Is properly an image of Pallas Athena, but generally an ancient one, which was kept hidden and secret, and was revered as a pledge of the safety of the town or place where it existed. Among these ancient images of Pallas none is more celebrated than the Trojan Palladium, concerning which there was the following tradition.
Athena was brought up by Triton; and his daughter, Pallas, and Athena once were wrestling together for the sake of exercise. Zeus interfered in the struggle, and suddenly held the aegis before the face of Pallas. Pallas, while looking up to Zeus, was wounded by Athena, and died. Athena in her sorrow caused an image of the maiden to be made, round which she hung the aegis, and which she placed by the side of the image of Zeus. Subsequently when Electra, after being dishonored, fled to this image, Zeus threw it down from Olympus upon the earth. It came down at Troy, where Ilus, who had just been praying to the god for a favorable omen for the building of the city, took it up, and erected a sanctuary to it. According to some, the image was dedicated by Electra, and according to others it was given by Zeus to Dardanus.
The image itself is said to have been three cubits in height, its legs close together, and holding in its right hand a spear, and in the left a spindle and a distaff.1 This Palladium remained at Troy until Odysseus and Diomedes contrived to carry it away, because the city could not be taken so long as it was in the possession of that sacred treasure.2
According to some accounts Troy contained two Palladia, one of which was carried off by Odysseus and Diomedes, and the other carried by Aeneas to Italy, or the one taken by the Greeks was a mere imitation, while that which Aeneas brought to Italy was the genuine one.3
But if we look away from this twofold Palladium, which was probably a mere invention to account for its existence in more than one place, several towns both in Greece and Italy claimed the honor of possessing the ancient Trojan Palladium; as for example, Argos,4 and Athens, where it was believed that Diomedes, on his return from Troy, landed on the Attic coast at night, without knowing what country it was. He accordingly began to plunder; but Demophon, who hastened to protect the country, took the Palladium from Diomedes.5 This Palladium at Athens, however, was different from another image of Pallas there, which was also called Palladium, and stood on the acropolis.6
In Italy the cities of Rome, Lavinium, Luceria, and Siris likewise pretended to possess the Trojan Palladium.7 Figures reminding us of the description we have of the Trojan Palladium are frequently seen in ancient works of art.
The name is figuratively used for anything on which the safety of a people, nation, etc. is supposed to depend.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 12.3; Scholiast on Euripides' Orestes, 1129; Dionysius, i, 69.
- Conon. Narratives, 34; Virgil. Aeneid ii, 164 ff.
- Dionysius, l.c.; Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 23.5; Ovid. Fasti vi, 421 ff.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 23.5.
- ibid. i, 28.9.
- Pausanias, l.c.
- Strabo. Geography vi, p. 264; Servius on Virgil's Aeneid ii, 166 ff.; Plutarch. Camillus, 20; Tacitus. Annales xv, 41; Dionysius, ii, 66.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.