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Sacrifices humains

 | 
Pierre Bonnechere
, 
Renaud Gagné

Athamas and Zeus Laphystios: Herodotus 7.197

Renaud Gagné

Texte intégral

  • 1 See P. Bonnechere, Le Sacrifice humain en Grèce ancienne, Athènes-Liège, 1994 (Kernos, suppl. 3), p (...)
  • 2 1.116; 2.119; 2.45; 2.63; 3.35; 4.62; 4.71-72; 4.94; 4.102-103; 5.5; 7.114; 7.180; 7.197; 9.119. On (...)
  • 3 4.103 with E. Hall, Inventing the Barbarian, Oxford, 1989, p. 111-112 and P. Kyriakou, A commentary (...)

1Herodotus mentions some fourteen cases of executions that can be described as human sacrifices modelled on the ritual killing of animals in the Histories.1 The theme plays a notable role in the work’s mirror-play of cultural inversion: twelve of these cases concern the acts of non-Greek peoples.2 It is no coincidence that Euripides’ depiction of exotic, barbarian human sacrifice in the Iphigenia in Tauris seems to contain echoes of Herodotus.3 The representation of human sacrifice in the Histories is an effective tool in the author’s complex experimentation with the projection of difference. There is only one story of human sacrifice performed by Greeks in Greece in the Histories, and it is found in the passage describing the sanctuary of Zeus Laphystios in Book 7. That passage contains a rich and puzzling description of the sacrificial ritual in a Thessalian city and of the mythical aetiology on which it is based. This chapter will attempt to unpack some of the main cultural codes at work in the passage’s representation of human θυσία, and locate the ritual it describes in the larger narrative context of the Histories.

2At 7.197, as the armies of Xerxes march through northern Greece on their way to the Thermopylae, Herodotus interrupts the narrative to relate an ἐπιχώριος λόγος in full:

ἐς Ἄλον δὲ τῆς Ἀχαιίης ἀπικομένῳ Ξέρξῃ οἱ κατηγεμόνες τῆς ὁδοῦ βουλόμενοι τὸ πᾶν ἐξηγέεσθαι ἔλεγόν οἱ ἐπιχώριον λόγον, τὰ περὶ τὸ ἱρὸν τοῦ Λαφυστίου Διός· ὡς Ἀθάμας ὁ Αἰόλου ἐμηχανήσατο Φρίξῳ μόρον σὺν Ἰνοῖ βουλεύσας, μετέπειτα δὲ ὡς ἐκ θεοπροπίου Ἀχαιοὶ προτιθεῖσι τοῖσι ἐκείνου ἀπογόνοισι ἀέθλους τοιούσδε· ὃς ἂν ᾖ τοῦ γένεος τούτου πρεσβύτατος, τούτῳ ἐπιτάξαντες ἔργεσθαι τοῦ ληίτου αὐτοὶ φυλακὰς ἔχουσι (λήιτον δὲ καλέουσι τὸ πρυτανήιον οἱ Ἀχαιοί)· ἢν δὲ ἐσέλθῃ, οὐκ ἔστι ὅκως ἔξεισι πρὶν ἢ θύσεσθαι μέλλῃ· ὥς τ’ ἔτι πρὸς τούτοισι πολλοὶ ἤδη [τούτων] τῶν μελλόντων θύσεσθαι δείσαντες οἴχοντο ἀποδράντες ἐς ἄλλην χώρην, χρόνου δὲ προϊόντος ὀπίσω κατελθόντες ἢν ἁλίσκωνται ἐσελθόντες ἐς τὸ πρυτανήιον, (…) ὡς θύεταί τε ἐξηγέοντο στέμμασι πᾶς πυκασθεὶς καὶ ὡς σὺν πομπῇ ἐξαχθείς. ταῦτα δὲ πάσχουσι οἱ Κυτισσώρου τοῦ Φρίξου παιδὸς ἀπόγονοι διότι καθαρμὸν τῆς χώρης ποιευμένων Ἀχαιῶν ἐκ θεοπροπίου Ἀθάμαντα τὸν Αἰόλου καὶ μελλόντων μιν θύειν ἀπικόμενος οὗτος ὁ Κυτίσσωρος ἐξ Αἴης τῆς Κολχίδος ἐρρύσατο, ποιήσας δὲ τοῦτο τοῖσι ἐπιγενομένοισι ἐξ ἑωυτοῦ μῆνιν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐνέβαλε. Ξέρξης δὲ ταῦτα ἀκούσας ὡς κατὰ τὸ ἄλσος ἐγίνετο, αὐτός τε ἔργετο αὐτοῦ καὶ τῇ στρατιῇ πάσῃ παρήγγειλε, τῶν τε Ἀθάμαντος ἀπογόνων τὴν οἰκίην ὁμοίως καὶ τὸ τέμενος ἐσέβετο.

When Xerxes was come to Alos in Achaea, his guides, desiring to inform him of all they knew, told him the story that is related in that country concerning the sanctuary of Laphystian Zeus: how Athamas son of Aeolus plotted Phrixus’ death with Ino, and further, how the Achaeans by an oracle’s bidding compel Phrixus’ posterity to certain tasks: namely, they bid the eldest of that family forbear to enter their town hall (which the Achaeans call the People’s House), and themselves keep watch there; if he enters, he may not come out, save only to be sacrificed; and further also, how many of those that were to be sacrificed had fled away in fear to another country, but if they returned back at a later day and were taken, having entered the town hall (…) and the guides showed Xerxes how the man is sacrificed, with fillets covering him all over and a procession to lead him forth. It is the descendants of Phrixus’ son Cytissorus who are thus dealt with, because when the Achaeans by an oracle’s bidding made Athamas son of Aeolus a katharmos for their country and were about to sacrifice him, this Cytissorus came from Aea in Colchis and delivered him, but thereby brought the god’s wrath on his own posterity. Hearing all this, Xerxes when he came to the temple grove forbore to enter it himself and bade all his army do likewise, holding the house of Athamas’ descendants and the precinct alike in reverence. (trans. Godley modified)

  • 4 For local knowledge in Herodotus’ Histories, see N. Luraghi, “Local Knowledge in Herodotus’ Histori (...)

3The sources of the story are the guides, the κατηγεμόνες τῆς ὁδοῦ, and they decide to tell it to the Great King in order to “explain everything” to him.4 The tale has an effect on the ruler, who upon hearing it resolves not to enter the ἄλσος and orders his army to stay away, as the narrator tells us that Xerxes had great reverence for both the household of the descendants of Athamas and for the sanctuary.

4This is arguably one of the most perplexing passages in Herodotus. Is there a link between this tale and the rest of the narrative? What is the relation between the account of the guides and the reaction of Xerxes? Why does Xerxes so emphatically refuse to visit the grove and forbid its entry to his men? Why does he show such reverence to the οἰκίη of Athamas’ descendants as well as the τέμενος? How does the attempted sacrifice of Phrixus relate to the attempted sacrifice of Athamas? What is the nature of the ἄεθλοι that the Achaeans compel the descendants of Phrixus to perform? What is the logic of the story told by the guides, and how does it function as an etiology of the cult they describe? What role does the emphatic representation of human sacrifice play in the passage?

  • 5 Zeus Laphystios appears on the coinage of Hellenistic Halos, with Phrixos clinging to a flying ram (...)
  • 6 Cf. P. Bonnechere and R. Gagné in this volume.
  • 7 Ch. 22; see R. Gagné, “Haereditarium Piaculum: Aspects of Ancient Greek Religion in the 17th Centur (...)
  • 8 K.O. Müller, Die Dorier, Breslau, 1824, p. 161-175; cf. G. Grote, A History of Greece, 12 vol., Lon (...)
  • 9 A. Maury, Histoire des religions de la Grèce antique, vol. 3, Paris, 1859, p. 215; cf. already P. B(...)
  • 10 J.G. FRazer, The Golden Bough, vol. 2: The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings (Part II), London, (...)
  • 11 M.P. Nilsson, Griechische Feste von religiöser Bedeutung, mit Auschliessung der attischen, Leipzig, (...)
  • 12 F. Schwenn, Die Menschenopfer bei den Griechen und Römern, Giessen, 1915, p. 43-45; see also J.E. H(...)
  • 13 Hughes, o.c. (n. 12), p. 92-96; Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 96-107; cf. Burkert, o.c. (n. 5), p. 11 (...)

