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Kabeirion of Thebes - Overview
The sanctuary of the Kabeiroi is situated 8 km west of Thebes. It was devoted to 2 deities, Kabeiros and Pais, both of unknown origin, to which Demeter revealed mysteries aiming at reinforcing the fertility of nature animals and human beings. The Kabeiroi were worshiped as protectors of wineyards and animal fertility; associated are 1400 representations of bulls found at the site. The cult in the sanctuary began in the archaic period (700-500 B.C.) and continued unil late antiquity (4th c. A.D.). The pots on the sanctuary bear typical decoration with grotesque carucaturated figures. Some neolithic (6000-3000 B.C.) sherds from beneath the temple attest an earlier occupation of the site, before its use as a religious center.
In 1887 the Kabirion was discovered due to a chance find of bronze
statuettes. It was exclusively excavated in 1888-9 by the German Archaeological
Institute (P. Wolters, W. Dorpfeld, W. Judeich, H. Winnefeld, F. Winter) and
G. Bruns continued in 1956, 1959,1962 and 1964-6. A supplementary excavation
took place in 1971. (G. Bruns and P. Wolters, Das Kabiren-Heiligtum bei Theben,
Berlin 1940 - W. Heyder - A. Mallwitz, Die Bauten und Kabiren-Heiligtum bei
In 1993-94 restoration works were undertaken in the enclosure wall
of the cavea which was endangered due to rainwater.
The most important monuments of Kabireion are:
• The Temple : devoted to the gods called Kabeiroi. It is a rectangular building the oldest remains of which are dated at the 6th c. B.C. onwards. The preserved foundations are from the end of the 4th c. B.C., but later renovations involving annexe on W. of the temple were in the 2nd and 1st c. B.C. The temple was supplied with pronaos, cella and a courtyard with two rectangular sacrificial pits. It was enclosed by a circuit wall.
• The Theatre : it was built during the hellenistic period (3rd-1st c. B.C.) in the same axis as the temple. It had no front scene, but had 10 sectors in the cavea and en altar in the middle of the orchestra. It was used for the attendance of religous ceremonies concerning the initiation of the pilgrims.
• The Stoa : long-narrow building, (length
40 m.) on the S.E. of the theatre. It may possibly have been used in the cult.
It was built in the 1st c. B.C.
• The circular and elliptical buildings : were
found everywhere in the sanctuary. They contained sacrificial pits and benches
along the walls for the practices of initiation. The largest one from the end
of the 5th c. B.C., between the temple and the stoa, was probably a plain unroofed
enclosure wall. It came out of use in the beginning of the 1st c. B.C.
• The circuit wall : before 300 B.C. it enclosed the temple and an open-air area in front of it. In the 2nd c. B.C. it extended
to the east in order to include the cavea of the theatre.