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Les mères et le politique

Women Dedicators on the Athenian Acropolis and their Role in Family Festivals: The Evidence for Maternal Votives between 530-450 BCE

Les femmes dédicantes sur l'Acropole d'Athènes et leur rôle dans les fêtes familiales. Les dépôts votifs maternels comme éléments de preuve entre 530 et 450 avant J.-C.
Amalia Avramidou


Cet article réévalue le rôle des femmes, et plus particulièrement des mères comme représentantes de l’oikos, à travers un examen des dédicaces de l’Acropole, qui peuvent être interprétées comme maternelles ainsi qu’en témoigne l’épigraphie et le confirment d’autres sources. L’étude est volontairement limitée à la période archaïque tardive et au début de la période classique, en raison de l’abondance de dédicaces féminines et de dédicaces d’une même famille, et de la richesse des données contextuelles disponibles pour la comparaison. Divers types de matériaux sont analysés pour parvenir à une pluralité de témoignages, tout en explorant le rôle des femmes dans les rituels de la famille et des pratiques dédicatoires. Le matériel conservé indique que les mères de temps en temps ont agi au nom de l'oikos. Cette observation renforce leur rôle au sein de la famille archaïque et offre un indice supplémentaire en faveur de la participation des femmes dans les fêtes familiales privées et publiques.

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1As a major place of worship, the Acropolis of Athens received hundreds of votive offerings during the Late Archaic and Early Classical periods (Keesling 2005, p. 396-397 ; Scholl 2007). This study concentrates on a handful of offerings among female dedications set up by or on behalf of women, which can be specifically attributed to mothers through epigraphic or other corroborating evidence. The question of maternal dedications on the Acropolis may come as a surprise, since Athena is conceived as a political deity, associated predominantly with male heroes, male citizens, and the notion of autochthony (Loraux 1993 and 2000). The patron deity of Athens is rarely mentioned when treating questions of birth and maternity, with the exception, of course, of her own unorthodox offspring, Erichthonios, and the up-bringing of future Athenian citizens (Kron 1976, p. 55-67, and more recently Shapiro 2003, p. 87-89 and Avramidou 2011, p. 33-35). And it is in this capacity that she receives offerings from women representing their oikos, as I argue below. Moreover, let us keep in mind that Athena was not the only deity worshipped on the Acropolis; among the various cults on the Sacred Rock a family-related god, Zeus Herkeios, received maternal dedications, as well.

  • 1 Cf. von Straten’s proposed methodology in his discussion of female dedications from the sanctuary (...)
  • 2 One could also bring attention to terracotta dedications, such as the sixth-century terracotta bus (...)

2This paper reevaluates the role of women, and more specifically of mothers, as representatives of the oikos and examines their participation in private and public family ceremonies. The timeframe of the study is purposefully restricted within the Late Archaic and Early Classical periods (roughly from 530 to 470-450 BCE) because of the abundance of female and joint family dedications, and the richness of contextual evidence available for comparison. Diverse classes of material are brought into examination in order to achieve plurality of evidence while investigating the role of women within family rituals and dedications.1 Starting with an exploration of the inscribed dedications, I proceed with an overview of the imagery of votive pinakes (plaques) and reliefs, along with a survey on shapes and iconography of the pottery deposited on the Acropolis.2

  • 3 See for example a bronze handle offered to Artemis Brauroneia by a certain Glyke, dated to ca. 480 (...)
  • 4 This paper was first presented at the Rencontre scientifique "Mères et maternités en Grèce ancienn (...)

3Before I embark on the study of maternal dedications from the Acropolis, it is important to remember the parameters that obscure this endeavor. When discussing finds from the Acropolis, one needs to be aware of the inadequate methodologies used during the early excavations of the 19th century, which resulted in confusing stratigraphy and lacking documentation (Glowacki 1998, p. 79, esp. n. 4; Schulze 2004, p. 11-14; Stewart 2008). Furthermore, one has to acknowledge that neither all objects found on the Sacred Rock had a votive character, nor was Athena the sole recipient of the dedicated objects.3 Similarly, as with the majority of dedications in Greek sanctuaries, not all dedications carry inscriptions and even when they are inscribed, not all of them give the name of the donor. To make things more challenging, even when a woman’s name is attested as the devotee, it is rarely accompanied by information about her family status, leaving us in the dark about her position within the oikos.4

Inscribed Offerings

4Despite the limitations outlined above, I was able to detect nearly forty inscribed offerings from the Acropolis naming a woman dedicator, dated between the Late Archaic and Early Classical periods (Table 1). Of these, only two were offered specifically by mothers, a bronze hydria and a marble votive pillar, while one can make a case for several other bronze and a couple of clay vessels and attempt to interpret them as maternal dedications (see discussion below). At least two examples from the second half of the fifth century were offered by married women, allowing the assumption that they were mothers, as well (IG I3 888 ca. 450 BCE [wife of Eumelides], 894 [wife of Prepis]). Moreover, it is not uncommon for a relative, such as a spouse, a child, a parent or a sibling, to fulfill a dedication on behalf of a woman (mother or other), e.g., IG I3 703 (Thoutime), 745 (Aristomache and Archestrate), and from the fourth century IG II2 4914 (Alkippe), but, despite the variety of our samples, the majority of female offerings reveals little information about a woman’s family ties.

Table 1. Catalogue of Inscribed Female Votives from the Late Archaic-Early Classical Acropolis

