Ancient Greek heroes, athletes, poetry Part II: Viewing the Olympics through the lens of Olympia – Essay 1: A rhetoric for visualizing Zeus and Hērā as overseers of the Olympics

for 2022.09.12 | By Gregory Nagy

§0. The ruins of the Temple of Hērā in Olympia, even today, are prominently visible, occupying a sacred space that is located to the north-west of the sacred space occupied by the ruins of the likewise prominently visible Temple of Zeus. These two spaces are both located within an overall sacred space in Olympia, site of the ancient athletic competitions of the Olympics. In Essay 12 of Part I, we saw that that the Temple of Hērā was connected with female athleticism at the Olympics, just as the Temple of Zeus was connected with male athleticism at that same festival. But now, in Essay 1 of Part II, we will see another kind of connectivity between the two temples. As I will argue, the temples of Zeus and Hērā are symbolic of a synergistic relationship between these two divinities in Olympia. And this synergism of Zeus and Hērā in Olympia corresponds respectively to what I could initially describe as their dominant and recessive roles as overseers of the Olympics in Olympia.

Model of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia. The large Temple of Zeus sits in the center of the walled sanctuary, with the smaller Temple of Hera above, just to the right of the circular Philippeion. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

§1. First, I consider what I just described as the dominant role of Zeus. To improve on this description, I turn to Pausanias at 5.10.1, who describes the sacred space where the Olympics are celebrated in Olympia as tò … hieròn álsos toû Diós ‘the sacred grove of Zeus’ (τὸ … ἄλσος τὸ ἱερὸν τοῦ Διὸς), adding that the local name for this álsos ‘grove’ was Altis. We see here no mention—yet—of Hērā. In his description, Pausanias here connects the sacred space Altis to Zeus as the god who oversees the entire festival of the Olympics. And, in this context, Pausanias here refers to all the athletic competitions at the Olympics simply by way of a single noun in the singular. That is, Pausanias refers to the Olympics simply as a singular agṓn ‘competition’:

{5.10.1}πολλὰ μὲν δὴ καὶ ἄλλα ἴδοι τις ἂν ἐν Ἕλλησι, τὰ δὲ καὶ ἀκούσαι θαύματος ἄξια· μάλιστα δὲ τοῖς Ἐλευσῖνι δρωμένοις καὶ ἀγῶνι τῷ ἐν Ὀλυμπίᾳ μέτεστιν ἐκ θεοῦ φροντίδος. τὸ δὲ ἄλσος τὸ ἱερὸν τοῦ Διὸς παραποιήσαντες τὸ ὄνομα Ἄλτιν ἐκ παλαιοῦ καλοῦσι· καὶ δὴ καὶ Πινδάρῳ ποιήσαντι ἐς ἄνδρα ὀλυμπιονίκην ᾆσμα Ἄλτις ἐπωνόμασται τὸ χωρίον.

{5.10.1} There are many things to be seen and to be heard in the Greek world [= among the Hellēnes] that are worthy of wonder [thauma]; but the greatest share [of all these wondrous things]—from the standpoint of a [generic] god’s way-of-thinking [phrontis]—goes to the rituals [drōmena] at Eleusis and to the competition [agōn] at Olympia. The sacred grove [alsos] of Zeus has been called, ever since ancient times, Altis, which is a remaking of the word (alsos) meaning a ‘grove’. Pindar too calls the place Altis in an ode composed for an Olympic victor.

§2. The citation of Pindar by Pausanias here is most relevant, as we will now see, to what our traveler is saying about the seemingly unique role of Zeus in overseeing the Olympics. In Part I Essay 1 Section C, we have already considered the victory odes composed by this master poet Pindar, dated to the first half of the fifth century BCE, in honor of victorious athletes who competed in the Olympics. And what Pausanias is saying about the Altis is actually attested in one of these victory odes, Pindar’s Olympian 10, where the reading Altis at line 45 (accusative Ἄλτιν) in that ode is confirmed in a scholion (at 55b). Also, in Pindar’s own wording, Altis is equated with alsos (ἄλσος) ‘grove’ at line 44 of Olympian 10, just as Pausanias at 5.10.1 refers to Altis as an alsos ‘grove’ sacred to Zeus.

