Melikertes-Palaimon Footnotes

1 Pausanias gives the lengthiest account of the myth at two points in his journey along the Scironian road from Megara to Corinth. At the Molurian Rock, in Megarian territory, Ino with Melikertes lept into the sea being pursued by her husband Athamas. A dolphin carried his body to the Corinthian Isthmus, and there, being renamed Palaimon, he received honors including the Isthmian Games (1.44.7-8). On reaching the shore, after Cromyon, the traveler mentions a pine tree and an altar of Melikertes marking the spot where the boy’s body was found by Sisyphus who buried him on the Isthmus and held the Isthmian Games for him (2.1.3). The altar with pine tree is represented on Roman coins of Corinth. For iconography see E. Vikela & R. Vollkommer, ‘Melikertes’, LIMC 6:1-2 (1992), 436-444; for myth, E. Will, Korinthiaka, Paris 1955, 169-180; D. Musti & M. Torelli, in Pausania, Guida della Grecia, II, La Corinzia e l’Argolide, Milan 1986, 207f.

2 Principal excavation: O. Broneer, Isthmia II, Topography and architecture, Princeton 1973, 99-112. In the 1989 excavations virgin soil was reached within the precinct of the first and second phases of the Palaimonion (Trs. 89-2A, 2B, 66), and it was perfectly clear that no cult establishment had been situated there before the opening of Palaimonion Pit A c. A.D. 50; E.R. Gebhard & F.P. Hemans, ‘University of Chicago excavations at Isthmia, 1989:I’, Hesperia 61, 1992, 12-18; 52-71; E.R. Gebhard, F.P. Hemans & JW. Hayes, ‘University of Chicago excavations at Isthmia, 1989:III’, Hesperia 67, 1998, 405-456 (Roman period). For the two temples of Palaimon, see E.R. Gebhard, ‘The Isthmian games and the sanctuary of Poseidon in the early empire’, in The Corinthia in the Roman period (JRA Suppl., 8), ed. T.E. Gregory, Ann Arbor 1993, 89-93.

3 Compare the situation in Corinth, where some Greek sanctuaries, apparently dormant or little frequented following 146 B.C., were repaired and resumed cult activities after the founding of the Roman colony in 44 B.C., while others were either abandoned or consecrated to new deities. The Asclepieion was immediately refurbished, while the Archaic Temple and its cult appear to have undergone changes: C.K. Williams, ‘The refounding of Roman Corinth: some religious attitudes’, in Roman architecture in the Greek world (Society of Antiquaries of London: Occasional Papers n.s. 10), eds. S. Macready & F.H. Thompson, London 1987, 31-34, with references to the excavation reports. In the case of the shrine to Demeter and Kore regular use does not seem to have resumed before the mid-1st century A.D.: E.G. Pemberton, Corinth XVIII, Part I. The sanctuary of Demeter and Kore. The Greek pottery, Princeton, N.J. 1989, 4; K.W. Slane, Corinth XVIII, Part II. The sanctuary of Demeter and Kore. The Roman pottery and lamps, Princeton, N.J. 1990, 4f.

4 See Broneer (supra. n. 2), 67f. Events of the interval between 146 and 44 B.C. are discussed by E.R. Gebhard & M.W. Dickie in ‘The view from the Isthmus: ca. 146-44 B.C.’, forthcoming.

5 Pausanias 2.2.3.

6 Broneer (supra n. 2), 20-22; Gebhard, Hemans & Hayes, ‘Isthmia excavations, 1989:III’ (supra n. 2).

7 Gebhard (supra n. 2), 78-89; Gebhard, Hemans & Hayes (supra n. 2).

8 For recent plans and discussion of topography, see Gebhard & Hemans, ‘Isthmia excavations, 1989:I’ (supra n. 2), 3-5; fig. 1.

