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Sanctuary of Apollo Amylases

The sanctuary is one of the most impressive and enigmatic edifices of antiquity. It is located on a hill among the little churches of the Eurotas valley, five kilometer north of the modern town of Sparta. It was built in the 6th century B.C. and it hosted the statue of god Apollo sitting in a colossal (14.5 meter) throne, made by the famous sculptor Bathycles. The sanctuary is correlated with the worship of the prehellenic god Hyacinth that was succeeded with the worship of Apollo. It combines elements of the Doric and Ionian architectural orders and it represents the reconciliation between the Doric Sparta and the Pre-Doric settlement of Amyclae, and was the first organized place of religious worship in Greece. During the Classical Era, the sanctuary was an important political and religious center, and along with the sanctuaries of Chalkioikos Athena and Orthia Artemis, it reflected the worship of ancient Sparta.

The excavations begun in the early 19th century and they have not yet been completed. Sparse architectural pieces have been found in the churches of Saint Kyriaki, Prophet Elias, Saint Nikolaos and Saints Theodore, while numerous other sparse pieces are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Sparta.

The ruins of the Sanctuary of Apollo Amyclaeus lay sparse in every church of the Eurotas valley, on a small hill five kilometers south of the modern town of Sparta. It consists of an imposing marble edifice, elaborately decorated, that dates back to the 6th century B.C. In the sanctuary visitors can see a 14.5 meter statue of Apollo. The colossal throne, where the god sits, was made in the 6th century B.C by the famous sculptor Bathycles of Magnesia. Archaeologists believe that the statue existed in the sanctuary, half a century before the construction of the throne.

In the 2nd century B.C, Pausanias seems to be impressed by the size, the form and the rich decoration of the sanctuary. It is believed that even the renowned king Croesus had contributed gold for its construction. Despite the available description, the archaeologists suggest different versions on the architecture of the edifice. Its original form, though, still remains unknown. All the estimates converge to the conclusion that the sanctuary of Apollo Amyclaeus might be the most impressive sanctuary of ancient Greece.

The sacred place of Amyclae is the first sacred place of worship in the Greek territory and it is related to the worship of Hyacinth, a prehellenic god, established during the Mycenaean age. It hosted the celebration of Hyacinth which symbolized the reconciliation of Doric Sparta, represented by Apollo, and the Pre-Doric population of Amyclae, represented by Hyacinth. The sanctuary was an important political and religious center of the Classical age and along with the sanctuaries of Chalkioikos Athena and Artemis Orthia, it represented the worship of ancient Sparta.

The architectural interest of Amyklaion started in the early 19th century with excavations that were carried out by Christos Tsountas who revealed the precinct wall and the remains of a circular building. Newer excavations were carried out in 1904 by the architect Adolf Furtwängler and in 1907 by A. Skias who moved the church of Saint Kyriaki to reveal the throne of the sanctuary. The excavations carried out in 1924 by the archaeologists Ε. Βuschor and W. Von Μassow attest that the worship dated back to the Mycenaean age. In 1966-68, archaeologist A. Delivorias begun searching for the remains of the monument and in 2005 he came back to supervise the excavation and restoration program with a large group of scientists.

Research showed that the church of Saint kyriaki was built with construction material from sanctuary, while a built-in colossal marble threshold was revealed in the walls of Prophete Elias church in the village Sklavochori. Fifteen architectural segments, sculptures or capitals, have been found in total in the same church, and one more in the church of Saints Theodore. Material from the throne has been found built into the church of Saint Nikolaos, while architectural pieces have been gathered and are now exposed in the Archaeological Museum of Sparta. Among them parts of the architrave, braces, floor slabs, shafts, jambs for gates, roof plates and three different type of capitals that attest that the sanctuary combines elements of Doric and Ionic architectural orders.

The archaeologists aim to uncover and gather the ancient construction material and to reconstruct, if possible, this magnificent edifice.

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