§3. Pausanias, after referring to all the athletic events that took place at the festival of the Olympics as a singular agōn ‘competition’ in the paragraph of his that I have just quoted, 5.10.1, goes on to say in the next paragraph, 5.10.2, that the greatest spectacle to be seen at that festival is a colossal gold-and-ivory statue of Zeus, crafted by the master artisan Pheidias of Athens and housed in the Temple of Zeus:

{5.10.2} ἐποιήθη δὲ ὁ ναὸς καὶ τὸ ἄγαλμα τῷ Διὶ ἀπὸ λαφύρων, ἡνίκα Πίσαν οἱ Ἠλεῖοι καὶ ὅσον τῶν περιοίκων ἄλλο συναπέστη Πισαίοις πολέμῳ καθεῖλον. <Φειδίαν> δὲ τὸν ἐργασάμενον τὸ ἄγαλμα εἶναι καὶ ἐπίγραμμά ἐστιν ἐς μαρτυρίαν ὑπὸ τοῦ Διὸς γεγραμμένον τοῖς ποσί·

 Φειδίας Χαρμίδου υἱὸς Ἀθηναῖός μ’ ἐποίησε.

τοῦ ναοῦ δὲ Δώριος μέν ἐστιν ἡ ἐργασία, τὰ δὲ ἐκτὸς περίστυλός ἐστι· πεποίηται δὲ ἐπιχωρίου πώρου.

{5.10.2} The temple [nāos] and the statue [agalma] were made for Zeus from spoils-of-war [laphura], when Pisa was defeated in war by the people of Elis, and along with Pisa, those of the adjacent-populations [perioikoi] who were fellow-defectors. The statue [agalma] itself was made by Pheidias, and, as witness, there is an inscription written under the feet of Zeus: “Pheidias, son of Kharmides, an Athenian, made [poieîn] me.” The temple is in the Doric style, and the outside has columns all around it. It is built of local stone.

§4. Pausanias is highlighting here the enormous expense of building the Temple of Zeus, which included the creation of this spectacular Statue of Zeus. He reflects on the unimaginably massive accumulation of wealth needed by the state of Elis, official host of the Olympics at Olympia, for funding these two vast projects, which can be independently dated to the middle of the fifth century BCE. All that wealth, Pausanias says, originated from láphura ‘spoils-of-war’ confiscated by Elis in the wake of defeating in war the state of Pisa and its allies. In this context, Pausanias views these enemies of Elis as defectors, as if Pisa had been a state that was subject to the state of Elis—and as if Elis had always been the legitimate host of the Olympics at Olympia. As I already argued in Part I Essay 1 Section C, however, there is reason to think that Pisa had once controlled both Olympia and the Olympics. And such control needs to be dated to an earlier era, before the era when the Temple of Zeus was built. In terms of this argument, the brief statement of Pausanias at 5.10.2 about the defeat of Pisa in a war with Elis can lead to a misunderstanding when we compare another brief statement of his, at 6.22.4, about the eventual destruction of Pisa by Elis—where he does not say how or even when such a destruction finally took place. As I showed in Part I Essay 1 Section C§5, the destruction of Pisa as mentioned by Pausanias at 6.22.4 must have happened after 364 BCE, whereas the defeat of Pisa by Elis as mentioned by Pausanias at 5.10.2 was an earlier event. And now I must add that such an earlier event was not so much a defeat in war, as Pausanias describes it, but more of an outright annexation of Pisa by Elis. Here I turn back to Part I Essay 1 Section C§3.8–10, where I showed that there is textual evidence for saying that Elis undertook such an annexation. The texts come from Strabo 8.3.2 C336–337 and Diodorus 11.54.1, writing respectively in the first centuries BCE/CE and in the first century BCE. According to both sources, Elis in the early fifth century BCE took the initiative of annexing Pisa and its territory, known as the Pisatis, and it annexed also the territory adjacent to the Pisatis, known as Triphylia. And there is more: these two ancient sources, as I also showed in Part I Essay 1 Section C§3.8–10, connected the event of this drastic move by Elis with a related event: at the time of the annexation, Elis underwent a political transformation into a full-fledged pólis or city-state. Further, Diodorus at 11.54.1 even specifies a precise date for both events, 471 BCE.