5These questions have received many answers over the years, invariably focused on the nature of the god who owns the sanctuary. Although some have argued that Zeus Laphystios received his name from the Laphystion, a mountain that lies in Boeotia, most scholars read the root etymology of λαφύσσω directly in the name of the god: the Devourer.5 The portrayal of this god in modern research has varied according to the changes in the understanding of human sacrifice.6 For Jan Lomeier in 1681, the bloody cult of Zeus Laphystios is a prominent example of the cruel lustrations that superstition has imposed on men in its false attempts to wash away sin.7 For Karl Ottfried Müller in 1824, it has become the illustration of the old, primitive Minyan cults against which he drew the specificities of the Dorian race.8 For Maury, equating Athamas with Tammuz, the strange cult of the Devourer is one example among many of the terrible and nefarious influence exerted by the Semitic Phoenicians on the Greeks.9 For Frazer it is a clear vestige of an early stage of cultural evolution and another expression of the sacred king’s cyclical execution.10 For Nilsson, it is a clear example of weather-magic, and a perfect illustration of the principle that myths derive from rituals.11 For Schwenn, the sacrifice to Zeus Laphystios is explained as a φαρμακός ritual of periodic expiation.12 For Hughes and Bonnechere, more recently, it is the translation of a rite of passage, the literary transposition of the pattern of separation, liminality and reaggregation that structured the age-group initiation rite on which they believe the story of Herodotus is based.13 It is unsurprising to see that the meaning of the passage has changed in time with the currency of models of interpretation.

  • 14 See R. Crahay, La Littérature oraculaire chez Hérodote, Paris, 1956, p. 89-91; Hughes, o.c. (n. 12) (...)
  • 15 Accepted by Hude and Legrand, but not by Rosén.
  • 16 Ph.-E. Legrand (ed. & trans.), Hérodote. Histoires. Livre VII. Polymnie, Paris, 1951, p. 210.

6One common characteristic of most discussions on the topic is the statement that the text is corrupt.14 It is a fact that the name Λαφυστίου is found in some manuscripts as Ἀφλυστίου or Ἀφλιστίου, that Κτίσωρος and Κυτύσσωρος are found instead of Κυτίσσωρος, and many have followed Legrand in believing that there is a lacuna after πρυτανήιον, a word that is also attested in one manuscript as μαντήιον. Valckenaer emended the πρυτανηίου of line 8 to ληίτου.15 Both ἐσελθόντες and ἐστέλλοντο are attested in the manuscripts, and there is a suggestion that ὡς θύεταί … ἐξαχθείς should be placed after θύσεσθαι μέλλῃ.16 There are quite a few minor points of divergence, such as ἁλίσκονται for ἁλίσκωνται, or εἵργεσθαι for ἔργεσθαι, most easily corrected. In short, mostly minor elements of corruption, but little that fundamentally affects the meaning of the passage. The fact that the text is unclear is one thing. Blaming that on the manuscript tradition is another—a radical solution in no way warranted by the state of the text.

  • 17 See still D. Fehling, Die Quellenangaben bei Herodot, Berlin, 1971, p. 106-107; 132-133; cf. Hughes(...)
  • 18 For religious silence in the Histories, see S. Gödde, “οὔ μοι ὅσιόν ἐστι λέγειν: zur Poetik der Lee (...)

7There is of course no doubt that the story of the guides related by Herodotus has little to do with anything that might have happened during the march of Xerxes’ army in Thessaly and Achaia. Here as elsewhere, Herodotus is obviously not conveying factual speech.17 It is equally clear, however, that this is not a tale that was entirely made up by the author for the occasion. The allusions of the passage are uncharacteristically dense, without this being imputable to a corruption of the text, and there is no reason to believe that Herodotus is being elliptical in this episode because of a religious silence, as so often when he states that although he knows the hieros logos he refuses to divulge it, or because of his distaste for the idea of Greeks practicing human sacrifice, as some have written.18 The apparent obscurity of the passage is one of many indications that Herodotus is not simply devising a tale in this case, but reorganising something he has heard. His account of the cult of Zeus Laphystios is not an elaboration of a self-contained narrative, but the adaptation of some pre-existing ritual etiology. What the context of that etiology was, and how it was transmitted to Herodotus, are questions that cannot be answered. Neither is it possible to know how different the ritual etiologies that were circulating at the time were from the version of the Histories. The details of the cult itself are forever lost, and vague enough to accommodate any number of interpretative models. I will not propose to add another one here. What matters for my purpose is the logic of representation at work in the passage’s extensive description of the sacrificial ritual. A minimalist reading of the cult will be sufficient for this purpose.

  • 19 For Athamas as the founder of Alos, see e.g. Strabo 9.5.8 (ᾤκισε δὲ ὁ ᾿Αθάμας τὴν ῞Αλον).
  • 20 Cf. R.C.T. Parker, Athenian Religion: A History, Oxford, 1996, p. 56-66 on the cults of γένη.
  • 21 Which community? Although a majority of scholars believes that the λήιτον was that of the polis Alo (...)
  • 22 Alexander Herda points me to his reconstruction of the cult organisation of the Delphinion in Milet (...)
  • 23 The civic topography of classical Thessalian cities is not well established. For the presence of st (...)
  • 24 For the topography of Hellenistic Alos, see H.R. Reinders, “Halos, a new town,” AAA 12 (1979), p. 5 (...)
  • 25 It can be relevant to note that, in the fourth century at least, the city was surrounded by walls ( (...)

8The ritual actors of the tale are the descendants of Athamas. Their description as the descent line of a very distant ancestor, namely the founder of the city and its original king, suggests that we are dealing with an extended kinship group here.19 The group in question, and we have no way of knowing how large it was, was responsible for the conduct of some ritual that involved trials and the staging of danger.20 Secrecy, escape and capture were at the heart of the cult. The threat of sacrifice inflicted on a human victim was the centrepiece of the ritual action. However the sacrifice was staged, and whatever symbolic meaning it had, the text of Herodotus indicates that a procession played an important role in the proceedings (σὺν πομπῇ ἐξαχθείς). There is no information on its trajectory, but we can be confident that among the spaces coordinated by the ritual the ἄλσος played a prominent role, second only to the λήιτον, the ‘town hall’, the key public building of the community.21 For the procession to take place, there must have been some distance between the λήιτον and the ἄλσος. Was the λήιτον also in the τέμενος, as the ἄλσος was, and the procession an event that took place entirely within the sanctuary?22 That would make for a singularly short procession. Was the λήιτον, more probably, not in the τέμενος, but at a different location? A likely scenario would be to place the sacred grove somewhere at the edge of the city, and the town hall at its core, maybe on the agora itself.23 But the reality is that we know nothing about the topography of archaic and classical Alos, and no reading of Herodotus’ passage can depend on a precise reconstruction of space.24 Whatever the concrete spatial reality of the rite actually was, a certain articulation of symbolic space is discernible in the text. The space of public decision, the building that constitutes the nominal heart of the community, is linked to a grove by a procession. The contrast is clear. The rite established an emblematic link between centre and periphery in this way. It also, figuratively or otherwise, had something to do with the notion of exile, and by extension with the boundaries that define the civic group.25 The cult of Zeus Laphystios was organised around the actions of certain members of an extended kin group. These actions involved the central space of the community, the seat of its power, as well as actors, including the guards (φύλακες) and those who made up the procession, from the wider citizen body. In other words, this was a cult that, although it gave a prominent place to the descendants of the founding king of the city, concerned the entire population and confirmed the limits of kin group, age class and civic territory.

  • 26 L. Radermacher, Mythos und Sage bei den Griechen, Baden bei Wien, 1938, p. 156-162; cf. n. 45.
  • 27 See already Harrison, o.c. (n. 12), p. 110; cf. Burkert, o.c. (n. 5), p. 115.
  • 28 For the notion of substitution in human and animal sacrifice, see R.C.T. Parker in this volume. Not (...)
  • 29 Cf. J.N. Bremmer in this volume.

