A study of dedications to Aphrodite from Greek magistrates
Sammanfattning: Through the identification of a series of inscriptions, mainly datable to the Hellenistic era, a link between Aphrodite and the civic life and administration of the Greek poleis has come to light. The inscriptions in question are dedications to Aphrodite through which magistrates of various cities and varying status express their devotion to the goddess. In certain dedications, the goddess is even invoked by an epithet specifically alluding to a public office. Taking these dedications as its point of departure, the present study analyses Aphrodite’s role as a goddess honoured by magistrates. The present study examines 62 preserved examples of ‘magistral’ dedications, i.e., votive inscriptions from magistrates to Aphrodite or dedications that invoke the goddess by epithets alluding to a magistracy. An analysis of this material shows that magistrates’ worship of Aphrodite existed on a Pan-Hellenic level and that most of the dedications can be dated to the Hellenistic period. It also suggests that these dedications were meant for a very specific goddess: not a protectress of magistrates in general, but a protective deity of defined smaller groups of magistrates or single holders of magistracies. The phenomenon is at its most apparent when the goddess is honoured by epithets created from the titles of the magistrates themselves, e.g., Epistasie, Nomophylakis and Stratagis. The dedications from magistrates to Aphrodite are also studied against the background of dedications to Aphrodite in general as well as magistrates’ dedications to deities other than Aphrodite. A comparison between the chronological and geographical distribution of the core inscriptions and the background material indicates that Aphrodite’s role as a protectress of magistrates was a development in the goddess’ cult, probably begun in the fourth century BC but most apparent in the Hellenistic period. The perspective offered by the background inscriptions also shows that Aphrodite was not the only deity approached by magistrates but that she became highly popular, however, as the recipient of their dedications in the Hellenistic period. Earlier explanations for magistrates’ devotion to Aphrodite have referred to ‘internal’ characteristics of the goddess, e.g., Aphrodite being a goddess of concord. The connections between Aphrodite and concord/homonoia in cult can be shown to be less self-evident than previously thought. The present study instead proposes to seek the reasons for Aphrodite as a protectress of magistrates in the ‘external’ historical and religious context. The present study suggests that magistrates’ worship of Aphrodite can be seen as an expression of two general trends in Hellenistic religious concerns: the search for protection and for individualism. Furthermore, Aphrodite’s strong associations with Hermes, otherwise the most popular god in the studied material, might also have affected her development into a magistrates’ goddess. Finally, most magistrates’ dedications to Aphrodite were presented in a world politically dominated by Rome, and thus the idea of Aphrodite as the ancestress of the Romans might have been a factor strengthening her popularity as a goddess worshipped by officials. In the Hellenistic period, myths and legends were frequently used as diplomatic tools, and a dedication to Aphrodite in these circumstances would also have been a votive to the ancestress of the Roman people.
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