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date: 28 November 2022



  • James Whitley


The Laconian shrine of Helen and Menelaus at ancient Therapne from c.700bce occupied a commanding position facing Mt. Taygetus on a spur high above the Eurotas, 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) south-east of the Spartan Acropolis. Epigraphy confirms that the principal figure venerated in the earliest phase was Helen (Hdt. 6.61.3), though both Menelaus and the Dioscuri (Pind. Nem. 10.56) are attested.1 Only later writers (Polyb. 5.18.3; 5.18.10; 5.21.1; Livy 34.28.7) refer to the Menelaion. Whether Helen and Menelaus were worshipped here ‘as gods’ (Isoc. 10.63) or at their place of burial as heroes (Paus. 3.19.9) is disputed; if as heroes, this would be the earliest attested example of a cult to named heroes from the Epic (Trojan War) cycle. Archaeological investigation began with Ludwig Ross in 1833. Greek and British archaeologists,2 most recently H. W. and R. Catling,3 have uncovered a rich series of principally Archaic votive deposits (local Laconian painted pottery, bronzes, and lead and terracotta figurines).


  • Greek Material Culture: Bronze Age

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