What were the requirements for a Greek sanctuary? Did the requirements of a pan Hellenic sanctuary, such as Delphi or Olympia, differ from those of a sanctuary which served the local community, such as the Athenian Acropolis?
The basic requirements are the same for all sanctuaries: a space for crowds to gather the temenos and an altar for the central act of sacrifice. The temenos was not necessarily demarcated by a wall: sometimes buildings defined the space e.g. at Olympia. From the 8th century BC monumentalisation of sanctuaries becomes noticeable, especially reflected in the building of temples, originally houses for the cult statue. These temples were probably more to do with promoting the identity of the individual polis than religious fervour. Later, temples tend to assume a more central position, displacing the altar further to the east; this can be seen at Delphi.
Pan Hellenic sanctuaries attracted the wider Greek communities the games at Olympia and the famous oracle of Apollo at Delphi (and the Pythian Games also). The requirements of this wider Greek presence can be seen in range of features. Treasuries housed the valuable dedications of individual poleis e.g. the Siphnian treasury at Delphi, a fine Ionic structure with frieze and 'caryatid' porch, and the treasury of Gela at Olympia the finest of all the treasuries there. To some extent, these treasuries made a statement about their respective poleis.
At both Olympia and Delphi we find structures associated with the pan Hellenic festivals themselves e.g. the stadia, in both cases outside the temenos. At Olympia, there are the gymnasion and palaistra to the west of the temenos. Also at Olympia, we find buildings connected with the administration of the festival e.g. the bouleuterion to the south, and the entertaining of visitors e.g. the prytaneion and Leonidaion. At Delphi, the presence of the wider Greek communities is reflected even more e.g. the club house (lesche) of the Cnidians.
Within the sanctuary of the Athenian Acropolis, the emphasis is very much on local cults, especially that of Athena e.g. the Parthenon and Erechtheion. The splendid building programme instigated by Perikles reflects the special position of Athens as the leading Ionian polis. The revenue from the empire enabled the polis to promote its identity through a programme of unique coherence and magnificence: neither of the pan Hellenic sanctuaries features such an imposing entrance as the Propylaia. No doubt visitors were entertained here (e.g. in the Pinakotheke in the north wing of the propylaia), but there was no requirement for the pan Hellenic features seen elsewhere.
All three sanctuaries discussed here are exceptional in their size and range of monuments. All three, however, exhibit the same basic requirements of all sanctuaries, local or pan Hellenic: the altar and temenos.
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