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BENDIS . In Greek testimonies, this South Thracian goddess is known variously as Bendis, Béndis, or Mendis. Her name is uncontroversially explained as deriving from Indo-European *bhendh-, "bind." She was probably a goddess of marriage whose function it was to watch over marital bindings.

As early as 429/8 bce, Bendis was the object of a state cult in Athens. In the ceremonies called Bendideia, which took place on the nineteenth or twentieth of the month Thargetion, two processions took place, one composed of the rich and influential Thracians of Piraeus, the other of Athenians. The Bendideion, or temple of Bendis, was situated on the hill Munychia.

The Bendideia, as described in Plato's Republic (327ac), was spectacular but did not contain any hint of the orgiastic character that is typical of rites performed in worship of a great goddess. Bendis was commonly identified with the Greek Artemis; it is therefore puzzling that Herodotus, who was very well acquainted with the Athenian Bendis, fails to mention her name in connection with the Thracian Artemis (Histories 4.33 and 5.7). Perhaps Herodotus had in mind another Thracian goddess, not Cotys, however, to whom the same objection would apply.

On reliefs and small statues, Bendis is represented as wearing Thracian garments and a pointed (Phrygian) cap. Her attributes are often a sacrificial cup in the right hand and a spear in the left hand. On Bythinian coins, however, she is represented as holding two spears in her right hand and a dagger in her left hand. On coins from Kabyle, she bears two torches, or one torch and a patera. Torches were also the attribute of the Greek goddess Hekate, with whom Bendis has also been often identified.

A temple consecrated to Bendis or Mendis existed in 188 bce on the western shore of Hebros. Later testimonies mention another temple in Egypt, near Ptolemais. Her name is attested as an anthroponyme in both Thrace and Greece.

Notwithstanding her prominent role at Athens, Bendis is not to be considered an important divinity. The cult of Diana among the Roman soldiers in Dacia and south from the Danube does not necessarily have anything to do with Bendis.


For further discussion, see Zlatozava Goceva's essay "Der Bendiskult und die Beziehungen zwischen Thrakien und Klein-asien" in Hommages à Maarten J. Vermaseren, edited by Margaret B. de Boer and T. A. Edridge (Leiden, 1978), vol. 1, pp. 397404.

New Sources

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Cerkezov, Valentin. "Iconography of the Thracian Goddess Bendis in the Tombstones with a funeral feast from Southern Thrace." Eirene 33 (1997): 5366.

Ducrey, Pierre. "Quelques reliefs et dessins rupestres de Philippes de Macédoine." In Mélanges d'histoire ancienne et d'archéologie offerts à Paul Collart (Lausanne, Switzerland, 1976): 147160.

Gerasimova-Tomova, V. "Sur le culte de Bendis en Thrace et le vêtement de femme thrace." Arch(Sofia ) 22 (1980): 2734.

Masson, Olivier. "Les noms théophores de Bendis en Grèce et en Thrace." Museum Helveticum 45 (1988): 612

Planeaux, Christopher. "The Date of Bendis' Entry into Attica." Classical Journal 96 (20002001): 165192.

Popov, D. "Essence, origine et propagation du culte de la déesse thrace Bendis." Dialogues d'Histoire Ancienne 2 (1976): 289303.

Ioan Petru Culianu (1987)

Cicerone Poghirc (1987)

Revised Bibliography

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