Onchestos

Ochestos was famous in antiquity for its important sanctuary of Poseidon. Reference to the sanctuary appears in many literary sources, including Homer, Pindar, Stabo, and Pausanias (Schachter 1986). The ancient texts roughly describe a specific ceremony that was used to choose the most appropriate young horses to drag chariots. Recent evidence show that this ceremony was adopted from earlier Mycenaean traditions, when chariots were considered important in the battlefields (Teffeller 2001). Despite the importance of the sanctuary in literary sources, archaeological excavations have been limited, focusing primarily on two areas near the highway connecting Thebes and Livadia. The first excavation campaign in 1964 verified the location of the sanctuary and also revealed some small finds (Touloupa 1964). A continuation of excavations in 1971 brought to light a temple and an adjacent building that was identified as a bouleuterion. Epigraphical evidence recovered from the site verified the identification of the sanctuary as the famous one recounted in the literary sources.


The first systematic excavation in Area B was initiated in 1973 and revealed a large building at least 48 m in length. Ceramics analysis indicated that this specific building was in constant use from fourth century B.C.E. until the Roman period (Dakoronia 1973/74). The 1991 excavations verified the existence of this large building, which is probably a stoa, with 18 or 19 rooms. The excavations also identified a construction phase earlier than the fourth century B.C.E. Furthermore, the identification of two copper judicial votes linked the specific area with the common sanctuary of Poseidon (Christopoulou 1995).


Apart from the sanctuary of Poseidon, very little is known about the settlement of Onchestos, even a general idea of its city plan and public and private venues. The urban boundaries are also poorly understood, since fortification walls have not been identified with any certainty. Importantly, it is thought that the sanctuary of Poseidon was an extra-urban sanctuary not positioned inside the city.


  • onchestos 1
  • onchestos 2
  • onchestos 3
  • onchestos 4
  • onchestos map 1
  • onchestos map 2

Bibliography

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