ATHENE CULT 2
ATHENA was the Olympian goddess of the defense of towns and the crafts of weaving, pottery and sculpture.
This page describes her cult in the central Peloponnese. Her most important shrine in the area was the Bronze House on the Acropolis of Sparta. She also had an important shrine on the isle of Hiera in Argolis which, in myth, was celebrated as the birth place of the hero Theseus.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
CULT IN SICYONIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. SICYON (SIKYON) Main Town of Sicyonia (Sikyonia)
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 3. 72b (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"In Sikyon there is a shrine of Athena Kolokasia (of the edible tubers)."
II. TITANE Town in Sicyonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 12. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"In Titane [Sikyonia] there is also a sanctuary of Athena, into which they bring up the image of Koronis [mother of Asklepios]. In it is an old wooden figure of Athena, and I was told that it, too, was struck by lightning. The sanctuary is built upon a hill."
CULT IN ARGOLIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. ARGOS Main City of Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 21. 3 :
"A sanctuary of Athena Salpinx (War-Trumpet) [in the city of Argos] they say was founded by Hegeleos. This Hegeleos, according to the story, was the son of Tyrsenos, and Tyrsenos was the son of Herakles and the Lydian woman; Tyrsenos invented the trumpet, and Hegeleos, the son of Tyrsenos, taught the Dorians with Temenos how to play the instrument, and for this reason gave Athena the surname Trumpet."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 22. 2 :
"Opposite the grave [of the Haliai in Argolis] is a small bronze vessel supporting ancient images of Artemis, Zeus, and Athena."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 23. 5 :
"I cannot agree with them [the Argives] when they say that in Argos . . . there is among them the image of Athena [the Palladion] that was brought from Troy, thus causing the capture of that city. For the Palladion, as it is called, was manifestly brought to Italia by Aeneas."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 24. 2 :
"[At Argos] is a sanctuary of Athena Oxyderkes (Sharp-sighted), dedicated by Diomedes, because once when he was fighting at Troy the goddess removed the mist from his eyes."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 24. 3 :
"On the top of Larisa [the acropolis of Argos] is . . . a temple of Athena worth seeing."
II. CLEONAE (KLEONAI) Village in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 15. 1 :
"Here [in Kleonai, Argolis] there is a sanctuary of Athena, and the image is a work of Skyllis and Dipoinos."
III. LESSA Village in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 25. 10 :
"[In Argos] a village Lessa, in which is a temple of Athena with a wooden image exactly like the one on the citadel Larisa [in the city of Argos]."
IV. EPIDAURUS (EPIDAUROS) Town in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 29. 1:
"The Athena on the citadel [in Epidauros, Argolis], a wooden image worth seeing, they surname Kissaia (Ivy Goddess)."
V. TROEZEN (TROIZENOS) Town in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 30. 6 :
"During his [Althepos king of Troizenos in Argolis] reign, they say, Athena and Poseidon disputed about the land [of Troizenos], and after disputing held it in common, as Zeus commanded them to do. For this reason they worship both Athena, whom they name both Polias (of the City) and Sthenias (Strong), and also Poseidon, under the surname of King. And moreover their old coins have as device a trident and a face of Athena."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 32. 5 :
"On the citadel [of Troizenos, Argolis] is a temple of Athena, called Sthenias (Strong). The wooden image itself of the goddess was made by Kalion, of Aigina."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 33. 1 :
"The Troizenians [of Argolis] possess islands, one of which is near the mainland, and it is possible to wade across the channel. This was formerly called Sphairia, but its name was changed to Hiera (Sacred Island) for the following reason . . . In obedience forsooth to a dream from Athena, [the mythical princess] Aithra crossed over into the island with libations for [the dead hero] Sphairos. After she had crossed, Poseidon is said to have had intercourse with her here. So for this reason Aithra set up here a temple of Athena Apatouria (Deceitful), and changed the name from Sphairia to Hiera (Sacred Island). She also established a custom for the Troizenian maidens of dedicating their girdles before wedlock to Athena Apatouria."
VI. MT. BUPORTHMUS (BOUPORTHMOS) Mountain near Hermione in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 34. 8 :
"[Near Hermione, Argolis is] a mountain, projecting into the sea from the Peloponnesos, called Bouporthmos (Ox-ford). On Bouporthmos has been built a sanctuary of Demeter and her daughter, as well as one of Athena, surnamed Promakhorma (Champion of the Anchorage)."
VII. HERMIONE Town in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 34. 10 :
"Here the Hermionians [in Argolis] had their former city. They still have sanctuaries here: one of Poseidon at the east end of the spit, and a temple of Athena further inland by the side of the latter are the foundations of a race-course, in which legend says the sons of Tyndareus contended. There is also another sanctuary of Athena, of no great size, the roof of which has fallen in."
