by Dr. Alena Trckova-Flamee, Ph.D.
Potnia was the most important goddess in Greece in the Late Bronze Age, which is called Mycenaean (1600-1100 BCE). She is mentioned on the tablets with Linear script B from Knossos and Pylos as PO-TI-NI-JA with many epithets. Some of these adjectives are of local provenience, where others characterize the sphere of her influence.
On Mycenaean monuments, Potnia appears with many attributes: snakes, double axes, lions, doves, the griffin, as well as other kinds of animals and sacred features. Sometimes standing alone, they indicate the presence of the goddess.
Potnia is the protector of nature, vegetation, fertility, and in this case she is closely related to the Minoan Mother of the Mountains. During the Late Helladic III period (after 1400 BCE), Potnia is depicted more warlike. Armed with weapons, wearing a helmet, she is accompanied by a griffin.
J. Chadwick believes that Potnia was connected with the cult of the Earth Mother, which dominated from Early Helladic time all Aegean religions. He supposes that this cult continued with a variety of names into the classical period. M.P. Nilson presumed that the role of Potnia in Greek classical religion was taken over by the goddesses Athena, Rhea and Hera.
I think the position of Potnia and her attributes were changing in the harmony with the needs of the Mycenaean community. Beside her primary function as the goddess of nature, vegetation, and fertility, she had to be powerful and warlike to protect Mycenaean palaces and their cities against their enemies. That is why Mycenaeans paid great attention to weapons, showing Potnia with a helmet or a sword, and it is not unusual that one adjective of Potnia on the tablet from Pylos was connected with bronze-smiths. In Greek Olympian religion the place of Potnia disappeared. Her role and her divine attributes spread out between many goddesses.
- Chadwick, J. 1994. The Mycenaean World. Cambridge.
- Demakopoulou, K., ed. 1990. Troy, Mycenae, Tiryns, Orchomenos. Heinrich Schliemann: The 100th Anniversary of his Death. Athens.
- Demakopoulou, K. 1988. Das Mykenische Hellas Heimat der Helden Homers. Athens, Berlin.
- Mc Donald, W.A., and Thomas, C.G. 1990. Progress into the Past. The Rediscovery of Mycenaean Civilization. Bloomington and Indianapolis.
- Nilsson, M.P. 1927. The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and its survival in Greek Religion. Lund, p. 1949.