Questions While Viewing Greek Myths and Rituals Through the Lens of Pausanias, II: In Mycenaean Times, Was Athena a Goddess Who Was Worshipped Only in Athens?
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CitationNagy, Gregory. 2020, April 24. Questions While Viewing Greek Myths and Rituals Through the Lens of Pausanias, II: In Mycenaean Times, Was Athena a Goddess Who Was Worshipped Only in Athens? Classical Inquiries.
AbstractIn classical Athenian visual art, we find representations of the goddess Athena in the act of conveying the hero Hēraklēs to Olympus in her chariot, as we see in the illustration that I have chosen as the cover for this essay. At first sight, it seems as if such an Athenian visualization of the hero’s apotheosis derives from an exclusively Athenian myth: after all, Athena is the goddess of the city of Athens—she is, as it were, Our Lady of Athens—and her very identity defines the identity of her city. In this essay, however, I argue that such a myth involving both the goddess Athena and the hero Hēraklēs is not uniquely Athenian—and that the goddess herself, in her role as charioteer of the hero and in other such roles, is not uniquely Athenian either. In other words, Athena was multiple, not unique to Athens. And one of the easiest ways to get a good sense of this multiplicity is to read through all of Pausanias, who conscientiously keeps track of the many different Athenas that are still being worshipped even in his time. Traveling around so many different locales of the Greek-speaking world in the second century CE, Pausanias finds different versions of myths and rituals linked with a goddess who is generally but not exclusively known by the name of Athena. And for me the only viable explanation for such multiplicity, as it survives into the first millennium CE, is to posit a pre-existing multiplicity of Athenas in Mycenaean times, that is, already in the second millennium BCE. Thus I have a negative answer to the question I pose in the subtitle of this essay: In Mycenaean times, was Athena a goddess who was worshipped only in Athens?
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42662006
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