Epione: The Goddess of Soothing Pain and the Giver of Health
Jun 27, 22
Epione: The Goddess of Soothing Pain and the Giver of Health
Euphenia (Ευφηνία), also known as Epione (Ἐπινόεια) or Myrrha (Μυρρή), was a goddess in ancient Greek religion, specifically an Alcmaeonid cult.
She was the daughter of the river god Achelous and the nymph Charites and she was also half-sister to Panacea, the other main deity of this group.
Her sister was Hypseis (meaning "Horse") and her brother was Phlias. Euphenia is a lesser-known deity who attracted little interest from any historian or mythographer until recently.
She is rarely mentioned by ancient writers except for one mention by Pausanias who described her temple at Amyklai where she had temples dedicated to her throughout Greece.
As it turns out though, there are several other references to Euphenia throughout ancient literature that have yet to be fully explored, so much more can be said about Euphenia than what has already been told.
A Brief Timeline of Euphenia’s Mythology
As the daughter of Achelous, the river god, Euphenia was a water nymph who was also a half-sister to Panacea, the other main deity of this group.
She was the sister of Hypseis (meaning "Horse") and Phlias and her brother was Epione or Myrrha (meaning "Myrtle").
Her father was also the father of Hippothoos and Autonoë. She was also a goddess of healing and was one of the main goddesses of the Alcmaeonid cult. She was first mentioned by Hesiod in his Theogony as one of the daughters of the primordial gods, the other being Panacea.
She was also mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey and later in Pausanias’ book Guide to Greece where he described a sanctuary of Euphenia in Amyklai where it was said that she had temples dedicated to her throughout Greece.
Euphenia: The Goddess of Soothing Pain and the Giver of Health
Epione is a goddess of healing, who through her cult came to be associated with soothing pain and the administration of health.
This is primarily due to the fact that the epikindos, the ritual cleansing of the body using red wine, was done as a “soporific” meant to calm and ease pain.
While the epikindos was widely used from ancient times, it was particularly prevalent in Epione’s cult and temples dedicated to Epione were found all over Greece.
Ovid described Epione’s temple in the following way: The rear of the sacred precinct has a small, circular portico and is paved with marble. Here the sacred image of the goddess is laid, covered by a mound of earth, to keep it safe during the night.
A little path leads to a small door through which one enters the cella, a space no larger than the interior of a large tomb. The walls of this cella are entirely covered with sculptures of all kinds of plants.
There is a fountain in the centre of the cella, where the drinker once lay down, and, when he awakes, he feels that the pain in his body has been soothed.
Epione is also known to have been associated with Aesculapius who, as we have seen, was another healing deity in Greek mythology, but there are some key differences between the two deities.
To begin with, Epione was especially known for her cult in Amyklai, which was located all the way in the Peloponnese far away from the other main centres of the worship of Aesculapius.
Moreover, while the worship of Aesculapius was widely considered to be a healing cult, Epione’s cult is known to have been known as a cult associated with soothing pain, as mentioned above.
Euphenia: Other Names, Attributes and Representations
As we have seen, Epione, the goddess of healing, is known by many names, such as Euphenia, and so the name of the goddess herself was probably pronounced something like “You-fuh-nee-uh.”
The name “Epione” comes from the Greek word “epinoeidos” (ἐπινόητος) which means “beloved” or “cherished” and it is believed that this was because she was the daughter of the river god Achelous.
The association with the use of red wine as a “soporific” to ease pain and calm the nerves is an attribute of Epione that is commonly mentioned in ancient texts, but the other attributes of Epione are not as widely known.
For instance, the cult of Epione was also said to have an association with the healing of wounds and to have temples devoted to Epione dedicated to the healing of wounds.
The healing of wounds was a very common practice among the ancient Greeks and thus, the association of Epione with this practice makes sense as well.
Euphenia: Sanctuary at Amyklai
Amyklai was a city in the Peloponnese and it was here that Euphenia had her main sanctuary where her cult was centred.
The city was famous for its wine production and it was said that its walls were built using the pomegranate blossom as a building material, which was probably why it was known as the city of the pomegranate.
Within Amyklai there was a square in the centre of the city where the worship of Epione was centred and the city was surrounded by a wall that was decorated with sculptures depicting the various myths involving Epione as told in the ancient Greek myths.
During the time that Epione was a major goddess in Amyklai, the city was famous for its wine and was considered to be a wealthy city.
However, there were also many other myths about Epione that are not known in much detail today, such as the story of Euphenia, who was the daughter of Achelous, the river god.
Euphenia fell in love with a mortal man, so, she helped him escape his father so that they could be together in secret. When her father discovered that the mortal man was gone and that Euphenia had helped him escape, he was so angry that he punished his daughter by turning her into a myrtle tree.
For this reason, myrtle trees were sacred to Euphenia in Greece as we can see from the myths and poems that mention this goddess.
Euphenia and Her Sisters in the Alcmaeonid Cult
As we have seen, Epione, the goddess of healing, was closely related to Panacea, the goddess of healing, but Euphenia was also closely related to another goddess of healing.
This was Myrrha, the son of Epione and Myrrha and who was also born from a myrtle tree. Myrrha was usually depicted as an ugly man, which is why he was called “Myrrhos” or “Myrrhos the ugly one,” but he was also said to be smarter and more beautiful than anyone else.
This makes him an interesting character and it is interesting to see him associated with the goddess Epione. Together, the three deities were associated with the healing of wounds and they were also associated with the soothing of pain.
Epione, the goddess of healing, may have been a little less known than her sister Panacea, but she should be gaining more attention and recognition as more is understood about her. As a goddess of pain and healing, she was important and should not be forgotten.
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