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The Pan-Hellenic sanctuaries

This map is part of a series of 16 animated maps showing the history of Ancient Greece.

Religion was an essential factor in Greek life.


Some sanctuaries, often called Panhellenic sanctuaries, attracted large regional and international gatherings and played an important role in the emergence of a Greek consciousness.


These sanctuaries were located close to major routes and crossroads. 

- At Olympia, the first rites date back to around 1000 BC. The sanctuary was dedicated to Zeus and venerated by all the Doric states.

- In Asia Minor, the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Mycale was adopted as a shared religious site by a confederation of cities, the Ionian League

- the sanctuary of Poseidon on the Isthmus of Corinth was an obligatory stopping place for all travelers.

- The sanctuary of Delos, at the heart of the Cyclades, regularly attracted Ionians from Attica, the Aegean islands and Asia.

- Dodona and Delphi were famous for their oracles. They were visited by Greeks from all over the Greek world, and even ‘barbarians’ who didn’t speak Greek. 

The temple grounds were unique in that they also offered medical services. The most famous sanctuary for medical treatment was that of Epidaurus. The steles found there show Asclepius, the god of medicine, healing all kinds of illnesses: ulcers, kidney stones, blindness, etc.


Contests were held in many sanctuaries, attracting visitors from throughout the Greek world. The Olympic Games were the most popular – it is believed that as many as 40,000 people participated in these games – but there were three other major competitions: the Pythian Games, held at Delphi, the Nemean Games, at Nemea and the Isthmian Games on the Isthmus of Corinth.


During the Olympic Games, a sacred peace was proclaimed in order to give sportsmen and spectators an opportunity to go to the games and return in total security.