Euripides and His Use of Images of Local Athenian Myths

  Meyer, Marion. 2023. “Euripides and His Use of Images of Local Athenian Myths.” In “Γέρα: Studies in honor of Professor Menelaos Christopoulos,” ed. Athina Papachrysostomou, Andreas P. Antonopoulos, Alexandros-Fotios Mitsis, Fay Papadimitriou, and Panagiota Taktikou, special issue, Classics@ 25.

The Patras Center for the Study of Myth and Religion in Greek and Roman Antiquity has, over the years, brought together scholars from various disciplines—and from around the world—for interdisciplinary discussions. As a small sign of gratitude, I offer an archaeologist’s contribution to the volume presented to a “philo-logist,” a true “lover” of logos and logia. It is about local Athenian myths as they were seen by one of the city’s greatest poets, Euripides, and shown by contemporary visual media, a hallmark of Classical Athens.
The myths presented in the Athenian theater and shown in Athenian images in public and private spaces were predominantly myths shared by the Greek-speaking world. Local myths were brought to the stage, too, but only Euripides’ Erechtheus, performed ca. 420 and transmitted in fragments, [1] and his Ion, performed in the late 410s, [2] are preserved. [3] Both plays feature the royal family: in Erechtheus, the protagonists are Erechtheus, his wife (given the name Praxithea), [4] and three anonymous daughters; in Ion, they are Kreousa (another daughter of Erechtheus) [5] and her son Ion, presented as the child of Apollo, not of Kreousa’s non-Athenian husband Xouthos; [6] thus the royal family “remains fully Athenian.” [7]
My focus is on the charter myths of Athens, originally told for Urkönig Erechtheus: the birth myth of the child born by Gaia and adopted by Athena, and the king’s successful defense of Athens (the invasion myth). I have argued elsewhere that both myths were told in new versions after the Kleisthenic reforms, when Erechtheus became one of the eponymous heroes. [8] If, however, elements of the earlier traditions had not survived, we would not know of their existence. [9] I also argue that Euripides in Erechtheus used and adapted both versions of the invasion myth. [10] Here I want to discuss how the poet’s presentation of these charter myths relates to the visual and material evidence for the myths accessible to him—and his audience—in Classical Athens. [11]

The birth myth

According to a passage thought to be interpolated in the Iliad, Erechtheus was born by Gaia and raised by Athena who instituted his cult in her sanctuary (Homer Iliad 2.546–551). [12] This explains the association of the cults for Athena and Erechtheus on the Acropolis and highlights the mortals’ dependence on both nature (Gaia) and civilization (Athena). This balance is broken (and Gaia’s role diminished) when Hephaistos is incorporated into the myth as the child’s father [13] —a demonstration of male indispensability for procreation.
The birth myth is narrated in a dialogue of Ion and Kreousa (Ion 267–274) [14] and alluded to in several passages of the play. [15] Ion, curious about the visitor’s identity and her reason for consulting the Delphic oracle (237–307), learns that Kreousa is the daughter of Erechtheus and is then eager to verify mythoi he has heard about her family (265). He is told that her father’s progonos, Erichthonios, was born from the earth (267–268). Athena took him from there into her virgin arms (269–270); she did not give birth to the child (271). These lines imply that the goddess accepted the baby as her foster child.
The earliest evidence for the name Erichthonios and for a figure by this name as the protagonist of the birth myth is provided by an Athenian drinking cup of the 430s (Figures 1–2). [16] It shows Athena receiving the baby, labeled Erichthonios, from Gaia, in the presence of various figures of early Athens, including Erechtheus. [17]
Figure 1. Gaia handing Erichthonios to Athena, surrounded by Kekrops, Hephaistos, and Herse. Athenian cup. Antikensammlung Berlin F 2537. © Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Photo: Johannes Laurentius.
Figure 2. Aglauros, Erechtheus, Pandrosos, Aigeus, and Pallas. Athenian cup. Antikensammlung Berlin F 2537. © Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Photo: Johannes Laurentius.
The group of Athena with baby and Gaia on the lid of a pyxis, produced around the time of the performance of Ion or slightly later, confirms the name Erichthonios for Athena’s foster child. [18] There are about a dozen Athenian vases with images of the birth myth, [19] all dating from the early fifth century to ca. 400 (Figure 3). [20]
Figure 3. Gaia handing Erichthonios to Athena, surrounded by Hephaistos and Kekrops. Athenian calyx krater. Museo Archeologico Regionale “Antonino Salinas” di Palermo 2365. © Archivio Photografico del Museo Archeologico Regionale “Antonino Salinas” di Palermo.
The numbers and identities of the spectators of the event vary (Hephaistos figures prominently: see Figures 1 and 3), but the core group—Gaia, the baby, Athena—is rendered in a remarkably consistent composition, with the innovative figure type of Gaia emerging from the earth (thus visualizing her very nature). The consistency of the core group speaks for the existence of a common prototype for which the earliest vase (of the early fifth century) provides a terminus ante quem. This prototype dates the introduction of Erichthonios to the beginning of the fifth century at the latest. Interestingly, there is not a single image of the birth myth preserved or mentioned that dates to an earlier time; Athena’s foster child does not appear in Athenian imagery until the early fifth century. These observations suggest that the birth myth was told for Erichthonios (instead of Erechtheus) from ca. 500 on, [21] and that an image of this tale was set up in a public space in order to anchor the innovation in the memory of the Athenians (the image was then used as a model by artists for generations). The new tale was probably introduced by a poem sung at the Panathenaia. [22]
The way Euripides presents this myth is highly remarkable. Kreousa does not share the story of her family readily; she reveals it step by step, in response to the persistent questioning by Ion who, although he grew up in Delphi, is well aware of a mythos (Ion 265) about Kreousa’s ancestor having been born from the earth (267). Ion has apparently also heard that Athena took the baby from the earth (269), but then he relies on a different source than hearsay: Athena gave the baby, ὥσπερ ἐν γραφῇ νομίζεται (“just as one is used to seeing depicted in art,” 271) [23] (Kreousa finishes the sentence) to the daughters of Kekrops, who were to keep it safe without ever seeing it (272). Ion knows what happened next from hearsay: the girls opened the container (273), [24] and Kreousa confirms that they had to die (274). Framed by the explicit reference to oral tradition—tales told and heard (265, 273)—Ion’s mention of images (271) deserves special attention. [25]
It has been emphasized that, although the setting is nominally Delphi, it is understood that the oral, written, and visual traditions mentioned refer to Athens. [26] The presentation of the birth myth confirms this. This was a local Athenian myth, and there were no γραφαί of it outside Athens. Ion speaks for the spectators who knew the myth from hearsay and from images.
