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Mixanthrôpoi

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Emma Aston

Section One : Cults and composition of mixanthropic deities

Chapter I

Deities of the sea and rivers

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1Water-related mixanthropic deities reveal especially strong similarities in their iconography and divine natures. For the Greeks, Thetis, Proteus and Eurynome shared as their home the imagined realm of the sea’s depths; Glaukos and the Sirens were associated also with the sea’s margins, its junction with the land; and Acheloos, though a river-god, seems to have had a broader elemental connection with water and a strong link with Okeanos. For us, it is also clear that these deities express consistent themes related to the water they inhabit and to its symbolic significance in the ancient imagination. These themes will be discussed in the ensuing chapters; here, in chapters 1 to 3, the background of cult and form will be established. For each deity, the evidence for cult will be discussed first, followed by examination of the patterns and significance of composition.

1. Marine mixanthropes: Proteus, Thetis, Eurynome, the Sirens and Glaukos

  • 1 This type, however, certainly has something of a generic quality; it is that of the Halios Gerôn, o (...)
  • 2 It is impossible to provide evidence, or much enthusiasm, for Shepard’s claim (1940, 92), that the (...)

2Proteus is so similar to his fellow sea-gods Nereus and the Halios Gerôn that one suspects that the ancients did not always clearly distinguish, though individual names and personalities are almost always of narrative importance.1 However, Proteus is the only one whose cult is in any way satisfactorily documented and he is therefore the main focus here; where we do have details of other cults, they are highly comparable with his in nature, and will be brought in to supplement and reinforce.2

  • 3 Proteus living in the Karpathian sea: Verg. Georg. 4.387; as Karpathian: Ovid, Met. 11.249; Stat. A (...)
  • 4 For example, Vergil says that he tends Neptune’s ‘immania…|armenta et turpis…phocas.’ Vergil in the (...)
  • 5 The Kabeiroi were the offspring of his daughter Kabeiro, according to Pherekydes cited in Strabo 10 (...)

3Proteus is connected chiefly with two locations: the island of Karpathos, and Egypt. As regards the former,3 we have no direct evidence of cult, and literary treatments describe him as a marine pastoralist, herdsman of seals.4 However, the very close connection of Karpathos with Rhodes might encour­age a conjectural similarity between Proteus in this region and the Rhodian Telchines, shape-changing sea daimones and mythical metallurgists. They are of the same stamp as the Kabeiroi, who on Lemnos were considered smiths, and since Proteus is occasionally designated the grandfather of the Kabeiroi5 it seems plausible to consider his Karpathian manifestation as part of a range of shape-changing island divinities. However, as with the Telchines, all traces of worship in this Aegean sphere are sadly lost.

  • 6 Od. 4.349 ff.
  • 7 Hdt. 2.112-9.

4The connection of Proteus with Egypt appears in Homer.6 Herodotos repeats the story that Helen never went to Troy but instead spent the duration of the war in Egypt with Proteus, its just ruler.7 Euripides elaborates on this theme in the Helen, in which Proteus has died; his tomb is the chief piece of stage furniture and Helen’s place of sanctuary when she is menaced by the good king’s bad son, Theoklymenos. Overall, Proteus is depicted as an ideal ruler, relegated to the past. According to Herodotos, the dead Proteus had a sacred temenos at Memphis; it is interesting to observe this report of Totenkult, but its reality remains impossible to substantiate. In any case, Proteus was clearly regarded as one of the powerful dead.

  • 8 Dion. Byz. de Nav. 49. He also received cult at Gytheion, here called simply Gerôn: Paus. 3.21.9.
  • 9 1.32.2.

5When Pharos, the lighthouse at the harbour-mouth of Alexandria, was built in the third century BC, Proteus came to be associated with this navigational aid. Poseidippos of Pella, for example, a Hellenistic poet, wrote of Proteus being involved in the creation of the towers, and referred to him as a sôtêr of the sea; the text is somewhat uncertain, but this rôle would tally with other instances in which sea-gods safeguard shipping. For example, the Halios Gerôn, who was worshipped on the Bosphoros, had a shrine on high ground; in myth, he showed the Argonauts their route and guided them through the narrows.8 The presence of an actual heroön of Proteus at Pharos is not unlikely, but the chief source is the Alexander Romance of Ps.-Kallisthenes,9 hardly reliable evidence. As with the Sepias cult of Thetis, we may be dealing not with built structures but with an area of general association and sacrosanctity which is enough to allow for a god’s divine assistance within a certain place.

  • 10 Hom. Od. 4.385-6. Proteus’ wisdom, prophetic and general, is strongly reminiscent of the depiction (...)
  • 11 Julian, Ep. 187; schol. Verg. Georg. 4.406.
  • 12 Schol. Hom. Od. 4.456.
  • 13 Orph. Hymn. 25.4.

6We have no secure evidence for an actual oracle of Proteus, but his oracular powers are strongly represented in literature. Menelaos in Homer, and Aristaios in Vergil, force him to deliver prophetic information. This function is part of a more general characterisation as wise and knowledgeable. According to Homer, he knows all the depths of the sea.10 Later authors describe him as sophos,11 phronimos,12 polyboulos.13 His wisdom is a theme which is increasingly expanded, developed and put to new purposes; in the Orphic Hymn, for example (whose date is uncertain but probably either later Hellenistic or early Imperial), it has a cosmic dimension and is connected with his shape-changing abilities: his mind is as many-faceted and as complex as his form, and this equips him to control and manipulate the principles of life.

  • 14 The earliest such figure is the merman who wrestles a human on a bronze plaque from Olympia (see Sh (...)
  • 15 Hom. Od. 4.382-570.

7Shape-changing – that is, the rapid assumption of a succession of different physical forms – is the dominant feature of Proteus’ depiction in our textual sources, especially in the later ones. His representation in visual media presents the same difficulties as that of other sea-gods, because it follows a type applied to a number of beings, and identification is not always easy, but it can be seen that he sometimes shares the form of Triton and Nereus, that of a bearded man with the coiling fish-tail instead of legs.14 The fish element is an uncomplicated reflection of his marine domain. By contrast, mixanthropy is strikingly under-represented in literature, in which shape-changing receives more attention. In the earliest treatment, Homer’s account of Menelaos’ consultation of the sea-god,15 Proteus’ form (that is, the form he possesses when he is not undergoing shape-changing) is left unspecified; I suppose we assume it to be humanoid. In later authors, the emphasis is very firmly on his shape-changing. So although mixanthropy is a significant ingredient in the way in which the ancients imagined Proteus, it is not the only one. Flexibility of representation is in fact a common feature of mixanthropic deities and will be discussed further in the course of this book.

  • 16 Graf (1985), 351-3.
  • 17 This is attested by epigraphic evidence, though this tends to be from the Roman period: see e.g. Hi (...)
  • 18 Paus. 3.14.4.
  • 19 Paus. 3.26.7.
  • 20 Paus. 3.22.2.
  • 21 Polybios 18.20.6; Pherekydes FGrHist 3 F 1; Strabo 9.5.6; Eur. Andr. 16-20; Plut. Pel. 31-32.
  • 22 SEG XLV (1995) 637 might provide epigraphic evidence of a considerable civic cult, if one accepts t (...)
  • 23 See Larson (2007), 69-70, for Thetis’ Sepias worship as part of a range of Greek sea-related deitie (...)
  • 24 Hdt. 7.191.2: ‘The storm lasted for three days. Finally the Magi brought it to an end on the fourth (...)

8Thetis appears to have received cult in various locations in the ancient Greek world. As Graf notes, she was worshiped in Ionia,16 though largely as an adjunct to her famous son Achilles, with whose cult in the Euxine she was also connected.17 She had cults in Sparta,18 at Leuktra19 and near Gytheion.20 About these, however, we know next to nothing. Thessaly by contrast provides us with a fusion of cult and myth, though the former is far from well documented. Literary sources tell us that there was a Thetideion near Pharsalos,21 and it is possible that a cult of Thetis was active within the city of Pharsalos itself, though the evidence for this is problematic.22 There was also an area of the Thessalian coast which was sacred to Thetis – the promontory of Sepias, where in myth her encounter with Peleus and her shape-changing take place.23 At this site the nature of the cult is hard to establish. We are told by Herodotos24 of an instance of worship, but it occurs in highly specialised circumstances and cannot be taken to reflect consistent practice in the area. When the Persian forces are stranded by the weather on a potentially hostile stretch of coast, their Magi perform a number of acts of devotion to achieve succour, of which offering to Thetis and the sea-nymphs is listed last. Clearly, they were casting round for any power which might be expected to help them, and Thetis seemed one of the possible candidates. The reason Herodotos gives for her selection is interesting:

  • 25 τῇ δὲ Θέτι ἔθυον πυθόμενοι παρὰ τῶν Ἰώνων τὸν λόγον ὡς ἐκ τοῦ χώρου τούτου ἁρπασθείη ὑπὸ Πηλέος, εί (...)

They sacrificed to Thetis because they had learned from the Ionians the story of how she was carried off from this region by Peleus, and that the whole promontory of Sepias was sacred to her and to the other Nereids.25

9So the Persians are aware of and able to exploit an existing phenomenon: the sacrosanctity of the Sepias promontory to Thetis and her Nereid companions. Sadly for us, their informants are given as ‘the Ionians’; we are not treated to a direct view of Thessalian belief. Still, given her strong cult presence in and around Pharsalos, it would seem likely that Thetis would have continued to be associated with the setting of a vital episode in her mythological career.

  • 26 Wace and Droop excavated at Theotokou, ‘the traditional site of Sepias’, where they found, beneath (...)
  • 27 Schol. Lyk. Al. 175.

10Attempts have been made to narrow down the Thetis-connection of Sepias, and to prove that the area hosted a specific cult – rather than the more general sacrosanctity suggested by Herodotos’ account – by unearthing material remains; but they have not met with success.26 That Thetis did have a temenos on the Sepias promontory is suggested by a single source27 which may well be correct; but to be concerned only with built remains gives a lopsided view. The Sepias area was clearly sacred territory; that is in itself significant.

  • 28 Hom. Il. 18.369; Hom. Hym. 3.319; Apollod. Bibl. 1.19.
  • 29 Hom. Il. 6.135.

11So what kind of deity was Thessalian Thetis? Her rôle as nurse and parent seems to be dominant in myths. She is protectress and nurse of Hephaistos28 and Dionysos;29 in both episodes, she takes in what has been rejected, damaged, hounded. Even more famous is her maternal relationship with Achilles, which establishes her as a figure of paramount importance in epic and beyond. But does this mythological theme mean we should view her as a kourotrophic deity, in addition to one with (as Herodotos suggests) the power to aid sailors in peril?

12We do not have enough information about her cult sites in Thessaly itself to answer this question with regard to them. However, Philostratus describes a ritual performed annually by the Thessalians in which she features in a significant capacity. In the Heroikos, he describes a yearly theoria by the Thessalians to the tomb of Achilles in the Troad. Two sacrifices are made to the hero: the first consists of a black bull killed at night ‘as to one who is dead’, the other, of a white bull killed ‘as to a god’. During the ritual, the participants also invoke Thetis in the following hymn:

  • 30 Philostr. Her. 53.10: Θέτι κυανέα, Θέτι Πηλεία, | τὸν μέγαν τέκες υἱὸν Ἀχιλλέα, τοῦ | θνατὰ μὲν (...)

Dark Thetis, Pelian Thetis,
you who bore the great son Achilles:
Troy gained a share of him
To the extent that his mortal nature held sway,
But to the extent that the child derives from your mortal lineage,
The Pontus possesses him.
Come to this lofty hill
In quest of the burnt offerings with Achilles.
Come without tears, come with Thessaly:
Dark Thetis, Pelian Thetis.30

  • 31 Compare the fact that the Thessalians are described as bringing with them from Thessaly all the mat (...)

13Thetis is invited to share in the offerings made to her son, and is described as the source of Achilles’ divine portion, in a ritual which consistently emphasises the dichotomy between Achilles as mortal hero and Achilles as god. Also highlighted is her Thessalian identity; in the foreign – and indeed hostile, as it here appears – land of the Troad, she is Pelian; she is to ‘come with Thessaly’.31 Elsewhere in the Heroikos, Thetis has a slightly different rôle, as a kind of maternal enforcer; when the Thessalians let the rites to Achilles lapse, the angry hero employs his mother to wreak vengeance. He punishes the Thessalians by blighting their crops, by inflicting them with ‘some misfortune from the sea’, a marine-borne pestilence also referred to as ‘something from Thetis.’ Thetis’ maternal rôle clearly has a punitive aspect in this particular text.