IG I3 Object Inv. No. Date (BCE) Findspot Dedicator
1 536 Bronze base Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 6944; Lazzarini 1976, no. 667 480 ? Glyke
2 537 Bronze base Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 6942 480 ? Ch]alchis and Thethis
3 538 Bronze base Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 6947; Lazzarini 1976, no. 25 ca. 480 ? Klearete
4 540 Bronze statuette of Athena Promachos Athens, National Archaeological Museum 6447; Lazzarini 1976, no. 647 ca. 480 ? Meleso
5 546 Bronze miniature shield Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 6837; Lazzarini 1976, no. 46 ca. 500 ? Phrygia
6 547 Bronze cymbal Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 17525; Lazzarini 1976, no. 632 500-475 ? Lysilla
7 548bis Bronze mirror handle Athens, National Archaeological Museum 6944 480 From the Brauroneia sanctuary Glyke
8 555 Bronze chernibeion (handle) Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 7176; Lazzarini 1976, no. 229 525-500 ? Timagora
9 560 Bronze phiale Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 726; Lazzarini 1976, no. 12 (Nika) 500-480 ? Nika[tta]
10 565 Bronze chernibeion Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 7336; Lazzarini 1976, no. 648 Early fifth century ? Kapanis
11 567 Bronze lekane Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 7271; Lazzarini 1976, no. 670 ca. 475-450 ? Meli[tei]a
12 571 Bronze oinochoe Acropolis Museum 5902; Lazzarini 1976, no. 16 ca. 500-480 ? Himera?
13 572 Bronze oinochoe handle Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 17524; Lazzarini 1976, no. 10 Early fifth century ? Myrto
14 573 Bronze hydria Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 7294; Lazzarini 1976, 277, no 717 500-480 ? A mother on behalf of her sons
15 574 Bronze hydria Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 7274; Lazzarini 1976, no. 666 ca. 475 S]mikythe
16 577 Kylix Acropolis Museum 5897 ca. 500-480 ? Smikra
17 609 Base of three tripods Lazzarini 1976, no 237 End of sixth century Chionis
18 615 Pillar monument Athens, Epigraphical Museum 6321; Lazzarini 1976, no. 617; Raubitschek 1949, no. 232 525-510 In the Persershutt near the Tholos Ergokleia
19 656 Low base Athens, National Archaeological Museum 6250; Raubitschek 1949, no. 81 ca. 510-500 fr a: east of Parthenon, fr b: SW corner of Parthenon. Ph]sakythe
20 683 Votive column Athens, National Archaeological Museum 6241; Lazzarini 1976, no. 3; Raubitschek 1949, no. 3 510-500 fr a: Found east of the Parthenon, fr b: near north wall, ca 50 meters west of where most of the korai were found, fr c: SW from Parthenon Iphidike
21 700 Low base Athens, National Archaeological Museum 12780 + 6383; Lazzarini 1976, no. 23; Raubitschek 1949, no. 93 ca. 490 Found in the pit under the Parthenon column drum, built into the north wall Phryne and Smik[ythe]
22 703 Votive pillar crowned by capital Athens, National Archaeological Museum 6333+6475; Raubitschek 1949, no. 284 Early fifth century ? On behalf of Thoutime
23 745 Low statue base Athens, National Archaeological Museum 6301; Löhr 2000, no. 23; Raubitschek 1949, no. 79 500-480? Found near the north wall On behalf of Aristomache and Archestrate
24 767 Votive column Acropolis Museum, courtyard no inv. no.; Lazzarini 1976, no. 649b; Raubitschek 1949, no. 25 500-480 ? Empedia
25 773 Animal statue base Athens, National Archaeological Museum 6263+6263a; Löhr 33, no. 33 500-480 Found between the Erechtheion and Propylaia For the mother of Timarchos
26 794 Base for ritual basin Acropolis Museum 607; Raubitschek 1949, no. 380 Early fifth century Found in debris inside the Parthenon Smikythe
27 803 Pillar monument Athens, National Archaeological Museum 6401; Raubitschek 1949, no. 201 ca. 490 ? My]rine
28 813 Pillar monument Acropolis Museum no inv. no.; Lazzarini 1976, no. 227; Raubitschek 1949, no. 258 ca. 480 Found in the Acropolis wall, NW of the Mycenean stairway Pheido
29 814 Votive column Acropolis Museum, no inv. no.; Lazzarini 1976, no. 649a; Raubitschek 1949, no. 33 500-490 Found near the Erechtheion Kalis
30 857 Pillar monument Athens, National Archaeological Museum 6254 Athens, Epigraphical Museum G254; Lazzarini 1976, no. 678; Löhr 2000, no. 47; Raubitschek 1949, no. 298 470-450 Near the south wall of the Acropolis M]ikythe
31 858 Pillar monument Athens, National Archaeological Museum 8169; Löhr 2000, no. 46; Raubitschek 1949, no. 297 Second quarter of the fifth century ? Aristomache and Charikleia
32 888 Base for ritual basin Athens, National Archaeological Museum 6326; Raubitschek 1949, no. 378 ca. 450 Found near the Erechtheion Wife of Eumelides
33 921 Ritual basin Epigraphical Museum 6541+5503; Lazzarini 1976, no. 609b; Raubitschek 1949, no. 348 ca. 490-480 Kalikri]te
34 934 Ritual basin Athens, National Archaeological Museum 6527; Lazzarini 1976, no. 620; Raubitschek 1949, no. 369 480 ? Kal]listo
35 IG II/III2 2950 Vase Graef and Langlotz 1925-1933, vol. 2, no. 1337; Lazzarini 1976, no. 11 6th century ? Sabys (male?)
36 IG II/III² 3460 Foot of a vase Graef and Langlotz 1925-1933, vol. 2, no. 1349, pl. 92 End of sixth sixth century ? T]im[o]strat[a]
37 Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, 54, no. 13 Bronze lekanis Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 18497 and X 7109; unpublished 525-470 ? Peithylla
38 Graef and Langlotz 1925-1933, vol. 1, no. 1295A-K, pl. 72.1295 Skyphos Acropolis Museum 1.1295 Last third of the sixth One ostrakon found in the Parthenon foundation ]kleia
  • 5 Solid and cast bronze statuettes of Athena Promachos were a popular dedication before 480 BCE, but (...)

5The offerings vary in size, material and value, and comprise marble ritual basins, pillars and columns, pedestals and bases, bronze vessels, and other objects, such as statuettes.5 Overall, the date of the inscribed dedications ranges between the last quarter of the sixth through the second quarter of the fifth century BCE, while their exact findspot on the Acropolis usually remains unknown.

  • 6 For an association of the phiale with female dedicators during the Classical period, see Harris 19 (...)

6Despite their difference in numbers, women’s and men’s offerings on the Acropolis are indistinguishable, i.e., there are no types of dedications specifically associated with women (Ridgway 1987, p. 402; Löhr 2000, p. 232-233), with the exception perhaps of the bronze phiale, a point to which we shall return.6 Women of means can offer expensive gifts to Athena, even if they are not Athenian citizens (e.g., IG I3 858 [Aristomache and Charikleia], Raubitschek 1949, p. 320-321, no. 297; IG I3 683 [Iphidike], Dillon 2002, p. 17; Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, 52, no. 11), while professional women donate small or large gifts and identify themselves through their line of work (e.g., IG I3 794 plyntria [Raubitschek 1949, p. 407-408, no. 380; Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 51, no. 10], IG I3 546 artopolis [Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 64-65, no. 23]; Ridgway 1987, p. 402; cf. the studies of Brock 1994; Kron 1996, p. 161-163; Kosmopoulou 2001; Dillon 2002, p. 15-17; Vikela 2005, p. 97-99). Votive offerings are frequently characterized as a dekate, a gift equal to one tenth of one’s income, or as an aparche, a symbolic offering from the first profits of an activity, whether commercial, agricultural, or even the acceptance of dowry and inheritance (e.g., IG I3 547, 615, 921, 934; IG I3 536, 540, 548bis, 565, 567, 574, 767, 794, 857; Löhr 2000, p. 232-233; Keesling 2003, p. 6-10 and 2005, p. 398 citing Herodotus 1.92.1-4). Few dedicatory inscriptions include the name of the artist (e.g., IG I3 703, 857; Raubitschek 1949, nos. 284, 298; Dillon 2002, p. 14-19; Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 52, no. 11).

  • 7 On mothers acting on behalf of their children:IG II2 4883 (Hipparche),4613 (Lysistrate), 4588 (Phi (...)

7After 450 BCE female dedications on the Sacred Rock are less frequently displayed in public and instead votive offerings typically associated with women, such as phialai and jewelry, are registered in inventory lists and kept within the temples (Harris 1995 and here n. 18). Looking at other Attic sanctuaries of the Classical era, we come across a few surviving exceptions to this practice, the most notable being the Xenokrateia relief from Neo Phalero, dedicated to the river god Kephissos for the upbringing of her son around the end of fifth century BCE (Athens, National Archaeological Museum 2576; IG I3 987; Kron 1996, p. 166-168; Dillon 2002, p. 24-25, fig. 1.3; on the placement and arrangement of votive offerings in Greek sanctuaries, see von Straten 1990). In the fourth century, women devotees continue to appear in inscriptions: mothers may set up dedications for their children on their own or jointly with a spouse, while male relatives often undertake the fulfillment of a vow on behalf of female family members.7

Fig. 1: Fragmenta...Fig. 1: Fragmentary bronze hydria. Acropolis, ca. 500-480 BCE.

Fig. 1: Fragmentary bronze hydria. Acropolis, ca. 500-480 BCE.

After Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 56, no. 15.

8This brief overview illustrates the challenges involved in the study of female dedications in general, let alone that of maternal votive offerings. A rare example of the latter is the bronze vessel from the Athenian Acropolis, dated between 500-480 BCE (Fig. 1). This fragmentary bronze hydria preserves only portions of the neck and about half the rim of the vase, which was partially inscribed on its upper surface: Ζενός: Ἑρ[κείου]… [υπέρ αὐ]τῆς καἰ παίδων: θεκεν: ἄγαλμα :ετεον (IG I3 573; Löhr 2000, p. 29, no. 27; Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 56, no. 15 [N. Palaiokrassa]). The inscription informs us that the luxurious gift was an agalma dedicated not to Athena, but to Zeus Herkeios. Even though the word agalma is usually associated with the cult statue of a deity, it may also denote a sacred object or the very object carrying the dedication, through which a deity is glorified. In this case the latter explanation seems more appropriate: unless we assume a statue of a kore, for example, carrying the hydria, the bronze water jar must be the agalma mentioned in the inscription, thus forming an “objet parlant” (Keesling 2003, p. 10, 19-20; Day 2011, p. 85-130).

  • 8 Cf. the example of a father and his children dedicating an agalma to Athena as a counterpart to th (...)