The majority of the preserved images of the birth myth focus on Gaia’s handing of the baby to Athena. There are also seven or eight Athenian vases (from ca. 480–470 to ca. 400) with images of the Kekropids’ punishment for having opened the chest they had been entrusted with against the goddess’ order. These show the girls fleeing from a snake (that emerges from the chest) and/or from Athena (whose presence in the images conveys that she punishes disobedient persons) (Figure 4). [27] Snakes were appropriate companions for an earthborn creature but terrifying for the girls. Only one vase combines the girls’ flight with the less dramatic scene in which they receive the chest with the baby. [28]
Figure 4. One of the Kekropids fleeing from Athena. Athenian lekythos. Basel BS 404. © Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig. Photo: A. F. Voegelin.
Euripides gives the whole story and refers to the various sources of knowledge: myths being told (265), details being heard (273), and images being seen (271). [29] When he speaks about the baby being handed to the Kekropids (271–272), he highlights a scene that was of particular importance for Ion (who likewise had been handed to a second “mother”), [30] but not for imagery. Images do not tell myths as language does. Images of classical times concentrate on the essentials of the issues. The characteristics of the Kekropids are their curiosity and disobedience (for which they are punished), and this is what is visualized on the vases.
If Euripides explicitly mentions images as a reference, his audience apparently remembered the birth myth by remembering images. Line 271 of Ion supports my conclusion that the tale of Erichthonios’ birth was a new story, that for its communication an image was needed, and that copies of this image disseminated the innovation and served as reference for it. Euripides proves that visual representations were the authoritative source for the myth as he presented it.
There were more images to remind the Athenians of Classical times, including Euripides, that Erechtheus and Erichthonios were distinct figures.
Erechtheus was firmly anchored in Athenian cult (with a site on the Acropolis) [31] and myth. With the Kleisthenic reforms, he was given a new function (as an eponymous hero), concomitant with a focus on his persona as kyrios of the royal house. As Urkönig, he suggested himself as the father of local heroines and heroes [32] (notwithstanding their independent myths and their lack of interaction) [33] and thereby proved their identity as figures of early Athens. When, after the Persian Wars, the Athenians founded a cult of Boreas (in order to thank the North Wind for his support), the wind god’s arrival was signaled by his integration into the royal family. [34] In two of the earliest images of Boreas’ abduction of his bride Oreithyia (of ca. 480–470), the girl’s father Erechtheus witnesses the scene, together with more figures who evoke early Athens. [35]
The only myth told for Erichthonios was the birth myth; he was linked only to Athena, Gaia, and Hephaistos. Because he did not receive any cult, he resembled the Athenians rather than gods and heroes. His birth “from the earth” placed him in the most distant past, but his relationship to Athena was different from that of Erechtheus with the goddess. His adoption by Athena did not explain a cult association, but rather his dependence on the goddess, and this reminded not only of a child’s dependence on a mother and a father (as the composition of the core group so persuasively demonstrates) [36] but also of mortals’ dependence on the gods. [37] Erichthonios founded various cult institutions and rites, [38] and, as a primordial figure, he attested to the origin of such institutions in distant times. [39] It is therefore not surprising to find him as a predecessor of Erechtheus in the extended Athenian king list of the late fifth century. [40]
Euripides did not need such a list for his perception of Erichthonios. Athena’s foster child, kept in a chest together with snakes, had to belong to an earlier generation than Kreousa’s father Erechtheus. The Parthenon frieze, designed about 440, provided a prominent example of the prevalent view on Erechtheus and Erichthonios in Classical times. On the east frieze, Erechtheus appears as one of the ten eponymous heroes (Figure 5); [41] the Urkönig of Athens, with only Kekrops and Pandion as his seniors, is presented in a function introduced only two generations before the frieze was made.
Figure 5. Four eponymous heroes on the Parthenon east frieze (E 43 – E 46): Kekrops, Akamas and Aigeus, and Erechtheus. Cast in the Skulpturhalle Basel. © Skulpturhalle Basel. Photo: D. Widmer (SH 341).
Erichthonios can be identified with the apobates in the north frieze who wears a long chiton instead of a warrior’s outfit, conveying that this figure is not a mortal participant in the contest but its mythical founder (Figure 6). [42] The apobates race recalls warfare as it was presented in Homer [43] and the figure of Erichthonios is included in order to point to the long tradition of its practice (as a visual message, not as the documentation of a fact).
Figure 6. Erichthonios as apobates on the Parthenon north frieze (N 62). Athens, Acropolis Museum 1147+. Photo: Hans R. Goette.
Although Erichthonios had been constructed rather recently, his (only) myth firmly rooted him in the distant past. He could thus persuasively attest to the age of institutions linked to him. Erechtheus, on the other hand, was presented in the function of his that was politically most relevant, as one of the eponymous heroes. Their position between mortals and the gods was conveyed in the frieze by their depiction between the approaching Athenians and the Olympian gods.
Euripides’ play attests to a further reading of the birth myth. When, in the context of the increasing antagonism with the Spartans in the middle of the fifth century, the Athenians claimed to be autochthonous and that being so was superior to having immigrated, “birth of the earth” assumed a new meaning. Being γηγενής—earthborn—had been the equivalent of being primordial (cf. Hesiod Theogony 126–160, 183–186), and earthborn creatures tended to be monsters (not Athena’s foster child who enjoyed the goddess’ τροφή!). [44] It was a concept of myth and religion. Autochthony, on the other hand, was a political concept. [45] At the time of Perikles’ citizenship law (451/450), the construction of the Parthenon and the performance of Euripides’ plays, Erichthonios’ birth of the Earth and adoption by Athena was understood as the visualization of the idea that the progonos of the Athenian royal house (Ion 267) had been born in Athena’s land, and that his descendants—all Athenians—had always occupied Attica, that they were autochthonous. [46] The focus of the myth had shifted. [47] Erichthonios was seen as the prototypical Athenian, as six of the images of his birth (and an additional depiction) persuasively demonstrate. They show Erichthonios wearing a chain with amulets across his chest (see Figures 1 and 3), just like the one that was worn by Athenian infants for their protection. [48] Euripides makes Erichthonios’ function as role model explicit. [49] Athena had provided Erichthonios with two snakes for protection, and since that time the Erechtheidai (!) [50] protected their children with golden snakes (Ion 21–26). In the prologue, Hermes relates that Kreousa, when she exposed her newborn son in the cave where she had conceived him, added some χλιδή (precious ornament), according to the custom of the progonoi (Ion 10–21, 26–27). Toward the end of the play, the χλιδή turns out to have the shape of two golden snakes (that help to identify Ion). In this context, the poet again refers to Athena and Erichthonios and the Athenian custom of protecting newborn babies with strings adorned with golden snakes (Ion 1426–1431). [51]
To sum up: in Ion, Euripides attests to the dissemination of a new version of the birth myth via images and explicitly refers to γραφή as the authoritative source for it.
