holy Cross, Massachusetts, USA
This paper explores reciprocal relationships between land-
scape, human attention, and time. I present two sacred land-
scapes: Epidaurus and Nemea, located in Greece's
northeastern Peloponnese. In both landscapes, worshipers
created sanctuaries on prominent mountains. Eventually,
their attention shifted downhill where they built larger,
monumental sanctuaries on the at ground. I trace each
mountain’s role as a sacred landmark; I question what other
social functions they had – if at all – after the new sanctuaries
were built. I consider a wide range of evidence. I begin with
a comparative example from Mount Fuji in Japan, and move
on to archaeological excavation and survey data, ancient
testimonials, and modern tourist reviews about the Greek
sanctuaries. I also use Geographic Information Systems to
quantify each Greek sanctuary’s visual impact in comparison
to the surrounding topography. Woven together, these data
reveal generations of sacral continuity. The Sanctuary of
Asklepios and the Sanctuary of Zeus encircled new sacred
temenoi, but worshipers’ collective memory guided their
pathways and vision; through human senses, these moun-
tains retained their role as sacred landmarks.
Greece; landscape
archaeology; mountain;
sanctuary; sensory; vision
We shape our surroundings – mountains, trees, buildings, and open spaces –
and these surroundings, in turn, are shaped by us. From this reciprocity, land-
scapes are born. Landscape is nature twisted and mixed with human attention
(Ingold 1993, 156; Bender 2002, 103; Tilley and Cameron-Daum 2017, 7;
Hölscher 2018, 10); landscape is how we as humans encapsulate the process
of noticing, interacting with, and turning spaces into places (Tuan 1977, 12).
Over time, as the nature and quality of that human regard become entwined
with the very idea of the space itself, the meaning we assign to any given
landscape can change.
CONTACT Natalie M. Susmann Visiting Lecturer, Department of Classics, College of
the Holy Cross, Fenwick Hall, 1 College Street, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA 01610
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
In the ancient Greeks’ imagination, gods had an enduring place on the
natural landscape; these were inseparable entities (Cole 2004, 34–36). Studies
on Greek mythology and cultic rituals demonstrate the prevailing role of nature;
the Greeks made it so their gods preferred being among the mountains, groves,
and springs (Larson 2010, 58). The deities were especially attracted to moun-
tains; deities dwelled high above the earth, and the mountains made it easier for
them to transfer between these worlds (Langdon 2000, 462). Deities could
appear whenever and wherever they chose, but the Greeks also made sanctu-
aries to regulate godly encounters. These sanctuaries consisted of a temenos
(i.e. sacred boundary), kept pure and protected by religious laws, where cultic
rituals were carried out in the deities’ honor (Cole 2004, 36–36). In turn, features
like mountains had a certain aura which enhanced their already physical pro-
minence. Thus, even without a sanctuary, the potential for godly interaction
landmarked mountains on the religious landscape (Barrett 1991, 8; Hölscher
2018, 10–11).
Archaeologists have uncovered physical evidence of these beliefs. With
diverse analytical approaches, scholars have explored how on the sacred land-
scape, the ancient Greeks underscored the auras they perceived (Scully 1962;
Williamson 1993; Driessen 2003; Goodison 2004; Moortel 2006; Barnett 2007;
Hitchcock 2007; De Boer and Hale 2008; Faro 2008; Retallack 2008; Moortel 2011;
Hannah 2013; Belis 2015; Susmann 2019, 2020). In these investigations, the
Greek island of Crete has held special interest. During the Bronze Age, there
existed a unique subculture on Crete; these people the Minoans – worshiped
on remote mountain peaks and in caves (Table 1). Studies about these sanctu-
aries focus on what worshipers could see, specically whether other peak
sanctuaries or settlements were visible from that spot (Topouzi et al. 2000;
Soetens, Sarris, and Topouzi 2001; Soetens et al. 2002a, 2002b; Briault 2007;
Nixon 2009; Soetens 2009). Nixon (2009) has taken work on Crete into new
directions: examining the impact of visual and topographic characteristics
besides viewshed and exploring whether cultural data embedded within sacred
views were retained or forgotten over time. These sorts of explorations are
Table 1. Greek mainland chronology.
Bronze Age
Early Helladic 2800–2100 BCE
Middle Helladic 1900–1700 BCE
Late Helladic 1500–1100 BCE
Sub-Mycenaean 1180–1050 BCE
Iron Age
Protogeometric 1050–950 BCE
Geometric 1100–900 BCE
Late Geometric 760–700 BCE
Protoarchaic 740–650 BCE
Archaic 700–480 BCE
Classical 480–323 BCE
Hellenistic 323–146 BCE
equally relevant beyond the boundaries of Bronze Age Crete. Vincent Scully’s
(1962) seminal volume The Earth, The Temple, and The Gods ambitiously traced
potential threads of continuity between the Greek mainland and Crete. More
recently, scholars like Mason (2007), Psychoyos and Karatzikos (2015) Susmann
(2019, 2020) have explored how visibility and viewshed shaped sacred land-
scapes on mainland Greece.
In this paper, I trace changing human views and interrogate how behavior,
setting, and wider historical circumstance combined to create new ways of
seeing older places. I use a wide range of interdisciplinary datasets – from
archaeological excavation and surveys, ancient and historic texts, tourist
reviews, in addition to ethnographic and phenomenological studies – as well
as a comparative example about Mount Fuji in Japan. Using these resources,
I narrate the life histories of two dierent landscapes in the Greek Peloponnese.
Mount Kynortion in Epidaurus and Mount Phoukas in Nemea shares a similar
story: they were sites of worship and the prominence of the mountains grew
from human engagement. Worshipers foregrounded these mountains on the
sacred landscape.
I explore how worshipers perceived these mountains over time; whether
shifting belief systems and newer sanctuaries altered their role as cultic land-
marks. At Mount Kynortion and Mount Phoukas, I demonstrate how rituals
carried out initially in the open air on mountain peaks turned those natural
places into marked landscapes. When new sanctuaries were made o of the
mountains, these mountains retained their roles as cultic landmarks as a result
of collective memories tied to them. I present these mountains as signiers,
helping us see them through the eyes of an ancient Greek worshiper: as
reciprocal agents of the natural world, with the power to transmit extra-
human authority and meaning.
Lessons from Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is a contemporary example of a sacred landscape thousands of years
in the making. It remains a sacred landmark today; it simultaneously exists as an
ideological, territorial, and recreational landmark. Mount Fuji’s story carries
lessons relevant to an exploration of the same phenomenon happening in
ancient Greece.
Mount Fuji is a volcano. It is located southwest of Tokyo, bordering the
Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures (Earhart 1989, 206). Mount Fuji, alongside
other mountains like Mount Haku and Mount Tate, has morphed into a religious
node on the Japanese landscape, unto which humans have imparted spiritual
functions since prehistory (Melton 2016, 230–231).
