Friday, December 28, 2012

PBP: Zeus-born, and other God-bothered kings of ancient Athens

For the last Pagan Blog Project post of the year, I'll be talking about Zeus-born, and other God-bothered kings of ancient Athens. Back in ancient Hellas, if you were a citizen--and especially one from an important family--you could trace your family line back to a Theos. For Athenians, this divine link was first through Gaea (autochthonous, αὐτός χθών, 'earth-born') and/or Athena (with links to Zeus), and then through Poseidon.

The kings of Athens were legendary, mythological, even in the time of ancient Hellas. Roman historian Eusebius of Caesarea (263 – 339 AD) has compiled a list of these kings (the dating took place at a later date):

Kékrops (Κέκροπος) I 1556 - 1506 BC: he is said to have had a top half shaped like a man and a bottom half in serpent or fish-tail form. Kékrops is the first ruler of Athens who was considered a king. He is said to have been the first who deified Zeus, and ordained sacrifices to be offered to him as the supreme Deity. Mythologically speaking, it was in Kékrops' reign, that Athena became the patron Theia of the city, after beating Poseidon in competition, and it were Kékrops' daughters who opened the box holding the child of Athena and Hēphaistos: Erichthonius and were scared so by his appearance (or the presence of two snakes in the box), they threw themselves off of a cliff.

Cranaus (Κραναός) 1506 - 1497 BC: earth-born like his predecessor. The flood in the myth of Deukalion is said to have happened during his reign. Amphictyon, son of Deukalion, is said to have married one of the daughters of Cranaus, and he became the next king.

Amphictyon (Αμφικτυών) 1497 - 1487 BC: son of Deukalion, or earth-born. According to Eustathios of Thessalonike (Εὐστάθιος Θεσσαλονίκης), Dionysos visited Amphictyon in Athens and taught him how to mix water with wine in the proper proportions.

Erichthonius (Ἐριχθόνιος) 1487 - 1437 BC: the fabled son of Athena and Hēphaistos himself, earth-born. With Praxithea (Πραξιθέα), a naiad, he had a son, Pandion I, who went on to become king himself. As an obvious favorite of Athena, She protected him for many years, and in return, he founded the Panathenaic Festival in honor of Athena.

Pandion I (Πανδίων Α') 1437 - 1397 BC: like his father, Pandion married a naiad, Zeuxippe, and they had five children, Erechtheus, Butes, Procne, Philomela, and Cecrops II. According to Pseudo-Apollodorus' Bibliotheca, it was during Pandion I's reign that Demeter and Dionysos came to the city-state of Athens. Before his death, he gave the rule of Athens to Erechtheus, but the priesthoods of Poseidon and Athena to Butes.

Erechtheus (Ἐρεχθεύς) 1397 - 1347 BC: son and heir to King Pandion I, who was the son of Erichthonius. His reign was marked by the war between Athens and Eleusis, when the Eleusinians were commanded by Eumolpus, coming from Thrace. An oracle declared that Athens' survival depended on the death one of the three daughters of Erechtheus. Orithyia, another daughter, was kidnapped by Boreas, the North Wind.

Cecrops II (Κέκρωψ Β') 1347 - 1317 BC: Not the most remarkable of rulers, and not linked to any mythological event.

Chyrasos 1317 - 1292 BC: information about his person and reign have been lost.

Pandion II (Πανδίων Β') 1292 BC - 1291 BC: son and heir of Cecrops II. May not actually have existed, but was invented to fill a gap in succession.

Metion (Μητίων) 1291 BC - 1291 BC: son of Erechtheus of Athens, or a son of Eupalamus, Erechtheus' son. His sons eventually dethroned Pandion II, although the sons of Pandion later overthrew them.

Aegeus (Αἰγεύς) 1291 BC - 1234 BC: son of Pandion II, father of the mythical hero Theseus, who cast himself off the cliffs into the sea below when Theseus failed to chance the ship's sails from black to white upon returning from killing the minotaur at Minos.

Theseus (Θησεύς) 1234 - 1204 BC (or 1213 BC): one of Hellas' greatest hero-kings and son of Poseidon. His greatest adventure comes in the form of the battle against the minotaur of Minos, whom he killed. For this, he is still remembered. The festival of Pyanepsia is linked to his return from Minos.

Menestheus (Μενεσθεύς) 1204 - 1181 BC (or 1213 - 1191 BC): son of Peteus, son of Orneus, son of Erechtheus. He was king during the fabled Trojan war, and was one of Helen of Troy's suitors.Although a good strategist, Menestheus seems to have been a bit of a dishonorable warrior, as he preferred to lead his men from the back of the formation, instead of in front of it. That having been said, he was one of the men inside the Trojan horse.

Demophon (Δημοφῶν ) 1181 - 1147 BC: son of Theseus and Phaedra. He fought in the Trojan war. He granted the children of Herakles, who were fleeing from Eurystheus, refuge in Athens. Upon accidentally killing a fellow Athenian, he was dethroned and tried for the murder.

Oxyntes (Οξύντης) 1147 - 1135 BC: grandson of Theseus, son of Demophon. Very little is known about him, or nothing remarable happened during his reign.

Apheidas (Ἀφείδας) 1135 - 1134 BC: son of Oxyntes. After a short reign of one year, his brother Thymoetes succeeded him on the throne.

Thymoetes (Θυμοίτης) 1134 - 1126 BC: son of Oxyntes. He was the last Athenian king in the line of Theseus.

Melanthus (Μέλανθος) 1126 - 1089 BC: before fleeing to Athens and becoming king, Melanthus was king of Messenia (Μεσσηνία), a regional unit in the southwestern part of the Peloponnese. He was among the descendants of Neleus who were expelled from Messenia by the descendants of Herakles.

Codrus (Κόδρος) 1089 - 1068 BC: he was the lask king of Athens; after his reign, his son Medon rulled the city-state as Archon. Aristotle--in 'constitution of the Athenians'--claims, however, that Medon ruled as king first, before becoming Archon. During the Dorian invasion, the Oracle of Delphi prophecied that the Dorians would win, as long as the king of Athens was not harmed. Hearing of this prophecy, Codrus disguised himself as a peasant and snuck to the Dorian camp. Here, he made a fuss, and was prompty killed. The Dorians retreated upon learning what had happened. It was decreed that no one would be worthy enough to succeed Codrus on the throne, and so, Athens only had Archons afterwards.

As you can see, many of these kings had connections to divinity, either in their bloodline, or through contact during their reign. These kings were the founders of Athens, and of Hellenic civilization. Their close identification with Deity is only logical; someone who had done so much for the city-state and the people of Athens could only be born from the Theoi Themselves.

Friday next week, the PBP starts all over again, and I'll add to this post in my first 'A', linking it to the Archons, and the place of both kings and Archons in Athenian society. For those of you who only follow my Pagan Blog Project posts, until then, otherwise, I'll see you all tomorrow.


No comments: