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  • Delphi and Olympia: The Spatial Politics of Panhellenism in the Archaic and Classical Periods
  • Elton T. E. Barker
Michael Scott . Delphi and Olympia: The Spatial Politics of Panhellenism in the Archaic and Classical Periods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. xix + 356 pp. 60 black-and-white figs. Cloth, $95.

In the manner of an experienced oracular consultant, Scott immediately reflects on the likely response that will greet his enterprise: "A reader picking up this book might well think 'not another book on Delphi and Olympia'!" (1). As he remarks, however, "the majority of English-language books about Delphi focus on its oracle and about Olympia on its games . . . , relying heavily on (sometimes much later) literary evidence" (1) to the neglect of their sanctuaries and the archaeological evidence. In what follows, Scott articulates a program for "developing a new level of spatial analysis, which better links archaeological discussions of small-scale spatial development with historical discussions of large-scale place in the wider landscape" (3-4).

After a brief introduction, chapter 1, "Athletes and oracles—but what else?," sets out "the necessity of moving past the (literature-orientated) oracle- and games-obsessed approach to the study of Delphi and Olympia" (1) in proposing a middle level of spatial analysis that investigates "the ways in which individual structures and groups of structures within [each] site affected, and were affected by, its role in the wider landscape" (21). Chapter 2, "Dedicating at Olympia and Delphi," examines the management structures of either sanctuary in order to gauge the "degree of interaction between dedicators, their dedications and the space [End Page 670] around them" (29). The central chapters of the book apply Scott's middle-level analysis to evaluating the spatial politics of the sanctuaries of Delphi and Olympia in discrete chronological periods: Delphi 650-500 B.C.E. (chap. 3, 41-74); Delphi 500-400 B.C.E. (chap. 4, 75-110); Delphi 400-300 B.C.E. (chap. 5, 111-45); Olympia 650-479 B.C.E. (chap. 6, 146-80); and Olympia 479-300 B.C.E. (chap. 7, 181-217). Chapter 8, "Comparing spaces," attempts to bring together the primary features that may be gleaned from these chronological studies in order to "create a better model for understanding the place of these two sanctuaries in the wider landscape and the relationship between them" (219). Finally, chapter 9, "Panhellenic sanctuaries and panhellenism in context," "looks at the consequences of this study of space for future scholarship on Greek sanctuaries," "examines how this study of space poses important questions for past scholarship on the panhellenic nature of Delphi and Olympia," and "investigates the historiography of panhellenism in order to expose the difficulties of its application to the Greek world" (250).

In similarly reflective terms, I should mention that I supervised Scott when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge—it is somewhat humbling to be reading his second book already—and that my field of expertise lies in literature. Being in relative ignorance of the archaeological scholarship, therefore, I am not best placed to evaluate the extent to which Scott's study of Delphi and Olympia is indebted to previous French and German scholarship, or whether this book's true value lies in bringing together those studies for an English-speaking readership. But one thing is certain: Scott clearly fulfils his intention to "make more easily available a vast amount of material evidence to a much wider archaeological and historical audience" (2). And this is important, for too often the individual disciplines that make up classics speak only to their own constituencies. The fact that Scott makes a concerted effort to cross disciplinary boundaries ought to be commended, especially because, for the most part, he succeeds: although I have had no formal archaeological training, I was nevertheless attracted to pick up a book based on extensive and detailed archaeological surveys and discovered upon reading it that Scott's concise, economical prose presents that material in admirably lucid terms free of jargon.

There is, too, much to be gained from Scott's analysis of the two sanctuaries. Scott helpfully presents the processes of dedicating at Olympia and Delphi as a "negotiation between dedicator...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3168
Print ISSN
0002-9475
Pages
pp. 670-673
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-06
Open Access
No
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