Of the many sacred mountains in Japan, Mount Fuji stands apart. Jikigyo
Miroku’s death in 1733 is one of the paramount events contributing towards its
emblematic stature. Jikigyo was a Shugenja. Shugenja believe mountains are
inhabited by divine beings. Mountains serve as gateways where they can depart
from the ‘ordinary’ world; on mountains, Shugenja transform into puried
beings able to contact their deities. Upon their descent, Shugenja are renewed
and empowered individuals (Earhart 2011, 29–30).
In an eort to bring more devotees to Sengen – the deity who inhabited
Mount Fuji – Jikigyo decided to fast to death on the summit of Mount Fuji
(Earhart 2011, 53). The Sengen shrine in Fujinomiya forbade him from doing so;
the Shugenja believed Mount Fuji’s summit to be the most sacred part of the
mountain, and his death would dele it.
Jikigyo thus changed his plan: he
carried his portable shrine to Eboshi-wa: still on Mount Fuji, but not directly on
the summit (Figure 1–2). Jikigyo died there thirty-one days later (Earhart 2011,
Jikigyo’s death exemplies human impact on the landscape. His religious
identity incited a desire to merge his life and death with Mount Fuji’s most
sacred area. When he was forbidden from doing so, he single-handedly
extended the summit’s boundary the zone of sacred space further
Following his death, Jikigyo became a celebrated gure in Japanese history,
especially amongst the lower classes. Jikigyo was a commoner who rejected the
economic and social divisions within Japan’s religious sects (Earhart 2011, 58).
Previously, pilgrimages were primarily a practice of the Japanese elite. Following
Figure 1. This wood block oban print by Hokusai depicts Fuji pilgrims (Hokusai 1833). The cave
in the background is largely assumed to be Eboshi-iwa, the site of Jikigyo’s death (Clark 2017).
Eboshi-iwa is located near the 8
station (Figure 2).
Jikigyo’s death, cults of Fuji (i.e. Fujiko) surged. Fujiko was practiced across social
classes, and while there was diversity in the intensity of the devotees' actions,
their collective eorts had the eect of normalizing the act of pilgrimage to
Figure 2. Mount Fuji maps merge pilgrimage pathways with recreational trails, pinpointing
both sacred landmarks and tourist amenities (Mt. Fuji Environmental Preservation Council
Mount Fuji (Earhart 2011, 72; Chakraborty and Jones 2018, 172). Fujiko pilgrim-
age was an agent of spatial change; it disentangled Mount Fuji’s sacred bound-
aries from socioeconomic restrictions. Mount Fuji became accessible religious
Shugendo pilgrims had planned their pathways based on bodies of knowledge
passed through generations. Fujiko adapted knowledge of earlier Shugendo reli-
gious practices, including their summit routes and travel tips (Earhart 2011, 71).
When Fujiko made pilgrimages to the summit they stopped at shrines and temples
along the slope, and they commemorated these visits by collecting unique red
stamps from each site. Fujiko pilgrims, who were most often able-bodied men,
acted as religious proxies for their family and confraternity members who could not
make the climb.
In this way, they brought the benets of Mount Fuji’s summit
down to the base of the mountain. The pilgrimage was not over until they were
back among their religious community: ‘in Edo at the confraternity meeting’
(Earhart 2011, 88). Part of this reunion involved gifting amulets from Mount Fuji’s
shrines to that confraternity. These pilgrims were mediators, capable of extending
intangible and tangible pieces of Mount Fuji downhill (Earhart 2011, 88).
Mount Fuji has many summits, the boundaries of which are delineated by the
people who create them, and this can happen according to the perspective of one
or many individuals. Jikigyo’s reverence for the sacredness of Mount Fuji’s summit
drove him to recongure its boundaries outside the area of his Sengen shrine. The
Fujiko followed in suit: producing new physical spheres of holiness and new ways
to benet, extend, and share that holiness. Their actions helped foster and main-
tain the belief in the mountain’s ability to grant personal enlightenment, and this
in turn paved the way for Mount Fuji to become adopted by later viewers.
Today, Mount Fuji is both a secular and religious landmark on Japan’s land-
scape. An estimated 300,000 Japanese and international tourists travel to the
summit every summer (Earhart 2011, 72; Chakraborty and Jones 2018, 172). The
recreational and religious landscapes are woven together, so much so that
modern pilgrimage maps also mark bus stops, convenience stores, and scenic
locations good for photographs (Figure 2). Tourists purchase Kongo canes and
carry them up the mountain; at every trail station, they pay a small fee for a red
Yaki-in stamp (Figure 3). Tourists mirror the same sort of exchange as Fujiko
proxies: as they climb they take photographs so they can share their pathways
and views with family and friends.
Mount Fuji is a mountain; an ideology; a sacred space; a pushpin on travelers’
maps. It is etched across the country’s imaginative horizon:
‘Fuji straddles right across the page, or recedes to the far distance; it is white against
a dark sky, or black under sunset clouds; it is seen through the stems of bamboos, or
through the strips of dyed cloth hanging on poles to dry; it is even seen as a reection
or shadow in lake or sea . . . ’ (Hiller 2013, 12–13) (Figure 4). It is a place empowered by
centuries of regard, past and present.
Figure 3. Tourists often document their Mount Fuji trips online; these accounts often include
photographs of Kongo canes. Their canes are covered with red Yaki-in stamps, which they paid
for at each trailhead. The owner of this cane ventured as far as the eighth station (Ta 2020).
The sacred landscape of Epidaurus
Now I turn to two ancient Greek landscapes, both marked by prominent
mountains, on which initial phases of religious activity eventually gave way to
spacious and monumental sanctuaries built on the land below. Like Mount Fuji,
they began as places of ritual activity on their own. Over time, they were recast
as essential backdrops, necessary elements of the wider sacred landscape. My
goal is to capture the trajectory and path of this transformation.
The rst landscape is that of Epidaurus, located in the northeastern Argolid of
the Greek Peloponnese (Gadolou 2002, 40) (Figure 5). The whole area is very
hilly and green. Citrus trees blanket these hills, which extend all the way to the
coast. During antiquity, there was a settlement here called Epidaurus. Ancient
Epidaurus has since transformed into a modern town called Palaia Epidaurus,
located on a small peninsula jutting into a calm bay.
Approximately seven km west of Palaia Epidaurus is Mount Kynortion. This
mountain measures 851 MASL (meters above sea level). Further south is Myrtle
Mountain (685 MASL); this mountain was known as ‘Nipple Mountain’ during
antiquity. Together, Mount Kynortion and Myrtle Mountain form the eastern half
of Epidaurus’ valley; there are smaller hills to the west. On its slopes, approxi-
mately 429 MASL, is a sanctuary dedicated to Apollo Maleatas. On the ground
Figure 4. Hokusai’s influential Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji illustrates how this mountain
resonates as a landmark, regardless of the viewer’s identity, location, season, or time of day.