9On the Acropolis, Zeus was worshipped as Polieus in his homonymous shrine on the eastern part of the Sacred Rock, and as Herkeios inside the sanctuary of Pandrosos, west of the Erechtheion, where an altar was dedicated to him (Philochoros fr. 67 = FGrHist 3 F 118; Dionysos Halicarnassos On Dinarchus 3; Travlos 1971, 213-214; Thorikos Sacred Calendar SEG 33.147.22 and 33.147.13; cf. also, a possible votive to Zeus Polieus, Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 71, no. 29). Zeus Herkeios was predominantly a household deity and altars were set up in his name within house courtyards. As his epithet suggests, he oversaw the boundaries of the family and its property. Sacrifices to Zeus Herkeios were performed by the male head of the family (Faraone 2008, esp. p. 212-213; Boedecker 2008, p. 228-234, 240-242 commenting on [Aristoteles] Athenaiôn Politeia 55 and Demosthenes 57.67). It is all the more striking to have a woman dedicating an expensive metal vessel to Zeus Herkeios, an action that equates her to the status of a male oikos representative. This observation brings us to the most stimulating feature of the inscription, the identity of the dedicators: a woman and her children, more accurately, her sons. Contrary to the norm that wants the kyrios in charge of making offerings and publically representing the oikos within the polis, this bronze hydria was dedicated jointly by a mother and her sons.8 Such an extraordinary case could be explained as a rare occasion where the male head of the family is deceased or for some reason unable to perform his duties.

  • 9 See for example Ma’s analysis (2013, p. 166) of the Hellenistic statue of Nannion dedicated to Dem (...)

10According to John Ma’s study on Hellenistic honorific portraits, the formula hyper hautes kai paidon is best translated as “on account of,” “on behalf of” or “for the safety of.” A votive given “hyper someone” can be a religious offering, an act of thanksgiving, or the fulfillment of a vow, while the usage of the word paidon instead of teknon hints to a rather emotional motive.9 More critical is Christoph Löhr’s observation that the hyper dedications are usually associated with a prayer for the health of a relative, such as curing an illness or escaping danger, and that the phrase is most common among votive offerings by mothers and children. The bronze hydria offered to Zeus Herkeios seems to fall into this very category (e.g., hyper: IG I3 857 [Mikythe] from the fourth century: IG II2 4883 [Hipparche], 4613 [Lysistrate], 4588 [Phile]; beyond Athens in the fifth century: IG IX 2 575 [Argeia]. Cf. Löhr 2000, p. 114, 129, 134, 148-149, 232-233, nos. 135, 148, 153, 169, and several dedications to Asklepeios).

11A second example of maternal dedications from the Late Archaic period is a marble votive pillar that once carried a sculpture by Euphron, dated ca. 470-450 BCE (Raubitschek 1939/1940, 28-29; Keesling 2005, p. 410-411, n. 56, 61). As in the case of the bronze hydria, it is the object that speaks: [Μ]ικύθη μ’ ἀνέθ[ηκεν] / [Ἀθ]ηναίη το [ἄγαλμα] / [εὐ]ξαμένη δ[εκάτην] / [καί] ὑπέρ παί[δων] / [κ]αί ἑαυτῆ[ς] / Εὔφρων [ἐπο][ί]ησεν (IG I3 857; Raubitschek 1949, p. 321-322, no. 298; Ridgway 1987, p. 401; Dillon 2002, p. 15-17). Note that the inscription is written in Ionian dialect, reflecting perhaps the origins of the dedicator, and mentions that a woman named Mikythe offers an agalma on behalf of herself and her sons (hyperpaidon kai heautes) to Athena thus fulfilling a vow (euxamene). This time, however, the recipient deity is not Zeus Herkeios but Athena. The lack of patronymic has lead some scholars to suggest that Mikythe is a metic or a foreigner, but according to Uta Kron (1996, p. 161), such a motherly prayer is more typical of an Athenian citizen (aste). The dedication was made as a dekate, making one wonder what the occasion was for such a votive: perhaps mother and sons were involved in some family business or maybe they received an inheritance, from the deceased (?) father or other family protector, which might explain why the monument was dedicated by the mother and her children. Alternatively, the votive could commemorate an event in the life of the paides, upon which the family made a vow (euche) and, for some reason, it became the mother’s duty to materialize it. As Löhr points out (2000, p. 232-233; cf. Keesling 2003, p. 4-6; for an overview of women as ritual agents in epigrams, see Day 2011, p. 190), the word dekate indicates the prosperity of a family but on the other hand, the term euxamene hints to a religious obligation, thus emphasizing both the social and religious motives of the dedication (e.g., euxamenos(e): IG I3 703, 745, 773; from the fourth century: IG II2 4403, 4588).

  • 10 On the relation of mother and daughter in Greek literature and art, see Foley 2003, p. 113-137, es (...)

12Both the bronze hydria and the votive pillar allow the hypothesis that it is a mother’s relation to her sons and the temporary gap in the line of male citizens in the family that compel her to act on behalf of the oikos. The public display of expensive gifts to deities worshipped on the Acropolis is not only a demonstration of wealth and piety, but rather an effort to maintain the family’s social status during transitional periods, marked by the absence of a male family leader. A mother in her own right may temporarily fill in a man’s shoes, but she is still defined socially through her ties to male relatives. As an unmarried girl, she is identified through her relation to her father, as a wife by her allegiance to her husband, while in their absence a mother can be defined by her sons, the legal heirs to the family. It is noteworthy that there are no preserved inscriptions naming a mother as the sole dedicator, while dedications made by a mother and/on behalf of her daughter(s) are equally rare.10

13Similar to the dedications described above are two inscribed maternal offerings from Archaic Paros, which were probably meant to be displayed on Delos (Stehle 1997, p. 115-116). The first inscription informs us that a certain Telestodike, mother of Asphalios and daughter of Therselos, dedicated an agalma to Artemis, possibly for the benefit of her son who is named first. There is no mention of a husband, same as in Mikythe’s example, which is indicative of a certain level of financial independence on her part (IG XII 5, 216; Kron 1996, p. 157-158; Löhr 2000, p. 24-25, no. 21; Dillon 2002, p. 11-12; Day 2011, p. 188-189).

14The second inscription refers to a joint dedication by the same (?) Telestodike and her husband Demodekes, who offered an agalma to Artemis from common capital, in hope for increase of their finances and family (IG XII 5, 215; Kron 1996, p. 158; Löhr 2000, p. 24-25, no. 21; Dillon 2002, p. 11-12). Even if this second Telestodike is not clearly defined as a mother, from her dedication we can infer her desire to become pregnant: having an heir was just as important for the oikos as maintaining the family’s prosperity.

15The hypothesis that these two votive offerings were meant to be set up at the sanctuary of Artemis on Delos, controlled by Peisistratos of Athens at the time, is perhaps suggestive of an ongoing exchange of social and religious practices, since both elite Parian and Athenian women seem to enjoy similar privileges in representing the oikos and themselves within a public, religious setting. In this light, the dedications from the Acropolis and Paros can be construed as proof of the social position of elite women in the Archaic period, and particularly of the visibility aristocratic mothers enjoyed while publicly expressing their religious sentiments through dedications (Kron 1996; Day 2011, p. 187-190). Such a display of power and piety reflects not only the social status of the mother as an isolated devotee, but also it functions as a public acknowledgement of the women’s contribution to the well-being of the Archaic oikos.


16The next body of evidence involves a group of pinakes, i.e., clay, painted or relief votive plaques, which were common, inexpensive dedications in many Greek sanctuaries. We focus on them here because they were exclusively votive objects with no other function, in contrast to, say, cups, loutrophoroi and other ceramic products that may have had a functional usage before they were ritually deposited in the sanctuary (Vlassopoulou 2003, p. 17-22, 23-45; Schulze 2004, p. 7-11).

17In her study, Kyriaki Karoglou points out that the majority of Attic votive plaques date between the late sixth and early fifth century and argues that such modest offerings were probably dedicated by banausoi and women because they were more affordable than the lavish marble or bronze votive offerings (Karoglou 2010, p. 44 chart, 49-61), a theory that can be challenged based on the dedications examined earlier. With regard to iconography, Athena’s representations on pinakes are predominant, especially as Promachos. According to Karoglou, this trend indicates a deep connection with the Panathenaic festival by association to the Athena Promachos depicted on Panathenaic amphoras. Herakles is an equally popular subject, along with warrior-scenes, horsemen, and chariots, echoing the repertory of contemporary Attic vase painting. It is interesting to note that at least two pinakes represent the judgment of Paris, while five scenes can be associated with the female sphere, as they illustrate women in processions, holding wreaths or within a domestic setting (Karoglou 2010, esp. p. 19-20, and 56-59 for the connection to the Panathenaic Games; cf. Wagner 2001; Schulze 2004, p. 11-14, 16-40, esp. 38-40; on relief votive plaques: Vlassopoulou 2003, p. 42-66).

