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« The power of prophecy, the sanctity
   of sanctuaries and festivals are all
        distinctive features of Spartan
                             Religion »
 Describe one festival
 Explain the features of Spartan Religion
 Explain the role of Spartan Religion
 Discuss the importance of Spartan
 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
 Sparta was the only Greek state to receive
  its Constitution from the Oracle at Delphi
             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
 It is interesting to note that all   “The three principal festivals
 images of the Spartan gods are       all honour Apollo, the model
 armed                                youth”
                                                           R. Parker

Although Dionysus was
worshipped, the Spartans
never developed the
drinking rites associated
with the Cult
              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.”
       Characteristics of Spartan Religion
Belief in Anthropomorphic gods

    Merging of Religious and Secular; Kings as
    Chief Priests and the worship of hero cults

        Belief and Importance of Oracles

             Importance of Ritual blood sacrifice

                 Importance of competitive games and festivals
                 Procession an important element of festivals
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
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
4 Religion reinforces social values. Hero worship, most
    often soldiers who had died in battle transmitted the
    values of bravery (Hero worship of Menelaus
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
            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
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.
                          Sacrifice for Battle
   Cleomenes in 494 set out to         Kings made sacrifice
    invade Argolid by land, but the
    omens were bad, so he was            3 times on the way to
    obliged to go by sea. On three       war. Once before
    separate occasions during the
    Pelopponesian War invasion of
                                         leaving Sparta, once
    Argolid was abandoned because        at the border of
    of bad omens                         Sparta and once
   At Plataea the Spartans resisted
    Persian attack until by a            before engaging
    desperate prayer to Hera,            battle.
    Pausanius procured favourable
    omens for advance.
                                                    Belief in Oracles

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
                                                               The oracle was believed to
                                                               be possessed by Apollo
                                  Spartan Oracular
   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
                              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.
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
   . 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
   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
   [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
   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.
   [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.
Athena of the Bronze House
                emphasizing warrior values
Synchretism; Artemis Orthia
   goddess of wild animals
Statue of Apollo at Amyclae

             found at

                        Dioscuri ; Castor and Pollux
                                     Student Activity
   Using your Spartan Society handout
    complete the following table

Festival/Cult         Description        Interpretation      Archaeological

    For archaeological evidence, download Power point, Significant
    Archaeological Sites of Sparta at
                    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)
                          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” *
          Archaeological Evidence of
                                    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 7th century

The amphora which marked the
grave at Mesoa depicts hunting
scenes and battle
                    Pthos burial at Limnai
Fragment of a Pythos found at
Sparta – 6th century               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
                                    8th century
Two Story Tombs
     During 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
      6th century Stella Raftopoulou
      has been interpreted as hero
      cult worship. 22 Laconian
      vessels, were found, thought
      to be the remains of a
      funerary banquet.
Historians on Religion in Spartan
   “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
   Robert Parker
   “ 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
                                 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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