Dedications Acropolis at Athens
The dedications at the Acropolis were of course found on the Acropolis in Athens, however there is more to it than that. If we take the statue of Prokne and Itys (Athens Acropolis 1358) we can see it was found near the Propylaia, near to the Temple of Nike. The location in which this artefacts were uncovered is important as it gives us a clue as to where they may have originally been located on the Acropolis.
There are many gods and heroes worshipped at the site of the Acropolis at Athens. Largely, they have different roles, although some appear to be linked together.
The old temple of Athena is dedicated to Athena Polias, meaning Protectress of the City. Despite its purpose being to protect, this temple was destroyed by Persians in 480 BC during the destruction of Athens. The Athena Promachos was a gold statue sculpted by Pheidias, standing between the Parthenon and the Propylaea. Athena Promachos translates to ‘Athena who fights on the front line’. Pausanias referred to Athena Promachos as ‘the Great bronze Athena’ on the Acropolis. As the tutelary deity of Athens, and the goddess of wisdom and warriors, Athena’s role was to watch over and protect the city. She is also dedicated to on the Acropolis as Athena Nike, through a temple built around 420 BC. It is the earliest fully ionic temple on the Acropolis. Nike translates to ‘victory’ from Greek, and this is the form in which Athena was worshipped - for being victorious in war. Specifically, citizens worshipped in hope of a successful outcome in the Peloponnesian war.
Poseidon and Erechtheus were two names at Athens for the same figure, which was demonstrated in the cult at the Erechtheum, where there was merely one altar, one priest, and sacrifices were dedicated to Poseidon Erechtheus. Poseidon’s epithet is earthshaker, and Poseidon himself is second in importance in Athens, Athena being first. The Erechtheum was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. Supposedly, The Erechtheum is placed where Poseidon and Athena had their contest over who would be Patron of the city.
Cecrops was a king of Athens and was seen as a hero. He was said to be the first to defy Zeus, ordaining sacrifices to be offered to him as the supreme Deity. He also forbade the sacrificing of any living creatures to the gods. In his honour, the Acropolis was known as the Cecropia. He was worshipped by Poseidon’s side in the southwest corner of the Erechtheum. Cecrops also had three daughters: Herse, Pandrosus and Aglaurus. The three daughters were given a box or jar which contained the infant Erichthonius, to guard. They were not meant to look at the child, but did, and were terrified when they saw that the baby was surrounded by two serpents, which Athena had placed there to guard the child. The three girls fled and jumped from the Acropolis, jumping to their deaths.
There were not many sacrifices associated with the dedications. However as Altars were also dedicated, for example, the Altar of Athena Polias dedicated by Pisistratus in 525 BC, this means that animal sacrifice and libations were given there.
Pausanias claimed in regard to the acropolis, “all statues and everything else are dedications” (5.21.1)
- Marble statues
- Bronze statues
- Ivories - only 2 post-bronze age pieces found
- Lost dedications- Pliny Natural History Book 36 and Pausanias 22.4 both talk about the dedications as you walk into the propylaea and Parthenon
Private and public family festivals- usually led by the women of the household
Arrhephoria- two young girls were chosen to live for a year at a time as Arrhephoroi, tending the sacred olive tree and weaving for Athena. Proud parents commemorated their daughters' service by making dedications on the Acropolis.
The Panathenaic Games-
While we have many dedications in Olympia following Olympic games celebrations our evidence is more limited for dedications left after the Panathenaic games held on the acropolis. Interestingly it seems that these dedications were less religious in nature and the only statue base inscription found regarding a victor has no mention of Athena- however one other Athenian victor was known to erect his monument in the sanctuary of Demeter in Eleusis suggesting these victor dedications were more complex than votive offerings.
Rules and Regulations
One of the most interesting rules regarding dedication on the Acroopolis was the involvement of women in the dedication process. Many inscriptions have been found which show many mothers and married women giving dedications. This is very interesting as it shows women were not excluded from this process.
The historical significance of these artefacts is very important. It shows as a whole what the Ancient Athenians saw as appropriate dedications to their gods. The wealth and effort that Ancient Athenians put into the artistic dedications showed how important dedications were to the lives of the Ancient Athenians. Also the dedications showed the artistic ability and development that was occurring in Athens at the time.
Who used the site, and where did they come from?
Dedications typically came from the athenian populous themselves with many of the statues and artwork being dedicated by members of the Athnian aristocracy.
An example such as the statue of Athena parthenos, The work of Pheidias was completed in around 447BC.
Another examples is that of the hunting dog, crafted around 520BC from marble from the island of pharos. This could be seen as a dedication from that island since it is using a local material to express their fondness for the Athenians
Other dedications from the island of Pharos are present as well as others dedicated later on made out of bronze. In general dedications came from all over the Greek world, usually from prominent members of societies,
Select Site Bibliography
Wagner, Claudia. Dedication Practices on the Athenian Acropolis 8th to 4th Centuries BC, Thesis, Oxford (1997)
Buckley, Terry (2010). Aspects of Greek History: 750-323 BC. London: Routledge. p. 109. ISBN 9780415549776.
Palagia, Olga. The Panathenaic Games: Proceedings of an International Conference held at the University of Athens, May 11-12, 2004
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Photographs of the Dedications