Canonizing the Pantheon: The Dodekatheon in Greek Religion and its Origins

Jan N. Bremmer and Andrew Erskine

in The Gods of Ancient Greece

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780748637980
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670758 | DOI:
Canonizing the Pantheon: The Dodekatheon in Greek Religion and its Origins

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The notion of ‚Twelve Gods’ in Greek religion can be traced back no further than the late 6th century BC. It should probably be seen not as a fixed set of twelve (in fact our evidence suggests the identity of the twelve varied from place to place), but rather as a common symbol for the pantheon. Scholars have in the past attempted to derive the Greek Twelve from month-deities in Egypt, or, more frequently, from groups of twelve deities found in Anatolia, especially Lycia. This chapter argues that it makes more sense to see the Twelve as a key symbol of Greek identity, associated with the polis (often located in the agora) and with the frontiers of the Greek world (e.g. the cult of the Twelve at Chalkedon on the border between Europe and Asia). Both associations, paradoxically, are seen most clearly in a text from Xanthos in Lycia commemorating an altar to the Twelve set up by the local Dynast Kheriga in the late 5th century BC.

Keywords: Pantheon; Dodekatheon; Lycia; Kheriga; Twelve Gods; Xanthos; Greek identity

Chapter.  5577 words. 

Subjects: Religion in the Ancient World

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