9Its complementary mapping of ritual time also placed the action within a relevant past. The staging of human sacrifice of the cult is a direct parallel of the human sacrifices that are found in the story cycle of Athamas.26 The whole tale narrated by Herodotus is based on equivalence, that of the sacrifice of the son and the sacrifice of the father, and the two mythical models of the ritual action. In addition to this pattern of equivalence is a pattern of transfer. Just as the killing of Phrixos is averted, so is that of Athamas, and the terrifying sacrificial rite is founded as a perpetual expiation of this averted execution. Modern students of the cult tend to agree that no human sacrifice was actually performed in Alos, and that some kind of reversal took place, allowing the victims to escape, as Phrixos and Athamas had earlier, and leaving the threat of the sacrifice for a future occasion.27 Perhaps an animal was killed in substitution for the man, as in the many versions of the myth of Phrixos contemporary with Herodotus, but the passage doesn’t allow us to see any traces of this, and we are not in a position to say how it might have manifested itself in the rite.28 What does stand out in the description of the Histories, however, is the transmission of violence, the idea that each act is an attempted continuation of the previous, unfulfilled sacrifice. This transmission is based on ties of kinship. It is a father who tries to kill his son in the initial story. It is a grandson who saves the victim of the second attempted sacrifice. All those who are led in procession to the altar are descendants of Athamas, the original sacrificer-victim. The mytho-ritual complex of the cult is organised around the channels of kin violence: both the killing of a descendant by an elder, and the rescue of an elder by a descendant. This is not simply the reproduction of a pattern also found in the mytho-ritual complexes of Iphigeneia and Medea, for instance, but the specific logic of a specific cult.29 Only by looking at its unique configuration of events can a reading be found that gives justice to the passage of Herodotus.

  • 30 See n. 10.
  • 31 See P. Bonnechere, “Le rituel samien décrit par Hérodote 3, 48 et la βωμολοχία spartiate,” LEC 66 ( (...)

10One major element of the passage is its insistence on power. The violence of the king provokes the exile of his heir and the return of the royal progeny is the condition of his survival. Iphigeneia is no heir and Medea is no king. A thematisation of dynasty and the solidarity of generations is at the heart of Herodotus 7.197. Frazer was right in insisting on the importance of kingship in the passage, even if his model of cyclical execution no longer commands much support.30 Founded upon a gruesome memory of transgression, the city locates this kingship at the centre of its political life, in the λήιτον, the seat of civic activity. It is by attempting to enter the λήιτον that the descendants of Athamas trigger the ritual complex. This is a centripetal movement, from the outside to the inside, a direct equivalence to the return of Kytissoros. Just as Athamas’ grandson had returned from exile against the wishes of the city to save the life of the king, so his later descendants are involved in a periodical “return” from exile to the heart of civic sovereignty against the ritually staged opposition of the community. The coincidence is certainly not fortuitous. The movement from outside to inside is most dramatically staged with the penetration of the λήιτον by the ἀπόγονοι of Athamas. The final barrier at the heart of the city is guarded by φύλακες, and it is only when the exiles have surmounted this obstacle on their return that the procession for the kill can begin.31 Once inside, they are not allowed to leave the λήιτον before being led away for the sacrifice. It makes little sense to ask why the descendants of Athamas so regularly and desperately insisted to reach the town hall, why they were brought back to it by force if they had managed to escape somehow, or why guards were explicitly posted to guard them from entering or leaving that space. All these actions are necessary for the spatial logic of the cult. What Herodotus is relating is the narrative etiology of a ritual, after all, not a description of actual events.

  • 32 Cf. Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 101, who reads this in terms of the ἐσχατιά of liminal space in ini (...)

11Just as one event of the myth and one movement of the ritual are built on a centripetal direction, the other part of the myth and the other movement of the ritual can be seen to be built on a centrifugal direction. It is from the centre of the city in the royal palace to its edges in the ἄλσος that Phrixos is led to be sacrificed in the myth, before he can escape from the city and reach the very confines of the world in Colchis.32 It is from the nominal centre of the city in the λήιτον to its symbolic confines in the ἄλσος that his descendants are led out (ἐξαχθείς) in the ritual, before, presumably, the staging of their exile—perhaps the necessary prelude of their next return. Again, the exact parallel is no coincidence. If we take the time to read the codes of the rite in the text, the organisation of the passage becomes much less confusing. There is a clear articulation of centre and periphery at work in the cult, one that involved the most fundamental divisions of the city, and the same articulation is found in the myth. The two moments of the story, far from being two incompatible versions of the myth, or an obscure confusion of disparate elements, are in fact a perfectly symmetrical arrangement of spatial movement, each half only making sense in relation to the other, and together constituting a structured whole. The two moments of the Herodotean story are both necessary for the logic of the rite they embody and its tracing of the civic territory. The interweaving of the past with the present, the moment of the foundational crime with its perpetual expiation, is thus coextensive with the entire duration of the city, from its origins to now.

12The cult of Zeus Laphystios is a fundamental expression of group identity. It cannot be reduced to one meaning, or one function, and both assuredly changed a great deal over the course of time. One of the meanings that probably played a prominent role in the time of Herodotus is that of the place of kingship in the constitution of the city, and of its rejection by the contemporary population. The periodical banishment of the descendants of the original rulers and the continued expiation of their crimes surely said something about how the group conceived itself as a community. What these readings of the cult actually were, of course, we will never know in any detail.

  • 33 See Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 100.

13One thing that stands out in the description of Herodotus is the role of oracles.33 The phrase ἐκ θεοπροπίου appears twice in the passage: once to refer to the establishment of the cult and the ritual ἄεθλοι of the descendants of Phrixos, and the other to explain the city’s decision to sacrifice Athamas. The two oracles are obviously related. One serves as the foundation of the ritual sacrifice, and the other as the foundation of the mythical sacrifice, another indication of the complete imbrication of one level into the other. The intervention of divinity is underlined in the narrative, and it needs to be taken seriously if we want to make sense of the Herodotean passage.

  • 34 Hughes, o.c. (n. 12), p. 232, n. 81.

14The mythical oracle, the one that advised the Achaeans to sacrifice Athamas, is concerned with purification. The killing of the king is to serve as καθαρμὸν τῆς χώρης. Hughes is right to deny that καθαρμός can be read as the equivalent of φαρμακός in this passage, and that what we have there is a reference to the voluntary sacrifice of Athamas to avert a plague, as some had believed.34 The sacrifice of the king is presented as a purification for the land ordered by an oracle. There is no need to conjure a plague or a φαρμακός-rite here, or to find some obscure meaning to the word καθαρμός, but simply to follow the order of events in the passage. The initial act in the story is the plotting of Phrixos’ murder by Athamas and Ino. Herodotus has nothing to say about motivation, and he doesn’t hint at any one specific version of the myth of Ino in the text. Whatever version of the tradition one has in mind, the passage still presents the original act as the attempted slaughter of a child by his father and his stepmother. The next event in the sequence is a stain upon the land, exactly what we would expect as a consequence of such a terrible crime at the hands of the king. Following this is an intervention of the god prescribing the killing of the king as a purification for the land. The rescue of Cytissorus prevents this purification from taking place. A new intervention of the god transfers the punishment to his descendants, while the city must ensure the correct ritual procedure ordered by the oracle. The sequence of events alluded to in the passage can thus be seen to have a perfectly coherent structure, where each act motivates the next and the order of events sketches a linear story that goes from then to now.

  • 35 Cf. L. Moulinier, Le Pur et l’impur dans la pensée des Grecs d’Homère à Aristote, Paris, p. 236, wh (...)

15 One particularly fascinating piece of information that stands out from this picture is the complex interaction of kin and community staged by the cult. The internal violence of the ruling family is the cause of a blight on the land—possibly an ἄγος, but the word is not used in the passage.35 The rescue of the old king is an act of kin cooperation, and this act of salvation within the genos results in the institution of a rite of perpetual expiation for the whole community—one that has lasted since time immemorial. The two acts of the story are complementary. Intra-kin violence and cooperation answer each other and foreground the issue of continuity. It is the son of the man who was to be sacrificed by his father that saves his grandfather. Rather than putting an end to the violence, however, this act of cooperation opens the way for a continued duty on the part of the community to delimit the role of the genos and to reproduce the original crime in perpetuity. By saving his grandfather, Cytissorus made the polis responsible for sacrificing his descendants through the centuries. The genos that founded the city is also the one that placed it in a relation of eternal debt to Zeus the Devourer. The same logic that sees the kin violence of Athamas answered by the kin-cooperation of Cytissorus in the myth is reproduced in the cult’s framing of the genos’ place in the community. Far from simply staging an expulsion of the extended kin group from the city, or a rejection of their influence, the ritual dramatises its controlled presence at the centre of power, the continuity of the present with the past and the role of transgression in founding the city and preserving its boundaries. It doesn’t bring precise answers to precise questions, but creates a web of associations for channelling social memory. That is what ritual does.

