Ταφικό ιερό μυστών του Διονύσου στη Μενηίδα ΒοττιαίαςPart of : Αρχαιολογικά ανάλεκτα εξ Αθηνών ; Vol.XXXII-XXXIV, 1999, pages 195-220
Grave precinct of the initiates of Dionysos at Meneis, Bottiaia
A funerary sanctuary of Dionysiac initiates came to light in 2000 in the area of the cemetery of a township that belonged to ancient Meneis in Bottiaia. That a mystery cult was celebrated in the sanctuary is confirmed by the stone base of a dedication (after the beginning of the 3rd c. AD) made by the priest Makkis (a Roman name < Latin Maecius) and the initiates. The excavation revealed a small temple 4.90 m. wide and 7.15-8.5 m. long, consisting of pronaos and cella, on the floor of which is a “thymele” (chthonic altar) appropriate to a mystery cult. The rituals of the Dionysiac troupe were celebrated inside this temple, which was constructed on a very prominent site near the settlement and might be described as a megaron- oecus-baccheion. The orientation of the temple and the location of its entrance on the north-west side were due to the chthonic nature of the cult, to the fact that there is easier access from the settlement on this side, and to economy of construction. A circular pottery kiln was discovered to the north-west of it. The building was enclosed on the south and south-west by a stone wall that originally protected a group of three graves (A-C); at a later point in time part of the west wall was destroyed for the construction of grave D. Grave A, a marble cist grave, contained the body of a woman placed with the head to the east. The offerings comprised four glass vases,jewellery (gold earrings decorated with a flower, a gold finger-ring, a silver fingerring with a cornelian stone decorated with a crayfish), and two coins, a bronze coin of indeterminate denomination and a denarius of Plautilla, the wife of Caracalla (AD 202-205), which dates the tomb after AD 202. Grave B, which came to light to the north of and parallel with grave A, was also a marble cist grave containing the body of a woman placed with the head to the east. The offerings accompanying the deceased were glass vases, a glass bowl, and a bone pin. In her ears the dead woman wore gold ring-shaped earrings, and on her left hand had a silver finger-ring with a female bust on the bezel, and a gold ring, the bezel of which bore the engraved inscription APABOJNIAC (Arabonias), probably the dead woman’s name. It is evident from the excavation and archaeological record that the female graves A and B were the reason for the erection of the small temple and the establishment of the cult. Grave C, which was discovered in the angle formed by the temple and the north wall of the enclosure, was a brick-built child’s grave, the only offering in which was a clay amphoriskos. Grave D was a marble cist grave containing the body of a man with the head to the north. At the dead man’s feet were found remains of his shoes, a rare iron vase, a silver spoon, three excellent glass drinking vessels, and a two-handled clay cup. The dead man wore a silver bow fibula with a bronze pin in the area of the breast, and in his left hand he had a bronze coin minted in Rome at the time of Gallienus, suggesting that the grave was constructed after the year AD 261.To the south of the enclosure were investigated 19 graves (T1-T19) which form part of a larger cemetery for initiates of the sanctuary and which are distributed in two groups, probably belonging to different families. Thirteen of these graves contained interments and six cremations. The brick-built cist graves T8 and T16 may be singled out. As is evident from the bronze coins found in some of them, the graves date from after the year AD 217. After the rescue excavation in 2000, the sanctuary and graves of the initiates were fenced in and the graves and the temple roofed over; the excavation will continue over the next few years.This is an important discovery in which are combined epigraphic evidence for the existence of a mystery cult, the small temple associated with this cult, with a thymele in its cella, the graves of the initiates of the troupe, the grave of family head (whoerected the cult building and founded the mysteries at the time of Caracalla), and the graves of members of his family. The founder of the sanctuary and the Dionys- iac mystery cult was the man who was buried in grave D sometime after AD 261. He was a wealthy officer from Meneis and a benefactor of the Dionysiac troupe who held a senior office in it, such as the speirarches or mystarches of Dionysiac troupes known from inscriptions in north-west Asia Minor and Thrace.The precise identity of the god worshipped in the grave sanctuary at Meneis remains an intractable problem. However, when account is taken of the festival of the Roses - Rosalia known in Macedonia, involving the burning of fires and banquets, the tribal origins of the inhabitants of the township of Meneis where the sanctuary was found (Macedonians, hellenised and romanised Thracians, and Romans), and the foreign cults known to have been imported into the area (such as the cult of Artemis Gazoreitis, known from nearby Skydra), it may be concluded that the god was a syncretism of the Liber Pater and the Thracian-Macedonian Dionysos.