Whether or not the human subjects acknowledge the mountain, it retains this role; it is always
there (Hokusai 1830-1831, 1830–1832, 1831-1833, 1852).
below is a Greek sanctuary dedicated to Asklepios, now one of the most popular
tourist sites in Greece. This sanctuary hugs the western base of Mount
Kynortion; its theater is cut directly into the slopes (Figures 6 and 7).
Mount Kynortion
Middle Helladic period: the pit
Some of the earliest traces of human activity in the valley appear on Mount
Kynortion, at the spot which would eventually become the Sanctuary of Apollo
Maleatas. During the Early Helladic period (c. 2800–2100 BCE) a settlement was
built on a small rise (here referred to as a hill) on the western side of the
mountain (Theodorou-Mavrommatidi 2010, 524). The village was abandoned
at the end of the Early Helladic, without evidence of struggle or intentional
Figure 5. A map of the study area in the southeastern Argolid. Note that 'Epidaurus' marks the
location of the Sanctuary of Asklepios, not the ancient settlement.
After a gap of several hundred years, people returned to this small hill. At
some point during the Middle Helladic period (c. 1900–1600 BCE), individuals
dug a 4 × 3 meter pit directly into the middle of abandoned Early Helladic
houses and encircled their pit with stones (Figures 8 and 9). Excavations recov-
ered ashy layers with bovid, pig, and deer bones along with vessels and stone
tools. In total, 2,090 sherds were recovered from the pit. Vessel forms included
bowls, goblets, cups, large closed vessels (e.g. amphorae and other jugs), large
open vessels, as well as cooking pots. A variety of decorative styles were
recovered: Grey and Black Minyan ware as well as Polychrome, and much of
this pottery was high quality. Notable pieces included a large Matte-Painted
amphora with double circles and an orange-ware bowl with waved grooves.
A total of 39 lithic objects were found, as well as 762 bone specimens, 52 of
which were burned. There was also a brazier (a cup for burning incense) left
Figure 6. The sacred landscape of Epidaurus consists of the Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas and its
predecessor, the Sanctuary of Asklepios. Mount Kynortion and Myrtle Mountain nestle these
sanctuaries into a valley; Mount Arachnaion is further west.
directly outside of the pit (Theodorou-Mavrommatidi 2010, 526–527). The evi-
dence suggests groups occasionally came here to light res, slaughter, and cook
animals, and then deposit the remains and related refuse into the pit
(Theodorou-Mavrommatidi 2010, 525).
There is no evidence for other activities on this small hill. Immediately
surrounding its base, however, archaeologists have excavated large spreads of
Middle Helladic pottery. These spreads have been interpreted as a kind of
impermanent, protective boundary encircling the pit and its hill (Theodorou-
Mavrommatidi 2010, 526).
The absence of nearby domestic structures suggests that this pit was not for
refuse (Theodorou-Mavrommatidi 2010, 527). Theodorou-Mavrommatidi (2010,
530) hesitates to denitively label the pit as a cultic space, and instead describes
it as ‘transitory’: the pit was a place for groups to habitually gather for rituals,
and these activities laid foundations for the later sanctuary. Hägg (1997, 17)
disagrees, arguing that the high quality of painted pottery recovered from the
pit ‘speaks strongly for a cultic use.’ Hägg (1997, 15) draws connections with
contemporary sites like Nisakoúli, located in Messenia in the southwestern
Peloponnese, where there is evidence of an open-air hearth repeatedly used,
as well as substantial amounts of burnt animal bones and pottery (Von Hofsten
2014, 78). Thus, the quantity and quality of nds demonstrate the sociocultural
signicance of Mount Kynortion's pit: it was a designated location for animal
sacrice and feasting (Hägg 1997, 16).
It was a focal point marking the precise
areas where these activities should and should not occur on Mount
Late Helladic period: open-air cult
After a gap during the Late Helladic I period (1700/1500 − 1450 BCE), worshipers
returned to this spot. Approximately 65 meters north of the Middle Helladic pit,
Late Helladic II–III period (1450–1100 BCE) worshipers (Lambrinoudakēs 1983;
Bergquist 1986, 31; Theodorou-Mavrommatidi 2010, 530) constructed a 10.5 m
tall terrace. The terrace overlooked a sharp downhill drop and supported
a 50 m
altar (Figures 10 and 11). In this area, archaeologists found sediment
mixed with animal bones, burning, and pottery (Bergquist 1986, 27).
Elsewhere in the Argolid, worshipers were similarly seeking out elevated rises,
and there they would practice in the open air; this happens at Mount
Arachnaion (1196 MASL) and Protis Ilias Katsingri (242 MASL) (Figure 5).
Mount Arachnaion is part of a massive mountain range running east to west
in the central Argolid. A Bronze Age sanctuary was created on the west peak
(Ayios Ilias) (Beauls 2000, 476), approximately 11 km NW of Mount Kynortion.
Worshipers gathered here, on the spot of a 140 × 60 m at, natural terrace. In
this space there was a naturally occurring rock ledge, approximately 1.20 m
high. Excavators discovered this ledge was covered with ash-mixed soil, and
they concluded ancient worshipers had used it as a natural altar (Psychoyos and
Karatzikos 2015, 262) (Figure 12). Protis Ilias Katsingri is 18 km west of Mount
Kynortion; this hill is much smaller, but quite steep. There is a noticeable rocky
outcrop on the summit (Figure 13). Here, Bronze Age worshipers would practice
in a large and open courtyard. Archaeologists found smashed pottery – consist-
ing of selective shapes that are very dierent from general household wares
found in nearby settlements – as well as ash scattered throughout the site (Kilian
1990, 190–193; Marakas 2007, 5).
Worshipers at these sanctuaries were doing the same sorts of practices –
sacricial feasting, depositing oerings, and pouring libations – and they were
carrying them out in the open air (Kilian 1990; Marakas 2007; Psychoyos and
Karatzikos 2015). Their environments emphasize the importance of physical
openness and community. At Mount Kynortion, for example, the 50 m
of burning suggests a large group of people used the space at the same time,
making either one large re, or several small ones. Bergquist (1986, 29, 31, note
42) believes the latter: in order to be protected from the heat emitted from
a 40 m
bonre, a person would need to maintain at least 5–10 m distance,
making several, smaller res more likely.
Regardless, this environment aligns with the sacred spaces forming else-
where in the Argolid. Collectively, these sanctuaries are evidence for large
groups of people coming together: for worship and for socialization
(Psychoyos and Karatzikos 2015, 269). Open-air sanctuaries were unifying
spaces. The views they aorded gave worshipers context; they could see
where their communities – and themselves – t into the larger world. The
Late Helladic sanctuary thus needed a dierent environment from what the
Middle Helladic pit provided; like the Jikigyo on Mount Fuji, Late Helladic
worshipers pushed beyond the historic boundaries of sacredness, and recon-
gured Mount Kynortion to meet their needs.
century BCE: making the mountain sacred
In the 11
century BCE, the Mycenaean polity imploded. Among the resulting
ssures and erasures were the fate of sacred spaces, which were all abandoned.
