383 pages


Many of the beings in this book – Cheiron, Pan, Acheloos, the Sirens and others – will be familiar from the narratives of Greek mythology, in which fabulous anatomies abound. However, they have never previously been studied together from a religious perspective, as recipients of cult and as members of the ancient pantheon. This book is the first major treatment of the use of part-animal – mixanthropic – form in the representation and visual imagination of Greek gods and goddesses, and of its significance with regard to divine character and function. What did it mean to depict deities in a form so strongly associated in the ancient imagination with monstrous adversaries? How did iconography, myth and ritual interact in particular sites of worship? Drawing together literary and visual material, this study establishes the themes dominant in the worship of divine mixanthropes, and argues that, so far from being insignificant curiosities, they make possible a greater understanding of the fabric of ancient religious practice, in particular the tense and challenging relationship between divinity and visual representation.



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Mixanthrôpoi Animal-human hybrid deities in Greek religion
Emma Aston
DOI: 10.4000/books.pulg.1613 Publisher: Presses universitaires de Liège Year of publication: 2011 Published on OpenEdition Books: 25 October 2017 Serie: Kernos suppléments Electronic ISBN: 9782821895638
Printed version Date of publication: 1 January 2011 ISBN: 9782960071788 Number of pages: 383
Electronic reference ASTON, Emma.Mixanthrôpoi: Animal-human hybrid deities in Greek religion.New edition [online]. Liége: Presses universitaires de Liège, 2011 (generated 02 November 2017). Available on the Internet: . ISBN: 9782821895638. DOI: 10.4000/books.pulg.1613.
This text was automatically generated on 2 November 2017.
© Presses universitaires de Liège, 2011 Terms of use: http://www.openedition.org/6540
Mloos, the Sirens and others – will beany of the being s in this book – Cheiron, Pan, Ache fam iliar from the narratives of Greek m ytholog y, in which fabulous anatom ies abound. However, they have never previously been studied tog ether from a relig ious perspective, as recipients of cult and as m em bers of the ancient pa ntheon. This book is the first m ajor treatm ent of the use of part-anim al – m ixanthropic – form in the representation and visual im ag ination of Greek g ods and g oddesses, and of its sig nificance with reg ard to divine character and function. What did it m ean to depict deities in a form so strong ly associated in the ancient im ag ination with m onstrous adversari es? How did iconog raphy, m yth and ritual interact in particular sites of worship? Drawing tog ether literary and visual m aterial, this study establishes the them es dom inant in the w orship of divine m ixanthropes, and arg ues that, so far from being insig nificant curios ities, they m ake possible a g reater understanding of the fabric of ancient relig ious pr actice, in particular the tense and challeng ing relationship between divinity and visual representation.
Introduction 1. Beyond the ‘Animal g od’ 2. Terminolog y, categ orization and unity 3. Greeks and the non-human animal 4. Mixanthropy across ancient cultures: Eg ypt and the Near East 5. Mixanthropy in Greek culture 6. Explicit comment on mixanthropic deities 7. Aims and structure of the book 8. A brief note on ancient sources used
Section One : Cults and composition of mixanthropic deities
Chapter I Deities of the sea and rivers 1. Marine mixanthropes: Proteus, Thetis, Eurynome, the Sirens and Glaukos 2. Acheloos and other river g ods
Chapter II Terrestrial mixanthropes 1. Horse mixanthropes: Cheiron and Demeter Melaina 2. From Arkadia to Attica: Pan 3. Mixanthropy at the heart of Athens: Kekrops 4. Dionysos: a g od on the borders
Chapter III Winged and horned gods
Section One: Conclusion 1. Cult 2. Composition
Section Two : Movement, absence and loss
Chapter IV Expulsion, withdrawal and absence in the myths and cults of mixanthropic deities
1. The deity within the landscape 2. The imag e within the cult: Pausanias and lost statues 3. The scourg ing of Pan: the mixanthropic deity and thepharmakos 4. Expulsion and burial Expulsion, withdrawal and absence: conclusion
Chapter V Mixanthropic deities in time and place Introduction 1. A g rowing scarcity? 2. Time 3. Place Time and place: conclusion
Chapter VI The fallacy of Arcadia Introduction 1. Mixanthropic imag ery in Arkadian cult 2. Arkadia: a place of uncontaminated survivals? The fallacy of Arkadia: conclusion
Section Three : Mixanthropy and representation
Chapter VII Mixanthropy and metamorphosis 1. Representing the unrepresentable 2. The rôle of metamorphosis in the mytholog y of mixanthropic deities Conclusion
Chapter VIII Mixanthropy and masks – the iconography of Acheloos Introduction 1. Masks, costumes and transformation 2. The mask as inanimate object 3. Acheloos as ‘not all there’ Mixanthropy and masks: conclusion
Chapter IX Mixanthropy and plurality
Introduction 1. The Lykosoura veil ag ain 2. The Dionysiac thiasos and the Mistress of Animals 3. Pan, or Panes? Conclusion
Chapter X Gods, monsters and imagery Introduction 1. Depicting the divine 2. Gods, monsters, manufacture Gods, monsters and imag es: conclusion
Conclusion 1. Monstrous g ods? 2. Why have mixanthropic deities?
