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A Moment’s OrnamentThe Poetics of Nympholepsy in Ancient Greece$
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Corinne Ondine Pache

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195339369

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195339369.001.0001

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Nympholepts in Ancient Greece

Nympholepts in Ancient Greece

(p.37) 2 Nympholepts in Ancient Greece
A Moment’s Ornament

Corinne Ondine Pache

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 turns to nympholepsy understood as possession and looks at “real-life” nympholepts. It includes a survey of the archaeological evidence from caves and sanctuaries, including inscriptions and reliefs, built for the nymphs by ancient nympholêptoi. The word nympholêptos appears in an inscription found in a cave at Vari in Attica, which provides us with an example of a sanctuary established by a nympholept, Archedemos, in the fifth-century BC. The cave commemorates Archedemos’s encounter with the nymph through inscriptions and statues, including a portrait of the nympholept that shows him building the sanctuary that becomes the focus of his life. Pantalkes, a younger contemporary of Archedemos, built a comparable shrine in a cave at Pharsalos in Thessaly, which becomes a site of pilgrimage. We find another nympholept at Kafizin in Cyprus in a cave where there was cultic activity from 225 to 218 bce. These sanctuaries highlight the personal and transformative nature of the bond between men and nymphs and the ways in which religious experience engender poetic and artistic representations that come to be significant for the community.

Keywords:   Possession, Caves, Vari, Archedemos, Pharsalos, Pantalkes, Kafizin, Cyprus, Religious experience

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