School of Humanities



Aaron Floky


Start date

Aug 2013

Submission date

Aaron Floky

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Mythical motifs in the ritual and sacred space of Ancient Greek chthonic cult places.


The proposed research project is a detailed study of how mythological motifs are employed within the sacred space of Ancient Greek chthonic cult sanctuaries, and within the ritual processes involved in worship at those sanctuaries. Pausanias (8.15.1-3), a Greek travel-writer of the 2nd century CE, informs us that at the sanctuary of Eleusinian Demeter at Pheneos the sacred ritual texts are stored between two large stones (known as the petroma). This physical feature of the ritual space was argued by Jack Lindsay to have simulated the opening and closing of the Clashing Rocks (symplegades) depicted most famously in the Argonaut myths, most prominently in the 3rd BCE work of Apollonius of Rhodes (Ap. Rhod. 2.317-34 & 549-610). Lindsay argued that the Petroma used in the cult ritual had a clear relationship to the symplegades of Greek Myth. Daniel Ogden recently published work which dealt extensively with the relationship of mythical motifs in the area of Ancient Greek and Roman necromancy, and following from Ogden's work, in an Honours thesis, this candidate analysed the relationships of mythical motifs within the rituals, stories and sacred space of the cult of Trophonius at Lebadea. The purpose of this research project is to examine how chthonic motifs were incorporated into cult ritual and sacred space. This will be done by expanding upon the understanding of what constitutes a chthonic cult within current scholarship, and applying that understanding to the analysis of the cult sites themselves. In so doing, we will be able to greater understand how the Ancient Greeks found meaning in mythology and cult practice, and how strong the relationship between myth and ritual was for the Ancient Greeks.

Why my research is important

Meaning which can be derived from mythological motifs can be used to enlighten our understanding of ritual processes and the sacred space of cult sanctuaries, and how these were understood and experienced by the Ancient Greeks. The proposed research project attempts bring additional research into a field which is currently expanding. The focus of this project is chthonic sanctuaries, and chthonic related sanctuaries, which are rich in a variety of motifs, but which also can be found incorporated into the sacred spaces and ritual processes of non-chthonic cults. This particular research focus should provide numerous options of comparison between these cults according to cult type, deity, and geographical location, in addition to broadening our understanding of the Ancient Greek experience of cults in general.


  • Australian Postgraduate Award
  • University of Western Australia Safety Net Top Up
  • University Graduate Research Student Travel Award
  • School of Humanities Postgraduate Travel Funding
  • Rodney R T Prider Travel Scholarship (2015)

Red figure calyx krater attributed to Euphronios, c. 515 BCE. National Etruscan Museum, Rome.