Delian Temple Treasures


For over three centuries on the sacred island of Delos, annual lists ("inventories") were inscribed on stone of the valuable contents ("treasures") of the island's sanctuaries. Below is a brief description of the inventories and the various treasures.

A. Inscriptions

There are seven complete or virtually complete Delian inventories, all but the first inscribed on the back of a stele. On the front we find the year's temple accounts, a fascinating record of revenue (mostly from rents) and expenses for the various temples on the island.[[1]] The inventories are considerably less revealing, and often record much the same set of dedications (often in a different order) year after year. The inventories are placed in three chronological groups before, during or after the period of Delian independence (314-166 BC).

I Amphictyonic Inventories

ID 104 (364 BC) is the earliest inventory and belongs to the period when Delos was technically independent but the treasures were under Athenian control. It lists the treasures of the temple of Artemis (the Artemision), the Temple of the Athenians, the Temple of the Delians, and finally miscellaneous bronze, iron and wood which was stored elsewhere.

II Independence Inventories

IG XI-2 154 (296 BC), 161 (279 BC), 287 (250 BC) and 442 (179 BC) all come from the period of Delian independence and show the impressive growth of the treasures (along with the completion of the great Temple of Apollo) and embody a delightful complexity of presentation that suggests a time-consuming and probably ostentatious ritual of weighing, recording and re-positioning of all the dedications.[[2]] They give the date by Delian archon instead of Athenian and Delian archons as in the previous period, and the officials in charge are Delian hieropoioi rather than Amphictyonic officers. The standard format begins with 161: and contains the core treasures of the Artemision, the Temple of Apollo and the Temple of the Athenians (renamed the "Temple Where the Seven Statues (are)" in a visible mark of independence), and of the Hieropoion (also called the Oikos of the Andrians), followed by the year's acquisitions ("epeteia").

IG XI-2 154 (296 BC) does not have the standard format of accounts on side A and inventory on side B that we find hereafter; rather we find on side A accounts, treasures of the Apollo temple, the Temple of the Seven Statues and the Neokorion (which appears only here) while on side B we have listings of equipment, cups from the "Hieropoion" and dedications in an unidentified group or groups (ending "in the Artemision"). Noteworthy is the absence of what was earlier the largest treasure by far, that of the Artemision.

IG XI-2 161 (279 BC) is the first example of the standard format of accounts on side A and inventory on side B (and continued on the edges, C and D. It contains the core treasures plus Eileithyiaion and Cholkotheke, both of which appear only intermittently and for a short period.

IG XI-2 287 (250 BC) is our only totally intact Independence inventory, on a stele so huge that it is impossible to move without endangering the storeroom (and so the readings have not been confirmed for over half a century--but since side A of the inscription is quite legible there is no reason to suspect problems on side B). In addition to the core treasures, we find a long list of phialai dedicated to Apollo from various (usually royal) endowments, which provide the bulk of the accessions during this period and eventually cause the breakdown of the format.

ID 2 442 (179 BC) one of a group of inventories toward the end of the period of Independence that are virtually verbatim copies of each other (except for acquisitions). The phialai are no longer grouped by endowment and have been absorbed into the Apollo treasure. This by far the most informative and historically detailed of the Independence inventories. We find here systematic topographical references and, for the first time, traces of accountability (as well as mention of ingots, some explicitly tied to remelting of dedications, which suggests consolidation of the dedications [katharsis], known from the inventories of the Athenian Asclepieion).

III Inventories of the Athenian Period

ID 3 1417 (155 BC) and 1450 (140 BC) are two of the best preserved inventories of the last period, during which the island was again under the control of the Athenians. They are very carelessly written and their lettering is very small, but they keep the same order and much the same phrasing and so one can get a good idea of the treasures of the period in spite of the fragmentary remains of the inventories. Still, these texts are in need of re-editing. The great virtue of inventories in this group for the modern historian of religion is that they list everything in the sanctuary not just the precious dedications.

1417 (155 BC) lists of the major treasures but provides invaluable information about sixteen other treasures.

1450 (140 BC) by contrast lists only the Apollo treasure before it breaks off.


B. Treasures

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Temple of the Athenians
The Temple of the Athenians is the middle of the three Apollo temples (GD #12, pp. 129&endash;30)[[3]] built in the late 5th C. After the Amphictyonic period its name is changed to the Temple of the Seven Statues ("The Temple Where the Seven [Statues Are]") though it does not change back during the Athenian period. For most of their history the inventories list only gold and silver objects, but in the Athenian period, as is typical, we find a much fuller description of the Temple's contents, including mention of the statues themselves, though without description or number.

