KEKROPS (Cecrops) was an early, earth-born king of Attika and founder the city of Athens. He was depicted as a man from the waist up with a serpent's-tail in place of legs.
Kekrops was the first man to offer sacrifices to the goddess Athena after her birth from the head of Zeus and he established her ancient shrine on the Akropolis. When Poseidon disputed her claim to the city, Kekrops was asked to adjudicate and ruled in her favour. He was succeeded on the throne by Athena's foster-son, the earth-born hero Erikthonios (Erichthonius).
FAMILY OF CECROPS
[1.1] GAIA (i.e. earth-born) (Apollodorus 3.14.1, Antoninus Liberalis 6, Hyginus Fabulae 48)
[2.1] HEPHAISTOS (Hyginus Fabulae 158)
[1.1] HERSE, AGLAUROS, PANDROSOS, ERYSIKHTHON (by Agraulos) (Apollodorus 3.14.2)
[1.1] HERSE, AGLAUROS, PANDROSOS, ERYSIKHTHON (Pausanias 1.2.6)
[1.2] HERSE, AGLAUROS, PANDROSOS (Hyginus Fabulae 166, Ovid Metamorphoses 2.546)
CECROPS (Kekrôps), according to Apollodorus (iii. 14. § 1, &c.) the first king of Attica, which derived from him its name Cecropia, having previously borne the name of Acte. He is described as an autochthon, and is accordingly called a gêgenês, the upper part of whose body was human, while the lower was that of a dragon. Hence he is called diphuês or geminus. (Hygin. Fab. 48; Anton. Lib. 6; Diod. i. 28; Aristoph. Vesp. 438; Ov. Met. ii. 555.) Some ancients referred the epithet diphuês to marriage, of which tradition made him the founder. He was married to Agraulos, the daughter of Actaeus, by whom he had a son, Erysichthon, and three daughters, Agraulos, Herse, and Pandrosos. (Apollod. l. c.; Paus. i. 2. § 5.) In his reign Poseidon called forth with his trident a well on the acropolis, which was known in later times by the name of the Erechthean well, from its being enclosed in the temple of Erechtheus. (Paus. i. 26. § 6; Herod. viii. 55.) The marine god now wanted to take possession of the country; but Athena, who entertained the same desire, planted an olivetree on the hill of the acropolis, which continued to be shown at Athens down to the latest times ; and as she had taken Cecrops as her witness while she planted it, he decided in her favour when the possession of Attica was disputed between her and Poseidon, who had no witness to attest that he had created the well. Cecrops is represented in the Attic legends as the author of the first elements of civilized life, such as marriage, the political division of Attica into twelve communities, and also as the introducer of a new mode of worship, inasmuch as he abolished the bloody sacrifices which had until then been offered to Zeus, and substituted cakes (pelanoi) in their stead. (Paus. viii. 2. § 1; Strab. ix. p. 397; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1156.) The name of Cecrops occurs also in other parts of Greece, especially where there existed a town of the name of Athenae, such as in Boeotia, where he is said to have founded the ancient towns of Athenae and Eleusis on the river Triton, and where he had a heroum at Haliartus. Tradition there called him a son of Pandion. (Paus. ix. 33, § 1; Strab. ix. p. 407.) In Euboea, which had likewise a town Athenae, Cecrops was called a son of Erechtheus and Praxithea, and a grandson of Pandion. (Apollod. iii. 15. §§ 1, 5; Paus. i. 5. § 3.) From these traditions it appears, that Cecrops must be regarded as a hero of the Pelasgian race; and Müller justly remarks, that the different mythical personages of this name connected with the towns in Boeotia and Euboea are only multiplications of the one original hero, whose name and story were transplanted from Attica to other places. The later Greek writers describe Ceerops as having immigrated into Greece with a band of colonists from Sais in Egypt. (Diod. i. 29; Schol. ad Arist. Plut. 773.) But this account is rejected by some of the ancients.
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
CECROPS KING OF ATTICA
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 14. 1 - 2 (trans. Frazer) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Kekrops (Cecrops), a son of the soil, with a body compounded of man and serpent, was the first king of Attika (Attica), and the country which was formerly called Akte (Acte) he named Kekropia (Cecropia) after himself. In his time, they say, the gods resolved to take possession of cities in which each of them should receive his own peculiar worship. So Poseidon was the first that came to Attika, and with a blow of his trident on the middle of the acropolis, he produced a sea which they now call Erekhtheis (Erechtheis). After him came Athena, and, having called on Kekrops to witness her act of taking possession, she planted an olive tree, which is still shown in the Pandrosion (Pandrosium). But when the two strove for possession of the country, Zeus parted them and appointed arbiters, not, as some have affirmed, Kekrops and Kranaus (Cranaus), nor yet Erysikhthon (Erysichthon), but the twelve gods. And in accordance with their verdict the country was adjudged to Athena, because Kekrops bore witness that she had been the first to plant the olive. Athena, therefore, called the city Athens after herself, and Poseidon in hot anger flooded the Thriasian plain and laid Attika under the sea.
Kekrops married Agraulos (Agraulus), daughter of Aktaios (Actaeus), and had a son Erysikhthon, who departed this life childless; and Kekrops had daughters, Agraulos, Herse, and Pandrosos."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 14. 5 :
"When Kekrops (Cecrops) died, Kranaus (Cranaus) came to the throne; he was a son of the soil, and it was in his time that the flood in the age of Deukalion (Deucalion) is said to have taken place."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 14. 6 :
"Having put him [the earth-born infant Erikhthonios (Erichthonius)] in a chest, she [Athena] committed it to Pandrosos, daughter of Kekrops (Cecrops)."
Herodotus, Histories 8. 44. 2 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"The Athenians, while the Pelasgians ruled what is now called Hellas, were Pelasgians, bearing the name of Kranai (Cranae). When Kekrops (Cecrops) was their king they were called Kekropidai (sons of Kekrops), and when Erekhtheus (Erechtheus) succeeded to the rule, they changed their name and became Athenians. When, however, Ion son of Xouthos (Xuthus) was commander of the Athenian army, they were called after him Ionians."
Herodotus, Histories 8. 53. 1 :
"The sacred precinct of Kekrops' (Cecrops') daughter Aglauros."
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War 2. 15. 1 (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"Under Kekrops (Cecrops) and the first kings, down to the reign of Theseus, Attika (Attica) had always consisted of a number of independent townships, each with its own town-hall and magistrates."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 56. 5 - 6 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"The Heliadai (Heliadae) . . . were told by Helios that the first people to offer sacrifices to Athena would ever enjoy the presence of the goddess; and the same thing, we are told, was disclosed by him to the inhabitants of Attika (Attica). Men say, the Heliadai [of Rhodes], forgetting in their haste to put fire beneath the victims, nevertheless laid them on the altars at the time, whereas Kekrops (Cecrops), who was king at that time of the Athenians, performed the sacrifice over fire, but later than the Heliadai."
Strabo, Geography 9. 1. 18 - 20 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The account would be much longer if one should pass in review the early founders of the settlement [of Athens], beginning with Kekrops (Cecrops); for all writers do not agree about them, as is shown even by the names . . .
It suffices, then, to add thus much : According to Philokhoros (Philochorus), when the country was being devastated, both from the sea by the Karians (Carians), and from the land by the Boiotians, who were called Aonians, Kekrops first settled the multitude in twelve cities, the names of which were Kekropia (Cecropia), Tetrapolis, Epakria (Epacria), Dekeleia (Decelea), Eleusis, Aphidna (also called Aphidnai, in the plural), Thorikos (Thoricus), Brauron, Kytheros (Cytherus), Sphettos, Kephisia (Cephisia). And at a later time Theseus is said to have united the twelve into one city, that of today."
Strabo, Geography 9. 2. 18 :
"Eleusis and Athens on the Triton River [in Boiotia]. These cities, it is said, were founded by Kekrops (Cecrops), when he ruled over Boiotia (Boeotia), then called Ogygia, but were later wiped out by inundations."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 2. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"It is said that Aktaios (Actaeus) was the first king of what is now Attika (Attica). When he died, Kekrops (Cecrops), the son-in-law of Aktaios, received the kingdom, and there were born to him daughters, Herse, Aglauros and Pandrosos, and a son Erysikhthon (Erysichthon). This son did not become king of the Athenians, but happened to die while his father lived, and the kingdom of Kekrops fell to Kranaus, the most powerful of the Athenians."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 5. 3 :
"[Near the Tholos or council-house of Athens :] I saw also among the eponymoi [i.e. the eponymous heroes of Attika] statues of Kekrops (Cecrops) and Pandion, but I do not know who of those names are thus honored. For there was an earlier ruler Kekrops who took to wife the daughter of Aktaios (Actaeus), and a later--he it was who migrated to Euboia--son of Erekhtheus (Erechtheus), son of Pandion, son of Erikhthonios (Erichthonius). And there was a king Pandion who was son of Erikhthonios, and another who was son of Kekrops the second."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 27. 1 :
"In the temple of Athena Polias (Of the City) [in Athens] is a wooden Hermes, said to have been dedicated by Kekrops (Cecrops), but not visible because of myrtle boughs."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 31. 5 :
"I have already written that many of the inhabitants of the [Attic] parishes say that they were ruled by kings even before the reign of Kekrops (Cecrops). Now Kolainos (Colaenus), say the Myrrhinousians, is the name of a man who ruled [in Myrrhinos] before Kekrops became king."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 38. 3 :
"Keryx (Ceryx), the younger of his sons whom the Kerykes (Ceryces) themselves say [that Keryx] was a son of Aglauros, daughter of Kekrops (Cecrops), and of Hermes."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 2. 2 - 3 :
"My view is that Lykaon (Lycaon) [king of Arkadia] was contemporary with Kekrops (Cecrops), the king of Athens, but that they were not equally wise in matters of religion. For Kekrops was the first to name Zeus the Supreme god, and refused to sacrifice anything that had life in it, but burnt instead on the altar the national cakes which the Athenians still call pelanoi. But Lykaon brought a human baby to the altar of Zeus Lykaios, and sacrificed it."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 10. 1 :
"[Amongst the items dedicated by the Athenians at Delphoi :] Statues were dedicated from a tithe of the spoils taken in the engagement at Marathon. They represent Athena, Apollo, and Miltiades, one of the generals. Of those called heroes there are Erekhtheus (Erechtheus), Kekrops (Cecrops), Pandion, Leos, Antiokhos (Antiochus), son of Herakles by Meda, daughter of Phylas, as well as Aegeus and Akamas (Acamas), one of the sons of Theseus. These heroes gave names, in obedience to a Delphic oracle, to tribes at Athens."
Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 6 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"There was once in Attika a certain Periphas, of Earth-Sprung stock (autokhthon), who lived there even before Kekrops (Cecrops), son of Ge (Gaea, the Earth) had emerged."
Aelian, Historical Miscellany 5. 13 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"The Athenians were strangely versatile in political matters and especially prone to revolutions. They accepted patiently the monarchy of Kekrops (Cecrops), Erekhtheus (Erechtheus), Theseus and the Kodridai (Codridae) who followed."
Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks 3 (trans. Butterworth) :
"In the Akropolis (Acropolis) at Athens the tomb of Kekrops (Cecrops), as Antiokhos (Antiochus)says in his ninth book of Histories."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 48 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Kings of the Athenians. Cecrops, son of Terra (Earth) [Gaia] . . ."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 158 :
"Sons of Vulcanus [Hephaistos]. Philammon. Cecrops. Erichthonius . . ."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 166 :
"When Minerva [Athena] was secretly caring for him [i.e. the earth-born Erichthonius], she gave him in a chest to Aglaurus, Pandrosus, and Herse, daughters of Cecrops, to guard."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 28 :
"[The constellation Aquarius or Water-Bearer.] Euboulos, again, points out that he is Cecrops, commemorating the antiquity of the race, and showing that men used water in the sacrificed of the gods before wine was given to them, and that Cecrops ruled before wine was discovered."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 546 ff (trans. Brookes More) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Minerva [Athena] had enclosed that spawn; begot without a mother, Ericthonius; which to the wardship of three virgins, born of double-natured Cecrops . . . Herse and Pandrosos . . . [and] the third, Aglauros."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 70 ff (trans. Brookes More) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Minerva [Athena] worked the Athenian Hill of Mars, where ancient Cecrops built his citadel, and showed the old contention [i.e. her contest with Poseidon] for the name it [i.e. Athens] should be given."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 142 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"All these [Korybantes (Corybantes)] came then from the famous island [of Euboia] : Prymneus, and Mimas Waddlefoot, and Akmon the forester, Damneus and Okythoös the shieldman; and with them came flash-helm Melisseus as comrade to Idaios, whom their father Sokos (Socus) under the insane goad of impiety had once cast out of their brinegirt country along with Kombe (Combe) the mother of seven. They escaped and passed to Knossian (Cnossian) soil, and again went on their travels from Krete (Crete) to Phrygia, and foreign settlers and hearthguests until Kekrops (Cecrops) destroyed Sokos with avenging blade of justice; then leaving the land of brineflooded Marathon turned their steps homewards to the sacred soil of the Abantes [i.e. the island of Euboia], the earthborn stock of the ancient Kouretes (Curetes)."
CECROPS II KING OF ATTICA
The second Kekrops was simply a duplication of the first, invented to pad out the list of mythical Athenian kings. The kings Erekhtheus-Erikhthonios and Pandion were multiplied in the same manner.
