Emily Kearns

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics

Published online December 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780199381135 | DOI:

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A mythical king of Athens. In most accounts (Marm. Par. A1 is an exception) he was not the first king, being son-in-law and successor to Actaeus, but Athenians clearly regarded him as their archetypal ancestral figure. No parents are recorded for him, and probably he was thought of as autochthonous (see autochthons). He was described as διφυής, ‘double-natured’, with reference to his form as half-man, half-snake—the normal style of his depiction on red-figure vases, where he is a popular figure in many Athenian scenes. Cecrops was the father of *Aglaurus, *Pandrosus, and Herse, and of one son Erysichthon, who died young. His deeds mark him out as a civilizing figure, the one who established monogamous marriage, writing, funeral rites (schol. Ar.Plut. 773, Tac.Ann. 11. 14. 2; Cic.Leg. 2. 63), and other customs which though diverse were perceived as important to contemporary, ‘normal’, society. The foundation of many religious cults was also ascribed to him. The historical tradition recognized a second King Cecrops, son of *Erechtheus; probably it was this Cecrops who was worshipped at *Haliartus in Boeotia, and he may also have come to be identified as the tribal eponym (see eponymoi).

Article.  252 words. 

Subjects: Religion in the Ancient World

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