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Temenos (Greek: τέμενος[1]) is a piece of land cut off and assigned as an official domain, especially to kings and chiefs, or a piece of land marked off from common uses and dedicated to a god, a sanctuary, holy grove or holy precinct: The Pythian race-course is called a temenos, the sacred valley of the Nile is the Νείλοιο πῖον τέμενος Κρονίδα, the Acropolis is the ἱερὸν τέμενος (of Pallas). The word derives from the Greek verb τέμνω (temnō), "to cut";[2] plural: τεμένη, temene. The earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek te-me-no, written in Linear B syllabic script.[3]

The concept of temenos arose in classical Mediterranean cultures as an area reserved for worship of the gods. Some authors have used the term to apply to a sacred grove of trees,[4] isolated from everyday living spaces, while other usage points to areas within ancient urban development that are parts of sanctuaries.[5]

A large example of a Bronze Age Minoan temenos is at the Juktas Sanctuary of the palace of Knossos on ancient Crete in present day Greece, the temple having a massive northern temenos.[6] Another example is at Olympia, the temenos of Zeus. There were many temene of Apollo, as he was the patron god of settlers.

In religious discourse in English, temenos has also come to refer to a territory, plane, receptacle or field of deity or divinity.

C.G. Jung relates the temenos to the spellbinding or magic circle, which acts as a 'square space' or 'safe spot' where mental 'work' can take place. This temenos resembles among others a 'symmetrical rose garden with a fountain in the middle' (the 'squared circle') in which an encounter with the unconscious can be had and where these unconscious contents can safely be brought into the light of consciousness. In this manner one can meet one's own Shadow, Animus/Anima, Wise Old Wo/Man (Senex) and finally the Self, names that Jung gave to archetypal personifications of (unpersonal) unconscious contents which seem to span all cultures.[7]

See also


  1. ^ τέμενος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on perseus
  2. ^ τέμνω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on perseus
  3. ^ Palaeolexicon, Word study tool of ancient languages
  4. ^ David S. Whitley, Reader in Archaeological Theory: Post-processual and Cognitive Approaches, 1998, Routledge, 347 pages ISBN 0-415-14160-5
  5. ^ Carla M. Antonaccio. An Archaeology of Ancestors: Tomb Cult and Hero Cult in Early Greece. Rowman & Littlefield, 1995. ISBN 0-8476-7942-X
  6. ^ C. Michael Hogan, Knossos fieldnotes, Modern Antiquarian (2007)
  7. ^ Jung, C.G. (1968). Psychology and Alchemy, par. 63. See also: Individual dream symbolism in relation to Alchemy, 3. The Symbolism of the Mandala