The stone made kadiskos from the Hellenistic Halos.
With a growing demand, I would like to start a series of brief posts that will present in detail the ancient Greek household worship and religious practice. One, major, problem that exists when a research is been conducted for the ancient Greek world and especially the ancient Greek religion is generalization. As it has been identified by a great number of scholars for every aspect of ancient Greek religious practice, generalization is in fact an error which has been occurred as soon as omissions and over-simplifications entered the falsification of facts. It is even more difficult to produce a generalized opinion for the ancient Greek household religion or household cults. Another issue that must be addressed is that the private religious practice that includes the household of the ancient Greeks has not been described in any detail in literature. Why? As it is the fact today, any family prayers, even if still they remain in some households, are obsolete. Therefore modern household household piety, if recorded, leaves a great deal of details out, which then required the future researcher to fill the gap with cross referencing from other sources, using even his imagination. Something similar it needs to be said for the ancient Greek household religious practices. My purpose, therefore, is to minimize the methodological difficulties mentioned above, by pointing out the sources, date and possible region or community for which the household practice is presented.

Zeus Ktesios is the God of the storeroom. Rose (1957) in his article entitled The Religion of a Greek Household, suggests that Zeus Ktesios is the “Greek equivalent of the Panates” (p. 100). It is wise to assume that the God existed throughout the millennia of Greek religiosity with a variety of different epithets. However, we know about Him from the archaeological artefacts and the surviving literature, and more precisely from Athenaios (473 b-c), a Hellenistic writer, as quoted below:

46. καδίσκος ;. Φιλήμων ἐν τῷ προειρημένῳ συγγράμματι ποτηρίου εἶδος. ἀγγεῖον δ᾽ ἐστὶν ἐν ᾧ τοὺς κτησίους Δίας ἐγκαθιδρύουσιν, ὡς Αὐτοκλείδης φησὶν ἐν τῷ Ἐξηγητικῷ γράφων οὕτως ‘ Διὸς κτησίου σημεῖα ἱδρύεσθαι χρὴ ὧδε. καδίσκον καινὸν δίωτον ἐπίθημα ἔχοντα στέψαι τὰ ὦτα ἐρίῳ λευκῷ καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ὤμου τοῦ δεξιοῦ καὶ ἐκ τοῦ μετώπου τοῦ κροκίου, καὶ ἐσθεῖναι ὅ τι ἂν εὕρῃς καὶ εἰσχέαι ἀμβροσίαν. ἡ δ᾽ ἀμβροσία ὕδωρ ἀκραιφνές, ἔλαιον, παγκαρπία: ἅπερ ἔμβαλε.’ μνημονεύει τοῦ καδίσκου καὶ Στράττις ὁ κωμικὸς ἐν Λημνομέδᾳ λέγων οὕτως:

          Ἑρμῆς, ὃν ἕλκους᾽ οἱ μὲν ἐκ προχοιδίου,
          οἱ δ᾽ ἐκ καδίσκου σ᾽ ἴσον ἴσῳ κεκραμένον.

I omitted the lacuna ἐκ τοῦ ὤμου τοῦ δεξιοῦ καὶ ἐκ τοῦ μετώπου […] τοῦ κροκίου as it makes the passage more easily to be understood. Athenaios quotes Philemon’s (of Athens) treatise for the Attic dialect (see Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities edited William Smith (1870) v. 3, page 264) which defines kadiskos as a kind of drinking-vessel. It is the vessel in which they (the Athenians) establish Zeus Ktesios. Athenaios then quotes Antikleides’ Exegetikos in whish describes the semeia (symbols) of Zeus Ktesios as a two-eared jar that its ears were wreathed with white wool – which is a customary ‘dress’ for all the holy things – from the right shoulder and its front and its woollen fillet (κροκίου - το κρόκιον: LSJ; see also Greek Popular Religion, by Martin P. Nilsson (1940) p. 68). It needs to be filled with anything you find (most probably ‘lucky’ findings) and pour in ambrosia, which is pure water, oil and some of all fruits of the earth (food-grains, παγκαρπία).

We have to first underline that the document and its sources that quotes were from the Hellenistic era and by Athenians. I am positive, though, that the custom of establishing the image of the God as the Hellenistic Athenians was in fact received and used throughout the Hellenistic Greek world. For example the Hellenistic city of Halos, where in an excavated house has been found buried in the floor of the central room, a stone kadiskos, ritual vessel, containing two replicas of snakes, one made by iron and the other by silver, a small bone and a shell and is been suggested that was a tribute to Zeus Ktesios – the Halos’ kadiskos can been seen in the attached photo and is available at the Archaeological Museum of Almyros.

My next post of the series will be on ἥρως οἰκουρός, hero of the household.

Nilsson, M., P. (1940). Greek Popular Religion Lectures on the history of religions. n.s. Other: 608793

Rose, H.J. (1957). The religion of a Greek household Euphrosyne, 1, 95-116