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The Survival of the Bronze-Age Demon
There exist numerous representations on Minoan and Mycenaean objects of
creatures that have generally come to be known as "demons" or "genii."
The material has been conveniently collected and surveyed in an article
entitled "The Minoan 'Genius'" by M. A. V. Gill.' In what follows, the
objects will be referred to according to the numeration of Gill's catalogue,
which contains 59 items and which can now be supplemented as follows:
60. Seal impression of afragmentary haematite cylinder from Enkomi,
Cyprus. Ademon holds alibation vessel in areligious context.^
61. Cypriot haematite cylinder in aprivate collection. Two demons
holding libation vessels face each other in areligious context.''
62. Steatite lentoid from Medeon, Phocis. Two demons face each other;
between them are three dots and stylized vegetation (?).*
63. Agate amygdaloid from Nichoria, Messenia. Ademon holding a
libation vessel stands facing alow column or altar.'
'M. A. V. Gill, "The Minoan 'Genius'," AlhMUl 79 (1964) 1-21, with acatalogue (15-21)
containing 54 items, extended to 59 items in Gill, "Apropos the Minoan 'Genius'," AJA 74
(1970) 404-06. See also G. E. Mylonas, Mycenae and the Mycenaean Age (Princeton 1966)
166-68; S. Marinatos, "OOAYAITION APfOI" in L. R. Palmer and J. Chadwick (eds.).
Proceedings of the Cambridge Colloquium on Mycenaean Studies (Cambridge 1966) 265-74; F.
T. van Straten, "The Minoan 'Genius' in Mycenaean Greece," BABesch 44 (1969) 110-21 ;J. H.
Crouwel, "The Minoan Genius in Mycenaean Greece: areview," Talania 2(1970) 23-31 (with a
reply by van Straten, pp. 33-35); R. Hampe and E. Simon, The Birth of Greek Art (New York
1981) 191-95; C. Baurain, "Pour une autre interpretation des g^nies minoens," BCH Suppl. 1
(1985) 95-1 18. The reader should be alerted to the following abbreviations, which will be used
AGDS =Aniike Gemmen in deutschen Scmmlungen (Munich 1968-75)
CMS -Corpus der minoischen und mykenischen Siegel (Berlin 1964-
Ishould like to thank my colleague James Dengate for his generous assistance and
^V. Karageorghis, Mycenaean Artfrom Cyprus (Nicosia 1968) 42, PI. 38. 4; Crouwel (supra
n. 1) 24, no. 3.
'J. Boardman, Greek Gems and Finger Rings (New York 1970) 106, PI. 206.
''CA/5V.2no. 367.
^CMS V.2 no. 440.
2Illinois Classical Studies, XIII.l
64. Steatite cylinder from Palaikastro, Crete. Ademon stands facing two
females (wearing animal masks?) and two aniconic goddesses.*
65. Glass paste plaque from Mycenae. No further details are available.^
66. Stone rhyton in the form of a conch from Malia. Part of the
decoration consists of two demons facing each other; one holds alibation
67. Haematite lentoid from Cyprus. Ademon with adog on either side
While the vast majority of these representations are engraved, we also find
these creattires occasionally on ivory reliefs, on the handles of bronze urns
and, once or twice, in fragments of fresco paintings. It is difficult, if not
impossible, to assign precise dates to many of the objects; still, it is clear
that the demons continued to be represented over afairly long period, from
the time of the First Palace at Phaestos'" to the very end of the Bronze
Age.'' On these objects the demons appear singly, in pairs antithetically
disposed or, rarely, in larger groups. They are depicted as engaged in a
variety of activities of apparently ritual character. Most often they are
holding ewers, but they are also shown leading, carrying or, in one instance,
slaying large animals. In appearance these demons are quite striking: they
are quadrupeds standing upright on their hind legs and their most
conspicuous feature is a"dorsal appendage" that reaches from the top of the
head to about the middle of the calf or to the ankle.
So much can be said without fear of provoking controversy and
disagreement. Beyond this there is little consensus among experts regarding
the nature of these demons, their sex, their origin, the significance of the
dorsal appendage or even the species of animal that they are intended to
resemble. Concerning the nature of these creatures the most sensible
remarks are those of Martin Nilsson, which it is worth while to quote here:
The daemons ... are intimately associated with the cult. They appear as
ministrants of the cult and ... as guardians and attributes of adeity, or
rather as his servants and subjects over whom he exerts his power. But a
daemon appears also as the central figure exerting his power over lions and
in another case with aman on each side of him. That he occupies the place
usually set apart for the deity, or his symbol or shrine, can hardly be
explained except on the assumption that he is of the same divine, or at least
«V. E. G. Kenna, AJA 72 (1968) 331-32, PL 108. fig. 22; Ctouwel {supra n. 1) 24, no. 5
(with Addenda, p. 31).
'G. E. Mylonas, Praktika (1963) 101; cf van Straten {[supra n. 1] 111, n. 10), who adds two
further possible examples. But these are so fragmentary that it is not even certain that it is the
demon that is represented.
*C. Baurain and P. Darque, "Un triton en pierre aMalia," BCH 107 (1983) 3-58.
'CMS Vn no. 126.
"• No. 8(=CMS n.5 no. 322); cf D. Levi, ASAlene 35-36 (1957-58) 124-25.
"Nos. 17 and 18; cf H. W. Catling, Cypriol Bronzework in the Mycenaean World (Oxford
1964) 156-61 (who strangely refers to "winged Genii"); Karageorghis {supra n. 2) 29-30.
Crouwel {[supra n. 1]29-30) however would assign ihese to the fourteenth or fifteenth century.
EJavid Sansone 3
semi-divine, nature. The nature of these demons is consequently in a
certain respect ambiguous, but seems easily intelligible. They are not gods
themselves, but the stuff of which gods are made, daemons or beings of
popular belief.'^
Nilsson's use of masculine pronouns to refer to the demons is indicative of
his belief that they are of indifferent gender.'^ In this regard Nilsson is at
odds with the majority of scholars, who consider the demons to be definitely
female. The reason for this is that, in most instances, scholars' views of
the sex of the demons have been linked with the consideration of the
demons' origin. As early as 1890 it was suggested that the Minoan artists
modeled these creatures on representations of the Egyptian goddess Ta-wrt,
familiar in Crete from Egyptian imports.''' General (but not universal'')
acceptance of this explanation for the origin of the demons has tended to
influence the view that they are female. It will be best, however, to separate
the issues of sex and origin in the discussion below.
If we regard, for the time being, the derivation from Ta-wrt as irrelevant
to the question of gender, we find that there is very little in the iconography
of the demons that helps us determine whether the artists regarded these
creatures as male or female. That they hunt in the wild is not decisive, for
females as well as males are so depicted in Minoan art.'* Their dress may
suggest that they are male since (disregarding the mysterious dorsal
appendage) they are naked apart from the belt that adorns the slender waist of
some of the demons. But the same belt is found worn by women''' and, as
far as the nakedness (which is uncharacteristic of the representation of
Minoan women) is concerned, we are here dealing with creatures that are
near, or indeed on the other side of, the borderline between the human and
the animal. As is the case with Minoan griffins and sphinxes, even though
they are female they need not be clothed. That the demons are in fact female
is strongly suggested by the fact that, on the fresco fragment from Mycenae,
'^M. p. NUsson, The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion} (Lund 1950) 381; of. C. Picard, Les
religions prehelleniques (Paris 1948) 89-92.