  • 32 At Sigeion near the Hellespont: Hdt. 5.94; see also Strabo 13.1.32. In the Iliad, though of course (...)
  • 33 See Hedreen (1991), 313-330; Hommel (1980); Hirst (1902), 245-67, esp. 247-51; id. (1903), 24-53, e (...)
  • 34 For epigraphic evidence of this link, see Helly (2006).
  • 35 See Slatkin (1986): Thetis’ chief maternal attributes are grief and anger. See also Aston (2009).

14The details of the ritual are impossible to substantiate as historical in the absence of any evidence besides Philostratus, but the framework on which they rest is accurate: Achilles as worshipped in Ionia32 and the Euxine;33 he was worshipped in conjunction with Thetis; Thessaly and Ionia did have strong cultural links, at least from the Hellenistic period onwards.34 It is possible that details such as the words of the hymn are Philostratus’ creation. But if they are they are perfectly in keeping with the depiction of Thetis’ maternal rôle in other literary material,35 and there is no evidence that her cult persona deviated significantly from this characterisation.

  • 36 Slatkin (1986).

15The Heroikos text has placed a very different complexion on the Thessalian cult of Thetis. It has lifted it from the local to the pan-Hellenic, and from the parochial to the epic. It was certainly a cult influenced by the Achilles/Thetis relationship in epic; this fact has been amply discussed by such as Slatkin,36 with very interesting results, some of which will be brought in at a later stage of the book. How exactly epic influences rubbed shoulders with native Thessalian customs we cannot be entirely sure. What is certain is that the Heroikos provides a particularly substantial set of evidence for the wide-ranging importance of Thetis as cult recipient, probably over a very long period of time.

  • 37 Paus. 3.22.2.
  • 38 Paus. 3.14.4.
  • 39 Hom. Il. 18.394-405.
  • 40 Paus. 8.41.5: the Phigalians treat Eurynome as a surname of Artemis and some also believe the Homer (...)
  • 41 Paus. 8.41.6.

16Moving from cult to composition, it must be said that no record of a cult image survives from the Thessalian sites of worship. In other regions we know of images, but have very little information apart from this. She had an agalma at Migorion, near Gytheion;37 and at Sparta her xoanon was kept out of sight; it was forbidden to see it.38 As to the form of this intriguing hidden xoanon, we are condemned to ignorance; none the less, some points of comparison allow for some speculation. A similar prohibition was placed on the Arkadian statue of Eurynome; and Eurynome was closely connected with Thetis. Thetis and Eurynome are almost elided in the Iliad as recipients of the wounded Hephaistos,39 and Pausanias picks up this point when describing Eurynome’s Arkadian shrine.40 The Arkadian Eurynome’s nefas image was a mixanthropic one; describing it, Pausanias remarks: ‘If she is a daughter of Ocean, and lives with Thetis in the depths of the sea, the fish may be regarded as a kind of emblem of her.’41 If an Oceanid could have a mixanthropic image, could not a Nereid? It seems not implausible that behind the religious strictures of Thetis’ Spartan cult lay just such an image. But this is impossible to confirm.

  • 42 A famous example is the depiction in the tondo of an Attic red figure kylix of c. 500 BC signed by (...)

17In non-cultic visual material the physical conception of Thetis is at the same time like that of Proteus, and vitally different. She is valuable in that she illustrates the flexibility of the sea-god form. In the cases of Proteus and Acheloos, depiction in literary sources is dominated by metamorphosis and shape-changing, while visual depiction in art involves mixanthropy. In Thetis we find an interesting variation of this trend. Like her fellow water-deities, she is in myth a shape-changer, and no mention of mixanthropy is ever made. Unlike them, however, she is not given to mixanthropic depiction in art, either; but hybridism of a sort does feature. The typical artistic method of showing her transformations in the clutches of Peleus is to show her with her animal forms protruding from her (completely anthropomorphic) body, and assailing her assailant; there is a clear unwillingness to compromise the humanity of her anatomy in any profound way.42 However, two artists at least clearly felt that this approach did not convey the idea of transformation between states as clearly as they wished. Therefore they opted for a highly unusual compromise: one of the animals attached to the struggling Thetis is a hybrid composite of two species, a lion and a fish. An example is given at fig. 4. This is a very striking artistic expedient: the hybridism which is so consistently employed to express transformation is manifested not in the goddess herself but in her immediate surroundings, as an appendage; and it is not a mixanthropic hybridism but an animal/animal combination.

  • 43 Ptolem. Heph. in Photius Bibl. 149b.1ff.

18Thetis’ shape-changing is not limited to the adoption of animal forms. She becomes a snake, and a panther or lion; but elements are also included, fire and water. However, in the ancient material certain forms are undeniably prioritised. In the first place, visual imagery deals almost wholly with the animal forms; only literature is seriously interested in the elemental ones. Second, and more specifically, particular emphasis seems to have been placed on the adoption of key animal forms; in other words, Thetis is given not only to shape-changing as a means of evading sexual assault, but also to metamorphosis, the temporary adoption of single animal forms. An example is the (admittedly rare and late) story that she killed Helen while in seal-form;43 this shows a general ability to metamorphose into a marine creature, independent of her encounter with Peleus and the use of shape-changing for evasion.

  • 44 Eur. fr 1093 Nauck; schol. Ap. Rhod. Arg. 1.582; schol. Eur. Andr. 1266; schol Lyk. Al. 175-8.
  • 45 Forbes Irving (1990), 182.
  • 46 The scholiast on Ap. Rhod. Arg. 1.582 suggests that the place took its name from Thetis’ sepia-meta (...)

19More widely attested in this way is her transformation into a cuttlefish.44 Here, the cuttlefish form is the chief, if not the only one; she is in this form when she mates with Peleus. Once again, we seem to be dealing with a tradition somewhat separate from that in which Peleus attempts to grasp her while she adopts a series of forms.45 It is also particularly important to her religious persona via the name of the Sepias promontory, which was sacred to her and which in myth was also the setting of her metamorphosis.46 It seems likely that the motif of transformation into cuttlefish form always lurked behind the more popular story of the multiple metamorphoses. However, it would be unwise to suggest that the story of rapid shape-changing was a more superficial element; it is a key feature of various water-related deities, and as we shall see later forms one of the chief facets of their personality.

  • 47 Borgeaud (1995), 23.

20There are ways, however, in which the cuttlefish in particular may be seen as an important part of Thetis’ persona. Its evasive qualities go beyond those of the other animal forms and the fire and water; these are fierce, painful, hard to grasp, but the cuttlefish is specially designed for evasion in its ability to eject black ink. Borgeaud connects both the evasiveness and the ink with Thetis’ persona as a ‘sombre déesse des profondeurs marines,’47 a persona which he regards as indissoluble from her Thessalian cult.

  • 48 Quoted by Athenaios, Deipn. 134d-137c.
  • 49 Trans. Degani (1995), 417.
  • 50 Degani (1995), 425.
  • 51 See Degani (1995), 426, n. 9 on the textual uncertainty and his conjecture. As the text stands in t (...)
  • 52 The extreme whiteness of cuttlefish is recognised by ancient authors, and connected with the pale c (...)
  • 53 For the sea as untrustworthy, see Pittakos fr. 10 5.10 DK.
  • 54 Indeed, literary treatments sometimes make her appearance reminiscent of her marine home. For examp (...)

21Further layers of significance in the cuttlefish are brought to light in Matron’s Attikon Deipnon, a fourth-century BC text which consists of a parodic description of a banquet including several fish dishes.48 One of these is the cuttlefish, which Matro describes as ‘the daughter of Nereus, silver-footed, the fair-tressed σηπίη, dread goddess with the voice of a mortal.’49 So Thetis and the sepia are presented as one and the same, supporting the theory of their very close association, though of course it is partly for humorous effect. The description continues on line 35 of the text: ‘ μόνη ἰχθυς ἐοῦσα τὸ λευκὸν καὶ μέλαν οἶδε’. There is an uncertainty in the text, and Degani argues50 that this should be translated ‘who alone of all fish [my italics] knows the difference between white and black.’51 This is not incontestable, but is certainly suggestive. Why should Thetis have a special insight into white and black? Degani demonstrates that the passage as a whole deals consistently with the whiteness and/or shininess of fish as (humorously) analogous to the elegant whiteness of women; so all fish have that quality. The sepia, however, is different. It is unusually52 white on the outside, but filled inside with black ink. It is unique in containing this contrast, this disparity. Borgeaud is right to point to the importance of darkness in the composition of the sepia-Thetis; but just as important is the stark discrepancy between outer and inner. To some extent, the sepia-Thetis is a perfect embodiment of her marine element. She is flexible and fluid, like the sea.53 She has its darkness, but also its disparity between the shining surface and the murky depths.54

  • 55 Paus. 8.41.4-6.
  • 56 Whereas with regard to Demeter Melaina Pausanias’ narrative is clearly composed largely of interloc (...)

22Like Demeter Melaina, Eurynome is a unique phenomenon in cult, worshipped at a single known site (though unlike Demeter Melaina her mythological persona is widespread). The site in question is in Arkadia, near Phigalia and Demeter Melaina’s sacred cave; it is situated at the junction of the rivers Lymax and Neda. Typically, our only information comes from the narrative of Pausanias,55 and as usual this requires a cautious approach. In this instance, however, in contrast with that of Demeter Melaina, there is no reason not to accept the basic features of his description.56 He tells us that Eurynome was here represented by a xoanon in the form of a woman with a fish’s tail in lieu of legs (a mermaid, essentially), bound with gold chains, which he himself was not able to see but which was described to him at the scene.

  • 57 Thetis was a Nereid rather than an Oceanid; but there does not appear to have been significant diff (...)
  • 58 Paus. 8.41.6.
  • 59 A possible connection between Eurynome’s form and Artemis is provided by a fish-tailed female depic (...)
  • 60 Artemis with a retinue of Oceanids: Kallim. Hymn. 3.12, 40; Nonn. Dion. 16.127. Thetis with a band (...)

23Eurynome was identified both as a form of Artemis and as one of the Nereids; now it is impossible to decide which identification is more accurate, and both had currency in ancient thought. Of course, the mermaid form of the goddess suggests sea-deity affinities especially strongly, and it is not surprising that Pausanias finds the marine association more comprehensible than the Artemis one, saying in rationalising vein that if Eurynome is an Oceanid closely related to Thetis,57 the fish might be ‘a kind of emblem’ of her marine nature.58 However, Artemis and the Oceanids are not entirely unconnected;59 in fact, a variety of literary sources speak of Artemis as having a retinue of Oceanids, rather as Thetis is depicted in some texts as a leader of the Nereids.60 The two identifications, Artemis and Oceanid, are not mutually exclusive, though their relationship is mysterious.

  • 61 It is also remarkable that, as Shepard observes (1940, 23), Eurynome is the only Greek female deity (...)
  • 62 The mermaid form is in fact extremely rare among females in Greek art: see Shepard (1940), 24.
  • 63 See Padgett ed. (2003), 346-8, cat. no. 97.
  • 64 Whereas the male Triton is a frequent member of marine thiasoi in art, the female equivalents are n (...)
  • 65 Hesiod characterises Echidna as monstrous and frightening: Theog. 295-305.
  • 66 On the copious representations of Skylla in Etruscan art, see Boosen (1986), 5-63.
  • 67 This is a common representation in vase-paintings: see e.g. LIMC s.v. ‘Skylla’, cat. no. 6: a fourt (...)

24No non-cultic representation shows Eurynome in mixanthropic form.61 This is a situation similar to that of Thetis, whose shape-changing is a vital feature of myth but is generally excluded from her artistic form in favour of idealised female beauty.62 It is not surprising that Eurynome also should receive only anthropomorphic treatment by vase-painters and other craftsmen. However, the mermaid form of her Arkadian image finds plenty of corroborative parallels if we regard her Oceanid connections as paramount and see her as a female equivalent, visually, of the Halios Gerôn type. The gender discrepancy on this matter is interesting, however. Male sea-gods appear to be able to sustain mixanthropic form without becoming wholly monstrous and hideous. Sometimes, the fish-tailed form is used to depict an opponent of Herakles, and thus by definition a monster; but not always. A neck-amphora by the Berlin Painter, for example (fig. 5), depicts an unnamed merman in such a way that he appears strikingly august and stately: he is decorously robed, and carries a long sceptre in one hand (in the other, the typical dolphin).63 But this kind of ‘honourable mixanthropy’ does not seem possible for female sea-deities and nymphs.64 When a female is consistently portrayed with a fish-tail, the resulting creature is monstrous and fraught with negative associations: for example, Echidna,65 companion of Typhoios, or Skylla, whose fish tail is also combined, of course, with dogs’ heads sprouting from her groin.66 For an example of Skylla alone, see fig. 6.67

  • 68 Ap. Rhod. Arg. 1.503; Lyk. Al. 1191; Nonn. Dion. 2.563.