§5. So, in terms of my argument, it was after the annexation of Pisa by Elis in the early fifth century BCE that Pisa lost its wealth—and its control of Olympia—whereas the destruction of Pisa happened in a later era, some time after 364 BCE. I will come back to this argument when I turn our attention to the Temple of Hera, which, in terms of my argument, as we will see, was built in an era when Pisa still controlled Olympia and the Olympics. For now, however, I turn our attention back to the paragraph I just quoted, Pausanias 5.10.2, where the focus is not so much on the Temple of Zeus itself but on the spectacular Statue of Zeus that was housed inside. What I find most remarkable about what Pausanias is saying about this Temple of Zeus and this Statue of Zeus can best be described, I think, as a mental exercise by way of using the rhetoric of metonymy. And, I should add, we see here a most common kind metonymy, which is synecdoche.

§6. Before going further, I insert here an excursus, where I offer working definitions of metonymy and synecdoche, epitomized from Masterpieces of Metonymy (Nagy 2015):

First, metonymy (Nagy 2015:3 at 0§3): it is a mental process of connecting things that seem familiar and not alien.

Second, synecdoche (Nagy 2015:44 at 1§§82–83): it is a mental process where a part of a whole is pictured as the whole, that is, where a most familiar part of something is pictured as the totality of that something. The Greek word sunekdokhē conveys the idea of ‘getting a sense of one thing together with another thing’. In the ancient Greek lexicographical tradition, sunekdokhē is defined this way: ‘when someone learns from a part of the whole’ (ὅταν τις ἀπὸ μέρους παραλάβῃ, Hesychius 2495, under the entry συνεκδοχή). I should add that such reference to the whole by way of any one of its parts is not a substitution for the whole, since all the parts, whether or not they are visible, can continue to participate in the mental process of referring to the whole by way of their interconnectedness with each other.

§7. I now apply these working definitions of metonymy and synecdoche to what we read in the two paragraphs of Pausanias that I have already quoted, 5.10.1 and 5.10.2, where he highlights the Statue of Zeus inside the Temple of Zeus in the larger context of all the spectacular athletic events to be seen at the festival of the Olympics. And these events take place, of course, inside the overall sacred space of Zeus, that is, inside the Altis in Olympia. I see a chain of metonymy here, in the form of a complex synecdoche. Here is my formulation of this “chain”:

The totality of many different spectacular athletic events to be seen at the festival of the Olympics in Olympia can be pictured by way of a singularity, which is the Statue of Zeus, housed in the Temple of Zeus and praised as a Wonder of the World, since this masterpiece of material culture is the most spectacular of all the many different spectacles to be seen in Olympia.

§8. Having said this much about the dominant role of Zeus within the sacred space of Olympia, I will suspend further consideration of this role for now, returning to the subject only after considering what I had described, at the beginning of this essay, as the recessive role of Hērā within the same sacred space.

§9. I had described this way the role of Hērā—as “recessive”—for a simple reason. It is because Pausanias, at 5.10.1, does not even mention the name of the goddess when he refers to the Altis at Olympia as the sacred space of Zeus: the goddess cannot be seen—yet—while the god is all-visible as the Statue of Zeus. As I said, this statue is the Wonder of the World. There he is, Zeus himself, luminously enthroned inside his resplendent Temple and dominating the world of the Olympics. The god is seen overseeing the sum total of all the various spectacular athletic events to be seen at the festival of the Olympics, as if, somehow, this magnificent totality could only be fully grasped, mentally, as the singularity of one singular agōn, to be translated as ‘competition’. So, it should be no surprise that the role of the goddess Hērā seems recessive when we first contemplate the dominant role of the god Zeus, who is her sexual partner, her spouse.

