Aphaea – A Goddess Exclusively Worshiped at a Single Sanctuary on the Island of Aegina

Done 26
Aphaea (aa-f-Eh-aa) –  She was a goddess who was worshiped almost exclusively at a single sanctuary on the island of Aegina in the Saronic Gulf. She originated as early as the 14th century BC as a local deity associated with fertility and the agricultural cycle. Under Athenian hegemony, however, she came to be identified with the goddesses Athena and Artemis and with the nymph Britomartis as well, by the 2nd century CE, the time of Pausanias.

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“…Come here, where the Sanctuary of the Temple has a garden with beautiful apple trees and sleep proceeds from leaves that twinkle in the light… Here blooms the meadow…in multi color, with flowers of spring, and the wind brings sweet fragrance…”

That is how Sappho described the Sanctuary of the Temple in one of her odes that she devoted to Aphrodite. Imagine a temple built in a forest high on the mountain, the temple had in the interior of its sanctuary rich plantings of trees and groups of fruit bearing trees, flowers and green lawns. It was the kind of environment that should provoke all the feelings of compunction and absolute religion in the pilgrim.

Done 1
Pausanias also left some information about Aphaea, which derived from some traditions of Crete, Zeus and Carme had a girl called Britomartis. She was very fond of hunting, that is why Goddess Diana showed her particular favor. But Minos fell in love with her and trying to escape the girl jumped into the sea and got tangled int he fishing net of some fishermen. The fishermen took her on board of their ship. Then a sailor fell in love with her. Trying to escape again, she jumped into the sea and swam until she reached Aegina. She immediately went northeast where the grove of the island was. The sailors watched her vanishing little by little as if by divine means, that is why they called her Aphaea or Aphande (Vanished), and from what the legend says, she hid herself in a cave in the enclosure of the archaic temple. During the excavation in 1901 may Mycenaean findings came to light. So we can conclude that the inhabitants of that area worshiped that deity from the prehistoric era. Cretans called Aphaea “Dictynna”.

Done 12
The owner of the first temple was not Athena but Aphaea, as was all of the small temples that had formerly been built in that very place, which temples were something like country chapels. Many centuries before, since the founding of the holy site, it was Aphaea who was worshiped in Aegina. Athena was added just to the second (and last) temple in 500 BC as a “splendid housemate”.

 

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