'^ "The Nature daemons ... are both male and female, their sex being amatter of slight
importance" (Nilsson [previous note] 383).
i"* F. Winter, ArchAnz (1890) 108, foUowed by A. Evans, JHS 21 (1901) 169 and The Palace
of Minos at Knossos (London 1921-36) IV 431^1; S. Marinates and M. Hinmer, Crete and
Mycenae (New York 1960) 176; E. Zwierlein-Diehl, AGDS H31-32; Boardman (supra n. 3) 53;
Hampe and Simon {supra n. 1) 191.
'^ Rejected already by A. Milchhoefer, Die Anfdnge der Kunst in Griechenland (Leipzig 1883)
56 note. See also C. Tsountas. ArchEph 0891) 35-37; A. B. Cook, JHS 14 (1894) 82; A.
Furtwangler, Die antiken Gemmen in (Leipzig 1900) 41; R. Dussaud, Les civilisations
prehelleniques'^ (Paris 1914) 382; D. Levi. ASAtene 8-9 (1925-26) 192; E. Herkenrath, AJA 41
(1937) 421-22; D. Isaac. RHR 118 (1938) 67-68; R. Dussaud. Iraq 6(1939) 61.
'* Cf. the cornelian lentoid from Crete. AGDS Hno. 20; NUsson {supra n. 12) 366.
'' E.g. the sardonyx lentoid from EUs. AGDS Uno. 21; the gold ring from Vaphio. CMS I
no. 219; the sardonyx amygdaloid from Vaphio, CMS Ino. 226.
4Illinois Classical Studies, XIII. 1
they are painted white.^* Still, it must be admitted that the same argument
that allowed for the possibility of naked females may be permitted to allow
for the possibility of white males. But there is, in the end, no positive
evidence that requires, or even encourages, us to regard the demons as male.
Thus, while we cannot claim that the case is proved, it seems that, even
disregarding the possible derivation of these demons from the goddess Ta-
wrt, on balance the evidence inclines us toward the view that they are indeed
But it is impossible to disregard the connection between the Minoan
demons and the Egyptian goddess, as it has been emphasized by the majority
of scholars who have concerned themselves with the question of the nature
of the demons. Indeed Margaret Gill, in the most comprehensive discussion
of the question, has shown that it is unreasonable to deny the connection.
But we are not compelled to agree with her when she says, "Once derivation
from Ta-wrt is accepted the physical characteristics of the 'genius' are no
longer aproblem."'' On the contrary, acceptance of the derivation from Ta-
wrt generates more problems (and not about the physical characteristics of
the demons alone) than it resolves. For, while there are arresting
similarities between the appearance of the hippopotamus-headed goddess and
that of the mysterious demons, there are also numerous and significant
differences, and these differences must be accounted for. Now, some of the
differences can be readily explained. For example, the elimination of
hippopotamus-features is explicable on the grounds of the absence of that
animal from the territory and consciousness of Minoan and Mycenaean
Greece, and the reduction of the potbelly is understandable in terms of the
conventions of Minoan artistic representation. But how can we account for
the fact that, while Ta-wrt is asingle deity with an identity of her own, the
demons are multiplied like the satyrs or nymphs of later Greek art? And,
more importantly, how can we account for the iconography of the demons,
who are regularly represented as engaged in activities that have no
associations with the Egyptian goddess? Even from its earUest appearance
in Crete the demon leads alife of its own. The sealing from Phaestos, for
example, already depicts the demon with the characteristic ewer and
vegetation and, perhaps, also the heap of stones that is found elsewhere in
Minoan art.^" We would have to make the assumption (which, Ithink,
"No. 25. (For color illustrations see ArchEph [1887] PI. 10. 1; Marinates and Hirmer
[supra n. 14] PI. 43; Hampe and Simon [supra n. 1] PI. 33.) Likewise on the fresco fragment
from Pylos (no. 55), if indeed it is ademon that is represented.
"Gill(iupran. 1)4.
^No. 8. For the ewer, see nos. 2-9, 13, 18, 20-23, 26, 46, 47, 52, 58-61, 63, 66; for
the vegetauon, nos. 10, 11, 14, 19, 23, 26, 47, 54. 59. On one of the Zakro sealings (no. 27)
ademon spears a bull over aheap of stones. On aglass plaque from Mycenae (no. 20) two
demons hold ewers over aheap of stones. More commonly, demons are depicted holding ewers
over an object described as an altar or apillar (nos. 13, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 56, 58, 63). There
may be no practical difference between these latter objects and the heap of stones, as there is
David Sansone 5
cannot easily be paralleled) that Minoan artists adopted adistinctive
Egyptian deity, multiplied her, modified some details of her appearance and
associated her with the conventions of Minoan cult. Artists, particularly
those whose medium is the "minor arts," simply do not have the authority
to make the kinds of innovations that we are here asked to assume. It is
much more likely that these demons correspond to something already
existing in Minoan cult and belief. If, as seems likely to be the case, Ta-
wrt has exercised some influence, it is not amatter of the demons owing
their existence to artists' acquaintance with representations of the Egyptian
deity. Rather she has contributed some details to the iconography of a
native divinity.^'
If this is the case, we cannot simply dismiss the details of iconography
as arising from misunderstandings on the part of artists.22 The artists were
not copying, at several removes, aforeign original which they were unable
to comprehend. Rather they were attempting to depict abeing that had an
objective reality in the context of the local cult. When the Cretans spoke of
these creatures, even worshipped them, they referred to them with aspecific
name (not the vague "demons" or "genii" which we are forced to use),
applied to them pronouns and epithets that were either masculine or
feminine in gender, used vocabulary that was appropriate to creatures of
leonine or asinine (or some other) character, and surely did not employ the
Minoan equivalent of the expression "dorsal appendage" in reference to the
demons' most distinctive feature. Our task, then, is to attempt to
determine, in the first place, the kind of animal that the Minoan artists were
attempting to represent and, in the second, the nature of the material of
which the "dorsal appendage" was thought to be composed.
It has been variously suggested that the demons' appearance is that of a
horse, an ass or alion. And indeed some of the representations are
strikingly equine, asinine or leonine. But the features that make one
identification attractive would seem to rule out the others. The clear
representations of paws, for example, on the demons of the famous gold
ring from Tiryns^ render impossible the supposition that we are dealing
with ahooved creature, while the long, pointed ears in the fresco from
later no practical difference between aheim and aheap of stones; cf. W. Burkert, Structure and
History in Greek Mythology and Ritual (Berkeley 1979) 39^3; van Straten (supra n. 1) 114;
Nilsson (supra n. 12) 256; Evans, Palace ofMinos (supra n. 14) IV 455. Thus the activities of
the demons have several points of contact with the ritual (described in detail at Plut. Arist. 21) in
honor of those who died at Plataea, with its branches of myrtle, sacrifice of abull and washing
of stelae with water from aewer.
^' Nilsson (supra n. 12) 381; Baurain (supra n. 1) 98-102.
^So cm (supra n. 1)4.
^No. 26 (=CMS Ino. 179).
6Illinois Classical Studies, XIII. 1
Mycenae are obviously not those of lions.^" Either, therefore, we are
dealing with acreature that is sometimes represented with the attributes of
one species and sometimes with those of another, or we need to find some
other species which possesses all the various attributes with which the
demons are endowed. But first aword must be said about the significance of
these attributes. Minoan and Mycenaean artists (or, at least, some Minoan
and Mycenaean artists) were quite capable of representing convincingly a
hoof or alion's head. The lentoid from the tholos tomb at Vaphio, for
example, which depicts atwo-horse chariot,^ illustrates well the care that
the Mycenaean engraver takes in portraying ahorse's hoof. And the lions
on the famous inlaid dagger blade from Grave Circle Ain Mycenae are
gloriously and realistically leonine. But it is unnecessary to deal in
generalities when we can compare directly two representations by the same
artist in the same work. Several seals show the demon carrying, leading or
subduing astag or abull, and in every instance the artist has been careful to
distinguish the paws of the demon from the hooves of its victim.^^ In
similar fashion we can compare lions and demons on the same engraving.
Acornelian lentoid in Berlin has ademon carrying apole with the body of a
lion suspended from each end.^^ Unfortunately, while the demon is
represented in profile, the lions are shown from above, so that the
comparison is not exact. Still, comparison is instructive: the paws are
similar (though not identical) but, of even greater interest, while the lions
have the lunate ears that are characteristic not only of lions but, more
importantly, of Minoan and Mycenaean representations of Uons, the demon
has the long, pointed ears that these demons often display.^^ Not only are
^No. 25 (see n. 18). Also against the identification of the demons with lions is the fact that
there is never atrace on the visible part of the demcms' neck of alion's mane. For, to the
Minoan artists the mane was such adistinctively leonine feature that they regularly fumished
even lionesses with it: e.g. conglomerate lentoid from Mycenae, CMS Ino. 106; cornelian
lentoid in Boston, CMS XIII no. 26; cornelian lentoid in Oxford, V. E. G. Kenna, Cretan Seals
(Oxford 1960) no. 314; two cornelian amygdaloids in Munich, AGDS Inos. 41and 42; marble
lentoid in Munich, AGDS Ino. 43; agate lentoid in London, H. B. Walters, Catalogue of the
Engraved Gems the British Museum (London 1926) no. 48. Compare Anacreon's
antlered doe (fr. 408 Page); H. Frankel, Early Greek Poetry and Philosophy (Oxford 1975) 295.
"cms Ino. 229; color illustration in Hampe and Simon {supra n. 1) PI. 264. It is
instructive to compare also the heads of these horses with those of the demons. It will be seen
that there is no resemblance. In any case, the demons cannot be modeled on horses, as these
demons appear earlier in Minoan art than does the horse; cf. NQsson (supra n. 12) 19.
^*Nos 27,29,30,32,34,35,54. Porno. 54, see now S. Symeonoglou, Kadmeia I
(Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology 35 [Goteborg 1973]) 48-52, Pis. 70-73.
^No.41( =/lGD5nno. 28).
^Furtwangler ([supra n. 15] HI 39) recognizes that the demons regularly do not have lions'
ears, but he is clearly mistaken in regarding the ears as belonging with the dorsal appendage.
The fresco from Mycenae as well as other representations make it clear that the appendage is
entirely separate from the ears.
David Sansone 7
Minoan and Mycenaean artists generally capable of depicting aconvincing
lion's ear,29 but this particular artist is capable of so doing. Yet he has
chosen not to. He does not conceive of his demon in leonine terms.^"
Rather it is an animal with paws and with long, pointed ears. Nor is this
artist alone; the paws and long ears are plainly visible in anumber of other
representations of the demon, including the gold ring from Tiryns.
An animal which has paws and which can have long, pointed ears is the
dog.3' But of greater relevance than the actual appearance of dogs is, of
course, the practice of Bronze-Age artists when dealing with canine
representation. To be sure, there is great variety in the depiction of dogs in
Minoan and Mycenaean art. Nor is this surprising considering the diversity
of breeds. Indeed, this diversity may account for the variation in the
appearance of the demons. But the long, pointed ears are very much in
evidence, sometimes pricked up, sometimes laid back along the head.^^ And
the faces, some short and square, others long and pointed, bear close
resemblances to the faces of many of the demons.^^ These resemblances,
^E.g. the gold rhyton in Athens, from Shaft Grave FV at Mycenae; rock crystal lentoid from
Knossos, Kenna {supra n. 24) no. 315; jasper lentoid from Athens, Kenna, no. 318; agate
lentoid from Vaphio, CMS Ino. 243; onyx lentoid from Vaphio, CMS Ino. 248; jasper prism
bead in the British Museum, CMS Vn no. 115c; cornelian lentoid in the British Museum, CMS
Vn no. 118; cornelian lentoid from Athens, AGDS 11 no. 34; sardonyx lentoid from Pylos, CMS
Ino. 277. Unfortunately Hanns Gabelmann {Studien zumfriihgriechischen Lowenbild [Berlin
1965]) does not concern himself with Bronze-Age art.
'" Similarly the other artists who depict lions and demons side by side: no. 43 (=CMS Ino.
172); no. 44 (=CMS Ino. 161); no. 46 (=H.-G. Buchholz and V. Karageorghis, Alldgdis und
Altkypros [Tubingen 1971] no. 1753); no. SO; no. 61.
It seems not to have been previously suggested that the demons are dogs, although Hampe
and Simon correctly observe, "Scholars have generally regarded the head and paws as those of a
lion, though the ears are often elongated and more like those of a dog" ([supra n. 1] 191), and
Walter Burkert notes their "dog-like snouts, pointed ears, and paws" (Greek Religion [Oxford
1985] 35). In later antiquity demons often have the appearance of dogs: JHS 100 (1980) 161,
with n. 23.
'^Onyx lentoid from Mycenae, CMS Ino. 81; lapis lazuli lentoid from Vaphio, CMS Ino.
255; seal impression from Vaphio, CMS Ino. 256; conglomerate lentoid from Pylos, CMS I
no. 294; sardonyx amygdaloid from Crete, CMS Ino. 480; cornelian lentoid in London, CMS
vn no. 66; steatite prism bead from Zakro, CMS VII no. 2I6b; steatite prism in Paris, CMS DC
no. 14c; jasper lentoid in Paris, CMS DC no. 195; steatite prism bead in New York, CMS XH
no. 50a; jasper lentoid from Crete, Kenna (supra n. 24) no. 240; seal impression from Knossos,
Kenna, no. 40S; ivory half cylinder from Crete, Evans, Palace ofMinos (supra n. 14) I197, fig.
145; haematite lentoid from Crete, Evans IV 581, fig. 586; seal impression from the "Little
Palace" deposit, Evans IV 608, fig. 597A g; frescoes from Pylos. M. L. Lang, The Palace of
Nestor H(Princeton 1969) Pis. 64 and 116.
