PAT ritual announcement: Sacrifice to Zeus Epakrios at Erkhia

On the 23th of May, which coincides with 16 Thargelion in 2016, Elaion will hold a PAT ritual to Zeus Epakrios as was done on this day in ancient Erkhia. Will you be joining us at the usual 10 AM EDT?

Zeus Epakrios (Ἐπάκριος) is an epithet of Zeus derived from ‘epi akrios’, literally ‘on the height’ or ‘upon the high place’. Zeus Epakrios had an altar on Mount Hymettos (Υμηττός), along with an altar to Zeus Hymettios (overseer) and Zeus Ombrios (of the rain). The cult to Zeus Epakrios seems to have been separate from the cults of Zeus Hymettios and Zeus Ombrios, with the altars of Zeus Epakrios and Ombrios located on the very summit of the mountain and the altar to Zeus Hyettios further down the slope. The altar of Zeus Epakrios lay unused for a while, even though the altar of Zeus Hymettios remained in use. The altar to Zeus Ombrios remained in use well into the 8th-7th centuries BC. All ancient remains of the altar to Zeus Epakrios have been obliterated by recent military building operations.

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites tells us about Mt. Hymettos:

“Separating the southern end of the plain of Athens from that of the Mesogaia to the east is the mountain range of Hymettos. In antiquity Hymettos was famous for honey and marble, and the scars of the worked-out quarries can be seen concentrated for the most part on the western slopes for a distance of 3 km south from Kaisariani. The bare summit performed a different function: even as today, it gave the Athenians a reliable indication of weather by the presence, or absence, of threatening clouds.”

We are not entirely certain of the funtion of the sacrifice or the epithet. ‘On the height’ speaks for itself when taken together with the location of the altar, but it says nothing of its function. We do know that the altar was only visited once a year, for this sacrifice. It stands to reason that Zeus Epakrios oversaw the weather, as did Zeus Ombrios and Zeus Hymettios. In this time of year, sacrifices would have called for good weather for the continuation of the agricultural cycle and perhaps the herding of sheep and other grazers on the mountain who were presumably used to keep the area open for herbs and flowers for the honey creating bees to feast on.

The sacrifice was nephalios (wineless) and au phora (not carried – totally consumed (on site)).

The ritual for the event can be found here and you can join the community page on Facebook here.

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