Artemidorus’ Taxonomy

Category: On Ritual > Order of Gods and Rites


  1. Introduction
  2. Translation
  3. Greek text
  4. Schematically
  5. Correlation with Orphic Hymns

1 Introduction

Artemidorus of Daldis (also known as Artemidorus of Ephesus) is the author of the most important and by far the most comprehensive Greco-Roman work on dream divination, called the Onirocritica (meaning Dream Interpretation). This work is a treasure trove of information about ordinary life in the Greco-Roman world, including the realm of the gods and devotional practice.

Especially useful is his catalogue of the major gods by category, first distinguishing between those who can be perceived through human senses (either always or when they appear at will) and those who are known only through the mind, so-called intelligible gods. (This is not to be confused with the Platonic concepts of intelligible gods, who belong to an incorporeal realm beyond the cosmos. Artemidorus deals only with is in the cosmos.)

Secondly, Artemidorus groups the gods into spatial categories: (1) Olympian/aethereal, (2) celestial, (3) terrestrial [=upon the earth], (4) marine and riverine, (5) chthonic [=below the earth], (6) all-surrounding. Compare Orphic Hymns, preface, lines 32–33, for a similar division:

“The daemons of heaven and air and in the water,
Those of the earth and under the earth and dwelling in fire.”

The only unusual feature is the inclusion of “the Aethereal Fire”, apparently a reflection of the cosmic god of Stoic philosophy, and perhaps “the Nature of all things”. All other gods are rooted in common belief, civic rites, established iconography and canonical mythology (albeit not always in all four).

For Artemidorus’ interpretation of what these gods signify in a symbolic dream – not in a dream where the deity is speaking clearly –, see Artemidorus’ Interpretation of the Gods. In the course of that passage, he also introduces a few more deities, further bynames and iconographic types of the gods listed, and also makes a few theological observations, such as Apollon being the Sun, or the Mother-of-Gods the Earth.

2 Translation

(a) Of the gods, some are intelligible (noētoí), others perceptible (aisthētoí); and the greater number are intelligible, while only a few are perceptible. But the following explanation will show this more clearly.

(b) We say that some of the gods are Olympian (Olýmpioi) – whom we also call aethereal (aithérioi) –, others celestial (ouránioi), others terrestrial (epígeioi), others marine (thalássioi) and riverine (potámioi), others chthonic (khthónioi), and some again surround all these (périx toútōn).

(c) Now, Zeus, Hera, Celestial (Ouranía) Aphrodite, Artemis, Apollo, the Aethereal Fire and Athena would suitably be called aethereal. [These are all intelligible.]

(d) Sun, Moon, stars, clouds, winds and the things that form below these, i.e., Mock Suns, Meteors, Lightning and Iris (‘rainbow’), are celestial. These are all perceptible.

(e) Of the terrestrial ones, Hekate, Pan, Ephialtes, and Asclepius are perceptible – although Asclepius is also called intelligible –, while the Dioscuri, Heracles, Dionysus, Hermes, Nemesis, Vulgar (Pándēmos) Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Fortune, Peitho (‘persuasion’), the Graces, the Horae, the Nymphs and Hestia are intelligible.

(f) Poseidon, Amphitrite, Nereus, the Nereids, Leucothea and Phorcys are intelligible marine gods; the Sea, Waves, Seashores, Rivers, Pools, Nymphs and Achelous are perceptible.

(g) Pluton, Persephone, Demeter, Kore, Iacchus, Sarapis, Isis, Anubis, Harpocrates, Chthonic Hekate, the Erinnyes and Phobos (‘fear’) and Deimos (‘terror’), the daemons in their train whom some call the sons of Ares, are chthonic. Ares himself in one sense must be classed with the terrestrials, in another with the chthonic gods.

(h) Those surrounding these all, finally, are Oceanus, Tethys, Kronos, the Titans, and the Nature (Physis) of all things.

3 Greek text

Artemidorus, Onirocritica 2.34, ed. R. A. Pack. I have omitted a few unnecessary definite articles inserted by the editor, and changed the baffling Ποραμαί in f, which I take to be a typographical error, to Ποταμοί (as in Onirocritica 2.38).

(a) Τῶν θεῶν οἱ μέν εἰσι νοητοὶ οἱ δὲ αἰσθητοί· νοητοὶ μὲν οἱ πλείους, αἰσθητοὶ δὲ ὀλίγοι. δείξει δὲ ἔτι ὁ ἐπιὼν λόγος ἀκριβέστερον.

(b) Φαμὲν δὲ τῶν θεῶν τοὺς μὲν Ὀλυμπίους εἶναι, οὓς καὶ αἰθερίους καλοῦμεν, τοὺς δὲ οὐρανίους, τοὺς δὲ ἐπιγείους, τοὺς δὲ θαλασσίους καὶ ποταμίους, τοὺς δὲ χθονίους, ‹τοὺς δὲ πέριξ τούτων›.

