Spring 2012

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Art History


The Sanctuary of the Great Gods on the island of Samothrace remains one of the most intriguing sites of the ancient Greek world. Not only were the mystery cults and gods worshipped at Samothrace unusual, the Sanctuary developed an important political significance, attracting the patronage of Philip III Arrhidaios (son of Philip II of Macedon and half-brother of Alexander the Great), brother-and-sister spouses Arsinoe II and Ptolemy II of Egypt, and Antigonos Gonatas. During the early third century BCE, Arsinoe dedicated her Rotunda in the Sanctuary, and her husband Ptolemy built his Propylon. In the midst of the political turmoil that developed in the Hellenistic Greek world after the death of Alexander the Great, leaders such as Arsinoe II and Ptolemy II utilized Samothrace’s connections to Alexander (through his brother and father) to cement their own legitimacy as rulers. Even while his brother was still alive, in the late fourth century BCE, the epileptic Arrhidaios—who could never have been his father’s heir—built an Altar Court at Samothrace, to indicate his importance as Alexander’s minister of religious affairs. Finally, perhaps the most well-known work from Samothrace, the Winged Victory or Nike of Samothrace statue, was an extremely political piece, erected by Antigonos Gonatas as the Ptolemies began to fall from power in the mid-third century BCE.


Note: Access to this thesis is restricted to Skidmore community.