  • 36 For the notion of ancestral fault, see R. Gagné, Ancestral Fault in Ancient Greece, Cambridge, 2013

16The original crime of Athamas, although not committed in the end, returns to fall on the transgressor, and the sacrificer becomes the sacrificed. The aversion of that second sacrifice leads to the establishment of the cult and its own enactment of human sacrifice. The non-fulfilment of those sacrifices, in turn, followed by the exile or the staged exile of the victim, reproduces the same pattern, and the return and capture of the next generation of victims sets the cycle in motion anew. The crime of the genos is answered by the sacrificial procession of the polis, and the unfulfilled killing of one generation passed on as a debt to the next. The focus of the rite on the eldest son of the group emphasises the importance of generational transmission in the cult, and the idea of the fault as an inheritance. Shared by the kinship group and the community as a whole, the fault creates a powerful bond through time binding the actions of all actors and all generations in the reproduction of the same constitutive sacrifice. The crime of the human θυσία unleashes pollution on the community, and the rescue of Athamas moves the god to cast his anger (μῆνις) on the descendants of Cytissorus. The pollution upon the community and the divine anger aimed at the kin group are intertwined. The ancestral fault on which the cult is based is an act and a consequence shared by all in the polis, and a major conduit for the memorial experience of the civic past.36

17The ritual can only be observed in echoes of the text, in a careful examination of the traces it has left in discourse—in reading through Herodotus. What role, then, does it play in the text? How does the extended narration of this tale of pollution and wrath transmitted through the generations function in the Histories themselves? What are the wider echoes and connotations of this emphatic representation of human sacrifice? The first thing to consider is the position of the passage in the work. Situated at the end of Book 7, it occupies a strategic location in the progression of Xerxes’ advance through Northern Greece. As the one extended narrative placed before the Thermopylae, it stands out of that section of Book 7 as a particularly important episode for understanding the arrival of the Persians in Greece. Part of its significance has to do with the focus given to the conquest of Thessaly in the tale.

  • 37 The reactions of the Greek cities to the Persian demands are described from 7.131 to 7.174; see E. (...)
  • 38 See H. Kleinknecht, “Herodot und Athen,” Hermes 75 (1940), p. 241-264; N. Demand, “Herodotus’ Encom (...)
  • 39 See W. Blösel, “The Herodotean Picture of Themistocles: A Mirror of Fifth-century Athens,” in Lurag (...)

18The appearance of Xerxes at the edge of Thessaly is presented as a pivotal moment of the war. This is when the Persian expedition first arrives in view of the free Greek cities. Herodotus describes the massive camp of the Persian army spread over Macedonia in 7.127, and the awe of Xerxes as he looks on the great barrier of the Olympus and the Ossa standing between him and Hellas. The next seventy odd chapters constitute one long ring-composition describing how the various Greek cities reacted to the arrival of the Mede.37 This is the section of the Histories where the famous division of the Greeks into three camps is laid out: those who gave earth and water to the king, those who fought them, and those who abstained from the battle. After going through the list of the Medisers, amongst whom the Thessalians are the first to give themselves to the Persians, the text goes on to show how Athens and Sparta resolved to unite with the other cities of the Peloponnese and central Greece to fight off the onslaught. Chapter 7.139, possibly the most well known passage in all of the Histories, argues that Athens’ choice was the one key factor that allowed the Greeks to triumph over the Persians, and presents the bleak picture of what would have happened had Athens not resolved to fight, maybe the first experiment in what moderns have come to call alternate history.38 The next chapters, concerning the notorious debates about the Wooden Wall oracle, emphatically underline the difficulty of this choice, and the incredible perspicacity of Themistocles in convincing his fellow Athenians to evacuate the city for Salamis and rely on the ships he had persuaded them to build earlier.39 The power of Athens’ and Sparta’s resolve in the face of imminent danger is highlighted much more starkly by the long descriptions of the refusals of Argos, Sicily, and Crete to join the Greek cause.

  • 40 N. Robertson, “The Thessalian Expedition of 480 B.C.,” JHS 96 (1976), p. 100-120.
  • 41 7.173: ὡς δὲ συνελέχθη ὁ στρατός, ἔπλεε δι’ Εὐρίπου. ἀπικόμενος δὲ τῆς Ἀχαιίης ἐς Ἄλον, ἀποβὰς ἐπορ (...)

19Chapter 131 lays out the scene of the Persian ambassadors coming back to the army’s camp at Therma, some carrying the earth and water of yielding cities, others empty-handed: an occasion for the vast panorama of alliances and desertions that sets the stage for the rest of the war. Chapter 172, after this panorama, goes on to frame the moment of Xerxes’ entry into Thessaly. The Thessalians make it clear that they will not fight alone, and that they will only join the alliance if they are met by the armies of the other Greek states to defend the northern frontier. An expedition of 10 000 men is sent to guard the pass of Olympus, but it retreats back to the Isthmus after waiting just a few days.40 It is interesting to note that Alos is singled out as the place where the στρατηίη disembarked to protect Thessaly.41

20The whole narrative of this expedition is centred on the idea of defending a barrier, guarding an obstacle. The pass of Tempè between the Olympus and the Ossa is chosen, but soon abandoned after the alarming reports of the Macedonian king. The narrator intervenes (δοκέειν δέ μοι) at this point to say that what really pushed them back was the fear of encirclement (7.173). That statement serves as a very effective prolepsis for the narrative of the Thermopylae, of course, and an important addition to the reflection of the passage on the nature of alliance. If the Greeks refuse to hold the line and guard the pass, how can they expect the Thessalians not to join the Mede? If no wall can be held, how can the Persian advance be checked?

  • 42 See P. PAyen, Les Îles nomades: conquérir et résister dans l’Enquête d’Hérodote, Paris, 1997.

21That is nothing less than the key to the war. The impossibility of protecting a barrier, so memorably dramatised in the Thermopylae episode, is explored at length in the Thessalian passage.42 It begins with Xerxes contemplating the height of the mountainous barrier in his way, realising that the whole of Thessaly is surrounded by a massive chain of impenetrable peaks and reflecting on the weakness of this protection (7.128-130). The barrier can easily be transformed into a trap and land made into water. The mountains are no protection.

  • 43 See L. Miletti, “L’analisi dei testi oracoli in Erodoto,” in G. Abbamonte, F. Conti Bizzarro, L. Sp (...)

22That image of an entire region trapped by a nefarious barrier of land and sea is answered very directly by the Peloponnesian excursus of alternate history in 7.139. The parallel is striking. Whereas the Thessalians would be trapped by their mountains, the Spartans would be trapped by the sea, and the walls of the Isthmus offer no more protection than the passage of Tempè. The fragility of alliances and the futility of relying on a defensive wall are the recurrent themes of that section of the Histories, powerful foreshadowings and contrasts for the episode of the Wooden Wall oracle (7.141), and the heroic discernment of the Athenians in finding the victorious solution.43 The entire outline of the conflict is condensed in this crucial passage, at that moment in the narrative when Xerxes is about to cross the first barrier of Hellas. This is the context in which the episode of zeus Laphystios is set, right before Xerxes leaves Thessaly and Achaia to head south to the Thermopylae (7.198).

  • 44 See e.g. J. Grethlein, “Philosophical and Structuralist Narratologies – Worlds Apart?” in J. Grethl (...)

23What is that most peculiar episode doing there, then? It will not do to say that Herodotus simply related it because of the intrinsic interest of the story, or that the narrative used it as a form of macabre decoration because the expedition just happened to be passing through the city of Alos at that moment. The tale is presented as a story told to Xerxes at a particularly sensitive moment in the narrative, and framed by the reaction of the great king to it. It focalises the perspective of the ruler for the audience at a particularly crucial moment of the Histories.44

  • 45 See C. Schwanzar, “Athamas,” LIMC 2.1 (1984), p. 950-953; A.-C. Soussan, La Figure d’Athamas dans l (...)
  • 46 See A. Casanova, “Le nipoti di Atamante nel Catalogo esiodeo,” SIFC 40 (1968), p. 177-196; the frag (...)
  • 47 See S. Byl, “Pourquoi Athamas est-il cité au vers 257 des Nuées d’Aristophane? ou de l’utilité des (...)
  • 48 S. Radt, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, vol. 3, Göttingen, 1985, p. 123-125; J.M. Lucasde Dios, “E (...)
  • 49 H. Fuhrmann, “Athamas. Nachklang einer verlorenen Tragödie des Sophokles auf dem Bruchstück eines “ (...)
  • 50 τ ὸ ν Ἀ θ ά μ α ν θ ’ M: τοῦτο πρὸς τὸν ἕτερον Ἀθάμαντα Σοφοκλέους ἀποτεινόμενος λέγει. VM πεποίηκε (...)
  • 51 R. Kannicht, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, vol. 5.2, Göttingen, 2004, p. 856-876.
  • 52 Ps.-Apollod. 1.9.2; 3.4.3 are the most important passages; see also ‘Plat.’, Minos 315c; schol. Ap. (...)
  • 53 Note that whereas Athamas is rescued by Cytissorus in Herodotus, it is Heracles who saves him in So (...)
  • 54 For the usage of mythology more generally in Herodotus’ relation of the expedition of Xerxes see no (...)

