MCL 550 – Study Away in Greece, Winter Intersession 2014-15– “Heroes and Heritage of Ancient Greece”
Three sites of great importance for history of democracy and western tradition will be featured in this visit to Greece: at Athens (of course) we tour the Acropolis and other sites; from Athens to Aigina, we study the temple of Aphaia (the ‘Unseen’, a protector of the wild, like Artemis); and at Mycenae, we discover the center of Bronze-Age culture—from the age of the Trojan Wars.
2) The Acropolis at Athens: [brief intro: religion and group solidarity]
2) Temple of Aphaia at Aigina:
‘Aphaia’ and Aigina in Myth: the goddess at focus of this site is indeed mysterious, true to her name. According to the most credible witness, the late travel writer Pausanias, she was the local version of a character found all over the Greek world: a young woman (or semi-divine nymph) devoted to Artemis (with her cult of chastity, turning aside from the usual path of young women toward marriage and childbearing) who is raped or pursued by lustful god or hero, and so she takes refuge in a remote and magical place. Similar stories, along these lines were told of both ‘Aigina’ the goddess who supposedly gave her name to the island (or who was invented to explain the name) and of Aphaia.
For Aigina, see the useful summary on theoi.com. In brief: Aigina was the daughter of a river god, Asopos; she was pursued by Zeus and took refuge on the island that bears her name (meaning something like ‘goatland’ or ‘goat girl’), previously called Oinone (‘wineland’). There she gave birth to hero Aiakos, who fathered Telamon the father of Ajax and Peleus the father of Achilles—so this lineage leads to famous figures in the Trojan wars that are prominently represented on the temple sculptures.
Now the traditions vary, but a key term in this mythology is ‘Myrmidons’, ‘ant men’: either because the island was initially uninhabited or (perhaps originally) because plague or disaster killed off the population. So, to restore the manpower of Aiakos and his clan, Zeus had the land itself give birth to a new race of tough little men, transformed from the ants that tunneled in the earth.
Pausanias identifies Aphaia with the better-known (but still sketchy) figure of Britomartis, a daughter of Zeus who was loved and pursued by Minos (son of Zeus and lord of the Cretan empire). She fled and took refuge (as Aphaia) on the mountain on the northside of Aigina.
How might theses stories reflect an ancient struggle with sustainability?
[cf. Walter Burkert’s theory about the paleolithic origin of such stories]
Preview of the architectural remains …. And sculptures of the AphaiaTemple