Kekrops and His Daughters (page 237 with art)

Chapter 7: The Royal House of Athens

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London, British Museum E372: Attic red-figure pelike by Erichthonios Painter, with Erichthonios in the chest


British Museum

Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Basel, Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig BS 404: Attic red-figure lekythos by Phiale Painter, with Athena and Kekropid

Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Astr 2.13.1-2 – Hyginus, De Astronomia

CHARIOTEER: In Latin we call him “auriga” – Erichthonius by name, as Eratosthenes shows. Jupiter seeing that he first among men yoked horses in four-horse chariots, admired the genius of a man who could rival the invention of Sol, who first among the gods made use of the quadriga. Erichthonius first invented the four-horse chariot, as we said before, and also first established sacrifices to Minerva, and a temple on the citadel of the Athenians. Euripides gives the following account of his birth. Vulcan, inflamed by Minerva’s beauty, begged her to marry him, but was refused. She hid herself in the place called Hephaestius, on account of the love of Vulcan. They say that Vulcan, following her there, tired to force her, and when, full of passion he tried to embrace her, he was repulsed, and some of his seed fell to the ground. Minerva overcome by shame, with her foot spread dust over it. From this the snake Erichthonius was born, who derives his name from the earth and their struggle. Minerva is said to have hidden him, like a cult-object, in a chest. She brought the chest to the daughters of Erechtheus and gave it to them to guard, forbidding them to open it. But man is by nature so curious, that the oftener he is forbidden to do something, the more he desired to do it. So the girls opened the chest and saw the snake. As a result they were driven mad by Minerva, and threw themselves from the Acropolis. But the snake fled to the shield of Minerva, and was reared by her. Others have said that Erichthonius merely had snake-legs, and in his youth established the Panathenaic Games for Minerva, himself competing in the four-horse chariot race. In return for these deeds he was placed among the constellations (Latin Text).

Fab 166 – Hyginus, Fabulae

When Vulcan had made [golden sandals] for Jove and for the other gods, he made one of adamant [for Juno?], and as soon as she sat down she suddenly found herself hanging in the air. When Vulcan was summoned to free his mother whom he had bound, in anger because he had been thrown from Heaven, he denied that he had a mother. When Father Liber had brought him back drunk to the council of the gods, he could not refuse (this) filial duty. Then he obtained freedom of choice from Jove, to gain whatever he sought from them. Therefore Neptune, because he was hostile to Minerva, urged Vulcan to ask for Minerva in marriage. This was granted, but Minerva, when he entered her chamber, defended her virginity with arms. As they struggled, some of his seed fell to earth, and from it a boy was born, the lower part of whose body was snake-formed. They named him Erichthonius, because eris in Greek means “strife”, and khthon means “earth”. When Minerva was secretly caring for him, she gave him in a chest to Aglaurus, Pandrosus, and Herse, daughters of Cecrops, to guard. A crow gave the secrete away when the girls opened the chest, and they, driven made by Minerva, threw themselves into the sea. Latin Text

Euripides, Ion 273-74

Ion: I heard that the maidens loosened the jar of the goddess.

Kreousa: Having died for this reason, they bloodied the promontory of the rock. (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey).  (Greek Text)

Euripides, Ion 496:

the three daughters of Aglauros... (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey).  (Greek Text)

San Antonio Museum of Art 86.134.63 (once Denman Collection): Attic red-figure column krater by Orchard Painter with Athena and Kekropides


Gift of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr.; image courtesy San Antonio Museum of Art

Beazley Archive Pottery Database (no image)

H. A. Shapiro, Art, Myth, and Culture: Greek Vases from Southern Collections (1981), no. 4 (without image)

Perseus Art & Archaeology Artifact Browser (no image)

Amelesagoras FGrH 330F1 – Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, 3 pt. 2 B, pp. 163-64, ed. F. Jacoby, 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Greek Text

Euphorion fr 9 Pow – Collectanea Alexandrina, ed. J. U. Powell. Oxford 1925.

…behind…might be carried…she fell [lamp]…Herse according to Glaukopios. She released the sacred box for the sake of mistress Athena (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey).

Met 2.552-61 – Ovid, Metamorphoses

For at the same time, Pallas had sealed Erechthonius (a child created without a mother) into a basket made of Actaean twigs and had given a stipulation to the three maidens, daughters of twin-born Cecrops, lest they saw their own secrets. Hidden by a light branch, from a great elm I watched what they were doing. Two, Pandrosos and Herse, look upon the entrusted object without offence. Aglauros calls her sisters timid and draws the knots apart with her hand, and inside they see an infant and stretched-out snake. (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey).  (Latin Text)