Fig. 2: Fragmenta...Fig. 2: Fragmentary black-figure painted plaque ca. 550 BCE.

Fig. 2: Fragmentary black-figure painted plaque ca. 550 BCE.

After Foley 2003, p. 118-119, fig. 7.

  • 11 A similar scene of a girl juggling apples is depicted on the white-ground pyxis by the Painter of (...)

18Even though there is no concrete proof (e.g., an inscription) that a plaque was offered by a mother, there is one pinax that could be conceived as a maternal dedication: the fragmentary black-figure plaque from ca. 550 BCE, preserving a rare snapshot of the women’s quarters (Fig. 2) (Athens, National Archaeological Museum, Acr. 2525; Graef and Langlotz 1909, no. 2525, pl. 104; Beaumont 2003, p. 63; Foley 2003, p. 118-119, fig. 7; Schulze 2004, p. 38, no. 22, pl. 12.46). Seated on a stool and dressed in a peplos, a woman is depicted working with a flat white object on the table in front of her. Colorful sashes, piles of clothes and textiles are shown in the background. Behind her a young girl, probably her daughter, is sitting on the floor. Her young age, indicated by her nudity (white overpaint) and the fact that she is playing with balls of wool instead of helping with the work, supports her identification as a daughter rather than an assistant.11

19Depending on the interpretation of the white object as wool or textile, the seated woman has been recognized as a washer, a weaver, and a sash-seller (Foley 2003, p. 119, fig. 7; Schulze 2004, p. 38-40, no. 122, pl. 12.46; cf., the Early Classical terracotta group from Tanagra with a woman teaching a girl to cook, Neils and Oakley 2003, p. 257, no. 61). Consequently, the black-figure plaque is taken to be a craftsman’s offering, albeit a modest one compared to the expensive dedications of other professionals. Indeed, the scene illustrated on the plaque would be appropriate for a dedication made by a mother running a business: not only does she offer her gratitude to Athena (Ergane?) for helping her sustain a living but at the same time she publicizes her skillful work.

  • 12 On women of all classes earning money through textile production, see Brock 1994, p. 338. Bundrick (...)

20There are, however, two more alternatives: first, the plaque could have been offered by an Athenian citizen who thanks the goddess for the gift of her craft, a skill she will then pass on to her daughter and thus prepare her for her future role as a responsible housewife. After all, weaving was an essential factor in oikos-management and a much-desired quality for a bride-to-be, as Xenophon’s Oeconomicus (7.6) informs us. Undoubtedly, the sanctuary of Athena on the Acropolis was the best place to advertize such a promising bride.12

  • 13 On questions regarding the age, marital status and number of the ergastinai, see Connely 2007, p.  (...)

21Alternatively, the scene may be related to the imagery of a group of relief pinakes showing a girl weaving, often recognized as a young Athena Ergane (Pausanias 1.24.3; Brouskari 1974, p. 41, pls. 65, 66, 67; Vlassopoulou 2003, p. 51-52, 72-74, pls. 5, 34-36, nos. 106-109; Schulze 2004, p. 39). The joint depiction of a pre-adolescent girl and an older woman, possibly her mother, brings to mind Pierre Brulé’s hypothesis (1987, p. 99-105) that the mothers of the ergastinai, the young girls responsible for weaving Athena’s peplos, were somehow involved in the ritual process, as well.13 However, according to Jan Müller’s work on the inscribed dedications of Athena Ergane from Athens, the goddess is first mentioned in the literary sources only in the fifth century BCE, while epigraphically her cult is not attested until the fourth century (Müller 2010, p. 163-167, 171). After the fourth century, it seems that the epithet of Ergane is absorbed within the larger aspect of Athena Polias. Even though an association of the plaque with Athena Ergane remains problematic, its imagery still allows the assumption that the pinax was offered by a mother, based on the iconographic analysis pursued above.


22Let us now turn to the pottery deposited on the Acropolis from ca. 550 to 475 BCE. As expected, a survey of the publication of Botho Graef and Ernst Langlotz (1925-1933) and the Beazley Archive Pottery Database in Oxford turned hundreds of vases (BAPD​index.htm, last visit 18/5/2013, date range 550-500 and 525-475 BCE, provenance key “Athens, Acropolis”; total number of vases ca. 700 including plaques and a few overlaps between the two periods; number reflects only the figural pottery, not the plain styles). For this reason, the results were refined by two criteria ; a) the number of vases carrying dedicatory inscriptions, and b) the potential contribution of a study of shapes and iconography to our quest for maternal dedications (Tables 2 and 3).

Table 2: Black- a...Table 2: Black- and Red-Figure Attic Pottery from the Acropolis between 550-475 BCE

Table 2: Black- and Red-Figure Attic Pottery from the Acropolis between 550-475 BCE

Table 3: Correlat...Table 3: Correlation of Black- and Red-Figure Shapes from the Acropolis between 550-475 BCE

Table 3: Correlation of Black- and Red-Figure Shapes from the Acropolis between 550-475 BCE

  • 14 The majority of vases consists of cups, few storage vessels, a rather small number of oinochoai, h (...)
  • 15 The Late Archaic and Early Classical Attic vases from the Acropolis are decorated with various myt (...)
  • 16 Based on the sample of ca. 700 vases, 19 vases – namely, cups, skyphoi, kantharoi and plates - and (...)
  • 17 E.g., the black-figure cup fragment depicting Athena in the tondo carries the dipinto hiera, BAPD 3 (...)

23Starting from the last question, the results are disappointing: neither the study of shapes,14 nor of iconography alone15 offers any substantial evidence to pursue this research path. Equally challenging is the study of inscribed vases: the percentage of Late Archaic-Early Classical pots with dedicatory inscriptions is quite low.16 The phrase hiera tes Athenas and the single word hiera occur often, but their meaning can be confusing, as they may characterize both votive objects and property items of the sanctuary.17

  • 18 E.g., the Six phiale from the late sixth-early fifth century BCE: BAPD 9017749, Graef and Langlotz (...)

24We are on safer ground with vases that carry a dedication with the word anetheken, dekate, or aparche, but, lamentably, there is only a handful of them preserved. One such example is the black-figure hydria that depicts the myth of Icaros and the birth of Athena attended by deities, most of them named (Athens, National Archaeological Museum, Acr. 601; ABV 80.1, 682; Para 30; Graef and Langlotz 1925-1933, vol. 1, pl. 28). Unfortunately, the name of the dedicator is missing, preventing us from making any further suggestions.18 In other cases, the name of the devotee is preserved but we have no indication of her family status, as for example the fragmentary vase naming Timostrata (Graef and Langlotz 1925-1933, vol. 2, no. 1349, pl. 92).

Fig. 3: Fragmenta...Fig. 3: Fragmentary black-figure skyphos, ca. 530-500 BCE.

Fig. 3: Fragmentary black-figure skyphos, ca. 530-500 BCE.

After Graef and Langlotz 1925-1933, vol. 2, no. 1349, pl. 92.

  • 19 For similar birds, see the Attic amphora with Circe and Odysseus attributed to the Leagros Group ((...)
  • 20 The scene recalls the black-figure lekythos by the Gela Painter from Brauron, ca. 500-480 BCE. It (...)
  • 21 Unfortunately, the fragmentary state of the vase does not allow us to discern whether the pig was (...)

25Despite this conservative approach, there are still a couple of vases that can be interpreted as maternal dedications based on a joint examination of inscriptions and iconography. Our best example involves a black-figure skyphos with the dedicatory inscription ἱερά [τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς ---] ---]κλεια ἀνέθ[ηκεν] dated to the last third of the sixth century BCE (BAPD 32105; Graef and Langlotz 1925-1933, vol. 1, no. 1295A-K, pl. 72.1295; Acropolis Museum 1.1295) (Fig. 3). It depicts a sacrificial procession of draped men and women towards two altars, carrying an oinochoe, a kanoun, and a piglet, while a swan or heron is found in front of one of the altars.19 The recipients of the sacrifice appear to be two goddesses seated on diphroi inside buildings decorated with branches. Based on the inscription, one may assume that the scene commemorates a sacrificial procession in honor of Athena and possibly a second female deity. Athena can be identified as the goddess in the elaborate dress, carrying a large bird (perhaps an owl).20 The presence of a swan or a heron near the second deity hints towards Aphrodite, while the sacrificial victim of choice, a piglet, suggests a fertility deity, such as Demeter or Kourotrophos (ThesCRA I 79-82, no. 286 [A. Hermary et al.]). Let us keep in mind though that pigs can also be sacrificed in honor of Athena on private ceremonies and public festivals, such as the Panathenaia or the Apatouria.21

26In her study, Ingebor Scheibler (2000) associated certain types of large Attic skyphoi from around 500 BCE (including the one dedicated by ]kleia) with wine drinking festivals, such as the Anthesteria or more plausibly, the Apatouria. Drawing from Athenaeus and Hesychius, she proposed that we identify these large skyphoi with the oinisteria cups that each father offered upon the introduction of his son to his phratry during the Apatouria. This practice is similar to the communal drinking of the ephebes from a mega poterion (a large cup), following the offering of wine to Herakles at the same festival (Athenaeus 11.494-496 [Pamphilos]; Hesychius s.v. oinisteria; RE XVII2 [1937] 2229 [L. Ziehen]; von Straten 1990, p. 277-278; Scheibler 2000, esp. p. 37-39; Mikalson 2010, p. 142-143).

