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Perched high on mount Messavouno on the island of Santorini lies the ancient city of Thera. Directly outside the urban centre in the small horseshoe-shaped temenos of Artemidorus of Perge, no fewer than twelve divinities are honoured (IG XII Supp 1333-1350). Previous scholarship has concentrated on Artemidorus himself, reconstructing his biography in the light of a presumed connection with the contemporary Ptolemaic garrison on the island (Hiller von Gaertringen: “Kommandant”; Wilamowitz-Moellendorf: “Soldat”; Palagia: “official”; Michlits: “Offizier”), or considering his personal religious motivation (Graf; Dignas; Mikalson). The broader social dynamics inherent in the temenos have been largely overlooked. This paper argues that the temenos is deliberately constructed as an all-encompassing domain catering to every religious need of all the people of Thera, both citizen and foreign; and that Artemidorus is presented as central to this domain, as the sole and necessary intermediary between the human community and the divine.

The epigraphic and iconographic dossier is consistent in its presentation of a geographically and conceptually limited community: it involves the members of this polis(IG XII Supp 1335C, 1336, 1342). The polis envisaged is, however, not the model normative in scholarship on the classical polis. It is not exclusive, but explicitly included all citizens, and even non-citizens, the resident xenoi. This is clear not just epigraphically (eg, IG XII Supp 1335D), but in greater detail from the surviving iconography, where three reliefs encode the diverse non-citizen presence on the island. An eagle offered to Zeus Olympius (IG XII Supp 1345), from whom the Ptolemies claimed descent, is particularly significant: rather than insisting on the autarchy of the polis, the image incorporates the Ptolemies as a legitimate part of this religious community. A lion dedicated to Apollo Stephanephorus (IG XII Supp 1346) acknowledges the presence of Milesians, famed as mercenaries in antiquity; and a dolphin devoted to Poseidon (IG XII Supp 1347) points to the presence of Tenians, whose sanctuary of Poseidon was second in significance only to that of Apollo on Delos at this time in the Cyclades. Ptolemies, Milesians, and Tenians, or, by extension, hegemonical power, garrison, and trading neighbours. Both imagery and inscriptions explicitly emphasise the breadth of the community imagined in this sanctuary.

This ostentatious universality is equally visible in the divine sphere. The twelve gods are all suitable for this maritime island community: the Dioscuri (IG XII Supp 1333), the Samothracian gods (IG XII Supp 1337), and Poseidon (IG XII Supp 1347) are gods of the sea; the Heroissai (IG XII Supp 1340) nourish the harvest; and Homonoia (IG XII Supp 1336, 1341, 1342) personifies internal concord. All three prime requirements for the prosperity of a Hellenistic island community were thus covered, - external wealth, internal wealth, and civil agreement, - all inside an area explicitly referred to as a single temenos, which had but one priest: Artemidorus himself (IG XII Supp 1345).

Artemidorus’ role has to be understood within this context. He is not the only actor in the inscriptions. He is, however, central to the entire complex web of multiple human and divine agents, being named no fewer than twenty-six times in the eighteen surviving inscriptions. Whether Ptolemaic officer, merchant, or rich retiree, his role here is as a mediator for all, for all needs. He is the unique, sole, necessary intermediary between the community and the divine.

The dynamics here envisaged seem unparalleled for 3rd century BC Greece. They were, however, clearly acceptable to the Theraeans: the temenos’ prominent position outside the town, the award of citizenship (IG XII Supp 1344), the multiple crowns granted (IG XII Supp 1341-1344), and Artemidorus’ posthumous heroisation all indicate that Artemidorus’ actions here can validly be read as illustrative of the broader context. This sanctuary thus offers an unique insight into the social, political, and religious dynamics of one island community in an interconnected era, and a striking vision of the complex world that was the Hellenistic Age.


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