25For all the paucity of mixanthropic iconography, Eurynome in myth is surrounded by motifs of mixanthropy, even though they are not her own. She is the daughter of Okeanos, who is himself often represented with a fish-tail in place of legs (see for example fig. 7, the dinos painted by Sophilos in the early sixth century, in which Okeanos, named, has this form). Her husband is Ophion, a Titan, whose form is not explicitly described as mixanthropic but whose name is clearly (and unsurprisingly) snake-related. Fish-tails and snakes are often juxtaposed in Greek mythological representation; Okeanos on the Sophilos dinos, for example, is fish-tailed but clutches a snake. Eurynome and Ophion in some (mainly post-Classical) sources have an interesting cosmic rôle: they are named as former rulers of the world from Mount Olympos, who suffered banishment by Rhea and Kronos and are driven into the sea.68 Eurynome is therefore, according to these sources, among the mixanthropes who belong to a past cosmic order and now exist in exile.

26So in one sense it is hardly surprising to find Eurynome in mermaid form: her background in myth is full of mixanthropy and marine associations. However, both the marine and the cosmic aspects of her personality seem very far removed from our Phigalian cult in its isolated, land-locked position. It will later be argued that one can only really begin to ‘read’ Phigalian Eurynome’s mixanthropy by looking at it in combination with her depiction as a bound goddess. Fish tail and restraining chains combine in the figure of a goddess constantly restrained from escape. The elusiveness which the fish tail expresses seems more important, in the Phigalian context, than any direct reference to the sea.

  • 69 On bound statues generally, see Faraone (1992), 74-81; for a collection of the ancient evidence and (...)

27In general terms, a bound statue indicates a desire to curb the destructive powers of a deity and (the two tend to be simultaneous), to conserve and maintain its beneficial ones.69 The idea of Eurynome’s image as an especially potent one – either for good or for ill – perhaps ties in with the heavy restrictions placed upon its being seen. Her shrine was inaccessible to an extreme. First, as Pausanias reports, it was physically difficult to reach because of the rough terrain; second, it was only open for public worship one day a year. The cult activity was clearly highly ordered, kept within strict bounds, like the xoanon itself. The invisibility of the cult image is extremely significant and will be discussed further in a later chapter.

  • 70 Though in literature the emphasis is on their wings; see e.g. Eur. Hel. 167.

28The mixanthropy of the Sirens is, by contrast with the shape-changing Thetis and the obscure and hidden Eurynome, a consistent and clear feature across their representation in both texts and art.70 It is not without questions, and these will be discussed after a description of the Sirens’ cult. When looking at their worship, we face the situation that while their literary and mythological rôle is of great antiquity (beginning of course with their famous confrontation with Odysseus), the sources for their cult are all late. They are, in (probable) chronological order, pseudo-Aristotle, Lykophron (plus a scholion on his work which cites Timaios, the third-century BC Sicilian historian), and Strabo. The earliest mention is therefore probably fourth century; the most extended treatment, that of Lykophron, Hellenistic. We must acknowledge the strong possibility, if not probability, that the cult was shaped, or even created, by the influence of the literary persona of the Sirens. This does not make it insignificant or uninteresting; it is simply a likelihood to bear in mind. It is still valid to try to establish the features of the cult and its relationship with the character of the Sirens in myth.

  • 71 Ps.-Aristotle, Mir. 103; Strabo 1.2.12.

29There is a strong consistency among the sources. Locations given are all within the Western Greek world, Sicily and South Italy. Our earliest and our latest source agree on the Sorrento peninsula.71 By far the most detailed account of cult is given by Lykophron, whose description is worth quoting in full. The context is Kassandra’s prophecy that Odysseus will kill the Sirens. In the following passage she describes what will happen to the Sirens after their deaths:

  • 72 Lyk. Al. 717-736: τὴν μὲν Φαλήρου τύρσις ἐκβεβρασμένην | Γλάνις τε ῥείθροις δέξεται τέγγων χθόνα. | (...)

Her [Parthenope], cast up on the shore, will the tower of Phaleron
Receive, and Glanis, moistening the earth with its streams.
Here, having built a tomb for the maiden, the inhabitants
Will honour Parthenope, the bird-formed goddess,
Annually with libations and with sacrifices of oxen.
And Leukosia, cast onto the jutting strand of Enipeus, will long haunt
The rock that bears her name, where boisterous Is
And the neighbouring Laris pour out their waters.
And Ligeia will come ashore at Terina,
Spitting out the surf, and her will sailors
Bury on the saffron-coloured shore,
Near to the eddies of Okinaros.
Bull-horned Ares will wash her tomb with his streams,
Cleansing the foundation of the bird-like one.
And there one day the commander of the whole fleet of Attica,
In honour of the eldest goddess of the sisters [Parthenope],
Will furnish a torch-race for sailors
In accordance with an oracle; this race the people of the Neapolitans will
One day make greater…72

  • 73 1.2.12 and 5.4.8.
  • 74 I have been unable to discover a single other reference to Ares the river-god, who is clearly quite (...)
  • 75 For the Sirens as daughters of Acheloos, see Lucian de Salt. 50, Hyg. Fab. 141, Ap. Rhod. Arg. 4.89 (...)
  • 76 Lyk. Al. 719 (tomb of Parthenope) and 730 (that of Ligeia).
  • 77 Strabo 1.2.12. In this context, the word mnêma – monument or memorial – seems funerary. Worth notin (...)

30The cultic features of his own time which the author is here presumably describing (in aetiological vein) are various. There are three main strands which are significant (and which will receive further discussion in a later section). The first is the association of Sirens with topographical features: the rock named for Leukosia reminds us of Strabo’s description of the rocks called Seirenoussai.73 The second is the repeated juxtaposition of Siren-sites with rivers and indeed river gods. Is and Laris seem at least partly personified through the words labros and geitôn, and Ares is clearly conceived of as a mixanthropic deity with the bull’s horns typical of river god iconography.74 All three Sirens come ashore, and receive some form of cult, in the vicinity of these rivers; this is surely not coincidental, especially given their relationship with Acheloos, river god par excellence.75 It suggests a cultic, as well as a mythological, connection between the goddesses of the shore and the gods of the rivers; this will be discussed further below. The third important feature is the aition of tomb-cult. Worship stems from death and burial; the centre of worship tends to be a sêma76 or a mnêma77; compare the tomb of Proteus. The status of several mixanthropes as dead and departed is highly significant and will be discussed in a later section.

  • 78 Parisinou (2000), 60-72, explores the connection of the torch with death and the afterlife in a lar (...)
  • 79 Hdt. 6.105.

31From the slightly tangled picture of Siren-worship in the South Italy and Sicily region, the figure of Parthenope emerges with especial force; there is no doubt that she was singled out for particular ritual attention. Most often reported is her cult in Neapolis, and the institution by the Athenian nauarch Diotimos, in 439/8 BC, of a torch-race in her honour, thenceforth performed annually by the local inhabitants. This is mentioned by Lykophron and Strabo; but the scholiast on Strabo (ad loc.) traces it back to the early-Hellenistic author Timaios. This ritual, the torch-race, has perhaps some funerary connotations,78 but these are certainly not exclusive; Pan, for example, was honoured in Athens with an annual torch-race after his epiphany to Philippides, in a context without overt death-associations.79

  • 80 See Tsiafakis (2003), 75.
  • 81 Padgett ed. (2003), 287-9, cat. no 75. See also Tsiafakis (2003), 74-5.

32In their physical composition, Sirens are human-faced birds, sometimes with human arms, sometimes without; an example with arms is given at fig. 8.80 The earliest Greek Sirens (that is, the earliest cases of the form conventionally associated with Sirens) can be either male, as in fig. 9,81 or female, but quickly their female nature becomes the orthodoxy, and they are never male in myth. What must be asked for the purposes of this study is what the mixanthropic element of the Sirens contributes to their character as expressed in both material and textual sources. But before we can do that, some questions regarding their nature must be addressed.

  • 82 Their father is widely said to be Acheloos: see e.g. Hyg. Fab. 141; Ap. Rhod. Arg. 4.893-6. On the (...)
  • 83 e.g. Eur. Hel. 168; Ovid, Met. 5.552.
  • 84 Melpomene: Apollod. Ep. 7.18. Terpsichore: schol. Lyk. Al. 653, 671, 712. Unspecified Muse: Lyk. Al (...)
  • 85 As is the claim that they were offspring of Phorkys, the sea-divinity, an elemental force closer in (...)
  • 86 Paus. 1.21.1.

33The Sirens have two alternative genealogies in Greek literature, which have a bearing on their nature. The chief disagreement concerns the identity of their mother:82 one tradition makes her Chthôn,83 the other a Muse (either Melpomene or Terpsichore).84 The former is represented in our earlier sources;85 the latter is post-Classical, and feels very much like a mythographical elaboration on the theme of the Sirens’ musical abilities. The earlier tradition on the other hand places the Sirens firmly in the ranks of Hesiod’s Children of Earth, including such monsters as Typhon and the Giants; however, the Sirens do not actually feature in the Theogony. We can only assume that, by making them the children of Earth, authors are attempting to fit them into that primordial company. The divergence between the two traditions is mirrored also in the way in which more and more emphasis comes to be placed, in literary accounts, on the Sirens as producers of sweet and fatal song, to the exclusion of other elements. (One recalls for example Pausanias’ remark that ‘even in the present day men compare to a Siren whatever is charming in both poetry and prose.’86)

  • 87 See Tsiafakis (2003), 74.
  • 88 The most famous example is fig. 10 (above, p. 71), an Attic red figure stamnos of c. 490 BC, showin (...)
  • 89 For a valuable, concise discussion of some important stages in modern thought on the subject, see P (...)
  • 90 E.g. in Plat. Kra. 403d; Euripides (Hel. 168-78) and Apollonios (Arg. 4.896-7) make them companions (...)
  • 91 See Lyk. Al. 712; Hyg. Fab. 141; for discussion of this and other traditions in the ancient materia (...)
  • 92 Both Ba-birds and Sirens appear often in funerary contexts, and both are associated with death and (...)

34Their appearance in material representation contains another dichotomy. It is in the sixth century that they become widespread (though it can be traced back as early as the eighth century),87 and their use takes two basic forms. The earliest Sirens are decorative, without narrative context and clearly owing much to Oriental influence. As time goes by, artists (especially vase-painters), place this borrowed form within a Greek mythological story, most often in depictions of the legend of Odysseus.88 There has been some debate about the sequence of these two types, the decorative and the narrative.89 However, fascinatingly, there is considerable overlap between the associations of the non-Greek decorative siren and the mythological beings to which the siren form comes to be applied. Their association with death in particular links their decorative function, which is often funerary (a famous example is given at fig. 11), with their mythological rôle. In the latter, the death association takes two forms. On the one hand, they are sometimes depicted as living in the underworld;90 and they are death-bringers, with their fatal song. But on the other hand, their own deaths are never far from sight. If their song fails to prove fatal, this failure is fatal for the singer; once resisted, the Siren dies.91 As we have seen, their cult is based on tombs. It is not unknown for a mixanthrope’s main characteristic, be it good or bad, to be turned against him or her in this way. Acheloos’ emblematic horn is wrenched off; Cheiron the healer dies of an incurable wound. An irony, bitter or gratifying, underlies many mixanthropic defeats. But in the case of the Sirens, it seems in part to be the product of a special predominance of death-imagery in their characterisation. This appears to owe something to non-Greek models, such as Egyptian Ba-birds (an example is given at fig. 12),92 though the precise contribution of such beings remains elusive.

  • 93 See e.g. Buschor (1944), who emphasises the Sirens’ underworld rôle; also, Wilamowitz, vol. 1 (1932 (...)
  • 94 Pollard (1952), esp. 60.
  • 95 See Vermeule (1979), 200-205: a lyrical description of the potent mixture of beauty and death which (...)
  • 96 Pollard (1965), 141.