Fig. 4: Red-figur...Fig. 4: Red-figure loutrophoros, ca. 520-510 BCE.

Fig. 4: Red-figure loutrophoros, ca. 520-510 BCE.

After Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 256-257, no. 116.

27Our study so far indicates that both the shape and the decoration of the skyphos offered by the woman named […]kleia and described above are somehow related to a public, family ceremony in which Athena, and possibly Aphrodite or Kourotrophos, are invoked. Our analysis can be further enhanced by the examination of a similar sacrificial procession decorating the neck of a large red-figure loutrophoros by Phintias dated ca. 520-510 BCE (National Museun of Athens, Acr. 636; ABV 673; ARV2 25.1, 237, 1604; Graef and Langlotz 1933, vol. 2, no. 636, pl. 50-51; ThesCRA I, 114, no. 457 and II, 371-374 [A. Hermary et al.]; Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 256-257, no. 116 [G. Kavvadias]) (Fig. 4). The vase has no dedicatory inscription but several figures in the procession are named. Two youths carrying thalloi (branches) and an oinochoe lead a pregnant sow to sacrifice, followed by two adult men: Mitron carries branches and Lykos plays the auloi. Next come two women, possibly members of Mitron’s family, also carrying branches; they are elegantly dressed and involved in vivid conversation, judging from their gestures. There are three more inscriptions on the vase, one naming a certain Proxenides, and two kalos inscriptions, praising the beauty of the pais and of Olympiodoros. Praising the beautiful youths and specifying by name the male participants of the procession indicates a deliberate attempt to highlight the qualities of the family and its male members. At the same time, the women of the oikos play an important role in this event, as they reinforce the family’s public image through their expensive clothes and graceful gestures.

28This scene is extraordinary because it is the only one of its kind found on a loutrophoros, a shape usually associated with nuptial baths or funeral rites. The animal brought for sacrifice, a pregnant pig, is traditionally offered to fertility deities and not to Athena, and perhaps fecundity was the donor’s request. Giorgos Kavvadias (in Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 256-257, no. 116) disassociates the sacrificial procession from the Panathenaia and suggests a sacrifice not to Athena as Polias, but either to a different aspect of the goddess or to another deity or hero altogether.

29A joint examination of the scenes depicted on the black-figure skyphos and the red-figure loutrophoros brings forth the following common elements: a family (?) sacrificial procession takes place on the Acropolis, with both male and female members participating. The sacrificial animal in both cases is a pig and/or a sow, suggesting a preoccupation with fertility. If we accept Athena as the (co-)recipient of both sacrifices, then we need to look for an occasion where the patron deity of Athens oversees a family-oriented, fertility rite. In this light, one may suggest the sacrifice of gamelia during the third day of the Apatouria, known as Koureotis, which linked the bride-to-be with the phratry of her future husband, even though a woman’s presence during the sacrifice is not clearly stated in the sources (Isaios 3.76, 79; 6.64; 8.18; Pollux 8.107; Demosthenes 57.43, 69; Hesychius s.v. gamelia; Schmitt Pantel 1977, p. 1059-1060; Cole 1984, p. 233-238; Golden 1985; ThesCRA II, 233, 235, nos. 112, 113 [P. Schmitt Pantel-Fr. Lissarrague]).

30Such a hypothesis explains the joint representation of Athena with a fertility deity (Aphrodite or Kourotrophos), and the pig as a sacrificial animal of choice: the sacrifice takes place at Athena’s precinct as it introduces the bride to her husband’s tribe, but at the same time the devotees seek the favor of deities associated with marriage and procreation. Also, the shapes of the two vases in question and the inscription on the skyphos concur with this interpretation: the loutrophoros is a vase commonly used for nuptial rituals, while, as we saw earlier, the large skyphos has been associated with the Apatouria festival.

31If our hypothesis stands, one may read the scene illustrated on the black-figure skyphos as a family procession to the Acropolis and interpret the vase as a rare oikos-dedication undertaken not by the father but perhaps by the acting-family-representative, the mother named […]kleia. This fragmentary scene is reminiscent of the well-known votive relief from the Acropolis that has been tentatively recognized as a family visit at Apatouria (see below). The iconographic similarities between the two vases and the relief, along with their contemporaneity, encourage such an approach and invite a reevaluation of the role of women – and mothers in particularly – in family festivals.


Fig. 5: Marble vo...Fig. 5: Marble votive relief. Acropolis, ca. 490-480 BCE.

Fig. 5: Marble votive relief. Acropolis, ca. 490-480 BCE.

After Palagia 1995, pl. 114a.

32Let us now turn to the marble votive relief from the Acropolis dated ca. 490-480 BCE (Acropolis Museum 581; Brouskari 1974, p. 52-53, pl. 94; Palagia 1995; Dillon 2002, p. 31-32, fig. 1.4; Neils 2003, p. 144-145; Vikela 2005, esp. p. 93-95, n. 24, pl. 12.2.) (Fig. 5). It depicts a family approaching a standing, kore-like Athena in a solemn procession: two twin (?) boys, one carrying a phiale and the other making a gesture of adoration, lead the group, while the father brings in a sow for sacrifice (cf. also Lawton 2007 for the Classical period). Behind them follow an older sister and the mother, who is sometimes, mistakenly, described as pregnant because of the large overfold of her peplos. This is indeed a unique piece, because, even though it represents a private, family sacrifice, it was displayed in a public setting.

33In her interpretation of the relief, Eugenia Vikela (2005, p. 93-95, 156-159) argues against its association with the Apatouria, mainly because it represents the whole family and not a father with his son alone. Instead, she pursues a reading with political connotations: the minimal distance between the goddess and the worshippers, the only somewhat smaller size of the couple vis-à-vis the deity, and Athena’s forward tilting of the head giving the impression that she leans over to hear their prayers, are, according to Vikela, components of a developing iconography that reflects a newly obtained self-assertion of the citizen towards the city-deity. This new attitude can only be explained as the result of new political and social norms (Kleisthenes’ reforms) and the rise of the middle class with their renewed self-esteem.

  • 22 Palagia 1995, p. 495-496 and discussion above. The literary sources are inconsistency regarding th (...)

34On the other hand, Palagia (1995) offers a different approach: the fact that the boys are so prominently leading the procession led her to the conclusion that the scene relates to the festival of Apatouria. The sow that is brought to sacrifice strengthens this argument, as epigraphic evidence attests to pig sacrifices to Athena.22 In this light, the goddess does not need to be associated with Kourotrophos, who is after all a deity on her own right on the Acropolis (Pausanias 2.33.1), but can be recognized as Athena Phratria. If this suggestion is correct, then we gain a rare representation of the Apatouria festival and visual evidence of the participation of female family members, mother and daughter, to the ceremony.

35The patron deities of Athenian phratries, Athena Phratria and Zeus Phratrios, were worshipped in the Agora, while the possibility of a phratry shrine or a state cult of Athena Phratria on the Acropolis is still disputed. Palagia (1995, p. 498-499) has argued for the existence of a phratry shrine by the Medontidai on account of a horos stone that was found outside the Beulé gate on the Acropolis, but there is no firm evidence to support her hypothesis. In her case’s defense, I wonder if the so-called Mourning Athena relief, dated around 470-460 BCE, may also be associated with Athena Phratria: the goddess could be reading the new phratry registrations carved on the pillar rather than contemplating in front of a funerary monument or a running post, as suggested in the past (Acropolis Museum 695; Brouskari 1974, p. 123-124, 129, pl. 237; Schäfer 1996, p. 120, n. 43; Vikela 2005, p. 101-103; Palagia 2006, p. 121; Thomsen 2011, p. 205; Valavanis 2013, p. 60).

