You are here:
  1. » Home
  2. » Areas
  3. » Mythology
  4. » Europe
  5. » Greek mythology
  6. » Hippeia

Hippeia

by Dr Alena Trckova-Flamee, Ph.D.
The name Hippeia has its roots in the Mycenaean period. It appeared between the names of divine figures in a form "OTNIA IQEJA" in the Linear Script B in a Tablet from Pylos. The word Potnia denoted a majestic, powerful and sublime lady, while Iqeja connected with the Greek word "íppeía", which means a ride, a horsemanship, a cavalry, specified the sphere of the deity's influence. Between the Mycenaean terracotta figures we can find some goddess riding sidesaddle on her horse, unfortunately we have no prove that this figure represented Iqeja.

But even in the post-Mycenaean times the name Hippeia (Hippia) was used in context with a horse and with some military power. It seems, that from the Archaic times this function was transformed into the role of the goddess Athena, who was frequently called "of the Horses". According to myths Athena taught mankind how to tame a horse and she gave to Bellerophon a golden bridle for his horse Pegasus. There is a supposition that from the Archaic times Hippeia was worshipped as Athena-Hippia in the Athenian Acropolis and after her cult spread out over the countrysides of Attica. The horse was a sign of the noblemen - the knights - and their military capability. Athena-Hippia was probably the protector-goddess of this class, which had the second highest position in the Archaic Athens.

For this reason the statues of horsemen were made there as the dedications to the sanctuary of this goddess in the Athenian Acropolis. Later on, the cult of Athena-Hippia carried a rustic character, performed mainly in the villages of Attica. Athena of the Horses was worshipped in the biggest country town of the fifth century in Acharnai (modern Menidi). Finally, for Athena of the Horses and Poseidon of the Horses an altar was built on the rocky-hill, situated nearby Athens (at ancient times) and called the Kolonos of the Horses. The cult of Hippia was performed also in some regions of Peloponnese with some local modifications. In Olympia Athena-Hippia was connected with Ares-Hippius, which had to underline her control over the physical powers and violence of war.

In Arcadia, where the religious ideas took a local touch, the surname Hippia was given to Demeter for her unintentional but fulfilled relationship with Poseidon-Hippius. From this union their daughter Despoina and a mythical steed Arion were born. According to the myth Demeter was very angry about this event and so her face turned into the shape of a horse. Therefore her bronze statue in Figalea, which was made by the sculptor Onatas, represented the goddess with a horse head and a female body. Finally, there is a clear relation between the Greek goddess Hippeia or Athena-Hippia and the popular Celtic and Roman goddess Epona.


Article details:

  • Also known as:
    Hippia

Page tools: