The Theban Exploitation of the Cult of Hera at Plataiai during the Occupation of 427-386 BCE

Paul A. Iversen

Case Western Reserve University

In this paper the history of the Heraion at Plataiai between the end of the siege of Plataiai in 427 and the Peace of Antalkidas in 387 BCE and its impact on the Boiotian Confederacy will be discussed.  In particular, it will be argued that the Thebans exploited or instituted a pan-Boiotian worship of Hera at Plataiai as a means to unify the Boiotian Confederacy under the umbrella of religion after the long and bitter siege there.  This view differs from the most widely held belief that the the worship of Hera at Plataiai was first organized along pan-Boiotian lines in the late fourth century BCE (for general discussion, see A. Schachter,  Cults of Boiotia I:  Archeloos to Hera,  247-50).  As a part of the discussion, two inscriptions (SEG 24.361 and BCH 98, 1974, 645), both of which date shortly after 395/4, will be associated with the worship of Hera at Plataiai and in particular to the Great Daidala or some precursor to these celebrations. 

In the first five minutes, the History of the worship of Hera at Plataiai will be summarized.  Important sources for this review will be Herodotus (8.50; 9.52; 9.61; 9.69), Thucydides (2.71-78; 3.20-24; 3.52-68), Pausanias (9.2.7-9.3.9), Plutarch (FGrH 388F1) and the excavations there (AJA 7, 1891, 390-404).  Close attention will  be paid to Thucydides' testimony, who tells us that the Thebans built a new stone Heraion and inn (katag≈gion) at Plataiai in 426/5 or soon after.  Turning to Pausanias, it will be argued that the statue he mentions made by Kallimachos (c. 430-400 BCE), which was called Hera Nympheuomene, was undoubtedly a part of this original building plan.  Pausanias goes on to tell us why the statue was called Nympheuomene, and in so doing he ties this statue to the reconciliation-myth of Hera and Zeus that would later underwrite the pan-Boiotian festival of the Great Daidala.  It follows, then, that some version of the reconciliation-myth later used by the Plataians for their pan-Boiotian celebration must have been current when Kallimachos made his statue.  If correct, then the Thebans must have been exploiting this myth when they commissioned the statue, new temple and inn shortly after 426/5 BCE. 

In the second five minutes of the paper I will discuss the date and content of the inscriptions SEG 24.361 and BCH 98, 1974, 645. As the previous editors have demonstrated, SEG 24.361 was inscribed shortly after the Corinthian War of 395/4.  The newer fragment, BCH 98, 1974, 645, was almost certainly inscribed at the same time and for the same reason as SEG 24.361, probably by the same stone-cutter.  It is thus likely that both relate to a cult of Hera that was in some way connected (cf. Schachter,  Cults of Boiotia I:  Archeloos to Hera, p. 251, who, in speaking about the sanctuaries of Hera mentioned in SEG 24.361, writes, "Clearly there was a connection among these sanctuaries").  The most likely candidate for widespread worship of Hera in Boiotia was at the Great Daidala at Plataiai, and so it is more reasonable to assume that the Heraion mentioned in line 4 of SEG 24.361 is that at Plataiai rather than some unattested Heraion at Khorsiai or elsewhere. These two inscriptions, therefore, will be adduced as evidence that there was connected worship of Hera in Boiotia during the time of the Theban hegemony at Plataiai.

During the last five minutes I will discuss the important historical and political implications for a pan-Boiotian festival of Hera in the period of 427–387 BCE when Plataiai would have been under Theban auspices for the first time since 519 BCE.  It will be argued that the myth of the reconciliation of Hera to Zeus was used as propaganda by the Thebans to represent the reconciliation of the wayward states such as Plataiai (= Hera) back to their rightful lord Zeus (the Thebans).

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