Robert Graves — The greek myths


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Robert Graves – The Greek Myths
Robert Graves was born in 1895 at Wimbledon, s
writer, and Amalia von Ranke. He went from
school to the First World War, where he
I. The Pelasgian Creation Myth
5. The Five Ages Of Man
14. Births Of Hermes, Apollo, Artemis, And Dionysus
17. Hermes’s Nature And Deeds
19. Ares’s Nature And Deeds
22. Artemis’s Nature And Deeds
24. Demeter’s Nature And Deeds
29. Ganymedes
32. Tyche And Nemesis
58. Europe And Cadmus
59. Cadmus And Harmonia
61. Lamia
64. Endymion
65. Pygmalion And Galatea
68. Salmoneus And Tyro
70. Athamas
72. Melampus
81. Telamon And Peleus
91. Scylla And Nisus
93. Catreus And Althaemenes
100. Theseus And The Amazons
110. The Children Of Pelops
112. Agamemnon And Clytaemnestra
116. Iphigeneia Among The Taurians
123. The First Labour: The Nemean Lion
126. The Fourth Labour: The Eryminthian Boar
127. The Fifth Labour: The Stables Of Augeias
128. The Sixth Labour: The Stymphalian Birds
130. The Eighth Labour: The Mares Of Diomedes
Hippolyte’s Girdle
136. Omphale
146. The Children Of Heracles
148. The Argonauts Assemble
149. The Lemnian Women And King Cyzicus
150. Hylas, Amycus, And Phineus
151. From The Symplegades To Colchis
159. Paris And Helen
162. Nine Years Of War
163. The Wrath Of Achilles
170. Odysseus’s Wanderings
171. Odysseus’s Homecoming
cond thoughts about the
ory reputation for wisdom and
misdemeanour, and about the nature of divine am
‘the Ambrosia’. I no longer be
tearing animals or children in pieces and boasted afterwards of travelling to India and back,
they had intoxicated themselves solely on wine
or ivy ale. The evidence, summarized in my
goat-totem tribesmen), Centaurs
(horse-totem tribesmen), and their Maenad
womenfolk, used these brews to wash down
ug: namely a raw mushroom,
Greece; ambrosia then became, it seems,
I have myself eaten the hallucinogenic mu
shroom, psilocybe, a divine ambrosia in
immemorial use among the Masatec Indians of
Oaxaca Province, Mexico; heard the priestess
invoke Tlaloc, the Mushroom-god, and seen tran
agree with R. Gordon Wasson, the American disc
ideas of heaven and hell may well have derived from similar mysteries. Tlaloc was
mushrooms—proverbially called ‘food of the gods’ in both languages. Tlaloc wore a serpent-
These theories call for further research,
and I have therefore not incorporated my
expert help in solving the problem would be

THE mediaeval emissaries of
tinental university system based on the Greek and
‘Chimerical’ is an adjectival form of the noun
, meaning ‘she-goat’. Four
thousand years ago the Chimaera can have se
emed no more bizarre than any religious,
heraldic, or commercial emblem does today.
She was a formal composite beast with (as
Homer records) a lion’s head,
carved on the walls of a Hittite temple at Carche
mish and, like such other composite beasts as
Siculus, the three strings of her tortoise-shell ly
re also did. This ancient three-season year is
Reckoning
Only a small part, however, of the huge, di
sorganized corpus of Greek mythology,
which contains importations from
at an immense amount of miscellaneous
remains, survived in
to the same period.
True myth must be distinguished from:
(1) Philosophical allegory, as in Hesiod’s cosmogony.
ilenus’s account of Atlantis.
(4) Sentimental fable, as in
(5) Embroidered history, as in Ar
(6) Minstrel romance, as in th
eseus’s Federalization of Attica.
ory of Eriphyle’s necklace.
(9) Humorous anecdote, as in the bedr
oom farce of Heracles, Omphale, and Pan.
(10) Theatrical melodrama, as in th
main argument of the Iliad.
dysseus’s visit to the Phaeacians.
Goddess was regarded as immortal,
changeless, and omnipotent; and the concept
been introduced into
religious thought. She took lovers, but for pleasure, not to provide her children with a father.
e matriarch; the hearth which she tended in a cave or hut
their prime mystery. Thus
the first victim of
aniconic image, perhaps her most widespread
emblem, which appear
s at Delphi as the
, or navel-boss, may originally have repr
esented the raised white mound of tightly-
the easiest means of preserving fire without
smoke. Later, it became pictorially identifie
d with the lime-whitened mound under which the
harvest corn-doll was hidden, to be removed sp
sea-shells, or quartz, or white marble, undern
moon, but (to judge from Hemera of Greece and Grairme of Ireland) the sun, were the
goddess’s celestial symbols. In earlier Greek myt
h, however, the sun yields precedence to the
moon—which inspires the greater superstitious f
grant or deny water to the fields.