'^ Compare the face of the demon on the agate amygdaloid from Vaphio (no. 2) with the
dog's-head seal impression from Phaestos, CMS 11.5 no. 300; the face of the demon on the
cornelian lentoid from Crete (no. 41) with that of the hound on a cornelian amygdaloid in
Munich, AGDS Ino. 37; the face of the demon on the haematite cylinder from Crete (no. 13)
with that of the dog on ahaematite lentoid from Knossos, Boardman (supra n. 3) PI. 115; the
face of the taller of the two demons on the steatite lentoid from Crete (no. 16) with the faces of
the dogs on an agate lentoid in Athens, CMS ISuppl. no. 109; the faces of the demons on the
8Illinois Classical Studies, XIII. 1
along with the pointed ears, paws and variation in the depiction of the face,
make it quite likely that the appearance of the demons is intended to be
canine. This identification is securely confirmed by two observations. In
the first place, on anumber of occasions the demon is represented with what
appears to be acollar around its neck,^'' and collars are aregular feature of
the portrayal of dogs in Minoan and Mycenaean art.^^ In the second place,
the role that the demon frequently assumes is that of the hunter, and in art
(as in life) the dog is the companion of its master on the hunt.
Unfortunately, recognizing the canine character of the demons does not
help with the identification of the dorsal appendage, for there is nothing that
is commonly associated with dogsthe same is true, of course, of lions,
horses and assesthat can plausibly be related to this particular
appurtenance. Clearly the demon is, like the sphinx and the hippogriff, a
composite creature, having the shape of a dog, the posture of ahuman^^ and
an additional element derived from elsewhere. Various attempts have been
made to explain and identify this element^'' but, according to Margaret Gill,
who considers the demons to be descended from Ta-wrt, "there is no need to
try to explain the dorsal appendage as part of the costume assumed by a
human worshipper masquerading as an animal nor attempt to account for it
by comparison with avariety of animal forms. . . .That no single
explanation based on comparison with natural objects could be found to fit
fresco from Mycenae (no. 25) with the face of the dog on afresco from Pylos, Lang (previous
note) PI. 116; the face of the demon on the seipentine lentoid from Crete (no. 35 =AGDS IT no.
29) with the faces of the dogs on an onyx lentoid from Mycenae, CMS Ino. 81. (These
Mycenaean dogs look somewhat horse-like and may help explain the occasional equine
identification of the demons.) Finally, the faces of the demon and the dogs on no. 67 are
strikingly similar.
^Nos. 3 (=AGDS nno. 26), 8(=CMS U. 5 no. 322), 23 (=CMS Ino. 231), 25 (see n.
18), 58,61,63 and 66.
^^ Frescoes from Pylos (Lang [supra n. 32] PI. 116) and Tiryns (G. Rodenwaldt, TirynsU.
[Athens 1912] Pis. 13 and 14.6). FrequenUy on seals: CMS Inos. 81, 255, 256, 294, 480; V.2
no. 677a; VH nos. 66 and 115; IX no. 135; Xffl no. 71; AGDS Ino. 37; Kenna (supra n. 24)
nos. 237, 238, 239, 240. 40S; Evans, Palace ofMinos {supra n. 14) 766, fig. 496.
'* Another element that is possibly human is the forelock (clearly visible in nos. 2, 25, 26,
49 and 59), which can be compared with, e.g. those of the figures on the Hagia Triada
sarcophagus; of "la Parisienne" from Knossos; of the woman on the fresco from the cult center
at Mycenae; of the women on the fresco from Tiryns; of the bearded man on the amethyst disc
from Mycenae {CMS Ino. 5). Cf. Crouwel (supra n. 1) 24-25.
"On the back of each lion is, apparently, a hide, possibly covered with a net," A. W.
Persson (The Religion of Greece in Prehistoric Times [Berkeley 1942] 78, of the demons on the
ring from Tiryns, no. 26); "a beetle-like covering. ... It seems ... to be taken from the insect
world, specifically from butterflies and their larvae," Hampe and Simon ([supra n. 1] 191); "der
Rijcken ist mit einem anscheinend losen, borstigen Fell bekleidet, das in eine WespentaUle
endet," M. P. Nilsson (Geschichle der griechischen Religion^ I[Munich 1967] 296); "the
crocodile hide and tail is [sic\ quite unmistakable," Catling ([supra n. 11] 158, of the demons on
the bronze urn handles, no. 18). According to Baurain ([supra n. 1] 103-10) the dorsal
appendage is afigure-eight shield.
David Sansone 9
all examples is not surprising since the Minoan craftsman was copying not
from nature but from apicture, and that in aforeign artistic style and
possibly in adifferent medium."^* But, as indicated above, the demons
undoubtedly possessed an independent identity apart from their appearances
on works of art, and the artists were attempting to depictgranted in a
stylized mannerafeature to which they could most likely apply aname
and which they no doubt thought had apurpose. Still, it is not surprising
that scholars have either produced wholly unsatisfactory identifications or
have despaired altogether of identifying the appendage. For, while its
general shape is fairly consistent in the various representations, its
decoration varies considerably. Occasionally it is without decoration
entirely,^' but more commonly it is decorated either on its surface or with
protrusions on the outer edge, or both. The protrusions sometimes have a
spiky appearance,"" sometimes are spherical in shape,"' and sometimes
appear to be spikes terminating in balls."^ The surface decoration
sometimes consists of striations,"^ sometimes of acombination of stripes
and circles,"" and sometimes of acrosshatching or scaly effect."^ The
protrusions belong to the repertory of contemporary glyptic"* and are
reminiscent of the purely decorative elements with which Minoan and
Mycenaean engravers like to adorn, for example, goats' horns and griffins'
wings."^ If they serve any purpose at all, it is aconceptual one rather than a
pictorial: they indicate that the dorsal appendage, whatever its actual shape
and nature, serves as the demon's mane."^ Indeed, in some representations
the appendage looks shaggy or bristly. But this need not mean that the
3* GUI (jupra n. 1)4.
"Nos. 13, 20, 31, 40, 41, SO, 52, 53. 58.
"0 Nos. 2, S, 6, 11 (?), 16, 19, 20, 33, 34, 35. 37. 42. 43. 45. 48. 49. 51. 60. 61. 63.
"' Nos. 3. 8. 14. 21, 22. 23. 27. 46.
"^ Nos. 26. 29. 30. 32. For the aberrant and problematic no. 38. see Gill (supra n. 1) 3.
"' Nos. 2. 8(?), 11. 12 (?). 14. 15. 16. 18. 25. 29. 30. 42, 45, 49.
*" No. 23.
*' Nos. 4. 17. 26. 27. 39 (?). 54.
^It is therefore perhaps significant that they are missing from the representations on the
frescoes from Mycenae and Pylos (nos. 25 and 55).
*^ E.g. agate lentoid from Megalopolis. AGDS 11 no. 54; agate lentoid form Mycenae, CMS I
no. 74; conglomerate lentoid from Mycenae. CMS Ino. 115; two gold rings from Mycenae.
CMS Inos. 119 and 155; jasper lentoid from Mycenae. CMS Ino. 168; agate prism from
Midea. CMS Ino. 193; jasper lentoid from Pylos. CMS Ino. 266; two agate lentoids from
Crete. Kenna {supra n. 24) nos. 286 and 320; sardonyx lentoid from Mycenae, CMS Ino. 73;
agate lentoid from Mycenae, CMS Ino. 98; haematite lentoid from Crete, Kenna. no. 342;
serpentine lentoid from Crete, CMS IV no. 287; steatite lentoid in New York, CMS XII no.
** Iam thinking not so much of lions' or horses' manes, but of those of wild boars and
goats, which extend the length of the animal's body. e.g. AGDS Ino. 58; II nos. 23 and 56;
CMS Inos. 158. 184. 192, 227. 276; DC nos. 136. 139. 140, 141; XH nos. 215, 261. We may
also compare the spherical protmsions on the dorsal appendages with the series of dots that
represent the flowing locks of some of the human figures on the gold rings depicting the
vegetation cult, e.g. CMS Inos. 17, 126, 127. 191, 219. 514.