To date, archaeologists have not recovered evidence for post-Bronze Age
human activity on Mount Kynortion until the 7
century BCE, at which point
worshipers returned (Bergquist 1986, 27). The 7
century BCE worshipers, too,
avoided the Middle Helladic pit and hill. Directly on top of the retaining wall
built during the Late Helladic era, they demarcated a ‘cone-shaped’ altar space
comprising two concentric ellipses. The area of the inner ellipse measured
3.2 × 2.5 m; its original height is unknown but currently ranges between 0.7
and 0.8 m tall (Lambrinoudakēs 1981, 62–63; Bergquist 1986, 27; Hägg 1992, 19)
(Figure 9). Burnt bones (primarily from bulls and goats), as well as pottery and
other small objects were recovered in the area surrounding the altar
(Lambrinoudakēs 1981, 59).
The raised altar created a hard and fast boundary, one which physically
separated worshipers from the rites being performed. The physical distance
created between the altar and the worshipers likely obscured their views
partially, if not completely, yet other sensory experiences ensued: smells of
smoke, the feeling and noise from being part of a crowd, the noises and smells
of animals being slaughtered.
The 7
century BCE thus marks a transformative moment on Mount
Kynortion: fulllment could happen simply by being in the presence of ritual
as it happened, not by doing. To appreciate the expansive meaning of this shift
it is helpful to think back to Mount Fuji, where a worshiper's identity demarcated
their space of practice. Fujiko pilgrims brought amulets down from the moun-
tain and gifted them to another Fujiko. Those believers who could not attend
pilgrimage were still made to participate in the sacred journey. The amulets
transferred Mount Fuji’s sacred experience downhill. The same transformation
happened on Mount Kynortion through this new altar. Seeing, hearing, smel-
ling even from a distance – became the sacred behaviors for worshipers not
directly involved in the sacrice.
During the 6
century BCE, an east-facing stone temple was constructed,
placed slightly southwest of the altar; the two features nearly touch (Figure 9).
Historical sources suggest that the ruler of Epidaurus, Prokles, oversaw the
project (Herodotus, 3.50–52; Kelly 1976, 120; Lambrinoudakēs 1990, 140). The
temple was dedicated to Apollo, and during the Classical period, this temple
was replaced with a new version, dedicated to Apollo (Lambrinoudakēs 1990,
138–140). Yet again, Mount Kynortion experienced the push and pull between
its sacred histories and futures; worshipers valued the guidelines oered by
their predecessors but redened them for a more contemporary audience. Their
monumental temples and altars were conspicuous markers of human engage-
ment on a sacred landscape embedded with the gods; they informed worshi-
pers of the spaces where they could and could not go.
Seeing the sacred
Worshipers physically reacted to structures inside the sanctuary temenos; their
journey towards Mount Kynortion had already shaped their pathways and
perceptions about the sanctuary. All iterations of sanctuaries located on this
mountain would have been dicult to spot. The location midway on the slopes
of Mount Kynortion blocked any lines of sight from the east; observers on the
west side of the mountain would have struggled still. The variable topography,
coupled with factors like vegetation (likely impactful yet precisely unmeasurable
at this scale), would have made the sanctuary hard to notice from any distance.
This is still the case today (Figure 7).
Despite these hindrances, extra-temenos observers could have more easily
identied the location of the sanctuary using Mount Kynortion, a visually pro-
minent (i.e. noticeable) landmark itself. There are many ways to measure visual
prominence using Geographic Information Systems (GIS); variations in method
depend on whatever topographic characteristics the analyst has used to dene
prominence (Llobera 2001, 2003; Llobera et al. 2010; De Reu et al. 2011;
Bernardini et al. 2013; Bernardini and Peeples 2015; O’Driscoll 2017; Richards-
Rissetto 2017; Bernardini 2018). For this particular study, I dene prominence
based on what Bernardini et al. (2013, 3946) aptly describe as ‘visual impressive-
ness’, or a landform’s shape against the horizon (Bernardini et al. 2013, 3948).
Mountains which are steep and isolated from other landforms are more promi-
nent; observers can more easily spot such mountains on the horizon because
they are not blocked or anked by surrounding topography. A mountain’s
prominence depends upon its surroundings, which, in turn, can change based
on the observer’s location.
Measuring this type of prominence required two dierent datasets: a Digital
Elevation Model (DEM) and a vector point shapele representing feasible
locations of observers in the study area (Susmann 2020, Table 2; 182).
each observer, I applied the following workow: I used ArcGIS’s Skyline tool to
model that observer’s horizon in 360 degrees (Figure 14). This produces
a polygon shapele that surrounds the observer, recording the horizontal
extent of their visibility. I used Bernardini et al.’s (2013) customized Python
toolkit to rst convert this polygon into a horizontal line, and next simplify it.
The simplication process discards vertices that are signicantly lower than an
Figure 7. Mount Kynortion, photographed from inside the Sanctuary of Asklepios.
Photographed by the author at the Asklepeion at Epidaurus/Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas,
published with permission of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Argolida. ©Hellenic Ministry of
Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.
Figure 8. The area of the Middle Helladic settlement; the pit (now backfilled) is on the left-hand
side of the long line of stones. Photographed by the author at the Asklepeion at Epidaurus/
Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas, published with permission of the Ephorate of Antiquities of
Argolida. ©Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.
Figure 9. Plan of the Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas. The area A (indicated) is the site of the Late
Helladic and 7
century BCE altars (Lambrinoudakēs 1983, Plan H).
applied trend line; only the vertices which represent visually prominent peaks
are retained, resulting in a new version of the horizon line with simpler-
looking geometry. During the simplication process, scores are assigned to
each vertex, reecting how much it impacts the shape of the horizon line.
A horizon line was created and simplied for every observer in the study area
and once this process was completed, these several-thousand horizon lines
were merged and converted back into polygons. The end result is a polygon
shapele, and each of its records represents a visually prominent area in the
landscape. Each record has a prominence score; a higher score indicates
comparatively more observers could see it. In other words, this polygon
shapele delineates topographical areas of visual prominence across the
entire Argolid – including Mount Kynortion – based on every potential viewing
location (Figure 15).
According to this analysis, Mount Kynortion is the most prominent natural
feature in Epidaurus’ valley. Its elevation, slope, and shapely summit made it the
most distinctive natural feature on the horizon. Mount Kynortion was therefore
prominent enough to be a prelude, a signier for the Sanctuary of Apollo
Maleatas; worshipers would have spotted the mountain before ever setting
sights on the sanctuary (Figure 15).
