The Stones of Greece


Monastery Kaiseriani***
11th-18th cent AD
In the foothills of Mount Hymettos, south of Athens

Catholikon of Kaiseriani Monastery, RWFG 1996

The Monastery lies at a short distance to the east of Athens, on a hillside at the foot of Mt. Hymettos. It is enclosed by a high wall with two gates, one on the east and one on the west side. The catholicon was built in the late 11th -early 12th century and was dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple. It is a cross-in-square, four-column church, with a dome, and its walls are built in the cloisonne masonry with poor brick ornaments. The domed narthex was added in the 17th century. About the same time, the barrel-vaulted chapel to the north, dedicated to Aghios Antonios, was added, too.

Murals in the narthex of the Catholocon: Christ's entry into Jerusalem (recently restored)

The interior of the church is decorated with murals (not frecoes) dating from the 18th century while those in the narthex date back to 1682 and were made by Ioannes Hypatios, according to an inscription.

To the west of the church is a complex containing the kitchen and the refectory. Along the south side of the enclosure a row of buildings is attached. Among the preserved structures is the bath installation, built in the late 11th -early 12th century, with a domed central chamber. During the Turkish occupation it was used as an olive-press. Two blocks of cells are preserved on the west and south sides. The monastery of Kaisariani had a famous, rich library which was moved to the Acropolis of Athens and destroyed during the Uprising of 1821.

The first Christian center was located southwest, on the top of a small hill, known as the "Cemetery of the Fathers" or Frankomonastero, where remain the ruins of an early Christian basilica and of a church of the 10th century can still be seen. During the Frankish period the church of St. Markos was built there, while in the 17th century, the church of the Taxiarches was erected.
Text from HMCT Odysseus

Monastery Daphni****
5th cent AD
On the road to Elevsis, northwest of Athens

Daphni before the restoration, RWFG 1954

The monastery lies to the west of Athens, almost half-way along the ancient Sacred Way to Eleusis. The first monastery was erected on the site in the 6th century A.D. and was enclosed by strong defensive walls.

The second phase, dated to the end of the 11th century (around 1080), is the one preserved. The catholicon is a crossin-square church of the octagonal type, surmounted by a broad and high dome. It has a narthex, formed as an open portico in which the Ionic columns of the ancient temple of Apollo were built. The exonarthex was constructed a little later, in the early 12th century and the chapel to the west was added in the 18th century.

Metamorphosis -Transfiguration of Christ, RWFG 1991

The interior of the church is decorated with superb mosaics, dating from the end of the 11th century, a unique, fine example of the Classical idealism of Middle Byzantine art. The crowded scenes of the mosaics narrate scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin. The individual figures represent archangels, prophets, saints, martyrs, bishops. Their arrangement in the dome, the cross-arms, the sanctuary and the eso-narthex was dictated by the concept that the nave represented the universe with the dome symbolising the heavenly vaults and the floor of the earth.

Christ Pantocrator under restoration, RWFG 1991

Daphni Monastery is built on the site of the ancient sanctuary of Apollo Daphnaios which was destroyed during the invasion of the Goths in 395 A.D. Of the old temple only one Ionic column still remains in the colonnade of the narthex.

The area was awarded to Othon de la Roche, the Lord of Athens in 1204, and in 1207 the monastery was taken over by Cistercian monks from Belleveaux, who remodelled the building. When Athens was captured by the Turks in 1458, it was returned to the Orthodox Church and was reoccupied by Orthodox monks who also made alterations to the buildings.
Text from HMCT-Odysseus

Late 4th - 1st cent BC
Oil harbor area northwest of Daphni and Athens

The Great Stele from Eleusis: Demeter and Kore-Persephone initiating Triptolemos
into the female mysteries

Painted votive terracotta plate, an Attic work of a painter named Ninion, in the middle of the 4th cent BC., discovered at the sanctuary of Eleusis. The figures are placed in two rows. Upper row: Demeter is sitting on top of the "secret cist," Persephone standing holding a torch and torchbearer Iakchos is located below, welcoming the procession of the initiates, men and women who come to the sanctuary. In the middle of the bottom row, the omphalos adorned with a crown and two intersecting bakchoi, symbols of the mysteries rituals. The third deity, bottom right, is not identified with certainty. The pediment depicts participants Pannychis, the feast-night, where a flute-player, on the left, accompanies them. All participants are crowned and hold flowering branches and sticks, while women wear the kernos, the sacred vessel, mounted on the head.

