To judge from the various comments made by contributors to this volume the Oxford conference on ‘Athena’ which drew them together in April 1998 was a stimulating and successful occasion, for which credit is due to the two organizers, Deacy and Villing, as for the appearance of this handsome Brill edition of the conference papers. Clearly the aim of the organizers was to provide an interdisciplinary focus on a single member of the Olympian family, Athena. They invited historians of religion, archaeologists and classicists to present an aspect of Athena, and the present volume is arranged around this tripartite scheme (1. ‘Cult, ritual and myth’ 2. ‘artistic representations’ 3. ‘literary accounts’). Their hope was, no doubt, that a rounded picture of the goddess would emerge, viewed from all three ‘dimensions’, as it were, of the scholarly art. In fact the image came to me as I read through the volume of an anatomy class in which individual students are set to work on one particular organ of the body: you dissect the ear, you take the right ankle, you the lung. The parts of Athena were, for me, revealingly and sometimes brilliantly dissected, but I do not feel I have come closer to knowing the goddess’ soul. This is the difference between a volume of conference papers and a monograph: one cannot hope for an overview, much less a new, consistent and challenging interpretation of a single object of study. It occurred to me that a truly interdisciplinary approach might be better served if one set an historian, an archaeologist and a literary scholar to comment, in turn, on the same one aspect of the goddess, her aegis, for example, or her birth from Zeus’ head.
In the interests of democracy I comment on all but three of the papers in what follows; the omissions reflect my lack of training in archaeology and do not imply criticism of the papers (Antonia S. Faita ‘The Medusa-Athena Nikephoros Coin from Pergamon’ 163-180; Ina Altripp, ‘Small Athenas — some remarks on Late Classical and Hellenistic Statues’, 181-196; Elsie Mathiopoulos, ‘On the transformations of the Athena Velletri type in Hellenistic Alexandria’, 197-218). The majority of the contributors are women and (I think) relatively young; ‘gender’ issues are frequently touched upon, but the volume has no ideological axe to grind. Most contributions are firmly located in the scholarly traditions of their disciplines. Although the editors’ introduction attempts to ‘place’ the following articles within a methodological framework, it struck me that diversity and individuality were the hallmarks of the papers which followed, not reflexes of particular schools or methods. One had to wait until near the end for any studies comparing Greco-Roman Athena/Minerva with goddesses in neighboring cultures (Teffeteller, Allen). The interesting line of inquiry broached in the introduction — Athena as an emblem in modern culture — received disappointingly little attention in the main body of the book (exception: A. Karentzos, 259ff.). This is another way of saying that the ‘interdisplinary’ approach hardly extends beyond the bounds of Greco-Roman antiquity. After general appreciation of the pieces I append (**) notes on what seem to me errors in the articles. These are intended to be useful, not niggling. Others may judge whether they seem many or few.
** p.14n.54 warrior-goodess.
Part I Cult, Ritual and Myth
Noel Robertson (‘Athena as weather goddess; the aegis in myth and ritual’ 29-56) gives a characteristic tour-de-force of cult testimonia on the elusive question of ritual combat in Athena’s cult. From a Libyan rite mentioned by Hdt he argues that Athena’s cult was everywhere typified by a ritual conflict between teams of young men/women (the rite is nowhere attested); he asserts that the aegis originated from a goat sacrifice to Athena (likewise nowhere attested) and that its skin became the aigis, used in weather magic to produce rain (but is rain wanted by farmers in November? Rain is needed to germinate the crop in spring); he connects a temple legend associated with the court of the Palladion outside the gates of Athens with the absence of the Palladion in autumn when it was taken to Phaleron for a festival administered, according to R., by the Salaminioi in the temple of Athena Skira (further bold conclusions from minimal evidence). Most problematically, in my opinion, R. argues that legends about conflicts associated with Athena’s Palladion must have reflected ritual; assuming the existence of such ritual R. then proceeds to interpret myth as a reflection of that cult reality, e.g. p. 47, ‘These successive uses have inspired the picture of Zeus and Athena in epic poetry’. Despite R’s dazzling command of the fragmentary evidence, which he shuffles and deals to produce startling tricks, this reader at least would have liked one piece of hard evidence, one explicit testimonium, for R’s main thesis (p. 32: ‘The ceremonial combat is a distinctive event in Athena’s worship. Admittedly, there is not a single literal report’). Methodologically, R. combines Nilsson’s model of a religion derived from agricultural rites with the antiquarian acumen of the Atthidographers.
