Skip to content

Notes from Horos Dios

January 2, 2013

An Athenian Shrine and Cult of Zeus by Gerald V. Lalonde

Finished this tonight.  Started it back in October.  Below are the notes that I had posted as I read on my Facebook group dedicated to Zeus.  My opinions are in italics.  This book contains a lot of discussion on the actual shrine but that was not what interested me, so the notes contain nothing of this.

  • Horoi (plural; singular is Horos) are boundary stones used to mark the edges of political territories, temple property, public and private land throughout the ancient Greek world. They were under the protection of Zeus Horios.
  • While writing in Greek the standard was left to right but this was not always the case. Sometimes the writing was right to left. When that was done the letters were flipped or reversed too ( I assume to show which way to read it) yet (at least in this case) the sigma was not. Perhaps to mark the end of a word… (Not Zeus related but something I did not know…)
  • I only skimmed maybe half of chapter 2 and then skipped the rest. It consisted of the topography and speculations of what was where in the temnos. Without being able to actually stand there with someone pointing it out, it made my eyes glaze over and my mind wander. The next chapter is the one with the information that has my interest…
  •  “Zeus Meilichios, an old god of purification and well-being, who was worshiped widely in the Greek world and was most popular among individuals and familial groups.”
  •  “Ancient Greeks practiced a religion of cults. They thought of Zeus not as a single transcendent or undifferentiated god but as many manifestations of power, designated by many by names, distributed among many cults and shrines and supplicated for many and varied purposes.”  I don’t agree with this at all but agree with a quote from the footnotes attributed to Lagngdon “and that earlier on [Zeus] was honored with whatever epithet each votary wished to use”.  Epithets (or bynames as the author calls them) were a way of personalization similar in use to a nickname maybe. If you worked for your parents in a corporate world you probably would not call them “Mom” or “Dad” during a corporate meeting, rather by an honorific or some other such title. I see this as no different.
  •  “Zeus Meilikhios was viewed as a god of marked chthonic character but with Olympian aspects as well…he was conceived of as a benevolent or malevolent god, granting or withholding welfare, and welfare especially at the lower social level of genos, oikos, and the individual. The benefactions that this god was supposed to bring to society and individuals were all manner of human welfare, most primitively the welfare of agricultural fertility. In his most severe role, Zeus Meilichios was thought to purify those afflicted with the pollution of shedding kindred blood or to avenge victims of such polluting acts.”
  • The etymology of this epithet is uncertain. Zeus Meilchios was widely propagated in ancient Greece and was popularly associated with sweetness, kindness or benevolence. The epithet was predominately associated with Zeus and was the most popular of all his epithets.
  • Zeus Meilichios was typically depicted as a mature bearded man or a bearded snake. As a snake he was associated with the protective household snake that guarded the seeds and prevented famine…this then extended to human fertility and personal/household welfare. There is nothing to support the notion that ZM was a purely a god of the lower world. It is likely a blending of a khthonic deity and Olympian Zeus but no proof.  In other areas he was portrayed in a semi-iconic and aniconic style but no evidence of this in Athens.
  • as a mature, bearded male, he is typically clad in a himation and seated on a throne or rock holding a scepter or cornucopia in his left hand/arm and a phiale in the right. Sometimes a low altar is at his feet. He usually faces adorants: male, female, old, young and sometimes servants. The leading votary (sometimes the others) raise the right hand in a gesture of devotion, in several cases this is a woman kneeling before the god.
  • “Both the Athenian and the Selinuntine evidence suggests at least that the women clientele of this cult had an unregulated, personal, and often independent relationship with Zeus Meilichios at shrines freely accessible to them.”
  • Frustration is a footnote where one cannot find the article referenced (which means it is very likely in a language I cannot read!) “the explanation may be simply the same predominantly female devotion to popular cults and shrines that we see in some modern Christian cultures. See, however, Cusumano 1991, passim, for deeper exploration and inference of possible roles, symbolism, and associations of the feminine in the cult of Zeus Meilichios”
