Maria Spathi

Visiting Fellow, Fall 2023

  • Affiliation
    Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports
    Research Project:
    The Sanctuary of Artemis Limnatis in Ancient Messene, South-West Peloponnese. A Contribution to the Religious Topography of the City
Contact Info

I am a classical field archaeologist currently working on the publication of the sanctuary of Artemis Limnatis in ancient Messene. I mainly work with archaeological sources and specialize on material evidence from ancient sacred sites, discussing their interpretation in relation to the archaeological contexts, specific rituals, and textual evidence.

I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in History and Archaeology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, followed by a doctorate in Classical Archaeology at the Julius-Maximilians University of Würzburg in Germany. I am a research associate of the systematic excavations of Ancient Messene in the Peloponnese. In the past, I have worked in different departments of the Archaeological Service in the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and in the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin and Athens, I have been employed as a Lecturer in the University of Crete and as an Assistant Professor at the University of Rostock in Germany. For my research I have obtained substantial grants and fellowships, the most recent of which are the Material Culture Fellowship from Harvard University´s Center for Hellenic Studies (2022/23) and the Margo Tytus Fellowship from the University of Cincinnati (2023/24).

About the Research Project

The Sanctuary of Artemis Limnatis in Ancient Messene, South-West Peloponnese. A Contribution to the Religious Topography of the City

The founding of the city of Messene in 369 BC by the Theban general Epameinondas was a political act marking the end of Sparta's long-standing predominance. Mount Ithome, as a choice location lending to the topographic conception of the city of Messene, was both a natural fortification and a long-held traditional place of worship. The Mount and its sanctuaries, i.e. those of Zeus Ithomatas, of Demeter and of Artemis Limnatis, were of religious, as well as political, significance for the Messenians as they were keenly/strongly associated with their mythical and political past.

The sanctuary of Artemis Limnatis was founded in the Early Hellenistic period on the southern slopes of Ithome, far from the city center but within the vast fortification wall of the city. The French archaeologist, Philippe Le Bas, discovered the cult site in the first half of the 19th century. From 2006 to 2018, excavations were carried out at the sanctuary revealing the temple itself, four more buildings around it and a large number of finds.

The study of the sanctuary and the finds from the excavations will, firstly, help us reconstruct the religious topography of the city. But this study will also provide answers, not only in regards to the character of the deity and the ritual practices of her cult, but also about how the natural terrain, the cultic traditions of the wider region, and the political circumstances and pursuits of the newly-founded city, affected its foundation.

Previous Roles

  • Visiting Research Fellow
    2023 - 2023