Posts tagged myth
Posts tagged myth
Whilst researching for an essay about Erechtheus and the mythology surrounding the Erechtheion, I have been dealing with the very roots of Athenian legendary history. In the most basic form, it is still a rather fantastical tale, beginning with the half-man half-serpent Cecrops, the mythical first King of Athens from whom the ancient citizens claimed descent (Although Pausanias attributes the first kingship of all Attica to Actaeus, I’ll use Apollodorus’ account citing Cecrops as the original ruler for this purpose). Born of the earth, as was typical of the mythical first kings, he was a witness to the contest of Athena and Poseidon over patronage of the city and ultimately deemed Athena’s gift of the olive tree as superior.
In the slightly darker interpretation of the story as explained in The Oxford encyclopedia of ancient Greece and Rome: “The contest manifests the value that gods place upon the people. The women, who hold a one-person majority, vote for Athena, and the men vote for Poseidon. Athena’s victory confers upon Cecropians her name for them and the protections of Zeus’ daughter. To appease the wrathful Poseidon, Cecrops deprives the women of suffrage, matriliny, and citizenship, thus establishing the patriarchal dominance of the male.”
As the story continues in a similarly unsettling manner, during Cecrops reign his half-serpent ancestor Erichthonios was born from the semen of Hephaestus, after Athena wiped it to the ground from her leg after his attempt to violate her. Athena took it upon herself to raise Erichthonios and he is thought to have established the annual Panathenaic festival.
A typically feelgood Greek myth then, but story aside I was interested in representations of a king who was half-snake (or in some instances, a dragon), half-man and how the technicalities of his image worked. So here a few old and new depictions of this king so core to Athenian legacy of which I hope to find more of when I fly to Athens in two weeks…
(For all ancient references to his myth in literature, this site surely covers them all http://www.theoi.com/Heros/Kekrops.html)