(c) Αἰθέριοι μὲν οὖν λέγοιντο ἂν εἰκότως Ζεὺς ‹καὶ› Ἥρα καὶ Ἀφροδίτη ἡ Οὐρανία καὶ Ἄρτεμις καὶ Ἀπόλλων καὶ Πῦρ τὸ αἰθέριον καὶ Ἀθηνᾶ.

(d) Οὐράνιοι δὲ Ἥλιος καὶ Σελήνη καὶ ἄστρα καὶ νέφη καὶ ἄνεμοι καὶ τὰ ὑπὸ τούτων συνιστάμενα παρήλια καὶ δοκίδες καὶ σέλας καὶ Ἶρις. εἰσὶ δὲ οὗτοι αἰσθητοὶ πάντες.

(e) Τῶν δὲ ἐπιγείων αἰσθητοὶ μὲν Ἑκάτη καὶ Πὰν καὶ Ἐφιάλτης καὶ Ἀσκληπιός—οὗτος δὲ καὶ νοητὸς ἅμα λέγεται—, νοητοὶ δὲ Διόσκοροι καὶ Ἡρακλῆς καὶ Διόνυσος καὶ Ἑρμῆς καὶ Νέμεσις καὶ Ἀφροδίτη Πάνδημος ‹καὶ Ἥφαιστος› καὶ Τύχη καὶ Πειθὼ καὶ Χάριτες καὶ Ὧραι καὶ Νύμφαι καὶ Ἑστία.

(f) Θαλάσσιοι δὲ νοητοὶ μὲν Ποσειδῶν καὶ Ἀμφιτρίτη καὶ Νηρεὺς καὶ Νηρηίδες καὶ Λευκοθέα καὶ Φόρκυς, αἰσθητοὶ δὲ αὐτὴ ἡ Θάλασσα καὶ Κύματα καὶ Αἰγιαλοὶ Ποταμοί τε καὶ Λίμναι καὶ Νύμφαι καὶ Ἀχελῷος.

(g) Χθόνιοι δὲ Πλούτων καὶ Περσεφόνη καὶ Δημήτηρ καὶ Κόρη καὶ Ἴακχος καὶ Σάραπις καὶ Ἶσις καὶ Ἄνουβις καὶ Ἁρποκράτης καὶ Ἑκάτη Χθονία καὶ Ἐριννύες καὶ Δαίμονες οἱ περὶ τούτους καὶ Φόβος καὶ Δεῖμος, οὓς ἔνιοι Ἄρεως υἱεῖς λέγουσιν. αὐτὸν δὲ τὸν Ἄρη πῇ μὲν ἐν τοῖς ἐπιγείοις πῇ δὲ ἐν τοῖς χθονίοις κατατακτέον.

(h) Οἱ δὲ πέριξ τούτων Ὠκεανὸς καὶ Τηθὺς καὶ Κρόνος καὶ Τιτᾶνες καὶ Φύσις ἡ τῶν ὅλων. εἰ δέ τινα ‹ἄλλον› προβαίνων ὁ λόγος ὑπομνήσει τῶν θεῶν, οὐ παραλείψομεν τὸν περὶ αὐτοῦ λόγον.

4 Schematically

1: According to some, Aphrodite Ourania is the daughter of Ouranos and distinct from Pandemos; others say it is another name for the same goddess.
2: Aether or Fire, often identified with Zeus, is the ruling principle of the cosmos according to (the popular ancient understanding of) Stoicism.
3: Artemidorus notably passes over the planets (classifying, e.g., Aphrodite as terrestrial, whereas Porphyry and others treat her as identical with the planet Venus, called Aphrodite in Greek). This may be a deliberate choice, as dream interpreters were rivals to the astrologers.
4: Néphē are the clouds, in neuter gender; when viewed as deities (which they are not very often), they are more usually called by the feminine noun, Nephélai.
5: The Winds (Ánemoi) were very widely worshipped as gods.
6: Mock suns (Parhḗlia) are phenomena that look like additional suns in the sky. I do not know that they are ever described as deities elsewhere, but they were seen as meaningful divine signs.
7: Meteors (Dokídes) are not usually described as gods, but they were seen as divine omens and (sometimes) stars.
8: Lightning (Sélas), like meteors, is more often a divine sign than a deity. Perhaps what is meant are actually flashes in the sky.
9: Artemidorus must mean the visible rainbow, which ancient writers often differentiate from the anthropomorphic goddess Iris as described by the poets.
10: Pandemos, when distinguished from Ourania, is the Aphrodite born of Zeus and Dione.
11: The Sea (Thálassa) was generally considered divine, but not so often worshipped (or depicted anthropomorphically) as a goddess.
12: Waves (Kýmata) are not often called deities; the word is neuter, and divine names are almost always masculine or feminine.
13: I am not aware of another author who calls the Seashores (Aigialoi) gods.
14: Pools (Límnai) as goddesses are unusual, but generally all natural bodies of water are seen as divine.
15: Nymphs were already listed as terrestrial, because there are both water Nymphs and those belonging to the dry land. Nymphs of the Sea are listed as Nereids, and indeed in Christian times, this latter became the general term, in place of ‘Nymphs’.
16: Ares as overseer of warfare is terrestrial; but insofar as he is a rather daemonic, punitive figure, he is also chthonic.
17: This, to my knowledge, is the only place where Kore is overtly treated as distinct from Persephone. But the point is actually not that they are two goddesses, but that Plouton and Persephone are one iconographic group, and Demeter, Kore and Iacchus another; Kore–Persephone is depicted differently in these two contexts, and so her appearance in dreams will be of one or the other type.
18: I am unsure why Chthonic Hekate is listed separately here; she is of course the same goddess as Hekate per se, whose power ranges across the elements but is especially over the underworld.

