|Summary:||Sanctuary of Artemis, worshipped in her function as protectress of childbirth.|
On the coast ca. 38 km E of Athens, the sanctuary consists of a cave and sacred spring and a court enclosed by a temple and a three-winged stoa. The stoa housed the votive dedications and numerous dinning rooms. Inscriptions mention other buildings including a palaestra and gymnasium which have not been excavated. Ritual included dancing by "Arktoi," girls aged 5 to 10 dressed as bears. Iphigeneia is said to have brought the cult statue of Artemis here and to be buried here.
Earlier habitation and cemetery remains of Neolithic to Late Bronze Age date have been found SE of the sanctuary, but the cult site appears to date no earlier than the 8th century B.C. According to myth, the rites and cult statue of Artemis (who was particularly connected with childbirth and was worshipped chiefly by women) were brought to Attica from Scythia (Crimea) by Iphigeneia and Orestes.
The sacred spring at Brauron seems to have been originally the most sacred part of the sanctuary, and the first temple was erected as late as ca. 500 B.C. Both were probably destroyed by the Persians in 480 B.C. when a wooden image (perhaps the original cult statue) was reportedly carried off to Susa. About 10 m SE of the temple was a small building, perhaps representing the supposed tomb of Iphigeneia. This seems to have replaced an earlier building to the SE which was destroyed with the collapse of the sacred cave at mid 5th century. The later stoa at the sanctuary had a number of dinning rooms perhaps used by the Arktoi servant girls of Artemis Brauronia.
Offerings (of feminine character) recovered from the sanctuary, especially from the sacred spring, have helped to clarify aspects of the cult.
The site was finally abandoned after the nearby river Erasinos flooded the sanctuary in the 3rd century B.C. There was no activity at the sanctuary in the Roman period, but building material from it was reused in a 6th century A.D. Christian basilica ca 500 m W of the sanctuary site.
Excavations: 1946-52 and 1956-63, J. Papadimitriou, Greek Archaeological Society.