Places of Cult: Athens and the Demes

Robert Parker

in Polytheism and Society at Athens

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780199216116
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191705847 | DOI:
Places of Cult: Athens and the Demes

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Compared to Athens, Attica contains more than a hundred rural demes, many of which will have been felt by their inhabitants to have themselves a religious centre and religious periphery. A cluster of cults are sited on the acropolis; as for the sense of a periphery, the instruction to perform a sacrifice ‘out towards Paiania is eloquent’. The cults of Artemis at Brauron and of Nemesis at Rhamnus appear very similar: both are important cults of goddesses located in outlying coastal regions. But literary sources indicate that their actual roles in religious life were different: one the destination of a procession from the city, and the other a site of a major public festival. Religious organisations of different types, including phratries and private cult societies, all had their own altars somewhere. At one level, all these altars collectively simply constitute the sacred places of the gods and heroes who hold Attica.

Keywords: ancient Athens; demes; Attica; cults; religious life; altars; agora; sacrifices; festivals; religion

Chapter.  15431 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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