Apollon Karneios and the Doric Race

Ok, so instead of moaning about it at great length to anyone who will listen, I will just get all the moaning and griping out in this one post on my blog.

For those who don’t know, ever since I read C.O. Muller’s book The History and Antiquities of the Doric race I had a bone to pick. Overall the book wasn’t bad and had some intriguing bits of information, but there was one really glaring point that bothered me. As was popular with the Nietzchian dichotomy of Apollon and Dionysos, it brought forth several writers in the Hellenic feild of study who followed this line of thinking, and such rebuked anything that appeared inconsistant with that dichotomy. Therefore any cultus to Apollon who had attributes that were even remotely similar to those of Dionysos were referred, as Muller did in his book, as being in actuality a Dionysos that became absorbed by the Doric people into the cult of the Doric Apollon.

Originally this just irked me on principle. I mean really it seemed illogical that such prominant cults of Apollon (for he included that of the Delian Apollon in this too) are nothing more than rites of other gods that became attributed to Apollon. Now I am not saying that this didn’t happen in the ancient world where closely associated deities became syncrenized together. But usually this, as far as I can tell, is usually localized rather than being wide spread. This is of course excepting the case where a deity adopts the name of another closely aligned with their cult in which they killed, or cared for in some way and is applied to them as expression of their relationship. That is a completely different matter and is associated with the mythic origins of the name as Pausanias wrote of this epithet in particular.

So Pausanias is now where my gripe comes into full play. As I said, before it was more a matter of opposing it based on reason, but now Pausanias offers direct contrary information to this idea. This of course make me query that why was this ignored by Muller? The fact of the matter is that Pausanias indicates a widespread Doric cult of Apollon Karneios. This is different than Apollon Amyclaeus which was shared mostly by local Lacedaemonians and direct Spartan colonies. Rather, so far, and I haven’t finished reading all the books, Apollon Karneios has so far appeared in three seperate books of Doric states: Laconia, Messenia, and Corinth. Spread among these is everything from sacred groves to the god, to statues of him in the marketplace, and full temples. Pausanias, in his book on the Messenes, also makes a point to say that the worship of Apollon Karneios is done in a manner common to all Doric people. Apollon Karneios is common to the Dorians in general. I won’t even touch on the reference he made about the Amyclaeans recieving a prophecy of the return of the Dorians…because that carries some interesting implications, sadly of which he discusses no further.

I want to take a moment though to address the idea held by Muller that a horned Apollon cannot be a genuine Apollon. Granted we don’t see that much in Attica, but when discussing the Doric kinship group we can’t base it from the cult of the god in areas that are not tied by kinship. The fact of the matter is that in the Peloponnese it wasn’t that uncommon. You not only had Apollon Karneios, but also in Arcadia I believe (or perhaps it was Argos…yeah probably Argos) you had a cult of Apollon Nomios, Apollon the Shephard who was called the son of Silenus in his mortal incarnation as a slave to Admetus. If he was described as a son of Silenus and carries an epithet common with Pan, it is quite likely that this Apollon was viewed as a horned shephard deity of similar ilke or in any case closely related to horned gods. This is also not taking into account that in the Peloponnese it was not uncommon to hear of representations of Apollon paired with goats. There was an oracle in Lebedae (I think I spelled that right..I am not going off notes here) of Apollon who drank the blood of goats. In Sparta Apollon was represented with goats, and, though not Doric, it should not be admiss to mention that in Delos the altar of Apollon was built of goat horns of beasts culled by his sister Artemis. And this is not including the pastoral hymns of Thucyclides calling the Karneia the shephard feast and speaking of rams being reared to sacrifice to Apollon Karneios.

Apollon Karneios is more or less is a shepharding deity, a deity that rears the young and protects the flock (and yeah butchers one here and there). This is not inconsistant with the mythic origin of the name presented by Pausanias in which he says that Apollon gained his name from his younger brother (a child of Zeus and Europa) whom he raised with the help of his mother Leto. This seems quite symbolic of the shephard nature as a descriptor of Apollon as nurturer. Pausanias follows this by offering a secondary story that it could perhaps be related to the cornel-wood that was cut from the sacred grove of Apollon by the Hellenes to build the famous horse and of sacrifices that were made to propitiate the god. But the first story, as being offered foremost, was perhaps the most common understanding that he follows with a suposition on his part regarding Troy. Of course the association with the shephard we get in detail from Pausanias by his description of Apollon Karneios at his temple in Corinth in which he describes the god holding in one hand a pine cone (which I have heard is a natural barometer for the coming of the rainy season, prior to rains of course being the grape harvest which is associated with Apollon Karneios), and the shephard staff.

Now I imagine the association with grapes with Apollon may have contributed to the idea that Apollon Karneios is really Dionysos superceeded by Apollon, however we have many instances where Apollon and Dionysos share a joint worship…and therefore perceived as having interconnecting areas. As such it doesn’t surprise me that Apollon Karneios is associated with a harvest of grapes as well as with shephards…it is still dealing with the nurturing and rearing prior to the reaping. The sunlight ripens the fruit and prepares it for harvest. Apollon’s part is not directly associated with the grape itself but rather with the relationship between his domain and the harvest of the grape (and the eventual tearing apart of the bull Dionysos). It is perhaps for this reason that we have from Rhodes (which incidentally was also subject to Doric colonization, as were many other islands such as Crete) an image of Apollon as a winged figure with grapes hanging from his wings. And thus why Dionysos is also a part of the worship of Apollon Karneios in the Karneia as we see from the vase from the Spartan colony at Taretum Italy. But to say that Apollon Karneios IS Dionysos seems quite off the mark. Apollon participates in the development of Dionysos, and is acting on Dionysos via the symbolism of the cutting of the grapes from the vine.

I think that this understanding has reaffirmed for me just how important Apollon Karneios was among the Doric people, and that this horned Apollon is not atypical in Hellas, but rather quite the contrary. And this makes it an important aspect of Apollon in Hellenismos generally, though it doesn’t get much attention as of yet among many modern worshipers.


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