Anastasia Serghidou (‘Athena Salpinx and the ethics of music’ 57-73) is no doubt right that the aulos and salpinx have different associations, the latter’s military, civic and masculine ethos suiting Athena better than the orgiastic and Dionysian aulos (‘What I argue here is that Athena’s musical favourites (sc. among instruments) tend to be connected with a set of specifically musical ethics, which served the heroic and political ideals of Classical Greece.’ p. 57) — but the paper is so riddled by mistakes and misunderstandings that some of its sensible formulations can hardly be taken seriously.
59 Euryala not Euryalus, a Gorgo.
59 bottom: read ‘Minervam [quae] Myctica appellatur’ Plin. 34.19.76-77.
60 S. translates
60-61 the quotation from Athenaeus 14.616-17 is not ‘in reference to Melanippides’ Marsyas’ but is a quote from Telestes of Selinous, who in his Argo, contradicted Melanippides. Moreover, Athenaeus has
61 for amorphon read amorphos.
63 Athen. 4 129a (not ‘Plato writes’!) quote should read:
65n46 not thêtês (short second e).
66n53 the quote is from Il.21.387-89 (not 385-9), and translation should read ‘…(they fell to it with) a mammoth clash’.
67 top (worst mistake, this) HHA then no.28.9
68 not ‘lost his turn’ but ‘missed his turn’.
68 middle not kyrex but keryx.
69 bottom Hsch s.v. Salpinx
73n84 ‘many thanks to are due’ (sic).
Hector Williams and Gerald P. Schaus (‘The sanctuary of Athena at ancient Stymphalos’, 75-94) give an interesting report of their archaeological excavation of the cult of Athena Polias (identity secured by one inscription) on the acropolis at Stymphalos in the Peloponnese. Particularly noteworthy are (1) the finds of votive jewelry (mainly bronze); (2) a number of lead sling bullets, bronze and iron arrowheads, heads of catapult projectiles which the authors believe point to a siege of the sanctuary rather than votive offerings; (3) a row of five small aniconic stelai, which, combined with a tetragonal block found within the cella of the temple, points toward aniconic worship of Athena, reported elsewhere for Arcadian worship of the goddess; fragments of three marble statues (the earliest from c. 500 BC) have, however, also been found. (4) A number of loom weights in one room of the service building, together with inscriptional evidence of temple officials called ‘petamnyphanterai’ (cf.
** I noticed only ‘Inscriften’ for ‘Inschriften’ in 84n33.
Claudia Wagner gives a useful summary of her Oxford PhD dissertation (1997) in the next chapter ‘The worship of Athena on the Athenian Acropolis: dedications on plaques and plates’. After discussing the pottery shapes involved — plaques and round lipped plates, usually with holes to facilitate hanging — she discusses their prevalent use as votives, although plates were also used in funerary rites. She connects the use of white slip on these shapes with the use of white wash on wooden votive plaques, the cheaper and probably more numerous variant. A considerable proportion of the 6th c. BC votive plaques and plates from the Athenian Acropolis depict Athena, usually in the pose of Promachos (with spear and shield, striding into the attack), a motif inspired perhaps by the Panathenaic prize amphorae. But several fragments depict key moments in Athena’s myth: her birth from Zeus’ head (three fragments), her part in the Gigantomachy (beside Zeus and Herakles). There are also depictions of Athena ‘in residence’ in her temple, as well as scenes which appear to thank Athena Ergane for her patronage of the craftsman’s art. She concludes that the prevalence of Athena as motif on many of these votive plaques and plates correlates clearly with the goddess of the sanctuary as do similar objects in Eleusis (Demeter and Persephone).