As worshipers neared Mount Kynortion, its shape would change against the
horizon – depending on their direction and the surroundings, their view of the
Figure 10. The area of the altar with retaining walls surrounding it. Photographed by the author
at the Asklepeion at Epidaurus/Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas, published with permission of the
Ephorate of Antiquities of Argolida. ©Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological
Receipts Fund.
mountain may have enlarged or become blocked. Just like a modern person
commuting to work, regular travelers to the Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas would
be familiar with these visual changes and apply them as an indicator of distance.
Upon reaching the base of the mountain’s slope, their ability to see was
exchanged for the physical experience of climbing. The changing gradient
created a dierent sort of context, one in which they were now surrounded
by and interacting with the sacred, rather than observing it from a distance.
Mount Kynortion was their landmark and through it, worshipers mentally
mapped their cultic landscape (Tuan 1977, 69–71).
Figure 11. The view from the altar, looking west. Photographed by the author at the Asklepeion
at Epidaurus/Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas, published with permission of the Ephorate of
Antiquities of Argolida. ©Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.
Figure 12. Panoramic views from the sanctuary on Mount Arachnaion. Photographed on Mount
Arachnaion by the author and published with permission of the Ephorate of Antiquities of
Argolida. ©Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.
Moving down the mountain: the sanctuary of Asklepios
Situating the sanctuary of Asklepios
In the 5
century BCE, a new sanctuary devoted to Asklepios an Asklepeia
was founded 0.5 km away from the Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas
(Lambrinoudakēs 1990, 140; Wickkiser 2008, 7) (Figure 16). Both of these deities
were associated with dierent aspects of healing. Apollo could inexplicably
cure. His son, Asklepios, was trained as a physician (Hastings, Selbie, and
Gray 1914, 547; Wickkiser 2008, 1–2), and his cult’s growing popularity in the
century BCE correlates with increased interest in medicinal sciences
(Wickkiser 2010, 46). Asklepios’ popularity physically manifested on the sacred
landscape through asklepeia, or sacred institutions of healing. Individuals came
to these sanctuaries hoping for immediate cures or prescriptions (Liritzis et al.
2017, 130).
The appearance of Asklepios’ sanctuary at Epidaurus was tied to political and
economic competition.
Epidaurians wanted their share of this protable cult.
With their own sanctuary, the Epidaurians could distinguish themselves from
their close neighbors at Argos, and further away, Athens and Sparta (McInerney
2013, 17).
They constructed the temenos eastward from the Sanctuary of
Apollo Maleatas: the site was at the very base of Mount Kynortion and it was,
dierently from previous periods, devoid of any cultic activity. This site was
Figure 13. Profitis Ilias Katsingri is a rocky and prominent hill in the middle of the Argive Plain.
A modern chapel is located on the site of the Bronze Age altar and later 7
century BCE temple.
Photographed by the author and published with permission of the Ephorate of Antiquities of
Argolida. ©Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.
practical: Asklepeia housed worshipers who had come from afar and needed
places to stay; the facilities therefore required regular water sources as well as
larger spaces for crowds (Mel 2007, 25). The spatial proximity between the
Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas and the Sanctuary of Asklepios – only 0.5 kilo-
meters – reects the mythological relationship constructed between the two
deities. Asklepios was Apollo’s son but he was a half-mortal; he needed to be
worshiped in conjunction with Apollo (Liritzis et al. 2017, 130).
Asklepios’ sanctuary restructured the cultic landscape. Previously, worshi-
pers’ attentions were positioned Mount Kynortion. With a new sacred space at
its base, the role of Mount Kynortion was re-imagined. A monumental entry way
(i.e. propylaea) was built for the new Asklepios sanctuary, and it was situated in
such a way that worshipers passing through it would have a clear view of its
silhouette (Figures 17 and 18). This explicit visual link bound the new sacred
space to the mountain and promoted the mountain as an integral visual symbol
of the new cult. The impact is similar to the psychic enlargement that the Fujiko
brought to Mount Fuji.
Archaeological data about travel pathways between these two sanctuaries
are scarce (Mel 2010, 318) but there is evidence that the two became entwined
Figure 14. Using a combination of ArcGIS’s Skyline tool and custom Python codes, the horizon
line for any observer can be simplified into a vector line. Peaks are compared and assigned
values of prominence, the lowest being 0 (Bernardini et al. 2013, Figure 5).
in the local consciousness. One of the more valuable sources is the Paean (i.e.
a poem or hymn) written by Isyllos of Epidaurus. He wrote the paean at some
point during the 4
century BCE and it was inscribed in the sanctuary. He
describes a sacred landscape where two sanctuaries are functionally linked.
Whenever a votive statue was named for an Epidaurian, it was left ‘in the
most conspicuous location within the precinct of Apollo Maleatas and
Asklepios’ (Isyllus of Epidaurus, 4.1.62). Epidaurus paid for an enkoimeterion
(i.e. dormitory for sick worshipers) at the Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas, making it
a sort of ‘satellite campus’ for the sanctuary below (McInerney 2013, 17). Those
desiring to be healed by Asklepios had to visit both sanctuaries. They would
never ‘attempt to go down into the adyton of Asclepius unless [they] rst
Figure 15. Points representing observers were placed 500 m apart on a grid. Each observer’s
horizon line was modeled; prominence scores were assigned to every peak. These data were
converted into vector polygons, identifying how noticeable – if at all – any peak was. The
Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas is located on Mount Kynortion but, notably, not on the summit,
which is the noticeable part.
sacrice on the holy altar of Apollo Maleatas’ (Isyllus of Epidaurus, 4.1.128; Mel
2010, 327).
Thearodokoi were delegates sent by their communities to travel to sanctu-
aries and participate in religious festivals, standing in for any person who could
not attend (Naiden 2005, 73–74). When these thearodokoi came to Epidaurus
they attended a single competition and festival which had two names:
Apollonieia and also Asklepieia (Isyllus of Epidaurus, 4.66.53). They also visited
both sanctuaries (Isyllus of Epidaurus, 4.1.57). This is because the Sanctuary of
Asklepios at Epidaurus was infamous at a Panhellenic level, and its visitors
considered the Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas to be an integral part of their
These worshipers could see the outline of Mount Kynortion, as well as the site
of Apollo Maleatas's altar, as they passed through Asklepios’ propylaea. The
mountain had been made an integral component of the wider cultic landscape.
Figure 16. Coinciding with the growing popularity of the Asklepios cult, a sanctuary was
constructed 0.5 km downhill from the Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas.
It was human activity, and then regard, and then a renewal of activity, that
reframed it; this process transformed Mount Kynortion into a landscape alive
with meaning.
Peak and valley worship at Nemea
Next, we will examine Mount Phoukas, known as Mount Apesas in antiquity.
