How Ancient Greeks Chose Temple Locations





To honor their gods and goddesses, ancient Greeks often poured blood or wine on the ground as offerings. Now a new study suggests that the soil itself might have had a prominent role in Greek worship, strongly influencing which deities were venerated where.

In a survey of eighty-four Greek temples of the Classical period (480 to 338 B.C.), Gregory J. Retallack of the University of Oregon in Eugene studied the local geology, topography, soil, and vegetation - as well as historical accounts by the likes of Herodotus, Homer, and Plato - in an attempt to answer a seemingly simple question: why are the temples where they are?

No clear pattern emerged until he turned to the gods and goddesses. It was then that he discovered a robust link between the soil on which a temple stood and the deity worshiped there.

For example, Demeter, the goddess of grain and fertility, and Dionysos, the god of wine, both were venerated on fertile, well-structured soils called Xerolls, which are ideal for grain cultivation.

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