“Savior of the City”
This God or Daimon of Elis protected them from an invasion
of Arcadians. During the night a nursing mother had a dream that her newborn
child would fight on the side of the Elians, and she gave the child to the
generals. The child was set at the battlefront, and the moment that the
Arcadian hoplites charged, he became a large snake. The men of Arcadia
immediately routed at the sight. The snake-child disappeared into the earth when
the danger had passed.
As a result, the people of Elis established a sanctuary to
him on the spot. The nursing mother was named Eileithyia, and so was the
Goddess of Childbirth, and his sanctuary was dedicated in Her name. Sosipolis
had a chamber within her sanctuary, where he was honored. The two of them were
honored with rites and with songs of birth and life. The cultus focused on protecting
the land of Elis, and on the safety of the community as a whole. Versnel says
His cultus also included Tyche. Together, they bring forth all abundance.
Versnel also believes that the Elian Sosipolis was sometimes depicted as an
adult man as well as a child, calling him a “year-god”(Versnel 295).
There is also Zeus Sosipolis in Magnesia, where the epiphany
comes in the form of an adult man, rather than as a separate force from Zeus.
The overlap between the Elian savior and Zeus here has given some scholars the
thought that Elian Sosipolis is a Zeus-like God, presented as a child, and
being God of Prosperity. He received a sacrificed bull at his annual festival,
perhaps at the beginning of the agricultural year. We also know that Zeus
Sosipolis could receive a ram as sacrifice. Strabo says that Sosipolis is truly
the child Zeus before he brought Kronos low.
Jane Ellen Harrison saw Eileithyia as a name for Ge, Rhea,
or Demeter, and compared Sosipolis to Erichthonios. She describes coins from
Magnesia that show Sosipolis with a throne with legs in a thunderbolt pattern
and attended by the Kouretes. She says that when the bull was sacrificed to
Sosipolis, it became the Savior of the City himself. Harrison conflated
Sosipolis with Ploutos and believed Tyche to be Eirene.
Sosipolis is one of those Beings who can flow between being
a Hero, a God, and a beloved Ancestor, depending on which region you are
studying. Harrison mentions that His name could also be an epithet for
The main sanctuary to Eileithyia and Sosipolis was a small
structure at Olympos on the same row as the treasuries, where an elderly
priestess veiled in white bathed the infant god and offered barley and honey
cakes for the serpent. This priestess was the only one who was able to enter
the naos, and other women attended from outside, with song and incense, and
never offering wine. Oaths were sworn locally at this sanctuary, when the
moment was one of import.
Harrison, Jane Ellen. Themis:
a Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, Cambridge, 2010.
Lawson, John Cuthbert. Modern
Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion: a Study in Survivals, Cambridge,
Ogden, Daniel. Drakon:
Dragon Myth and Serpent Cult in the Greek and Roman Worlds, Oxford, 2013.
Ransome, Hilda M. The
Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore, Courier, 2012.
Sommerstein, Alan H. and Andrew James Bayliss. Oath and State in Ancient Greece, de
Stehle, Eva. Performance
and Gender in Ancient Greece: Nondramatic Poetry in its Setting, Princeton,
Versnel, H.S. Triumphus:
an Inquiry into the Origin, Development and Meaning of the Roman Triumph,
Berchem, Nicolaes Pieterszoon. “The Infancy of Zeus,” 1648,
oil on canvas, now in the Royal Picture Gallery in Mauritshuis, the Hague. Via
Michelangelo Buonarroti. “The Fall and Expulsion of Adam and
Eve – detail” 1510, fresco, Sistine Chapel. Via wikicommons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo_Bounarotti_-_The_Fall_and_Expulsion_of_Adam_and_Eve_-_detail.JPG