Thursday, December 8, 2022

Secrets Of The Ancient Greek Treasury

Entrance To My Temple's Treasury

Over the last three years, I've spent a lot of time filming and talking about my Illinois temple, but I haven't really discussed one of its most beautiful and traditionally vital assets; the treasury, and what it means to have one in ancient Greek religion. We may assume that it's self-explanatory, but as with mostly all ancient history and modern adaptation, there's a little more to understand about it.

Before I reveal some of the secrets of my temple's treasury, it would be beneficial to discuss what a treasury is supposed to be used for. Take a visit to Delphi today and you'll see the remains of the Athenian Treasury, although I would argue that the entire City itself could have been considered one, because of all the votive gifts and financial powers that were funneled into that sanctuary and temple by the various City States. Greek treasuries found in sanctuaries or part of temples were used, of course, to house precious and valuable gifts made by the City in devotion to the God or Gods of the location. 

But it could also as well or additionally be used to store and protect the City's wealth and profit gained from war, conquest and trade. Some may have considered no better way to protect such vital necessities than to place them in the treasury of a God. Indeed, this would have been a completely accurate theory, as punishments were most harsh for stealing from a God or their sacred areas. I can but imagine the amount of money and beauty that were in those ancient safes. Today, not a spec remains, and certainly it is probably mostly because the Christians stole it, but it's also true that cities themselves would have looted one another in war. Hopefully, we Hellenists today won't have to worry about either.

Walk into my temple's treasury and you'll find everything from statues and trinkets to beautiful clothing and jewelry, and even bottled water from major rivers, given by devoted people who have traveled to my temple. Even gorgeous libation vessels have been gifted to our temple. The actual dollar amount that my treasury holds has never been calculated, but for a small country temple, I imagine it's a sustaining wealth. I keep it and the temple under heavy lock and key when I'm not there.

The Interior Of Our Treasury

But the true secrets and wealth of such a Greek wonder lie in the devoted themselves. Each treasury has its own unique character and spirit. The people who come to fill it throughout its life will also be unique in their own. This is where people will tell their stories to the Gods, to our community, to our clergy, and also to future generations. It is far more than a simple religious safe. It's a shrine to human life, and most importantly, the belief that we all matter and make a difference in this world.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.