Oct 13, 2007

Strong evidence of Eris worship in 6th century Attica

HA HA! I am a genius!

Anyway, that aside, I was searching through some very old and dull copies of the American Journal of Archaeology, when I found a very interesting article in Volume 30, Issue 3 of the publication (July - September 1930).

David M Robinson, the writer of the piece, was given an Attic pinax depicting both of the Erites, dating from the sixth century BC (see the pictures at the end of this post).

That it and of itself is very rare. Most pottery of this period is Corinthian or Rhodian, Attican regional pottery is quite unusual. But pieces of art depicting either aspect of Eris (the Strifebringer or Eris of Competition) are not normally seen until the late Classical or early Hellenistic Period, being made more popular as she was via the work of Euripides.

More interesting, the pottery itself. Firstly, there is no doubt the figure is that of Eris. If the black skin and wings were not enough, the artist himself inscribed Eris on the front of the pinax. The back is harder to read, but it could say 'Epiov, "for the shrine of the Strifes." Equally, it could read Strife against Strife, or the Strife of Competition, but one must consider another fact.

Pinax's were hung in temples, as votive offerings. Especially pinax's with two suspension holes. It is also believed the same artist has done other works, found in Delos and the Acropolis (fragments). These do not depict either of the Erites, but the style of drawing, as well as colouration and themes, would suggest a common source. These works also had the same suspension holes and were found in Temples

The only other depictions of Eris we know of are on a chest in Corinth (Chest of Cypselus) and in the sanctuary of Artemis at Ephesus. There is also the sanctuary of Ares at Athens, where there is an image of Enyo, made by the sons of Praxiteles. But none of these are pinax's, and most depict Eris as a ghastly figure, which this artwork does not do. It would seem then that Eris was considered somewhat acceptable in Attica, in stark contrast to Corinth and the Ionian cities.

Other things to note about this is the animal symbols used to depict Eris. We have the hare, for the Eris of Competition, and the snake for the Eris of strife. Throw in Robert Graves' thinking on Blackthorn being another symbol of Eris and perhaps we have the start of some interesting symbology here, not normally assosciated with unworshipped Goddesses.

Finally, I will end with a free verse adaption of the tale of the two Erites told in Hesiod, transformed by the article writer into modern English.

Beneath the age-long, far-flung strife of man
With man over the whole wide earth lurk two
Strife sisters. They are not twin, yet must be kin.

Blameless and beautiful the first and great,
Not to the crass and heavy mind that stands

Far off: but, closely known and understood,
Fair as a daughter of the gods to whom

Men make their songs of worship and of praise.

But not like-minded is the other one.
In human hearts she is the power behind

The throne and shapes its whispers, urging on

The ugly crash of battle axes sharp,

With clash of splintering spears in
evil war.
O dark and strange her sway. Men love her not,
Yet some dark mystic spell from deathless gods
Her hateful name a noisy honor lends.

Not so that other, elder daughter, true:
Born from the travail of Dark Night, seized by
The Son of Kronos, waiting in the thin
And shadowy ether there and rushed to earth
By him and set beside the secret roots

Of human life on earth, she tends them well
And upward sends her kindly influence
Through all the branching sap of the great tree

Of men in every land and clime and time.

And when Ambition stirs some shiftless churl
To toil, or when a working neighbor shames
Some sluggard from his lazy bed, 'tis she

Who starts the effective thrill that makes him leap.
The rich man ploughs and plants, fully his house
Is filled, all things in order stored. Neighbor
With neighbor vies in hot and wholesome chase,
For all substantial gain. Potter competes

With potter, craft with craft, until we see

Beggar with beggar strive better to beg.
At last the minstrel feels the jealous sting

Some other singer's sweeter song inspires.

0 Better Strife, up from Thy secret seat
Beside the roots of life sending to men
The inspirations for this peaceful war,

Great is thy name, goodly thy fame!


Anonymous said...

for several reasons i will not tire you out with, this is the best thing i could have read today. may i call you hermes for now?

Telarus, KSC said...

Excellent article, man!

If the people I know who are setting up encyclopediadiscordia.com ever get the momentum rolling, do you want me to drop you a note?

Episkopos Cain said...

Dido, glad to be of assistance, and you certainly may, if you wish.

Telarus, certainly. If it gets going, either drop me a comment here, or send me an email (its at the bottom of the page). Cheers for the heads up.

drjon said...

*Nice* post. Many thanks!


Wonderful, as usual.