2.5.16

THE SANCTUARY OF ZEUS HYPSISTOS


THE SANCTUARY OF ZEUS HYPSISTOS AND THE ASSEMBLY PLACE ON THE PNYX
(PLATE8s7 and 88)
IN THE EARLY1 930'st he definitivee xcavationo f the AssemblyP laceo n the Pnyxw as
carried out by Konstantinos Kourouniotes and Homer A. Thompson. 1 They defined in
their publication three different building phases. During the First Period, the construction
of which was dated around 500 B.C., the auditorium was oriented towards the Agora.2
The Second Period, which was dated to around 400 B.C., involved a complete reorientation
of the auditorium. By the construction of an earthen embankment the natural slope was
reversed 180 degrees.3 The Third Period, to which belong most of the remains visible today,
represented a reconstruction and an enlargement of the second auditorium (P1. 87). Part
of the bedrock to the south was quarried away, thus creating in the front of the auditorium
a rock-cut bema with a vertical scarp to right and left. The blocks that were quarried from the
front part were used to build a new retaining wall for the earthen embankment; the lower part
of the megalithic masonry has survived to this day. The excavators tentatively dated this final
building phase to Hadrian's time, i.e., the second quarter of the 2nd century after Christ.4
In the scarp to the east of the bema there are still niches which belonged to the sanctuary
of Zeus Hypsistos.5 The identification of the sanctuary is secured by a number of votive
plaques, some of which were found at the foot of the east scarp beneath the niches. The
majority of the niches are cut into a roughly dressed surface, set back to a maximum depth of
0.20 m. behind the smooth face of the scarp. The area set back terminates towards the west
at what seem to be the ends of four steps cut into the rock. Kourouniotes and Thompson
thought that these steps and the area set back were part of a recess in the Pnyx hill south
of the Assembly Place of the Second Period and that here the worship of Zeus Hypsistos was
established in the 1st century after Christ. According to the excavators, most of the sanctuary
was quarried away in connection with the construction of the Third Period, leaving intact
or READ HERE "Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity"

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