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SPARTAN RELIGION « The power of prophecy, the sanctity of sanctuaries and festivals are all distinctive features of Spartan Religion »

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Presentation on theme: "SPARTAN RELIGION « The power of prophecy, the sanctity of sanctuaries and festivals are all distinctive features of Spartan Religion »"— Presentation transcript:

1 SPARTAN RELIGION « The power of prophecy, the sanctity of sanctuaries and festivals are all distinctive features of Spartan Religion »

2 HSC STYLE QUESTIONS  Describe one festival  Explain the features of Spartan Religion  Explain the role of Spartan Religion  Discuss the importance of Spartan Religion

3 HERODOTUS  Athenians telling the Spartans; “We are all Greeks sharing both the same blood and the same language and we have temples of our gods in common and our sacrifices.”  Sparta was the only Greek state to receive its Constitution from the Oracle at Delphi

4 Problems of Evidence  While written sources such as Pausanius, Herodotus and Xenophon are essentially non Spartan and elite, much of our current knowledge has been gathered from the excavations of such sites as Artemis Orthia and the Menaleon

5 It is interesting to note that all images of the Spartan gods are armed Although Dionysus was worshipped, the Spartans never developed the drinking rites associated with the Cult “The three principal festivals all honour Apollo, the model youth” R. Parker

6 Athenians at Marathon  The most unique aspect of Spartan religion was their strict adherence to religious ritual.  “ The Spartans,though moved by appeal, and willing to send help to Athens, were unable to send it promptly because they did not wish to break their law. It was the ninth day of the month and they said they could not take to the field until the moon was full.”

7 Characteristics of Spartan Religion

8 The Role of Religion 1. To explain the natural world and seek to control it. Fertility, both natural and human could be guaranteed by appeasing the gods at such festivals as the Karneia and the Hyakinthia 2. To avert disaster by ritual sacrifice, libations and divination 3. Gain advantage through war by the use of oracles and the protection of the Dioscuri

9 4 Religion reinforces social values. Hero worship, most often soldiers who had died in battle transmitted the values of bravery (Hero worship of Menelaus Leonidas) 5 Competition in festivals emphasized the importance of athleticism and physical fitness. ( Karneia) 6 Inclusiveness of festivals created a community identity, while exclusion from festivals defined ones inferior status ( Agemoi at Gymnopaedia) 7 Certain festivals provided rites of passage from adolescence to adult or warrior status ( stealing of the cheese)

10 Sacrifice and Divination  The king served as Chief priest, but their must have been other priests who served on a daily basis, carrying out sacrifices and acting as caretakers at Sanctuaries such as Amyclae  A Spartiate could sacrifice and make offerings in his own home  A shrine of the herald Talthybius ( originally the herald of Agamemnon) was tended by a group of hereditary heralds

11 Frequency of Sacrifice  The gods spoke to the Spartans through public sacrifice. The warning of the conspiracy of Cinadon was revealed by such means. The first recipients of these messages apart from seers were the kings themselves  The power to consult the gods though was diffused among the decision making bodies. Lycurgus himself had received sanction from Apollo through the oracle and the ephors were expected to read omens ( sky gazing)every nine years. If a shooting star was seen it was a sign that the King had committed a religious offence and should be deposed.

12 Sacrifice for Battle  Cleomenes in 494 set out to invade Argolid by land, but the omens were bad, so he was obliged to go by sea. On three separate occasions during the Pelopponesian War invasion of Argolid was abandoned because of bad omens  At Plataea the Spartans resisted Persian attack until by a desperate prayer to Hera, Pausanius procured favourable omens for advance.  Kings made sacrifice 3 times on the way to war. Once before leaving Sparta, once at the border of Sparta and once before engaging battle.

13 Belief in Oracles The oracle was believed to be possessed by Apollo Now, a four-year study of the area in the vicinity of the shrine is causing archaeologists and other authorities to revisit the notion that intoxicating fumes loosened the lips of the Pythia. The study, reported in the August issue of Geology, reveals that two faults intersect directly below the Delphic temple. The study also found evidence of hallucinogenic gases rising from a nearby spring and preserved within the temple rock

14 Spartan Oracular pronouncements  Hear your fate, O dwellers in Sparta of the wide spaces; Either your famed, great town must be sacked by Perseus' sons, Or, if that be not, the whole land of Lacedaemon Shall mourn the death of a king of the house of Heracles, For not the strength of lions or of bulls shall hold him, Strength against strength; for he has the power of Zeus, And will not be checked till one of these two he has consumed

15 A Lame King  Beware, great Sparta, lest there come of thee, Though sound thyself, an halting sovereignty: Troubles, both long and unexpected too, And storms of deadly warfare shall ensue.

16 Merging of Secular and Religious  The Agamoi were the men who had not produced sons as the state required. This group was excluded from the Gymnopaidai . They were also shown signs of disrespect at other gatherings as young men would not give them their seats and they were forced to give their seats to the younger

17 Pausanius  On their market-place the Spartans have images of Apollo Pythaeus of Artemis and of Leto. The whole of this region is called Choros (Dancing), because at the Gymnopaediae, a festival which the Lacedaemonians take more seriously than any other, the lads perform dances in honor of Apollo. Not far from them is a sanctuary of Earth and of Zeus of the Market-place, another of Athena of the Market-place and of Poseidon surnamed Securer, and likewise one of Apollo and of Hera.  [10] There is also dedicated a colossal statue of the Spartan People. The Lacedaemonians have also a sanctuary of the Fates, by which is the grave of Orestes, son of Agamemnon. For when the bones of Orestes were brought from Tegea in accordance with an oracle they were buried here. Beside the grave of Orestes is a statue of Polydorus, son of Alcamenes, a king who rose to such honor that the magistrates seal with his likeness everything that requires sealing.  [11] There is also Hermes of the Market-place carrying Dionysus as a child, besides the old Courts of the Ephors, as they are called, in which are the tombs of Epimenides the Cretan and of Aphareus the son of Perieres. As to Epimenides, I think the Lacedaemonian story is more probable than the Argive. Here, where the Fates are, the Lacedaemonians also have a sanctuary of Hestia. There is also Zeus Hospitable and Athena Hospitable.