Mount Phoukas is located in the northeastern Peloponnese, approximately 6.5
km northeast of the town of Nemea. Mount Phoukas marks the northern end of
a narrow and at valley, surrounded by mountains on all sides. Mount Phoukas
was also nearby key urban centers: Korinth (19 km NW), Kleonai (5.5 km SE) and
Phlius (8 km SW). The mountain is easily recognizable along the horizon because
of its at summit (Figure 18). This at space is described as having three stair-like
plateaus increasing in elevation – lower, middle, and upper – and together they
cover 400 meters east to west and 200 meters north to south (Zolotnikova 2013,
112) (Figure 19).
Figure 17. Worshipers entering into the sanctuary would have had views of the surrounding
mountains, including Mount Kynortion. Photographed by the author at the Asklepeion at
Epidaurus/Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas, published with permission of the Ephorate of
Antiquities of Argolida. ©Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.
century BCE: the ash altar on Mount Phoukas
In the 9
century BCE an ash altar was created across the upper and middle
plateaus of Mount Phoukas’ summit.
The Nemea Valley Archaeological Project
(NVAP) surveyed the whole region of Nemea. On Mount Phoukas, they found
a substantial amount of ash and pottery covering an area of 80 × 70 m and
concluded that this was an open-air altar (Wright et al. 1990, 607; Zolotnikova
2013, 114) (Figures 20 and 21). They collected ‘several thousand small sherds’,
many of which were ‘a Geometric style of Corinthian character’ (Wright et al.
1990, 647). Once NVAP completes their massive analysis – pottery recovered
from some 4800 transects (Wright et al. 1990, 604) – we will have a better
understanding of worshiper identities: where they were from and to whom they
were sacricing.
The mountain itself had outstanding visual prominence; the aforementioned
at-top, in combination with having an elevation comparatively higher than
other landforms, made it extremely recognizable against the horizon (Figure
22). All this would have been amplied by what was happening at the altar. As
a ‘large mound . . . which rose magnicently above the summit’ (Zolotnikova
2013, 112), it would have produced a smoke column visible from many kilo-
meters away. This was a phenomenon amplied by the mountain’s elevation,
which was demonstrably higher than landscape features surrounding it.
Figure 18. The flat top of Mount Phoukas is visible from the monumental altar of Zeus.
Photographed by the author at the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea, published with permission
of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Corinthia. ©Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/
Archaeological Receipts Fund.
Williamson (2014) presents a useful comparative model: she calculated the
visible extent of a smoke column burning at the altar within the sanctuary of
Zeus Stratios, which was similarly situated on a mountain plateau in Anatolia.
With a hypothetical height of 1 kilometer, the smoke column would have made
the summit more noticeable from individuals in the area, and especially so at
night (Williamson 2014, 181–184).
Smoke emitted from Mount Phoukas would have had the same sort of visual
impact. Seeing smoke meant that people could mentally map where Mount
Phoukas was before they actually saw it; the smoke was a landmark for the altar
itself. This is just like what happened on Mount Kynortion where 7
century BCE worshipers might not catch a glimpse of the sacrice happening
on the raised altar – or even the notion of pilgrimage-by-proxy at Mount Fuji.
Smoke provided real-time data about what was happening on Mount
Phoukas; it created a connection between the viewer and the distant altar. As
a byproduct of a specic ritual, the smoke helped inscribe the mountain in time
Figure 19. The flat top of Mount Phoukas can be divided into three areas of graduating heights.
The ash altar is located on the so-called Upper Plateau.
Figure 20. Evidence of the ash altar is visible from the surface. Photographed by the author at
Mount Phoukas in Nemea, published with permission of the Ephorate of Antiquities of
Corinthia. ©Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.
Figure 21. Details of the ash altar. Photographed by the author at Mount Phoukas in Nemea,
published with permission of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Corinthia. ©Hellenic Ministry of
Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.
as well as space. Williamson (2014, 186) remarks, on the smoke column at the
Sanctuary of Zeus Stratios, that it ‘would have given everyone immediate
common knowledge of the ritual, not just the delegates on the mountaintop.’
Seeing the smoke signaled to believers o of the summit that sacral acts were
happening; it gave them a real-time connection to meaningful events from
which they were absent.
century BCE: a new ash altar, down the mountain
Between the 8
and 7
centuries BCE, a new ash altar space was founded about
6.5 km away from Mount Phoukas, at Nemea.
The new space lay in the middle
of a valley, a topography unremarkable on its own, but bound by the promi-
nence of the sacred space and viewshed of Mount Phoukas on its horizon
Figure 22. Visual prominence analysis indicates that Mount Phoukas is the most noticeable
landform surrounding the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea; the ash altar is located within the
prominent area.
(Figure 18, 23). Here, small votive vessels, drinking cups, mixing bowls and
‘plentiful fragments of bone’ were recovered throughout a burned area. The
excavators regard these materials as evidence for ritual cult and sacrice (Birge,
Kraynak, and Miller 1992, 22). Zolotnikova (2013, 118) argues
‘the patterns of cult behavior practiced by the worshipers at Nemea in the late 8
century BCE to the beginning of the 7
century BCE resembled, if not purposefully
mirrored, those of the older and more signicant contemporary cult of Zeus practiced
on the summit of Mount Fokas (sic).’
century BCE: a temple
In the 6
century BCE, in conjunction with the founding of the Nemean games,
a monumental temple and altar were dedicated to Zeus; the temple was
eventually destroyed and rebuilt during the 4
century BCE (Miller et al. 1989,
159) (Figure 23).
For the next 200 years, both the altar on Mount Phoukas and
the great sanctuary at Nemea co-existed; nds indicate that visitors continued
to make their way up the mountain.
After the 4
century BCE, the decreased number of nds suggests that the
number of people climbing up Mount Phoukas also declined (Zolotnikova
2013, 114).
And yet, Mount Phoukas did not lose its meaning as a sacred
place. Instead, the mountain took on a new role: representing the past and
becoming part of Nemea’s mythological history. Mount Phoukas was used as
the starting point for the horse races of the Nemean games: ‘So sped Areion,
the Arkadian horse, [in the rst Nemean Games] beside the shrine of Zeus
Figure 23. The monumental altar dedicated to Zeus, photographed from the temple’s entrance.
Photographed by the author at the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea, published with permission of
the Ephorate of Antiquities of Corinthia. ©Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/
Archaeological Receipts Fund.
Apesantios’ (Callim. Frag. 267A: Steph. Byz. S.v. πέσας) (Figure 24). When the
Roman writer Pausanius visited Nemea in the 2
century CE, he called atten-
tion to the mountain and its sacred origin story: ‘Above Nemea is Mount
Apeseas, where they say that Perseus rst sacriced to Zeus of Apesas’
(Pausanias, 2.15.3).
