Ancient Greek Votive Offerings in Antiquity: Gifts to the Gods

Votive offerings were gifts that the ancient Greeks and Romans gave to a deity as thanks for bringing good fortune or for granting favours. The offerings served as an important expression of the personal relationship between ancient peoples and their gods and goddesses.

Votive Offerings as a Public Act of Devotion

Phoenician Votive Tanit Statue

Greeks and Romans typically made votive offerings also to mark important life transitions. Votive offerings were not always small objects, on the contrary, archaeological and literary evidence suggests that even whole ships captured in battle from the enemy fleet, were later dedicated by the victors as an offering of thanks to the god. This type of giving, particularly in ancient Greek society, was not based completely on private devotion, but it was an extremely public act that demanded some form of public recognition.

Votive offerings often fulfilled obligations that individuals had made while praying. Unlike sacrifices, in which a gift to the gods was destroyed, offerings were typically deposited intact in the temples. One of the primary functions of Greek and Roman temples was as a storage place for these offerings. The temples themselves were a votive offering, dedicated by the community as a whole to a particular god or goddess.

A Campanian Black-Ware Kernos

Greek Votaries Survived the Passage of Time

Fine Classical Greek Terracotta Statuette

Most Greek artefacts which survived the passage of time were originally intended as votive offerings. In Greek culture and mythology, anything which was enjoyed and admired by humans would have became property of the gods. The earlier statues and statuettes were almost invariably votive offerings, being representations either of a divinity or of worshipers.  They were often left at sacred shrines, such as the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, or buried with the deceased. They were used as a tool to supplicate the divinity they represented or were left for.

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By Virginia,

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