CRC 1266 - Scales of Transformation

Phase 1 - Research activities 2016-2020

E3: The Hellenistic sanctuary as a perception and action context: Mutual influence between humans, architecture and landscape

Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Annette Haug, Prof. Dr. Lutz Käppel, Prof. Dr. Wiesehöfer
Staff: Michael Feige


Research agenda

The project investigates the transformation of the interrelation between built architecture and landscape during the Hellenistic period (ca. 4th to 2nd century BC) in the Eastern Mediterranean. The mutual influence between built space and natural space will be explored and linked to specific forms of agency, social behaviour and social contexts. The project will concentrate on the archaeological and literary sources of selected, well-investigated sanctuaries that enable a diachronic perspective towards the period of research.

Northern part of Corinthia
Fig. 1. Sanctuary of Athena at Lindos on Rhodos view from the acropolis passing the stoa (3rd centuary BC) to the harbour.

The project investigates the transformation of the interrelation between built architecture and landscape during the Hellenistic period (ca. 4th to 2nd century BC) in the Eastern Mediterranean. This period can be regarded as a key moment in the history of human design of landscape features since it saw a massive change in the relationship between architecture and landscape as already stressed by Hans Lauter in the 1950s. Therefore, project E3 focuses on architectural interventions and their consequences for the shaping of the landscape and, vice versa, the influence of landscape on the specific forms of architecture.

Amphiaraion of Oropos
Fig. 2. Amphiaraion of Oropos at the Northern border of Attica, in the background theatre and stoa (2nd and 4th century BC), to the right Amphiaraos temple (5th century BC)

In contrast to many previous studies related to this subject, built space is not regarded as a static, container-like entity in which action takes place. Instead, the project adopts a more dynamic, relational concept of built space. Seen from this perspective, which is founded upon the research of influential theoreticians as Martina Löw and Henry Lefebvre, built space is a social product, formed by the ever-changing relations of its occupants and constituent elements. Thus, built space is strongly linked to specific forms of agency, social behaviour and social contexts.

In order to approach this research aim, project E3 focuses on a specific functional type of architecture – the Hellenistic sanctuary – which has already been identified as a suitable case study in previous research. Taking this as a starting point, a long-term description of the transformations in the architecture-landscape interaction is intended. The sacred complexes selected for study will be analysed according to the following questions:

On a general level, the basic conditions of architecture-landscape interaction are under observation.

  • How are the sanctuaries sited inside the landscape, as well as urban space?
  • Which kinds of landscape elements and architectural elements can be identified?
  • In what ways did both elements exert influence on each other during the construction phase?

One a more specific level, the architecture-landscape interaction will be analysed with regard to human agency.

  • Which kinds of landscape elements and architectural elements can be identified?
  • How are sanctuaries structured on the whole?
  • How did landscape elements and architectural elements interact with the human actor and what consequences for their behaviour can be identified?

From the conception of space as a social product, it follows that the interrelation of architecture and landscape can be analysed as an indicator for specific cultural, religious, political, ethnical, and social meanings and aesthetic concepts. Thus, project E3’s final part aims to link the transformation phenomenon under observation to the broader social context.

  • Are there Hellenistic pictorial and written sources that hint at the ancient actor’s perspective on architecture-landscape interaction?
  • How does the Hellenistic period differ with respect to architecture-landscape interaction from the Classical and Roman periods?
  • Which models can be drawn on in order to explain these transformational phenomena during the Hellenistic age


Research activities

E3’s 2017 work package in the initial phase of the project focussed on collecting the fundamental data for the analysis of the sanctuary contexts, which meant a lot of literature research for Asja Müller, but also included an extensive field trip to study the architectural remains of sanctuaries and their different surrounding landscapes in the Eastern Mediterranean. Among the studied places are some real eye catchers as the sanctuary of Apollon at Delphi, Greece (Fig. 1) and the sanctuary of Zeus in Labraunda, Turkey (Fig. 2), that give a clear impression of the importance of landscape for the architectural layout and the perception of the sacred places.