35The other major theme, connected with that of death, is that of song. Some scholars have argued that the Sirens were conceived of as negative counterparts of the Muses,93 though Pollard challenges this inverse equivalency.94 In either case, the Sirens can undeniably represent the destructive power of music and song; this is clearly the image we draw from their rôle in the Odyssey.95 There is, however, another element to their musicality that is worth exploring. On an early red figure vase, a Siren plays the pipes in the retinue of Dionysos, among the more usual satyrs. Pollard conjectures that this Siren is ‘personifying … possibly the kind of music that could only be heard by adepts in a state of ecstasy.’96 One cannot, from one vase, extrapolate a significant connection between Sirens and Dionysiac revelry or altered consciousness; but this instance shows that the conception of the Sirens’ music was not so overwhelmingly negative that it could not, occasionally, be incorporated into the thiasos, with all its associations of fertility and bliss.

36So we return to the essential question: how much of the Sirens’ characterisation is fuelled by or reflected in their animal elements and their mixanthropy? A study of birds in myths reveals two strands. On the one hand, they are often associated with suffering, loss and death; on the other, they can at times themselves be destructive and death-bringing.

  • 97 Forbes Irving (1990), 96-127.
  • 98 A good example is the case of the Minyades, who are driven mad as punishment for denying Dionysos a (...)
  • 99 E.g. the birds of Memnon, though all sources are late: the earliest is Ovid, Met. 13.600 ff.
  • 100 E.g. the sisters of Meleagros, transformed into partridges and continuing to mourn him in this stat (...)
  • 101 Ovid, Met. 5.552-62.

37Mythological bird-metamorphosis revolves with particular emphasis around the idea of evasion and departure, facilitated by flight. Clearly birds’ wings made them uniquely able to embody swift, sometimes unex­pected movement, especially escape. On the one hand, this is a practical ability; but Forbes Irving shows that it makes them expressions of a number of themes concerning movement from a domestic to a wild setting.97 Bird-metamorphosis is undergone often by young women fleeing their homes following some form of transgressive and/or traumatic event, usually sexual in nature. The location in which the human-turned-bird finds herself is remote and lonely.98 Even more prevalently, bird metamorphosis is associated with grief and death; miraculous birds attend dead heroes in a state of perpetual remembrance and lamentation;99 and charac­ters sometimes become birds in a response to unbearable sadness.100 These twin themes of departure and grief seem particularly strongly associated with bird metamorphoses, and this cannot but have implications for bird-mixanthropy, especially as in the case of the Sirens there is explicit overlap: in one account, they transform into birds to search, grief-stricken, for the raped Persephone, and their mixanthropy results from this transformation.101

  • 102 The fullest account of the story is given by Pausanias as part of his description of the area of St (...)
  • 103 See e.g. Diod. 3.30, which highlights their damaging effect on agriculture. In this, they may be co (...)
  • 104 Borgeaud (1988), 18-19.
  • 105 This type of physical composition is different from the typical Archaic and Classical Greek Siren, (...)

38Birds are not always victims, however; they can also be symbols of aggression, either against other birds (as in much hawk-imagery), or even against humans in mythological contexts. The most famous example is the Stymphalian birds which are said to have haunted Lake Stymphalos in Arkadia until Herakles either killed them or drove them off.102 Not only are these birds man-eating, but they are also described as damaging crops and agricultural production.103 Borgeaud has argued convincingly that the crop-destroying properties of the birds is part of a wider myth-structure surrounding Stymphalos, to do with the human struggle to preserve agricultural production in the face of various hostile natural forces; the birds are associated with the destructive flood-waters to which the locality was indeed prone, and both birds and floods were associated with Artemis, the presiding deity of the lake.104 Stymphalos also provides another case of bird-mixanthropy. Pausanias tells us that the temple of Artemis Stymphalia was decorated not only with images of the Stymphalian Birds, but also with bird-legged women, bird-mixanthropes very like Sirens.105 There is no doubt that worship of Artemis in this location was aimed primarily at ensuring her support against the destructive natural forces of the area. The inclusion of the savage birds within her temple shows that they are within her domain and her control and that she is able to restrain their power. So why also the mixanthropes? A mixanthropic form depicts a juxtaposition of animal and human which raises a question constantly being posed in Arkadian mythology: which element is in control – human or animal? The Stymphalian bird-women show that human and animal meet in a tenuous and shrouded divide.

39So it is possible for birds to represent either passive suffering, grief and loss, or active aggression causing suffering to others. In the Sirens’ case, the dichotomy is at work, since they are both pathetic and alarming. However, it has another, related aspect as well, for they combine allure with savagery, the beauty of their voices and their human parts combined with the murderous quality embodied, to a large extent, in their avian parts. It is interesting to compare this ambiguity with the far simpler characterisation of the Harpies. Whereas the Sirens are never relegated wholesale to the realm of the monstrous, but retain elements of attraction and pathos, the Harpies are wholly bad. Their snatching and spoiling of Phineus’ food are faintly reminiscent of the crop-spoiling activities of the Stymphalian birds. However, unlike the Stymphalian birds, the Harpies are mixanthropic. They are never depicted sympathetically, and they are never accorded cult. The contrast between the Harpies and the Sirens, both bird-mixanthropes yet so divergent in character, makes an important point: that though it is possible to isolate the associations and significance of a form of mixanthropy, it is not a constant. Whereas the Sirens are allowed to harness the duality of bird-imagery, its positive and negative aspects, the Harpies display only the destructive side.

  • 106 Schachter vol. 1 (1986), 228.
  • 107 9.22.7.
  • 108 Although he says nothing explicitly about Glaukos’ leap into the sea, Pausanias does tell of his di (...)
  • 109 Schol. Plat. Resp. 611d.

40The sea-god Glaukos is a character with a wide and rather vague distribution, made harder to pin down by his equation with the Halios Gerôn, that most generic figure of the sea. At the same time, there is one site at least in which he certainly received cult: Anthedon, in Boiotia. This location is not surprising: as Schachter points out, this area of Boiotia was ‘a favourite area for fabulous figures, the most famous being Glaukos, Orion and the Triton.’106 Our chief source for his worship here is Pausanias,107 who tells us that its focus was a place called the Glaukou pedêma – ‘Glaukos’ Leap’. Pausanias tells us nothing of Glaukos’ famous jump, but other sources repair this omission, though not with complete consistency. The common pattern is that Glaukos is a mortal, a fisherman, who discovers, in some form, the secret of immortality, whereupon he jumps into the sea and becomes a thalattios daimôn. Usually, the source of immortality is a magic herb;108 in one account it is a spring.109

  • 110 Paus. 9.22.7.
  • 111 Lines 360, 364 and 363 respectively.
  • 112 Athen. Deipn. 7.296f.
  • 113 Herakl. Kret. 1.24.

41In addition to his discovery of the secret of immortality, Glaukos as deity is chiefly associated with prophecy. Pausanias tells us that on entering the sea he became a mantic god, especially in the eyes of seafarers.110 This was clearly his main function at Anthedon. The theme of prophecy is widely used in literary sources and brings him into very close conjunction with Proteus, another marine mixanthrope. In Euripides’ Orestes, for example, he appears to Menelaos and tells him of his brother Agamemnon’s death; this must surely recall Menelaos’ encounter with Proteus in book four of the Odyssey. In this passage of the play, Glaukos is called ἀψευδὴς θεός, προφήτης and ὁ ναυτίλοισι μάντις,111 this last clearly reinforcing his special connection with sailors. Athenaios recounts a tradition in which Apollo himself is taught prophecy by Glaukos;112 this clearly paints him as a mythical forerunner and a primordial exponent of a techne, just as Cheiron was thought to have been the origin of the healing art. Glaukos was also, according to one writer,113 regarded as the ancestor of the people of Anthedon. He is therefore a mythological founder-figure of considerable local significance, and this is surely connected with his abiding association with the seafaring way of life.

  • 114 See e.g. Nik. Ther. 500 ff.: Cheiron discovers a herb on Pelion which cures snakebites.

42So as a deity of the sea Glaukos presents us with no great surprises: like Proteus, he is an oracular sea-god whose cult, also, was shore-based and connected with the marine realm. Like many mixanthropic gods, he was regarded as of extreme antiquity and ancestral status. His discovery and use of a miraculous herb is also perhaps faintly reminiscent of Cheiron, who in his healing capacity made use of magic herbs which grew on Pelion.114 In Glaukos’ case, however, we have no evidence for a healing function in his cult; it appears only as a mythological element.

  • 115 See e.g. Ovid, Met. 13.959-62.
  • 116 See LIMC s.v. ‘Glaukos I’, cat. nos. 7-9.

43For Glaukos, as for Thetis, we have no extant cult image; we are therefore reliant, when trying to determine how he was imagined physically, on literary descriptions and visual depictions unconnected with his quite limited worship. When, in ancient literature, his shape is described at all, it is mixanthropic and follows the pattern of Proteus and the Halios Gerôn: human above the waist but with a fish tail in place of legs.115 Material sources are not unproblematic owing to issues of identification. A number of coins, most of them fourth century BC and most from Crete, bear a fish-tailed figure which may be Glaukos;116 but since his form is shared by a number of other marine deities it is impossible to be certain. At the same time, the very prevalence of the merman type makes it extremely hard to believe that Glaukos was not imagined in this form, both in the context of his cult and more widely.

2. Acheloos and other river gods

  • 117 General treatments of the nature, cults and iconography of river-gods – in addition to the entries (...)

44So far the aquatic associations of the deities discussed have been marine, but a large number of mixanthropic deities in Greek cult were gods of rivers.117 There are several iconographic elements which they share with sea-deities, chiefly the importance of shape-changing and metamorphosis which might be thought a natural corollary to the fluidity of all water, whether salt or fresh. They have, on the other hand, some aspects of mixanthropy peculiar to themselves.

45Just as with sea-deities we have observed the presence of a strong type which tends to obscure, and sometimes even override, so with river-gods it is sometimes difficult to identify and name individual gods; sometimes ‘That is a river-god’ is as far as the evidence will take one. To generalise (and for once the consistency of the imagery allows for generalisation) there are two main river-god types, used in countless local instances. The first is an anthropomorphic form, usually youthful and beardless, with taurine horns – hardly mixanthropic at all. The second has a far more obvious animal element: it combines a bull’s body with a human head and face (and sometimes neck). The two types are in a sense opposites of each other: one is a humanoid with a touch of the animal about the head; the other is a bull, bulky and four-square, with a human head attached. Copious numbers of both types are to be found, especially, in South Italy and Sicily, where river-god worship was plainly important; and they also appear widely, in various contexts and media, throughout the Greek world in the Classical and Hellenistic periods.

  • 118 For a collection of the literary sources on this, see RE s.v. ‘Flussgötter’, esp. coll. 1495-6. The (...)
  • 119 The sheer scale of this manifestation may be grasped by scrutinising their entry in Head’s index (1 (...)
  • 120 Despite the relative abundance of material concerning his cult and his representation, Acheloos has (...)

46Rich as this cache of imagery is, it is very often anonymous, and the problems of identification which surround it are considerable. Most often, one is unsure as to whether an image represents a specific local deity or one of more pan-Hellenic scope, such as Acheloos, whose worship was extremely pervasive and may occasionally have displaced a local river-god from cult and representation. We have, on the whole, little material evidence for their cults. Literary sources stress their importance in rites of passage, especially in the lives of young men,118 and this association with private concerns appears to be uppermost, though occasionally we find them occupying some form of civic rôle. The great exception to the general dearth of material evidence is coinage, on which they are overwhelmingly popular, especially in Sicily and South Italy.119 The problem with coinage is that it does not necessarily indicate cult in the full sense. For this reason, it has been decided to concentrate on Acheloos in this book, mentioning other river-gods where relevant along the way.120

  • 121 There were other, far less famous rivers of the same name in Arkadia, Achaia, Lydia, Mykonos and th (...)
  • 122 On early Eastern Acheloos-images, see Isler (1970), 76-82.

47In terms of location and distribution of worship, Acheloos presents us with an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, as a deity he seems unusually localised: he is the god of the river Acheloos which runs between Akarnania and Aitolia in northern Greece.121 At the same time, some of the earliest representations of Acheloos on his own (not involved in combat with Herakles, for example) come from outside ‘Greece proper’, and far away from Akarnania: from Asia Minor and from the western Greek world, south Italy and Sicily. Only rather later do we find widespread worship in Greece. And we do seem to be dealing with two (partially) separate strands of development: his mixanthropic image, entering Greek culture from the East,122 and his river-based cult spreading outward from Akarnania. How the two processes really relate is extremely uncertain. At some stage, the Eastern Mannstier type (see below) meets and merges with a native Greek river-god; by the time of most of our material and evidence, the two are almost unvaryingly fused in cult imagery.

