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A Frontier Shrine on Mount Parnes
Floris van den Eijnde, University of Utrecht

The peak sanctuary of Zeus on Mount Parnes ranks among the earliest cult sites of post-Helladic Attica. With the exception of a small article by the excavator (Mastrokostas, 1983), summarizing the staggering number finds, nothing has been attempted in the way of a full publication. While the earliest finds date to Late Protogeometric, the site’s acme lies in the seventh century and is represented by a large assortment of high-quality Corinthian vessels as well as an equally impressive amount of iron weapons. These are significant finds that deserve closer examination, as they are unparalleled by material found at any of the other cult sites in Attica during this period. In this paper it is proposed that both the Corinthian wares and the weapons should be understood as the result of cross-cultural rivalry between the inhabitants of Attica and Boeotia, mediated by the display of relatively expensive votives. Attention has been drawn to the aristocratic value of orientalizing pottery in general, the use of which can be attributed to elite and liminal contexts (Whitley, 1994). At Mount Parnes, the shared offering of deadly weapons is best explained as a means to solidify the border and ease potential conflicts on either side of it. The special significance thus conferred on the sanctuary suggests that we are dealing with a typical frontier shrine. While many sanctuaries throughout Greece have been so labeled (cf. Morgan 1997), this would represent a unique feature of the Attic sacral landscape.

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