CRC1266 Italien
Fig. 1. The theatre and the temple of Apollon in the sanctuary of Delphi, in front of the Mount Parnassus (left) and the Valley of the Xeropotamos beneath it (right). (photo: A. Müller)

CRC1266 antike Stadtmauer Italien Labraunda
Fig. 2. Labraunda, panorama with view to the temple terrace (upper terrace, far left), the middle terrace (central) and the propylon area below (far right). (photo: A. Müller)

Activities and Highlights 2018

In addition to daily life research tasks E3’s 2018 work package saw a range of more outstanding activities, cooperation and a personnel turnover:

The sanctuary of Artemis Limnatis: Archaeological and geographical field research in Messene (Messini)/Greece

In August 2018 Stefan Feuser joined the team of the subproject E3 and in cooperation with the Chair of Landscape Ecology and Geoinformatics of our University, the Society of Messenian Archaeological Studies and the Heinrich Schliemann-Institut für Altertumskunde of the University of Rostock conducted a field campaign in the sanctuary of Artemis Limnatis in Messene.

The sanctuary lies in a prominent spur location on the slope of Mount Ithome above the town of Messene (Fig. 3). The campaign documented the peripheral buildings of the complex in drawings and carried out sondages in the area of the building D in order to clarify its dating and use. Additionally a UAV (drone) survey carried out to produce a topographical plan and a large-scale, three-dimensional visualisation of the site and selected buildings (Fig. 4).

Based on the topographical visualizations and the survey of the buildings, the mutual influence of built and natural space in this sanctuary can now be investigated.

CRC1266 antike Stadtmauer Messene Berg Ithome
Fig. 3. The ancient city wall of Messene and Mount Ithome with the position of the sanctuary of Artemis Limnatis (arrow). (photo: T. Keßler)

CRC1266 Geoinformation Drohne Luftbildmessung Landschaftsökologie
Fig. 4. The colleagues from the Chair of Landscape Ecology and Geoinformatics starting their drone for the arial survey. (photo: T. Keßler)

International Colloquium „Hellenistic Architecture and Human Action – A Case of Reciprocal Influence“

From 30 October to 1 November 2018, Annette Haug and Asja Müller held a colloquium in Kiel on "Hellenistic Architecture and Human Action - A Case of Reciprocal Influence" as part of the E3 subproject (Fig. 5). In addition to numerous German-speaking scientists, we also welcomed researchers from Italy, Greece, Sweden and the USA at the Förde: to the program

CRC1266 Kolloquium Hellenistic Architecture and Human Action – A Case of Reciprocal Influence
Fig. 5. Poster

Field studies on Roman Villas and landscape in Italy

After the parting of Asja Müller from the CRC for a new position in Berlin in August 2018, Michael Feige became new the post-doc in the subproject E3 and supplemented a new subject to the project. His research on Roman Villas in late Republican Italy not only extends the project’s spatial and temporal focus but also adds but architecturally related action contexts that offer a suitable comparison to the situation of the Hellenistic Sanctuaries researched by Asja Müller. In November 2018 for the projects data collection, he made a field trip to study the remains of Roman Villas in different Landscape of Italy, most importantly the Gulf of Naples (Fig. 6), the Roman Campagna, and the Tyrrhenian coast (Abb. 7)

CRC1266 Villa Maritima Capo di Sorrento am Golf von Neapel
Fig. 6. Remains of the Villa Marittima at Capo di Sorrento on the Gulf of Naples with the modern city of Naples on the opposite side of the bay. (photo: M. Feige)

CRC1266 Villa des Tiberius bei Sperlonga in Latium Grotte
Fig. 7. So-called Villa of Tiberius near Sperlonga in Latium with the famous grotto and artificial fishponds. (photo: M. Feige)

Research activity 2019

The work of the year 2019 included the research, collection and evaluation of excavation findings of Roman villas on the Gulf of Naples. The focus of the considerations was on the relationship between the sites and the surrounding landscape. In the distribution of the estates, a clear organisational and hierarchical structure in the use of the landscape can be reconstructed (Fig. 8).  The observable pattern is on the one hand connected with the different construction tasks of the villas (agricultural enterprise, extra-urban residence), but on the other hand also with the different social status of the owners (local elites, Roman upper class). The different structural tasks are also reflected in the treatment and use of the landscape as a design element in the architecture of the complexes.

Distribution of excavation sites of Roman villas in the Sarno Valley (selection)
Fig. 8. Distribution of excavation sites of Roman villas in the Sarno Valley (selection). (map: M. Feige)

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