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“The ‘Long Road’ to the Identification of the Worshipped Deity – The Case of the Sanctuary of Demeter on Mount Ithome in Ancient Messene”

Maria Spathi, Stanley J. Seeger Visiting Research Fellow

November 9, 2023 · 12:00 pm1:20 pm · 203 Scheide Caldwell

The Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies

Until recently, the small Hellenistic temple built on the southern slope of Mount Ithome in ancient Messene was identified with the sanctuary of Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, and the Kouretes mentioned by Pausanias. New evidence, however, has come to light during excavations between 2006-2013, expanding our knowledge of the identity of the goddess the Messenians worshiped. My detailed study of these finds offers new insight into the character of this deity and allows us to reconstruct ritual practices at this temple that happened continuously from the early Hellenistic era to the Roman period. In addition, my analysis incorporates other sanctuaries in the city, including the sanctuary of Artemis Limnatis and that of Zeus Ithomatas. Rather than Eileithyia and the Kouretes, a picture emerges of this deity as Demeter, responsible for the well-being and growth of vegetation, animals and, especially, young women.

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