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Cecrops, a son of the soil, with a body compounded of man and serpent, was the first king of Attica, and the country which was formerly called Acte he named Cecropia after himself.1 In his time, they say, the gods resolved to take possession of cities in which each of them should receive his own peculiar worship. So Poseidon was the first that came to Attica, and with a blow of his trident on the middle of the acropolis, he produced a sea which they now call Erechtheis.2 After him came Athena, and, having called on Cecrops to witness her act of taking possession, she planted an olive tree, which is still shown in the Pandrosium.3 But when the two strove for possession of the country, Zeus parted them and appointed arbiters, not, as some have affirmed, Cecrops and Cranaus, nor yet Erysichthon, but the twelve gods.4 And in accordance with their verdict the country was adjudged to Athena, because Cecrops bore witness that she had been the first to plant the olive. Athena, therefore, called the city Athens after herself, and Poseidon in hot anger flooded the Thriasian plain and laid Attica under the sea.5


1 According to the Parian ChronicleMarmor Parium 2-4), with which Apollodorus is in general agreement, the first king of Attica was Cecrops, and the country was named Cecropia after him, whereas it had formerly been called Actice (sic) after an aboriginal named Actaeus. Pausanias (Paus. 1.2.6) represents this Actaeus as the first king of Attica, and says that Cecrops succeeded him on the throne by marrying his daughter. But Pausanias, like Apollod. 3.15.5, distinguishes this first Cecrops from a later Cecrops, son of Erechtheus (Apollod. 1.5.3). Apollodorus is at one with Pausanias in saying that the first Cecrops married the daughter of Actaeus, and he names her Agraulus (see below, Apollod. 3.14.2). Philochorus said, with great probability, that there never was any such person as Actaeus; according to him, Attica lay waste and depopulated from the deluge in the time of Ogyges down to the reign of Cecrops. See Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelii, x.10. Tzetzes (Chiliades v.637) and Hyginus, Fab. 48 agree in representing Cecrops as the first king of Attica; Hyginus calls him a son of the earth. As to his double form, the upper part of him being human and the lower part serpentine, see Aristoph. Wasps 438, with the Scholiast; Eur. Ion 1163ff.; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 111; Tzetzes, Chiliades v.638ff.; Scholiast on Aristoph. Plutus 773; Diod. 1.28.7, who rationalizes the fable after his usual fashion.

2 As to the contest between Poseidon and Athena for possession of Attica, see Hdt. 8.55; Plut. Them. 19; Paus. 1.24.5; Paus. 1.26.5; Ov. Met. 6.70ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 164; Serv. Verg. G. 1.12; Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Theb. vii.185; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. pp. 1, 115 (First Vatican Mythographer 2; Second Vatican Mythographer 119). A rationalistic explanation of the fable was propounded by the eminent Roman antiquary Varro. According to him, the olive-tree suddenly appeared in Attica, and at the same time there was an eruption of water in another part of the country. So king Cecrops sent to inquire of Apollo at Delphi what these portents might signify. The oracle answered that the olive and the water were the symbols of Athena and Poseidon respectively, and that the people of Attica were free to choose which of these deities they would worship. Accordingly the question was submitted to a general assembly of the citizens and citizenesses; for in these days women had the vote as well as men. All the men voted for the god, and all the women voted for the goddess; and as there was one more woman than there were men, the goddess appeared at the head of the poll. Chagrined at the loss of the election, the male candidate flooded the country with the water of the sea, and to appease his wrath it was decided to deprive women of the vote and to forbid children to bear their mother's names for the future. See Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.9. The print of Poseidon's trident on the rock of the acropolis at Athens was shown down to late times. See Strab. 9.1.16; Paus. 1.26.5. The “sea,” which the god was supposed to have produced as evidence of his right to the country was also to be seen within the Erechtheum on the acropolis; Pausanias calls it a well of sea water, and says that, when the south wind blew, the well gave forth a sound of waves. See Hdt. 8.55; Paus. 1.26.5; Paus. 8.10.4. According to the late Latin mythographers (see the references above), Poseidon produced a horse from the rock in support of his claim, and this version of the story seems to have been accepted by Virgil (Geo. i.12ff.), but it is not countenanced by Greek writers. The Athenians said that the contest between Poseidon and Athena took place on the second of the month Boedromion, and hence they omitted that day from the calendar. See Plut. De fraterno amore 11; Plut. Quaest. Conviv. ix.6. The unlucky Poseidon also contested the possession of Argos with Hera, and when the judges gave a verdict against him and in favour of the goddess, he took his revenge, as in Attica, by flooding the country. See Paus. 2.22.4; compare Paus. 2.15.5; Polemo, Greek History, cited by the Scholiast on Aristides, vol. iii. p. 322, ed. Dindorf.

3 The olive-tree seems to have survived down to the second century of our era. See Hdt. 8.55; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De Dinarcho Judicium 3; Paus. 1.27.3; Cicero, De legibus, i.1.2; Hyginus, Fab. 164; Pliny, Nat. Hist. xvi.240. Dionysius agrees with Apollodorus in representing the tree as growing in the Pandrosium, which is proved by inscriptions to have been an enclosure to the west of the Erechtheum. See Frazer, commentary on Pausanias, vol. ii. p. 337.

4 Compare Ov. Met. 6.72ff.

5 As to this flood, see Varro, in Augustine, De civitate Dei xviii.9; Hyginus, Fab. 164. The Thriasian plain is the plain in which Eleusis stands. See Strab. 9.1.6 Strab. 9.1.13.

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