§10. But the goddess Hērā is very much of a sacred presence inside the sacred space of Olympia. My focus will now shift from the Temple of Zeus to the adjacent Temple of Hērā. We are about to see that the temple of this goddess, like the temple of the god, is centrally functional inside the sacred space that is the site of Olympia. To demonstrate this central functionality, I will follow closely the rhetoric of Pausanias in a lengthy text, extending from his paragraph 5.16.1 all the way to paragraph 5.20.7, within which textual space he describes in detail the sacred space defined by the Temple of Hērā. What we will find in this description is a striking parallelism between the roles of Zeus of and Hērā as defined by their respective temples. To appreciate more fully this parallelism, I start by repeating here, from Part I Essay 12 §5, a subset of the overall text of Pausanias, 5.16.1–5.20.7. This subset is about the festival of Hērā known as the Hēraia, described by Pausanias at 5.16.2–4, and I repeat here not the original Greek text but only my translation:

{5.16.2} Every fourth year [= ‘every fifth year’, where the inclusive count starts from year “one” by contrast with an exclusive, count, which starts from year “zero”], there is woven for Hērā a robe [peplos] by [a collegium known as] the Sixteen Women, and the same women also arrange [tithénai] a competition [agōn] known as the Hēraia. This competition [agōn] is a contest [hamilla] in running [dromos = footracing] for girls [parthénoi]. These are not all of the same age. The first [to run] are the youngest; after them come the next in age, and the last who run [theein] are the oldest of the girls [parthénoi].

{5.16.3} They run [theein] in the following way. They let down their hair, and their tunic [khitōn] reaches down just a little above the knee; also, they show off their right shoulder, baring it as far down as the breast. These [girls] too [like the male runners] have the Olympic stadion designated for their competition [agōn], but the extent of the stadion-length is shortened for them by about one-sixth of the stadion-length. To the winning girls they give garlands [stephanoi] of olive and a portion [moira] of the cow sacrificed [thuein] to Hērā. And it is permitted for them to dedicate [ana-tithénai] statues [eikones] with their names inscribed [graphesthai] upon them. Those who serve-as-administrators [diakoneîsthai] for the Sixteen are, like the [Sixteen] who are-arrangers-of-the-competition [agōno-theteîn], married women.

{5.16.4} They trace back [what they do] and also the competition [agōn] of the girls [parthénoi] to ancient times; they say that Hippodameia, showing to Hērā her gratitude [kharis] for her marriage with Pelops, assembled [athroizein] the [original] Sixteen Women, and that, together with them, she was the first to arrange [diatithénai] the Hēraia. They also [besides saying that the competition was founded by Hippodameia] memorialize [mnēmoneuein] a victory [in the competition] that they say was won by Chloris, the only surviving daughter of the house [oikos] of Amphion; but there also survived, they say, one of her brothers.

§11. I find it most telling that Pausanias, inside his broader description of the Temple of Hērā, views the sacred space of this goddess as the contextual frame for a narrower description—what we have just read again at 5.16.2–5—where he focuses on the festival of the Hēraia, held every four years as part of the overall festival of the Olympics. It is exactly in this context that Pausanias mentions the event of a footrace for girls only, supervised by women only. After describing the exterior of the temple of Hērā, at 5.16.1, Pausanias starts immediately, at 5.16.2, to describe the festival of the Hēraia, featuring an Olympic footrace for girls, and he says right away that this athletic event was supervised by a collegium known as the Sixteen Women. Also, practically in the same breath, he connects the role of these Sixteen Women as supervisors of the girls’ footrace with another role assigned to these same supervisors: the Sixteen Women were also in charge of weaving, every four years, a peplos or ‘robe’ for the goddess Hērā. As I will now argue, this pairing of such a ritualized act of weaving with the athletic event of the girls’ footrace in Olympia is a clear sign that the athletic event too, in and of itself, is basically a matter of ritual.

§12. The wording of our traveler in his description here of the girls’ footracing points to another clear sign of ritual: there were, as Pausanias is saying at 5.16.2, three separate age-classes for the competition in running, ranging from younger to older girls. Thus I should not even be talking here about one athletic event of footracing for girls, since there were really three such events, organized on the basis of three age classes. And the institution of age-classes, as we will see further in Part III, is typical of traditions that are normally described by anthropologists in terms of a basic form of ritual, which is, initiation. For the moment, I define initiation as a rite of passage for members of a given society who are transitioning from one given social phase into the next. Further, as we will also see in Part III, traditions of initiation are in general built into traditions of athleticism.