Table of figures
Index of ancient authors
General Index
This book beg an as a doctoral thesis, written at th e University of Exeter between 2003 and 2007. When I started to work upon the topic of anim al-hybrid g ods, I was attracted by their peculiarity and their apparent rarity; like Jane Harrison, I relished the strang e and the (as I then saw it) m arg inal. Gradually, however, as m y re search prog ressed, it becam e apparent that this m ig ht be a m istaken perception. Divine m i xanthropes cam e to seem m ore and m ore pervasive in ancient literature and cult. I beg an to realise that, so far from occupying an obscure corner of the ancient relig ious experien ce, they crop up both frequently and sig nificantly across the Greek world; also, that th ey raise im plications far wider than the m inutiae of their worship. This book is an attem pt to g ive them the attention they deserve. My interest in divine m ixanthropes was not depleted by the realisation that they are m ore than isolated oddities; rather the reverse. However , writing the book would not have been possible but for the help and advice of a num ber of people, whose contributions it is a pleasure to acknowledg e. Warm est thanks g o to m y Ph .D. supervisor Daniel Og den for all his help and support, not only during m y doctoral w ork but since then as well. The com m ents of m y Ph.D. exam iners Robert Parker and Ti m Whitm arsh were invaluable in setting the piece on the road to eventual publicati on. Generous assistance with the preparation of im ag es was provided by Tony Garrett, and by m y colleag ue Am y Sm ith who also contributed photog raphs of som e of the objects in Reading University’s Ure Museum of Classical Archaeolog y (a repository of first-rate m ixanthropes and m uch else besides). The process of publication has been considerably sm oothed by the professional efficiency of m y editor Vinciane Pirenne-Delforg e. Special thanks g o to m y parents: to m y father for clear-headed com m ents on a succession of drafts over the years; to m y m other for her work on the illustrations; to both for all their unflag g ing support.
1. Beyond the ‘Animal god’
The Greeks did not have anim al g ods, and there is n o real proof that they ever did. Fully theriom orphic deities are rare to the point alm ost of non-existence. But a sig nificant num ber of Greek deities were im ag ined and depicted as partly anim al in form – as anatom ical com binations of hum an and non-hum an. The se deities, and this m ode of representation, are the subject of this book, which turns the spotlig ht on a g roup of being s who, despite being quietly pervasive in the relig io n, m yths and representation of antiquity, have not previously been g iven scholarly attention in their own rig ht. The concept of the ‘anim al g od’ (g od as anim al, ani m al as g od) has long since becom e a scholarly cul-de-sac, an interesting ing redient in late-nineteenth and earlier-twentieth-century historiog raphy, in which such fig ures as Cook and Harrison1and a host of other, lesser exponents2posited theriom orphism as a dom inant feature of the earliest relig ious system s, and constructed theories around ideas such as totem ism .3Despite finding a few surprising ly late adherents,4approach cannotanim al g od  the per sebe taken further, relying as it does on an unacceptable level of retr ospective conjecture and certain basic teleolog ical fallacies. And yet the iconog raphic co nnection between g ods and anim als is a fruitful field, and g ods whose representation com bi nes anim al and anthropom orph in hybrid anatom y provide a new and under-exploited wa y in which the topic m ay be encourag ed to prog ress. It is hoped that the curren t study g oes som e way towards offering such encourag em ent and displaying its value. The study of hybrids in art and in m yth has not lan g uished as anim al g ods have; early interest5ing ly by a continuous and – of late – increas exciting attentionm atched  is resulting in som e very valuable publications.6ods, specifically as And yet hybrids as g recipients of worship, have not found a secure and extensive place in this field, despite their substantial and im portant im plications. It is tim e to close the g ap between m yth, art and cult, to exam ine hybridism specifically as a form of cultic iconog raphy, and to reflect on the position of deities so represented within the dizzy ing rang e of ancient Greek relig ious experience. The extent and the nature of the converg ence betwee n these three interlocking elem ents, m yth, art and cult, differs from deity to deity. So m e of the fig ures exam ined in this study, such as Pan and Cheiron and the Sirens, are fam ous beyond the study of ancient relig ion because of their prom inence in m yth and art; none t he less, their worship, their rôle as cult-receiving deities, is a side of them which urg ently lacks detailed study. Others, such as Dem eter Melaina, are not widely known, but certainly deserve to be, because they represent sig nificant local variations of divine personalities we reg ard as canonical. This book’s m ost im portant task, however, is to place all these deities tog ether, to look at them tog ether, to
assess their interrelation and the patterns which l inks them . That said, this very act of com bination is not without its difficulties, and requires careful definition.
2. Terminology, categorization and unity
The Greeks did not have a sing le noun in widespread use to denote a being of m ixed anim al and hum an anatom ical form . This fact is certainly s ig nificant. It is also surprising , as anim al-hum an hybrids throng Greek m yth and folktale . Often, of course, anim al-hum an com posites are described using one of the several c om m on Greek words for ‘m onster’, ‘prodig y’ or ‘unnatural being ’, the m ost com m on bei ngt e r a sa n dpelôr/pelôron; the sig nificance of this will be exam ined below, but it rem ains the case that none of the ‘m onster words’ is precise enoug h for the purposes of this study. Adjectives indicating ‘half hum an, half anim al’ are to be found in ancient texts in relation to these being s:diphuês‘of dual nature or form m eaning ’;is the m m on, ost com 7 others a r ehêmibrotosan’)(‘half m 8 andmixothêr/mixothêrosbeast’, that is, ‘beast(‘part/m ixed m ixed with m an’).9For an often-used noun, however, one looks in vain. This book, then, for its own practical purposes ada pts a rather rare Greek word which, unlike the adjectives above, lends itself well to conversion.Mixanthrôpos, which can function as either adjective or substantive,occurs in the work of two authors, Libanius and Them istius, who, interesting ly, are close to each o ther both in place in tim e: both are thoug ht to have been working in Constantinople around the m iddle of the fourth century AD. Libanius uses the word in the context of praise of Constantine; speaking of the latter’s upbring ing , he tells us that it was not wild like t hat of Achilleschez the centaur Cheiron: μήτοινομίσῃτιςἀκούσεσθαιΠηλίουκορυφὰςκαὶκενταύρουσῶμαδιφυὲςκαὶ τροφέαμιξάνθρωπον.’10 In Them istius’ narrative, the subject is once m ore centaur-related, thoug h in this case another fam ous story i s chosen, the assault on Kaineus by the centaurs, who are described as ‘μιξάνθρωποιμιξόθηροι’,11 an interesting use of two alternative expressions for the sam e concept, one approaching it from the hum an end, so to speak, the other from the anim al. Them istius and Libanius are a world away, in tim e a nd space, from the m aterial on which this book focuses, and their term is not chosen because it has any intrinsic connection with that m aterial. It has, however, other points to recom m end it. First it is relatively specific, carrying within itself the sense of a com bination o f hum an and non-hum an parts; in antiquity this is its only sense. Second, it is ver y easy to render into convincing Eng lish form s (this is its m ain advantag e overmixothêr), and for the purposes of this work it provides both a pair of nouns and an adjective, on the extrem ely useful m odel of ‘m isanthrope’, ‘m isanthropy’ and ‘m isanthropic’, wh ich they closely resem ble: ‘m ixanthrope’, ‘m ixanthropy’ and ‘m ixanthropic’. To clarify, then: ‘m ixanthrope’ is used to denote a com posite form containing both hum an and n on-hum an parts; ‘m ixanthropy’ the phenom enon of such form s, their use and representation; and ‘m ixanthropic’, consisting of or pertaining to such form s.12 Coining these words is actually necessary because o f a lack in Eng lish, not in Greek. The Greeks did at least have a rather confused assortm ent of term s denoting the anim al-hum an com bination; we have none that really works with th e precision needed in this study. Most