The poet was keenly aware of the potential of visual media. The chorus marvels at the splendor of Apollo’s sanctuary and speaks of figures on both sides of the god’s temple (Ion 187–189), suggesting that the lines that follow refer to its sculptural decoration. [52] This, however, is not the case. Ion lines 190–218 do not describe images actually to be seen in Delphi, [53] instead evoking contemporary images [54] known to the Athenian audience (and considered appropriate for the persons involved in the drama and their relationship to Athens and Delphi). [55] In the representation of a gigantomachy “on walls” (Ion 205–218), the chorus points out three duel scenes: Athena attacking Enkelados, Zeus burning Mimas with his thunderbolt, and Dionysos killing a giant with his “ivy staffs” (the thyrsus) (Ion 216–218). This iconography reveals that Euripides is not referring to the gigantomachy in the west pediment of the late Archaic temple of Apollo [56] —for which the thyrsus as the god’s weapon would be anachronistic [57] —but that he has images of his own times in mind. [58] In Archaic times the gods and the giants were shown fighting with the weapons of hoplites (except for Zeus who brandishes his thunderbolt). In Classical times the divinities were represented with their usual attributes, which conveyed their personal qualities —and they were superior to the giants not because of their martial prowess but because of these very qualities [59] (whence Dionysos’ easy victory in a duel with a giant, despite his inadequate “weapon”). [60] Calling Dionysos’ ivy staffs ἀπόλεμα (“unwarlike”; Ion 216–217), [61] Euripides catches the very idea of Classical visual language.

The invasion myth

The war of “the Eleusinians with Eumolpos against Erechtheus” is Thucydides’ only example of a war in Attica before the alleged synoikismos (2.15.1–2). A μάχη of the Athenians “against their neighbors in Eleusis” mentioned by Herodotus (1.30.5) might refer to the same event, whether the battle was a historical or a fictitious one. [62] The most elaborate source is Euripides’ Erechtheus (with the reconstruction of its plot partly based on later authors who either cite Euripides or depend on his play). [63] The Eleusinians do not figure as combatants, but the name of the leader of the invaders (who are Thracians), [64] Eumolpos, evokes Eleusis. This name, borne by the eponymous of the Eleusinian genos who provided the chief priest (hierophant), [65] reveals both the identity of the traditional invaders and the intention to avoid their being mentioned. In the play (and, as I think, in a later version of the invasion myth, see below), Eumolpos is Poseidon’s son who grew up in Ethiopia; [66] according to Apollodorus’ Βibliotheke (3.15.4), he had to flee to Thrace and then in Eleusis, but was later asked to became king of the Thracians and to help the Eleusinians when they attacked Athens. [67]
In the play, the battle of mortals is paralleled by a conflict on the divine level: Eumolpos intends to replace the tutelary divinity of Athens, Athena, with his father Poseidon. Erechtheus succeeds in defending Athens, but at high costs: after he has killed his opponent, he is killed by Eumolpos’ furious divine father, and all his children (three daughters) lose their lives. [68] At the end of the play, Athena orders the foundation of a cult for the three girls and one for Erechtheus Semnos Poseidon, with a σηκός in the center of the Acropolis, “because the god killed him” (F 370, 63–94). [69]
There was no cult for a single figure Erechtheus Poseidon, but there is evidence, from the mid-fifth century to Roman Imperial times, for a joint cult of Erechtheus and Poseidon on the Acropolis, as Menelaos Christopoulos has argued. [70] Poseidon’s veneration on the Acropolis is exclusively attested in combination with that of Erechtheus. [71] Because this cult predates Euripides’ tragedy, its aition (Erechtheus’ death caused by Poseidon) must also date to an earlier time. [72]
I suggested that the persona of Erechtheus, Urkönig of Athens (Homer Odyssey 7.81) and earthborn foster child of Athena (Homer Iliad 2.546–551), was redefined in the context of the Kleisthenic reforms. The tale of Athena’s earthborn child was from that time on to be told for a figure called Erichthonios (see above). Erechtheus continued to be the Urkönig and defender of Athens. His cult was combined with the (newly introduced) cult of Poseidon on the Acropolis, and its foundation was explained by Poseidon’s involvement in Erechtheus’ defense, according to a new version of the myth [73] that combined the battle of mortals with the conflict of two gods. [74]
The earliest two pieces of evidence for the idea that Athena’s tutelary function for the Athenians was ever a matter of dispute leave no doubt that Poseidon challenged Athena. Herodotus says that, according to the Athenians, an olive tree and a θάλασσα on the Acropolis had been set as μαρτύρια (testimonies) when Poseidon and Athena quarreled about the land (Herodotus 8.55.1). It is revealing that, although he mentions the olive tree first, he speaks of Poseidon first in connection with the ἔρις. [75] In the west pediment of the Parthenon, Poseidon is marked as the intruder, because he is stepping into the northern half of the pediment, Athena’s territory (see below, Figure 7). [76]
This emphasis on Poseidon as the aggressor is in line with a Wandermotiv attested by later authors: Poseidon, the god of natural forces, attempts to replace established deities of communities (and never succeeds). [77] Whereas in the original invasion myth the king of Athens had fought against the Eleusinians, the gods’ strife in the new invasion myth was about the main cult of the Athenians who lived in “the land” [78] —all over Attica. This discrepancy supports my conclusion that Poseidon’s challenge was added to the older myth of a battle of mortals (fought within Attica) at a time when the Athenian state comprised all of Attica. [79]
Neither the battle of the mortals nor the strife of the gods ever became popular subjects of Athenian imagery. There are only two known Athenian representations of Erechtheus and Eumolpos: [80] two (lost) bronze statues erected on the Acropolis, together with statues of the strategos Tolmides and his seer, after Tolmides’ death in 447/446, [81] and two facing warriors on an Attic hydria of ca. 400 included in a scene of Poseidon’s strife with Athena, which is the earliest image of the gods’ ἔρις after the Parthenon and the only one that combines both the conflict of the mortals and that of the immortals. [82] There are a few more images of the gods’ strife on later Athenian vases. [83]
Much of Euripides’ Erechtheus is lost. Poseidon might have announced his claim to the main cult of the Athenians in the prologue. However, the play is not about strife between divinities. [84] The driving force is Eumolpos, determined to push the interests of his father (who also comes as an invader). Praxithea, in her famous monologue, makes this perfectly clear: “No one shall . . . cast out the ancient ordinances of our forefathers, nor shall Eumolpus or his Thracian folk replace the olive and the golden Gorgo by planting a trident upright in the city’s foundation and crowning it with garlands, leaving Pallas dishonoured.” (F 360:44–49). [85] At the end of the play, Athena herself orders Poseidon to stop harming the city and the land (F 370:55–62). The trident mentioned by the goddess in F 370:55 is not the token of Poseidon’s cult (as it was in Praxithea’s speech, F 360) but the instrument the god has been using to cause an earthquake (F 37:45–51). Athena reestablishes order (and decides the fate of all the members of the royal family). The play does not present her as a divinity involved in an ἔρις but as a divinity who puts an end to the disturbance of order caused by mortals (Eumolpos’ attack in order to replace Athena with Poseidon) and immortals (Poseidon’s killing of Erechtheus and causing an earthquake).