18  The Lacedaemonians have no citadel rising to a conspicuous height like the Cadmea at Thebes and the Larisa at Argos. There are, however, hills in the city, and the highest of them they call the citadel.  [2] Here is built a sanctuary of Athena, who is called both City-protecting and Lady of the Bronze House. The building of the sanctuary was begun, they say, by Tyndareus. On his death his children were desirous of making a second attempt to complete the building, and the resources they intended to use were the spoils of Aphidna. They too left it unfinished, and it was many years afterwards that the Lacedaemonians made of bronze both the temple and the image of Athena. The builder was Gitiadas, a native of Sparta, who also composed Dorian lyrics, including a hymn to the goddess.

19  [3] On the bronze are wrought in relief many of the labours of Heracles and many of the voluntary exploits he successfully carried out, besides the rape of the daughters of Leucippus and other achievements of the sons of Tyndareus. There is also Hephaestus releasing his mother from the fetters. The legend about this I have already related in my history of Attica There are also represented nymphs bestowing upon Perseus, who is starting on his enterprise against Medusa in Libya, a cap and the shoes by which he was to be carried through the air. There are also wrought the birth of Athena, Amphitrite, and Poseidon, the largest figures, and those which I thought the best worth seeing.  [4] There is here another sanctuary of Athena; her surname is the Worker. As you go to the south portico there is a temple of Zeus surnamed Cosmetas (Orderer), and before it is the tomb of Tyndareus. The west portico has two eagles, and upon them are two Victories. Lysander dedicated them to commemorate both his exploits; the one was off Ephesus, when he conquered Antiochus, the captain of Alcibiades, and the Athenian warships and the second occurred later, when he destroyed the Athenian fleet at Aegospotami.  [5]  On the left of the Lady of the Bronze House they have set up a sanctuary of the Muses, because the Lacedaemonians used to go out to fight, not to the sound of the trumpet, but to the music of the flute and the accompaniment of lyre and harp. Behind the Lady of the Bronze House is a temple of Aphrodite Areia (Warlike). The wooden images are as old as any in Greece.

20 Athena of the Bronze House emphasizing warrior values

21 Synchretism; Artemis Orthia goddess of wild animals

22 Statue of Apollo at Amyclae

23 FESTIVALS  HYAKINTHIA  KARNEIA  GYMNOPAEDIA  CULT OF ARTEMIS ORTHIA  HERO CULTS Dioscuri ; Castor and Pollux Clay mask, found at Artemis Orthia

24 Student Activity  Using your Spartan Society handout complete the following table Festival/CultDescriptionInterpretationArchaeological Evidence For archaeological evidence, download Power point, Significant Archaeological Sites of Sparta at

25 Death and Burial  Greeks traditionally fearful of the dead. They believed in daimones or spirits that hovered near dead bodies and around places of burial.  The body was normally cremated on a funeral pyre and later the bones were collected and buried with ceremony.  Funeral Rights of Kings ( see Herodotus)

26 Lycurgan Reform  “ Firstly he did away with superstitions altogether by allowing them to bury bodies in the city itself and to have memorials in the vicinity of sacred places…..Secondly he permitted nothing to be buried with them. However they covered the body with the scarlet cloak and olive leaves…It was not permitted to inscribe the name of the dead person on their tomb, unless it was a man who had died in war or a woman who had died in sacred office” *

27 Archaeological Evidence of Graves  In 1964 Christou discovered four cist graves ( lined cavities in the ground ). They contained two males, one adult female and a child). The burials were covered by tumulus mound and the earth contained bones of oxen wild boars and horses. The grave was dated as late 7 th century The amphora which marked the grave at Mesoa depicts hunting scenes and battle

28 Pthos burial at Limnai  Near the river Eurotas, a male pithos burial was discovered with iron weapons, a sword and a dagger and bronze ornaments.  It was dated to late 8 th century Fragment of a Pythos found at Sparta – 6 th century

29 Two Story Tombs  D uring the late archaic and classical period monumental tombs were recorded by Pausanius. The primary burial was located in the bottom story. After the body decayed the bones were collected wiyh offerings and relocated in the second story. One hillside tomb dated to early 6 th century Stella Raftopoulou has been interpreted as hero cult worship. 22 Laconian vessels, were found, thought to be the remains of a funerary banquet.

30 Historians on Religion in Spartan Society  “It is impossible to find any other advisors in such matters except gods. They know everything, and give signs to those they wish to through sacrifices, birds of omen, voices and dreams.”  Hipparchicus  “The charm of divination for the consultant is that he may never feel that he is acting at random.”  Robert Parker

31  “ The power of prophecy, the sanctity of sanctuaries and festivals, the threat of divine punishment; it is on issues such as these that the distinctiveness of Spartan religion emerges.”  Robert Parker  “The more an individual feels subject as a social being to a set of rules that he must obey without question, the more he is bound within a hierarchical structure of power, the more likely he is to understand religion too as a matter of fixed and formal observance, of strict obedience to rules.”  Mary Douglas

32 A FINAL SAY  “Spartan religion was Spartan more in its insistence on orderliness and obedience than in any particular military emphasis it may have had….Thus it contributed to her success by supporting the dominant norms of Spartan Society.”  Robert Parker

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