Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ The tribal heroes as a group: history.
Amy C. Smith, edition of January 18 2003
page 2 of 16
Aristotle indicates that each hero already received worship by the time of the Cleisthenic reforms, although little evidence as to the nature of the worship of each hero is now known (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 21.6). Even if the locus of their individual cults is obscure, each hero may be identified, according to his mythology, with a particular part of Attica (e.g. Ajax of Salamis). Tribal documents seem to have been deposited at the local shrine of each hero, as well as by the statue of the relevant hero in the Monument of the Eponymous Heroes at the Agora in Athens.
The concept of an eponymous hero was an established tradition before the reforms of Cleisthenes; the four Ionian tribes, for example, were said by Herodotus to have been named after the sons of Ion (Hdt. 5.66). And the reverence of a hero whose name might be similar or identical to the name of the place where s/he was worshipped is an ancient mode of thought that by the classical period comes quite close to the concept of personification—the representation of a thing, place, or abstraction as a person or by the human form—so that in many cases it is impossible to determine whether the hero was named for the place or vice versa. Either way, however, through the democratic era, each eponymous hero came to be so closely identified with his tribe that his figure served to represent that group of people in a political sense. In the Agora—the market and political center of Athens—the heroes were commemorated (and worshipped?) together at the Monument of the Eponymous Heroes, attested as early as Aristoph. Peace 1183, but enshrined in its current form—east of the Metroon on the west side of the Agora—in the
page 2 of 16