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Demetrios Poliorketes, Son of Poseidon and Aphrodite. Cosmic and Memorial Significance in the Athenian Ithyphallic Hymn

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image of Mnemosyne

This article offers understanding and reassessment of the parentage attributed to Demetrios Poliorketes in the ithyphallic hymn delivered to him at Athens in 291/0 BCE. This parentage, namely Poseidon and Aphrodite, and its significance have received only superficial or dismissive treatment in modern scholarship; the parentage is often argued as merely a reference to naval strength and personal attractiveness. This article argues for a stronger interpretation, that the reference to the two deities is connected to Demetrios’ interaction with Athens, to his own self-presentation, and to aspects of the hymn’s intellectual-historical context. Two complementary approaches are utilised. A unitary reading of the parentage indicates a reference to the battle of Salamis in 306, an event which had a significant role in Demetrios’ dealings with the Athenians and which engaged with the city’s memorial and political consciousness. A separative reading, treating both deities individually, reveals the strength of the parental association by illustrating the hymn’s connection to and exemplification of Demetrios’ symbolic divine power. Divine power, thalassic and uranic, was represented as extending to Demetrios from his parents.

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