The moon's three phases of new, full and ol
d, recalled the matria
rch's three phases of
maiden, nymph (nubile woman) and crone. The
n, since the sun's annual course similarly
cal powers—spring a maiden, summer a nymph,
winter a crone—the goddess became identified with
seasonal changes in animal and plant life;
analogues fostered the sacredness of the number three, and the Moon-goddess became
enlarged to nine when each of the three
persons—maiden, nymph and crone—appeared in
triad to demonstrate her divinity. Her devotees never quite forgot that there were not three
times, Arcadian Stymphalus was one of the
few remaining shrines where they all bore the same name: Hera.
Once the relevance of coition to child-bearing had been officially admitted—an
s in the Hittite myth of simple-minded Appu—
man's religious status gradually improved, and wi
impregnating women. The tribal nymph, it seems,
chose an annual lover from her entourage
ear ended; making him a symbol of fertility,
served to fructify trees, crops
raw by the queen's fellow nymphs—priestesses
wearing masks of bitches, mares and sows. Next,
in amendment to this practice, the king died
was identified, began to decline in the summer;
and another young man, his twin, or supposed tw
ent Irish term is
'tanist'—then became the queen's lover, to be
duly sacrificed at midwinter and, as a reward,
reincarnated in an oracular serpent. These consorts acquired executive power only when
permitted to deputise for the queen by wearing
her magic robes. Thus kingship developed,
and though the sun became a symbol of male fe
rtility once the king's lif
with its seasonal course, it still remained under
the moon's tutelage; as the king remained
under the queen's tutelage, in theory at leas
t, long after the matriarchal phase had been
aten the sun, in the
moon's name, with being
There is, however, no evidence that, even
when women were sovereign in religious
matters, men were denied fields in which they
might act without female supervision, though it
may well be that they adopted many of the 'weaker-sex' characteri
functionally peculiar to man. They
h, gather certain foods, mind
transgress matriarchal law. Leaders of totem
clans were chosen and certain powers awarded
them, especially in times of migration or war.
Time was first reckoned by lunations, a
nd every important ceremony took place at a
astronomical observation, the sidereal year pr
months—that is, moon-cycles—rat
solar cycle. These months later became what
the English-speaking world still calls 'common-
law months', each of twenty-eight days which was a sacred number, in the sense that the
nstrual cycle is normall
moon's revolutions in terms of the sun. The seven-
day week was a unit of the common-law month,
the character of each day being deduced, it
seems, from the quality attributed to the corre
sponding month of the sacred king’s life. This
system led to a still closer id
entification of woman with moon
these common-law months. As a religious tradit
ion, the thirteen-month years survived among
European peasants for more than a millennium
Robin Hood, who lived at the time of Edward
II, could exclaim in a ballad celebrating the
May Day festival:

There are thirteen, I say ...

Thirteen, the number of the sun’s death-month,
Thus the sun passed through thirteen monthly
r their long autumnal decline.
year, gained from the solar year by the ear
Early Greek mythology is concerned, above
-religious history. Bellerophon masters winged
Pegasus and kills the Chimaera. Perseus, in a va
riant of the same legend, flies through the air
dusa; much as Marduk, a Babylonian hero,
kills the she-monster Tiamat, Goddess of the Se
al. Perseus’s name should properly be spelled
Mysteries. Perseus beheads Medusa: that is,
eir Gorgon masks, and took possessi
gon’s head and a mare’s body has been found in
Boeotia. Bellerophon, Perseus’s double, kills the Lycian Chimaera: that is, the Hellenes
annulled the ancient Medusan calendar,
Again, Apollo’s destruction of the Python at
Delphi seems to record the Achaeans’
millennium BC, usually called the Aeolian
and Ionian, seem to have been less destructive
than the Achaean and Dorian ones, which they
preceded. Small armed bands of herdsmen, wo
rshipping the Aryan trinity of gods—Indra,
of Mount Othrys, and attached themselves
peacefully enough to the pre-Helleni
ted in numerous myths, the sacred king
The lives of such characters as Heracles
e. the Zeus-worshipping Achaeans spared
Athene’s temples on condition that her rota
ries accepted his paramount sovereignty.
