Title: What was the right name for Athena in Athens? The use of hê theos in Athenian inscriptions (6th-4th centuries B.C.)
The ancient Greek language has two ways of saying “goddess”: hê thea,but also the epicene hê theos which is identical for both male and female referents. Some modern scholars have seen this linguistic flexibility as a sign of Athena’s gendered ambiguity. While it is true that the “official” Athenian inscriptions exclusively use the epicene to designate their tutelary deity, she is not the only one to be named in this way. Moreover, in private dedications, the dedicants could use both the epicene and the feminine to invoke their divinity. Through the cross-analysis of these two corpuses, this paper explores how the Athenians used the epicene form in votive and “official” inscriptions and attempts to grasp the motivations behind these discursive practices.
Keywords:Divine onomastics, Athena, epicene, grammatical gender, social gender, epigraphy, dedications.