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BRAURON (Vraona) Attica, Greece.

Lies beside a small bay on the E coast, about 38 km from Athens.

A fortified prehistoric settlement occupied the small hill about 400 m W of the bay, flourishing from the Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age, but particularly during the period ca. 2000-1600 B.C. A few houses have been cleared, and on the NW slopes of the hill E of the acropolis, several Late Helladic chamber tombs were dug. This settlement was abandoned before the end of the Bronze Age, and in the Classical period only a sanctuary remained. It lay just to the NW of the acropolis and was active from the late 8th to the 3d c. B.C., when it was destroyed by a flood of the nearby river Erasinos. The area was deserted in Roman times, but in the 6th c. A.D. an Early Christian basilica was built about 500 m W of the sanctuary on the other side of the valley, and reused some material from the sanctuary itself.

The goddess of the sanctuary, identified with Artemis, was particularly connected with childbirth and was worshiped mainly by women. Her cult statue, presumably a primitive one, was said to have been brought from the Crimea by Iphigeneia and Orestes (Eur. IT 1462-67) but Pausanias (1.23.7; 1.33.1; 3.16.8) discounts the story. Iphigeneia herself was supposed to be buried there. The special servants of Artemis Brauronia were called arktoi (bears), young girls aged between five and ten, who wore saffron robes, perhaps to recall the actual bearskins of an earlier period (Suda, s.v. ῎αρκτος ῍η Βραυρωνίοις).

Greek excavations between 1948 and 1962 revealed the main buildings of the sanctuary. Of the temple, dating from ca. 500 B.C., only the foundations remain. It was a small Doric building (ca. 20 x 11 m), but little is known of its plan. Immediately to the NW of the temple terrace is a copious spring into whose waters offerings were thrown. From the partly artificial basin of the spring, and from the bed of the stream flowing N from it, many dedications were recovered, mostly of a feminine character—mirrors rings, gems, etc.; particularly valuable are the objects of bone and wood which luckily have been preserved in the mud. The spring seems to have been the most sacred part of the sanctuary until the late 6th c. B.C., but both it and the temple were probably destroyed by the Persians in 480.

About 10 m SE of the temple, in a cleft in the rock which was probably once a cave, stood a small temple-like building which perhaps represents the supposed Tomb of Iphigeneia. It seems to have replaced the earlier buildings to the SE, which were destroyed by the collapse of the cave roof in the mid 5th c. B.C.

The most impressive building at the sanctuary is the large Doric stoa dating from ca. 430-420 B.C., which was perhaps used by the arktoi. It was to have had three colonnaded wings facing onto a court from the W, N, and E, the temple terrace forming the fourth side. The E wing was longer than the W, and did not have rooms behind its portico as did the N and W wings. In the end, the N wing alone was completed; except for the column nearest the corner with the N colonnade, the E and W colonnades never rose above their foundations. Behind the N wing was a narrow courtyard with a small propylon at each end, and a shallow portico forming its N side.

The N colonnade of the stoa has been partially restored, using the original elements found lying in front of it. Its 11 Doric columns, with shafts of local sandstone and capitals of Pentelic marble, stood on a marble stylobate, which, although it has settled badly at the E end, seems to have been laid in a rising curve like that of the Parthenon. The columns were more widely spaced than in contemporary temples, so that above each span there are three metopes instead of two; the spans nearest the corners were extended a further 12 cm to allow a half-triglyph to appear in the frieze at the reentrant angle. The stoa is one of the earliest buildings where this wider column spacing is found, and where the problem of the reentrant angle had to be met; not surprisingly, therefore, the adjustment of the column spacing is not really adequate.

Behind the N and (intended) W porticos of the stoa were various rooms, the majority of them of a standard size (ca. 6 x 6 m) and equipped with 11 couches and 7 small tables. The arrangement of these rooms is best seen at the E end of the N wing, where the base blocks for several tables, as well as the holes where couch legs were fixed with lead, still survive. The rooms were entered from the porticos in front of them, and in the marble threshold of the first room from the E can be seen one of the bronze pivots for the double doors and the prism-shaped bronze projections that held the doors shut.

Besides the standard rooms, there were also in the N wing a narrow passage to the N court, and a small room at the extreme W end, which probably served as a lodge for the porter of the W gate into the N court. In the W wing, the third room from the S formed the main entrance to the stoa and its court from the W. The many wheel-marks visible here, however, belong with a rough road made of reused reliefs and architectural members and laid over the remains of the stoa, probably by people coming to remove building material from the site.

Along the central wall of the N wing, behind the rear wall of the W wing, and at the foot of the N retaining wall of the temple, there were rows of bases. On most of these bases were reliefs or inscriptions in honor of Artemis, but there were also several statues of children, mostly girls (arktoi ?), dating from the 5th and 4th c. B.C. Several fragments of the catalogue of dedications to Artemis list separately the garments dedicated to the goddess, either in thanks for successful childbirth or in memory of those who died as a result of it. The garments were perhaps displayed on the racks which appear to have occupied the narrow portico of the N court.

About 7 m W of the stoa, a bridge of the 5th c. B.C. crosses the stream which flows N from the sacred spring to the Erasinos. It is ca. 9 m long x 9 m wide, very simple in structure, and consists of horizontal slabs about 1 m long which rest on five rows of upright slabs. Not all the buildings at the sanctuary have been uncovered; an inscription mentions several others, including a palaistra and a gymnasium.

The finds from the excavations at the artemision are mostly housed in a new museum on the site.


B. Stais, ArchEph (1895) 196-99; J. Papadimitriou in Praktika (1945-48) 81-90; (1949) 75-90; (1950) 173-87; (1955) 118-20; (1956) 73-87; (1957) 42-45; (1959) 18-20; in Ergon (1956) 25-31; (1957) 20-24; (1958) 30-39; (1959) 13-20; (1960) 21-30; (1961) 20-37; (1962) 25-39; “The Sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron,” Scientific American (June 1963) 111-20MP; Ch. Bouras, I Anastilosis tis Stoas tis Vravronos (1967)MP.

Hdt. 6.138; Eur. IT 1462-67; Strab. 9.1.22; Suda, s.v. ῎αρκτος ῍η Βραυρωνίοις


hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.138
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.23.7
    • Strabo, Geography, 9.1.22
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