24How can we assess the resonance of that tale for contemporaries of Herodotus? First, a key fact is that the story of Athamas was particularly famous in the literature of the time.45 Something of the story is already known in the Odyssey 5.333-335. Mentioned by the Hesiodic Catalogue (fr. 255 M-W) already, it is also found in Pherecydes (fr. 98 Fowler).46 It was familiar enough to the audience of Aristophanes’ Clouds (257) for an allusive reference, and played a major role in tragedy.47 Aeschylus portrayed the sacrifice of a child in his Athamas (TrGF 3. 1-4).48 Sophocles wrote three plays on the topic: two called Athamas, and one Phrixos (TrGF 4.1-10; 721-723).49 The scholion to Aristophanes’ Clouds 257 indicates that one of his Athamas plays portrayed the same tale as the one we find in Herodotus (see below).50 Euripides also wrote three plays on the topic: one Ino and two plays called Phrixos are found in our sources (fr. 819-838, TrGF 5.2).51 A great number of variants, as one would expect, are attested in these and later texts, and no one version really stood out as the canonical expression of the myth, even if the fundamental architecture of the story remained the same from one version to the next.52 Obviously of great significance for the audiences of the fifth century, the tale of Athamas was put to a great number of different uses over the generations. The version of Herodotus is closest to that of Sophocles, in that the two are the only known ones to be built on the double sacrifice of Phrixos and Athamas.53 The similarity could be due to a borrowing, but we know nothing about the date of Sophocles’ Athamas, apart from the fact that it was produced before the Clouds of Aristophanes (424), and the two could very well derive from a common source. The thought that Herodotus is writing his version over the Sophoclean text or (less likely) Sophocles writing his over Herodotus is enticing but entirely inconclusive. It is impossible to say if one version owes something to the other, let alone refers to it in this case. What matters here is that the text of Herodotus presents a distinctive, epichoric, ritually grounded, and historically situated description of a story that circulated in contemporary texts of great poetic currency, and played a particularly important role in tragedy at the time of the audience.54 This was a story that mattered for the audience, a tale they were intimately familiar with. The specificities of Herodotus’ voice in telling it, and giving it meaning, would have come out very clearly.

  • 55 For Helle and the Hellespont in the 5th cent., see Pindar, fr. 189 M.; Aesch., Per. 69; cf. Ph. Bru (...)
  • 56 7.57: ὡς δὲ διέβησαν πάντες, ἐς ὁδὸν ὁρμημένοισι τέρας σφι ἐφάνη μέγα, τὸ Ξέρξης ἐν οὐδενὶ λόγῳ ἐπο (...)
  • 57 7.58: ὁ δὲ κατ’ ἤπειρον στρατὸς πρὸς ἠῶ τε καὶ ἡλίου ἀνατολὰς ἐποιέετο τὴν ὁδὸν διὰ τῆς Χερσονήσου, (...)
  • 58 Cf. M. Wecowski, “The Hedgehog and the Fox: Form and Meaning in the Prologue of Herodotus,” JHS 124 (...)
  • 59 7.193: ἔστι δὲ χῶρος ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τούτῳ τῆς Μαγνησίης, ἔνθα λέγεται τὸν Ἡρακλέα καταλειφθῆναι ὑπὸ Ἰή (...)
  • 60 See now A. Hollmann, The Master of Signs: Signs and the Interpretations of Signs in Herodotus’ Hist (...)
  • 61 See G. Nagy, “The Sign of Protesilaos,” Mètis 2 (1987), p. 207-213; Bowie, l.c. (n. 54), p. 273-274

25The passage, interestingly enough, does not dispute any other version. One notable fact is that no supernatural event is mentioned, no fleeing golden calf, no magic cauldron or divine madness. The tale is told as a tragic family drama, and divine presence is limited to the role of oracles, as elsewhere in the world of the text. Part of the difficulty of the passage lies in its elliptical minimalism. The condensed narrative is made of allusions to a tale that is widely known. Herodotus is not trying to present a new version of the myth in the passage, but simply to point the audience to the shared knowledge of this familiar story. What really stands out from the Herodotean version is the explicit imbrication of myth and ritual, the contemporary, lived reality of the cult that the local enquiry of the historian is able to attach to the old story. The traditional tale is reproduced in the actions of the cult, and the ancient myth brought into the here and now of historical events as the narrative of the Persian expedition meets the location of the myth. It is not any myth that we encounter here, but one of the fundamental articulations of contact between east and west in the Greek imagination. The flight of Phrixos is intrinsically tied to the Hellespont, and the fact that Hellè is not named in the Herodotean passage is simply an example of the allusive nature of that text, not a major derogation from the standard course of the story.55 Her tomb is mentioned in Book 7, at the moment when the Persian army first reaches Europe, right after the troops have crossed the Hellespont and a great portent (a hare came out of a mare) appeared to Xerxes, indicating that “Xerxes was to march his army to Hellas with great pomp and pride, but to come back to the same place fleeing for his life” (7.57-58).56 This was a portent that was “easy to guess,” but Xerxes made no account of it (λόγον οὐδένα ποιησάμενος) and marched on. Helle, whose name echoes the Hellas of the passage, is identified there as Athamas’ daughter, as she is in Aeschylus.57 The great boundary that separates east and west, the course of water whose crossing most powerfully symbolises the hybris of Xerxes’ invasion, a memorable scene that occupies a good part of Book 7, derives its name from the events at Alos. The exile of Phrixos in Colchis, and the return of Cytissorus from Aea, are paradigmatic moments of passage between east and west, barbarian and Greek worlds, and the expedition of the Argonauts an emblem of the aggression that separates them, is singled out in the prologue of the Histories as one of the original causes of the great rift between orient and occident according to the Persians themselves.58 It is no coincidence that the expedition of the Argonauts is mentioned just a few chapters before the description of the cult of Zeus Laphystios.59 The Histories are filled with portents, signs and hints for the audience.60 That Herodotus staged an encounter between Xerxes and this myth at the moment when he first crosses into Greece is probably not a coincidence. It is certainly as significant as the instrumentalisation of myth in the Protesilaos episode at the very end of Book 9.61

  • 62 Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 237, n. 39.
  • 63 See e.g. H.R. Immerwahr, Form and Thought in Herodotus, Cleveland, 1966, p. 293; J.-L. Desnier, De (...)
  • 64 See T. Harrison, Divinity and History: The Religion of Herodotus, Oxford, 2000, p. 218; for Book 7, (...)

26The Persians themselves perform a human sacrifice at 7.180, a few chapters before the Zeus Laphystios episode of 7.197.62 Sacrilege is the running theme of the Persian advance toward Hellas, from the flogging of the Hellespont (7.35) to the violence of the army against the river barriers on its way.63 At 7.130, for instance, right before his entry into Thessaly, Xerxes contemplates the possibility of channelling the course of the river Tempè and thus undo what Herodotus explicitly presents as the work of Poseidon himself. At 7.127 and 7.187, even the rivers are shown to dry up as a result of the demands of the army on the land. In this passage as elsewhere, sacrilege and transgression of the divine order are shown as the mark of the Persian invasion, and the inability of the ruler to understand the signs of the gods and the world constitute one of the most profound and effective narrative devices of Herodotus in his structuring of the tragic progression of the Persian march to disaster.64 The continuous failure of Xerxes to grasp the language of the gods and the web of meaning that surrounds his every move in the Histories is the culmination of a long-running theme in the Herodotean description of rulers, from the portrait of Croesus in Book 1 onwards. The Persian king’s reaction to the guides’ description of the cult of Zeus Laphystios is part of that pattern.

  • 65 Cf. 1.66; 216; 2.29; 42; 5.7. For οἰκίη in the passage, see Schachter, o.c. (1994, n. 5), p. 108.