9 Pelopion: A. Mallwitz, Olympia und seine Bauten, Munich 1972, 133-137; idem, ‘Cult and competition locations at Olympia’, in Archaeology of the Olympics, ed. W.J. Raschke, Madison 1988, 86-89; H. Kyrieleis, ‘Neue Ausgrabungen in Olympia’, AntW 21, 1990, 177-188. Heroon of Opheltes: S.G. Miller, ‘Excavations at Nemea, 1983’, Hesperia 53, 1984, 174-194; Nemea, a guide to the site and museum, ed. S.G. Miller, Berkeley 1990, 104-110.

10 J. Hawthorne, ‘The myth of Palaemon’, TAPA 89, 1958, 92-98. See also H. Koester, ‘Melikertes at Isthmia: a Roman mystery cult’, in D,L. Balch et al., eds., Greeks, Romans, and Christians. Essays in honor of A.J. Malherbe, Minneapolis 1990, 355-366.

11 Will (supra n. 1), 168-180, 210-212; W. Burkert, Homo Necans, tr. P. Bing, Berkeley & Los Angeles 1983, 196-199; K. Adshead, Politics of the Archaic Peloponnesus, Aldershot 1986, 39-39, 61-63. Most recently, Martin West raises again the idea that Melikertes may have been brought originally to the Isthmus by Phoenician sailors in the form of their god Melqart, traditionally identified with Herakles, but he cautions that “similarity of names is not sufficient in itself to establish a connection between a Greek and an oriental deity.” (The east face of Helicon, Oxford 1997, 58). As far as our evidence leads at present, the child on the dolphin seems distinct from the bearded strongman.

12 Burkert (supra n. 11), 197: “But we can trace the cult of Palaimon at least as far back as the etiological legend in Pindar, and it is likely that it appeared as early as the ancient epic of Eumelos. Perhaps at first a simple sacrificial pit was enough for the nocturnal sacrificial ritual.”

13 We are greatly indebted to George Huxley and Gordon Howie for discussions of the problems raised in this paper. Their scholarly wisdom has contributed much to the results presented below; the errors are our own.


15 Hero cult has received considerable scholarly attention in the past few decades, for the most part in order to define its origins, to distinguish more clearly the different types of heroes honored with cult, and to classify the wide range of shrines dedicated to heroes. See in general: W. Burkert, Greek religion, tr. J. Raffan, Cambridge, Ma. 1985, 136-139, 190-215; A. Snodgrass, ‘The archaeology of the hero’, AnnArchStorAnt 10, 1988, 19-26; E. Kearns, The heroes of Attica (BICS Suppl., 57), London 1989; C. Antonaccio, An archaeology of ancestors: tomb cult and hero cult in Early Greece, London 1993; S. Scullion, ‘Olympian and Chthonian’, CIAnt 13, 1994, 75-119.

16 For the worship of Pelops at his tomb, see WJ . Slater, ‘Pelops at Olympia’, GRBS 30, 1989, 485-501.

17 Hyp. a, d, e; Euphorion in Plutarch, Mor. 677A; Miller ‘ Guide (supra n. 9) 24-30,

18 Sacrificial debris consists of carbonized wood, ash and burnt animal bones. The votives include terracotta figurines of a masked boy, horse-and-riders and women, a stone figurine of woman and child, miniature vases, skyphos with inscribed dedication, inscribed perirrhanterion rim, lead curse tablets, and many coins; Miller, Guide (supra n. 9), 28f.; 104-107.

19 O. 13.33; N. 4.88; I. 2.16; 8.64; see also O. Broneer, ‘The Isthmian victory crown, AJA 66, 1962, 259-268; on the change of crowns, E.R. Gebhard, ‘The early stadium at Isthmia and the founding of the Isthmian games’, in Proceedings of an International Symposium on the Olympic games, eds. W, Coulson & H. Kyrieleis, Athens 1992, 73-80.

20 A. Schachter, Cults of Boiotia (BICS Suppl., 38.2), London 1986, 27, 65.

21 Cf. M.M. Willcock, Pindar, Victory Odes, Cambridge 1995, 97.


23 Cf. II. 2.653-670 where he leads a contingent at Troy.