Artemis’ Sacred Spring at Brauron

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If you look at sanctuaries to Artemis across the map, you’ll notice that they often are rather close to water. In alongside the Erasinus river, the sacred spring at the Brauron sanctuary played an important part in rituals.

Though it may not look impressive today, this spring was abundant at its peak. It was closed to (and possibly fed into, at peak tides) the Erasinus river, that ran down to a small harbour where it joined the sea. A stone platform stood beside the spring that would allow for rituals to be performed on the level surface.

As mentioned before, water and Artemis seemed to have gone together quite a bit, despite the fact that she was not a water deity. A similar layout to this sanctuary and its relation to water can be seen at the Artemis site at Amarynthos, which overlooks a river. There is some suggestion that crossing over water to reach a sanctuary to Artemis was significant, or at the very least a social ritual. The bridge at Brauron supports this theory for our purposes.

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Most interesting about this spring is that it was found to be filled with votive objects. These objects indicate a practice of tossing offerings into the spring even before the sanctuary to Artemis was established on this spot. Water-offerings is an unusual practice in Greek culture, and is more something that we would see in Celtic and Viking cultures. My own theory is that this practice at Brauron comes from a rite surrounding an earlier and more eastern interpretation of the goddess. An examination of the history of the cults of Artemis indicate the possibility that Sumerian origins could link her to water in a symbolic capacity.

The sacred spring is so interesting! Later we will take a look at the objects found around the sanctuary, including some retrieved from these waters. Next week we will take a look at the temple and the later Byzantine church that stands on the site. Thanks for reading!

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