§13. But even before I reach Part III, I need to mention, already here, another event at the Hēraia that is relevant to my describing, in terms of ritual, the competition of girls in footracing. Pausanias, following up on his three paragraphs that we have just now read again, 5.16.2–4, goes on to mention in a subsequent paragraph of his, at 5.16.6, another competitive event involving female participants at the festival of the Hēraia, and his wording correlates this other event with the competition of girls in footracing. In this case, the event is a competition between two female khoroi ‘choruses’—to be more accurate, I will hereafter translate this Greek word as ‘ensembles of singers-dancers’. There will be more for me to say in Part II Essay 2 about the organizational aspects of such a correlation, described by Pausanias, between the competitions in footracing and in choral singing-and-dancing at the Hēraia, but I need already now to draw attention to the basic physical reality of a parallel correlation between the motor activities of running and dancing—to put it as simply as possible. And here I can highlight, as a point of comparison, attestations of ancient Greek traditions where the activities of running and dancing are merged or even fused in rituals of female initiation. An example that stands out is the archaeological evidence from sites like Brauron, where ritual practices of female initiation are iconographically represented as a blend of running and dancing. In previous work (Nagy 1990a:141 at 5§9), I collected a set of references to relevant research, including a most useful synthesis by Lily Kahil (1983) about the evidence from Brauron, and, more recently, I have benefited from reading the relevant work of Thomas Scanlon (1990, 2008, 2014); especially useful are his remarks with reference to the relevant work of Claude Calame (1977, 2001) on female initiation in general and on traditions of choral performances by women and girls in particular (Scanlon 2008:178 on Calame 1997:89–206).

§14. That said, I can now proceed to a point of comparison between the references made by Pausanias to the three Olympic events of girls’ footracing and the earlier reference he made to multiple Olympic events for male competitors. In that earlier reference, as we saw in Pausanias 5.10.1, he referred to all the athletic competitions at the Olympics, without even mentioning female competitors, simply by way of a single noun in the singular. That is, Pausanias referred to the Olympics simply as a singular agōn ‘competition’. And now, at this later point in the narrative of Pausanias, at 5.16.2–4, he refers three times to the Olympic competitions of female athletes—also to the overall festival of Hērā known as the Hēraia—and he does so simply by way of the same singular noun, agōn ‘competition’. I see here another case of metonymy or, more specifically, of synecdoche: just as the singular noun agōn is used by Pausanias at 5.10.1 as a part-for-whole reference to all the athletic competitions at the festival of the Olympics and even to the festival itself, sacred to Zeus, so also the same singular noun agōn is now being used three times by Pausanias at 5.16.2–4 as a part-for-whole reference to the female athletic competitions of footracing at the festival of the Hēraia and even to the festival itself, sacred to Hērā.

§15. I also see here a further level of synecdoche. As Pausanias says at 5.16.3, the competition of the female athletes in their footracing takes place at the Olympic stadion, just like the corresponding competition of male athletes. So, the agōn ‘competition’ of the Hēraia, which is sacred to the goddess Hērā, is involved in a part-for-whole relationship with the overall agōn ‘competition’ of the Olympics, which, as Pausanias says at 5.10.1, is sacred to the god Zeus. But the rhetoric of the mentality that drives this relationship can now be interpreted further: just as the festival of the Hēraia, sacred to Hērā, is part of the festival that we know as the Olympics, sacred to Zeus, so also Hērā is part of an implicit pairing of the god Zeus with herself as the goddess that she is, Hērā. And this pairing becomes explicit in the reality that is the Temple of Hērā adjacent to the Temple of Zeus.

