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epithets, divine


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Greek

It is necessary to distinguish between epithets or surnames appearing only as literary (esp. epic) ornaments and those known to have been used in cult. Thus we have no proof that Athena was ever addressed in ritual as ‘grey‐eyed’; it is her stock epithet in Homer, Zeus' pet‐name for her. It seems unlikely that Ares was prayed to as ‘ruinous to mortals’; he is so addressed by Athena, which is a very different thing, and it is his stock epithet. But there are many borderline cases, hard to decide. We have no instance of Athena being called Pallas in cult, yet it is hard to suppose that so familiar a name was never used for her by worshippers; Zeus' stock epithet, ‘cloud‐gatherer’, appears in the vocative in epic in many places where it is syntactically a nominative, strongly suggesting that its form had become fixed by some ancient liturgical phrase, which, however, is lost to us. The immediate function of the epithet in epic is often to form with the proper name a convenient metrical unit. Now and then an epithet is used to avoid mentioning an ill‐omened name; Hades in Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus is Zeus chthonios (‘of the earth’), and in Aeschylus Suppliants he is even Zeus allos (‘other’, ‘another’).

The epithets which are known to have been used in cult may be grouped as follows. (1) Purely local, meaning that the deity in question is worshipped, or has a temple or altar, at such‐and‐such a place. Thus Apollo Delios is simply Apollo who is worshipped in Delos, and differs from the Pythian (see delphi), or any other similarly named Apollo, just as Our Lady of Lourdes does from Our Lady of Loreto. Such titles may tell us something of the history of the cult, if the title does not fit the immediate locality. (2) Titles indicating association with another god. (3) Most of the epithets, refer to the functions of the god or goddess. Thus, Zeus has many titles denoting his control of the weather and all that depends on it; he is Thunderer, God of the thunderbolt, Sender of rainstorms, Rainer, and as a natural consequence, Farmer; also God of favourable winds, and so forth. Aphrodite has epithets denoting her power over the sexual life of mankind, as ‘Delayer of old age’; her connection with love whether licit or illicit, e.g. ‘Goddess of the whole people’, in her Athenian worship as a deity of marriage; and on the other hand Hetaira (see hetairai) and even Pornē (see prostitution, secular). These last belong to subclass in which the characteristics of the worshipper are transferred to the deity; both signify the goddess who is worshipped by harlots.

(1) Purely local, meaning that the deity in question is worshipped, or has a temple or altar, at such‐and‐such a place. Thus Apollo Delios is simply Apollo who is worshipped in Delos, and differs from the Pythian (see delphi), or any other similarly named Apollo, just as Our Lady of Lourdes does from Our Lady of Loreto. Such titles may tell us something of the history of the cult, if the title does not fit the immediate locality. (2) Titles indicating association with another god. (3) Most of the epithets, refer to the functions of the god or goddess.

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Subjects: Classical Studies.


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