The Poros Temple
This is the oldest of the Temples of Apollo (GD #11, pp. 128-29), built at the end of the 6th C. and called the Temple of the Delians at first, but it changes its name to the Poros Temple once the new Temple of Apollo, having taken over its treasure, begins to appear in the inventories. A new but small treasure gradually accumulates in the Poros Temple, comprising mostly silver phialai, which remain even in the latest inventories (unlike the Athenian treasure). The latest inventories of the Poros treasure, like most of those during the Athenian period, list much more than the precious dedications catalogued earlier and provide welcome information about the typical contents of a temple.

Temple of Artemis
The large Temple of Artemis (GD #46, pp. 154&endash;59) had Mycenaean, archaic, and Hellenistic phases. It was obviously the repository for valuable dedications from quite early times until the opening of the great Apollo Temple in 279 BC, and already its earliest inventories have over 700 silver objects (mostly phialai) arranged in large groups and weighed in a special way (in rhymoi). It seems to be a remarkably stable treasure, though its contents are repeatedly shuffled and redefined.

The Temple of Apollo
The Temple of Apollo (GD #13, pp. 130-33) was begun in the early 5th C. and was never completely finished&emdash;its columns are not fluted; its base is not smoothed&emdash;but its treasure is first recorded in 279 BC (ID 161). It has a large and rich treasure from the beginning, which, unlike the Artemision, grows steadily. In addition there is a group of endowment phialai associated with the temple, which grows at an even greater rate. The officials at first gather the silver phialai separately but eventually integrate them with the rest of the treasure.

Temple of Anios
Anios was the mythical founder of Delos. During Independence the Temple of Anios (GD #74 pp. 200&endash;201) was known as the Archegesion or Sanctuary of Archegetes, while in the Athenian period it was called the Sanctuary of Anios (see CDH 420f for details). The geographical identification is guaranteed by the large inscribed vases ("tessons") found there (CDH 422). It comprised a 6th C. peristyle court with wooden columns surrounded in the early 5th C. by a peribolos wall.

The Temple of Aphrodite (GD #88 pp. 213&endash;14) was a private foundation of Stesileos (archon on Delos in 305 BC) established in the late 4th C. and comparable to Apollonios' foundation of the Sarapieion (see below). The building is securely identified by two inscribed statue bases that are registered in the inventories. It seems to have been restored in 110 BC (ID 1810, 1811; CDH 338), and Bruneau (CDH 339f) argues that the sanctuary was deconsecrated under the Roman Empire since five missing nails were never replaced (though he notes the same is true of the Heraion) and the bases of two statues recorded in the inventories were found though the statues had been removed. Despite the female priestesses in charge (three are named in the inventories), the majority of dedicants are male (6 of 10), Stesileos being named repeatedly, which is not surprising since it is virtually certain he constructed the sanctuary as well as providing the cult image (ID 290) and two other statues in honor of his parents (the bases of which have been excavated, GD 214). Bruneau points to the Sarapieion of Apollonios, about 150 meters away, as another private cult similarly located in virgin territory (CDH 337).

Artemision on the Island
For the various titles of this sanctuary (Island, Sacred Island, Sacred Island of Artemis, Island of Hekate) see CDH 180. It is not clear which island this is (CDH 180&endash;85). Apparently there is a male priest; the dedicators are mostly male (26 of 31 in the Athenian inventories, 12 of 14 during Independence). There are many statues of puppies with Artemis, which is natural given that this is Artemis-Hekate, as the variation in name for the treasure makes clear. We should also note also that one weight (D39) was found to be short, as in the Sarapeion treasure in the Artemision.

The Asklepieion was built at the end of the 4th C. (CDH 375; GD #125 p.264), and we find traces of its treasure in some early Independence inventories: ID 223B39 ("[in the temple] of Asklepios: censer [- - -] ded. Kleino, crown [with which the statue] was crowned") and ID 226B7 ("in the Asklepieion: phiale in pl[inth - - - crown with which] the statue was crowned"). Dedications are mostly by males (24&endash;3), often the same individual (Kleokritos 4x, Aristothales 2x, Geryllos 4x).

