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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 3 of 26

· Anangke (Necessity) ·


Read about the evidence
Herodotus (Hdt.).
Plurtarch (Plut. Them.).
Plot on a Map

Discussion: In the first explicitly political use of a personified abstract in literature, Herodotus (Hdt. 8.111) records that when the Athenian general Themistocles arrived on the island of Andros he reported that he and the Athenians had come with two gods, Peitho (Persuasion) and Anangke, to which the Andrians replied their only gods were Penia (Poverty) and Amechania (Helplessness). A variant story was told by Plutarch (Plut. Them. 21), that the Greek deities were Peitho (Persuasion) and Bia (Strength), and that the Andrian deities were Penia and Aporia (Resourcelessness). It is impossible to know which, if either, story was correct, although Herodotus’ version is more likely, for Bia, a masculine deity, was commonly paired with Kratos in Archaic art. In only one known instance might Anangke be illustrated in the visual arts of Athens: on a lekythos in Moscow. The label that is thought to identify the winged woman with a torch, reads ΑΝΑΝΛΗ, which has been thought to be a misspelling of ΑΝΑΓΚΗ (Anangke). One cannot be sure of the reading, but it is most likely that a personification was intended, as this winged figure is comparable and form and function to the contemporary images of Nikai (Victories); the artist would have added the label to distinguish Anangke from the more popular Nike.


Moscow II 1, 117: a winged woman, labelled ΑΝΑΝΛΗ, with a torch, on a lekythos in the style of the Providence Painter, ca. 470-460.

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