Mortal Gods: Ruined or Pristine Terrain?

Ruined temple in Argolis.

Hello everyone,

Yes, yes; it’s Phatis again, totally caffeinated and happy. I may hate Mondays, but Fridays are lovely.

I have been lurking about the Facebook page and noticed a few folks question the use of ruined temples and buildings for the game Mortal Gods; after all, goes the argument, temples and buildings would be pristine during the ancient period in question! Right? Well, yes and no.

Some of the greatest parts of Greek history, philosophy, science, and mathematics stem from the Classical Period–of course, it is the period from which I come, so it must be wonderful. But it is easy to forget that Greece has a long history that precedes that. Homer (be he a single poet or a fiction created by a group of editors) is widely accepted to have written the Iliad in the 8th Century BCE (about 300 years earlier than the Peloponnesian Wars; Herodotus thinks even earlier) and the tale of the Trojan War–be it myth or history–predates that by hundreds of years more.

Sparta’s first wars with Messenia took place in the 8th Century BCE as well. The Lelantine War took place in the late 8th to early 7th Centuries BCE. And the beginning of the Greco-Persian War foreshadowed the First Peloponnesian War by decades (the end of the former sort of coincides with the start of the latter).

The Greco-Persian War is probably the most important for this topic. Whereas many ancient structures destroyed in these conflicts were eventually rebuilt (or their ruins built upon), there was an oath taken during the Greco-Persian War that no temple or structure destroyed by the Persians should be rebuilt, as a reminder to all those who came after of the war, the sacrifices made, and its consequences. And evidence does suggest that this oath was obeyed, at least for some good amount of time after the war had ended.

Courtesy image from Lukes APS; an amazing start to some temple ruins for a forthcoming table build.

This is all to say that Greece was a land where war was a constant part of life for those living within its borders. Temples and towns and cities were sacked, communities were devastated, and sometimes were never resettled (the latter happened more often than people think, leaving ruined communities just sitting there).

Like anywhere and anytime in human history (even in the present), buildings were also ravaged by natural elements. Fires destroyed the Temple of Aphaia in Aegina in the 6th Century BCE, for example. Greece also suffered from earthquakes and, surprisingly, temples were sometimes intentionally built upon fault lines because the geological associations (springs, emitted gases, etc…) with these faults were thought to be sacred.

So yes, while there were plenty of temples in Greece and its colonies that were standing, colorfully, during the Classical Period, there were also plenty of ruins; some were ancient and others were not so ancient.

Not so incidentally, these ruins were also at times plundered, their stone and scrap reused to build new buildings. Greeks (like the Romans after them) were not afraid to recycle building materials. So whether your temple is pristine, ruined and plundered, or ruined and full of rubble, you’re going to be correct.

Just remember, everyone: the rule of cool is just fine too.


About the Author

Hi there! I'm Phatis. So there I was, minding my own business in Hades, when the Footsore blokes summoned me by some ritual or another and bound me to this thankless Fate--writing about Mortal Gods. But fear not, mortals! I do enjoy my profession, even if I am only compensated by way of caffeinated drinks.

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