"Ianthe," John William Godward, 1898, Wikiart photo.
“Ianthe,” John William Godward, 1898, Wikiart photo.

Stepping softly through high colonnaded porticoes,
Athena’s Ionic temple, Ianthē, mountain shepherd-
Dess, entered the armored queen’s cella, kneeing at
Her towering effigy. With hand-painted altar bowl,
Ianthe presented offerings of crushed figs and grapes
Stirred with fermented honey-wine, pure water of
Spring-trickling sylvan dells.

Like her father Zeus, Athena expected yearling lamb
Blooding-letting, savoring burnt flesh of sacrificial
Animals, dusky smoke pluming high to receptive
Heavens, revered by immortal gods. Ianthe’s votive
Offering captured Athena’s grey eyes, sweetness
Rising to cloud-heights, divine breath of Thracian
Windswept peaks and cascading waterfells.

“Child, from whence did this offering come?” Athena
Asked, thought-words resounding in Ianthē’s mind.
“Dreams on headland summits, bronze shields and
Racing chariot steeds,” Ianthē said, her eyes fixed on
Athena’s marbled feet. In shimmering flesh Athena
Appeared, tasting Ianthē’s offering, ambrosia for the
God-queen, skin white as sun-bleached ocean shells.

With Athena’s blessing, Ianthē drank ambrosia, causing
Upwelling trance-song to commence, ascension to
Ethereal planes, in Homeric verse she spoke: “O! What
Mortal souls inhabit here, swept by perpetual flow of
Silver-lighted thoughts? Here, first blushing of sun-
Warmth I sense, above august orchard-trees, beyond
Winding pasturelands, bounding ocean swells.”

“Wrapt in Athena’s raiment,” Ianthē stated, “In sun
I bask upon a golden chariot, heaven’s glory reserved
For offspring of immortal race, my life immune from
Harms that may befall from spear, sword, nor any arms
That flail. Lo, I fear not arrow’s mortal sting or any
Vengeance wreaked, helmed in Athena’s protection,
Mine enemies are hers alone to quell.”

When Ianthē from heights fell, her strength weakened
In heart and knees, she collapsed to marble naos floor
As if sustained wounds of war, unable to return to her
Native Thracian clan, taste of blessed ambrosia, Ianthē’s
Mind was twixt between mortal and divine. Athena for-
Bade her step past temple bastions, remanding her as
Oracle, prophetic visions mystic Ianthē did foretell.

Related poem: “Mira, Priestess at the Gate”

"Temple of Athena Nike," Werner Carl-Freidrich, watercolour, 1877, Wikimedia photo.
“Temple of Athena Nike,” Werner Carl-Freidrich, watercolour, 1877, Wikimedia photo.



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