27Xerxes shows reverence for the τέμενος of Zeus Laphystios and the οἰκίη of Athamas, and he forbids his men from entering the grove at Alos. The usage of the verb σέβομαι is marked, it underscores the profound impact that the story has had on the king.65 The hallowed respect showed by the great king to the modest grove of this modest city is motivated by the terrifying image of human sacrifice sanctioned by divinity. By avoiding the grove, the Persian monarch is seeking to avoid punishment, not realising that he is in fact the protagonist of the greatest transgression of all time. The spectacle of his incomprehension creates yet another effect of distance between his perspective and that of the audience of the Histories. The temporal dimension of the encounter makes it all the more significant; both the resonance of the myth with the deep causes of the conflict between east and west, and the staggeringly long duration of the punishment transmitted through the generations as a result of the crime. The episode functions as a link to a much broader view of human history in the long cycles of time, it serves to remind the reader of the grander scheme of gods and consequences in which human action unfolds. The crime of human sacrifice, and the terrible hold of punishment its repeated mythical attempts continue to have on the community centuries later, perfectly embody this narrative role.

Notes

1 See P. Bonnechere, Le Sacrifice humain en Grèce ancienne, Athènes-Liège, 1994 (Kernos, suppl. 3), p. 237.

2 1.116; 2.119; 2.45; 2.63; 3.35; 4.62; 4.71-72; 4.94; 4.102-103; 5.5; 7.114; 7.180; 7.197; 9.119. One passage that recasts Agamemnon’s mythical sacrifice of his daughter, his brother Menelaos’ impious (οὐκ ὅσιον) sacrifice of two children in order to obtain favourable winds for sailing, significantly takes place in Egypt: 2.119 (ἐγένετο Μενέλεως ἀνὴρ ἄδικος ἐς Αἰγυπτίους). The formulation used to refer to the sacrifice is ἔντομά σφεα ἐποίησε (cf. 7.191). The story is one that Herodotus attributes to the Egyptian priests themselves. On οὐκ ὅσιον, see S. Peels, Evaluating Piety in 5th-century Greece: The Semantics of ὅσιος and Near-Synonyms in Literary and Epigraphical Sources, Diss. Utrecht-Leiden (forthcoming).

3 4.103 with E. Hall, Inventing the Barbarian, Oxford, 1989, p. 111-112 and P. Kyriakou, A commentary on Euripides’ Iphigenia in Tauris, Berlin, 2006, p. 21, n. 14; see Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 238, n. 46; see J.N. Bremmer in this volume.

4 For local knowledge in Herodotus’ Histories, see N. Luraghi, “Local Knowledge in Herodotus’ Histories,” in N. Luraghi (ed.), The Historian’s Craft in the Age of Herodotus, Oxford, 2001, p. 138-160.

5 Zeus Laphystios appears on the coinage of Hellenistic Halos, with Phrixos clinging to a flying ram on the reverse: see H.R. Reinders, New Halos: A Hellenistic Town in Thessalian Greece, Utrecht, 1988, p. 240-251; H.R. Reinders, W. Prummel, Housing in New Halos: A Hellenistic Town in Thessaly, Greece, Lisse, 2003, p. 322; cf. A. Schachter, Cults of Boeotia, vol. 3, London, 1994, p. 107-108 and the statuette of Helle riding a ram described in Reinders and Prummel, p. 113. See also M.J. Haagsma, Domestic Economy and Social Organization in New Halos, Diss. Groningen, 2010, p. 213-215. As K. Freitag notes ( “Ein Schiedsvertrag zwischen Halos und Thebai in Delphi. Überlegungen zum Wirkzusammenhang zwischen Kult und Politik im Thessalischen Koinon des 2. Jahrhunderts v. Chr.,” in K. Freitag, P. Funke, M. Haake (eds.), Kult – Politik – Ethnos: überregionale Heiligtümer im Spannungsfeld von Kult und Politik, Stuttgart, 2006, p. 224), ‘Zeus Laphystios ist in Halos inschriftlich noch nicht bezeugt’. Laphystios is also an epithet of Dionysos (Et. Mag.; Et. Gen.; Hesychius) and the maenads (Lyc. 1237; cf. 215 and 791); see also Nicolaus of Damascus FGrH  90 F 15, who locates the tomb of Laius ἐν Λαφυστίῳ; cf. Const. Porph., De insidiis 7.18; add Plut., Tim. 37.1-2; Paus. 1.24.2; Anth. Gr. 16.15b; Ael. Herod., De pros. cath. 3.1 (p. 368.18); ps.-Zon. Lex. s.v. λαφύστιος; schol. Apoll. Rhod. 2.653; schol. Lycophr. 213; 789; 791; 1237; Suda s.v. λαφύστιος; cf. Paus. 4.31; 7.18 (Artemis Laphria); for SEG 23.197, see further P. Bonnechere, Trophonios de Lébadée: cultes et mythes d’une cité béotienne au miroir de la mentalité antique, Leiden, 2003, p. 25. On mount Laphystion, see Pausanias 9.34.5, with Schachter, o.c., p. 4-10; cf. Theogn., Canon. 758. On λαφύσσω, see P. Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque, Paris, 19992 [1968], p. 623. Athamas has strong connections to both Halos and Orchomenos in Boeotia (Eur. Phrixos B; Paus. 1.144.7; 9.34.5; Hell. 1 F 126 Jacoby); see A. Schachter, “Policy, Cult, and the Placing of Greek Sanctuaries,” in A. Schachter, J. Bingen (eds.), Le Sanctuaire grec, Vandoeuvres, 1992, p. 42-43; A. Kühr, Als Kadmos nach Boiotien kam: Polis und Ethnos im Spiegel thebanischer Gründungsmythen, Stuttgart, 2006, p. 279-286; J.N. Bremmer, Greek Religion and Culture, the Bible and the Ancient Near East, Leiden, 2008, p. 304-305. The cult of Zeus Laphystios is regularly compared to that of Zeus Lykaios in Arcadia; see e.g. V. Bérard, De l’origine des cultes arcadiens, Paris, 1894, p. 49-91; W. Burkert, Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth, Berkeley, 19832 [1972], p. 114-116; J.L. Larson, Ancient Greek Cults, London, 2007, p. 16-18.

6 Cf. P. Bonnechere and R. Gagné in this volume.

7 Ch. 22; see R. Gagné, “Haereditarium Piaculum: Aspects of Ancient Greek Religion in the 17th Century,” in A. Bierl, W. Braungart (eds.), Gewalt und Opfer. Im Dialog mit Walter Burkert, Berlin, 2011, p. 138-139.

8 K.O. Müller, Die Dorier, Breslau, 1824, p. 161-175; cf. G. Grote, A History of Greece, 12 vol., London, 18544, p. 169-174; L. Preller, Griechische Mythology, bd. 1, Berlin, 1894, p. 310-314; A.B. Cook, Zeus. 5 vol, Cambridge, 1914, p. 416; C. Robert, Die griechische Heldensage, Berlin, 1926, p. 41-55; M.P. Nilsson Geschichte der griechischen Religion, vol. 1, Munich, 19673, p. 371.

9 A. Maury, Histoire des religions de la Grèce antique, vol. 3, Paris, 1859, p. 215; cf. already P. Buttmann, Mythologus oder gesammelte Abhandlungen über die Sagen des Alterthums, Berlin, 1829, p. 229-230. See also R. Brown, Semitic Influence in Hellenic Mythology: With Special Reference to the Recent Mythologic Works of F. Max Müller and Andrew Lang, London, 1898, p. 145-151; M.C. Astour, Hellenosemitica: An Ethnic and Cultural Study in West Semitic Impact on Mycenaean Greece, Leiden, 1967, p. 204-212; and A.H. Krappe, “La légende d’Athamas et de Phrixos,” REG 22 (1924), p. 380-389 for the postulation of an Indo-European origin.

10 J.G. FRazer, The Golden Bough, vol. 2: The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings (Part II), London, 19113, p. 34-41; cf. S. Eitrem, “A Purificatory Rite and Some Allied rites de passage,” SO 25 (1947), p. 253.

11 M.P. Nilsson, Griechische Feste von religiöser Bedeutung, mit Auschliessung der attischen, Leipzig, 1906, p. 10-12 and M.P. Nilsson, The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology, Berkeley, 1932, p. 133-136; cf. Burkert, o.c. (n. 5), p. 114-115.

12 F. Schwenn, Die Menschenopfer bei den Griechen und Römern, Giessen, 1915, p. 43-45; see also J.E. Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, Cambridge, 19223, p. 109-110; D.D. Hughes, Human Sacrifice in Ancient Greece, Londres, 1991, p. 232, n. 81; J. Stern, “Scapegoat Narratives in Herodotus,” Hermes 119 (1991), p. 304-311.

