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A xoanon (plural xoana) was an Archaic wooden cult image of Ancient Greece. Classical Greeks associated such cult objects, whether aniconic or effigy, with the legendary Daedalus. Such cult images were preserved into historical times. In the 2nd century CE, Pausanias described numerous xoana in his Description of Greece, notably the image of Hera in her temple at Samos. "The statue of Samian Hera, as Aethilos says, was a wooden beam at first, but afterwards, when Prokles was ruler, it was humanized in form" (Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus 40, 41, noted in Stewart).

At Corinth Pausanias noted that "The sanctuary of Athena Chalinitis is by the theater, and near it is a naked wooden image of Herakles, said to be by Daidalos. All the works of this artist, though somewhat uncouth to look at, nevertheless have a touch of the divine in them." (Description, 2.4.5)

Of the works of Daidalos there are two in Boeotia, a Herakles in Thebes and the Trophonios at Lebadeia. There are also two other xoana in Crete, a Britomartis at Olous and an Athena at Knossos.... At Delos, too, there is a small xoanon of Aphrodite, its right hand damaged by time, and instead of feet its lower part is square<ref>Compare the image of the "Lady of Ephesus" whom the Greeks called Artemis: Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.</ref>. I am persuaded that Ariadne got this image from Daidalos. (Pausanias, 9.40.3).

Similar xoana were ascribed by the Greeks to the contemporary of Daedalus, the equally legendary Smilis.

In Athens was preserved in the Parthenon a wooden effigy of Athena that the Athenians believed had fallen to earth as a gift to Athens. On the island of Icaria a rustic piece of wood was venerated for the spirit of Artemis it contained or represented (Burkert). Ovid in Metamorphoses (10.693ff) describes how in the cave of the Mother Goddess numerous wooden images are to be seen.

[edit] Notes


[edit] References

  • Andrew Stewart, One Hundred Greek Sculptors: Their Careers and Extant Works, passim.
  • Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, 1985. II.5.3 Temple and Cult image

[edit] See also



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