  •  the existing evidence shows a broad social spectrum in the votives for ZM show that “the dedicants saw their day-to-day relationship with this god as something more personal than civic…”
  • The worship of ZM appears to be one of the “common” person as there are no polis records of offerings. The rituals were probably mainly contacted by those of little political power, by gene, phratries and subgroups. “an old-fashioned cult of..simple familial character…a cult in which the people were, for the most part, on their own.”
  • The primary purpose of a temple was to house an image of the god, yet ZM was often represented not by a statue but by a marker or just simple a place in the shrine. So it is not surprising that there is so little records about this divinity. As a god of the common man, he was found in their hearts and received simple and very often perishable gifts.
  •  ZM received animal sacrifice, holocausts and bloodless offerings.
  • Water was important due to his purificatory function with ritual sprinkling, hand washing and practical needs post ritual dining.
  • Communal eating of cooked sacrificial meat and other food offerings signified a “correct relationship between the divine forces and the human community”. Theoxenia may have occurred (offering of food and drink on a table to the divinity with their images or symbols placed near or on the dining couch).
  • Chapter four is about other gods found in the shrine of Zeus. Starts off with Kindred Cults: Zeus Philios and Zeus Teleios (Zeus of Fulfillment).
  • Helios and Zeus Meilichios: related through both being oath gods, gods of personal and popular devotion, patrons of purification, agricultural fertility and general human welfare. “Helios and Zeus were widely invoked together in oath-taking, for to swear by gods of heaven — the infallible eye of Helios saw all daytime acts–and earth [Ge] implied no escape if the oath was violated…the union of Helios and Zeus as Meilichios may be either one of kindred deities or a deliberate polarity wherein Helios represented the daylight sky and Zeus the underworld and night…” (Also points out that this may just be a personal thing as opposed to standard as there is little evidence of an early official Helios cult. Privately in the 5th Century BCE, publicly in the 4th, no attestation before that.) “All in all, the resemblances and connections of Helios with Zeus, and even Zeus Meilichios in rites of purification and fertility, are numerous and varied…”
  • Hill of the Nymphs (where this shrine was located) was an impressive place to observe the sunrise. “…marked the solstices by observing the points of the sunrise in relation to [Mt. Lykabettos]…”
  • Zeus Meilichios and Hercules Alexikakos: lots of discussion on the physical why there was a shrine to Hercules within the shrine to Zeus; “Like Zeus Melichios as purifier of the polluted and the most popular god of personal and familial welfare, Herakles Alexikakos was conceived of as a warder-off of evil generally and of pestilence particularly, and therefore a bringer of good to the people…The simple offerings of surrogate animals that the poorer classes…also make them suitable partners.”  Surrogate animals: animal figures made of apples and sticks, cakes in the form of animals, etc.
  • “Herakles as hero and god had a mixed character like that of Zeus Meilichios in his chthonic and Olympian aspects, and like Zeus Meilichios, in those respective roles he received holocausts and normal sacrifices with other variations of lesser ritual detail.”
  • Starting the Appendix.  Zeus Meilichios had some aniconic images outside of Attica (none attested within): omphaloid, phallic, pyramid and cone.
  • Received sacrificial cakes, sometimes formed into animal shapes; sheep, both as a normal sacrifice and a holocaust; wineless libation such as water, milk and honey;piglet; grain
  • Tykhe or Agathe Tyche often considered the consort of Zeus Philios, whose cult is closely akin to that of Zeus Meilichios. Also closely related to Zeus Ktesios (or Pasios), Zeus Soter, Zeus Teleios, Agathos Daimon and Asklepios.
  • “Although the bearded snake is the freqent avatar of Zeus Meilichios, he sometimes, like Asklepios, appears as a bearded man with the unbearded snake as a familiar.”
5 Comments leave one →
  1. ladyimbrium permalink
    January 8, 2013 10:44 PM

    I have given you an award because your blog is lovely.


    • January 9, 2013 8:20 AM

      OH thanks! I can do the first part of it, no problem but I’ll have a much harder time awarding it! I’ve been so busy, there are very few blogs that I keep up with any more. Yours being one of the few. 🙂 What are your questions?


      • ladyimbrium permalink
        January 11, 2013 3:46 PM

        They are in the blog entry… or should be at least.



  1. Checking in « Oaken Scrolls
  2. Checking in | 4 of Wands

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: