A sampling of comments on Pausanias: 1.14.1–9

2017.12.28 | By Gregory Nagy

I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2017.12.21. Here on the cover page, I focus on what Pausanias says at 1.14.6 about the mystical birth of Erikhthonios. I show a painting that represents this birth as visualized in the fifth century BCE. Pictured here is the moment when the goddess Gē/Gaia, or Earth, who is the mother of Erikhthonios, is lifting her earthborn child and handing him over to the goddess Athena for safe keeping.

handing her child Erikhthonios over to the goddess Athena. Line drawing taken from W. H. Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der Griechischen und Römischen Mythologie, 6 vols. (Leipzig, 1884) 1:1305.
The goddess Gē/Gaia, handing her child Erikhthonios over to the goddess Athena. Line drawing taken from W. H. Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der Griechischen und Römischen Mythologie, 6 vols. (Leipzig, 1884) 1:1305.

 

The goddess Gaia, or Earth, handing her child Erikhthonios over to the goddess Athena. Red-figure kalyx-krater, c. 400 BCE, attributed to the Nikias Painter. Image courtesy of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license.
The goddess Gē/Gaia, handing her child Erikhthonios over to the goddess Athena. Red-figure kalyx-krater, ca. 400 BCE, attributed to the Nikias Painter. Image courtesy of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license.

 

{1.14.1} translation by Jones 1918, modified by GN 2017.12.28:

In this way did the period when the people of Epeiros reached their zenith come-to-a-catastrophic-end [kata-strephein]. Entering the Odeum [ōideion], one finds situated there, among other things that are also worthy of viewing [théā], a figure of Dionysus. Nearby is a fountain [krēnē] called Enneakrounos [‘Nine Streams’]; the way it is now is the way it had been arranged [kosmeîsthai] by Peisistratos. Unlike the cisterns [phreata] that are found all over the city, this fountain is really a freshwater spring [pēgē]. Looming over the fountain [krēnē] are two shrines [nāoi]. One of them is sacred to Demeter and the Maiden [Korē]. Inside the other one, a statue [agalma] of Triptolemos has been set up. I will write down [graphein] the things that pertain to him [= Triptolemos], but I will omit whatever part of the things-that-are-said [logos] pertains to Dēiopē.

{1.14.1} subject heading(s): transition

We see here an abrupt transition from the narrative about Pyrrhos, which has just come to an end at 1.13.9.

{1.14.5} translation by Jones 1918, modified by GN 2017.12.28:

Still farther off is a shrine [nāos] of Eúkleia ‘she of good glory [kleos]’, this too being a dedication [anathēma] having to do with [the victory over] the Persians [Mēdoi] who had landed at Marathon. It is in-responsiveness-to [epi + dative case] this victory [nīkē] that the Athenians have- their most lofty -thoughts [phroneîn ‘have thoughts’ + malista ‘most of all’]. A special example is Aeschylus. When the completion [teleutē] of his life was coming into view for him, he reminisced [mnēmoneuein] not about any of his other deeds, even though he had reached such heights of glory [doxa] with his poetry [poiēsis] and with his participation in the naval battles of Artemision and at Salamis. Instead, he just wrote down [graphein] [in an epigram] his name, his father’s name, the name of his city of origin [= Athens], and how he had as his witnesses for affirming his manly-valor [andreiā] the grove [alsos] at Marathon- and the Persians [Mēdoi] who had landed there.

{1.14.5} subject heading(s): epi (+ dative case) ‘in responsiveness to’

The syntax of the preposition epi (+ dative case) is analyzed in my comment at 1.14.6. In the context of 1.14.6, the dative case that goes with the preposition epi there involves the persona of a cult hero, Erikhthonios. In the present context, there is no involvement of a hero, though the dead at Marathon were in the course of time treated as cult heroes. That is why I apply here as well my experimental translation ‘in responsiveness to’.

{1.14.6} translation by Jones 1918, modified by GN 2017.12.28:

Looming over the Kerameikos and the portico [stoā] called the King’s Portico [Stoā Baslileios] is a temple [nāos] of Hephaistos. No wonder [thauma], I thought, that next to it stands a statue [agalma] of Athena, because I know the thing-that-is-said [logos] in-responsiveness-to [epi + dative case] Erikhthonios. And when I saw that the statue [agalma] of Athena had gray [glaukoi] eyes I made-inquiries-and-found-out [heuriskein] that the myth [mūthos] comes from the Libyans. For it has been said by the Libyans that she is the daughter of Poseidon and of the [personified] lake [limnē] Tritonis, so that, for this reason, she has gray [glaukoi] eyes like Poseidon.