§16. There have been a number of academic publications, over the years, arguing for the idea that the Temple of Hērā had in earlier times functioned as a Temple of Zeus and Hērā combined, where the two divinities are worshipped together as a synergistic pair—if I may used my own wording here to describe the pairing. And I single out here a publication by Thomas Scanlon (2008), who I think has assembled the most convincing set of arguments for such a dualistic function of the temple—while tracking conscientiously what others have to say in other publications about the Temple of Hērā. According to the argumentation of Scanlon, who like me relies heavily on what Pausanias says at 5.16.2–4 about the festival of the Hēraia, the sacredness of Olympia as the site of the Olympics cannot be understood exclusively in terms of the Temple of Zeus that was built there in the fifth century by the state of Elis in celebration of their seizing control of the sacred site of Olympia and thus replacing Pisa as the official host for the festival of the Olympics. I agree. The Temple of Hērā in Olympia must also be taken into consideration. This temple, as we know, was built around 600 BCE—a time marking an era that predated, in terms of my argument, a later era when Pisa eventually lost control of the site of Olympia to the rival state of Elis. So, again in terms of my argument, there cannot be a true understanding of the Hēraia without an understanding of an earlier and politically different era in the evolution of the Olympics.

§17. There is a problem, however, with positing a synergism between Hērā and Zeus at Olympia in an earlier era when the Temple of Hērā may have functioned instead as a Temple of Zeus and Hērā—that is, before a later era, in the middle of the fifth century BCE, when the state of Elis commissioned the building of a Temple of Zeus that eclipsed the old temple. In such a later era, of course, the older temple could become, simply, the Temple of Hērā. But the problem is, how are we to explain a full synergism of Zeus and Hērā as a relatively older pattern to be contrasted with a reduced synergism as a later pattern? There is a solution to be found, I think, in the argumentation of Thomas Scanlon (2008:170), who thinks that the worship of Hērā at Olympia was significantly different from the way she was worshipped at other prestigious sites like Argos, Perachora, and Samos. At those sites, the goddess seems in some situations to outrank even Zeus himself, whereas Zeus outranked Hērā in the original Temple of Hērā at Olympia. But I suggest that Scanlon’s positing of an earlier Temple of Zeus and Hērā at Olympia, where the role of Hērā was “secondary” by contrast with what we may infer about her role at other sites, is valid even without the need to argue that the goddess was less “secondary” elsewhere. And I further suggest that a “secondary” function of Hērā in her synergism with Zeus is in fact a most ancient aspect of her identity—more ancient, I think, than any functions of Hērā that may seem independent of Zeus and are most likely dependent on local traditions about earlier local goddesses that she had replaced already in prehistoric times.

§18. To back up my suggestion about the synergism of Hērā with Zeus as a most ancient aspect of her identity, I return to where I left off at §8, where I was analyzing the dominant role of Zeus within the sacred space of Olympia—and where I noted that this dominance can be analyzed in terms of a recessive role for Hērā within the same sacred space. I will now argue, instead, that the synergism of Hērā with Zeus is actually symbolized by way of a chain of metonymy that Pausanias constructs in describing the Temple of Hērā, parallel to the chain of metonymy that he had constructed in describing the Temple of Zeus.

§19. I start by contrasting the metonymic chain for rhetorically describing the Temple of Zeus in the text of Pausanias at 5.10.1–2. His rhetorical description there, as we have seen, could all be done within the tightest of spaces— within less than two paragraphs. And I repeat here my analytic description, formulated in §7:

The totality of many different spectacular athletic events to be seen at the festival of the Olympics in Olympia can be pictured by way of a singularity, which is the Statue of Zeus, housed in the Temple of Zeus and praised as a Wonder of the World, since this masterpiece of material culture is the most spectacular of all the many different spectacles to be seen in Olympia.

§20. But now I offer a new analytic description of the rhetoric we see at work in the metonymic description formulated by Pausanias. This time, my analysis is aimed at understanding a metonymic chain constructed by Pausanias in rhetorically describing the Temple of Hērā. This time, the description by Pausanias is far more lengthy, extending from his paragraph at 5.16.1 all the way to his paragraph at 5.20.7. I count 44 paragraphs. Still, I will attempt a mirroring, in brevity, of the analytic description I had devised for the Temple of Zeus. Here, then, is how I analyze—as briefly as possible—what Pausanias is saying about the Temple of Hērā:

The totality of many different spectacular athletic events to be seen at the festival of the Olympics in Olympia can be pictured by way of a near-singularity, which is the Chest of Kypselos, housed in the Temple of Hērā and praised as a wonder, since this masterpiece of material culture is one of the most spectacular sights to be seen in Olympia.