10 lUinois Classical Studies, XIII. 1
artist considered the appendage to have the appearance ofaboar's or agoat's
manethe shape of the appendage and the fact that in many instances it
lacks these protrusions indicate otherwisebut merely that it takes the place
of amane.
But the shape of the dorsal appendage indicates that the artists had
something specific in mind which was transferred from elsewhere to serve as
amane. The shape and, Ithink, even the surface decoration show that it is
intended as asnake-skin. It will be readily conceded that the shape of the
dorsal appendage has more in common with that of asnake-skin than with
that of anything from the insect-world. And the surface decoration, even by
its very variety, proclaims its serpentine, or at least reptilian, origin. We
can classify the method of decorating the surface of the dorsal appendage in
three general categories, none of which is inconsistent with the
representation of asnake. Some demons have appendages that are without
surface decoration entirely, indicative either of the smoothness of asnake's
skin or of the artist's inability or unwillingness to adorn so small adetail.'*'
Others have appendages with acrosshatching very similar to the appearance
of scales.50 The rest have appendages that are decorated in such away as to
imitate the various patterns of stripes, spots, etc. that so colorfully
embellish the skins of many snakes.^' The most striking example of this
last category is the fresco from Mycenae, which shows the dorsal appendage
decorated with wavy chevrons of red and blue.
If we summarize here what we now know about these demons it will
become apparent what we are dealing with. They are divinities of a
somewhat lesser status than the purely anthropomorphic deities in whose
company they are occasionally found; they are concerned both with hunting
and with the propagation of vegetation; they appear singly or in groups;
they are apparently female; they are basically canine in appearance, although
their upright posture anthropomorphizes them to some degree; they have a
*' We must bear in mind that the majority of demons appear on surfaces the largest
dimension of which is less than an inch. Not surprisingly, when snakes are seen on Bronze-Age
seals (as they occasionally are: CMS H.l no. 453c; TV no. 54; IX no. 86; AGDS Ino. 24) they
are typically without any sort of decoration. The same is usually the case with later engravings
(see, for example, Boardman [supra n. 3] Pis. 219, 289, 372, 494, 509), but we do on occasion
see the artist attempting to suggest the texture or pattern of the snake's skin. When he does
this, he frequently employs atechnique similar to that used by the Bronze-Age artists to decorate
the demons' dorsal appendage (see Boardman, Pis. 257, 378, 486, 503, 699). Of perhaps
greatest interest in this connection is the sea-serpent (Scylla [?]; note what appears to be acollar
on its neck) on an island gem of the seventh century: J. Boardman, Island Gems
(SocPromHeUStud, Supplementary Papers 10 (London 1963]) no. 293. The artist has
represented the serpent's scales with a pattern of lines and dots that resemble the protmsions on
some of the demons' dorsal appendages.
50 Seen. 45.
5' For snakes in Minoan art see especially Evans, Palace ofMinos (supra n. 14) IV 138-99,
although it is not necessary to accept Evans' derivation (178r-92) of the "wave and dot" motif
from the pattern on the skin of tarbophis vivax.
David Sansone 1
mane (if that is the right word) consisting of asnake-skin. They are, to
give them the name by which we must now refer to them, Erinyes.^^
That the Greeks worshipped the Erinyes (or, at least, an Erinys) in the
Bronze Age is proved by the appearance of E-ri-nu in the Mycenaean
tablets.^^ That they are to be identified with the demons that we have been
concerned with is shown by the remarkable coincidence of attributes and
associations. To begin with, the demons have the appearance of dogs, and
the Erinyes are frequently referred to in canine terms.^" To be sure, it has
been asserted that the canine aspect of the Erinyes is alate invention^' and
even that the original character of the Erinyes was equine rather than
canine.^* But neither of these assertions is provable. Indeed, both are
unlikely. The association of the Erinyes with horses is very tenuous and is
supported by such "evidence" as the fact that Sophocles applies the same
epithet {%akK6no\>d) to the Erinyes that Homer applies to horses^'' and the
^^ The demons were earlier identified as Erinyes by Milchhoefer ({supra n. 15] 58-64), but
only because he considered the demons to be horse-headed. For the alleged equine character of
the Erinyes see below. Ihave not seen M. Visser, The Erinyes (Diss. Toronto 1980).
*' M. Ventris and J. Chadwick, Documents in Mycenaean Gre«*^ (Cambridge 1973) 306-07,
411, 476; M. Gerard-Rousseau, Les mentions religieuses dans les tablettes myceniennes
(Incunabula Graeca 29 [Rome 1968]) 103-04; G. Neumann, "WonbUdung und Etymologie von
Epivu;," Die Sprache 32 (1986) 43-51; A. Heubeck, "epivv; in der archaischen Epik," Glotta
64 (1986) 143-65. Reference to the deity on the tablets from Knossos is in the singular but,
since the usual procedure is for an individual divinity to be separated out from acolleaive group
rather than for agroup to come into being from the multiplication of an individual
(WUamowitz, Kl. Schr. V.2 34; M. P. NUsson, AHistory of Greek Religion [Oxford 1925]
111-13; Burkert [supra n. 31] 173), we must assume that, even in the Mycenaean Period, the
Erinyes are now plural, now singular, just as they are in Homer (e.g. //. 9.454 and 571; for the
number of the Erinyes see Jane Harrison, JHS 19 [1899] 207-08; E. Wust, RE Suppl. VHI
[1956] 122-23). Similarly our demons are sometimes shown as an undifferentiated collectivity
and sometimes as a single divinity.
Aesch. Cho. 924, 1054, Eum. 132, 246; Soph. El. 1388; Eur. El. 1252, 1342. Or. 260;
Hesychius s. v. kijcov; Eustathius on Homer//. 9.454 (763.40); Horace Serm. 1. 8. 35; Lucan 6.
733; Servius Aen. 3. 209; W. H. Roscher, Das von der "Kynanthropie" handetnde Fragment des
Marcellus von Side (AbhLeipz 17. 3[Leipzig 1896]) 46-50. In the visual arts the Erinyes are
not depicted as dogs (or, indeed, with any other theriomorphic appearance, apart from their snaky
locks) but they are often portrayed as huntresses; cf. A. Rosenberg, Die Erinyen (Berlin 1874)
'' "As soon as the Erinyes develop out of ghosts into avengers the element of pursuit comes
in, they ...become all vindictive; they are no longer 6pdKaivai but Kijvei;," Jane Harrison
{JHS 19 [1899] 220). But we now see that the element of pursuit and the chase is as old as the
Minoan Period.
^*S. Eitrem, Die golllichen Zwillinge bei den Griechen (Christiania 1902) 61-63;
WUamowitz, a:/. Schr. VI 224 and Griechische Tragoedien^ H(Berlin 1907) 225-31; E. Heden,
Homerische Gottersludien (Uppsala 1912) 135-38; L. Malten, JDAl 29 (1914) 200-02; A. H.
Krappe, RhMus 81 (1932) 305-20.