13 Hughes, o.c. (n. 12), p. 92-96; Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 96-107; cf. Burkert, o.c. (n. 5), p. 114-115.

14 See R. Crahay, La Littérature oraculaire chez Hérodote, Paris, 1956, p. 89-91; Hughes, o.c. (n. 12), p. 93, n. 77; Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 97.

15 Accepted by Hude and Legrand, but not by Rosén.

16 Ph.-E. Legrand (ed. & trans.), Hérodote. Histoires. Livre VII. Polymnie, Paris, 1951, p. 210.

17 See still D. Fehling, Die Quellenangaben bei Herodot, Berlin, 1971, p. 106-107; 132-133; cf. Hughes, o.c. (n. 12), p. 95.

18 For religious silence in the Histories, see S. Gödde, “οὔ μοι ὅσιόν ἐστι λέγειν: zur Poetik der Leerstelle in Herodots Ägypten-Logos,” in A. Bierl, R. Lämmle, K. Wesselmann (eds.), Literatur und Religion: Wege zu einer mythisch-rituellen Poetik bei den Griechen. Berlin, 2007, p. 41- 90; for Herodotus more generally on human sacrifice, see Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 237-239.

19 For Athamas as the founder of Alos, see e.g. Strabo 9.5.8 (ᾤκισε δὲ ὁ ᾿Αθάμας τὴν ῞Αλον).

20 Cf. R.C.T. Parker, Athenian Religion: A History, Oxford, 1996, p. 56-66 on the cults of γένη.

21 Which community? Although a majority of scholars believes that the λήιτον was that of the polis Alos (see e.g. S.G. Miller, The Prytaneion: Its Function and Architectural Form, Berkeley, 1978, n. 324; M.H. Hansen and T. Fischer-Hansen, “Monumental Political Architecture in Archaic and Classical Greek Poleis: Evidence and Historical Significance”, CPCPapers 1, 1994, p. 32; M.J. Haagsma, o.c. [n. 5], p. 214), Decourt, Nielsen and Helly are right to observe that it could be a common λήιτον of the Achaean ethnos, or serve as both: J.-C. Decourt, T.H. Nielsen, B. HELLy, “Thessalia and Adjacent Regions”, in M.H. Hansen, T.H. Nielsen (eds.), An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis: An Investigation Conducted by the Copenhagen Polis Centre for the Danish National Research Foundation, Oxford, 2004, p. 714.

22 Alexander Herda points me to his reconstruction of the cult organisation of the Delphinion in Miletus for such a procession within the sanctuary: A. Herda, “How to Run a State Cult: The Organization of the Cult of Apollo Delphinios in Miletos”, in J. Wallenstein, M. Haysom (eds.), Current Approaches to Religion in Ancient Greece. Stockholm, 2011, p. 66. As he also observes, the location of prytaneia in sanctuaries is attested at such prominent sites as Dodona, Delphi, and Olympia, among others.

23 The civic topography of classical Thessalian cities is not well established. For the presence of structures that can be identified as public buildings in agoras of the region, see e.g. A. Doulgeri-INTzesiloglou, Hypereia 1 (1990), p. 39; M.J. Haagsma, S. Karapanou, T. Harvey, L. Surtees, “A New City and Its Agora: Results from Hellenic-Canadian Archaeological Work at the Kastro of Kallithea in Thessaly, Greece,” in A. Giannikoure, Η Αγορά στη Μεσόγειο. από τους ομηρικούς έως τους ρωμαϊκούς χρόνους, Athens, 2011, p. 199. I sincerely thank Maria Mili for the references, and Margriet J. Haagsma for sending me this 2011 chapter and her dissertation on New Halos (o.c. [n. 5]). For the location of sacred groves, see e.g. F. Graf, “Bois sacrés et oracles en Asie Mineure,” in J. Scheid (ed.), Les Bois sacrés, Naples, 1993, p. 23-29; P. Bonnechere, “The Place of the Sacred Grove in the Mantic Rituals of Greece: The Example of the Oracle of Trophonios at Lebadeia (Boeotia),” in M. Conan (ed.), Sacred Gardens and Landscapes: Ritual and Agency, Washington DC, 2007, p. 17-41, who stresses the liminal aspects of the ἄλσος in our documentation.

24 For the topography of Hellenistic Alos, see H.R. Reinders, “Halos, a new town,” AAA 12 (1979), p. 59-62 and Reinders, o.c. (n.5).

25 It can be relevant to note that, in the fourth century at least, the city was surrounded by walls (Dem. 19.163). The fact that it was a polis is not in doubt (Dem. 19.36 and 39).

26 L. Radermacher, Mythos und Sage bei den Griechen, Baden bei Wien, 1938, p. 156-162; cf. n. 45.

27 See already Harrison, o.c. (n. 12), p. 110; cf. Burkert, o.c. (n. 5), p. 115.

28 For the notion of substitution in human and animal sacrifice, see R.C.T. Parker in this volume. Note the presence of fillets on the man who is to be sacrificed; cf. Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 100.

29 Cf. J.N. Bremmer in this volume.

30 See n. 10.

31 See P. Bonnechere, “Le rituel samien décrit par Hérodote 3, 48 et la βωμολοχία spartiate,” LEC 66 (1998), p. 3-21 for parallels to the presence of φύλακες in civic rituals.

32 Cf. Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 101, who reads this in terms of the ἐσχατιά of liminal space in initiation rituals. For the characteristics of centripetal and centrifugal processions, see F. Graf, “Pompai in Greece. Some considerations about Space and Ritual in the Greek Polis,” in R. Hägg (ed.), The Role of Religion in the Early Greek Polis, Stockholm, 1996, p. 55-65.

33 See Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 100.

34 Hughes, o.c. (n. 12), p. 232, n. 81.

35 Cf. L. Moulinier, Le Pur et l’impur dans la pensée des Grecs d’Homère à Aristote, Paris, p. 236, who refers the passage to the ἄγος of the Alcmaeonids.

36 For the notion of ancestral fault, see R. Gagné, Ancestral Fault in Ancient Greece, Cambridge, 2013.

37 The reactions of the Greek cities to the Persian demands are described from 7.131 to 7.174; see E. Baragwanath, Motivation and Narrative in Herodotus, Oxford, 2008, p. 210-227. The final review of Xerxes’ army goes from chapter 7.184 to 187. The movement southwards of the land army finally begins again at 7.196. 7.197 is thus placed right at the beginning of that return to the main course of the narrative.

38 See H. Kleinknecht, “Herodot und Athen,” Hermes 75 (1940), p. 241-264; N. Demand, “Herodotus’ Encomium of Athens. Science or Rhetoric?” AJPh 108 (1987), p. 746-758; A. Mehl, “Von der Vergangenheit in die Zukunft: Historiker als Propheten,” in H. Heller (ed.), Kulturethologie zwischen Analyse und Prognose Vienna, 2008, p. 129-159.

39 See W. Blösel, “The Herodotean Picture of Themistocles: A Mirror of Fifth-century Athens,” in Luraghi (ed.), o.c. (n. 4), p. 179-197; H. Bowden, “Oracles for Sale,” in P. Derow, R. Parker (eds.), Herodotus and his World: Essays from a Conference in Memory of George Forrest, Oxford, 2003, p. 256-274.

40 N. Robertson, “The Thessalian Expedition of 480 B.C.,” JHS 96 (1976), p. 100-120.

41 7.173: ὡς δὲ συνελέχθη ὁ στρατός, ἔπλεε δι’ Εὐρίπου. ἀπικόμενος δὲ τῆς Ἀχαιίης ἐς Ἄλον, ἀποβὰς ἐπορεύετο ἐς Θεσσαλίην, τὰς νέας αὐτοῦ καταλιπών, καὶ ἀπίκετο ἐς τὰ Τέμπεα ἐς τὴν ἐσβολὴν ἥ περ ἀπὸ Μακεδονίης τῆς κάτω ἐς Θεσσαλίην φέρει παρὰ ποταμὸν Πηνειόν, μεταξὺ δὲ Ὀλύμπου τε ὄρεος [ἐόντα] καὶ τῆς Ὄσσης.

42 See P. PAyen, Les Îles nomades: conquérir et résister dans l’Enquête d’Hérodote, Paris, 1997.

43 See L. Miletti, “L’analisi dei testi oracoli in Erodoto,” in G. Abbamonte, F. Conti Bizzarro, L. Spina (eds.), L’ultima parola. L’analisi dei testi: teorie e pratiche nell’antichità greca e latina. Napoli, 2004, p. 215-230.