After Athena has communicated her provisions, she announces the judgment of Zeus (F 370:99–100)—which apparently refers to the Eleusinian mysteries. [86] Zeus was not involved previously and has no part in the outcome of the gods’ conflict. J. C. Kamerbeek and others have assumed that Praxithea’s words φόνια φυσήματ(α) (F 370:40) following her mention of her dead husband (F 370:38) refer to Zeus and suggested that it was him who killed Erechtheus. [87] This assumption, based on Hyginus (Fabula 46.4: Zeus killed Erechtheus with his thunderbolt, having been asked by Poseidon to do so), [88] is unfounded.
The play leaves no doubt that Poseidon has revenged his son and killed Erechtheus. Athena’s words addressing Poseidon (F 370:59–60), “κατὰ χθονὸς κρύψας” imply that the god pushed the king into the rock with his trident. Erechtheus’ grave has plausibly been identified with the cracks underneath the North Porch of the Erechtheion, framed by marble slabs (called the Altar of the Thyechoos) when the Classical building was erected. [89] This would have been an ancient site for libations to Erechtheus [90] and regarded as his grave long before his death was thought to have been caused by Poseidon (in the later version of the invasion myth). [91] When his cult was combined with that of Poseidon, the cracks might have suggested the idea that the god had struck here. In Ion, Erechtheus’ fate is recalled with similar words (281–282): “And, does a χάσμα χθονός really hide your father? Blows of the sea god’s trident killed him.” [92]
φόνια φυσήματ(α) (F 370:40) are deadly drafts, in this case referring to winds caused by Poseidon when he struck with his trident. [93] There is nothing to suggest heat [94] and a thunderbolt. Hyginus, in his Fabula 46, is part of a much later tradition, drawing from Euripides’ Erechtheus (one of the king’s daughters is sacrificed, the others had sworn an oath to follow their sister into death) but speaking of four girls instead of three, giving the sacrificed one an appropriate name (Chthonia). The idea that Erechtheus was struck by a thunderbolt might have suggested itself by the setting of the cult site. Above the Altar of Thyechoos and slightly set off, an opening was left in the roof of the North Porch. [95] The cult site therefore resembled an enelysion, a site struck by lightning, not to be accessed. [96]
Figure 7. Reconstruction of the Parthenon west pediment by Ernst Berger (1977:134 fold-out III). Drawing: M. Cahn.
Euripides’ presentation of the divine conflict differs considerably from that of its most prominent image at the Parthenon, finished in 432 (Figure 7). The pediment visualizes Poseidon’s challenge, the antagonism of both divinities (as they rush toward each other, their movement being repeated by their chariots), and its sudden end (as Poseidon and Athena lean back, still looking at each other, and the horses are abruptly stopped). [97] This sudden solution can only have been caused by Zeus, the divine judge, whether his interference was implied by this pointed composition or actually illustrated by the god’s thunderbolt represented between the opponents. [98] Zeus’ part in this conflict, as the ultimate authority, might be an invention for the Parthenon. It enabled the visualization of the solution of the conflict when it was at its height (and it sanctioned Athena’s position as the goddess of the Athenians for all times).
The image at the goddess’ temple had a different function than the tragedy. The pediment focuses on Poseidon’s challenge and its rebuttal and highlights Athena as the eternal goddess of the Athenians, with their ancestors present in the corners. The tragedy is about mortals and their decisions, which might lead to disaster even when they were made with the best intentions and reasons.
It is, nevertheless, intriguing to compare what is shown and what is said about Athena and Poseidon. Though the figures in the pediment are poorly preserved, enough is left to see that both gods raise their right arms and lower their left ones. [99] Athena would have swung her spear and protected her left side with her shield; Poseidon would have held a trident. It is understood that the gods were not shown “setting” their μαρτύρια, [100] because the olive tree, in all likelihood, stood between them (there was no room for it next to Athena’s right side), and Poseidon’s θάλασσα was visualized by the ketos underneath his charioteer and a marine snake next to the horses, both outside his view. [101] The gods’ depiction aimed at characterizing them, beyond a specific situation. Athena’s equipment represented her as the protectress of the city; Poseidon’s trident evoked the god’s epitheton “Earth-Shaker.” The μαρτύρια, on the other hand, were accidental, and they were not shown as part of the narrative (being set by the gods, see above). They indicated the locality (an important issue for the images on the west side of the Parthenon) [102] and pointed to sites in the sanctuary, situated only a few steps to the north: the olive tree stood in the Pandroseion, west of the Erechtheion, and the θάλασσα was contained in its western cella. [103] The pediment thus showed an event that had actually taken place on the Acropolis, with proof of it still to be seen.
In the play, Praxithea evokes the olive tree and the golden Gorgo as tokens of Athena’s cult, and the trident as the token of Poseidon’s cult (F 360:44–49). In this context, the olive tree is not a μαρτύριον of the ἔρις (as it was for Herodotus), but a proof of Athena’s performance as tutelary goddess: she had given this precious gift to the Athenians. The face of the Gorgo, staring at the beholders, had an apotropaic function and evoked Athena’s capacity as protectress. [104] It was a conspicuous element of her statues, being attached to her aegis. [105] The colossal statue of the Athena Parthenos (finished in 438) wore golden garments, but the gorgoneion was made of ivory. [106] The “golden Gorgo” therefore does not refer to the statue in the Parthenon, [107] but to the ἀρχαῖον ἄγαλμα in the Erechtheion, Athena’s most sacred image which was made of olive wood and stood just a few meters east of the olive tree. [108] Its golden gorgoneion and golden aegis are listed in inventories of the early fourth century; [109] Euripides’ verse is the earliest evidence for a golden object as part of the accouterment of the ancient statue. And the ἀρχαῖον ἄγαλμα was not just a point of reference for the cult. In Erechtheus F 351, women are urged to make Athena come and help the city, wearing her golden Gorgo. [110] The trident conveyed Poseidon’s ability to strike the ground and provoke an earthquake (as he did: F 370:45–57) or create a crack in the rock and push someone into it (as he did with Erechtheus, F 370:59–60) or to make salt water appear (as he did according to Herodotus 8.55). In its characterization of the gods’ timeless qualities the poet’s presentation of the gods corresponds with their visual representation in the pediment and attests to the Athenian view of deities in nearly contemporaneous sources.


