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Managing Sanctuary Records: The Case of the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delos

Michael McGlin

Temple University

Sanctuary management in the Classical and Hellenistic period presented complex administrative challenges. Sanctuary officials held copious responsibilities including conducting sacrifices, protecting sacred property, documenting dedications, and auditing sanctuary finances. Many times, these officials had to publish detailed records of sanctuary holdings and finances as a responsibility of holding office. This paper, however, asks an important question about sanctuary administration that is not addressed in these records: how did officials manage published sacred records?

The inscribed records from the sanctuary of Apollo at Delos during the island’s independence (314-167 BCE) will serve as a case study for the management of sacred records. Annually elected officials known as hieropoioi published a record of the sanctuary’s holdings and finances at the end of their term of office. These records, together, present one of the largest bodies of evidence of sanctuary management in the Hellenistic period. Previous approaches to these records have investigated their general contents and organization (Homolle, 1887; Chankowski 2013), their price lists for goods the sanctuary purchased (Reger 1994), their outline of administrative practices within the sanctuary (Vial 1984; Chankowski 2008, 2013), and their financial data to understand the sanctuary’s financial practices (Chankowski 2008; McGlin 2019). Whereas these earlier approaches have addressed Delian sacred records as texts, this current approach treats these records as inscribed objects occupying the physical landscape of the sanctuary itself.

This paper argues that the sanctuary records themselves were an integral component of sanctuary management. Although the physical placement of sanctuary records is rarely addressed as a responsibility of sanctuary officials, archaeological evidence from the sanctuary of Apollo suggests otherwise. The published find spots of Delian records reveal that they were transported in distinct groups to different areas of the sanctuary. The purpose for transporting these records could be interpreted as a desire to clear sanctuary space for visitors or also to allow equipment for construction projects into the sanctuary. These groups of records can be dated according to internal evidence from their own contents and often align with construction projects occurring within the sanctuary.

Delian records are important to understanding sanctuary management because, as Chankowski notes (2013), no reconstruction of the sanctuary of Apollo at Delos has ever included the large numbers of inscriptions that would have stood throughout. The contents of these records cannot be divorced from their physical context. The annual publication of sacred records during Delian independence is of prime importance to this study because it presents a diachronic survey of sanctuary management. Records from other sanctuaries across the Greek world, by contrast, only present instances of periodic, or event-based management of sanctuary contents such as transporting statues elsewhere or, more specifically, melting down and recasting offerings, as in the Asklepion in Athens, to make more space. In Delos, it is possible to see administrative practices develop over time. The management of Delian records reframes the conception of sanctuaries as static, dedicatory spaces for inscribed records into one that shows vibrant, actively curated collections of records.

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Epigraphy and History

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