Simplified site plan, from planetware

Wkipedia Mysteries
Wikipedia Eleusis Museum
Latsis' Museum Catalog

The archeological and interpretatve questions about the Eleusian Mysteries are so complex – and contradictory- that I attach a collection of references, which the curious reader may want to consult.

Archeological Description of Eleusis

The site, augmented by a plan and photographs

Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries

The interpretation of Eleusis by George Mylonas, excavator of Eleusis

Souce Texts Referring to the Mysteries

An annotated collection of visionary articles by Sanderson Beck

Vravrona-Brauron Artemis Sanctuary*
1600-300 BC
On the coast, 5 km east of Athens International Airport

The sanctuary of Artemis-Iphigeneia

The sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron (Ancient Greek Βραυρών; Modern Greek Βραυρώνα — Vravrona or Vravronas) is an early sacred site on the eastern coast of Attica near the Aegean Sea in a small inlet. The inlet has silted up since ancient times, pushing the current shoreline farther from the site. A nearby hill, c. 24 m high and 220 m to the southeast, was inhabited during the Neolithic era, c. 2000 BC, and flourished particularly from Middle Helladic to early Mycenaean times (2000–1600 BC) as a fortified site (acropolis). Occupation ceased in the LHIIIb period, and the acropolis was never significantly resettled after this time. There is a gap in the occupation of the site from LHIIIb until the 8th century BC. Brauron was one of the twelve ancient settlements of Attica prior to the synoikismos of Theseus, who unified them with Athens.

The cult of Artemis Brauronia connected the coastal (rural) sanctuary at Brauron with another (urban) sanctuary on the acropolis in Athens, the Brauroneion, from which there was a procession every four years during the Arkteia festival. The tyrant Pisistratus was Brauronian by birth, and he is credited with tranferring the cult to the Acropolis, thus establishing it on the statewide rather than local level. The sanctuary contained a small temple of Artemis, a unique stone bridge, cave shrines, a sacred spring, and a pi-shaped (Π) stoa that included dining rooms for ritual feasting.

The unfortified site continued in use until tensions between Athens and the Macedonians in the 3rd century BC caused it to be abandoned. After that time, no archaeologically significant activity occurred at the site until the erection of a small church in the 6th century AD.

An interesting paper on the relationship betweein Artemis and Iphigenia: Iphigenia and Artemis by Deborah Lyons

500 BC
On the southeast coast of Attica, near Lavrion

The archeological site of Thorikos seen from Velatouri Hill

Thorikos lies on the east Attic coast ca. 10 km south of Athens International Airport. The town extended from the Haghios Nikalaos promontory (between 2 bays) inland and up the slopes of the Velatouri hill, which served as the acropolis.

The theater of Thorikos at the foot of Velatouri Hill, its acropolis, one of the oldest Greek odeons (525-480 BC)

The town was fortified by a wall and at least 7 gateways at ca. 412 B.C. to protection the Laurion mining district and the coastal sea lanes. Below the acropolis, on the S slope, an industrial quarter included establishments for the processing of metal ore. Lower on the S slope is the ca. 5th century B.C. theater with an unusual oval orchestra. West of the theater stood a temple of Dionysos. Much of the rest of the S slope was taken up by domestic buildings.

Occupation on the site of Thorikos began in the Neolithic period. Prehistoric and Mycenaean settlements were centered on the Velatouri hill and tombs of the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age are found on the lower slopes of the hill, beneath the Classical levels. Traditionally, Thorikos was one of the 12 independent cities of Attica unified by Theseus.

Although fortified late in the Peloponnesian War, Thorikos did not seem to play an important role in Attic history. The site was abandoned early in the Roman period and not reoccupied.
Text from Perseus
Photos David Gill

Thorikos-Lavrion Silver Mines
700-400 BC

Near the village of Agios Konstantinos

Entrance to one of 2000 mine shafts in the Thorikos-Lavrion area. Photo David Gill

After the battle of Marathon, Themistocles persuaded the Athenians to devote the anticipated revenue derived from a major silver vein strike in the mines of Laurion circa 483 BC to expanding the Athenian fleet to 200 triremes, and thus laid the foundation of the Athenian naval power. The mines, which were the property of the state, were usually farmed out for a certain fixed sum and a percentage on the working; slave labour was exclusively employed. Towards the end of the 5th century, the output fell, partly owing to the Spartan occupation of Decelea. But the mines continued to be worked, though Strabo records that in his time the tailings were being worked over, and Pausanias speaks of the mines as a thing of the past. The ancient workings, consisting of shafts and galleries for excavating the ore, and washing tables for concentrating the ore, may still be seen at many locations. There were well engineered tanks and reservoirs to collect rainwater for washing the ore since abundant supplies from streams or rivers were lacking at the site.