Carolyn Higbie writes next on ‘Homeric Athena in the chronicle of Lindos’. As she tells us in the last note, the paper is part of a book on the Lindian Chronicle. The paper augurs well for the book as it is clear, subtle and engaging in its depiction of the methods and goals of the local historians as revealed by the Lindian Chronicle. However, as a contribution to a joint exploration of the character of Athena, it must be said that the argument is tangential. We do not even learn much about Athena Lindia, except that the author of the Chronicle, Hagesitimos, as well as the local historians cited in it, were clearly determined to connect the Rhodian cult with Homeric epic in order to establish the antiquity and centrality of Athena Lindia.
In an interesting and authoritative article, ‘Athena and Minerva: two faces of one goddess?’ Fritz Graf asks the fundamental question why Minerva came to be identified with Greek Athena. Did she ever have an ‘independent’ character profile which might remain visible in Roman cult? On the question of origins G. concludes that the etymology of the name Minerva, once thought to derive from Etruscan Menrva, is still undecided, and that there is simply no clear evidence of her cult before Greek ‘contamination’ (already in the sixth c.). He then considers three conspicuous features of Minerva’s Latin cult, none of which shows essential departure from Greek models: (1) the Minerva of state cult, who, with Jupiter and Juno, forms the Capitoline triad, appears as a Roman corollory of Athena Polias or Poliouchos (2) the cult of Minerva at Lavinium shows on the strength of archaeological finds a possible development on Athena’s role as Kourotrophos. Whilst Athena is responsible for the transition of young women and men to adulthood, votives from Lavinium point to Minerva’s role as goddess of marriage and childbirth as well as kourotrophos. (3) G. examines Minerva’s Roman festival of Quinquatrus (Verrius Flaccus: ‘artificum dies’) in order to show, once again, the similarity with attributes of Athena Ergane. He even suggests that Minerva’s role as patron of crafts here may reflect the presence of Greek craftsmen in Rome from an early period. In sum, G. concedes that the name Minerva points originally to a deity separate from Athena, but that the identification happened early and was complete.
**One or two oddities in the English:
129 middle ‘Sabinian’ for ‘Sabine’; 136 top ‘regardless [of] their social class’; 137 top ‘it figures (read ‘features/depicts’) a scene’; 138 top ‘it had not been them to introduce’ (read ‘who introduced’); 138n56 ‘the file(?) in Graf’ (‘list’? ‘record’?).
Part Two: Artistic Representations
In ‘Athena in archaic Corinth: the creation of an iconography’, Stefan Ritter gives us an excerpt or summary of his current Habilitation. In an article which I found in places long-winded and surprisingly confusing, the main points are (1) that the image of a goddess with helmet on Corinthian staters depicts Athena, and not, as some have maintained, Aphrodite. A helmeted goddess simply had to be Athena, according to R., owing to the predominance of this iconography of the goddess and because the main evidence for ‘armed Aphrodite’ (Paus. 2.5.1
** 148 bottom, delete ‘her’ after ‘characterised’; 149n26 read
Jenifer Neils (‘Athena, Alter ego of Zeus’ 219-232) explores the close relations between Athena and her father Zeus in Athenian iconography from the mid-sixth c. on, in particular in connection with the birth myth, the gigantomachy and the reception of Herakles on Olympus. This association gave Athena the strength and weapons of Zeus; Herakles, like an ‘Athenian Everyman’, benefited from her patronage to achieve immortality. Of particular interest is her interpretation of the E. frieze of the Parthenon, which she takes as representing Zeus and Athena sitting side by side (from the perspective of a semi-circle of gods receiving the procession with the Panathenaean peplos). The cult association of Athena, Zeus and Herakles served to deliver these gods’ strength to the ambitious and ‘upwardly-mobile’ Athenians of the sixth and fifth centuries.
** 220 middle ‘head [of] Zeus’; 220 surely Poseidon shared the honours with Athena on the Athenian Acropolis? 222 middle
Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones (‘Sexy Athena: the dress and erotic representation of a virgin war-goddess’, 233-257).
