35 kilometers north of Athens lies the ancient Temple of Artemis at Brauron. In today's modern Greek parlance: Vravrona.
Brauron was one of the 12 cities of ancient Attica which made up the confederation united by Theseus into the Athenian city-state.
It lies in the broad marshy valley formed by the underground river: the Erasinos and 1.5 km from the Aegean Sea.
The nearby town of Nea Loutsa is reachable by bus numbers 304/5/6 from Athens Thission area and its a short walk to the temple. Many of the finds are in the Brauron Museum, Tu-Sun 8:30-3PM. Prehistoric and Mycenaean finds are exhibited as well.
This temple was sacred to the Goddess Artemis in her manifestation as protectress of mothers, mothers to be, and those seeking to become mothers.
Supplicants dedicated offerings to the goddess such as clothing, mirrors and jewelry hoping to become pregnant and gain easy births or votive offerings of thanks.
Below: left, the Parthenon of the Bear and right: museum funeral relief.
Every 4 years a the Festival of Artemis took place to honor the goddess. Young Athenian girls, clad in robes of saffron, from 5 to 10 years of age would perform the ritual bear dance which imitated the movements of a bear. The exact symbolism of which remains obscure but some believe it has to due with atonement for the slaying of a bear. Artemis was also the goddess of the hunt and protectress of animals. Bears were sacred to her.
The site is also associated with Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon, a priestess of Artemis. Legend recounts that Iphigenia introduced the worship of Artemis to Greece upon her return from Tauris with her brother Orestes. They carried with them The Xoanon, the sacred image of Artemis, which they had stolen from the local Temple in Tauris.
The Tyrant Peisistratos ensured Brauron's importance by making the worship of Artemis the state religion in the 6th century BC.
Initially the rites included the human sacrifice of a male to but these were fortunately drastically moderated in classical times.
The site was flooded in the 4th century BC and later abandoned. Archeologists have trouble excavating due to the sogginess of the soil but on the hill above remains have been discovered dating to the middle Helladic period. Go on a nice day and this is a once in a lifetime glimpse. Then go swimming near by beach!