VIII. MT. PONTINUS (PONTINOS) Mountain in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 36. 8 :
"Upon the top of the mountain [Mount Pontinos in Argolis] is a sanctuary of Athena Saitis, now merely a ruin." [N.B. Athena was identified the Egyptian goddess Neith who worshipped in the town of Sais.]
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 37. 2 :
"[The mythical king] Danaus himself made the sanctuary of Athena by the Pontinos [river near Lerna, Argolis]."
CULT IN LACEDAEMONIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. SPARTA, ACROPOLIS (AKROPOLIS) Main City of Lacedaemonia (Lakedaimonia)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 17. 2 - 4 :
"There are, however, hills in the city [of Sparta], and the highest of them they call the citadel. Here is built a sanctuary of Athena, who is called both Polioukhos (City-protecting) and Khalkioikon (Lady of the Bronze House). The building of the sanctuary was begun, they say, by [the mythical king] Tyndareus. On his death his children were desirous of making a second attempt to complete the building, and the resources they intended to use were the spoils of Aphidna. They too left it unfinished, and it was many years afterwards that the Lakedaemonians made of bronze both the temple and the image of Athena. The builder was Gitiadas, a native of Sparta, who also composed Dorian lyrics, including a hymn to the goddess. On the bronze are wrought in relief many of the labours of Herakles and many of the voluntary exploits he successfully carried out, besides the rape of the daughters of Leukippos and other achievements of the sons of Tyndareus. There is also Hephaistos releasing his mother from the fetters . . . There are also represented nymphs bestowing upon Perseus, who is starting on his enterprise against Medousa in Libya, a cap and the shoes by which he was to be carried through the air. There are also wrought the birth of Athena, Amphitrite, and Poseidon, the largest figures, and those which I thought the best worth seeing. There is here another sanctuary of Athena; her surname is Ergane (the Worker)."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 17. 7 :
"By the side of the altar of [Athena] Khalkioikon (the Lady of the Bronze House) stand two statues of [the historical Spartan] Pausanias, the general at Plataia . . . Pausanias was detected in his treachery [against his own country], and was the only suppliant of Khalkioikon (the Lady of the Bronze House) [Athena] who failed to win security, solely because he had been unable to wipe away a defilement of bloodshed."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 15. 5 :
"It was the view of [the historical Messenian leader] Aristomenes that any man would be ready to die in battle if he had first done deeds worthy of record, but that it was his own especial task at the very beginning of the war to prove that he had struck terror into the Lakedaimonians and that he would be more terrible to them for the future. With this purpose he came by night to Lakedaimon and fixed on the temple of Athena Khalkioikon (of the Brazen House) a shield inscribed ‘The Gift of Aristomenes to the Goddess, taken from Spartans.’"
Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 5. 11 :
"The Lakedaimonians still possess a sanctuary of Athena of the Bronze House."
Pseudo-Plutarch, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories 10 (trans. Babbitt) (Greek historian C2nd A.D.) :
"Pausanias, the [historical] Spartan general, accepted five hundred talents of gold from Xerxes and intended to betray Sparta. But when he was detected, Agesilaüs, his father, helped to pursue him to the temple of Athena Khalkioikos (of the Brazen House); the father walled up the doors of the shrine with bricks and killed his son by starvation. So says Khrysermos in the second book of his Histories."
Aelian, Historical Miscellany 9. 49 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Pausanias the Spartan . . . was in the temple of Khalikioikis (the Goddess of the Bronze House), struggling against hunger and on the point of death." [N.B. This temple of Athena was the main building in the city centre at Sparta, and a place of refuge for suppliants.]
Suidas s.v. Khalkioikos (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Khalkioikos (of the Bronze House) : Athena in Sparta. The term arose either because she has a bronze house; or because it is a solid one; or because exiles from Khalkis in Euboia founded it."