^El. 491; //. 8. 41, 13. 23. See B. C.Dielrich, Hermes 90 (1962) 141-42. (That brazen foot
and canine attributes are not incompatible is shown by Ar. Ran. 292-95.) Eitrem ([previous
note] 62) even considers the possibility that the goad, which is an occasional attribute of the
Erinyes, can be explained with reference to their equine origins. If the archaeologist of the
12 Illinois Classical Studies, XIII.l
fact that the grove of the Eumenides (!) in Attica was at Colonus Hippius.
Asomewhat more direct connection is provided by amyth recounted by
Pausanias, in the course of which Poseidon mates with Demeter Erinys and
the product of their union is the horse Areion (Erion). Whatever the
significance of this myth may be,^* it is surely not evidence that the Erinyes
were originally equine in character, or even that there was any particular
connection between the Erinyes and horses. In fact, the mating of Poseidon
and Demeter appears to be alate element in the myth, as there is a
strikingly similar Hittite myth from which horses are absent.^' In addition,
the ritual which Pausanias describes in connection with the myth is aform
of sacrifice characteristic of the Bronze Age and is appropriate to the myth in
its earlier (i.e. horseless) state. The focus of this ritual at Phigalia, where
the goddess is called not Demeter Erinys but Black Demeter, is awooden
cult statue which had been destroyed by fire long before Pausanias' day.
Nevertheless, Pausanias records what he had been told of its appearance:
"She was seated upon arock and had the appearance of awoman except for
the head. She had the head and mane of ahorse, and snakes and other
creatures were represented as growing from her head. She was dressed in a
chiton which reached to her feet and she held adolphin in one hand and a
dove in the other."*" The rock, the snakes and the dove are all elements that
are familiar from Bronze-Age iconography and they, in conjunction with the
evidence of the ritual, indicate that the statue was itself very old.*' It is
interesting that one parallel that Frazer produces for this horse-headed female
divinity is precisely arepresentation of the Bronze-Age demon on alentoid
seal which was supposed to have come from Phigalia.*^ Just as the seal
misled Frazer, Cook and others, so the venerable xoanon misled the
future follows this reasoning, when confronted with apicture of Wilhelm Tell he will identify it
as one of St. Sebastian.
** Paus. 8. 25. 4-10. For the enormous bibliography concerned with this myth, see E. Wust
(supra n. 53) 94-101; B. C. Dietrich, "Demeter, Erinys, Artemis," Hermes 90 (1962) 129-48 and
Death, Fate and Ihe Gods (Lonion 1965) 118-38; R. S\ig]i\z,Die grossen Gottinnen Arkadiens
(Vienna 1967) 110-34.
*' Burkert {supra n. 20) 123-29. According to Buricert (126) the ritual "is strangely
reminiscent of Bronze Age religious practice." Cf. also Buricert (supra n. 31) 68. It is imclear to
me whether A. Schachter (Cults of Boeotia I[BICS Suppl. 38. 1(London 1981)] 164) agrees
that the horses are secondary.
«> Paus. 8.42.4.
"The demons are sometimes shown in conjunction with birds (nos. 13, 24, 26, 30, 46, 53,
58) and once (no. 46) in conjunction with adolphin. For the survival of Mycenaean xoana into
the archaic period and later, see Marinates (supra n. 1) 270, with n. 1. It is perhaps also
significant of the antiquity of the cult of Black Demeter that she is worshipped in acave (Paus.
8. 42. 1): Nilsson (supra n. 12) 53-76; R. F. Willetts, Cretan Cults and Festivals (London 1962)
*^No. 48. J. G. Frazer, Pausankis's Description ofGreece IV (London 1898) 407; cf. A. B.
Cook, JHS 14 (1894) 138 ff. Above (n. 33) Inoted the simUarily of some Mycenaean
representations of dogs to horses.
David Sansone 13
Phigalians, who interpreted the features of their Demeter as equine and
concocted, or adopted from another context, amyth to explain her
The connection, on the other hand, between the Erinyes and dogs,
although it cannot be proved to be of very long standing, is more widespread
and is more directly attested. It is explicit first in Aeschylus, but it makes
its appearance in such away as to indicate that Aeschylus expected his
audience to be familiar with it. At Cho. 924 Clytaimestra warns Orestes to
"beware amother's angry hounds" ((xri-cpoq eyKoxouq icovaq) should he kill
her, and Orestes replies that, if he does not kill her, he will be unable to
escape his father's (hounds). Orestes and the audience know what she
means. She means the Erinyes, as is confirmed by the fact that later Orestes
uses precisely the same expression to refer to the Erinyes, whom he sees
before him.*^ As is well known, Aeschylus will develop further in the
Eumenides the image of the Erinyes as hounds tracking their quarry." But
it is important to note that at this point in the trilogy {Cho. 924) that
development has not yet taken place. Furthermore, when the Erinyes are
actually seen on stage they do not have the appearance of hounds.^^ If
Aeschylus had himself been responsible for the identification of the Erinyes
with hounds, he could not have referred to them with no explanation as
hounds in Cho. and then produced them on stage as women in the following
play. Aeschylus and his audience were accustomed to the identification of
the Erinyes with hounds but, for reasons of propriety connected with the
conventions of the stage,^^ he and they had to be content with an
anthropomorphic chorus. How long before the time of Aeschylus this
identification existed we cannot be certain^'' but, if we are right in equating
the Minoan demon with the Erinyes, it goes back to the Bronze Age.
The most common association of the Erinys with an animal is with the
snake,^* and the iconography of the Bronze-Age demon enables us to
^^Cho. 1054 (iTiTpoc; eyKoxoi icovei;. With this phrase compare (iTitpo? 'Epiviiac; Homer
//. 21. 412 and Od. 11. 280, 'Epivu<; nuTpoi; Hesiod Th. All, 'Epivu? itaxpo; Aesch. Sept. 70
(cf. 723. 886-87; Soph. OC 1299. 1434; Hdt. 4. 149. 2). Cf. E. Rohde. Kl. Schr. U233-35.
"Cf. G. Thomson, The Oresteia o/Zle^cAy/iis^n (Amsterdam 1966) 195 (on Eum. 130-39)
and add d)T| (Eum. 94) which, to judge from Xen. Cyn. 6.19. is part of the vocabulary of hunting
with hounds.
"The priestess" description: Eum. 46-54.
^Compare Griffith on PV 588 (bovine lo).
It is perhaps significant that, according to Homer, the daughters of Pandareus are given to
the Erinyes to act as their servants {Od. 20. 78). For. according to later accounts, their
punishment is occasioned by their father's theft of Zeus' dog and takes the form of an affliction
called KiScov (see Roscher [supra n. 54]).
** Aesch. Cho. 1049-50. Eum. 128; Eur. /T 286-87, Or. 256; Jane Harrison. ///S 19 (1899)
213-25; E. Wust {supra n. 53) 124-25; E. Mitropoulou. Deities and Heroes in the Form of
Snakes (Athens 1975) 46-47. If K. Schefold {Cotter- und Heldensagen der Griechen in der
spdtarchaischen Kunst [Munich 1978J 261-62) is right to identify one of ihe metopes from the
Heraion on the Sele as Orestes and the Erinys. we have evidence of the Erinys in serpentine form
from the middle of the sixth century.