ApB 3.14.6 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

Cranaus was expelled by Amphictyon, who reigned in his stead; some say that Amphictyon was a son of Deucalion, others that he was a son of the soil; and when he had reigned twelve years he was expelled by Erichthonius. Some say that this Erichthonius was a son of Hephaestus and Atthis, daughter of Cranaus, and some that he was a son of Hephaestus and Athena, as follows: Athena came to Hephaestus, desirous of fashioning arms. But he, being forsaken by Aphrodite, fell in love with Athena, and began to pursue her; but she fled. When he got near her with much ado ( for he was lame), he attempted to embrace her; but she, being a chaste virgin, would not submit to him, and he dropped his seed on the leg of the goddess. In disgust, she wiped off the seed with wool and threw it on the ground; and as she fled and the seed fell on the ground, Erichthonius was produced. Him Athena brought up unknown to the other gods, wishing to make him immortal; and having put him in a chest, she committed it to Pandrosus, daughter of Cecrops, forbidding her to open the chest. But the sisters of Pandrosus opened it out of curiosity, and beheld a serpent coiled about the babe; and, as some say, they were destroyed by the serpent, but according to others they were driven mad by reason of the anger of Athena and threw themselves down from the acropolis. Having been brought up by Athena herself in the precinct, Erichthonius expelled Amphictyon and became king of Athens; and he set up the wooden image of Athena in the acropolis, and instituted the festival of the Panathenaea, and married Praxithea, a Naiad nymph, by whom he had a son Pandion.  Greek Text

Paus 1.18.2 – Pausanias, Description of Greece

Above the sanctuary of the Dioscuri is a sacred enclosure of Aglaurus. It was to Aglaurus and her sisters, Herse and Pandrosus, that they say Athena gave Erichthonius, whom she had hidden in a chest, forbidding them to pry curiously into what was entrusted to their charge. Pandrosus, they say, obeyed, but the other two (for they opened the chest) went mad when they saw Erichthonius, and threw themselves down the steepest part of the Acropolis. Here it was that the Persians climbed and killed the Athenians who thought that they understood the oracle better than did Themistocles, and fortified the Acropolis with logs and stakes.  Greek Text

Euripides, Ion 271-73

Ion: [Athena] gives [him] just as it is known in the painting…

Kreousa: Unseen for the daughters of Kekrops to save.

Ion: I heard that the maidens opened the goddess’ urn (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey).   Greek Text

Euripides, Io21-24

For after Zeus’ daughter set two snakes beside [Erechthonios] as watchful guards of his body, she gives [him] to the maiden daughters of Aglauros to save. (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey).  Greek Text

Kallimachos fr 260 Pf – Callimachus, ed. R. Pfeiffer 1, pp. 247-53. Oxford 1949.

…he was fastening the other and he placed it upon his weapon…as they saw it, everyone shrank back together and from fear stood opposite the great man and mighty beast until the time Theseus cried out loudly to them from afar. “Stand fast and have courage! To my father Aigeus let someone go to the city, he who is the swiftest messenger in order to sayin order to cheer his many anxieties. His Theseus is not far off, leading a living bull from well-watered Marathon.” So he spoke, and all those who heard him shouted a joyful paean, and they stood fast. The South Wind poured down no such shedding of leaves nor did the North Wind himself when the leaf-shedding month arrived compared to so many rustic people as fell in around Theseus. The men circled beside him, and the women…[were crowning him with girdles]…”and when…against whom each of the Children of Ouranos might send someone with my feather, but Pallas…him…outside the city…the old blood of Hephaistos…unspeakable secret, therefore I neither knew him nor learned of him by race, but his fame…among the Ogygian birds, how the earth truly bore him to Hephaistos. Then, so that she might throw up the earth’s defense, which he recently took by the vote of Zeus and the twelve other immortals and by the witness of the snake, [Athena] arrived at Achaean Pellene. Meanwhile, the female guards contrived to accomplish a wicked deed…of the basket…to loosen up chains…of Athena…the crowns alone…to the gods…for I, the queen, never your spirit…never so many ill-omened things did the light…birds, then I bound…thus she spurned ours nor the race…but may the deep anger of Athena never fall from your spirit. But I was a small child. For I am already eight generations old, and it’s the tenth of my parents…and coarse grounds when the potion fell to the ground…bringing bad tidings. Would that you were still alive at that time so that you could know this: how the Thrians excite the old crow…for…all days by my shriveled wrinkles, by this tree, although dry…after breaking the axles…all have a foot outside. But it shall be either evening or night or midday or dawn when a raven, who even now would rival with swans and milk and the pure water of the wave with respect to its body, shall wear a destructive feather, dark as pitch, the rewards of its message, things which Phoibos shall grant to it when he learns some terrible thing about Koronis, Phlegyas’ daughter, as she follows horse-driving Iskhys.” While [the raven] spoke thus, sleep took her and her listener. They slept, but not for long for soon came frosty dawn, a time when the hands of thieves no longer quest for prey for already the early lamps are shining. Somewhere, some water-drawing man sings his song. The axle creaking beneath the wagon wakes the man whose house is beside the road, and the…captive blacksmiths, going deaf inside, grieve the ear… (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey)

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Literary sources edited by Aaron J. Ivey, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Classics, University of Georgia, July 2016; updated by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, April 2021

Artistic sources edited by Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, October 2016.

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