I. SPARTA, LOWER CITY Main City of Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 11. 9 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"On their market-place the Spartans have images . . . of Zeus Agoraios (of the Market-place), another of Athena Agoraia (of the Market-place)."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 11. 11 :
"[In Sparta] besides the old Courts of the Ephors . . . there is also [a statue of] Zeus Xenios (Hospitable) and Athena Xenia (Hospitable)."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 12. 5 :
"[On the Aphetid road in Sparta] is a precinct of Poseidon of Tainaron . . . and near by an image of Athena, which is said to have been dedicated by the colonists who left for Tarenton in Italia."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 12. 4 :
"On the opposite side of the office of the Bidiaians [in Sparta, Lakedaimonia] is a sanctuary of Athena. Odysseus is said to have set up the image and to have named it Keleuthea (Lady of the Road), when he had beaten the suitors of Penelope in the foot-race. Of Keleuthea he set up sanctuaries, three in number, at some distance from each other."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 15. 6 :
"As you go from the Course [in Sparta] towards the east, there is a path on the right, with a sanctuary of Athena called Axiopoinos (Just Requital or Avenging). For when Herakles, in avenging himself on Hippokoon and his sons, had inflicted upon them a just requital for their treatment of his relative, he founded a sanctuary of Athena, and surnamed her Axiopoinos because the ancients used to call vengeance poinai. There is another sanctuary of Athena on another road from the Course. It was dedicated, they say, by Theras son of Autesion son of Tisamenos son of Thersandros, when he was leading a colony to the island now called Thera after him."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 18. 2 :
"As you go towards what is called the Alpion [in Sparta] is a temple of Athena Ophthalmitis (Goddess of the Eye). They say that [the historical leader] Lykourgus dedicated it when one of his eyes had been struck out by Alkandros, because the laws he had made happened not to find favour with Alkandros. Having fled to this place he was saved by the Lakedaemonians from losing his remaining eye, and so he made this temple of Athena Ophthalmitis."
II. Near SPARTA City of Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 20. 8 :
"On the road from Sparta to Arkadia there stands in the open an image of Athena surnamed Pareia (Healer)."
III. AMYCLAE (AMYKLAI) Town in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 13. 6 :
"Not far from Karneos [in Amyklai, Lakedaimonia] is what is called . . . the starting-place of the race run by the suitors of Penelope. There is a place having its porticoes in the form of a square, where of old stuff used to be sold to the people. By this is an altar of Zeus Amboulios (Counsellor) and of Athena Amboulia (Counsellor), also of the Dioskouroi, likewise surnamed Amboulioi (Counsellors)."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 19. 7 :
"Another road from the city [of Amyklai, Lakedaimonia] leads to Therapne, and on this road is a wooden image of Athena Alea."
IV. CYTHIUM (KYTHION) Village in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 21. 9 :
"On the citadel [of Kythion, Lakedaimonia] have been built a temple and image of Athena."
V. ACRIAE (AKRIAI) Village in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 22. 9 :
"On the citadel [of Akriai, Lakedaimonia] is also a sanctuary of Athena, surnamed Kyparissia (Cypress Goddess). At the foot of the citadel are the ruins of a city called the City of the Parakyparissian (Those who live beside the Cypress Goddess) Akhaians."
VI. ONOGNATHUS (ONOGNATHOS) Promontory in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 22. 10 :
"Two hundred stades from Asopos [in Lakedaimonia] there juts out into the sea a headland, which they call Onognathos (Jaw of an Ass). Here is a sanctuary of Athena, having neither image nor roof. Agamemnon is said to have made it."
VII. EPIDAURUS LIMERA Village in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 23. 10 :
"In Epidaurus Limera [in Lakedaimonia] is . . . a temple of Athena on the acropolis."
VIII. BRASIAE (BRASIAI) Village in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 24. 5 :
"There is a small promontory at Brasiai [in Lakedaimonia], which projects gently into the sea; on it stand bronze figures, not more than a foot high [of the Korybantes] . . . and a statue of Athena makes a fourth."
IX. LAS Village in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 24. 7 :
"Among the ruins [of Las, Lakedaimonia] is a temple of Athena named Asia, made, it is said, by Polydeukes and Kastor on their return home from Kolkhis; for the Kolkhians had a shrine of Athena Asia. I know that the sons of Tyndareus took part in Jason's expedition. As to the Kolkhians honoring Athena Asia, I give what I heard from the Lakedaimonians."
X. HIPPOLA Village in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 25. 9 :
"The ruins of a city Hippola [in Lakedaimonia]; among them is a sanctuary of Athena Hippolaitis."
XI. LEUCTRA (LEUKTRA) Town in Lacedaemonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 26. 5 :
"On the acropolis [of Leuktra, Lakedaimonia] is a sanctuary and image of Athena."
CULT IN MESSENIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. PHERAE (PHERAI) Village in Messenia
Strabo, Geography 8. 4. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Near Pherai [in Messenia] is the mouth of the Nedon River; it flows through Lakonia . . . It has a notable temple of Athena Nedousia. In Poiäessa, also, there is a temple of Athena Nedousia, named after some place called Nedon."
