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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 5 of 26

· Basileia (Kingdom, Sovereignty, or Monarchy) ·


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Aristophanes (Aristoph. Birds).
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Discussion: Basileia is personified in AristophanesBirds (Aristoph. Birds 1538-41, 1753), where she is presented as the companion to Zeus, the guardian of his treasury, and the promised wife of Peisthetairos, the hero who threatened the gods by depriving them of sacrifices. She also offers numerous gifts, including eunomia (good laws). This representation of Basileia does not seem to bear any resemblance, however, to the story illustrated in her only appearance in Athens’ visual arts, where she attends the punishment of the daughters of King Erechtheus, on a pyxis. The painter of this vase seems to have created Basileia (and Soteria on the same vase) as ephemeral personifications, to suit the particular mythological stories illustrated (in the case of Basileia, her presence reminds of the royal significance of the women shown—daughters of the legendary King Kekrops). There is no known connection of Basileia or Soteria with cults at Athens, any particular deities, or other personifications. Basileia, with its monarchic connotations, would have been particularly unpopular among democrats during the Peloponnesian Wars.


Athens, Fethiye Djami A 8922: a female figure, labelled ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΑ, at the punishment of the Kekropids, on the body of a lidded pyxis, painted in a style near the Meidias Painter, ca. 420-410.

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page 5 of 26