Sacred spaces and political power: Greece, Rome, Magna Graecia and Sicily. Context, Agency, Monuments

Period of duration of course
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Number of course hours
Number of hours of lecturers of reference
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Type of exam

Oral exam


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Greek and Latin languages. The class is conceived for undergraduate students


In Plato’s day, the sanctuaries still constituted the main places in the Mediterranean in which to exhibit the kallistoi and aristoi, the most beautiful and finest, of the civic community. It was thanks to their presence during the great gatherings—games, sacrifices, political rallies—that a polis enjoyed eudokimia, a good reputation. Such ostentation was as valuable as a military victory; a city won international recognition through the physical and moral qualities of its main representatives. The perception of these sacred and civic events sheds a great deal of light not only on the importance of the games and competitions that took place in the sanctuaries but also on the need for a polis to flaunt its superiority over other Greek communities through tangible, visible signs, such as—aside from the young kallistoi and aristoi—votive offerings and monuments. The Greek sanctuaries were the appointed venues for competition between the cities of the ancient Mediterranean and the social promotion of the private citizen. The competition could take place on a number of levels: during athletic contests between competitors, in the architectural constructions and votive monuments offered by the state, and in the relationship between patrons and artists assigned the task of creating offerings in celebration of victories and champions. The analysis will focus on sacred space and political power in Greece and Rome, Magna Graecia and Sicily, from the Archaic to the Imperial period.

Educational aims

Basic elements of topography, architecture, Greek and Roman Art History

Bibliographical references

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Adornato 2011                      G. Adornato, Akragas arcaica. Modelli culturali e linguaggi artistici in una citta’ greca d’Occidente, Milano: LED

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Harrell 2002                          S.E. Harrell, King or private citizen: fifth-century Sicilian tyrants at Olympia and Delphi, Mnemosyne, 55, 4 (2002), 439-64

Hornblower – Morgan 2007 S. Hornblower – C. Morgan (eds.), Pindar’s poetry, patrons and festivals. From Archaic Greece to the Roman Empire, Oxford: Oxford University Press

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Kurke 1993                            L. Kurke, The economy of kudos, in C. Dougherty – L. Kueke (eds.), Cultural poetics in Archaic Greece, Oxford 1993, 131-63

Jacquemin 1999                    A. Jacquemin, Offrandes monumentales à Delphes, Paris (B.E.F.A.R. 304)

Lazzarini 1976                      M.L. Lazzarini, Le formule delle dediche votive nella Grecia arcaica, MemLinc, serie 8, 19 (1976), 47-354

Maehler 2002                        H. Maehler, Bakchylides and the Polyzalos inscription, ZPE 139 (2002) 19-21. 

Mallwitz 1972                       A. Mallwitz, Olympia und seine Bauten, Darmstadt

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Moretti 1957                         L. Moretti, Olympionikai, i vincitori negli antichi agoni olimpici, MemLinc, serie 8, 8 (2), 57-198

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Neils 1992                              J. Neils (ed.), Goddess and Polis. The Panathenaic Festival in ancient Athens (Mostra, Hanover, New Hampshire, September 12-December 2, 1992; Tampa, January 9-April 16, 1993; Richmond, May 11-August 1, 1993; Princeton, August 31-November 28, 1993), Hanover-Princeton 1992.

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Steiner 2003                          D.T. Steiner, Images in mind. Statue in Archaic and Classical Greek literature and thought, Princeton – London (2nd printing)

Thomas 2007                         R. Thomas, Fame, memorial, and choral poetry: the origins of epinikian poetry – an historical study, in Hornblower – Morgan 2007, 141-66