14 Illinois Classical Studies, XIII.l
understand how the Erinys can be at once canine and serpentine. The
association with snakes has been readily accepted by scholars primarily
because the Erinys has been felt to represent the spirit of the dead, which in
turn is often represented in serpentine form. But the Mycenaean evidence
shows that it is incorrect to regard the Erinys as the hypostatization of the
spirit of the dead: E-ri-nu was worshipped as agoddess in her own right
already in Mycenaean Crete. Also, if our identification of the demon is
correct, it is clear that the character of the Erinys as individual avenger is a
later development.^' In fact, we can now follow that development with
some confidence. The demon wears the snake-skin as an emblem of death
and renewal. She is (originally) asatellite of the great Cretan nature goddess
and it is her function to see to it that the processes of nature are carried out.
These processes include the termination of life as well as the continuation of
growth. And so the demon is portrayed as the hunter, serving notice to the
lion, the stag and the bull that the inexorable law of nature is to take effect.
She is depicted either as doing this by violent means or simply as carrying
off or leading the victim whose appointed time has come or, in one
instance, as binding the victim with arope.™ This last may remind us of
the desmios hymnos of Aeschylus' Erinyes and of the bonds that are so
frequently associated with those deities who are concerned with the workings
of fate."" But "fate" is perhaps too abstract aconcept to use in this
connection; better to speak here of "the inviolable order of nature," an
expression that Werner Jaeger uses''^ to characterize the Dike of Heraclitus,
whose ministers, the Erinyes, will find out if the Sun should overstep his
*Cf. also E. R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley 1951) 7-8; Dietrich {supra n.
58)"Demetei" \42 and Death 139.
Violence: nos. 27, 50 (?). Carrying: nos. 31-35, 38, 40, 41, 54. Leading: nos. 30, 42.
Binding; no. 29. (The similarity of nos. 29 and 30 [=Kenna (supra n. 24) nos. 306 and 307]
may indicate that the artist of no. 30 also intends to depict the bull as bound.) It is difficult to
tell whether the object over the shoulders of the demons on the fresco from Mycenae (no. 25) is
apole or a rope. In view of its helical striation and in view of the evidence of no. 29, perhaps
rope is more likely; cf. Crouwel (supra n. 1) 26. According to GUI, "It is interesting to note the
realistic distinction made between the domestic animal, cow or buU, that could be led to the
slaughter guided by astick or rope or controlled by its homs, and the wild animals slain or
wounded in capture that had therefore to be carried to the offering table" ([supra n. 1] 10). But
this distinction does not hold (cf. the lion being led in no. 42) and, in any case, there is no
question here of sacrifice. (There is, after all, no evidence of Minoan lion-sacrifice.) Rather the
action depicted testifies to the power that the demon is capable of exercising over the beasts.
The same power is wielded by the Potnia Iheron, whose satellites the demons are: Nilsson
(supra n. 12) 356-60. The Erinyes are themselves norviai: Aesch. Sept. 887, 987, Eum. 951;
Soph. OC 84; Eur. Or. 318.
^' Aesch. Eum. 306, 331-32; cf. D. L. 8. 31; R. B. Onians, The Origins of European
Thought^ (dmbridge 1954) 331-33, 36S, el passim.
The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers (Oxford 1947) 116; cf. 229, n. 31: "The
Erinyes avenge every violation of what we should call the natural laws of life." Jaeger apUy
compares Homer //. 19. 418, where the Erinyes prevent Achilles' horse from continuing to
David Sansone 15
measures (fr. 94 D-K =52 Marcovich). Thus the original function of the
Erinyes is to serve as the overseers and executors of the laws of nature in a
general sense.''^ As aspecific application of that function, they become the
deities who are responsible for avenging human crimes that are perceived to
be contrary to nature. In this capacity their composite nature is particularly
appropriate. Their character as hounds enables them to track down and
pursue their victim, while their serpentine nature associates them with the
chthonic world in two respects. The snake-skin, which they had originally
worn as asymbol of regeneration, becomes awreath of snaky locks,''* which
enhances the hideousness of their appearance and forecasts their victim's
imminent demise. And at the same time this aspect associates them with
the angry spirit of the dead, calling out for vengeance.''^
But, in addition to their connection with death, they have abeneficent
side as well. For their most characteristic pose on Minoan and Mycenaean
seals is holding abeaked ewer of peculiar shape. What the function and
contents of this ewer are is not clear, but scholars are generally agreed that it
has ritual associations.'^ Avessel of similar shape is found in aclearly
ritual context on the sarcophagus from Hagia Triada and the demons
themselves are sometimes portrayed as using it in away that suggests a
ritual character. On the lentoid from Vaphio, for example, apair of
antithetic demons hold these ewers over the "horns of consecration."'' And
on the gold ring from Tiryns four demons with ewers are standing before a
seated female, presumably adivinity. The nature of this ritual (or these
rituals) is revealed by the vegetation that springs up between the "horns of
consecration" on the seal and that stands behind each of the demons on the
ring.'^ Similar vegetation is elsewhere associated with this type of ewer
"E. Peterich (Die Theologie der Hellenen [Leipzig 1938] 224), whom Jaeger (previous note)
appears to be following, refers to Achilles' horse and to the Erinys who is sent in response to
the complaint of the vultures at Aesch. Ag. 59. But these vultures explicitly represent the
(human) Atreidae. Likewise in the fable that was (according to Martin West, CQ 29 [1979] 1-6;
cf. also CQ 30 [1980] 291-93, Hermes 109 [1981] 248-51) Aeschylus' inspiration, the animals
allegorically represent humans. Cf. rather the proverb eicrl Kai tcuvmv "Epivuei;, E. L. von
Leutsch and F. G. Schneidewin, Corpus Paroemiographorum Graecorum (Gottingen 1839-51) I
397 and n161.
''* First in Aeschylus, according to Pausanias (1. 28. 6). This had been afeature of the
Gorgons (to whom Aeschylus assimilates the Erinyes, Cho. 1048, Eum. 48-49) at least by the
seventh century: K. Schefold, Myth and Legend in Early Greek An (New York 1966) 34-35.
'^ E. Rohde, Psyche (London 1925) 179; Jane Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek
Religion (Cambridge 1908)214-15.
'^ Nilsson (supra n. 12) 147-52; GiU (supra n. 1) 6-7; C. R. Long, The Ayia Triadha
Sarcophagus (Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology 41 [Goteborg 1974]) 65-66; V. Sturmer,
"Schnabelkannen; Fine Studie zur darstellenden Kunst in der minoisch-mykenischen Kultur,"
BCWSuppl. 11 (1985) 119-34; A. Onassoglou, Die "Talismanischen" Siegel (CMS Suppl. 2
[Beriin 1985]) 12-22.
"No. 23; cf. no. 52 (=CMS V.l no. 201) which, however, may be aforgery.
No. 26; cf. nos. 8, 10. 12 (?). 14, 17 (?). 19. 24. 35, 47, 54. 62, 63.
