Located in eastern Attica, the ancient Brauron (modern: Vravrona or Vraona) was one of the older communities in Attica, with traces of habitation dating back to pre-Mycenaean times. Tradition has it that the city of Brauron immediately joined the Confederation of 12 cities in Attica, which was founded by the mythical king Kekrops. From the 8th century BC, the great sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia was the main sanctuary for Artemis in Attica. At the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, Peisistratos (one of the most famous inhabitants of Brauron) founded a kind of branch of this sanctuary, showing the importance of the Brauron sanctuary. After the destruction by the Persians (who, according to the Athenians, also robbed the ancient wooden statue of Artemis brought by Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon from Tauris in Crimea), the sanctuary was rebuilt in the classical period. The poet Euripides may have written his famous tragedy Iphigeneia in Tauris in honor of the reopening of the sanctuary around 415. The antique sanctuary, located northwest of the small chapel in front of St. Georgios, has been gradually excavated from 1948 and partly rebuilt. In ancient times situated on the sea, the sanctuary is now more than a kilometer away from the sea due to the silting up of the small bay.
The most important monuments of Brauron are the small (approx. 20 x 10 m.) Doric temple for the goddess, at the foot of the hill on which the chapel is also located. Next was the “grave” of Iphigenia, probably the name of the goddess who protected pregnant women and accompanied the birth. Finally, the temple was flanked to the north by a court surrounded on three sides by a columned hall, the so-called Parthenon of the she-Bears, erected in the classical period. The northern colonnade also contained the living quarters for the arktoi, the “bears”, (rich) girls aged 10-12 who stayed there in the service of the goddess for some time, until they became “virgin” by their first menstruation and they employed by the goddess Athens for a year at the Acropolis worked on the (renewed every year) peplos of Athens. In total there were nine rooms with exactly ninety-nine beds for these girls. The museum located 500 meters away from this sanctuary is especially interesting because of the images of these “little bears”, especially because otherwise the classical sculptors were often not interested in depicting small children.

Not much is known about the cult Artemis, except what a character in Aristophanes’ Lysistrate (v. 645) tells, ”how the young girls dressed in saffron yellow dresses and ritual bear skins, danced with full moon in honor of Artemis.” The speaker sees this service as one of the four religious highlights in a young woman’s life. The cult’s connection to fertility, pregnancy, and birth (which becomes evident by the “little bears” staying in the sanctuary just the last year (or two) before their first menstrual period) is also evident from the fact that women in the sanctuary dedicated the clothes in which they gave birth, as well as the clothes of women who died in childbirth.

The foundation myth (partly designed by Euripides, who in his Iphigeneia in Tauris casually claims that Iphigeneia, the daughter of Agamemnon, had not been sacrificed to Artemis, as the mythological tradition had held up to the contrary. She would have been exchanged by the goddess for a deer during the sacrifice (by the way, without the sacrificers noticing it), and been transported to Tauris in Crimea. There she was ordered to sacrifice all the strangers who reached the land in honor of the goddess, a task she reluctantly accomplished, until her brother Orestes sailed to Crimea by order of the oracle of Delphi. Finally brother and sister fled together taking the ancient wooden statue of Artemis. Arrived in Brauron, Iphigenia would have served the goddess Artemis until her death, as emphasized by Euripides:


Thou, Iphigeneia, will henceforth on the holy steps of Brauron
serve as key keeper in the temple of Artemis.
There you will die and be buried. And to you
will be consecrated the fine garments that those who remained in childbirth
left in their houses. (Euripides, Iphigeneia in Tauris, vs. 1463-67)

South-east of the sanctuary was a cave, which from the eighth century BC. centered on the worship of Iphigenia, probably an chthonic goddess in origin. The cave can probably be identified with the “grave” mentioned by Euripides. After the roof of the cave in the fifth century BC. collapsed, smaller rooms were built, and the Doric temple was also built. Numerous votive offerings have been found in pits around the sacred well, where they were buried after the destruction of the sanctuary by the Persians.


A short distance from the sanctuary, an ancient Christian basilica has been found, which (like most) was destroyed during the barbarian raids in the sixth and seventh centuries. Although the map is completely intact, the site is unfortunately very difficult to access.