Fig. 6: Marble vo...Fig. 6: Marble votive relief. Acropolis, mid-fourth century BCE.

Fig. 6: Marble votive relief. Acropolis, mid-fourth century BCE.

After Shapiro 2003, p. 97-98, fig. 14.

36It is interesting to contrast this family portrait of the Archaic period to a mid-fourth century relief from the Acropolis, thought to represent the introduction of a young boy to his father’s phratry (Acropolis Museum 3030; Shapiro 2003, p. 97-98, fig. 14, esp. n. 69; Neils 2003, p. 145, n. 19) (Fig. 6). It depicts a man wrapped in his mantle slowly pacing towards Athena. Even though most of the goddess’ figure is missing, she is still identifiable by the owl perched on her right hand and by the partially preserved crested helmet. The boy paces in front of his father and holds his hands out in awe. All three figures stand on an elevated platform, which may demarcate a shrine on the Acropolis, possibly a phratry shrine (?), while the relief itself is crowned by a pediment – a feature uncharacteristic of votive reliefs, and thus perhaps another indication of the sacred space where the scene develops (cf. Vikela 2005, p. 132-133).

  • 23 For a discussion of the relation between oikos and the polis through a survey of Attic grave stela (...)

37If we accept that both the Archaic and the Late Classical reliefs represent a scene from the Apatouria, then we notice a striking change with regard to the ritual: a festival that in its initial stage linked the oikos with the city and had a celebratory character that probably included female family members, overtime it transformed into a state registration ceremony that excluded women, and stressed the role of Athena as the protector of male citizens.23


38Being a mother in ancient Athens was the peak in a woman’s life and proof that she had successfully transgressed all previous stages from childhood to puberty to womanhood. As the wife of an Athenian citizen, her main role was to provide him with healthy heirs – preferably males – and efficiently manage the oikos (for a study on Athenian women and their visibility in vase paintings: Lewis 2002). Since the mortality rate during childbirth of both mothers and children in antiquity was quite high, seeking the protection of the gods was a common practice. Pregnant women were considered as a source of pollution (miasma) and important religious functions were undertaken to purge mother and child, as well as the whole oikos after birth. This is why it was very important that mother and infant were bathed, and thus purified, in water from a sacred spring, washing away the pollution (Parker 1983, p. 48-66; Dillon 2002, p. 178, 250-254; Foley 2003, p. 130-137; Neils 2003, p. 143; Oakley 2003, p. 163-194. Cf. the imagery on two fourth-century Attic gravestones: Neils and Oakley 2003, p. 143, 222-224, nos. 19, 20).

39Based on this information, one wonders if the fragments of large ritual basins, along with the bronze lekanes, chernibeia, hydriai and other water containers from the Acropolis could be associated with such purification rites. Granted, such vessels are multivalent and can perform many functions, but it is striking that a) at least four marble basins were dedicated by women (e.g., IG I3 794, 888, 921, 934; on louteria and perirrhanteria as cultic implements, see Kron 1996, p. 163; Pimpl 1997), b) the bronze hydria dedicated to Zeus Herkeios was also a mother’s votive, and c) at least three more bronze vessels (two chernibeia and an oinochoe) carry an inscription naming a woman dedicator (IG I3 555, 560, 565, 567, 572, 574: Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 54, no. 13 [unpublished; Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 18497 and X 7109]; 55, 14; 59, no. 18; 64, no. 22. Also, cf. Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 57, no. 16 [Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 7341]; 58, no. 17 [Athens, National Archaeological Museum 7032]; 60, no. 19 [Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 7336]; 62, no. 20 [IG I3 579; Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 17520]; 63, no. 21 [IG I3 580; Athens, National Archaeological Museum X 17517]. For a discussion on the sacrificial, agonistic or other function of bronze vessels, see Keesling 2005, p. 418). An expensive marble or bronze vessel would make an appropriate gift to Athena and other family gods for granting a safe delivery of a future citizen, and at the same time, it could signal the end of pollution after birth.

40Mothers had no control over the fate of their baby, as it was the father who could decide whether it would be reared or exposed. Once the newborn was accepted by the father as a legitimate child, it was welcomed in the family during the Amphidromia, a celebration that took place around the fifth day after birth. It consisted of carrying the baby in a ritual run around the hearth, the most sacred place in a Greek home and the spot where all newcomers were introduced to the household. This was followed by sacrificies to the gods, the supply of basic nurture for the baby and a meal amongst the immediate family members, which signaled the introduction of the newbron in the oikos. Women were also present during this family ritual, and based on a thourough study of literary sources, Florence Gherchanoc recenlty suggested that they were actually more involved in testing whether a newborn was worthy of and fit for survival during the Amphdromia than we originally thought (Ephippos PCG vol. 5 F3 = Atheneus 370c-d; Hesychius s.v. dromiamphion hemar; Schol. Plato Theaetetus 160e; Schol. Aristophanes Lysistrata 757; Sudas.v.amphidromia; Hamilton 1984; Garland 1990, p. 93-96; Dillon 2002, p. 253-254; Bonnard 2003; Neils 2003, p. 144; Boedeker 2008, p. 241; Gherchanoc 2012, p. 36-44).

41To my knowledge, there is no representation of this family event in the visual arts and the closest parallel that I could find involves a divine protagonist. The scene in question decorates the elaborate red-figure kylix potted by Hieron and attributed to Makron from the Acropolis, dated to ca. 490 BCE (Athens, National Archaeological Museum, Acr. 325; BAPD 204701; ARV2 460.20; Shapiro 2003, p. 86-87). It depicts the introduction of the infant Dionysos to Olympos, held by his father, Zeus. Athena, Poseidon and Hermes participate in the divine procession towards an altar, while two women, perhaps the Nymphs, carry a kanoun and a hydria. Even though Dionysos and Zeus have a rather unorthodox father-and-son-relation (LIMC III, 414, 478-479, nos. 664-668, s.v. Dionysos [A. Veneri-C. Gaspari]), the scene is indeed reminiscent of the Amphidromia celebration, described in the ancient sources.

42Provided that the baby survived the challenges of his first week in the world, he received his name by his father on the tenth day after birth, during another ceremony, this time attended by a larger circle of friends and relatives, and appropriately called Dekatê. Euboulos, a fourth-century playwright, describes in one of his comedies the oppulent feast organized by the family and narrates how women danced all night (pannuchis) in thanksgiving for the life of the child. (Aristophanes, Birds 494; Euboulos PCG vol. 5 F2-3 = Athenaeus 65c-d; Suda s.v. dekaten hestiasai; Hamilton 1984. Cf. also Garland 1990, p. 94-95; Dillon 2002, p. 254; Neils 2003, p. 144; Gherchanoc 2012, p. 44-48).

43Both ceremonies, Amphidromia and Dekate, were conducted in the close quarters of an oikos still polluted by childbirth. In contrast, the festival of Apatouria was very much an official, public affair (Parke 1977, p. 88-92; Schmitt Pantel 1977, p. 1059-1073; Lambert 1998, p. 143-189; Palagia 1995, esp. p. 496-498; Neils 2003, p. 144-145). During this festival, the father presented his son to his phratry, and possibly his daughter as well (Gould 1980, p. 40-42; Golden 1985; Palagia 1995, p. 497. Pro girls’ introduction to their fathers’ phratries: Golden 1985, p. 9-13, Hendrick 1990, p. 28; Lambert 1998, p. 162-166; Gherchanoc 2012, p. 150. Contra Gould 1980, p. 40-43; Cole 1984, p. 236; Pomeroy 1997, p. 76-82). By doing so, he swore to the legitimacy of the child and prepared his proper registration at around age sixteen (cf. Knauer 1996, esp. p. 233-234). As suggested above, the so-called Apatouria relief may preserve a rare representation of female family members participating to the ceremony.

