Gino Canlas (University of Alberta), Investing in the Sacred: Divergent Monumentality in Thessalian Sanctuaries

Although Greek temples were often the most prestigious manifestations of Greek religion, they were by no means a mandatory feature of sanctuaries. The poleis of Thessaly largely eschewed the construction of large temples, of which only three large Doric peripteral temples (Metropolis, Pherai, Pythion) survive, preferring smaller and non-peripteral forms instead. This paper investigates the reasons for this apparent lack of investment in colossal temples in Thessalian sanctuaries from the Archaic to Hellenistic period.
A diachronic examination of the archaeological remains of Thessalian cities does indicate that many polities in Thessaly did possess the ability to undertake large building projects but chose not to do so. Contrary to what is seemingly evident from the architectural remains (or lack thereof), the epigraphic and votive record, as well as archaeological evidence for renovations in sanctuaries, indicate that a significant amount of financial investment poured into these sacred sites. Contextualized with the literary sources, I demonstrate that the supposed lack of monumentality was in fact a monumentalization of local forms of worship, often as a reaction to broader events in the Greek world, such as the Delphic, Aitolian, Macedonian, and Roman wars in which Thessaly became embroiled. I also demonstrate that these same events were a factor in the decision to construct the few large temples that do exist, as an assertion of panhellenic affiliation.