Drawing on J.C. Fluegel, The Psychology of Clothes, 1930, L. analyzes the clothing of Athena in Athenian art for what it shows about contemporary mores. Unlike e.g. Egyptian deities Greek deities ‘moved with the times’ in L’s phrase, in their clothing which mirrored contemporary dress habits. In the sixth and fifth centuries men were depicted nude, women always clothed, as aidos was obligatory in women. Athena’s dress in the early decades of the 5th c. reflected the military threat Athens faced from Persia; Athena was consistently shown in warrior dress, with no emphasis on the female body under the clothes. Here dress exemplifed Fluegel’s category of protective and defensive. However, in the course of the fifth century, Athena’s clothing came to reveal more of her underlying shape and even, culminating in the Parthenon frieze, emphasized the desirability of the body underneath. L. links this with Perikles’ admonition to the Athenians in the funeral speech attributed to him by Thuc. (2.43) to become ‘lovers’ (
** 256 top
Alexandra Karentzos (‘Femininity and ‘neuer Mythos’: Pallas Athena in turn of the century art’, 259-273) interestingly discusses the images of Athena painted by two artists, Franz von Stuck in Munich and Gustav Klimt in Vienna, leaders of a ‘Secession’ movement in art in the late 19th c. She suggests that the combination of a hieratic and sexualized appearance of Athena in their art reflected contemporary psychology and anthropology (Freud, Weininger, Bachofen) with their emphasis of the enigmatic but fascinating quality of female sexuality; for the psychologists and in art Athena became emblematic of the elemental ‘binary’ opposition between the intellectual qualities of the male and the allure of the ‘telluric’ female. Athena in these artists’ work acquires Sphinx-like qualities, and her Gorgoneion links her with ‘serpentine’ aspects of sexuality. Moreover, K. shows how these two artists used elements of classical iconography (‘historicism’) in a playful and eclectic manner, thus exploiting tradition in a newly creative way.
** 259 bottom: plates 22a and 22b are wrongly numbered; 262 middle ‘dispositiv’ will not do as English for German ‘Dispositiv’ (‘disposition’?); 265 bottom: the Erinyes are not ‘the goddesses of fate’.
Section Three: Literary Accounts
Andromache Karanika (‘Memories of poetic discourse in Athena’s cult practices’, 277-291) focuses on the implicit links between poetic (mainly epic) narratives of Athena’s epiphanies to men and her worship in cult. Beginning with an interesting section in which she argues that the forms Athena’s epiphanies take in the Odyssey (e.g. Mentes to Telemachos) are meant to be analogically suggestive of their narratological purpose (to stimulate someone to a particular action or frame of mind), she goes on to examine a similar relationship between poetic narrative and actual cult. Of course this is a return to the long-discussed question of the logical relationship between myth and ritual; K. attempts to bring fresh life to the discussion by introducing material from modern Greek folklore (cult and myth of St. Elias) but here her discussion suffers from failure to examine details of the saint’s cult. L.M. Danforth, e.g., ( Firewalking and religious healing, Princeton 1989) succeeds far better in his examination of the song narratives about Mikrokonstantinos in connection with the Anastenaria festival. Likewise her otherwise interesting discussion of the relation between the dedication of the peplos to Athena by the Trojan women in the Iliad and the Athenian Panathenaic ceremony is marred by poor logic: it cannot have been the intention of Homer to show the Trojan women’s gift to Athena failing because the peplos they offered was made by Sidonian women and not their own work (as in the case of the Athenian peplos); a moment’s thought would show that there was not time in view of the acute danger threatening Troy for the Trojan women to commence weaving an elaborate peplos. The beauty of their gift (crafted by Sidonian women) indicates its value, not its bogus status as a votum.
