Cave of Eileithyia | Locations

Cave of Eileithyia

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The cave, situated in the area south of Amnissos, was dedicated to Eileithyia, the daughter of Zeus and Hera and mother of Eros.

As the goddess of childbirth and protector of pregnant women, Eileithyia was worshipped in the cave with libations and ceremonies centered on a sacred stalagmite in the shape of a pregnant woman’s belly, with a small depression forming the navel. Pregnant women rubbed their bellies on this in order to ensure an easy childbirth.

The cave was discovered in the 19th century and is also known as Neraidospilios (Fairy Cave). It is long and narrow (60 m long and 9-12 m wide). Archaeological finds prove that it was used systematically as a place of worship from the Neolithic to the Roman period. At the centre of the cave is a rectangular altar or nave, around two cylindrical anthropomorphic stalagmites.

The cave is mentioned by Homer as a stage on Odysseus’ travels. Excavations have also brought to light traces of worship in the Early Christian period.