Item Details

Where the Sun meets the Ocean: the glitter path as an eschatological route in archaic Greece

Issue: Vol 6 No. 1 (2020)

Journal: Journal of Skyscape Archaeology

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/jsa.39053


At sunrise and sunset, the Sun’s reflection on a sea appears as an elongated gold band, called a glitter path. This research explores how this intangible manifestation of light might have been culturally appropriated, focusing on a diachronic analysis from the Late Bronze Age III Aegean civilisation (c. 1400-1100 BC) to the Archaic period (c. 1100-800 BC) onwards in Greece. The analysis of visual observations, funerary pottery iconography, and literary sources supports the hypothesis that this phenomenon might have been considered a solar eschatological route for the dead. The LM/H III psychopomp octopus can be consider a predecessor of the god of Hermes, whose golden staff also resembles the shape of a glitter path. In the mythical geography, a continuity of the idea of the glitter path as eschatological route can be attested in the qualitative solar connotations of psychopomp gods. 

Author: Ilaria Cristofaro

View Original Web Page

References :

Arrighetti, Graziano, 1966. “Cosmologia mitica di Omero e Esiodo”. Studi Classici e Orientali, 15:1-60.


Ballabriga, Alain, 1986. Il Sole e il Tartaro: La visione mitica del mondo nella Grecia arcaicatranslation byLuca Salvatore. Montorso Vicentino: Edizioni Saecula.


Battezzato, Luigi, 2005. “Le vie dell'Hades e le vie di Parmenide”.Seminari Romani8 (1):67-99.


Bettini, Maurizio, 2011. The Ears of Hermes: Communication, Images, and Identity in the Classical World, translated by William Michael Short. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press.


Bilić, Tomislav, 2012. “Crates of Mallos and Pytheas of Massalia: Examples of Homeric Exegesis in Terms of Mathematical Geography”. Transactions of the American Philological Association 142: 295–328. 


Cerri, Giovanni, 1995. “Cosmologia dell’Ade in Omero, Esiodo e Parmenide”, La Parola del Passato50 (3-6): 437-467.


Cristante, Stefano, 2013. “Ricognizione su Hermes”. H-ermes, Journal of Communication1 (1): 9-24. DOI 10.1285/i22840753v1n1p9.


Cristofaro, Ilaria, 2018. “Il riflesso del Sole sul mare: una Via verso la rinascita nell’escatologia Tardo-Minoica (tarda Età del Bronzo III)”. In Atti del 20° Seminario di Archeoastronomia Genova 24-25 marzo 2018, edited by Giuseppe Veneziano: 192-201. Genova: Edizioni ALSSA.


Dietrich, Bernard C., 1997. “Death and Afterlife in Minoan Religion”. Kernos10: 19-38. 


Déderix, Sylviane, 2015. “Capturing the Dynamics of the Minoan Mortuary Space in South Central Crete”. In Minoan Archaeology: Perspective for the 21st Century, edited by Sarah Cappel, Ute Günkel-Maschek, and Diamantis Panagiotopoulos, 61-75. Louvain: Presses universitaires de Louvain.


Edwards, M. J., 1993. “Porphyry and the ‘Cattle-Stealing God’”. Hermes 121.(1):122-125.


Evans, Arthur, The Mycenaean Tree and Pillar Cult and its Mediterranean Relations(London: Macmillan, 1901).


Evelyn-White, Hugh G., trans. 1914. The Homeric Hymns and HomericaCambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press.


Harrell, Sarah E., 1991. “Apollo’s Fraternal Threats: Language of Succession and Domination in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes”.Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies32: 307-329. 


Homer, 1924. The Iliad, translated by A.T. Murray. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press.


Hesiod, 1914. “Theogony”. In The Homeric Hymns and Homerica, translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press.


Gallou, Chrysanthi, 2002. “The Mycenaean cult of the dead in central Greece”. PhD diss., University of Nottingham.


Goodison, Lucy, Death, women, and the sun: symbolism of regeneration in early Aegean religion, Bulletin Institute of Classical Studies, Supplement 53 (London: Institute of Classical Studies, 1989).


Jacob, Christian, 1988. “Ecriture, géométrie et dessin figuratif, essai de lecture d'une carte grecque”. Mappemonde(1):1-4.


Johnston, Sarah Iles, 2002. “Myth, Festival, and Poet: The "Homeric Hymn to Hermes" and Its Performative Context”. Classical Philology97 (2): 109-132.


Lynch, David K. and Livingston, William Charles, 2001.Color and Light in Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Marinatos, Nanno, 1993. Minoan Religion and Ritual. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.


Marinatos, Nanno, 2010. Minoan Kingship and the Solar Goddess: A Near Eastern Koine. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.


Mimnermus, 1996. “Mimnermus”. In Greek Lyric: An Anthology in Translation, translated by Andrew M. Miller. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.


Minto, Antonio and Piccardi, Giorgio, 1952. “« Frustulum Papyraceum » con resti di figurazione dipinta : Hermes Psychopompos (?)”. Aegyptus32 (2): 324-332 


Morrison, J. S., 1955. “Parmenides and Er”. The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 75: 59–68. doi:10.2307/629170.


Orpheus, 1999. The Hymns of Orpheus, translated by Thomas Taylor. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


Ovid, 1986. Metamorphoses, translated by A. D. Melville. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Owens, Joseph, 1979. “Knowledge and Katabasis in Parmenides”. Monist62 (1): 15–29. doi:10.5840/monist19796216


Parmenides, 1892. “Parmenides of Elea”.InEarly Greek Philosophy, edited by John Burnet. London and Edinburgh: A. and C. Black.


Pindar, 1915. The odes of Pindar, including the principal fragments, translated by John Sandys.

London: Heinemann.


Plato, 1967. “Gorgias”. In Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 3, translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Plato. 1969. “The Republic”. In Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. 5 & 6, translated by Paul Shorey. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.


Saunders, Emma. 2008. “Pictures from the sea: The role of marine imagery and artefacts in the Bronze Age Aegean.” Ph.D. dissertation, Trinity College Dublin, quoted in Berg, Ina. 2013. “Marine Creatures and the Sea in Bronze Age Greece: Ambiguities of Meaning.” Journal Maritime Archaeology8 (1): 1-27.


Setaioli, Aldo, 2010. “Le porte del sonno nel VI libro dell’Eneide”. Aevum Antiquum N.S.10: 13-38.


Strabo, 1917. The Geography of Strabo, Vol. I, translation by H. L. Jones. Loeb Classical Library. Harvard: Harvard University Press.


Vermeule, Emily, 1981. Aspects of Death in early Greek Art and Poetry. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Wilson, Robert, 1922 "The Caduceus and Its Symbolism". Annals Of Medical HistoryIV: 301-03.