44Overall, this survey of female dedications on the Acropolis during the Late Archaic and Early Classical periods demonstrates that one can still detect offerings made by mothers, and through them attempt to shed new light on women’s role at family festivals and in oikos-dedications. Since Athena is primarily concerned with matters of the polis and not of fertility, birth or childhood, even the dedications she receives from women (including mothers) have a public character and relate to the oikos in its connection to the city rather than a typical female issue. Athenian women seem to have enjoyed relative freedom in terms of dedications and public religious expression before the establishment of the Classical polis system and the social changes that followed the road to democracy, while sporadic maternal offerings, such as the one by Mikythe, suggest that this practice continued through the middle of the fifth century. Like other elite women of the same period, the Athenians set up votive offerings that were not solely of personal nature but aimed to the family’s praise and the devotee’s public esteem (cf. Lazzarini 1976, nos. 150-154 [Delos, unnamed], 157 [Delos/Naxos, Nikandre], 317 [Delos, Proxene], 726 [Paros, Telestodike]; Ridgway 1987; Kron 1996, p. 155, 157, 160, 166, 168, 181). The preserved maternal dedications examined here indicate that mothers occasionally acted as representatives of the oikos. This observation strengthens their role within the Athenian family and provides additional support in favor of female participation in both private and public family festivals during the Archaic and Early Classical eras.

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ARV2: Beazley J.D. (1963), Attic Red-figure Vase-painters, Oxford.

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1 Cf. von Straten’s proposed methodology in his discussion of female dedications from the sanctuary of Artemis Brauroneia in Attica (1990, p. 276-278, 282): if we only look at the epigraphical evidence of the inventories, it seems as though the Athenian women by themselves independently could make their own dedications. But, if we incorporate the iconographical material, we get a different picture: in contrast to private votive offerings by men that could be regarded as an entirely individual matter, private offerings of women were almost always regarded as a family affair. More recently, Nevett (2012) has convincingly showcased the complexities of male and female behavior within the urban fabric, arguing for a greater visibility and mobility of women in public and domestic contexts than previously thought. Davidson (2012) takes a similarly nuanced approach towards the male and female space.

2 One could also bring attention to terracotta dedications, such as the sixth-century terracotta busts and figurines of women with a child on their shoulder, found together with fourth- and third-century kourotrophos statuettes in an ex-voto deposit south of the Propylaia. This deposit has been associated with the double shrine of Blaute (Balaat)/Aphrodite and Kourotrophos located near the Mycenaean shrine under the Nike Tower. However, the majority of the Kourotrophos-finds date beyond the timeframe of this paper and for this reason they have been excluded: Brouskari 1974, p. 123, no. 6450, pls. 228 and 124, nos. 1442, 1443, pls. 232, 233; Hadzisteliou-Price 1978, p. 47-48, nos. 453-454 and p. 101-110, esp. p. 104-107; Beaumont 2003, p. 61; Neils and Oakley 2003, p. 224-229.

3 See for example a bronze handle offered to Artemis Brauroneia by a certain Glyke, dated to ca. 480 BCE (IG I3 548bis), offerings to Aphrodite and Poseidon (Raubitschek 1949, 318-319, no. 296 and 412-3, no. 384, respectively), and to Zeus Herkeios, examined below.

4 This paper was first presented at the Rencontre scientifique "Mères et maternités en Grèce ancienne", organized by Florence Gherchanoc and Jean-Baptiste Bonnard at the Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7 and ANHIMA in 2012. I am thankful to the organizers for the invitation and to Denise Demetriou, Olga Palagia, Nassi Malagardis, and H. Alan Shapiro for reading earlier drafts.

5 Solid and cast bronze statuettes of Athena Promachos were a popular dedication before 480 BCE, but only a handful have been found with certainty on the Acropolis. One of them (IG I3 540) carries an inscription naming a certain Meleso, who offered the statuette as a dekate to Athena, ca. 480-470 BCE: Dillon 2002, p. 16, fig. 1.2 with bibliography.

6 For an association of the phiale with female dedicators during the Classical period, see Harris 1995, p. 236-237, stating that in the Erechtheion inventories 8 out of 10 silver phialai were dedicated by women, while similar gender restrictions appear in the Parthenon inventories of 434/3 BCE. See also Kron 1996, p. 165; Dillon 2002, p. 17-18.

7 On mothers acting on behalf of their children:IG II2 4883 (Hipparche),4613 (Lysistrate), 4588 (Phile), 4593 (Archestrate); IG II2 1524.1 56-58 (Nikostrate),4912/13 (]sippe), 4333 (to son and daughter), 4334 (Melinna); Agora I 4568 (Archippe); SEG 43.56 (Leonike). On similar maternal dedications from other Greek areas of the Classical period (Eretria, Larissa, Amorgos, Epidauros, Pantikapaion, Halikarnassos), see Löhr 2000, p. 50, 58, 88, 101, 106-107, nos. 63, 102, 119, 126; Lazzarini 1976, nos. 281-284. On joint dedications by spouses from Athenian sanctuaries, see for example Agora I 4165 (Spoudias and Kleiokrateia) and IG II2 4403 (Meidias and Danais). On males dedicating on behalf of women:IG II2 4914 (Alkippe) and various offerings to Asklepios, e.g., Löhr 2000, p. 114, 134, 148-149, nos. 135, 153, 169 and for a fuller treatment, Aleshire 1989.

8 Cf. the example of a father and his children dedicating an agalma to Athena as a counterpart to the votive inscription on the hydria (IG I3 722). Löhr 2000 offers the most in depth discussion of family dedications according to the number family members and other relatives being mentioned in the inscription, as well as the type of offering. Keesling (2005, p. 397-398) estimates that the largest number of joint family votive offerings comes from the Acropolis, and more specifically, at least 33 examples date between 600 and 450 BCE. See also here n. 7 and 10.

9 See for example Ma’s analysis (2013, p. 166) of the Hellenistic statue of Nannion dedicated to Demeter and Kore by her five sons, The epigram includes the phrase “hyper tes metros,” a formula which makes it unclear whether such an offering should be labeled as honorary. According to Ma’s catalogue, in the Hellenistic period the phrase most commonly occurs in dedications from Rhodes, Asia Minor, Anaphe and Olbia. Cf. Löhr 2000, p. 101, no. 119.

10 On the relation of mother and daughter in Greek literature and art, see Foley 2003, p. 113-137, esp. 119 stating that “mothers frequently made dedications on behalf of their children, and epitaphs on grave monuments for them adopt the persona of the mother.” For later examples of dedications offered by a mother on behalf of a son or daughter, see the late fifth-century dedication of Argeia for her son Agetor from Larissa (IG IX 2 575), two fourth-century offerings: of Archestrate for her daughter on the Acropolis (IG II2 4593) and of Leonike for her son in Rhamnous (SEG 43.56). If a family member was unable to fulfill a vow during his/her lifetime, then this obligation was carried on to the next of kin, e.g., fathers may dedicate on behalf of their children, like Kynarbos on behalf of his daughters (IG I3 745) and the fourth-century offering by Alkippe’s father (IG II2 4914). Similarly, siblings may dedicate on behalf of one another, e.g. a brother on behalf of a sister (IG I3 703). See also the sixth-century joint dedications of a parent and his/her children (IG I3 700 and 722), a fifth-century example of a father and daughter from Eretria (IG XII 9 124), as well as a fourth-century dedication by Hipparche and her son from the Acropolis (?) (IG II2 4883) and the family votive to Aphrodite Pandemos (IG II2 4596).

11 A similar scene of a girl juggling apples is depicted on the white-ground pyxis by the Painter of London D12, ca. 460 BCE (BAPD 275416; ARV2 1675.94 bis; Para 434; Add2 308; Neils and Oakley 2003, p. 273, no. 81). Also, note that the arrhephoroi, the seven-year-old girls of noble birth that were selected to serve Athena for a year, played ball-games in the court of the Arrhephorion, located at the NW of the Acropolis: Pausanias 1.27.3; Plutarch, Moralia 893c; Travlos 1971, p. 70-71; Dillon 2002, p. 57-60; Neils 2003, p. 150; Connely 2007, p. 31-32, 142-144. On representations of wool-workers on Attic gravestones, see Kosmopoulou 2001, p. 300.

12 On women of all classes earning money through textile production, see Brock 1994, p. 338. Bundrick (2008) interprets the representations of women weavers as a positive metaphor of their contribution to the oikos and the polis, while Oakley (2004, p. 19-74) recognizes similar domestic scenes on white-ground lekythoi as a metaphor of the well-working oikos.

