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DO´KANA

DO´KANA (τὰ δόκανα, from δοκός, a beam) was an ancient symbolical representation of the Dioscuri (Castor and Polydeuces), at Sparta. It consisted of two upright beams with others laid across them transversely. (Plut. de Amor. Fratr. 1, p. 36.) This rude symbol of fraternal unity evidently points to a very remote age, in which scarcely any attempts in sculpture can have been made. At a later time, when works of art were introduced into all the spheres of ordinary life, this rude and ancient object of worship, like many others of its kind, was not superseded by a more appropriate symbol. The Dioscuri were worshipped as gods of war, and we know that their images accompanied the Spartan kings whenever they took the field against an enemy. But when in the year 504 B.C. the two kings, during their invasion of Attica, failed in their undertaking on account of their secret enmity towards each other, it was decreed at Sparta, that in future only one king should command the army, and in consequence should only be accompanied by one of the images of the Dioscuri. (Hdt. 5.75.) It is not improbable that these images, accompanying the kings into the field, were the ancient δόκανα, which were now disjointed, so that one-half of the symbol remained at Sparta, while the other was taken into the field by one of the kings. Suidas and the Etymologicum Magnum (s. v.) state that δόκανα was the name of the graves of the Dioscuri at Sparta, and derived from the verb δέχομαι. (Müller, Dorians, 1.5.12, note m, 2.10.8; Zoega, De Obeliscis, p. 228.)

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