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Athenian Political Art from the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BCE: Images of Political Personifications 

Amy C. Smith, edition of January 18 2003

page 21 of 26

· Philia (Friendship) ·


Read about the evidence
Isocrates (Isoc. 15).
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Discussion: Like Agathe Tyche, Philia was at times political, but not always. Philia ( φιλία) “the natural force which unites discordant elements and movements” (LSJ) could refer to friendship between household members or between neighboring households. In his poem On the Nature of Things, Empedocles (early fifth century) wrote of philia as the polar force that opposed neikos (τό νεῖκος), strife, feud, or hostility (DK, 31 B 16, 18-20). Philia was then taken to be domestic political force, that which joined demesmen, and citizens. In the late 320s, the demesmen of Kollytos resolved “…to sacrifice to all their gods and heroes and above all to Good Fortune for the safety of the city” (IG II2, 1195, Agora I 5825, and Agora I 6630). This Agathe Tyche represented the combined fortune of individuals in a household, deme, or the city herself, which is naturally linked to Philia, the spirit of Friendship that joined those groups of individuals. By the late fifth and fourth centuries Philia could also be used to refer to the force that joined Athens to her allies: in his Antidosis (ca. 390) Isocrates substituted misos (τό μῖσος), hatred, for neikos, as the force opposed to philia, in praising the Athenian general Timotheos for his friendly stance toward other city states (Isoc. 15.122).

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Acropolis, Athens (in text as “Acropolis”).

The only evidence of the cult status of Philia is Hesychius’ mention (s.v. αἰδοῦς βωμός) of an altar to Philia on the Athenian Acropolis. Although Agathe Tyche was more commonly worshipped alone, she seems to have been worshipped also with Philia and Zeus. The secure evidence for Zeus’ association with Philia and Agathe Tyche is restricted to one inscribed votive relief in Copenhagen [3]. The relief illustrates a family of worshippers approaching a pair of deities on a couch. The accompanying inscription explains “Aristomache… dedicates to Zeus Epiteleios Philios and to Philia, the mother of the god, and to Agathe Tyche, the wife of the god” (IG II2, 4627). The reclining male god shown must then be the primary recipient of the dedication, Zeus (Epi)teleios (Zeus who brings things to completion), the patron of matrimonial concord, along with Hera Teleia. Since only one of the two named goddesses is shown, it is most likely that she is meant to be Zeus’ consort (according to the inscription), Tyche—which might explain why Zeus here carries the keras of Tyche. Philia is shown with Agathe Tyche and Agathos Daimon on a mid-fourth century relief decorated statue base from the Athenian Acropolis [2]. The label is missing for Philia, who is illustrated to the right of Agathe Tyche. She bears no attributes or identifying characteristics, but on comparison with the dedicatory inscription of [4], might be taken to be Philia. Zeus/Agathos Daimon, Agathe Tyche, and Philia, may be among the gods represented on a fragmentary, contemporary votive relief in Athens [3]. Although no sources indicate the direct relationship of Philia to Agathe Tyche, their joint association in cult implies a civic dimension that went beyond the traditional household reverence for Agathos Daimon and Agathe Tyche.

Philia’s civic nature is implied in her earliest representation (440-430), as a maenad, on the name vase of the Eupolis Painter [1]. Here she advances, along with the generically named Satyra (female satyr), in what seems to be a civic festival procession (Philia holds a barbiton, while Satyra holds libation vessels), led by a torch-bearing satyr boy named Eupolis. Eupolis’ name is best translated adjectivally, “abounding in cities,” and at least conjures the mood of civic pride. As neither of her companions are true personifications, this Philia may have been given this euphemistic name merely to emphasize the civic nature of processions, and probably was not intended as a personification of civic friendship. This single vase is the only hint of a personified Philia in the fifth century; the fourth century references have been noted above.


  1. Vienna IV 1772: a standing maenad, labelled ΦΙΛΙΑ, on the name vase (a bell krater) of the Eupolis Painter, ca. 440-430.
  2. Athens, Acropolis 4069: a standing female figure, probably Philia, on a relief decorated statue base, ca. 360-350, with representations of Agathe Tyche.
  3. Athens, NM 1459: a standing female figure, probably Philia, holding a phiale and a scepter (?), on a votive relief, ca. 350, with a representation of Tyche.
  4. Copenhagen, NCG 1558: a seated female figure on a votive relief dedicated to Philia and other gods (IG II2, 4627), ca. 350 (shown here).

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