[1.1] EREKHTHEUS (Apollodorus 3.15.1, Pausanias 1.5.3 & 7.1.2)
[1.1] PANDION (by Metiadousa) (Apollodorus 3.15.6)
[1.2] PANDION (Pausanias 1.5.3)
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 15. 1 (trans. Frazer) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Erekhtheus (Erechtheus) married Praxithea, daughter of Phrasimos by Diogeneia, daughter of Kephisos (Cephisus), and had sons, to wit, Kekrops (Cecrops), Pandoros, and Metion."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 15. 6 :
"Poseidon having destroyed Erekhtheus (Erechtheus) and his house, Kekrops (Cecrops), the eldest of the sons of Erekhtheus, succeeded to the throne. He married Metiadousa, daughter of Eupalamos, and begat Pandion. This Pandion, reigning after Kekrops, was expelled by the sons of Metion in a sedition."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 5. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Near the Tholos or council-house of Athens :] I saw also among the eponymoi [i.e. the eponymous heroes of Attika] statues of Kekrops (Cecrops) and Pandion, but I do not know who of those names are thus honored. For there was an earlier ruler Kekrops who took to wife the daughter of Aktaios (Atcaeus), and a later [Kekrops]--he it was who migrated to Euboia--son of Erekhtheus (Erechtheus), son of Pandion, son of Erikhthonios (Erichthonius). And there was a king Pandion who was son of Erikhthonios, and another who was son of Kekrops the second."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 1. 2 :
"On the death of Erekhtheus (Erechtheus) Xouthos (Xuthus) was appointed judge to decide which of his sons should succeed him. He decided that Kekrops (Cecrops), the eldest of them, should be king, and was accordingly banished from the land by the rest of the sons of Erekhtheus."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 33. 1 :
"In Haliartos [a Boiotian town] too there is the tomb of Lysandros (Lysander) and a hero-shrine of Kekrops (Cecrops) the son of Pandion." [N.B. This is probably an error, Pausanias elsewhere describes him as the father of Pandion.]
CECROPIA, CECROPIDES & CECROPIDAE
Kekropia (Cecropia), the Kekropides (Cecropides) and Kekropidai (literally "the sons of Kekrops") were names used by the poets for Athens and the Athenians in general. A few examples are given below. These terms also occur in Euripides (Ion 936), Aristophanes (Knights 1055, Birds 1407), et. al.
Euripides, Hippolytus 34 ff (trans. Kovacs) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Theseus has left the land of Kekrops (khthon Kekropion)."
Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis 228 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"He put off with his ships from Kekropiê (the land of Kekrops)."
Callimachus, Hymn 4 to Delos 314 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The ever-living offerings of the Pilgrim Ship do the Kekropidai (sons of Kekrops) send to Phoibos."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 15. 428 ff (trans. Brookes More) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Cecrops' citadel [i.e. Athens] and Amphion's [i.e. Thebes] shone in ancient power."
Ovid, Fasti 3. 80 ff (trans. Frazer) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Pallas is worshipped by the Cecropidae (sons of Cecrops) [i.e. by the Athenians]."
Ovid, Fasti 4. 502 ff :
"She came to thy havens, land of Attica. There for the first time she sat her down most rueful on a cold stone: that stone even now the Cecropidae call the Sorrowful."
Ovid, Heroides 10. 125 ff (trans. Showerman) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"You will go to the haven of Cecrops."
Virgil, Aeneid 6. 20 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"The Cecropidae (children of Cecrops) [i.e. the Athenians], bidden, alas, to pay as yearly tribute seven living sons."
Seneca, Phaedra 2 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Ye Cecropidae (sons of Cecrops)! [i.e. the Athenians.]"
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 5. 646 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Were I to plunder Mycenae's famous heights or the virgin citadel of Cecrops."
Statius, Thebaid 12. 565 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Make haste, ye worthy Cecropidae (sons of Cecrops)!"
Statius, Achilleid 205 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"The Cecropidae (sons of Cecrops) [i.e. Athenians], sure to excite to noble deeds."
Claudian, Rape of Proserpine 1. 8 ff :
"And now I hear a loud din from the depths of the earth, the temple of Cecrops [i.e. the Acropolis of Athens] re-echoes and Eleusis waves its holy torches."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 171 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"The Kekropides (Cecropides) [i.e. the Athenians] were mustered by Erekhtheus, the glutton of battle."
- Euripides, Hippolytus - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Herodotus, Histories - Greek History C5th B.C.
- Thucydides, Peloponnesian War - Greek History C5th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Callimachus, Hymns - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Callimachus, Fragments - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Aelian, Historical Miscellany - Greek Rhetoric C2nd - 3rd A.D.
- Clement, Exhortation to the Greeks - Christian Scholar C2nd A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Ovid, Fasti - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Ovid, Heroides - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Virgil, Aeneid - Latin Epic C1st B.C.
- Seneca, Phaedra - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Achilleid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Claudian, Rape of Proserpine - Latin Poetry C4th A.D.
Other references not currently quoted here: Parian Chronicle (Marmor Parium 2-4), Eusebius Praeparatio Evangelii 10.10, Aristophanes Wasps 438 with the Scholiast, Euripides Ion 1163, Tzetzes Scholiast on Lycophron 111, Tzetzes Chiliades 5.638, Scholiast on Aristophanes Plutus 773, Diodorus Siculus 1.28.7.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.