Both Athenian charter myths, the birth myth and the invasion myth, had undergone substantial revisions about three generations before Euripides used them for two of his plays. The earlier versions had never been part of Athenian imagery.
The new version of the birth myth, told for Erichthonios, became a subject for Athenian vase painters throughout the fifth century, and the congruency in the depictions of the core group (Gaia, baby, Athena) suggests the dependence on a publicly accessible image that communicated the introduction of this new figure. In his play Ion, Euripides explicitly refers to images of this myth, thus confirming that visual media had familiarized the Athenians with this new version of the myth.
In this play, Euripides also explicitly presents Erichthonios as the archetypal Athenian; Athena, when she put snakes into Erichthonios’ chest, started the Athenian custom of protecting babies with strings adorned with golden snakes.
For the new addition to the invasion myth—Poseidon’s challenge of Athena—there was a prominent image in a prominent public location: the sculptures in the west pediment of the Parthenon. They had been carved in order to honor Athena. Euripides’ Erechtheus was not about Athena (or Poseidon), however, but about mortals and their decisions (entailing tragic consequences), and furthermore it did not celebrate war, instead laying bare war’s effects not only on warriors, but on women and girls as well. Though the images in the temple and the tragedy have little in common, they do both present the gods in their timeless characterizations.



BAPD = Beazley Archive Pottery Database.
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[ back ] 1. Kannicht 2004:394–418 (edition of Erechtheus cited in this paper); Collard and Cropp 2008:363–401; Sonnino 2010; Primavesi 2016:92–111. For the date: Kannicht 2004:394; Sonnino 2010:27–34, criticized by Cropp 2011; Primavesi 2016:93, 108–109. All years referring to ancient times are BCE unless stated otherwise.
[ back ] 2. Stieber 2011:282; Athanassaki 2013:21–22; Martin 2018; Gibert 2019. Martin 2018:24–32 (slightly later than Helen, performed in 412, for metrical and structural reasons).
[ back ] 3. Figures of early Athens are also in Euripides Heraklidai (ca. 430; Demophon) and Suppliants (ca. 423; Theseus).
[ back ] 4. Her speaking name—“she who practices (cult) for the goddess”—is not attested previously. Athena makes Praxithea her priestess (F 370:95–97). Philochoros (FGrHist 328 F 106) has Aglauros as Athena’s (first) priestess.
[ back ] 5. An old tradition, if the restoration of her name in Hesiod fr. 10:20–24 (Most 2018:52–53) is correct. Cf. Martin 2018:14–15; Gibert 2019:126.
[ back ] 6. Euripides Ion 57–64, 292: Xouthos, son of Aiolos, offspring of Zeus, not Athenian, but Achaios (with Doros and Achaios as his sons, Ion 1589–1594). Hesiod fr. 9: son of King Hellen, brother of Doros and Aiolos—for Ion as the son of Xouthos, Hesiod fr. 10:23 (Most 2018:52–53; name restored); Herodotus 7.94.1, 8.44.2; Euripides Melanippe Sophe fr. 481:7–11 (Kannicht 2004:530–531; earlier than Ion). Lee 1997:38–29; Dunn 2000:23–27; Cole 2008:313–314; Torrance 2013:211; Martin 2018:14–15; Gibert 2019:4–8. On Ion’s genealogy: Shapiro 2009a:270–272 (bibl.); Jones 2019:729–730—the identification of Ion on three Athenian vases of the mid-fifth century (BAPD 206697, 207228, 213661) by Shapiro 2009a:265–284 figs. 1–7; Shapiro 2009b:295–296, followed by Jones 2019:729–730, is unconvincing. Martin 2018:15. The vases show the Apolline triad and Ion’s descent from Apollo remained a secret (Euripides Ion 72–73, 1601–1602).
[ back ] 7. Martin 2018:6; cf. 10–23; Rabinowitz 1993:191–192. On the main issues of Ion (Athenian autochthony and Athens’ relationship to Ionia), see Saxonhouse 1986:252–273; Parker 1987:205–207; Loraux 1990:197–253; Dougherty 1996:249–270; Lee 1997:34–36; Zacharia 2003:44–102; Blok 2009:261–263, 271–272; Shapiro 2009a:271–274; Athanassaki 2013:1–32; Griffith 2017:228–242 (on the ideology of autochthony); Gibert 2019:4–18, 36–46; Jones 2019:727–762. For a brilliant feminist reading, see Rabinowitz 1993:189–222.
[ back ] 8. On the birth myth: Meyer 2017:253, 263–267, 279, 313–317, 349–351, 362–377, 379–380, 413–414; and on the invasion myth: Meyer 2017:377–388, 394–415; cf. 263–267, 279. The authority responsible for the new versions would have been the same that suggested a hundred candidates for eponymous heroes (Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians 21.6). Meyer 2017:423.
[ back ] 9. Erechtheus continued to be seen as γηγενής when the birth myth was told for Erichthonios (see below with n. 21). Aglauros’ function as a role model for the ephebes continued to remind of the heroine’s altruistic suicide for the salvation of Athens (FGrHist 328 F 105; Meyer 2017:267–273) despite the institution of a cult for three girls who, according to the later version of the invasion myth, had been sacrificed for the same reason (see below with n. 68), and the Eleusinian invaders were never quite forgotten even when the attack came from Thracians or warriors from elsewhere (Meyer 2017:384–385).
[ back ] 10. Meyer forthcoming.
[ back ] 11. Euripides’ “affinity for the visual arts” (Zeitlin 1994:141) is well-known and well-studied: Barlow 1971; Mastronarde 1975:163–176; Zeitlin 1994:138–196; Stieber 2011; Jones 2019:727–762 (who sees more “Pheidian imagery” [756] in Ion than he can plausibly suggest).
[ back ] 12. Parker 1987:193–194; Blok 2009:258–259; Calame 2011:11; Meyer 2017:313–317 with n. 2521.
[ back ] 13. Amelesagoras (FGrHist 330 F 1); Apollodorus 3.14.6–7. For additional sources, see Meyer 2017:263, 349 nn. 2113, 2816. Hephaistos, frequently depicted on Athenian vases since ca. 575–550 (see Shapiro 1995b:6–14), would have been incorporated into the myth in the sixth century (cf. Parker 1987:194).