Mount Phoukas and the sacred viewshed
When the Sanctuary of Zeus hosted a festival, the whole landscape of Nemea
changed. On festival days, smells of butchery, cooking meat, and smoke would
have lled the air, along with noises from people and animals (Weddle 2013,
Space was also used dierently; areas previously unaliated with the
sanctuary were now part of it:
The valley would have been lled with tents and temporary hutches, stalls for peddlers,
a continual din of animals and of human votives, and smoke from a thousand campres
and from the sacrices performed almost continuously at the Altar of Zeus . . . the roads
leading to Nemea would have been lled with crowds of people sated with food, drink,
and the competitions (Miller et al. 1989, 8).
Activities associated with the sanctuary permeated its surroundings, and this
would have eectively provoked a sense of arrival well before reaching its
‘ocial’ edge. These changes were always temporary. When the festival ended
Figure 24. Mount Phoukas’ flat summit is visible from the stadium. Photographed by the author
at the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea, published with permission of the Ephorate of Antiquities of
Corinthia. ©Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Archaeological Receipts Fund.
and people dispersed, ‘the stalls of peddlers, so thick a few days earlier, would
have disappeared . . . .’ (Miller et al. 1989, 8). The landscape reverted to its
essential topographic components: a wide, at valley marked at one end by
the view of Mount Phoukas.
The combination of the mountain’s visual prominence and cultic history,
imbricated with the knowledge or perhaps personal memory of the bustle of
festival times, meant that anybody moving through this area would have reason
to regard it as a meaningful marker. It would have emitted a kind of psychic
resonance, just like Mount Fuji: even if only seen from a distance, whether by
a pilgrim or tourist, the mountain will have radiated the kind of presence that
comes from centuries of ardent human engagement.
Sacred ways, sanctuaries, and sensorial experiences
Certain topographies come to carry certain meanings. For the ancient Greeks,
mountains were special: they were the places that the gods preferred most on
earth (Langdon 2000, 462). Altars and sanctuaries constructed on mountains
helped cultivate a relationship with the gods. When cultic activities moved
down o these mountain altars and sanctuaries, the mountains themselves
retained their sacred aura – and by being kept within the viewshed of the
new space, lent it some of that aura.
During Greek antiquity, festivals attracted huge crowds of people. These were
individuals ‘wishing to go, to sacrice, to consult the oracle, to be spectators’
(Dillon 1997, xvi; Thucydides 5.18.2). These people will have included state
delegates, athletes, musicians, general festival attendees, cult initiates, sick
individuals, and those in need of oracular guidance (Elsner and Rutherford
2005, 12–24). Identifying any one of these groups is impossible at the resolution
of landscape, but we can still imagine them there. Their diversity acted as a kind
of multiplier eect, enhancing and enlarging the aura of these spaces.
Just as people can turn place into landscape, so too they are the cause for
landscape reverting back to place. For the millennia between Greco-Roman
antiquity and modern times, Mount Kynortion and Mount Phoukas reverted
to their geographic base: individual unmarked peaks within larger mountain
ranges. And they remain so today, even though the ancient sanctuaries once
associated with them have been excavated and reconstructed. Today, at
both Nemea and Epidauros, the majority of visitors come as tourists instead
of worshipers, just as at Mount Fuji. Their visitor experience centers on the
easily accessed low-lying sanctuaries. At Epidaurus, visitors barely look up to
Mount Kynortion, and this makes sense. The sanctuary is closed to the public.
Instead, they pay for entry to the temenos of the Sanctuary of Asklepios,
a huge space lled with large reconstructed buildings, most Roman in date.
In an ironic twist, it is these structures, which were themselves a kind of
tourist attraction, built by later admirers to acknowledge the sanctuary’s
history and importance, that have taken on the role of communicating what
mattered to the ancient Greeks. Mount Kynortion is simply a mountain in the
At Nemea, Mount Phoukas is similarly disassociated. The Ministry of Culture
has not marked the Sanctuary of Zeus Apesantios, and the general public do
not know it is there. When tourists do visit the mountain, it is to take in the
view, and/or to see the Monastery of the Dormition rock, located midway on
the southern slope. As Mount Kynortion, so too Mount Phoukas has lost its
audience, and so its sacred meaning. Both mountains occupy an entirely
dierent function than what they had in the past, and we see them dierently
as a result.
1. Fujinomiya is located on the southwestern slopes of Mount Fuji.
2. Eboshi-wa is near the Eighth Station on Mount Fuji (Figure 2).
3. Women were initially banned from most of Fuji’s sacred sites, including Tainai (the
cave). Women were also restricted from summiting more than once every 60 years
(Earhart 2011, 94).
4. (Hägg 1997, 17) also connects Middle Helladic cult with the Late Helladic artifacts:
‘Although they belong chronologically to the Late Helladic period, they should be seen
as associated with the rite of animal sacrice that I think was performed here from late
Middle Helladic times onwards.’
5. Observers were spaced 200 m apart to ensure all visible space was covered. All areas with
slopes <49 were excluded; areas so steep were deemed inappropriate for observers to
easily stand, based on where else cultic structures were located in the Argolid. Susmann
(2020, 181, Table 1) describes this decision-making process in greater detail.
6. Measuring the prominence of Mount Kynortion was part of a larger study about sacred
landscapes in the Peloponnesian regions of the Argolid and Messenia (Susmann 2019).
Susmann (2020) discusses the methodological approach and includes step-by-step
7. Tied into these plans is Apollo Maleatas. Based on Fantuzzi (2010, 185) and McInerney
(2013, 14–17) reading of the Paean of Isyllos, Maleatas is not an epithet to a deity. In the
text, Maleatas is a reference to Malos, a mortal Epidaurian to whom Zeus gifted Erato as
a wife. Malos eventually built the altar to Apollo on Mount Kynortion. Isyllos does not
refer to Apollo Maleatas – largely considered a Lakonian invention – and instead
Phoibos Apollo. Thus, the Epidaurians considered Apollo to be their local god;
Maleatas was an epithet tying a close Epidaurian family to Apollo.
8. Their eorts were so successful that this sanctuary turned into the center of Asklepeios
cult in Greece and eventually, gained notoriety as the birthplace of Asklepeios. Rumors
of the miraculous cures happening there attracted regular crowds; Epidaurus reaped
the economic benets and was able to keep expanding the sanctuary, including
adding its theater – a popular tourist attraction to this day – less than a century after
the sanctuary was opened (Burke 2005, 215).
9. There is no published evidence describing to which deity was dedicated. Cook (2010,
892, no, 4) and Zolotnikova (2013) use oblique references in Hesiod (8
or 7
century BCE) and Pausanias (2
century CE) to make a case for the altar being sacred to
Zeus Apesantios (Hesiod, 306; Pausanias, 2.15.3).
10. There are Bronze Age remains as well, but these are limited to ceramics and therefore
cannot be associated with cultic activity specically (Miller 1977, 20; Birge, Kraynak, and
Miller 1992, 22–23; Zolotnikova 2013, 116).