700-400 BC

The southern tip of Attica

Poseidon Temple at Sounion, RWFG 1953

Archaeological finds on the site date from as early as 700 BC. Herodotus tells us that in the sixth century BC, the Athenians celebrated a quadrennial festival at Sounion, which involved Athens' leaders sailing to the cape in a sacred boat.

The original, Archaic Period temple of Poseidon on the site, which was built of tufa, was probably destroyed in 480 BC by Persian troops during shahanshah Xerxes I's invasion of Greece (the second Greco-Persian War). Although there is no direct evidence for Sounion, Xerxes certainly had the temple of Athena, and everything else, on the Acropolis of Athens razed as punishment for the Athenians' defiance.[4] After they defeated Xerxes in the naval Battle of Salamis, the Athenians placed an entire enemy trireme (warship with three banks of oars) at Sounion as a trophy dedicated to Poseidon.

Sounion, RWFG 1954

The later temple at Sounion, whose columns still stand today, was probably built in ca. 440 BC. This was during the ascendancy of the Athenian statesman Pericles, who also rebuilt the Parthenon in Athens.

In 413 BC, during the Peloponnesian War against the Spartans, the Athenians fortified the site with a wall and towers, to prevent it from falling into Spartan hands. This would have threatened Athens' seaborne grain supply route from Euboea. Athens' supply situation had become critical, since the city's land supply - lines had been cut by the Spartan fortification of Deceleia, in north Attica.[6] However, not long after, the Sounion fortress was seized from the Athenians by a force of rebel slaves from the nearby silver mines of Laurium. The temple of Poseidon was destroyed in 399 by Emperor Arcadius.
Text from Wikipedia

490 BC

The burial tumulus of the Atheninians fallen in the battle of Marathon 490 BC

The new museum near Marathon at Nea Makri opened in 2004, just in time for the Athens Olympic Games. Its collection is beautifully curated and includes pottery from the Cave of Pan and artifacts from the Marathon Plain.

In addition to the items from the Marathon area, it also includes half a dozen dramatic marble statues from the Temple of Isis built by local son Herodes Atticus for his wife, Regilla. This site was recently excavated at the seashore in nearby Nea Makri, on land that had been part of a NATO base. Herodes Atticus is better known as the provider of the theatre bearing his name as a gift to the people of ancient Athens.

The museum complex also features a unique new structure built to cover and protect an ancient Cycladic cemetery, a very unusual find so far from the islands. If you make the trip, be sure to visit the Tumulus of Marathon, itself and the Temple of Isis site in Nea Makri.
Latsis' Museum Catalog Marathon

Brexiza Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods**
101-177 AD
An archeological curiosity in Nea Makri close to Marathon

The “Egyptian” temple of Brexiza built by Herodes Atticus (101-177 AD), also known by his Roman name: Lucius Vibullius Hipparchus Tiberius Claudius Atticus Herodes, a distinguished, rich Greek aristocrat and Sophist form Marathon, who served as a Roman Senator. He was a close friend of Emperor Hadrian, and like he, he was a famous pederast, mentor of of three notable students (trophimoi) whose names were Achilles, Memnon and Polydeukion.

The aged Herodes Atticus in a public paroxysm of despair at the death of his eromenos, Polydeukion, commissioned games, inscriptions and sculptures on a lavish scale and then died, inconsolable, shortly afterwards. From “Αιγυπτιακό ιερό στην Μπρεξίζα - The Egyptian Temple at Brexiza”

The temple of Isis in Brexiza surrounds a four-sided court, clearly visible in GE, onto which opened four grand portals, one on each side. The entrances had marble steps, thresholds, pilaster strips and lintels, on the exterior of which is a relief of a solar disk with a tail. To the right and left of each of the entrances were four marble pedestals for statues, two inside and two outside the gates.

