The Sanctuary

It is well known that ancient sanctuaries did not constitute simply places of prayer and adoration, but held further functions, serving the various needs of the city-state. Especially after the 8th century B.C., the city placed religion at the epicentre of its affairs and defined its identity through it. Therefore, in order to assess the importance of the Sanctuary in Amykles, two factors must be taken into account: firstly, that of religion and, secondly, that of politics.

It is accepted today that the grave of Hyacinth was one of the central points of the Sanctuary. Consequently, during the Hyakinthia, the form of Hyacinth played a crucial role. However, the tight relations of Apollo with the local and new tribes in the Early Iron Age Laconia, allow for the assumption that the sporadic settlement and installation of new communities was the factor that led to the blending of Apollo’s cult with that of Hyacinth.

According to references in Deipnosophistes of Polykrates, Laconians celebrated Hyakinthia in Amykles for three days every year. The first part of these celebrations was dedicated to the rites of separation: it was a day of bereavement and of the sacrifice of Hyacinth. The second part of the celebration can be connected to another transient phase, during which the symbols as much as the acts that took place, clearly point to the rites of initiation. The procession that took place on the second day of the festival starting in Sparta and leading to Amykles, where the veil of Apollo was delivered, not only indicates a passage in space and time, from daily life of the city to the temporary stay in tents at the Sanctuary. What is most clearly highlighted is the transition to the life and the world of adults. At this point, the interest of Apollo focuses on the upcoming generation and to the protection of the youth in the moment of their acceptance into society as full-grown members.


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