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Exploring ancient Greek religion
Exploring ancient Greek religion

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3.4 ‘Seeing’ Amphiaraos

The sacred regulations of the Amphiareion allow us to recover the rules which visitors were expected to follow when they visited the sanctuary. While they therefore provide some indication of personal expectation, you may still be wondering what kind of religious experience individual visitors actually had beyond following the shrine’s rules. How did a visitor personally encounter Amphiaraos? In what ways did they communicate with him? Fortunately, answering these questions is possible due to the survival of dedications (that is, religious objects often erected within religious settings to honour a divinity) set up by visitors to Amphiaraos himself.

Sometimes these dedications include a short text which details the name of the dedicant (that is, the person setting up the dedication) and the name of divinity it is intended to honour. They also on occasion include images which appear to represent religious activities associated with the context of their creation, as you saw earlier in the case of Leonteus’ dedication depicted in Figure 3. In Activity 7, you will meet another such dedication from the Amphiareion and will be taken through how its textual and iconographical elements (i.e. not only the wording of the dedication but also the images that accompany it) may take us closer to thinking about personal religious experience.

Activity 7

Timing: Allow around 25 minutes for this activity

Watch the following recording in which Alexandra Wilding, the course author, talks about a dedication from the Amphiareion dating to the fourth century BCE.

Download this video clip.Video player: hds_2_video_activity7.mp4
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Once you have watched the recording once, watch it again, this time with the following question in mind:

  • In which ways might the dedication be thought to represent personal religious experience?

Aim to capture your thoughts in three or four bullet points.

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Hopefully you enjoyed finding out more about Archinos’ dedication in the recording. Your own reflections on the ways in which this monument might reflect personal religious experience may well differ to these, but here are some ideas:

  1. The text of the dedication ‘Archinos set this up to Amphiaraos’ implies a personal relationship between the dedicant and the god.
  2. The appearance of Archinos in three different scenes in the relief suggests that these scenes are there to explain the context of his dedication and therefore his personal experience of his visit to the sanctuary.
  3. The fact that Archinos depicts the act of healing in two very different ways suggests that he held more than one view about his encounter with Amphiaraos, which may well reflect the conflicting visions Archinos had as he slept at the sanctuary.
  4. The possible interpretation that Archinos is gesturing towards his own dedication in one of the three scenes reinforces the idea that his dedication was set up to commemorate his personal experience of healing at the sanctuary.

So far you have examined material remains from the Amphiareion in order to reimagine the expectations and experiences of visitors to the sanctuary. Hopefully you have found it rewarding to engage with visual evidence as a way of approaching the personal dimensions of ancient religion.