(ORDO NEWS) — The Greeks worshiped the god of the sea in a place that constantly suffered from tsunamis and earthquakes. Perhaps this is not an accident, but part of a cult.
A group of researchers from Austria, Germany and Greece last year discovered the remains of a temple on the western coast of the Peloponnese dating back to the archaic period of Greek history (8th-5th centuries BC). Strabo wrote about this sanctuary two thousand years ago.
The ancient Greek historian told us that this temple belonged to the cult of Poseidon, but did not indicate the exact location – the close coast of the Ionian Sea and only some details of the landscape are mentioned.
It is difficult to say whether Strabo personally visited the sanctuary: he lived centuries after the archaic period ended.
The shape of the western coast of the Peloponnese in these places is very peculiar. A group of three mounds of hard rock, surrounded by coastal alluvial deposits, is elongated in a line along the curve of Cypress Bay. The rest of the coast is lagoons and coastal swamps.
It looks unfriendly and at first glance is not very suitable for the construction of an important temple. But now scientists say that millennia ago, everything was completely different.
For several years they have been conducting geoarchaeological studies of this area and found out how the coast of the Western Peloponnese has changed over the past 11,600 years.
Research results show that the waves of the open Ionian Sea washed a group of hills until the 5th millennium BC.
After that, on the side facing the sea, an extensive system of beach barriers arose, in which several lagoons were isolated from the sea.
The place became easily accessible and safe, and in the Mycenaean era a settlement was founded there, which flourished for several centuries and maintained contacts north and south along the coast – an upland formed along a group of hills.
Obviously, the settlement existed in the archaic period, and it was then that its inhabitants built the temple of the god of the sea.
But then people left this coast.
And they had their reasons. Researchers have found evidence that the region has been hit by tsunamis multiple times in both prehistoric and historical times, most recently in the 6th and 14th centuries AD.
This corresponds to the reports of well-known tsunamis preserved in written sources that occurred in 551 and 1303 AD.
In the fall of 2021, archaeologists from the University of Kiel (Germany) found traces of buildings on a site at the eastern foot of a group of hills, in an area where geoarchaeological studies had previously been carried out.
After the first excavations in the fall of 2022, it became clear that these structures are the foundation of an ancient temple, and, most likely, the long-sought temple of Poseidon.
“The location of this discovered sacred site matches the details specified by Strabo in his writings,” the researchers emphasized.
Over the next few years, experts plan to conduct an extensive archaeological, geoarchaeological and geophysical analysis of the structure.
The scientists hope to establish whether it has a specific connection to the coastal landscape, which has been undergoing extensive transformation.
They suggest that the site for the construction of the temple was specially chosen because of such rather extreme conditions – frequent tsunamis and earthquakes.
The fact is that ancient Greek mythology still causes scientific controversy. Different scientists interpret the areas of responsibility of the gods in different ways.
For example, the well-known English philologist, a specialist in ancient literature, Betty Radish, argued that Poseidon was originally the god of earthquakes and bore the title of the Earth Shaker, and only then received the status of the lord of the sea.
Thus, geoarchaeological research can also change some issues related to the interpretation of ancient mythology.
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