  • 123 Sometimes it is hard to tell whether Acheloos or a local river god is depicted in the art or coinag (...)

48In the western Greek world of Sicily and South Italy, Acheloos is just one of a number of local river-gods, many of whom continue to receive attention in their own right despite his success as a ubiquitous personality.123 In Greece itself, the situation is a little different. Though there are problems with reading evidence on this point, it seems that here he dominates more definitely; he has far fewer local variants to contend with. His enthusiastic adoption into Attic and central Greek cult causes a profusion of imagery. The use of his image changes, also, as will be described.

  • 124 By contrast, within Greece itself, only Akarnania and Aitolia make use of Acheloos’ image on coinag (...)
  • 125 See Head (1911), 76; Rutter (2001), 132 and plate 27, no. 1491 (a very clear photograph).

49Among other river-gods, Acheloos is represented, in Ionia and the Greek west, on countless coins,124 gems and other artefacts. We know, too, that in certain sites he was accorded full cult. At Metapontum he had games in his honour; coins, which may have served as prizes, bear the words ΑΧΕΛΟΙΟ ΑΕΘΛΟΝ (though, interestingly, on these Acheloos is shown as mainly human rather than as a man-faced bull).125 It is from Greece itself, however, that the most substantial evidence of worship derives.

  • 126 Schol. Hom. Il. 24.616.
  • 127 See e.g. Imhoof-Blumer (1878), 175, no. 22; also Isler (1970), cat. no. 96.

50In north-western Greece as at Metapontum, Acheloos was associated with athletic contests; a festival of games was part of his Akarnanian cult.126 It is possible that Acheloos’ most famous mythical exploit, wrestling with Herakles, contributed to this association (though of course he was not the victor!). In any case, he appears to have been a deity of considerable importance in Akarnania, his image dominating the local coinage at times when the region was trying to assert its individual identity and character. In the Hellenistic Period, for example, the Akarnanian League produced staters with an unusual Acheloos-type, youthful and beardless heads in profile with horns and taurine necks.127 Acheloos was clearly a figure sufficiently closely associated with the region to lend himself to programmatic exploitation in this way.

  • 128 Ephoros, FGrHist 70 F 20 (Macr. Sat. 5.18.6).
  • 129 Parke (1967, 153) believes that the god’s response amounted to the propagation of the Acheloos-cult (...)

51Further north, at Dodona, Acheloos seems to have had a part to play in the oracular cult of Zeus Naios. Ephoros, transmitted by Macrobius, tells us that ‘In practically all of them [i.e. oracular responses] the god is accustomed to command to sacrifice to Acheloos.’128 This statement leaves much uncertain. Was Acheloos the only god included in this injunction? Was the consulter meant to sacrifice to him there in Dodona, or back in his native region; or did it involve a special pilgrimage south to Akarnania? The presence of a shrine to Acheloos in Dodona suggests the former and backs up Ephoros’ statement. But at the same time, given that Dodona and Akarnania were both within the northern Greek massif, Acheloos’ cult in the latter would surely have gained in prominence thanks to the endorsement of the oracle.129

  • 130 Paus. 1.41.2. Interestingly, Theagenes’ institution of the cult coincides with his re-direction of (...)
  • 131 Paus. 1.34.3-5. See Schachter (1986), vol. I, 1. The notion of a preliminary sacrifice to Acheloos (...)

52Important cult sites of Acheloos in central Greece were in Megara, Oropos and Attica. The first of these was the oldest, said to have been set up by Theagenes, the local tyrant in the seventh century; our one source of information on this is Pausanias, who mentions only an altar.130 The Oropos worship is similarly scanty, and again is only attested by Pausanias, who tells us that Acheloos was one of many deities depicted on the altar of the Amphiareion; before one consulted Amphiaraos, one sacrificed to all the deities named on the altar. In his particular panel on the altar, Acheloos is depicted alongside the nymphs and Pan, and the river Kephis(s)os.131 This company is typical of a huge proportion of Acheloos’ worship, throughout Greece; it is an arrangement that finds most frequent expression in Attic sites, which will now be discussed.

53Acheloos-worship in Attica was chiefly located in caves, and its main span of time was from the fifth to the third century BC. Never do we find Acheloos worshipped alone. The nymphs are his most constant cult-companions; but various finds show a range of possibilities. Acheloos appears repeatedly as one of a group of cave-dwelling deities whose numbers are flexible but whose characteristics are dominated by the themes of birth and plenty. He has this group function in common with Cheiron, significantly, who in a Thessalian sacred cave shares worship with the nymphs and Pan, among others (see below). In the case of Acheloos, these group appearances are in contrast with his depiction in Eastern and west-Greek artefacts, in which he tends to be alone. Attic usage especially slots him into an existing canon of rustic deities.

  • 132 On this, Parker (2005), 430.
  • 133 The inscription from the site which lists the deities is IG II2 4547 & 4548; see Isler (1970), 35-6 (...)

54The most expressive example of an Attic relief in which Acheloos is represented as one of a group in this way is the dedication of Xenokrateia (see fig. 13). The shrine in which the dedication was made was at Echelidai, near the river Kephisos. Two dedications have been found, one by a certain Kephisodotos to the nymphs and Hermes, the other that of Xenokrateia, a mother, made apparently in gratitude for some less than certain divine favour.132 This latter is addressed to ‘Kephisos and the sumbômoi theoi’, who are represented on the carved picture that accompanies the text. Not all the deities shown can be securely identified, but Acheloos can. On the stele is also a list, naming the gods: Hestia, Kephisos (reminding us of the Oropos monument), Apollo Pythios, Leto, Artemis Lochia and Eileithyia (these last two goddesses of childbirth), Acheloos, Kallirhoë, Geraistan Nymphs of Birth, Rhapso.133

  • 134 Parker (2005), 430.
  • 135 Parker (2005), 430. The fertility-aspect of Acheloos will be discussed further when we come to exam (...)

55Not only is Acheloos in company, but that company is largely familiar from other instances of his worship, and has a clear overall character: kourotrophy. Parker in a recent discussion remarks that the plurality of these deities and their function were not unconnected: ‘The tendency of the Greeks to appeal to a plurality of gods, to recruit a team, appears in this area of life perhaps more clearly than in any other.’134 When enlisting aid for the survival and growth of children (or crops or animals), the Greeks generally tried to cover all the bases, so to speak. Within the ‘team’, each constituent deity had his or her particular credentials, and Acheloos is no exception. Of his inclusion in this case, and the inclusion of Kallirhoë and Kephisos, Parker says: ‘Rivers and springs, this sanctuary reminds us, are almost as important kourotrophoi as is earth.’135

56So Acheloos, along with his fellow river-god Kephisos and his daughter, the spring Kallirhoë, is a very suitable inclusion in the divine group, in this as at other sites. It is impossible to say what individual aspects of Acheloos are obscured by his incorporation into the generic collective. It would be desirable to know more about the Akarnanian cult and its regional character, and about his precise function at Dodona. Without further evidence, however, this is not possible.

57I turn now from cult to composition. In our one explicit description of his form in a literary retelling of myth, the emphasis is on his shape-changing, though mixanthropy is also present. Sophokles in the Trachiniai (lines 9-14) describes Acheloos’ attempt to win the hand of Deianeira by wrestling with Herakles, her other suitor. He transforms into, successively, a bull, a snake, and finally a bull-faced man like the Minotaur. Taurine mixanthropy appears as one of various assumed shapes. As will later be argued in more detail, there is no doubt that here mixanthropy is an interloper into an existing motif of animal shape-changing, a spin-off from patterns of visual representation which are the artistic corollary to a literary emphasis on transformation.

  • 136 Red figure Attic stamnos by Oltos; c. 520 BC. Herakles fights Acheloios. (London BM 1839,0214.70; L (...)
  • 137 As Isler (1970, 16) points out, the artist, Oltos, has felt the need to label Acheloos, as if to sa (...)
  • 138 On this relative conservatism, see Isler in LIMC s.v. ‘Acheloos’, p. 30.

58The visual depictions of Acheloos are almost undeviatingly mixanthropic. His non-cultic representations, particu­larly on painted vases, reveal a multiplicity of possible forms, as artists follow their own aims or respond to the requirements of the context they portray. He can be a man-faced bull, as in figs. 14-16 (this is overwhelmingly the most common form); less frequent types depict him as a man-faced bull with arms, a taurine centaur, and, in one unique and striking instance, a Triton, human as far as the base of the pectoral muscles, beneath which an intricately scaled fish tail undulates away to the viewer’s right instead of human legs and feet.136 Overall, he tends to be drawn into individual canons of depiction; when he is shown as a centaur, for example, he adopts some of their mannerisms, such as throwing stones. The Triton-Acheloos is clearly making use of another established form, that of the marine deity.137 It is, however, the man-faced bull which is most successful in the long run. This form’s success may well owe much its dominance in cult representation. The cult images generally are far more uniform than those not explicitly connected with cult, and far less responsive to short-term artistic trends.138

  • 139 Even in cases where the body is shown, the face is very frequently of a pronounced quality, often f (...)

59Less common than the man-faced bull in the reliefs, but also noteworthy, is the type which depicts Acheloos merely as a mask, a detached face with taurine ears and horns, positioned on a cult table within the scene or on the wall of the cave shown in the relief, as in fig. 17.139 This mask phenomenon is highly significant when compared with other trends in Greek mixanthropy, and its relation to Acheloos will be discussed further in Chapter 8.

  • 140 LIMC s.v. ‘Acheloos’, cat. no. 221; Berlin Staatl. Mus. F 136.

60Acheloos’ mixanthropy is dominated by the bull, though other species do appear occasionally. On a mid-sixth-century gem from Falerii a fish occupies the field beside him.140 The Oltos Acheloos is fish-tailed. Fish imagery is of course quite in keeping with the water association of Acheloos, but the bull is far more in evidence throughout, and at the same time is less obviously connected with water. I shall first say more about Acheloos’ water-associations (for they are not as simple as they seem), then about their connection with the bull.

  • 141 Brewster (1997), 9-14.

61Acheloos’ water-associations seem at first sight simple because, on one level at least, he is the divine personification of a particular river, in a particular place. The river Acheloos rises in the Pindos mountains, and further south forms the border between Akarnania and Aitolia.141 Other rivers in Greece share its name, but there is no disputing the fact that the god Acheloos originates in this region and landscape; as we have seen, his cult continued to have firm connections with that area. It is not hard to imagine that, as in the case of Pan, a cult that was at first local, highly place-specific, later spread and achieved popularity all over the Greek world, perhaps sometimes supplanting existing river-gods and their worship.

  • 142 Hes. Theog. 337-40.
  • 143 Macr. Sat. 5.18.10.
  • 144 Hom. Il. 21.195.
  • 145 E.g. Kallirhoe (Apollod. Bibl. 3.7.5), and Dirke (Eur. Bacch. 519-20). See Larson (2001), 4, 6, 148
  • 146 Apollod. Bibl. 1.3.4
  • 147 If this line is excised as being a later interpolation, then Acheloos, not Okeanos, is given that u (...)
  • 148 D’Alessio remarks (2004, 26) that it is ‘difficult … to trace any functional relationship between t (...)
  • 149 For the Eastern origins both of the form and of some mythological aspects of Acheloos, see D’Alessi (...)

62This is a plausible model for the basic shape of events; but it is not the whole truth. Behind, beside or beneath Acheloos’ persona as Akarnanian/Aitolian river-god appears to have been, in our earliest sources, a much wider water-related identity, not restricted to an individual river. In the first place, sources, many early, give Acheloos a place among water-divinities whose scope is universal: his father is usually given as Okeanos;142 he is the oldest of the rivers,143 and kingly,144 and is father to many water-related nymphs,145 and to the Sirens.146 From the texts available, it is impossible to gain access to a time when Acheloos was purely a local figure. But there is more: D’Alessio has argued that a disputed line in the Iliad (21.195) provides potential evidence that at one stage Acheloos was considered to be the origin and ‘overseer’ of all the waters of the world, a function then shifted to Okeanos.147 The cosmic function of Acheloos is strongly connected with some Eastern mythological figures.148 Both the form and the character of Acheloos seem to owe much to Eastern models. However the adoption of the Eastern model, with all its associations, into Greek usage,149 was probably only possible because of an existing association between bulls and water-deities.