11. The temple was eventually destroyed and rebuilt during the 4
century BCE.
12. Elsewhere in the Peloponnese, there are examples of historical peak sanctuaries losing
popularity to newer lower-lying sanctuaries closer to settlements. Mount Arachnaion,
which Zolotnikova (2013, 121) describes as functionally similar to the cult on Mount
Phoukas, was most popular between the 8
century BCE. It was used through the
Roman period, though votive deposits are far more sporadic at this time (Foley
13. (Weddle 2013, 149–150) excellently contextualizes the mixture of sounds emitted by
animals and musicians at such festival days. Referencing extensive data from modern
slaughterhouse studies, she argues that the ancient Greeks and Romans could have played
music at festival days, in part to soothe animals.
The author would like to thank Andrea Berlin for editing early versions of the manuscript. She
would also like to thank Sarah Frederick and Yasuko Ta for sharing their Kongo cane
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author.
This research was completed with the following research grants: Boston University Graduate
Research Abroad Fellowship, Boston University Graduate Student Organization travel grant,
GeoEye Foundation Award for the Application of High-Resolution Digital Satellite Imagery,
and Boston University Digital Humanities Seminar Start-Up Grant. Data collection at the
Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas was completed in compliance with permit number 6569,
granted by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Argolida. Images of archaeological materials were
taken by the author and were published with permission of the Ephoreia of Antiquities of
Argolida and Corinthia.
Notes on contributor
Natalie M. Susmann is a Mediterranean landscape archaeologist studying intersections
between human constructions and nature, with a particular interest in religious architecture,
place-making, and spatial memory. Her work integrates spatial and digital technologies to
examine how natural features impacted peoples’ cultural and religious lives. She completed
her PhD in Archaeology at Boston University. She is currently Visiting Lecturer in Classics at
the College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, Massachusetts) and Visiting Research Scholar at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts).
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Archaeologists have long acknowledged the significance of mountains in siting Greek cult. Mountains were where the gods preferred to make contact and there people constructed sanctuaries to inspire intervention. Greece is a land full of mountains, but we lack insight on the ancient Greeks’ view—what visible and topographic characteristics made particular mountains ideal places for worship over others, and whether worshiper preferences ever changed. This article describes a data collection and analysis methodology for landscapes where visualscape was a significant factor in situating culturally significant activities. Using a big-data approach, four geospatial analyses are applied to every cultic place in the Peloponnesian regions of the Argolid and Messenia, spanning 2800–146 BC. The fully described methodology combines a number of experiences—looking out, looking toward, and climbing up—and measures how these change through time. The result is an active historic model of Greek religious landscape, describing how individuals moved, saw, and integrated the built and natural world in different ways. Applied elsewhere, and even on nonreligious locales, this is a replicable mode for treating the natural landscape as an artifact of human decision: as a space impacting the siting of meaningful locales through history.
The renowned classical scholar and archaeologist A. B. Cook (1868–1952) published the final volume of his monumental Zeus: A Study in Ancient Religion in 1940. Part I, which contains the main body of text for the volume, weaves together archaeological, artistic and ancient literary evidence to explore the concept of Zeus as a weather-god - the god of earthquakes, clouds, wind, dew, rain and meteorites. In this final volume Cook draws together his conclusions on the major theme spanning all three volumes: Zeus as god of the sky. This sumptuous work, encyclopaedic in its breath, is a treasure-trove of primary texts, epigraph material and archaeological data. It contains hundreds of illustrations, including images of pottery, statues, friezes and ancient coins and the most important literary sources, both Greek and Latin, are quoted in full. It is an indispensable tool for students and scholars of classics, mythology and ancient religion.
Cranborne Chase, in central southern England, is the area where British field archaeology developed in its modern form. The site of General Pitt Rivers' pioneering excavations in the nineteenth century, Cranborne Chase also provides a microcosm of virtually all the major types of filed monument present in southern England as a whole. Much of the archaeological material has fortuitously survived, offering the fullest chronological cover of any part of the prehistoric British landscape. Martin Green began working in this region in 1968 and was joined by John Barrett and Richard Bradley in 1977 for a fuller programme of survey and excavation that lasted for nearly ten years. In this important study, they apply some of the questions in prehistory to one of the first regions of the country to be studied in such detail. The book is a regional study of long-term change in British prehistory, and contains a unique collection of data. A landmark in the archaeological literature, it will be essential reading for students and scholars of British prehistory and social and historical geography, and also for all those involved with archaeological methods.
This dissertation presents a systematic study of the relationship between sanctuaries, visualscapes, and the changing cultural valence of landscape in ancient Greek culture. The ancient Greeks situated their deities within the natural word; godly encounters were particularly expected on mountains. Despite significant archaeological and textual data confirming the important connection between sacred spaces and the natural world, no consistent, systematic framework for determining which natural environments were preferred exists; whether the Greeks sought elevated, noticeable, or rugged environments, and if changes happened over time and space. This dissertation answers those questions by offering a chronological model of ancient Greek worship in the natural world. Geospatial and 3D technology were used to measure the visual and topographic qualities of over 300 cultic places in the Peloponnesian regions of the Argolid and Messenia. These analyses convey that later Greeks shared Bronze Age preferences for worshiping in elevated, visually prominent locales that afforded vast viewsheds. Beginning in the 10th/9th c BCE, worshipers formed new sanctuaries at former Mycenaean cultic places -- but only the most noticeable ones. Over time, the conjoined aspects of vision and view changed in significance. By the 5th c. BCE, as worshippers moved to larger spaces downslope, the number of visitors to certain peak sanctuaries declined. Yet, visual prominence remained an integral part of worship. Historic peak sanctuaries remained important landmarks, guiding worshipers’ movements along a sacred way. At particular moments during the year, lower-lying sanctuaries became more noticeable; festival days meant more noise, smells, and smoke. And, despite the growing popularity of lower-lying locales, new sanctuaries like Bassae, Nomian Pan, and Skilloundia suggest that prominence and viewshed remained important for worship. By placing over 2500 years of Greek religion into the natural landscape, this dissertation presents new and important arguments about place-making; it describes how natural features remained highly influential in the siting of cult. Particular beliefs, practices, and structures changed over time, but the same sorts of physical environments remained integrated and revered. This dissertation thus provides a model for scholars to identify, measure, and describe natural features as artifacts of human behavior.
This book aims to explore the aspects of visuality in Greek and Roman culture, comprising the visual appearance of images as well as the reality of the social world. The face-to-face societies of ancient Greece and Rome were to a high degree based on civic presence and direct, immediate social interaction in which visual appearance and experience of beings and things was of paramount importance. The six chapters of the book are dedicated to action in space, memory over time, the appearance of the person, conceptualization of reality, and, finally, presentification and decor as fundamental categories of art in social practice.