As Bruneau notes (CDH 212), the exceptional importance of Eileithyia's cult can be explained by her role in Apollo's birth (Hymn to Apollo 97ff); Callimachus refers to a sacred hymn of Eileithyia, which Pausanias says was composed by the legendary singer Olen (Callimachus, Hymn to Delos 255&endash;57; Pausanias 1.18.5, 8.21.3, 9.27.2). The location of the Eileithyiaion, referred to already in 304 BC (ID 144A113), is not certain but should be near those of the Delian triad Apollo, Artemis, Leto. The dedicants are all female.

Temple of Good Fortune
The temenos of Good Fortune is probably to be identified with Sanctuary A of Kynthos (GD #103 pp. 232&endash;3; CDH 539). Bruneau notes that on inventories it is always listed near the Heraion and Kynthion. It was founded at latest early in the 2nd C., during Independence (CDH 538f). Some of its objects were excavated elsewhere, Bruneau thinks perhaps as the result of deconsecration (CDH 540). There are several idiosyncratic dedications: seashells (D5), oysters (D7), true horn with wig (D6). Bruneau (CDH 537) notes that many of the objects are in pairs (D5, 7, 8, 11, 17, 19, 21, 28).

The Gymnasium (GD #76 pp. 201&endash;3) was built in the early 3rd C and destroyed in 88 BC. It is a very stable treasure as far as we can tell, with few additions, few subtractions and no weights since there are no precious dedications.

The Heraion (GD #101 pp. 230&endash;31) was quite important in the archaic period, to judge from in-situ pottery dating from the 7th C. and the rebuilding in the 6th C., but only one item is found in Independence inventories (a kymbion dedicated by the daughter of Amiantos housed in the Apollo Temple, Apollo C111), and there is a very limited treasure, mostly cult equipment, during the Athenian period, with only one addition (not counting the statue in the harbor). Bruneau (CDH 255) notes the missing nail amid other signs of neglect.

The Kynthion, sacred to Zeus Kynthios (and Athena Kynthia), was located at the highest point of the island, a venerable spot already in the archaic period and much enlarged in the late 2nd C (GD #105 pp. 234&endash;36). Bruneau (CDH 226) notes the "modification radicale" of the treasure between 156 BC (ID 1417) and 146 BC (ID 1442): the single statue is replaced by two, the pinaxes dedicated by Autokles' sons become anonymous; some objects are omitted; others are added. We might add that some cult objects disappear (table, chairs, krater, trough, doors), but a table and stone washbasin are added and the arrangement is no longer by locale (under the influence of one item [D26] being weighed?). Bruneau, following Roussel, speaks of a renovation of the cult thanks to "dévotion orientale" and provides considerable supporting evidence (CDH 231). Bruneau (CDH 223) lists a dozen later dedications to Zeus Kynthios and notes (CDH 230) that the dedicants are international and all male, which he thinks is significant (given the purity requirements specified in ID 2529).

Like that of the Heraion, the treasure of the 6th C. Temple of Leto (GD #53 pp. 168&endash;71) declines during Independence and the Athenian period (see CDH 211): the one offering we can date is early (Parm(en)iskos D19 dates to early 4th C.). Valuable dedications are housed in the Apollo Temple, unless these are for a different Leto (Leto's elaborate chitoniskos and other gear, Apollo D664; a ring from Stratonike, Apollo C1; a collar from Stratonike, Apollo C2). It is impossible even to guess where the diadem made by vote of the demos (ID 154A59) went. There are no weights, no shifts in order, few additions and subtractions, and no explicit arrangement.

The Prytaneion dates to the 4th C. (GD #22 pp. 135&endash;38) and was the center of civic cult, sacred to Hestia. Virtually all the dedications to Hestia are by archons during Independence (CDH 443); during the Athenian period, she is joined by and subordinated to the Athenian Demos and Rome (Mikalson 222). There were endowed vases called "Hestiatikos" and "Prytanikos" during Independence (ID 117.5, 19; 287A13; 320B77, 82).

The Samothrakion (GD #93 pp. 221&endash;2) was built in the early 4th C. and enlarged at the end of the 2nd. It has a number of maritime offerings and felt hats worn by horsemen (piloi), both being appropriate for the Great Gods of Samothrace, the Kabeiroi, identified with the Dioscuroi. There are no weights aside from two dedications of Marcus, and the order remains the same. The treasure ends with a prosparadosis kept in place throughout. Arrangement is by locale according to the labels, but double mention of the prostoa suggests topography is subordinate to material; if so, we might interpret the wood statues and shrine at the beginning as cult objects. The confusion over whether the chairs are stone or wood (see chart n. 140) seems odd (elsewhere they are always wood; we find a similar confusion with the fence in the Temple of Good Fortune, see chart n. 104). The two statues of Herakles can be explained by his similarity to the Great Gods as protector of the house and protector of sailors; less certain is the their putative connection to the Gymnasium (CDH 407&endash;8).