  • 150 Reflected most directly in his title Hippios, and in horse-related rituals in his worship. The Thes (...)
  • 151 For example, Pegasos was thought to have created various springs by striking the ground with his ho (...)
  • 152 Apollod. Bibl. 3.1.1.
  • 153 Strabo 10.2.19.

63This association is articulated both by the river-gods and by Poseidon, the latter being also the most consistent focus for the connection between water and horses.150 (In fact, bulls and horses receive very similar mythological treatment in this regard.) Supernatural horses often feature alongside springs, rivers and the sea in myths151 (though the figure of Poseidon tends to be discernible in the background of the story, suggesting that he remains pivotal to the relationship). Some mythological episodes appear to show bulls and water similarly linked, but they are few. Bulls sometimes emerge from the sea. In the myth of Hippolytos, for example, as told in Euripides’ play, the young man’s death is brought about when his chariot-horses are panicked by a monstrous bull which comes out of the sea; the beast is sent by Poseidon, but none the less the bull-water relationship is strong. Likewise, when a bull emerges from the sea to abduct Europe, that bull is Zeus in disguise; but it is significant that this particular animal form is chosen to effect a sea-passage.152 We can see that the connection between Acheloos’ bull parts and his watery domain is part of a much wider pattern of association. However, this connection does not appear always to have been so self-evident that it did not require explanation; Strabo, for example, offers a rationalising account in which Acheloos’ bull form derives from the bull-like roaring of the waters of the river Acheloos, whose windings were called ‘horns’, thus adding another element of explanation.153 Perhaps by Strabo’s time the traditional bull-water connection had lost its force.

  • 154 Forbes Irving (1990), 43: ‘With both Dionysos and the river-gods bull form seems con­nected with me (...)
  • 155 Sources differ; the horn, however, is always – when species is specified – a cow’s/bull’s. See e.g. (...)
  • 156 See e.g. Ovid, Met. 9.87-8. A significant number of sources find a way of combining the two origins (...)
  • 157 See e.g. Apollod. Bibl. 2.7.5.

64Does the bull have any other associations which should be taken into account as potentially important to the character of Acheloos? Forbes Irving points to a connection between bull-form and fertility, which is undoubtedly an important strand of significance.154 Fertility is one of the haziest and most misused concepts in Greek religion; here, however, in the case of Acheloos, we are fortunate enough to find an explicit connection. Acheloos is one of two possessors and sources, in myth, of the famous and ubiquitous cornucopia, the horn of plenty whose rôle as a detached emblem of fertility ranges from featuring in Hellenistic coin propaganda to being the accessory of the goddess Tyche/Fortuna. One version of its origins makes it the horn of Amaltheia, who is either a nymph or a goat.155 The other attributes it to Acheloos.156 The context for the latter account is almost always Acheloos’combat with Herakles. Though they fight ostensibly for the hand of Deianeira, the cornucopia is in fact just as dominant a theme in the story, if not more so: Herakles breaks it off, gaining a prize no less great than his bride.157 In visual depictions, Herakles is frequently shown grasping the horn; on one (fig. 18), the horn is shown already detached and lying on the floor, though Herakles and Acheloos still fight (presumably a case of synoptic composition).

  • 158 The importance of the horn to river-gods generally is reflected in the name Bokaros, ‘Bull-horned’, (...)
  • 159 LIMC s.v. ‘Acheloos’, cat. no. 204; Isler (1970), 38-9 and cat. no. 35; Athens NM 1778.
  • 160 Isler (1970), 39.
  • 161 Plat. Kra. 403d.
  • 162 Eur. Hel. 168-78.
  • 163 Tsiafakis (2003), 77-78.

65This myth puts Acheloos in the rôle of monstrous adversary; but there is no doubt that the cornucopia is also an important element in his cult persona. Horns are an indispensable feature of his iconographic representation;158 moreover, sometimes the cornucopia is shown in the same cult relief as Acheloos, in highly significant contexts. The most striking example is a relief from Ilissos from the second half of the third century BC, which shows the dead coming before Persephone and Hades in the underworld.159 Acheloos is present in mask-form (in fact, Hades sits on the mask); Persephone holds the cornucopia. Here we have departed from the mythological expression of the relationship which sees the cornucopia as something wrested from the god to his detriment. Acheloos and the cornucopia co-exist within a scene packed with significance. In this underworld setting, both aspects of the chthonic – death and fertility – are expressed, and Acheloos is associated with both.160 His fertility aspect tends to be to the fore, reflected in his frequent juxtaposition with Dionysos, the nymphs and Hermes in pastoral mode. But echoes of his death-associations are occasionally felt; for example, he is the father of the Sirens, who live in the underworld,161 are companions of Persephone,162 and feature prominently on grave monuments from the fourth century onwards.163

66So, diversity and similarity co-exist in mixanthropic deities of water. On the one hand, there is variety of species: bull-parts for river-gods, fish tails for sea deities, and for both the startling welter of different forms taken on during shape-changing. On the other hand, shape-changing and metamorphosis are constant ingredients. They reflect the fact that, in myth, humans are almost always attempting to grasp these beings (whether in lust or anger or the desire for information), and their victims are using all their slipperiness, all their transformative power, to elude them. How this relationship reflects on the quality of aquatic mixanthropes as deities, as recipients of cult, will be examined in a later section.

Notes

1 This type, however, certainly has something of a generic quality; it is that of the Halios Gerôn, of which all fish-tailed sea divinities may be seen as versions. On the Halios Gerôn and his relationship with individually named sea-gods, see Shepard (1940), 10-16. In a sense, Proteus presents the same issue as Acheloos: he is named, but there are numerous anonymous figures discernible in the ancient material on whom we are essentially unable to comment because of lack of evidence. An example is the mysterious merman on coins of Cyzicus (BMC Mysia pl. IV, no. 8) and of Itanos in Crete (BMC Crete and the Aegean Islands pl. XIII, no. 30). Like local river-gods, these figures were clearly of some importance to individual communities, but their significance is impossible to reconstruct. As with Acheloos, therefore, the decision has been made to focus on the named individual. Necessary as this is on a practical level, however, the observations made in Chapter 9 will suggest that to focus entirely on mixanthropes for whom we have a distinct individual identity is to ignore an important element of the collective which pervades their character.

2 It is impossible to provide evidence, or much enthusiasm, for Shepard’s claim (1940, 92), that the Halios Gerôn type of which Proteus is one version was the forerunner of Poseidon as dominant sea-deity and was ousted by him (at some undefinable stage). This is typical of the assumption, discussed and challenged in Chapter 5, that mixanthropic deities are earlier than their anthropomorphic counterparts.

3 Proteus living in the Karpathian sea: Verg. Georg. 4.387; as Karpathian: Ovid, Met. 11.249; Stat. Ach. 1.134.

4 For example, Vergil says that he tends Neptune’s ‘immania…|armenta et turpis…phocas.’ Vergil in the Georgics adapts the figure of Proteus to be in many ways a marine version of the monstrous herdsman Polyphemos; however, this analogy has its roots in Homer, and the fourth book of the Odyssey in which Proteus appears as the shepherd of the deep.

5 The Kabeiroi were the offspring of his daughter Kabeiro, according to Pherekydes cited in Strabo 10.3.21.

6 Od. 4.349 ff.

7 Hdt. 2.112-9.

8 Dion. Byz. de Nav. 49. He also received cult at Gytheion, here called simply Gerôn: Paus. 3.21.9.

9 1.32.2.

10 Hom. Od. 4.385-6. Proteus’ wisdom, prophetic and general, is strongly reminiscent of the depiction of Cheiron. Cheiron’s wisdom and prudence are stressed to an unusual degree; moreover, it often takes an oracular form. See e.g. Eur. Iph. Aul. 1062-75: here Cheiron, described as a mantis, prophesies the birth of Achilles to Peleus and Thetis. Both are conceived as old, and age and wisdom are concomitant.

11 Julian, Ep. 187; schol. Verg. Georg. 4.406.

12 Schol. Hom. Od. 4.456.

13 Orph. Hymn. 25.4.

14 The earliest such figure is the merman who wrestles a human on a bronze plaque from Olympia (see Shepard, 1940, 10, fig. 10). Shepard regards the Halios Gerôn as the fore-runner of all branches of the merman-type (Nereus, Proteus, Triton, Okeanos), and remarks: ‘He was probably a pre-Hellenic sea-divinity, worshipped rather generally throughout Greece’ (p. 10). As usual with such claims, evidence is not forthcoming.

15 Hom. Od. 4.382-570.

16 Graf (1985), 351-3.

17 This is attested by epigraphic evidence, though this tends to be from the Roman period: see e.g. Hirst (1903), 47, for a dedication Ἀχιλλεῖ Ποντάρχῃ καὶ Θέτιδι. The worship of Achilles himself is undoubtedly manifested earlier in this particular region. The major literary source for the connection of Thetis with Achilles in cult around the Hellespontine region and the Black Sea is Philostratus’ Heroikos (53.10) in which Thetis is invoked in prayer as part of Thessalian rituals in honour of Achilles in the Troad. For further discussion of the implications of this text for our understanding of Thetis’ character, see Slatkin (1986); Aston (2009).

18 Paus. 3.14.4.

19 Paus. 3.26.7.

20 Paus. 3.22.2.

21 Polybios 18.20.6; Pherekydes FGrHist 3 F 1; Strabo 9.5.6; Eur. Andr. 16-20; Plut. Pel. 31-32.

22 SEG XLV (1995) 637 might provide epigraphic evidence of a considerable civic cult, if one accepts the reading of Arvanitopoulos (1911); however, Decourt (1995) reinterprets the inscription in question, whose text is badly damaged, to the exclusion of Thetis’ name, and his conclusions are hard to disagree with; perfect certainty either way is not possible without further evidence. It is, however, undeniable that the region of Phthia in which Pharsalos was located was associated with Thetis-worship by numerous ancient authors; in addition to the mentions of a Thetideion, see Ovid, Met. 11.359.

23 See Larson (2007), 69-70, for Thetis’ Sepias worship as part of a range of Greek sea-related deities and cults, largely designed to protect mariners and their concerns.

24 Hdt. 7.191.2: ‘The storm lasted for three days. Finally the Magi brought it to an end on the fourth day by making sacrifices and by singing spells to the wind, and also by sacrificing to Thetis and the Nereids – though perhaps the storm abated rather of its own accord.’

25 τῇ δὲ Θέτι ἔθυον πυθόμενοι παρὰ τῶν Ἰώνων τὸν λόγον ὡς ἐκ τοῦ χώρου τούτου ἁρπασθείη ὑπὸ Πηλέος, είη τε ἅπασα ἀκτὴ Σηπιὰς ἐκείνης τε καὶ τῶν ἀλλέων Νηρηίδων.

26 Wace and Droop excavated at Theotokou, ‘the traditional site of Sepias’, where they found, beneath a modern chapel, Doric architectural fragments but no inscriptions or substantial temple remains. They concluded, dramatically, that Sepias itself cannot have been in the Theotokou area but must, instead, have been ‘near the foot of Mount Pelion at Cape Porí.’ A position near the foot of Pelion would bring Thetis’ sacred territory, whatever worship took place there, into even closer proximity to the cave of Cheiron. However, it is likely that in making this conclusion, based on a lack of material remains, Wace and Droop were over-prioritising buildings and other material remains as evidence of cult. See Wace and Droop (1906-7), esp. 311.

27 Schol. Lyk. Al. 175.

28 Hom. Il. 18.369; Hom. Hym. 3.319; Apollod. Bibl. 1.19.

29 Hom. Il. 6.135.

30 Philostr. Her. 53.10: Θέτι κυανέα, Θέτι Πηλεία, | τὸν μέγαν τέκες υἱὸν Ἀχιλλέα, τοῦ | θνατὰ μὲν ὅσον φύσις ἤνεγκε, | Τροία λάχε· σᾶς δὅσον ἀθανάτου | γενεᾶς πάις ἔσπασε, Πόντος ἔχει. | βαῖνε πρὸς αἰπὺν τόνδε κολωνὸν | μετἈχιλλέως ἔμπυρα, | βαῖνἀδάκρυτος μετὰ Θεσσαλίας, | Θέτι κυανέα, Θέτι Πηλεία. For this text I use the translation of Maclean and Aitken (1977, 78).

31 Compare the fact that the Thessalians are described as bringing with them from Thessaly all the materials for the sacrifice that they will need, so as to require nothing from the land in which they finally make land. Overall, their activities in the Troad come across as cautious and furtive, like those of warriors conducting a night raid on an enemy outpost.

