Classics Amyklaion
Stavros Vlizos
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 July 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0385


The sanctuary of Apollo Amyklaios is located on the low hill of Agia Kyriaki, at a distance of 5 kilometers south of Sparta, roughly in the middle of the Eurotas plain, and approximately 600 meters to the east of the modern village of Amykles (Sklavochori or Slavochori). The identification of the sanctuary was confirmed by the discovery of tiles stamped with the name of Apollo Amyklaios (IG V 1.823) and inscriptions found on the hill and in its immediate surroundings. The sanctuary was famous for the imposing throne of Apollo, in the center of which stood the cult statue of the god, and the celebrated Hyakinthia, a festival described by Athenaios in his Deipnosophistai (4. 139 c-f). The recent finds confirm the previously expressed view that the earliest evidence of settlement on the hill belongs to the Early Helladic period. The transformation of the site from a settlement to a cult place of central importance begins in the Late Mycenaean period and can only be testified from the votive offerings, which are primarily numerous female terracotta figurines of the Psi type, but also several small handmade animal figurines. Ritual activity seems to continue without pause into the Early Iron Age. From the late eleventh century BCE the increasing quantity and quality of the finds are indicative of the existence of a significant festival and an ever-larger number of visitors. The identity of the sanctuary, which is connected with the pioneering role of Sparta and its sociopolitical conditions, is particularly evident in the second and most important monumental phase of the shrine, dated to the late sixth century BCE. During this period, the Spartans invited the architect Bathycles from the Ionian Magnesia at Meander to enclose the already existing xoanon by a monumental temple, the so-called throne.

General Overview—History of Research

In 1878, Adolf Furtwängler, in his first visit on the hill of Agia Kyriaki, recognized the built-in architectural members at the chapel of Agia Kyriaki as coming from the throne. Systematic research into the site was conducted some years later in three periods: In the periods 1889–1890 and 1904–1907 by Christos Tsountas and Ernst Fiechter respectively, under the auspices of the Archaeological Society at Athens, and in 1925 under the directorship of Ernst Buschor of the German Archaeological Institute. The excavation results of this early archaeological work can be found in Tsountas 1892, Fiechter 1918, and Buschor and Massow 1927. Vlizos 2019 presents in detail the early work of the German archaeologists at the Amyklaion, shedding light on the conditions of the research in addition to the political and ideological processes which influenced the activity of the German Archaeological Institute and the German archaeologists in Laconia. The systematic work of the ongoing Amykles Research Project was launched in 2005 under the direction of Angelos Delivorrias. The new evidence from this research was presented in the workshop “The Amykles Research Project: Works 2005–2010,” the papers of which are included in Delivorrias and Vlizos 2011. The project aims at the re-evaluation of all the previous conclusions derived from the old excavations, at fully revealing of the monuments of the sanctuary, the publication of all of the old and new finds, as well as the final opening of the archaeological site to the public. A general overview of the sanctuary, its early history, monuments, and the continuing research project is also offered in Vlizos 2009 and Vlizos 2017.

  • Buschor, Ernst, and Wilhelm von Massow. 1927. Vom Amyklaion. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteilung 52:1–85.

    The excavators presented the results of the new investigation in 1925 and proposed a theory of continuous historical evolution of the sanctuary based on the study of the stratigraphy. Additionally, a new reconstruction of the throne was offered.

  • Delivorrias, Angelos, and Stavros Vlizos. 2011. Amykles Research Project: Works 2005–2010. Archaeological Workshop at the Benaki Museum, Athens 26th May 2011. Benaki Museum 11/12, 2011/2012. Athens, Greece: Benaki Museum.

    These conference proceedings concerned the presentation of the archaeological fieldwork conducted at the site during the seasons 2006–2010 in the framework of the ongoing Amykles Research Project. Much of the material (mainly architecture, as well as late Bronze Age and Geometric pottery) and data (especially pertaining to the history of religious activity but also analysis regarding the provenance of the building material and quarries) is presented here for the first time.

  • Fiechter, Ernst. 1918. Amyklae. Der Thron des Apollon. Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 33:107–245.

    A publication of the second systematic excavation conducted at the hill of Agia Kyriaki in the period 1904–1907. Fiechter presented the results of the excavation and attempted to reconstruct the Throne of the Apollon Amyklaios.

  • Tsountas, Christos. 1892. Εκ του Αμυκλαίου. Archaeologike Ephemeris:1–26.

    This is the first publication concerning the initial archaeological investigations at the site by the Greek archaeologist Christos Tsountas. This study on the excavations and selected important finds confirmed that the site was that of the sanctuary of Apollon Amyklaios and showed that later interventions had damaged the constructions within the sanctuary and the stratigraphy.

  • Vlizos, Stavros. 2009. The Amyklaion revisited: New observations on a Laconian sanctuary of Apollo. In Athens-Sparta: Contribution to the research on the history and archaeology of the two city-states. Edited by Nikolaos Kaltsas, 11–23. New York: Onassis Foundation USA.

    The purpose of this essay is to discuss specifically the Amyklaion, to review critically the relevant research, and to present the first results and some of the new material related to the Amykles Research Project.

  • Vlizos, Stavros. 2017a. Das Heiligtum und seine Weihgaben: Bronzestatuetten aus dem Amyklaion. In Kulte und Heiligtümer in Griechenland: Neue Funde und Forschungen. Beiträge zur Archäologie Griechenlands 4. Edited by Heide Frielinghaus and Jutta Stroszeck, 71–96. Möhnesee, Germany: Bibliopolis.

    One of the outcomes of this contribution is that the scientific preconditions for the “archaeology of the Amyklaion” were strongly dictated by the German intellectuals (Adolf Furtwängler, Ernst Fiechter, and Ernst Buschor) and Christos Tsountas. They were responsible, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, among other things, for the discovery and interpretation of the Spartan sanctuary of Apollo Amyklaios and the site of Amyklai in Laconia.

  • Vlizos, Stavros. 2019. Deutsche Archäologen und das frühe Interesse an Sparta: Furtwängler, Fiechter, Buschor, ihre Vorgänger und die Ausgrabungen im Amyklaion. In Die Abteilung Athen des DAI und die Aktivitäten deutscher Archäologen in Griechenland 1874–1933. Edited by Katja Sporn and Alexandra Kankeleit, 205–218. Berlin: Deutsches Archäologisches Institut.

    This paper presents the conditions that framed and scientific background of the research on the Amyklaion during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. A focus concerns the politically ideological processes, which influenced not only the German Archaeological Institute but also the only German archaeologists, Adolf Furtwängler and Ernst Buschor, who were active in Laconia.

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