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Page 302

264 Daimon and Hero [CH.

It is at the birth of Erichthonios, the second great Athenian

hero, that Cecrops is mostly represented in art, as on the terra-

cotta in Fig. 63. Gaia herself rises in human shape from the
earth ; she is a massive figure with long heavy hair. She holds

the child in her arms, handing him to Athena his foster-mother,

to whom he stretches out his eager hands. This birth of the
child from the earth symbolizes, we are told, that the race of

Erechtheus, the Erechtheidae, ancestors of the Athenians, are

autochthonous, home-grown; so it does, but it 'symbolizes,' or

rather we prefer to say represents, something much more. This
we shall see in the sequel shown in Figs. 64 a and b.

When the child is born from Earth, Athena his foster-mother
gives him into the care of the three daughters of Cecrops.

Strange daughters these for a human king, the Dew-Sisters and
the bright Spring Water, three reflections as we have seen 1 of

the maidens of the Hersephoria. They hide the child in a sacred

cista. Two of the sisters in disobedience open the cista. The
scene is given in Fig. 64 a from a red-figured pelike 2 . The cista

Fig. 64.

stands on piled rocks indicating no doubt the Acropolis. The

deed is done, the sacred cista is open. Its lid, it should be noted,

is olive- wreathed. From the cista springs up a human child,
Athena approaches and the two disobedient sisters 3 hurry away.

1 Supra, p. 174, note 1.
2 British Museum Cat. E. 418, and see my Prolegomena, p. 133.
3 The figures on the reverse are actually those of two epheboi, but the vase is

almost certainly a copy from some drawing in which Herse and Aglauros are
represented.

Page 303

VIIl] Erichthonios as Daimon-Hero 265

They have cause for haste, cause more imminent than a guilty

conscience. The design in Fig. 64 a shows two guardian snakes,
but rooted to the rocks. The child Erichthonios himself is a
human child. But the design in Fig. 65 from a cylix by Brygos 1

Fig. 65.

tells us another and a more instructive tale. The scene, of
which only a part is given here, takes place just after the opening

of the chest. The two terrified sisters are pursued by a huge
snake, a snake so huge that his tail coils round to the other side

of the cylix not figured here. He is not one of the guardian
snakes, he is the actual dweller in the chest. Cecrops is a snake,

Erichthonios is a snake, the old snake-king is succeeded by a new
snake-king.

There are no such things as snake-kings. What the myths of
Cecrops and Erichthonios tell us is that, for some reason or

another, each and every traditional Athenian king was regarded

as being also in some sense a snake. How this came to be
we might never have guessed but for the story of the cista. In

Dionysiac rites the snake in the cista was a constant factor. A
whole class of coins of Ephesus known as cistophoroi 2 show us

1 Frankfort. In the Stadel-Institut ; see W. Klein, Meistersignaturen, p. 179,
and Wiener-Vorlegeblatter, Serie vm. Taf. 2. On the reverse is the sending forth
of the Eleusiuian 'hero,' Triptolemos, the correlative of Erichthonios.

2 See Head, Hist. Num. p. 461. For cistae and snakes on coins see L. Anson,
Numismata Graeca, Part i. Cista xni. 936, where all the known instances are
collected.

Page 603

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