Poseidon Domatites (or the courtship of Hestia)

Not to long ago in my post about Apollon and Ge I spoke briefly of the famous myth of the courtship of Hestia by Apollon and Poseidon, which strikes one as a friendly kind of competition to get her hand. Whereas Apollon’s associations with Hestia are pretty easy for me to expound upon, as can be seen from that post, with Poseidon it was far less clear.

Thanks to my friend Jolene/Niadis I think I have found a worthwhile link via a name she came across in the work of Pausanias (which I don’t recall reading myself yet so I probably haven’t gotten to that book yet) in which the god is called δωματίτης which is given in translation by the translator of Pausanias as Poseidon of the house . It was quite confusing because the word didn’t seem to have any specific meaning with what we are familiar with the word used to refer to the home, “oikos”, so how was this referring to Poseidon of the house? I ended up absently slowly deleting letters in frustration until the translator hit upon something else: δωματί, the rooms. This is a very specific structural component of the house, but is not all the house altogether, but rather divisions out into bedrooms and other necessary spaces. But it seems to me that this would be most significant in relation to the main room of the household, what we call the living room in our modern houses, where anciently (and not so anciently) the hearth was located (at which a guest could supplicate). Therefore Poseidon is both related to the structural nature of rooms which divides the house (think also here of Poseidon who built the walls of Troy which acted a protective and divisive barrier for the city). This bears an interesting relationship to Apollon who is known for setting foundations and set the foundation stones for his own temple…perhaps why in some references Apollon and Poseidon are both addressed as builders of the wall of Troy, even though Homer, in the speech between Apollon and Poseidon, has Poseidon refer that he himself built the walls, while Apollon was tending the pastures. But Homer also later goes on to show us that walls were constructed with offerings to Poseidon and Apollon both (and these two gods, with the aid of Zeus utterly destroyed the defensive wall that the army of Hellenes built but neglected to give customary sacrifice for).

As the main room of the household, where the primary household activities took place among the poor, and among the wealthy and kings was the primary gathering place of the household (though not necessarily where the cooking was done), we can see that perhaps this name of Poseidon is perhaps very relevant specifically to this room. As Apollon is connected to the hearth (and altar) which shelters and feeds the flames as its protector, Poseidon by the operation of the room creates division between the sacred center of the household (and the integrity of all other rooms) from that which is beyond the walls akin to the functions of the gods of the doors, gates and boundaries. He surrounds the hearth with his barrier much like Okeanos (and Ouranos) surrounds Ge.  though Zeus is best known for his worship at the center of the household, it is quite probable given this epithet that Poseidon was also honored at the center of the household, not only for its sacredness but as the heart of the household which holds up the integrity of the entirety of the house and all within it.

Thus in the courtship myth of Hestia we have two kinds of protector gods involved. We have Poseidon as a god of the liminal boundary who acts in the division of space (in Orphism this is also associated with the idea of the domain of Poseidon being between that of Zeus and Hades, Poseidon’s domain acting as the point of division, but also the point through which communication occurs in between), and Apollon as a protector of the heart/altar as well as a fiery god and thus connected to the substance contained with it. The presence of Hestia’s hearth essentially brings life to the rooms of the dwelling and is a great part of what makes it an oikos. This would also make sense in the strong presence of Poseidon and Hestia in Delphia where Hestia had a large hearth just within the temple and Poseidon had an altar, for in myth he traded his half of Delphi to Apollon for one of Apollon’s sacred islands. The sacredness of Delphi locational as much as it has to do with Apollon’s habitation there, and such there are other myths connected with Delphi that have little to do with Apollon and rather establishes it as the navel of the earth. Therefore while the structure of the temple, and the establishment of the sacred precinct (mythically by the  body of Python/Delphinia) is directly tied to Apollon, there are other qualities that are of itself as a powerful spiritual area.

In any case I think that Poseidon Domatites is a worthy and important part of the household now that I have become aware of him. In a sense in the oikos we find Hestia being contained by the barriers of Poseidon and Apollon, which is an important part of the spiritual wellbeing of the oikos.