The entrances were like bastions and emulate the style of Egyptian portals. Since the discovery of the first two Egyptian-style statues on the site in 1968, a total of six statues have been found, including an intact marble sphinx, a gray stone sphinx in two pieces and a portrait of Herodes' beloved Polydeukyon, who died while still a youth, and his mentor organized a cult in his honor, analogous to that devised by Hadrian for his beloved Antinous.

Isis is presented with different symbols of Greek goddesses in each gate. To the western gate she is Aphrodite offering roses; to the south gate (the gate of the initiated) Isis appears as the Lady of the Mysteries, as Demeter, offering wheat.

The statues in the above photo are a modern copies of the marble statue of Osiris or Antinous as Osiris, from the temple of Isis at Brexiza. They were for some time exhibited at the National Archeological Museum in Athens, where they were described as depictions of Osiris or Antinous as Osiris (Οσιρις ή Αντίνοος).

Now, the original figures have been moved to the Archaeological Museum of Marathon, where they are exhibited in a room along with the other statues and architectural elements found at the site. Copies of the original statues stand in the ruins of the Brexiza Temple.

Nea Makri (Νέα Μάκρη) is situated on the eastern Attica coast between the port of Rafina and the town of Marathon.
See:Latsis' Museum Catalog Marathon

5th cent BC

The Amphiareion of Oropos (Greek: Άμφιαρείον Ωρωπού), situated in the hills 6 km southeast of the fortified port of Oropos, was a sanctuary dedicated in the late 5th century BCE to the hero Amphiaraos, where pilgrims went to seek oracular responses and healing. It became particularly successful during the 4th century BCE, to judge from the intensive building at the site.
A detailed dscription is found in Wikipedia


Kolonna (Aegina)*
3000-450 BC

The only column of the Apollo temple still standing at the acropolis of the ancient capital of Aigina.

The Kolonna archaeological site is the ancient acropolis of Aegina city. The ancient Aegina was situated at the same place as the present Aigina, and this archaeological site is situated within walking distance from the town. There is also a relatively large archaeological museum that houses various archaeological finds from the island.

The modern name "Kolonna" comes from the only remaining column of the Temple of Apollo (as you see in the photo above).The oldest traces of human settlement date back to the neolithic period. There still remain bronze age (3000-2000 BC) fortification walls.

From the seventh to the fifth century Aegina was one of the most important trade centre of the Aegean. The Temple of Apollo, built between the end of the sixth and the beginning of the fifth century reflect the prosperity of that period. Aegina fell under the hegemony of Athens at the middle of the fifth century (459/458 BC).
From The Mesogeneia

The Temple of Aphaia***

700-500 BC

Aphaia Temple, RWFG 1953

Aphaia (Greek Ἀφαία) was a Greek goddess who was worshipped exclusively at this sanctuary. The extant temple of circa 500 BC was built over the remains of an earlier temple of circa 570 BC, which was destroyed by fire circa 510 BC. The elements of this destroyed temple were buried in the infill for the larger, flat terrace of the later temple, and are thus well preserved.

Abundant traces of paint remain on many of these excavated fragments. There may have been another temple in the 7th century BC, also located on the same site, but it is thought to have been much smaller and simpler in terms of both plan and execution. Significant quantities of Late Bronze Age figurines have been discovered at the site, including proportionally large numbers of female figurines (kourotrophoi), indicating – perhaps – that cult activity at the site was continuous from the 14th cent. BC, suggesting a Minoan connection for the cult.

Plan of the Sanctuary from Wikipedia

The present temple is of an unusual plan and is also significant for its pedimental sculptures, which are thought to illustrate the change from Archaic to Early Classical technique. These sculptures are on display in the Glyptothek of Munich, with a number of fragments located in the museums at Aigina and on the site itself.

Pausanias briefly mentions the site in his writings of the 2nd century CE, but does not describe the sanctuary in detail as he does for many others. The temple was made known in Western Europe by the publication of the Antiquities of Ionia (London, 1797). In 1811, the young English architect Charles Robert Cockerell, finishing his education on his academic Grand Tour, and Baron Otto Magnus von Stackelberg removed the fallen fragmentary pediment sculptures.

On the recommendation of Baron Carl Haller von Hallerstein, who was also an architect and, moreover, a protégé of the art patron Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, the marbles were shipped abroad and sold the following year to the Crown Prince, soon to be King Ludwig I of Bavaria. Minor excavations of the east peribolos wall were carried out in 1894 during reconstruction of the last temple.