16 Illinois Classical Studies, XIII. 1
even when not held by the demons."" Obviously the ewer has aconnection
with aritual that is concerned with the growth of vegetation and, since the
ewer is so common an attribute of the demons, they are themselves to be
seen as divinities that ensure the fecundity of the earth. That the Erinyes
too are fertility spirits is clear from their chthonic character, from the
identification of Demeter and Erinys at Arcadian Thelpusa and from the
blessings on the land that Aeschylus' Erinyes confer at the end of the
Eumenides}° It is this dual nature of the Erinyes, concerned alike with
destruction and with propagation, that makes their identification with the
Bronze-Age demon especially attractive.*^
If the Erinyes are not the demons, we are presented with apeculiar and
complex situation which we will have difficulty accounting for. We know
that the Greeks of the Mycenaean Age worshipped adivinity called E-ri-nu
and that they made images of adivinity with the following characteristics:
capable of being conceived of as aplurality; apparently female; responsible
for bringing death as well as for promoting fertility; portrayed as ahunter;
having characteristics of dogs and snakes. We know that the Greeks of the
fifth century recognized divinities called Erinyes, who could be referred to in
the singular, were female, were regarded as bringers of destruction and as
promoters of fertility and could be portrayed by contemporary poets as
hounds, as hunters and as serpents. We can account for this situation either
by assuming adegree of continuity between the Bronze Age and the
Classical Periodlet us not forget that Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hermes and
Athena were worshipped in Mycenaean Crete and by the emperor Julian
"Evans, Palace of Minos {supra n. 14) IV 446-50; NUsson (supra n. 12) 262-64; Kenna
{supra n. 24) 68-69; S. Hood, The Arts in Prehistoric Greece (Hamondsworth 1978) 220;
Stunner {supra n. 76) 128-31.
Aesch. Eum. 938-48. When the chorus say 8ev8pcmTin<av 8e \a\ tiveoi pX.dPa, /xav
Ejidv xdpiv Xeyco (938-39), ihey are alluding to the name 'ApXaPiai, under which name the
Erinyes were worshipped at Eryihrae in Ionia; RE VI.l (1907) 588; Rohde, KLSchr. H243; 0.
Gruppe, Griechische Mylhologie und Religionsgeschichte 11 (Munich 1906) 763.
"The dual nature cannot have been purely the invention of Aeschylus. It is difficult to
imagine how the Athenian audience was duped into conferring first prize in the tragic
competition on apoet who, utterly without precedent, included as the climax of his trilogy a
bizarre and unpalatable identification between two sets of deities that were felt to have absolutely
nothing in common. Either Aeschylus was not the first to identify the Erinyes with the Semnai
Theai {not the Eumenides, as A. L. Brown has now convincingly shown: CQ 34 [1984] 260-
81), or the two groups of divinities have agreat deal more in common than we are usually led to
believe. There is, in fact, no evidence for the identification before Aeschylus, so it is reasonable
to believe that the Erinyes were enough like the Semnai Theai that the mature dramatist did not
feel that he was risking ridicule and defeat by asking his audience to believe that they were one
and the same. Why, then, do we assume that the Erinyes were loathsome and malignant whUe
the Semnai Theai were benevolent and gentle? Surely the reason is that our conception is
determined to a great extent by our knowledge of Aeschylus' drama, and Aeschylus has himself
engaged in considerable exaggeration (see especially F. Solmsen, Hesiod and Aeschylus [Ithaca
1949] 178-91) in order to lend dramatic force to atransformation that was, if not familiar, at
least not surprising.
David Sansone 17
1,700 years lateror we can posit aremarkable series of coincidences,
whereby the attributes and associations of adefunct Mycenaean divinity later
individually and by separate routes clustered about another divinity whose
name (but not attributes) had happened to survive from the Bronze Age.
The University ofIllinois at Urbana-Champaign
This article offers a new, ironic reading of the false narrative of Orestes’ chariot accident in Sophocles’ Electra (680–763). It argues that the speech exploits an established connection between the ancestral evils of the Atreids and the thematic nexus of horses, chariot racing and disaster to evoke Orestes’ flight from the Erinyes following the matricide. Focusing on the language and structure of the narrative as well as drawing on other versions of the story (notably the surviving plays by Aeschylus and Euripides), the article demonstrates, in contrast to previous readings, that the speech is much more than an over-elaborate means to an end. Instead, in an ominous and profoundly ironic twist, the Paedagogus’ fictional narrative of the chariot race offers a possible vision of the trials awaiting the real Orestes. The matricide and murder, far from ending the ancestral woes of the Atreids, may well bring about Orestes’ pursuit by the Erinyes.
Similarly our demons are sometimes shown as an undifferentiated collectivity and sometimes as a single divinity
  • E Of The Erinyes See Jane Harrison
  • Wust
of the Erinyes see Jane Harrison, JHS 19 [1899] 207-08; E. Wust, RE Suppl. VHI [1956] 122-23). Similarly our demons are sometimes shown as an undifferentiated collectivity and sometimes as a single divinity.
  • Wuamowitz
WUamowitz, a:/. Schr. VI 224 and Griechische Tragoedien^ H (Berlin 1907) 225-31; E. Heden, Homerische Gottersludien (Uppsala 1912) 135-38; L. Malten, JDAl 29 (1914) 200-02; A. H.
Eum. 48-49) at least by the seventh century: K. Schefold, Myth and Legend in Early Greek An
  • Gorgons
Gorgons (to whom Aeschylus assimilates the Erinyes, Cho. 1048, Eum. 48-49) at least by the seventh century: K. Schefold, Myth and Legend in Early Greek An (New York 1966) 34-35. '^E. Rohde, Psyche (London 1925) 179;
12) 147-52; GiU (supra n. 1) 6-7; C. R. Long, The Ayia Triadha Sarcophagus (Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology 41
  • Nilsson
'^ Nilsson (supra n. 12) 147-52; GiU (supra n. 1) 6-7; C. R. Long, The Ayia Triadha Sarcophagus (Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology 41 [Goteborg 1974]) 65-66; V. Sturmer, "Schnabelkannen; Fine Studie zur darstellenden Kunst in der minoisch-mykenischen Kultur,"
119-34; A. Onassoglou, Die "Talismanischen" Siegel (CMS
BCWSuppl. 11 (1985) 119-34; A. Onassoglou, Die "Talismanischen" Siegel (CMS Suppl. 2
whom Jaeger (previous note) appears to be following, refers to Achilles' horse and to the Erinys who is sent in response to the complaint of the vultures at Aesch. Ag. 59. But these vultures explicitly represent the (human) Atreidae
  • E Peterich
E. Peterich (Die Theologie der Hellenen [Leipzig 1938] 224), whom Jaeger (previous note) appears to be following, refers to Achilles' horse and to the Erinys who is sent in response to the complaint of the vultures at Aesch. Ag. 59. But these vultures explicitly represent the (human) Atreidae. Likewise in the fable that was (according to Martin West, CQ 29 [1979] 1-6;
248-51) Aeschylus' inspiration, the animals allegorically represent humans. Cf. rather the proverb eicrl Kai tcuvmv "Epivuei
  • E L Leutsch
  • F G Schneidewin
cf. also CQ 30 [1980] 291-93, Hermes 109 [1981] 248-51) Aeschylus' inspiration, the animals allegorically represent humans. Cf. rather the proverb eicrl Kai tcuvmv "Epivuei;, E. L. von Leutsch and F. G. Schneidewin, Corpus Paroemiographorum Graecorum (Gottingen 1839-51) I 397 and n 161. ''* First in Aeschylus, according to Pausanias (1. 28. 6). This had been a feature of the
The Ayia Triadha Sarcophagus (Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology 41
  • C R Long
C. R. Long, The Ayia Triadha Sarcophagus (Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology 41 [Goteborg 1974]) 65-66;