44 See e.g. J. Grethlein, “Philosophical and Structuralist Narratologies – Worlds Apart?” in J. Grethlein, A. Rengakos (eds.), Narratology and Interpretation: The content of Narrative Form in Ancient Literature, Berlin, 2009, p. 153-174.

45 See C. Schwanzar, “Athamas,” LIMC 2.1 (1984), p. 950-953; A.-C. Soussan, La Figure d’Athamas dans la mythologie gréco-latine, 2006, Diss. Paris-X (non vidi); cf. the reconstruction of the myth’s early trajectories in Bremmer, o.c. (n. 5), p. 301-338.

46 See A. Casanova, “Le nipoti di Atamante nel Catalogo esiodeo,” SIFC 40 (1968), p. 177-196; the fragment of Pherecydes is found in a schol. to Pind., P. 4.288.

47 See S. Byl, “Pourquoi Athamas est-il cité au vers 257 des Nuées d’Aristophane? ou de l’utilité des scholies,” LEC 55 (1987), p. 333-336.

48 S. Radt, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, vol. 3, Göttingen, 1985, p. 123-125; J.M. Lucasde Dios, “El Atamante de Esquilo,” in J. Costas Rodríguez (ed.), “Ad amicam amicissime scripta”: homenaje a la profesora María José López de Ayala y Genovés, Madrid, 2005, p. 89-96.

49 H. Fuhrmann, “Athamas. Nachklang einer verlorenen Tragödie des Sophokles auf dem Bruchstück eines “homerischen” Bechers,” JDAI 65-66 (1950-1951), p. 103-134; S. Radt, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, vol. 4, Göttingen, 1999, p. 99-102; 491-492; S. Fedalto, “Λητῆρες: ἱεροι στεφανοφόροι e la saga di Atamante,” RIL 128 (1994), p. 359-377.

50 τ ὸ ν Ἀ θ ά μ α ν θ ’ M: τοῦτο πρὸς τὸν ἕτερον Ἀθάμαντα Σοφοκλέους ἀποτεινόμενος λέγει. VM πεποίηκε γὰρ ὁ Σοφοκλῆς τὸν Ἀθάμαντα ἐστεφανωμένον καὶ παρεστῶτα τῷ βωμῷ τοῦ Διὸς VMMatr ὡς VM σφαγιασθησόμενον· VMMatr καὶ μέλλοντος ἀποσφάττεσθαι αὐτοῦ παραγινόμενον Ἡρακλέα καὶ τοῦ θανάτου ῥυόμενον V <λέγοντα, ὡς σῴζοιτο ὁ Φρύξος, δι’ ὃν ἔμελλεν ἐκεῖνος τεθνήξεσθαι. ἐπεὶ οὖν καὶ ὁ πρεσβύτης ἔστεπται, ὥσπερ παραδείγματι τῷ κατ’ ἐκεῖνον χρώμενος, δεδοικέναι φησὶν ἐκείνῳ παραπλήσια.> Ald.

51 R. Kannicht, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, vol. 5.2, Göttingen, 2004, p. 856-876.

52 Ps.-Apollod. 1.9.2; 3.4.3 are the most important passages; see also ‘Plat.’, Minos 315c; schol. Ap. Rhod. Argon. 2.653; and the references in K. Seelinger, “Athamas,” in W.H. Roscher, (ed.) Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen unr römischen Mythologie 1, Leipzig, 1884-1886, p. 669-675, Radermacher, o.c. (n. 22), p. 156-162, and Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 97, n. 397.

53 Note that whereas Athamas is rescued by Cytissorus in Herodotus, it is Heracles who saves him in Sophocles.

54 For the usage of mythology more generally in Herodotus’ relation of the expedition of Xerxes see now A.M. Bowie, “Mythology and the Expedition of Xerxes,” in E. Baragwanath, M. de Bakker (eds.), Myth, Truth, and Narrative in Herodotus, Cambridge, 2012, p. 269-286, which I was only able to read after this chapter was written.

55 For Helle and the Hellespont in the 5th cent., see Pindar, fr. 189 M.; Aesch., Per. 69; cf. Ph. Bruneau, LIMC 7.1 (1994), p. 398-404, with further references and bibliography.

56 7.57: ὡς δὲ διέβησαν πάντες, ἐς ὁδὸν ὁρμημένοισι τέρας σφι ἐφάνη μέγα, τὸ Ξέρξης ἐν οὐδενὶ λόγῳ ἐποιήσατο καίπερ εὐσύμβλητον ἐόν· ἵππος γὰρ ἔτεκε λαγόν. Εὐσύμβλητον ὦν τῇδε τοῦτο ἐγένετο, ὅτι ἔμελλε μὲν ἐλᾶν στρατιὴν ἐπὶ τὴν Ἑλλάδα Ξέρξης ἀγαυρότατα καὶ μεγαλοπρεπέστατα, ὀπίσω δὲ περὶ ἑωυτοῦ τρέχων ἥξειν ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν χῶρον.

57 7.58: ὁ δὲ κατ’ ἤπειρον στρατὸς πρὸς ἠῶ τε καὶ ἡλίου ἀνατολὰς ἐποιέετο τὴν ὁδὸν διὰ τῆς Χερσονήσου, ἐν δεξιῇ μὲν ἔχων τὸν Ἕλλης τάφον τῆς Ἀθάμαντος. Cf. Bowie, l.c. (n. 54), p. 276: “The fact that Herodotus mentions relatively few mythological figures and that these seem in almost every case to have a significance for the expedition perhaps suggests that we do have a mythological geography here that is not random, slight though these examples may at first seem.”

58 Cf. M. Wecowski, “The Hedgehog and the Fox: Form and Meaning in the Prologue of Herodotus,” JHS 124 (2004), p. 143-164.

59 7.193: ἔστι δὲ χῶρος ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ τούτῳ τῆς Μαγνησίης, ἔνθα λέγεται τὸν Ἡρακλέα καταλειφθῆναι ὑπὸ Ἰήσονός τε καὶ τῶν συνεταίρων ἐκ τῆς Ἀργοῦς ἐπ’ ὕδωρ πεμφθέντα, εὖτε ἐπὶ τὸ κῶας ἔπλεον ἐς Αἶαν τὴν Κολχίδα· ἐνθεῦτεν γὰρ ἔμελλον ὑδρευσάμενοι ἐς τὸ πέλαγος ἀφήσειν· ἐπὶ τούτου δὲ τῷ χώρῳ οὔνομα γέγονε Ἀφέται.

60 See now A. Hollmann, The Master of Signs: Signs and the Interpretations of Signs in Herodotus’ Histories, Harvard, 2011.

61 See G. Nagy, “The Sign of Protesilaos,” Mètis 2 (1987), p. 207-213; Bowie, l.c. (n. 54), p. 273-274.

62 Bonnechere, o.c. (n. 1), p. 237, n. 39.

63 See e.g. H.R. Immerwahr, Form and Thought in Herodotus, Cleveland, 1966, p. 293; J.-L. Desnier, De Cyrus le Grand à Julien l’Apostat: “le passage du fleuve”. Essai sur la légitimité du souverain, Paris, 1995; Gianotti, G.F., “Hérodote, les fleuves et l’histoire,” in M.L. Desclos (ed.), Réflexions contemporaines sur l’Antiquité classique, Grenoble, 1996, p. 157-187; Bowie, l.c. (n. 54), p. 271-276. Cf. now J. Haubold, “The Achaemenid empire and the sea,” Mediterranean Historical Review 27.1 (2012), p. 5-24.

64 See T. Harrison, Divinity and History: The Religion of Herodotus, Oxford, 2000, p. 218; for Book 7, see e.g. C.S. Byre, “Failed inquiry: Xerxes and his scout in Herodotus 7.208-209,” Mouseion 4 (2004), p. 1-16 and P. Vannicelli, Erodoto, vol. 7, Milan (forthcoming).

65 Cf. 1.66; 216; 2.29; 42; 5.7. For οἰκίη in the passage, see Schachter, o.c. (1994, n. 5), p. 108.

Auteur

Pembroke College, Cambridge
(PhD Harvard, 2007) est University Lecturer à la Faculté de Classics de l’Université de Cambridge et Fellow de Pembroke College. Son travail porte sur la poésie et la religion grecques des époques archaïque et classique. Il est l’auteur d’un livre sur l’idée de la faute ancestrale, Ancestral Fault in Ancient Greece (Cambridge 2013) et co-éditeur (avec Marianne Hopman) d’un volume sur le chœur tragique, Choral Mediations in Greek Tragedy (Cambridge 2013).

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