32 At Sigeion near the Hellespont: Hdt. 5.94; see also Strabo 13.1.32. In the Iliad, though of course the cult of Achilles is not explicitly mentioned, there is a description of his tomb as a beacon helping foundering sailors at sea: see 19.374-80.

33 See Hedreen (1991), 313-330; Hommel (1980); Hirst (1902), 245-67, esp. 247-51; id. (1903), 24-53, esp. 45-8. The various locations excavated in this region have thrown up some fascinating material, including some intriguing pottery disks (possibly gaming-counters) inscribed with various abbreviations of Achilles’ name; worship can be seen to have begun in the sixth century BC and to have continued for many centuries.

34 For epigraphic evidence of this link, see Helly (2006).

35 See Slatkin (1986): Thetis’ chief maternal attributes are grief and anger. See also Aston (2009).

36 Slatkin (1986).

37 Paus. 3.22.2.

38 Paus. 3.14.4.

39 Hom. Il. 18.394-405.

40 Paus. 8.41.5: the Phigalians treat Eurynome as a surname of Artemis and some also believe the Homeric identification of Eurynome with Thetis. This view he himself vigorously rebuts, with the words: Ἀρτέμιδι δὲ οὑκ ἔστιν ὅπως ἂν μετά γε τοῦ εἰκότος λόγου μετείη τοιούτου σχήματος.’

41 Paus. 8.41.6.

42 A famous example is the depiction in the tondo of an Attic red figure kylix of c. 500 BC signed by Peithinos, showing the pair wrestling, and Peleus attacked by snakes and a lion which have seemingly emanated from Thetis. (Berlin, Staatl. Mus. F 2279; LIMC s.v. ‘Thetis’, cat. no. 13. See Woodford (2003), 166-7, on this use of ‘subsidiary figures’ to show Thetis’ transformations, a mode which also seems to have been employed on the Chest of Kypselos, which according to Pausanias (5.18.5) depicted her with a snake emerging from her body and threatening Peleus.

43 Ptolem. Heph. in Photius Bibl. 149b.1ff.

44 Eur. fr 1093 Nauck; schol. Ap. Rhod. Arg. 1.582; schol. Eur. Andr. 1266; schol Lyk. Al. 175-8.

45 Forbes Irving (1990), 182.

46 The scholiast on Ap. Rhod. Arg. 1.582 suggests that the place took its name from Thetis’ sepia-metamorphosis.

47 Borgeaud (1995), 23.

48 Quoted by Athenaios, Deipn. 134d-137c.

49 Trans. Degani (1995), 417.

50 Degani (1995), 425.

51 See Degani (1995), 426, n. 9 on the textual uncertainty and his conjecture. As the text stands in the form given above, the participle eousa could have either a causal or a concessive sense (‘because she is a fish’ or ‘despite being a fish’. The latter would in fact yield quite a similar sense to that Degani wants to argue for: fish don’t know the difference between white and black, but Thetis, though a fish, does, because of her special sepia-qualities. The causal option would invalidate any distinction between the cuttlefish and the rest of the fish, and given the ancient awareness of the peculiarities of the sepia, its composition and habits, this does seem unsatisfactory.

52 The extreme whiteness of cuttlefish is recognised by ancient authors, and connected with the pale complexions of women: see e.g. Aristoph. Ekkl. 126. Here a woman in a false beard is compared with a cuttlefish similarly disguised, and the scholiast explains this with the words λευκαὶ γὰρ αἱ σηπίαι. See Detienne and Vernant (1978), 160-61 and 174 n. 139.

53 For the sea as untrustworthy, see Pittakos fr. 10 5.10 DK.

54 Indeed, literary treatments sometimes make her appearance reminiscent of her marine home. For example, in Homer, her veil is described as kuaneos, a colour-word very often applied to the sea (Il. 24.94); and when she emerges from the marine depths to comfort Achilles in Book 1 of the Iliad, she ‘comes forth from the grey sea like a mist’ (l. 359), clearly echoing its colour once more. On the disparity between the sea’s shining surface and its murky, kêtos-ridden depths (a disparity which Thetis’ character could be thought to echo), see Vermeule (1979), 179: ‘The sea is the more dangerous because you cannot look far below the surface, however much light plays across the top; it is as dark as the underworld below…’. Fascinatingly, Semonides uses the sea as an image to describe a beautiful but deceitful woman, raising just the quality of deceptive feminine beauty that Thetis has (as does Pandora).

55 Paus. 8.41.4-6.

56 Whereas with regard to Demeter Melaina Pausanias’ narrative is clearly composed largely of interlocking myths, his description of Eurynome’s shrine is brief and factual.

57 Thetis was a Nereid rather than an Oceanid; but there does not appear to have been significant difference between the two groups.

58 Paus. 8.41.6.

59 A possible connection between Eurynome’s form and Artemis is provided by a fish-tailed female depicted on a relief from the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia: see Bevan (1986), 193, no. 58.

60 Artemis with a retinue of Oceanids: Kallim. Hymn. 3.12, 40; Nonn. Dion. 16.127. Thetis with a band of Nereids: Hom. Il. 18.37-67.

61 It is also remarkable that, as Shepard observes (1940, 23), Eurynome is the only Greek female deity represented as a mermaid.

62 The mermaid form is in fact extremely rare among females in Greek art: see Shepard (1940), 24.

63 See Padgett ed. (2003), 346-8, cat. no. 97.

64 Whereas the male Triton is a frequent member of marine thiasoi in art, the female equivalents are non-mixanthropic: Nereids holding fish or riding sea-monsters.

65 Hesiod characterises Echidna as monstrous and frightening: Theog. 295-305.

66 On the copious representations of Skylla in Etruscan art, see Boosen (1986), 5-63.

67 This is a common representation in vase-paintings: see e.g. LIMC s.v. ‘Skylla’, cat. no. 6: a fourth-century Campanian pyxis showing Skylla swimming among fish (Agrigente, Mus. Reg. C 948). Such harmless and non-aggressive settings are interestingly typical of depictions of Skylla, who usually appears as one of a flock of marine beings, fabulous or otherwise.

68 Ap. Rhod. Arg. 1.503; Lyk. Al. 1191; Nonn. Dion. 2.563.

69 On bound statues generally, see Faraone (1992), 74-81; for a collection of the ancient evidence and the main strands of modern interpretation, see Icard-Gianolio in ThesCRA vol. II, s.v. ‘Statues enchaînées’, 468-71.

70 Though in literature the emphasis is on their wings; see e.g. Eur. Hel. 167.

71 Ps.-Aristotle, Mir. 103; Strabo 1.2.12.

72 Lyk. Al. 717-736: τὴν μὲν Φαλήρου τύρσις ἐκβεβρασμένην | Γλάνις τε ῥείθροις δέξεται τέγγων χθόνα. | οὗ σῆμα δωμήσαντες ἔγχωροι κόρης | λοιβαῖσι καὶ θύσθλοισι Παρθενόπην βοῶν | ἔτεια κυδανοῦσιν οἰωνὸν θεάν. | ἀκτὴν δὲ τὴν προὔχουσαν εἰς Ἐνιπέως | Λευκωσία ῥιφεῖσα τὴν ἐπώνυμον | πέτραν ὀχήσει δαρόν, ἔνθα λάβρος Ἲς | γείτων θ’ ὁ Λᾶρις ἐξερεύγονται ποτά. | Λίγεια δ’ εἰς Τέριναν ἐκναυσθλώσεται | κλύδωνα χελλύσσουσα, τὴν δὲ ναυβάται | κρόκαισι ταρχύσουσιν ἐν παρακτίαις, | Ὠκινάρου δίναισιν ἀγχιτέρμονα. | λούσει δὲ σῆμα βουκέρως νασμοῖς Ἄρης | ὀρνιθόπαιδος ἵσμα φοιβάζων ποτοῖς. | πρώτῃ δὲ καὶ ποτ’ αῦθι συγγόνων θεᾷ | κραίνων ἁπάσης Μόψοπος ναυαρχίας | πλωτῆρσι λαμπαδοῦχον ἐντυνεῖ δρόμον | χρησμοῖς πιθήσας, ὅν ποτ’ αὐξήσει λεὼς | Νεαπολιτῶν… On the life and times of Lykophron, see Fusillo, Hurst and Paduano (1991), 17-27; pp. 27-37 for the nature of the poem, its themes, etc.

73 1.2.12 and 5.4.8.

74 I have been unable to discover a single other reference to Ares the river-god, who is clearly quite separate from the war-god.

75 For the Sirens as daughters of Acheloos, see Lucian de Salt. 50, Hyg. Fab. 141, Ap. Rhod. Arg. 4.893-6.

76 Lyk. Al. 719 (tomb of Parthenope) and 730 (that of Ligeia).

77 Strabo 1.2.12. In this context, the word mnêma – monument or memorial – seems funerary. Worth noting is Strabo’s use of the word hieron – not a tomb-related monument – when describing the sanctuary of the Sirens on the Sorrento peninsula.

78 Parisinou (2000), 60-72, explores the connection of the torch with death and the afterlife in a largely religious and mythological sphere.

79 Hdt. 6.105.

80 See Tsiafakis (2003), 75.

81 Padgett ed. (2003), 287-9, cat. no 75. See also Tsiafakis (2003), 74-5.

82 Their father is widely said to be Acheloos: see e.g. Hyg. Fab. 141; Ap. Rhod. Arg. 4.893-6. On the variants in their parentage, see Bettini and Spina (2007), 39-54.

83 e.g. Eur. Hel. 168; Ovid, Met. 5.552.

84 Melpomene: Apollod. Ep. 7.18. Terpsichore: schol. Lyk. Al. 653, 671, 712. Unspecified Muse: Lyk. Al. 713.

85 As is the claim that they were offspring of Phorkys, the sea-divinity, an elemental force closer in nature to Chthôn than to the Muses (see Soph. fr. 777 Nauck). This is an unsurprising connection: Phorkys was parent to a number of monstrous and fabulous beings: see Hes. Theog. 270-336.

86 Paus. 1.21.1.

87 See Tsiafakis (2003), 74.

88 The most famous example is fig. 10 (above, p. 71), an Attic red figure stamnos of c. 490 BC, showing Odysseus tied to the mast of his ship while on the crags to either side perch two Sirens; a third plunges from her rock, presumably dying because her blandishments have been resisted. See Tsiafakis (2003), 77.

89 For a valuable, concise discussion of some important stages in modern thought on the subject, see Pollard (1965), 141-144.

90 E.g. in Plat. Kra. 403d; Euripides (Hel. 168-78) and Apollonios (Arg. 4.896-7) make them companions of Persephone. One version of their metamorphosis makes it self inflicted, as they become half-birds the better to search for Persephone after her abduction: see Ovid, Met. 5.552-62. Interestingly, Ovid adds the detail that their faces are kept human so that their beautiful singing might continue (ll. 560-62).

91 See Lyk. Al. 712; Hyg. Fab. 141; for discussion of this and other traditions in the ancient material, see Bettini and Spina (2007), 87-93. One might compare the story of their suicide with the effect on the Sphinx of a correct answer to her riddle.

92 Both Ba-birds and Sirens appear often in funerary contexts, and both are associated with death and the afterlife, though in very different capacities. The Ba in Egyptian thought is the soul of a dead person, which is able to detach itself from the body; it is this essential mobility which appears to have dictated its frequent depiction in bird-form. For examples and discussions, see Taylor (2001), 20-23 and figs. 8-10. For the connections between Ba-birds and Greek Sirens, see Vermeule (1979), 74-7; on p. 75 she remarks, ‘There is little doubt that the Egyptian ba-soul was the model for the Greek soul-bird and for its mythological offshoots the Siren and the Harpy, both of whom had intense and often sustaining relations with the dead.’ See also Tsiafakis (2003), 75.

93 See e.g. Buschor (1944), who emphasises the Sirens’ underworld rôle; also, Wilamowitz, vol. 1 (1932), 268-9. Vernant (1991), 104, vividly describes the death-bringing element which distinguishes the Sirens from the Muses: ‘The Sirens are the opposite of the Muses. Their song has the same charm as that of the daughters of Memory; they too bestow a knowledge that cannot be forgotten. But whoever succumbs to the attraction of their beauty, the seduction of their voices, the temptation of the knowledge they hold in their custody, does not enter that region to live forever in the splendor of eternal renown. Instead, he reaches a shore whitened with bones and the debris of rotting human flesh.’