** 280n.8 Heubeck; 281 bottom: aition not aetia; 283 bottom ‘Peisistratian’; 284 top: Lys. 574 (not 565)-576; ibid.
Thalia Papadopoulou (‘Representations of Athena in Greek tragedy’, 293-310, writes clearly and accurately on the major appearances and roles of Athena in tragedy. She distinguishes an Athena inherited from epic (supporter of Odysseus, enemy of Troy etc.) from an Athenian Athena (Polias), although pointing to plays (Sophocles’ Aias; Eur. Herakles) where both identities are apparent. She emphasizes the civic role of Athena as protectress of the polis, even when private issues such as progeny are involved (Eur. Ion). Like Neils she points to the close alliance of Athena and Zeus as upholders of the world order, though pointing also to examples of Athena’s ability to deceive and disappoint (Soph. Aias; Eur. Trojan Women). No doubt correctly, she connects the predominant identity of Athena on the Attic stage with the role Athena played in Athens itself; tragedians and their audiences were clearly deeply imbued with their goddess’es state cult. P. makes no attempt to distinguish Athena as portrayed by the individual authors or diachronically. Her guiding light seems to be the concept of a unified and ‘given’ Athena whose historical identity can be reconstructed through the facets of tragedians’ words; the reverse process — that the tragedians were responsible for ‘constructing’ Athena — is not considered.
** 305 bottom
Silvia Milanezi (‘Headaches and gnawed peplos: Laughing with Athena’, 311-329) considers the role of smiling and laughter in literary scenes involving Athena. In epic she finds that Athena’s laughter, when it occurs (e.g. her jibes at Ares in Iliad 5), are the prelude, or sequel to victory, either by Athena over her rivals or by her favourites (Odysseus, Penelope) over theirs. When Athena is made to look a little ridiculous (e.g in Iliad 8 when her annoyance with Zeus is effortlessly quashed by him) she is still not a figure of fun but rather a — temporarily thwarted — champion of the Achaeans. In epic Athena never loses her dignity. Even in later Attic comedy M. concludes that the Athenians still felt so close to their patron goddess that, although she is sometimes included in the fun, it is not to ridicule her but rather themselves, or Athens. It is only in the Batrachomyomachia that Athena is ‘seriously’ lampooned when she is made to say that she will not fight on the mice’s side as they have gnawed through her peplos, nor on the frogs’, as they gave her a headache with their croaking. M. concedes that the social and historical background of this mock-epic is uncertain, but raises the question how the mockery of Athena is meant — as a sign of change, demotion of the old gods in favour of new? Hardly, she concludes, rightly I think; rather, the parody is meant here to equate Athena’s lowly position with the lowly position of people; the parody brings her down to the level of you and me, increasing her nearness. I missed discussion of Callimachus’ Bath of Athena, as here is a text which confronts aspects of the ridiculous (the cart squeaking under the goddess’ weight) with extreme seriousness (Teiresias’ story).
Sarah Spence (‘Pallas/Athena In and Out of the Aeneid’, 331-348) creates, in my opinion, a tissue of improbabilities around the thesis that Pallas (Athena) is more important in the Aeneid than one would suspect. Her main handhold for the theory is the fact that ‘Pallas’ induces Aeneas to stab Turnus at the end; but this Pallas is Evander’s son, previously killed by Turnus; not so, argues S.; in fact this is Vergil’s sly way of reminding the reader of Pallas Athena’s killing of Lokrian Aias at sea at the beginning of the epic. Having established the idea that Pallas ‘appears’ at the end of the epic in this crucial scene, S. goes on to associate Pallas with the ‘feminine side’ of Jupiter, whatever that might be, and that ‘Pallas comes to represent the crux of the Aeneid‘s efforts to explore the relationship between furor and pietas‘…’The text seems to be engaged in finding that point of contact that is also the mark of difference (sc. between the male and female), telling the full story, which in this case is both the female and the male side, the history of the feminine as it is inscribed in the story of the masculine, furor as a part of pietas, Pallas as the feminine aspect of Jupiter’ (340-41). In fact I would not object to a theory of the Aeneid which saw the poem poised between the forces of furor and pietas; after all, it is this internal struggle which is made explicit in the hero Aeneas: restraint or wanton slaughter of the Latins. But to make Pallas (i.e. Minerva) the pin on which to hang her gender theories seems to me wide of the mark. Minerva plays a very subordinate part in the Aeneid because Venus is the patroness of the hero and Juno is the villain of the piece; Vergil could not clutter his divine apparatus unduly. I also object to S.’s use of four fragments of an Augustan marble krater in the Terme museum. Her reconstruction of the scenes depicted on the fragments is clearly highly conjectural. It cannot be made the crown witness for her case that Minerva must be prominent in the Aeneid, even if Vergil does not say so. I wonder if S. has really thought through the implications of equating Pallas Athena with furor in the poem: that goes against everything the Greeks revered in Athena: intelligence, courage, chaste devotion.