§21. In terms of this analytic description, Pausanias is not denying that the Temple of Zeus, housing the Statue of Zeus, is for him the greatest of all treasures, thus outranking the Temple of Hērā, which houses another great treasure, the Chest of Kypselos. Pausanias clearly recognizes the supremacy of the Statue, corresponding to the supremacy of Zeus, but he also recognizes here, as second-best, another piece of material culture that he values as a masterpiece of visual art in its own right. The Chest, of Corinthian workmanship and made of cedar, ivory, and gold, was spectacularly decorated with myriad illustrations of myths, a stunningly wide variety of myths. These illustrations are most attentively described in detail by Pausanias, and the attention that he lavishes on all the images he sees—his description extends from paragraph 5.17.5 all the way through paragraph 5.19.10—is clearly meant to indicate, in my opinion, that Pausanias values the Chest of Kypselos as at least the second-best treasure, among all the treasures of Olympia, in comparison to best treasure of them all, the Statue of Zeus—just as the Temple of Hērā is ostensibly to be valued here as the second-best temple in comparison with the Temple of Zeus. Here I must stop to test what Pausanias is saying by taking a look at what is actually known today about Corinthian art as amply attested in the early sixth century BCE and thereabouts—the same era that must have produced the now unattested Chest of Kypselos. I agree with experts like Anthony Snodgrass (2001) and others who think, on the basis of the description written by Pausanias, that this lost work of art must have been as splendid as our writer says it was—even if the curators of the Temple of Hērā in any given era might not have valued the Chest as highly as did Pausanias himself. For now it does not matter what such curators might have thought about the artistry of the artisan who crafted the Chest of Kypselos. What matters instead for now is the artistry of the rhetoric displayed by Pausanias himself, as an artisan of words, in thinking through his own admiringly expanded evaluation of the Chest—which is clearly a counterpoint to his all-admiring but far more compressed evaluation of the Statue. That said, I can now resume my analysis of the rhetorical description, by Pausanias himself, of the Chest of Kypselos as a point of reference for his creation of a metonymic chain conveying the significance of the Temple of Hērā.

§22. In the verbal artistry of Pausanias, as I see it, his expanded description of the Chest of Kypselos is motivated by the fact that, as a work of art, it is far older than the Statue of Zeus, just as the Temple of Hērā is far older than the Temple of Zeus. Going deeper back in time, Pausanias can achieve a broader view of the Olympics overseen by Zeus and Hērã. Even if the Temple of Hērā is second-best to the Temple of Zeus in the present time of Pausanias, the past glories of this Temple of Hērā, formerly the Temple of Zeus and Hērā viewed together as a synergistic pair, are made most visible in the vastness and inclusiveness of visualizations emanating from the Chest.

§23. Just as the Statue of Zeus inside the Temple of Zeus at Olympia could be viewed by Pausanias as a synecdoche, where the single spectacle of this work of art could stand for the multiple spectacle of all the athleticism that was on display at the Olympics, so also the Chest of Kypselos inside the Temple of Hērā, as a comparably singular spectacle, could stand for that same multiple spectacle of the Olympics, but, this time, the multiplicity of that spectacle could include perspectives that were later occluded in the artwork adorning the Temple of Zeus.

§24. A shining example of such inclusion is the highlighting, by Pausanias, of female as well as male athleticism at the Olympics, since his narrative, in the context of describing the Temple of Hērā, now included the athletic event of footracing by girls at the festival of the Hēraia. Pausanias recognizes this festival as an integral aspect of the overall festival of the Olympics, which can now be seen as including athletic events organized by women for girls, not only athletic events organized by men for men as also for boys. Thus the lens for viewing the Chest of Kypselos is wider than the lens for viewing the Statue of Zeus, just as the lens for viewing the Temple of Hērã is wider than the lens for viewing the Temple of Zeus, since the Temple of Hērã, as I and many others think, is diachronically the old Temple of Zeus and Hērā. To put it another way, the athleticism of the Olympics can be viewed more broadly when we take into consideration the synergism of Zeus and Hērā as the principal overseers of Olympia and the Olympics.



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