94 Pollard (1952), esp. 60.

95 See Vermeule (1979), 200-205: a lyrical description of the potent mixture of beauty and death which characterised the Sirens and their song in Greek thought.

96 Pollard (1965), 141.

97 Forbes Irving (1990), 96-127.

98 A good example is the case of the Minyades, who are driven mad as punishment for denying Dionysos and then are turned into night-birds which avoid daylight and haunt the wilderness. See Ant. Lib. Met. 10; Aelian, VH 3.42.

99 E.g. the birds of Memnon, though all sources are late: the earliest is Ovid, Met. 13.600 ff.

100 E.g. the sisters of Meleagros, transformed into partridges and continuing to mourn him in this state. Pliny tells us that Sophokles used the myth: see NH 37.40.

101 Ovid, Met. 5.552-62.

102 The fullest account of the story is given by Pausanias as part of his description of the area of Stymphalos: 8.22.4.

103 See e.g. Diod. 3.30, which highlights their damaging effect on agriculture. In this, they may be compared with the Harpies, again bird-woman mixanthropes, whose activities were in some sense parallel: they prevented Phineus from eating by devouring and befouling any food set before him, and thus acted on a single individual rather like the Stymphalian Birds acted on a whole region and community. See Apollod. Bibl. 1.9.21.

104 Borgeaud (1988), 18-19.

105 This type of physical composition is different from the typical Archaic and Classical Greek Siren, in which the human component is limited to the face, and sometimes the arms. It is, however, shared by a relatively late (fourth century, Hellenistic and Roman) form of Siren, especially used in the decoration on sarcophagi, in which the figure is human to the waist and avian below. Examples are LIMC s.v. ‘Seirenes’ cat nos. 88 and 109.

106 Schachter vol. 1 (1986), 228.

107 9.22.7.

108 Although he says nothing explicitly about Glaukos’ leap into the sea, Pausanias does tell of his discovery and consumption of the magic herb, after which he becomes a δαίμων ἐν θαλάσσῃ. This story is expanded by Ovid, Met. 13.920-48.

109 Schol. Plat. Resp. 611d.

110 Paus. 9.22.7.

111 Lines 360, 364 and 363 respectively.

112 Athen. Deipn. 7.296f.

113 Herakl. Kret. 1.24.

114 See e.g. Nik. Ther. 500 ff.: Cheiron discovers a herb on Pelion which cures snakebites.

115 See e.g. Ovid, Met. 13.959-62.

116 See LIMC s.v. ‘Glaukos I’, cat. nos. 7-9.

117 General treatments of the nature, cults and iconography of river-gods – in addition to the entries in RE and Roscher – may be found in Brewster and Gais. Brewster (1997) gives a lyrical description of ancient texts and modern landscape: the result is not entirely scholarly but is well worth reading for the sense of atmosphere it creates. Gais (1978) focuses chiefly on a particular type, but at pp. 356-60 in particular gives a useful summary and discussion of iconographical trends.

118 For a collection of the literary sources on this, see RE s.v. ‘Flussgötter’, esp. coll. 1495-6. The discussion by Larson (2007, 64-6) is valuable in that it contextualises river-gods in the wider pattern of nature deities and their worship.

119 The sheer scale of this manifestation may be grasped by scrutinising their entry in Head’s index (1911), which spans two pages (955-6) and reflects the immense abundance of local variants, whose iconography is strikingly consistent. For detailed discussion of this, see Jenkins (1976), 26-30 and Rutter (2001), passim.

120 Despite the relative abundance of material concerning his cult and his representation, Acheloos has been accorded relatively little attention from scholars. The monograph by Isler (1970) treats chiefly the trends and developments in his representation. The images discussed often come from religious contexts, but their full implications for our understanding of his cult are not explored (this is not the real aim of the work). Nowhere does Acheloos’ cult receive undivided attention, instead receiving tangential mention as part of larger subjects, or localised treatment with regard to individual sites or artefacts. The most thorough treatments are in reference books, particularly in the RE. It is hoped that the current study will do something to flesh out our picture of Acheloos’ worship, and particularly how it compares with other mixanthropic cults.

121 There were other, far less famous rivers of the same name in Arkadia, Achaia, Lydia, Mykonos and the Troad; these, however, were not associated with the god Acheloos.

122 On early Eastern Acheloos-images, see Isler (1970), 76-82.

123 Sometimes it is hard to tell whether Acheloos or a local river god is depicted in the art or coinage of a region, given the similarity of iconography and Acheloos’ pervasive quality; for an example of this difficulty see Isler (1970), 81-2: discussion of coins of Paphos showing a Mannstier called ‘Bokaros’, which Isler takes to be a local title of Acheloos; this remains, however, controversial.

124 By contrast, within Greece itself, only Akarnania and Aitolia make use of Acheloos’ image on coinage.

125 See Head (1911), 76; Rutter (2001), 132 and plate 27, no. 1491 (a very clear photograph).

126 Schol. Hom. Il. 24.616.

127 See e.g. Imhoof-Blumer (1878), 175, no. 22; also Isler (1970), cat. no. 96.

128 Ephoros, FGrHist 70 F 20 (Macr. Sat. 5.18.6).

129 Parke (1967, 153) believes that the god’s response amounted to the propagation of the Acheloos-cult, and accounted in part for his widespread worship. This is plausible for the Greek mainland; less so perhaps for other regional centres of Acheloos-worship, such as south Italy, which seem to have followed a path quite different from the mainland in this respect.

130 Paus. 1.41.2. Interestingly, Theagenes’ institution of the cult coincides with his re-direction of the flow of the local river, the Rhys: a placatory gesture to the god of the waters? The problem with this instance is the highly mythologized nature of Theagenes; see Nagy and Figueira edd. (1985), 143-5.

131 Paus. 1.34.3-5. See Schachter (1986), vol. I, 1. The notion of a preliminary sacrifice to Acheloos (albeit to others as well) is faintly reminiscent of the Dodona injunction and Acheloos’ rôle there. Perhaps even more pertinent to this point, however, is the remark made in Grenfell & Hunt Oxyrrh. Pap. vol 2. 221 col. 9: πολλοὺς πρὸ Δήμητρος θύειν Ἀχελῴῳ ὅτι πάντων ποταμῶν ὄνομα Ἀχελῷος καὶ ἐξ ὕδατος καρπός. This seems to be another interesting case of Acheloos receiving a preliminary sacrifice before that of a major deity.

132 On this, Parker (2005), 430.

133 The inscription from the site which lists the deities is IG II2 4547 & 4548; see Isler (1970), 35-6 and cat. no. 30.

134 Parker (2005), 430.

135 Parker (2005), 430. The fertility-aspect of Acheloos will be discussed further when we come to examine his anatomy and its significance.

136 Red figure Attic stamnos by Oltos; c. 520 BC. Herakles fights Acheloios. (London BM 1839,0214.70; LIMC s.v. ‘Acheloos’, cat. no. 245). For these experimental and relatively unpopular modes of representing Acheloos, see Isler (1970), 13-17.

137 As Isler (1970, 16) points out, the artist, Oltos, has felt the need to label Acheloos, as if to say, ‘Das ist Acheloos, nicht Triton, wie du bestimmt meinst!’ The stamnos in question is number 84 in Isler’s catalogue.

138 On this relative conservatism, see Isler in LIMC s.v. ‘Acheloos’, p. 30.

139 Even in cases where the body is shown, the face is very frequently of a pronounced quality, often full frontal; striking in this regard are a number of votive reliefs from Lokri in Magna Graecia which show Acheloos standing with body in profile but face turned full to the viewer, and a row of nymphs’ heads above. (An example is LIMC s.v. ‘Acheloos’, cat. no. 206; Reggio Calabria Mus. Naz. 118; early fourth century in date.)

140 LIMC s.v. ‘Acheloos’, cat. no. 221; Berlin Staatl. Mus. F 136.

141 Brewster (1997), 9-14.

142 Hes. Theog. 337-40.

143 Macr. Sat. 5.18.10.

144 Hom. Il. 21.195.

145 E.g. Kallirhoe (Apollod. Bibl. 3.7.5), and Dirke (Eur. Bacch. 519-20). See Larson (2001), 4, 6, 148.

146 Apollod. Bibl. 1.3.4

147 If this line is excised as being a later interpolation, then Acheloos, not Okeanos, is given that universal function. D’Alessio cites various other texts to support the existence of this alternative and earlier version which gives Acheloos primacy. But he also suggests that, in some accounts at least, ‘Acheloos … was a figure in functional competition with Ocean’, rather than simply being superseded by him (D’Alessio [2004], 33). In any case, the implications of this argument take us even further away from where we started, with a river in a northern backwater; they take us back, also, into comparison with Eastern motifs and parallels. It appears that we are dealing with a fusion between a cosmic figure, substantially derived from Eastern sources, and a local Greek river-god; the latter seems to have been overlaid with the former, creating a complex and wide-ranging entity whose water-associations encompass all rivers and also, in some traditions, the sea. For Acheloos as linguistically synonymous with water, see Macrob. Sat. 5.18.4-11.

148 D’Alessio remarks (2004, 26) that it is ‘difficult … to trace any functional relationship between the Greek water-god and his oriental model.’ He does go on, however, to explore some of the overlapping motifs between Acheloos and some prominent near-Eastern mixanthropes, who are also water-associated. The prominence of the Mannstier type, especially – in cult imagery – the more Eastern variety with the human neck, sets Acheloos apart from other river-gods, as has been said; the imposition of the Eastern form on a Greek figure surely reflects the vestigial strands of Eastern mythology caught up in his persona.

149 For the Eastern origins both of the form and of some mythological aspects of Acheloos, see D’Alessio (2004), 26-7.

150 Reflected most directly in his title Hippios, and in horse-related rituals in his worship. The Thessalians hold an equestre certamen in his honour (Serv. Verg. Georg. 1.12). The same author (loc. cit.) also tells us that the Illyrians annually throw a horse into the sea for Poseidon; and from Pausanias we hear that the Argives would throw bridled horses into Dine, a spring of fresh water welling up in the sea, as part of his cult – Paus. 8.7.2. For a possible instance of horse-masked ritual in his honour in Arkadia, see Mylonopoulos (2003), 118.

151 For example, Pegasos was thought to have created various springs by striking the ground with his hoof: see e.g. Paus. 9.31.3; 2.31.9. Hippocamps are also frequent participants in marine thiasoi depicted in art. In addition, it is interesting that occasionally a river-god, or at least a river-haunting mythological figure, can be conceived in centaur rather than taurine form. Examples are Nessos and Euenos; however, neither of these figures received worship, instead being consigned purely to the ‘monster’ category. There must be a relationship between the lack of worship and the different form, but in which direction it would function one cannot say: did the centaur form preclude cult honours (after all, centaurs are almost never worshipped), or did a monstrous, non-cultic rôle lead to them being depicted as centaurs rather than in the form used for cult-receiving river-gods? It is impossible to answer this question; but there is an undeniable link between their rôle in myth and the choice of form for their depiction.

152 Apollod. Bibl. 3.1.1.

153 Strabo 10.2.19.

154 Forbes Irving (1990), 43: ‘With both Dionysos and the river-gods bull form seems con­nected with metaphors of fertility, as it was with the Mesopotamian bulls.’

155 Sources differ; the horn, however, is always – when species is specified – a cow’s/bull’s. See e.g. Pherekydes, FGrHist 3 F 42.

156 See e.g. Ovid, Met. 9.87-8. A significant number of sources find a way of combining the two origins; see e.g. Strabo 10.2.19. In Hyginus (Fab. 182) Amaltheia is Acheloos’ sister and hands over the horn to him; Apollodoros (Bibl. 2.7.5) tells that Acheloos, having been robbed of his horn by Herakles, offered the hero the cornucopia, the horn of Amaltheia, instead (the trade being accepted).

157 See e.g. Apollod. Bibl. 2.7.5.

158 The importance of the horn to river-gods generally is reflected in the name Bokaros, ‘Bull-horned’, used of river-gods in, for example, Paphos and Salamis. See Isler (1970), 81-2. It is also significant that while the representation of river-gods is variable, with most having a mainly human form, in contrast with the Mannstier Acheloos, the horn is indispensable, always present, and the key to identification.

159 LIMC s.v. ‘Acheloos’, cat. no. 204; Isler (1970), 38-9 and cat. no. 35; Athens NM 1778.

160 Isler (1970), 39.

161 Plat. Kra. 403d.

162 Eur. Hel. 168-78.

163 Tsiafakis (2003), 77-78.

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