The temple of Dionysus in Macedonia

 
th Dionysius chapel The temple of Dionysus in Macedonia
 
Tymphaios
  
April 30, 2010
 
  
Ruins of an ancient temple lie in an area of Macedonia known in ancient times as Crestonia. It lies between the modern Macedonian capital Thessaloniki and the town of Kilkis. The region took its name from its old Thracian inhabitants, a tribe called Crestones. Aristotle mentions a major temple to Dionysus near the land of the Bisaltians, another Thracian tribe that may have lived to the north of Crestonia. Two Greek inscriptions found in the precinct of the sanctuary are dedicated to Dionysus. One of them has been dated to the 5th C BC. Was this the “great and beautiful” temple of Dionysus near the land of the Bisaltians mentioned by Aristotle in his “Marvelous Accounts” (Περί Θαυμασίων Ακουσμάτων)?

 
“Odysseu …

A marble block with the inscription HELIOS is incorporated in the cement fence of a nearby cemetery. Two marble pillars frame the entrance to the cemetery while a third pillar helps support the wire fence that encloses the cemetery. Other marble fragments possibly from the temple have been seemingly carried off and left inside the cemetery. Two Doric pillar capitals are incorporated in a simple stone fence supporting a washing board. A pillar is used in a nearby house to support a flower pot. Other luckier ancient fragments have been taken to the archaeological museum of Kilkis.

th Dionysus temple IMAG0034 The temple of Dionysus in Macedonia

Greece is perhaps cursed with too much history. Judging from the scattered remnants of the sanctuary in Crestonia, the weight of history sits heavy on the public purse. The byzantine emperors used the riches of history to their advantage: they often gained allegiances with gifts of sacred provenance, remains of saints, alleged fragments of the True Cross, ancient books and other items that foreign magnates admired. Ancient monuments in the world´s museums have been among Greece´s best loved ambassadors. Perhaps the Bild journalist who suggested that Greece sells ancient monuments had the basic idea. The Greeks seem not always Greece´s best custodians.

The ancient words and symbols have been desecrated,

The guardians of the altars are gone, rubble only remains.

Where Hyperion reigned, a darkness has fallen

Denser than the dark of the land of the Cimmerians.”

From Artemis-Euthymis´ Odysseu, a fitting soundtrack to the youtube videoclip made by Visaltis.

th Dionysus temple DSC01956 The temple of Dionysus in Macedonia

A Dionysus-like god was a popular cult deity among the Thracians and Paeonians, who called him Dryalus. The cult of Dionysus was also popular among the Macedonians. One of the best known, almost emblematic, mosaics from Pella shows Dionysus riding a leopard. Alexander the Great offered sacrifices to Dionysus in temples he dedicated to the god in the cities he founded during his campaign. Indeed, Alexander is alleged by a Roman historian to have sacrificed to Dionysus at the Oracle of Dionysus of the Satrians in Thrace before undertaking his campaign to conquer Persia.

Sadly, while Greece is engaged in a 200 year long war of arguments and consciences over the return of the fragments of the Parthenon from the British Museum and other museums, the few remains of the temple in Crestonia lie scattered and forlorn. Echedoros recently published online a video made by Visaltis about the ruined and dismembered sanctuary (http://echedoros-a.blogspot.com/2010/04/blog-post_848.html).

“On the approach to the temple we encounter carcinogenic materials” he exasperates. There are sheets of asbestos lying on the ground, next to the wire fence enclosing the temple precinct. Inside a few pillars lie scattered, while rusted sheets of asbestos cover the remaining ruins of what may have been a small chapel built at the site of the ancient sanctuary. The scant remains of the ruined chapel seem to have been transformed into an impromptu place of worship replete with an icon, an altar and an oil lamp. The corrugated roof is ´melting´ under the pull of gravity like a Daliesque allegory on the passage of time. The temple´s glory days are long gone.

 


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  4. “The Gift of Dionysus” Exhibition Opens in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece
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