[ back ] 14. 14 Kreousa’s handmaid says that she serves in the “nourishing house,” which is also the house of Pallas (Ion 235–236). For a controversial reading of these lines, see Stieber 2011:280. This passage does not seem to have been used as an argument against those who question the cohabitation of Athena (housed in the east cella of the temple with the modern denomination Erechtheion) with Erechtheus (venerated, with Poseidon, in its west cella) and the identification of this west cella with the “Erechtheion” (Pausanias 1.26.5; Plutarch Moralia 843E). Meyer 2017:45–48.
[ back ] 15. Euripides Ion 20–27; 999–1009; 1426–1431; 1465–1466.
[ back ] 16. If Harpocration s.v. αὐτόχθονες quotes Pindar correctly (saying that Erichthonios, Hephaistos’ son, appeared from the earth), this makes the latter our earliest evidence. Kron 1976:37n125.
[ back ] 17. Berlin F 2537: BAPD 217211; Meyer 2017:362–369 figs. 364–365.
[ back ] 18. Athens, Third Ephorate A 8922: BAPD 44371; Meyer 2017:366 fig. 366.
[ back ] 19. The base for the cult statues in the Hephaisteion might have shown this scene, too. Meyer 2017:363n2921; Stewart 2019:64–65 fig. 4.10.
[ back ] 20. Meyer 2017:363–369 figs. 341–342, 360–371.
[ back ] 21. Meyer 2017:264–267, 362–369, 422–425. Sourvinou-Inwood (2011:51–89) speaks of the “complex” and the “post-split” Erechtheus but is vague about the date of this splitting.
[ back ] 22. Meyer 2017:363–364, 367, 374, 376. Shapiro (2009a:273) suggested a (now-lost) wall-painting.
[ back ] 23. Translation: Zeitlin 1994:155; Martin 2018:210 (“as is commonly depicted on paintings”). Because there is no definite article, the poet does not refer to one particular artifact. On the images of Ion’s tent, see Immerwahr 1972:291–296; Mastronarde 1975:169; Goff 1988:42–54; Zeitlin 1994:152–156; Stieber 2011:302–314; Athanassaki 2013:1–2, 6–10; Jones 2019:751–752.
[ back ] 24. Literally: “they undid the goddess’ container.” In Ion 1184, τεῦχος is used for a vessel filled with wine.
[ back ] 25. Further references to oral tradition are Ion 196, 225, 275, 506–507, 994, cf. Ion 336: Kreousa tells a μῦθος.
[ back ] 26. Jones 2019:729–734; cf. below nn. 53–55. Euripides Ion 1163–1165: an image (medium not indicated) at the entrance of Ion’s tent shows Kekrops and his daughters, dedicated by an Athenian (and again suggests the visual presence of local Athenian figures in Delphi). Immerwahr 1972:293–294; Mastronarde 1975:169; Zeitlin 1994:152–154; Stieber 2011:309–310.
[ back ] 27. Meyer 2017:274–279 figs. 327–328, 330–334, 338–340, 343–345.
[ back ] 28. Leipzig T 654 (ca. 470–460): BAPD 206765; Meyer 2017:277 figs. 341–342.
[ back ] 29. λόγος and γραφή as sources of knowledge: Euripides Hippolytus 1004–1006. Zeitlin 1994:144. Hekabe knows ships from γραφή and hearsay. Euripides Trojan Women 686–687. Hall 2006:104.
[ back ] 30. As Zeitlin 1994:155 points out.
[ back ] 31. See below with nn. 89–90.
[ back ] 32. Kron 1988:923–924. It is pointless to ask how many daughters Erechtheus had, see Meyer 2017:388–393. Another daughter is Merope (Plutarch Theseus 19.5).
[ back ] 33. The only connection is Euripides Ion 277–280: Kreousa is the sister of the three (anonymous) girls who, according to the later version of the invasion myth and the cult attested for them (as Hyakinthides theai) were sacrificed for the salvation of Athens; see below n. 68. Euripides, at pains to explain Kreousa’s survival, presents her as a baby in her mother’s arms.
[ back ] 34. On Boreas and Oreithyia, see Parker 1987:204–205; Meyer 2017:384, 388–393; Zarkadas 2022:357–377.
[ back ] 35. Amphora Munich 2345: BAPD 206422; Meyer 2017:388–389 figs. 323–326. The additional figures are Kekrops, Aglauros, Pandrosos, Herse (all labeled) and an anonymous girl. On ex-Berlin F 2165, also by the Oreithyia Painter and with an almost identical image (BAPD 206421), only Boreas and Oreithyia are labeled. Zarkadas 2022:362–363.
[ back ] 36. Athena takes the baby from Gaia like Athenian women take their babies from nurses, on vases and grave reliefs, cf. Meyer 2017:363–369, 374 figs. 360–372 and Räuchle 2017:77, 81, 94, 128, 151–152, 156–158 figs. 7–10, 52, 57, 59. Athena, however, also assumes the role of the father who decides about the baby’s acceptance in the oikos. Meyer 2017:326–327, 367–368, 435; cf. Griffith 2017:234; Gibert 2019:172.
[ back ] 37. See below with nn. 48–51.
[ back ] 38. Parker 1987:200–201; Meyer 2017:416–419.
[ back ] 39. And not the other way around: the age of the respective institutions (e.g. the Panathenaia, according to Hellanikos; FGrHist 4 F 39 = 323a F 2; 324 F 2) is not evidence for an association with Erichthonios at the time of their foundation.
[ back ] 40. In Hellanikos’ list Erichthonios precedes Erechtheus. Kron 1976:85, 106; Harding 2008:5–6, 13–16, 31, 38–39. The Marmor Parium (FGrHist 239 A 10–A15) has Erichthonios—Pandion—Erechtheus.
[ back ] 41. Figure E 46, preserved only on the cast made by Fauvel in 1787. Jenkins 1994:80–81. On the identification of the ten figures, see Kron 1976:202–214 pls. 30–31.
[ back ] 42. N 62: Jenkins 1994:92; Meyer 2017:104, 365, 417 fig. 402.
[ back ] 43. On apobates, most recently, see Shear 2021:55–65, 191–192, 351–356.
[ back ] 44. Homer Iliad 2.546–548. Gibert 2019:42–43 points to the ambiguity of Euripides’ Earth: Gaia gives birth to Gorgo, who is then killed by Athena in the gigantomachy (Ion 987–993). Immerwahr 1972:284–287, 296; Rosivach 1977:287–291; Goff 1988:47–48; Cole 2008:315; Athanassaki 2010:205–207; Mueller 2016:76–78. Athena preserves two drops of Gorgo’s blood, one poisonous, one healing (Ion 1001–1017).
[ back ] 45. On the concept of autochthony, see Rosivach 1987:294–306; Blok 2009:251–275; Meyer 2017:369–377; Gibert 2019:40–43; and most recently: Fullerton 2022:36–43 (with bibliography). Cf. n. 9.
