The ramps provided access to shrines for people who were no longer so mobile, for example due to disabilities.

This is the view of an American researcher in the journal Antiquity . It is based, among other things, on an analysis of public buildings erected by the ancient Greeks. She also studied ancient sources that reveal that people with disabilities in ancient Greece were not left out, but played a significant role in their families and the community they were part of.

The ramps
It has been known for some time that the temples that the ancient Greeks had built often had ramps. However, it is generally assumed that they were used to drive in sacrificial animals or other heavy objects or – during construction – to facilitate the supply and removal of building materials. But the new research by scientist Debby Sneed changes our view of these ramps and the ancient Greeks themselves.

In her study, she notes that many of the ramps were probably intended to enable people with disabilities to enter the buildings. She draws that conclusion based on the fact that many of the ramps only provide access to main buildings, while the outbuildings – where you would expect sacrificial animals to be delivered, for example – have to do without a ramp. Sneed also dismisses the idea that the ramps were used during construction to supply and remove materials. The construction of ramps was too expensive and time-consuming to let them arise for temporary purposes. Moreover, Sneed argues, they always led to the temple platform and not to the roof, where the application of such a ramp could really come in handy during construction work. Finally, she also points out that the early Greeks raised heavy building materials very early – sometime in the seventh century BC – instead of, for example, driving them up such a ramp. The idea that the ancient Greeks did not need a ramp to move heavy (and precious) metals and other objects is supported by the fact that buildings in which they were usually stored do not have a ramp.

In Search of Healing
Buildings that are noticeably found to have ramps are shrines erected for gods whose people expected healing. As an example, Sneed quotes the sanctuary of Asklepios – the god of healing and medicine – in Epidauros, which has no fewer than eleven ramps. That is considerably more than the shrine erected in the same period in honor of Zeus in Olympia, which has only two ramps. “The available evidence points to a trend of healing shrines, where many people with a wide range of illnesses, injuries and conditions had more ramps than non-healing shrines,” Sneed concludes.

The idea that the ancient Greeks took into account people who were less mobile when designing buildings may seem a bit surprising, Sneed acknowledges in conversation with Scientias.nl. “We assume that the ancient Greeks excluded or even killed people with disabilities. For example, there is a story in which the Spartans kill disabled children. But on closer inspection, it is not all that simple. For example, next year an article will be published by me that shows that the ancient Greeks did not kill disabled children at all and that the alleged evidence has been misinterpreted all along. ” An analysis of numerous sources endorses the idea that people with disabilities or who were not so mobile for other reasons still had a place in Greek society. In her study, for example, Sneed cites various sources that mention influential people with disabilities. In fact, there are some Greek gods that myths say were less mobile. There are also indications that the ancient Greeks did not just let it go when one of them, for example, was seriously injured during war or an accident. For example, we know that the Greeks made prostheses to help people who lost their lower legs walk again. “Individuals (who were less mobile, ed.) Could – and were – be respected generals or kings or be revered as gods,” said Sneed. “They were also depicted in various art forms and buried in local cemeteries in a traditional way.” “Individuals (who were less mobile, ed.) Could – and were – be respected generals or kings or be revered as gods,” said Sneed. “They were also depicted in various art forms and buried in local cemeteries in a traditional way.” “Individuals (who were less mobile, ed.) Could – and were – be respected generals or kings or be revered as gods,” said Sneed. “They were also depicted in various art forms and buried in local cemeteries in a traditional way.”

The Greek approach
With that in mind, it is not surprising that the Greeks also keep their buildings accessible to people who are less mobile. That it comes as a surprise to us has more to do with how we look at the ancient Greeks – and ourselves. “We assume that only modern ‘progressive’ societies take the trouble to care for people with disabilities. But the ancient Greeks had an instrumental approach to life in general. They didn’t have to build healing shrines that people could go to and ask for healing from the god Asklepios, but they did. And when they did, they kept their target audience in mind – the people who wanted to visit this shrine – and then they built it so that it was accessible to these people. ”

We can still learn from that in our time. “In modern times, we tell ourselves that we make buildings wheelchair accessible because we are better or morally superior, but actually we need to make these buildings accessible, because people with disabilities are fully functioning members of our society and simply have the same access as everyone else. “

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