Historically, the Sarapieion is the most interesting of the lesser sanctuaries both because it is an unusually well-documented shift from private to public cult and also because it contains the most extensive treasure during the Athenian period aside from Apollo's. The history of the cult is preserved on a late 3rd C. column (IG XI.4 1299), describing its establishment, early vicissitudes (including an unsuccessful lawsuit against the grandson of its founder Apollonios), and final public acceptance. The precious dedications are stored in the Artemision and are listed separately ("from the Sarapeion"); the non-precious dedications are stored in the large official temple of Sarapis, built in the early 2nd C., today called Sarapieion C (GD #100 pp. 227&endash;9) to distinguish it from the earlier temples A (GD #91) and B (GD #96), built in the 3rd C. when the cult was still private. The listing shows how complex the sanctuary was. The non-Greek influence is evident in the multitude of -is names, the dedications of eyes and ears.

Although the (still unlocated) Thesmophorion is having its roof repaired already in the 4th C. (ID 144A76), its treasures are not inventoried until the 2nd C., presumably because they have little in the way of precious dedications until then. The novelty of the treasure is also suggested by its uncertain format: whereas most Athenian treasures show no variation in order, the Thesmophorion is constantly changing.

The treasure is notable for usually, as far as we can tell, being in the hands of the priestess rather than the hieropoioi, though the melting down has masculine subjects, "we ourselves with the advice of the epimelêtai."

Most of the dedications are unnamed; those that are named are more often females (14 females vs 6 males). The prosparadosis of Moschine (n.b. an Athenian) shows that the torches that later become anonymous can be recorded with names, although there is the large group weighing 117 dr, which may show that melting down was a common procedure (and may explain the torch weighing 161.3 dr and the one weighing 145.2; as well as the skyphos wt 96 inscribed "Deliades to Demeter and Kore," though this does not resemble the melting down inscription of ID 1442). The torches, kneading troughs, grain measure, silvered (terracotta) cakes on board, and ladder are untypical dedications, particular to this cult. The eyes and leg recall the Asklepieion.


Notes on Reading the Charts

  • The first column of a chart gives a minimal description of the objects, usually based on a benchmark inventory; objects are listed by number, locations by letter.

  • @ marks additions to the benchmark inventory (if the benchmark inventory is incomplete, a/b/c are used for added items e.g. 10a, 10b, 10c, since they may be hidden in the lacunae)

  • Weight is given in the description only if it is the benchmark weight.

  • Women identified simply by name plus genitive of a male name are assumed to be the daughters of the males named (rather than wives). Names of coins are not capitalized.

  • Definite parallels are indicated in parentheses with an "="; possible parallels with a "cf."

AAL = Apollo, Artemis, Leto (combined recipients of a dedication)

arch. = archetheôros (chief theôros)

ch.= choreia (offering by or in honor of a chorus [sc. of Deliades])

d. = daughter of

ded. = dedicated, dedicated by, dedication of

Del. = Dêliades (chorus of Delian women)

don. = donor, donated by

dr = drachma(s) inscr. = inscribed

k. = king

m. = mother of

mn = mna(i)

q. = queen

s. = son of

T = talent

T/O = Thyestadai/Okyneidai

(Delian demes)

unwt = unweighed

w. = wife of

w. = with

wt = weight

In the other columns, weight follows rank number and slash, and it is normally given in drachmas then obols; for example, 10/13.3 means the rank number is 10 and the weight is 13 dr, 3 ob. Weights differing from the benchmark weight (or the earliest subsequent weight or the majority) are underlined; those not differing are asterisked.

+ = weight incomplete

- = mostly lacking (identification not assured)

** = end of list



[[1]] These are the basis of the comprehensive study of the Hellenistic cults of the island by P. Bruneau, <i>Recherches sur les cultes de De/los a\ l'epoque helle/nistique et a\ l'epoque impe/riale</i> (Paris 1970), hereafter CDH.

[[2]] The seventh, IG XI-2 199 (274 BC) has not been included because its contents are virtually the same as those of 161 (though the weights, phrasing and order differ a bit, see R. Hamilton <i>Treasure Map</i> [Ann Arbor 2000] 53).

[[3]] GD= P. Bruneau, J. Ducat, <i>Guide de De/los</i> (Paris 1983).