II. CORONE (KORONE) Village in Messenia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 34. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The statue of Athena also on the acropolis [of Korone Messenia] is of bronze, and stands in the open air, holding a crow (koronis) in her hand."
III. MOTHONE Village in Messenia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 35. 8 :
"In Mothone [in Messenia] is a temple of Athena Anemotis (Of the Winds), with a statue dedicated, it is said, by Diomede, who gave the goddess her name. The country being damaged by violent and unseasonable blasts, Diomede prayed to the goddess, and henceforward no disaster caused by the winds has visited their country."
IV. PYLOS Town in Messenia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 36. 2 :
"[Pylos in Messenia] contains a sanctuary of Athena with the title Koryphasia, and a house called the house of Nestor, in which there is a painting of him."
V. CYPARISSIA (KYPARISSIA) Village in Messenia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 36. 7 :
"There is a shrine of Apollo in Kyparissia [in Messenia] and of Athena with the title Kyparissia (of Kyparissiai or Lady of the Cypress)."
CULT IN ELIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I. ELIS Main Town of Elis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 3. 2 :
"The women of Elis, it is said, seeing that their land had been deprived of its vigorous manhood [following the war with Herakles], prayed to Athena that they might conceive at their first union with their husbands. Their prayer was answered, and they set up a sanctuary of Athena surnamed Meter (Mother)."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 21. 6 :
"In this district [of Elis] is a hill rising to a sharp peak, on which are the ruins of the city of Phrixa, as well as a temple of Athena surnamed Kydonia. This temple is not entire, but the altar is still there. The sanctuary was founded for the goddess, they say, by Klymenos, a descendant of Idaian Herakles, and he came from Kydonia in Krete and from the river Iardanos. The Eleans say that [the mythical king] Pelops too sacrificed to Athena Kydonia before he set about his contest with Oinomaos."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 26. 3 :
"On the Akropolis of the Eleans [in the city of Elis] is a sanctuary of Athena. The image is of ivory and gold. They say that the goddess is the work of Pheidias. On her helmet is an image of a cock, this bird being very ready to fight. The bird might also be considered as sacred to Athena the worker."
II. OLYMPIA Town & Sanctuary in Elis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 14. 5 - 9 :
"[At Olympia :] Fourthly and fifthly they sacrifice to Artemis and to Athena Leitis (Goddess of Booty), sixthly to [Athena] Ergane (the Worker Goddess). The descendants of Pheidias, called Cleansers, have received from the Eleans the privilege of cleaning the image of Zeus [in the great temple] from the dirt that settles on it, and they sacrifice to Ergane (the Worker Goddess) before they begin to polish the image. There is another altar of Athena near the temple [of Zeus] . . . [and further on] next come an altar of Homonoios (Concord), another of Athena."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 15. 6 :
"At the entrance to what is called the Wedge [by the racecourse at Olympia, Elis] there is on one side an altar of Ares Hippios (Horse-god), on the other one of Athena Hippia (Horse-goddess)."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 16. 7 :
"Narkaios [son of Dionysos and Physokoa of Elis] when he grew up he made war against the neighboring folk, and rose to great power, setting up moreover a sanctuary of Athena surnamed Narkaia [in Elis]."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 17. 2 :
"The Athena [in the temple of Hera at Olympia] wearing a helmet and carrying a spear and shield is, it is said, a work of Medon, a Lakedaimonian, brother of Dorykleidas and a pupil of the same masters."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 19. 12 :
"The Megarians who are neighbors of Attika built a treasury [at Olympia] and dedicated in it offerings, small cedar-wood figures inlaid with gold, representing the fight of Heracles with Akheloos. The figures include Zeus, Deianeira, Akheloos, Herakles, and Ares helping Akheloos. There once stood here an image of Athena, as being an ally of Herakles, but it now stands by the Hesperides in the Heraion."
III. SCILLUS (SKILLOS) Village in Elis
Strabo, Geography 8. 3. 14 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The temple of Athene Skilluntia at Skillos, in the neighborhood of Olympia near Phellon, is one of the famous temples [of the region of Triphylia in Elis]."
IV. LETRINI (LETRINOI) Village in Elis
Strabo, Geography 8. 3. 12 :
"Near the outlet of the river [the River Alpheios in Elis] is the sacred precinct of Artemis Alpheionia . . . In the temple are very famous paintings by two Korinthians, Kleanthes and Aregon : by Kleanthes the Capture of Troy and the Birth of Athene."
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Plutarch, Moralia - Greek Historian C1st - 2nd A.D.
- Aelian, Historical Miscellany - Greek Rhetoric C2nd - 3rd A.D.
- Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Suidas, The Suda - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.