Annette Teffeteller (‘Greek Athena and the Hittite sungoddess of Arinna’, 349-365) writes most interestingly on a possible connection between Athena and the Hittite ‘Sungoddess of Arinna’ whose cult and attributes as warrior-goddess and protrectress of monarchs are documented (especially) by records of the Hittite kings Hattusili and Mursili II for the second millennium BC. T. points out that contacts between the Mycenean World and the western seaboard of Anatolia were intensive and that the earliest written record of Athena, ‘Atanapotinija’ on the linear B tablet KN V52 from Knossos, alongside Enyalius, Paiaon and Poseidon, may reflect Crete’s privileged position as link between the Mycenean West and the Near East. I cannot judge whether her linguistic account of how Hittite ‘Arinna’ (a place-name) might have emerged on a Greek tongue as ‘Athana’ — the argument involves the ‘flapped’ pronunciation of ‘r’ as an aspirated dental ‘dh’ (then ‘th’) — but her comparative observations on the parallel cults of a goddess who leads into battle and protects with mighty hand in the Hittite and historical Greek world make fascinating reading on their own. Of particular interest are her summary remarks on the cultural exchange between East and West via priests, doctors, traders etc. — not new but revealing a command of the linguistic and archaeological evidence. In n.66 she dismisses M. Bernal’s proposal (in Black Athena) that Athena may be derived from Egypt.
**362n.66 ‘eine Strukturanalyse’.
I find myself so much out of sympathy with Nick Allen’s (‘Athena and Durga: warrior goddesses in Greek and Sanskrit epic’, 367-382) basic argument that a balanced appraisal is difficult. His approach is that of an ‘Indo-European cultural comparatavist’, which means in this case comparing aspects of the Odyssey with aspects of the Sanskrit Mahabharata in order to show that a proto-narrative (Indo-European) underlies both. But when one finds that five brothers in the Sanskrit epic are being compared with a single hero in the Odyssey, that the key episode in A.’s comparison — the appearance of a goddess before a period in which the protagonists exist incognito — is missing from the earliest versions of the Sanskrit epic (A. resorts to the thesis that omission is not necessarily a sign that the episode was added to the epic later), I find my patience wearing very thin. When reading e.g. Melanesian and South American Indian myths in the past, I have often been impressed with the fact that narrative sections — sometimes extensive — are remarkably similar to Greek mythical narratives, but I would never dream of claiming that they had a common ancestor, a shared ‘proto-narrative’. Another, for me decisive, objection stems from one’s intuitive assumptions about the generation of mythical narrative. Although I would never claim that the Odyssey (or the Iliad) is historical in any meaningful sense, one is imbued as a classical scholar with the belief that the narrative is connected with the historical situation in Greece following the collapse of the palace economies at the end of the Mycenean period. That means that the narrative was generated by a certain (unique) cultural situation in which the tale was meaningful to its hearers. This unique cultural situation means precisely that narratives are not shared by separate cultures. Of course story-tellers may get their ideas both from predecessors (going back centuries, even millennia) and from their cultural neighbours (diffusion) but a narrative in its meaningful detail (and it is the detail which is meaningful, not some lowest common denominator of narrative so simple as to underlie many stories) has its own cultural ‘Ort’.
A twelve-page bibliography, a twenty-two page general index, indexes of museum objects and literary sources and twenty-four glossy monochrome plates of good quality complete the volume.