5 Correlation with Orphic Hymns

  • Aethereal
    • Zeus: Orphic Hymn 15, 19–20 to Zeus under various names; also OH 48 to Sabazius and OH 73 to Fortune (the Daemon)
    • Hera: Orphic Hymn 16 to Hera
    • Aphrodite Ourania: Orphic Hymn 55 to Aphrodite
    • Artemis: Orphic Hymn 36 to Artemis; also OH 2 to Prothyraea
    • Apollon: Orphic Hymn 34 to Apollon
    • Aetherial Fire: Orphic Hymn 5 to Aether
    • Athena: Orphic Hymn 32 to Athena
  • Celestial
    • Sun: Orphic Hymn 8 to the Sun (and various other hymns to gods identified with the Sun)
    • Moon: Orphic Hymn 9 to the Moon (ditto)
    • Stars: Orphic Hymn 7 to the Stars
    • Clouds (Nephe): Orphic Hymn 21 to the Clouds (Nephelai)
    • Winds: Orphic Hymns 80–82 to Boreas, Zephyrus and Notus
    • Mock Suns: —*
    • Meteors: —*
    • Lightning (Selas): Orphic Hymn 20 to Zeus Astrapaios (‘of the thunderbolt’)
    • Iris: —
  • Terrestrial
    • Aphrodite Pandemos: Orphic Hymn
    • Ares: Orphic Hymn 65 to Ares
    • Asclepius: Orphic Hymn 67 to Asclepius
    • Charites (Graces): Orphic Hymn 60 to the Charites
    • Ephialtes:
    • Hekate: Orphic Hymn 1 to Hekate
    • Hephaestus: Orphic Hymn 66 to Hephaestus
    • Heracles: Orphic Hymn 12 to Hercules
    • Hermes: Orphic Hymn 28 to Hermes and OH 57 to Chthonic Hermes
    • Hestia: Orphic Hymn 84 to Hestia
    • Horae (Seasons): Orphic Hymn 43 to the Horae
    • Dionysus: Orphic Hymns 30, 42, 45–47, 49, 51–52 under various names
    • Dioscuri: —
    • Nemesis: Orphic Hymn 61 to Nemesis
    • Nymphs: Orphic Hymn 51 to Nymphs
    • Pan: Orphic Hymn 11 to Pan
    • Peitho (Persuasion): —
    • Tyche (Fortune): Orphic Hymn 72 to Tyche
  • Marine and riverine
    • Acheloüs: —
    • Aigialoi (Seashores): —
    • Amphitrite: —
    • Kymata (Waves): —
    • Leucothea: Orphic Hymn 74 to Leucothea
      • Orphic Hymn 75 is to her son, Palaemon
    • Limnai (Pools): —
    • Nereus: Orphic Hymn 23 to Nereus
    • Nereids: Orphic Hymn 24 to the Nereids
    • Nymphs: Orphic Hymn 51 to the Nymphs
    • Phorcys: —
    • Poseidon: Orphic Hymn 17 to Poseidon
    • Potamoi (Rivers): —
    • Thalassa (Sea): Orphic Hymn 22 to the Sea (Thalassē)
  • Chthonic
    • Anubis: —
    • Ares: Orphic Hymn 65 to Ares
    • Demeter: Orphic Hymn 40 to Demeter Eleusinia, Orphic Hymn 41 to Meter Antaia
    • Erinnyes: Orphic Hymn 69 to the Erinyes
    • Harpocrates: —
    • Hekate: Orphic Hymn 1 to Hekate
    • Iacchus: — (but Orphic Hymn 41 to Misē calls her Iacchus in the second line)
    • Isis: —
    • Kore = Persephone: Orphic Hymn 29 to Persephone
    • Phobos and Deimos: —*
    • Pluton: Orphic Hymn 18 to Pluton
    • Sarapis: —
  • Surrounding these
    • Kronos: Orphic Hymn 13 to Kronos
    • Oceanus: Orphic Hymn 83 to Oceanus
    • Physis (Nature): Orphic Hymn 10 to Nature
    • Tethys: Orphic Hymn 22 to the Sea (Thalassē), named Tethys in the first line
    • Titans: Orphic Hymn 36 to the Titans

*There seem to be no Greek or Latin hymns or prayers for these gods at all.

Status: completed