Access and Ancient Greece

Illustration of a Greek temple reconstruction showing a ramped entrance.Ancient Greece is well known for its many temples and healing sanctuaries. Hence, we have evidence that the ancient Greeks thought about access ramps. They made an architectural choice without legislation. However, it wouldn’t make sense to design and build a healing sanctuary that excluded the very people it was designed for.

An article by Debby Sneed discusses the history and ancient sites from the perspective of access, illness, injury and disability. She shows that disablement features in ancient Greek icons, art and sculpture. This is an indicator that disability was considered relatively normal in society. There were no attempts to hide it. 

An interesting history of ramps and ground level construction at healing sanctuaries. It includes details of various sites and discusses why some have ramps and others not. Sneed concludes that if the ancient Greeks gave thought to their disabled community, it’s important we do too.

The title of the article is, The architecture of access: ramps at ancient Greek healing sanctuaries   

Abstract: Ancient Greece is well known for its many temples and sanctuaries, including several dedicated to healing and associated cults. Informed by disability studies, this article analyses the architecture of public spaces and facilities, alongside epigraphic, iconographic and literary evidence, to argue that the ancient Greeks sought to ensure the accessibility of healing sanctuaries. Even without a framework of civil rights as we understand them today, the builders of these sites made architectural choices that enabled individuals with impaired mobility to access these spaces. It is hoped that this research may stimulate further investigations into accessibility at other sites in the Classical world and beyond.


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