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13 thoughts on “Poseidon Domatites (or the courtship of Hestia)

  1. I find this extremely interesting. I never heard of the epithet Dōmatitēs for Poseidōn, or for any God or Goddess for that matter. From what you rite in your blogpost above, it certainly sounds like he ought to be included amongst the Household Gods. I find this very interesting indeed, as I never felt much connection or reason personally to honour Poseidōn. I do honour him on his sacred day off course, and thank him for living in a land where earthquakes are rare, that i have never been subject to floods, and that this land is blessed with enough rain and fresh water to be fertile. I guess now I have another reason, to honour him. Very interesting indeed. (did I mention I find this extremely interesting? 😉 )

    On another note, I think the term Dōmatitēs can refer also to δῶμα (stem δῶματ-, “house, housetop”), which is probably the word you refer to as δωματί, which seems to be the dative singular form of the word. I have seen the word δῶμα also be translated as “palace” or “villa” or something like that, i.e. the residence of aristocrats or rulers. There is also the word δόμος (house, dwelling; household; dwelling place of animals: barn, wasp’s nest, snake’s hole), but that has an omikron, not an ōmega, so the former is more likely a connection. Then again, both words may derive from the same root.

    • Thanks for adding your insights into the words! I just kinda stumbled across it, but it would be interesting with the connections to housetop or roof which acts similar to the functions of the walls of the rooms. I have to really thank Jolene for this because I had yet to come across it in Pausanias (I kinda got a bit lax in my reading with all the artsy stuff I have been focused on heh and my own writing too for that matter). But I am very excited about it too since Poseidon is one of the first gods I embraced in my childhood.

      • I also believe the rooftops, specifically the ridge of the roof, is sacred to the Dioskouroi. Since they also have a connection with the sea as patrons of sailors, this may also tie in with Poseidōn Dōmatitēs’ function.

      • And now I come to think of it, both Poseidōn and the Dioskouroi are also connected to horses.

      • With the Dioksouroi as being connected on the roof, I am picturing this in my mind as them sitting on the roof, “riding” it like a horse. Interestingly, I picture this specifically with gable roofs, for which the Dutch word is “zadeldak”, literally meaning “saddle roof”. And that “saddle” ties back in with the horse riding.

        Only problem is I don’t think the ancient Hellenes had gable roofs at all in their homes. But as a modern connection it can count nevertheless 😀

      • Hmmm now that is something interesting to ponder, though more relative to modern houses as you say (especially in the north where flat roofs are not advised and don’t even really seen much anymore because snow accumulation does serious damage to those things!

  2. Reblogged this on A Young Flemish Hellenist and commented:
    A post written by a friend, on the courtship of Hestia by Apollōn and Poseidōn, which led her to the discovery of the epithet Δωματίτης which is attributed to Poseidōn. After which she thinks a bit on how this may tie Poseidōn to the Household cult. I’m curious about other people’s thoughts on this.

  3. One line. ONE, and off she goes . . . . I love getting to see your brain work.

    I forget about the story of Hestia’s courtship; I remember loving discovering another story with Apollon and Poseidon closely connected, and I just keep forgetting about this one. Too much of a “Hestia’s not part of your worship/you’re doing it wrong!” mental block, I guess. *sigh* It’s silly. Whereinfact, I know have a proper angle(? the word I want isn’t coming) to finally approach Hestia, proper mindset, that might help. (It always comes back to how things relate to Poseidon, for me).

    Also, thanks J., for the further language lessons here. THis is great stuff.

    Aren’t you glad you pushed Pausanias back into my awareness, now? 😉

  4. Δωματίτης is used for Apollo in the following case:
    παρ’ Αιγινήταις Δελφίνιος μην άγεται Δελφινίου Απόλλωνος ιερός, εν ώ φησί γεγενήσθαι τα Νέμαια, πεφιλήσθαι γαρ φησι τον μήνα τούτον υπό του Απόλλωνος. και είη αν ο μην ούτος, εν ώ θύουσιν Αιγινήται Απόλλωνι οικιστή και δωματίτη, καθά φήσι Πυθαίνετος.

    At Aigina there is the month Delfinion dedicated to Apollo Delfinios….. People of Aigina sacrifice to Apollo οικιστή and δωματίτη…
    Οικιστής indicates the one that populates an area starts a city so δωματίτης alongside would probably signify something similar or additional to the first characteristic, maybe the one who builds houses.

    It could signify the same for Poseidon as he has a few other epithets like θεμελιούχος, that indicate laying foundations, building etc.

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