13 On questions regarding the age, marital status and number of the ergastinai, see Connely 2007, p. 39-40. For an overview of women in the cult of Athena, see Palagia’s discussion of the confusing sources regarding the arrhephoroi, parthenoi and ergastinai (2008, p. 31-37, esp. p. 33-36 with bibliography). For a possible depiction of the two married and the two unmarried, younger ergastinai, see the fragment of a black-figure tripod pyxis, Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 252-252, no. 114 (Athens, National Archaeological Museum, Acr. 2202). Dillon (2002, p. 58) accepts the identification of ergastinai with the parthenoi mentioned in inscriptions and other sources. On women and children in the textile production in general, see Nixon 1999. On the Parthenon peplos as the fabric that unites the whole polis, see Bundrick 2008, p. 325-326.

14 The majority of vases consists of cups, few storage vessels, a rather small number of oinochoai, hydriai and phialai (suggesting, perhaps, a preference for bronze counterparts), and an interesting increase of oil containers towards the end of the period, which may signify a new trend in votive practices. The so-called female shapes, such as loutrophoroi, epineitra and pyxides, are not as frequent, but one must be cautious not to rush into conclusions based solely on associations of shapes with gender. See Table 3.

15 The Late Archaic and Early Classical Attic vases from the Acropolis are decorated with various mythological subjects, Dionysiac imagery, cult scenes, as well as warriors and athletes. For a recent discussion of their production and distribution, see Pala 2012. Some vases could be associated with the world of women or even female servants of the goddess, such as the ergastinai, the young girls responsible for the weaving of Athena’s peplos (e.g., a fragment of a black-figure tripod pyxis, mentioned above), but we are unable to make any further assumptions.

16 Based on the sample of ca. 700 vases, 19 vases – namely, cups, skyphoi, kantharoi and plates - and 6 plaques carry a dedicatory inscription. Out of these, 13 mention the word anetheken [BAPD 32080 and 32105 (black-figure skyphoi); 301943 (black-figure kantharos); 301985 and 32328 (black-figure fr.); 301991, 301994, 32246, 208045 (plaques); 320370 and 200833 (black- and red-figure cups, respectively); 9017749 (Six phiale); 32274 (black-figure plate)]; 3 the word hiera or a similar formula [BAPD 32359 and 32374 (black-figure cups); 8536 (black-figure plate)]; 4 the word athenaias or similar [BAPD 32362 and 275048 (black and red-figure relief cup, respectively); 301856 and 303014 (plaques)]; 3 the phrase hiera tes athenas [BAPD 301273-301275 (black-figure cups signed by Nikosthenes)]; and two vases were dedicated to deities other than Athena [BAPD 46647 (red-figure cup to Artemis); 9017750 (black-figure bowl to Aphrodite?)]. For inscriptions on Attic vases in general, see Immerwahr 1998.

17 E.g., the black-figure cup fragment depicting Athena in the tondo carries the dipinto hiera, BAPD 32359, Graef and Langlotz 1925-1933, vol. 1, no. 1922, pl. 89 and the black-figure cup fragment with the inscription hiera tes Athenas, BAPD 301273, Graef and Langlotz 1925-1933, vol. 1, no. 1812, pl. 88. Note that BAPD 301273, 301274 and 301275 are all black-figure cups, carry the same dedicatory inscription and mention Nikosthenes as the potter. Cf. the so-called cult pottery from the Heraion on Samos: Kron 1988; Avramidou forthcoming.

18 E.g., the Six phiale from the late sixth-early fifth century BCE: BAPD 9017749, Graef and Langlotz 1925-1933, vol. 2, no. 1241, pl. 89; Athens, National Archaeological Museum, Acr. 2.1198. In this case we can assume that the donor is a woman, because they are commonly associated with phialai on account of their role in libations scenes, but also through epigraphical sources, see above n. 6.

19 For similar birds, see the Attic amphora with Circe and Odysseus attributed to the Leagros Group (LIMC VI (1992) 5 bis, pl. 24, s.v. Odysseus) and the Attic white-ground lekythos by the Pan Painter depicting Artemis with a heron or a swan (ARV2 557.121, 1659; Add2 259; Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 90-91, no. 36 and front cover).

20 The scene recalls the black-figure lekythos by the Gela Painter from Brauron, ca. 500-480 BCE. It depicts a sacrificial procession in honor of Athena who is sitting inside a building holding a phiale. In contrast to the black-figure skyphos, on the lekythos a bull is brought to sacrifice: ABV 443.3, 475.29; British Museum 1905.7-11.1. Also, cf. the black-figure loutrophoros from the Acropolis with Athena Promachos standing in front of her altar, inscribed Athenaias: BAPD 498; Graef and Langlotz 1925-1933, vol. 1, no. 1220, pl. 67; Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 254-255, no. 115.

21 Unfortunately, the fragmentary state of the vase does not allow us to discern whether the pig was part of a trittys (or trittoia, a sacrifice of a bull, a sow and an ewe) or not; ThesCRA I 110-112 (A. Hermary et al.). On the trittys and the inconsistency between the sources that mention a ram and a bull sacrificed to Athena and Erechtheus, and the depiction of a sow as a sacrificial animal in honor of Athena both here and on the band cup at the Niarchos Collection, ca. 560-550 BCE, see Connely 2007, p. 187-189. Palagia (1995, p. 495-496) discusses the iconographic and epigraphic evidence on pigs sacrificed in honor of Athena on public festivals, e.g., during the Panathenaia according to the decree of the Salaminians of 363/2 BCE (SEG 52.135), but also on private occasions. On piglets and male festivals, see Neils 2003, p. 158 and 291; For a marble votive pig from a well on the North Slope and possibly related to the cult of Demeter on the Acropolis, see Broneer 1938. On Apatouria, see Schmitt Pantel 1977, esp. p. 1059-1068 and the discussion below.

22 Palagia 1995, p. 495-496 and discussion above. The literary sources are inconsistency regarding the sacrificial victim offered by the father upon the introduction of his son to his phratry: Pollux (3.52) mentions goats and sheep, while the decree of the Salaminians (363/2 BCE; SEG 52.135) a pig sacrificed to Zeus Phratrios (ThesCRA I, 91, no 259 [A. Hermary et al.]; Palagia 1995, 497). Mikalson 2010, p. 141-142 mentions only a sheep.

23 For a discussion of the relation between oikos and the polis through a survey of Attic grave stelai of the late fifth and fourth century BCE, see Ridgway 1987, p. 405-406 and Leader 1997. Cf. Meyer 1993; Löhr 2000, p. 232-233; Oakley 2004, p. 215-231; Bundrick (2008, p. 328-329) associates the increase of women weaving in vase painting of the second half of the fifth century with the importance of women, oikos and the polis, following the Periclean citizenship law.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1: Fragmentary bronze hydria. Acropolis, ca. 500-480 BCE.
Légende After Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 56, no. 15.
Fichier image/jpeg, 387k
Titre Fig. 2: Fragmentary black-figure painted plaque ca. 550 BCE.
Légende After Foley 2003, p. 118-119, fig. 7.
Fichier image/jpeg, 368k
Titre Table 2: Black- and Red-Figure Attic Pottery from the Acropolis between 550-475 BCE
Fichier image/jpeg, 122k
Titre Table 3: Correlation of Black- and Red-Figure Shapes from the Acropolis between 550-475 BCE
Fichier image/jpeg, 226k
Titre Fig. 3: Fragmentary black-figure skyphos, ca. 530-500 BCE.
Légende After Graef and Langlotz 1925-1933, vol. 2, no. 1349, pl. 92.
Fichier image/jpeg, 488k
Titre Fig. 4: Red-figure loutrophoros, ca. 520-510 BCE.
Légende After Kaltsas and Shapiro 2008, p. 256-257, no. 116.
Fichier image/jpeg, 705k
Titre Fig. 5: Marble votive relief. Acropolis, ca. 490-480 BCE.
Légende After Palagia 1995, pl. 114a.
Fichier image/jpeg, 729k
Titre Fig. 6: Marble votive relief. Acropolis, mid-fourth century BCE.
Légende After Shapiro 2003, p. 97-98, fig. 14.
Fichier image/jpeg, 605k
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Amalia Avramidou, « Women Dedicators on the Athenian Acropolis and their Role in Family Festivals: The Evidence for Maternal Votives between 530-450 BCE », Cahiers « Mondes anciens » [En ligne], 6 | 2015, mis en ligne le 23 janvier 2015, consulté le 25 mai 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/mondesanciens.1365

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Amalia Avramidou

Democritus University of Thrace

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Les Cahiers « Mondes Anciens » sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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