[ back ] 46. Expressis verbis: Euripides Erechtheus F 360:5–13; Ion 589–590. Parker 1987:193–195.
[ back ] 47. Blok 2009:261. Tellingly, it is the non-Athenian Xouthos who denies that the earth generates children (Euripides Ion 542). Saxonhouse 1986:254; Goff 1988:46–47; Dougherty 1996:261.
[ back ] 48. Meyer 2017:368 figs. 341–342, 364, 368–371 (birth scene) and 374 (Erichthonios receives a phiale from Athena). On such strings for Athenian babies, see Meyer 2017:368 n. 2955.
[ back ] 49. Cf. Martin 2018:20–21.
[ back ] 50. Euripides Ion 1056, 1060. On this denomination: Blok 2009:260, 271; Gibert 2019:130.
[ back ] 51. Mueller 2016:70–84 (the recognition scene on stage is experienced as a collective recognition of Athenian identity by the audience).
[ back ] 52. Assumed, e.g. by Barlow 1971:22–23; Immerwahr 1972:285–286, 291; Rosivach 1977:284–293; Zacharia 2003:14–19; Tuck 2009:152, 157–158; Athanassaki 2010:202–205, 209–210, 215–216, 226–237; Mueller 2016:201 n. 1; see the discussion in Stieber 2011:284–290, 297–302. Simon 1984:4–9 thinks of the decoration of the treasuries.
[ back ] 53. Ion 190–203 cannot refer to the metopes of the temple because only the pediments and the roof had sculptural decoration. Simon 1984:5; Martinez 2021:250–287.
[ back ] 54. On the reference to images of Erichthonios’ birth in Ion 271, see above.
[ back ] 55. Immerwahr 1972:280–297; Zeitlin 1994:148–151; Lee 1997:177–180; Stieber 2011:290–302; Torrance 2013:66–69; Gibert 2019:159–160; Jones 2019:730–731 (with references); see also Athanassaki 2010:227, 233 (although she believes that Euripides refers to the temple in Delphi); and Athanassaki 2013:8–9.
[ back ] 56. This does not affect conclusions about the relevance of the gigantomachy myth (and Athena’s role, cf. n. 44) for the persons of the drama: see above n. 55.
[ back ] 57. The thyrsus was held by maenads since the later sixth century; it was not adopted for figures of Dionysos until the early fifth century (Moraw 1998:53–55 and below n. 59). The passage in Euripides is, however, used for the identification of the figures of the pediment (and Dionysos is reconstructed with a thyrsus although he cannot even be securely identified, Martinez 2021:250–261 figs. 2–13). Zeus killing Mimas (Ion 212–215) suggests a composition different from the one in the pediment (Martinez 2021:261 fig. 13).
[ back ] 58. According to Jones 2019:731, the gigantomachy alludes to Apollo’s seizure of Delphi, formally held by Gaia. However, Apollo is not mentioned in Ion 205–218.
[ back ] 59. On the myth and early images of the gigantomachy, see Meyer 2022:203–222. In images of ca. 560 to ca. 480, Dionysos is fighting with a spear against a giant represented like a hoplite (until ca. 500) or a wild creature of nature (Vian and Moore 1988:261, with references; Muth 2008:268–302 figs. 174–175, 176, 179, 193). On vases of ca. 480, Dionysos directs his spear against a fallen giant and holds an ivy branch or branches and a kantharos or a panther toward his opponent (Vian and Moore 1988:261 nos. 194, 305, 309, 330; Muth 2008:300–303, 309–311 fig. 202B, 209–210) or he holds the thyrsus instead of a spear (Vian and Moore 1988:231 no. 327; BAPD 202490). The god fights with a spear until ca. 460 (Vian and Moore 1988:261, with references), but the upper part of the weapon might be a thyrsus (Vian and Moore 1988:233 nos. 375–377), and since the 460s, the spear is often replaced by the thyrsus (Vian and Moore 1988:261, with references; Muth 2008:312–313, 323, 328 figs. 213–214, 224A). The reconstruction of Dionysos on the Parthenon metope East 2 is hypothetical because of the poor state of conservation. Isler-Kerényi 2015:164–166 fig. 90.
[ back ] 60. On the idiosyncratic representation of divinities in Classical times (which aimed to convey the ethos of the gods), see the seminal study by Himmelmann 1959.
[ back ] 61. Cf. Euripides Hecuba 1034: ἀπολέμῳ χειρὶ; Euripides Medea 640–641: ἀπτολέμους εὐνὰς.
[ back ] 62. See, most recently, Rönnberg 2021:64–82.
[ back ] 63. On the play, see n. 1; Blok 2009:261–263:271–272; Calame 2011.
[ back ] 64. In this play. For diverging traditions, see Meyer 2017:384–385.
[ back ] 65. On Eumolpos in Eleusis, see Parker 1987:202–204; Sourvinou-Inwood 2011:111–123; Meyer 2017:384–385; Rönnberg 2021:69–70 (with bibliography). On the history of cult in Eleusis see, most recently, Rönnberg 2021:68–70, 240–245.
[ back ] 66. Euripides Erechtheus F 349. Chione, the mother, is first attested by Lycurgus 1.98. Her construction as a daughter of Boreas and Oreithyia (Apollodorus 3.15.2; Pausanias 1.38.2) presupposes Boreas’ inclusion into the Athenian royal family; see n. 34.
[ back ] 67. Apollodorus 3.15.4. Only Istros (FGrHist 334 F 22) and Lucian Demonax 34 call him a Thracian (cf. Scholiast on Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus 1053: the Eumolpidai are ξένοι).
[ back ] 68. Because the cult of the Hyakinthides (the cult name given to the girls after their death, Euripides Erechtheus F 370:65–74) is attested elsewhere (by an inscription of 410–404, see Gawlinski 2007:37–39, 47–54; Philochoros, FGrHist 328 F 12; Demosthenes 60.27), the sacrifice of the three girls, demanded by an oracle, must have been part of the myth (in its later version; cf. n. 33). Parker 1987:203. Euripides gave it a tragic turn: the queen decides to sacrifice one daughter for the salvation of the city, as the oracle requests, but loses all her children because the girls had sworn an oath to follow their sister into death. For the poet’s use of the myth (the altruistic suicide of Aglauros in the earlier version, see n. 73, and the sacrifice of the three maidens in the later one), see Meyer forthcoming. For Euripides’ attitude toward the “notion of mythical authority,” see Wright 2017:468–482.
[ back ] 69. This σηκός (F 370:90–94) was a precinct for the cult of Erechtheus and Poseidon that preceded the west cella of the temple with the modern denomination Erechtheion. Meyer 2017:65–67, 70 fig. 89.
[ back ] 70. Christopoulos 1994:123–130.
[ back ] 71. Meyer 2017:244–250.
