Mt. Attica, Greece.
the S end of the plain of Athens from that of the Mesogaia to the E is the mountain range of Hymettos. About
20 km long, and broken into two parts by a pass that
crosses E-W from N of the civil airport at Helleniko to
Koropi, ancient Sphettos, the larger N section reaches a
height of over 1000 m along its whale-back ridge, while
the S, also called Anhydros (waterless), consists of several peaks, the highest being 774 m.
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 W slopes for
a distance of 3 km S 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 (Theophr. De
. 20). Less than a km N of the highest point,
excavations have disclosed two crude rectangular foundations, possibly for altars, the one probably dedicated to
Herakles, the other most likely to Zeus. Near the latter
was a pit full of sherds, the bulk either Geometric and
archaic or Late Roman. A large stele was also found
with cuttings for a small bronze statue, perhaps that of
Zeus Hymettios mentioned by Pausanias (1.32.2
). As for
the altar ascribed to Zeus, its location makes it a suitable
candidate for that of Zeus Ombrios described in the
same passage. The altar of Zeus Epakrios (Etym. Magn
s.v. Ἐπάκριος Ζεύς
) should have been on the very summit. All ancient remains, however, have been recently
obliterated by military building operations.
Another, and better preserved, pair of foundations
has been cleared at the Church of Prophet Elias, a little
more than 3 km due S of the summit, on the E slopes
of the peak Zeze, overlooking the Mesogaia, with the
ancient deme of Sphettos immediately to the E below.
Beneath the church are the remains of a small temple,
consisting of a cella with pronaos and opisthodomos.
Twenty-five m away another temple of similar size and
general disposition was discovered. Both were built in
the 6th c. B.C. The one on the site of the church was
apparently destroyed at the beginning of the 5th, restored in the second half of that century, and survived
until Roman times. The other was destroyed in the 3d c.
B.C. About midway between the two temples is a prominent natural rock, several m high, which may have served
as an altar. No evidence exists for a firm identification
of either temple.
Finally, there are two caves that deserve notice. Near
the N end and on the mountain's E flank, 4 km from
Liopesi, is the Lion Cave. Classical and Roman sherds
found within it testify to its long use in antiquity; perhaps Pan was worshiped here. No doubt surrounds the
deity honored in the second cave, the famous one of
Pan on the S slopes overlooking Van. Inscriptions, sculpture, votive reliefs, and pottery make obvious the popularity in Classical times of this cult of Pan, Apollo, the
Nymphs and Graces. Chief among the worshipers was
Archedemos of Thera, a man of the 5th c. B.C. “caught
by the Nymphs,” who carved in low relief an image of
himself as a sculptor carrying pick-hammer and square.
A millennium later, this cave was taken over by the
C. H. Weller et al., “The Cave at Van,”
7 (1903) 263-349PI
; R. Young, “Excavation on
Mount Hymettos, 1939,” AJA
44 (1940) 1-9; N. Kotzias,
Ἀνασκαφαὶ ἐν Προφήτῃ
; (1950) 144-58PI
; E. Vanderpool, “Pan in Palania . . . ,” AJA
71 (1967) 309-11M