{1.14.6} subject heading(s): Erikhthonios; Erekhtheus; epi (+ dative case) ‘in responsiveness to’

The myth of the hero Erikhthonios, as mentioned here at 1.14.6, was already mentioned at 1.2.5, where Pausanias reported that Erikhthonios was born, so they say, not of anthrōpoi ‘humans’ but from Mother Earth or /Gaia, and that his father was the divine smith Hephaistos. Pausanias keeps Erikhthonios distinct from Erekhtheus, who is described at 1.5.3 as the grandson of Erikhthonios. In Homeric poetry, however, Erikhthonios is not distinct from Erekhtheus, and it is the second of the two names that refers to the hero who was born of Mother Earth. There is a reference to the hero cult of this Erekhtheus in Iliad 2.547, where he is described as a prototypical human: the goddess Earth gave birth to him and the goddess Athena ‘nursed’ him (548 threpse). In this context, Erekhtheus is pictured as a cult hero who is worshipped by the Athenians in a festive setting of seasonally recurring sacrifices. The link between Athena and this cult hero Erekhtheus is reflected also in another Homeric reference, at Odyssey 7.78–81. As I argue in HC 1§138, the figure of this cult hero underwent a mitosis. The one figure with one name becomes two figures with two names. In the evolution of Athenian myths and rituals, the name Erikhthonios displaced the name Erekhtheus in occupying the older role of the prototypical human conceived by the goddess Earth, while the name Erekhtheus was reassigned to the newer role of a dynastic grandson of Erikhthonios. In terms of this pattern of displacement and reassignment, as we see most clearly from the narrative of “Apollodorus” (Library 3.187–189), Erikhthonios now became the name of the prototypical human who was begotten by the god Hephaistos, born of the goddess Earth, and ‘nursed’ by the goddess Athena (3.189 etrephen). Here at 1.14.6, Pausanias says cryptically that he knows a myth about a relationship between Erikhthonios and Athena. One way to describe such a relationship, I suggest, is to say that Erikhthonios is the son that Athena “never” had. And here is how I would explain the scare quotes that envelop my wording “never” in referring to a myth about any relationship between Erikhthonios and Athena. As we see from several sources, including the text of “Apollodorus” as already cited, there was a myth that told how Hephaistos had tried to have sex with Athena, but his semen fell on the ground instead and thus impregnated Earth. The myth is analyzed most perceptively by Douglas Frame (2009:461–462), who shows that earlier versions of such a myth could have pictured Athena herself as a Mother Goddess in her own right, so that she could have been once upon a time not only the wet nurse but also the mother of Erekhtheus as the earthling hero of the Athenians. In terms of such an analysis, Erikhthonios eventually displaced Erekhtheus as the prototypical earthling hero, though the sacred space that housed the myths and rituals concerning Erikhthonios and the goddess Athena Polias continued to be defined by the name Erekhtheus, as we see from the context of the reference made by Pausanias at 1.26.5 to this space as the Erekhtheion or Erechtheum. There will be more to say about Erikhthonios as a cult hero in the comment on Pausanias 1.24.7, but for now I confine myself to a brief remark about what I think is the relevant syntax of the preposition epi (+ dative case) here in Pausanias 1.14.6. This syntax is linked with contexts of hero cult, where the spirits of dead heroes require some kind of response from the living who worship them. I analyze such contexts in PH 121 = 4§7; also in H24H 8a §10, where I translate epi as ‘in compensation for’. But I now experiment with a new translation, ‘in responsiveness to’, in order to convey the idea that an act or even a thought of compensation by the worshipper is actually required by the spirit of the dead hero who is being worshipped. By being responsive to the requirements of the heroes that they worship, worshippers can take full responsibility for them.

{1.14.7} translation by Jones 1918, modified by GN 2017.12.28:

Nearby is a sanctuary [hieron] of Aphrodite the celestial one [Ouraniā]; the first humans [anthrōpoi] to establish the custom of worshipping [sebesthai] her were the Assyrians, and then, after the Assyrians, the Paphians of Cyprus and the Phoenicians who live at Askalon in Palestine [Palaistinē]; it is from the Phoenicians that the people of Kythēra learned the practice of worshipping [sebesthai] her. Among the Athenians it was Aigeus who established [kathistasthai] the practice, who thought that he was childless (he had, in fact, no children at the time) and that his sisters had suffered their misfortune [sumphorā] because of the wrath [mēnīma] of Aphrodite the celestial one [Ouraniā]. The statue [agalma], as it exists even in my time, is of Parian marble and is the work [ergon] of Pheidias. One of the Athenian demes [dēmoi] is that of the Athmoneis, who say that Porphyrion, an earlier king than Aktaios, founded their sanctuary [hieron] of the celestial one [Ouraniā]. But the traditions current among the demes [dēmoi] often differ altogether from those of the city [polis].

{1.14.7} subject heading(s): Aigeus, Procne (Proknē), Philomela (Philomēlā); dēmoi ‘demes’; epichoric myths

On Procne and Philomela, sisters of Aigeus, see the comment on 1.5.4.

 


Bibliography

See the dynamic Bibliography for APRIP.

 


Inventory of terms and names

See the dynamic Inventory of terms and names for APRIP.

 


Notes

 



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