Department Colloquium: Mary Bachvarova (Williamette)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - 12:15pm

Cohen, 402


In the Iliad only Zeus, Apollo, and Athena are called upon in prayers. Intriguingly, these


are the three gods who are presented in the Iliad as existing in multiple instantiations –


and in the very prayers in which the worshippers demand their aid, competing for their


favor against the opposing side. I explore 13 times gods are given toponymic epicleseis


in the Iliad – and two times when a deity is not – against the background of the practice


of designating gods as belonging to a particular locality. There is at least one example in


Mycenaean Greek (potniya aswiya, PY Fr 1206), while among Bronze Age Anatolians


and Levantines designating deities only with toponymic epicleseis was the norm, and


the usage reappeared in Roman-era Anatolia. Hittite prayers and treaties present


multiple regional storm-gods, IŠTARs, or LAMMA-gods appearing in divine witness


lists, a practice paralleled in Hellenistic treaties from Crete. Such instances suggest


continuity otherwise undetectable across centuries. Thus, we can begin with the surmise


that toponymic epicleseis for Greek gods were at home in Archaic genres that wished to


invoke a deity’s regional loyalty, not only treaties, but also hymns (e.g., Homeric Hymn


to Apollo) and prayers against a foreign enemy. This banal observation leads to


interesting conclusions when examining the use of toponymic epicleseis in the Iliad,


because it permits us to explore the prehistory of the Homeric poetic tradition, in


particular, how storylines attached to a regional god and performed in a regional festival were reworked as the Homeric tradition became panhellenic.