[ back ] 72. Parker 1987:203.
[ back ] 73. Cf. n. 8. An earlier version of the invasion myth is attested by the oral tradition of Aglauros’ altruistic suicide in this war (FGrHist 328 F 105: λέγουσι …) which led to the institution of her sanctuary where the ephebes swore their oath (FGrHist 328 F 105) and to Aglauros’ function as the ephebes’ role model. Aglauros’ heroic suicide cannot be an invention of Classical times (when two of the—originally anonymous—daughters of Kekrops in the birth myth had been given the names of the traditional cult heroines Aglauros and Pandrosos), as Parker 1987:195–197, Shapiro 1995a:39–48, and Calame 2010:63–64 suggest. See Meyer 2017:270, 284–287, 379–384 and Meyer forthcoming.
[ back ] 74. The construction of Poseidon’s migrant son, the leader of Thracians, with the Eleusinian name Eumolpos (see nn. 66–67) is unlikely after the citizenship law of 451/450 (which highlighted the differences between Athenians and migrants) and therefore is not Euripides’ invention.
[ back ] 75. Cf. Pausanias 1.24.5 (ἡ Ποσειδῶνος πρὸς Ἀθηνᾶν ἐστιν ἔρις).
[ back ] 76. See the drawing of 1674: Meyer 2017:399–402 fig. 155; Neils 2022:106 fig. 7. On the west pediment, see Meyer 2018:51–77, 175–177 figs. 1–4; Neils 2022:92–108.
[ back ] 77. Plutarch Moralia 741A; Pausanias 2.1.6, 2.15.5, 2.30.6; Nonnus Dionysiaca 36.127–129. Parker 1987:199–200; Meyer 2018:56–57 nn. 26–28.
[ back ] 78. The strife was περὶ τῆς χώρης (Herodotus 8.55.1) or ὑπὲρ τῆς γῆς (Pausanias 1.24.5).
[ back ] 79. Meyer 2017:395–415.
[ back ] 80. The identification of the Athenians’ mythical antecedents in the corners of the Parthenon pediment cannot be discussed here; see, most recently, Neils 2022:91–108.
[ back ] 81. Pausanias 1.27.4–5. The (uninscribed) base associated with this votive offering by M. Korres showed both warriors facing each other, ready for attack. Korres 1994:86–87, 124 fig. 41; Meyer 2017:384, 398–399 fig. 376. Brinkmann 2016:112–125, 163 catalog 35 figs. 75–91 speculatively identified the Riace bronzes with both heroes’ statues.
[ back ] 82. Pella Archaeological Museum 80/514: BAPD 17333; Meyer 2017:399, 402–403 (bibliography) fig. 384–392.
[ back ] 83. Meyer 2017:404–405 figs. 381–383, 394–399; Neils 2022:91n5; 96–97 fig. 8.
[ back ] 84. Pace Kannicht 2004:393; Primavesi 2016:92–99, 110–111.
[ back ] 85. Translation: Collard and Cropp 2008:379.
[ back ] 86. F 370:102, 110, 114 mention Demeter, ἄρρητα, and Kerykes.
[ back ] 87. Kamerbeek 1970:122 (“—pourraient très bien se rapporter à la foudre de Zeus”); O’Connor-Visser 1987:162; Hurwit 1999:203–204; Primavesi 2016:96, 104–105.
[ back ] 88. Cf. Hyginus fabula 164: when Poseidon after his defeat against Athena wanted to flood the land, he was stopped by Hermes on Zeus’ command.
[ back ] 89. IG I³ 474, 77–79, 201–204 (409/408). Kron 1976:43–46.
[ back ] 90. Kron 1976:43–48; Meyer 2017:56–59, 65, 413–415 figs. 46–49, 66–78.
[ back ] 91. The verb κρύπτω here and in Euripides Ion 281 reveals that no actual tomb was visible; cf. Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus 1546 (on Oedipus’ tomb) and Euripides Suppliants 1206–1207. Dunn 2000:7–15.
[ back ] 92. Author’s translation.
[ back ] 93. Cropp 1995:171, 188–189: “murderous blasts”; Austin (“wind-gusts”). Less convincing: Collard: “bloody gaps” (referring to Erechtheus dying)—cf. Aristophanes Frogs 825: γηγενεῖ φυσήματι (“with his gigantic blast”, Blok 2009:257n29).
[ back ] 94. Primavesi 2016:104: “mörderischer (Glut)hauch.”
[ back ] 95. It is the size of two coffers. Meyer 2017:56n400 figs. 76–78.
[ back ] 96. Kron 1976:44.
[ back ] 97. Meyer 2018:51–77, 175–177 figs. 1–4.
[ back ] 98. As suggested by Simon 1980:245–248 fig. 1; Meyer 2017:400 with n. 3193 fig. 158. The thunderbolt appears on two Athenian vases in images that depend on that of the pediment (the Pella hydria, see n. 82, and Meyer 2017:404–405 figs. 381–383). This does not prove that it was shown in the pediment; the vase painters could have added it.
[ back ] 99. Palagia 1993:45–47 fig. 3; Meyer 2017:109 figs. 155, 157–158, 160.
[ back ] 100. The μαρτύρια were not means of competition, as some ancient authors thought, trying to integrate them into a narrative, see Meyer 2018:51–77.
[ back ] 101. Olive tree: Palagia 1993:46–47; Neils 2022:97 with n. 43. For the ketos (now lost), see the drawing of 1674 (Palagia 1993:49 fig. 4), for the snake: Palagia 1993:40, 47–48 fig. 103.
[ back ] 102. The west metopes show the Amazons’ attack on the Acropolis. Berger 1986:99–107 pls. 1, 113–139; Palagia 2019:346. They had camped on the Areopagus hill, across from the entrance to the sanctuary: Aeschylus Eumenides 685–690. Dunn 2000:4–7.
[ back ] 103. Meyer 2017:53–59, 66–70 figs. 46–49, 52, 54–56, 89.
[ back ] 104. In Euripides Ion 987–993 the Gorgo is proof of the Olympians’ victory over the giants; see n. 44.
[ back ] 105. Gorgoneia appear in Athenian imagery ca. 600, but as a part of the aegis only ca. 540. Meyer 2017:151.
[ back ] 106. Pausanias 1.24.7. Palagia 2019:329–332 fig. 12.3.
[ back ] 107. As assumed by Stieber 2011:141.
[ back ] 108. Meyer 2017:147–155.
[ back ] 109. The inventory lists of the Erechtheion start in 377/376. The earliest lists with both golden objects are IG II² 1424, 14–15 (shortly before 368/367); 1424a, 364–365 and 1425, 311 (368/367).
[ back ] 110. Stieber 2011:141 refers Erechtheus F 351 to Athena Parthenos.