If some myths are baffling at first sight,
this is often because the mythographer has
accidentally or deliberately misint
A true science of myth should begin w
comparative religion, not in the psychotherapist
’s consulting-room. Though the Jungians hold
that ‘myths are original revela
ary statements about
unconscious psychic happenings’, Greek mythology
was no more mysterious in content than
are modern election cartoon, and for the most part
formulated in territories which maintained
among them. In the most primitive, the Moon
is worshipped as the supreme Triple-goddess
Ngame, clearly identical with the Libyan Neith,
and the early Greek Athene. Ngame is said to
own efforts, and then to have vitalized men
and animals by shooting magical arrows from her
new-moon bow into their inert bodies.
her counterpart, the Moon-goddess Artemis. A pr
incess of royal line is judged capable, in
The second cult-type marks Akan coalescence
god, Odomankoma, who claimed to have made th
e universe single-handedly; they were, it
seems, led by elected male chieftains, and ha
d adopted the Sumerian
compromise myth, Ngame is now said to have
vitalized Odomankoma’s lifeless creation; and
In the third cult-type, the queen-mother’s l
over becomes a king; and is venerated as
the male aspect of the Moon, corresponding with the Phoenician god Baal Haman; and a boy
dies vicariously for him every year as a
mock-king. The queen-mother now delegates the
Among the Akan, every change in court-ritual is marked by an addition to the
accepted myth of events in Heaven. Thus, if th
e king has appointed a royal porter and given
his office lustre by marrying him to a princess, a
done the same. It is likely that Heracles’s
marriage to the Goddess Hebe and his appointment
as porter to Zeus reflected a similar event at
the Mycenaean Court; and that the divine
feastings on Olympus reflected similar celebrations at Olympia under the joint presidency of
Hera’s Chief Priestess from Argos.
I am deeply grateful to Ja
ANTIQUITY
The early, pre-Hellenic, gods were manife
sted in animal form; their being was
intimately connected with trees, plants, bodies of
water, with earth and formations of earth,
Olympian gods, but on and in
In prehistoric religi
on the feminine essence was domina
nt. It was women too who held
Poseidon, whose power must once have been so
large and inclusive that compar
gnity. As her husband he was, as the name shows, invoked in
prayer. The same style of address is applied to
Zeus in Homer as an antique ceremonial form.
This primal world of gods is pervaded by a matern
is the paternal and masculine strain in the Home
ric world of gods. In the stories of Uranus and
wholly on the side of the mother, and the father
seems to be a stranger
fferent in the realm of Zeus
describe themselves emphatically as children of their father.
But the distinction of the pre-Homeric relig
ion from the Homeric is not comprised in
the fact that the male is of less weight than
the female. In pre-Homeric religion the masculine
divinities themselves are fashioned differently
than we are accustomed to imagine them from
Homer and classical art. Here they are Titans, of
whom it is told that they were overthrown by
the Olympian gods and incarcerated in the abyss.
Tradition has thus preserved the memory of
ory of the new gods. What was it that they
overcame on that occasion? Surely not merely
names, but essences. We know enough of the
nature of the Titans to realize that they were
basically different from the Olympians for whom
they had to make way. The first of the Aeschylea
n tragedies introduces us to one of them with
overwhelming grandeur-Prometheus.
ly. He himself was overreached by similar
cunning: instead of the children he wished to sw
brought him to disgorge first the stone and then
When we read these stories, up to the establ
ishment of the lordship of Zeus, we feel
ourselves in a different, one ma
y almost say, an un-Greek world. Memories of mythical tales
of primal civilizations are aroused. In many
respects the principal pe
inventive heroes and deliverers of primitive peoples. As in the case of the latter, the human
and divine are marvellously intermingled. This
n very characteristic
expression in a peculiar trait of the stories: the
to cite only a single example,
mere fact that in Homer Zeus is no longer the
eat transformation in thought.
The impression which the myth
s give of the masculine de
the Olympians seems to fit in admirably with
what we learn of their names and forms. The
name Titan is said to have denoted "king." No
but more properly the great
among the Romans and
theos
among
Now it is to be noted that these Titans are frequently characterized as Priapean deities.
Kaibel regarded this as the principal and origin
al conception; latterly it has been held that
nothing more than a joke is implied. But the evid
ence justifies Kaibel, inasmuch as it compels
us to believe that there must have been a rema
In one single case the concept of the masculine divinity rises
th in wedlock. Even Aeschylus sings of the
amorous glow of "holy heaven" and the nuptial
yearning of Earth, who is impregnated by the
rain from above. The myth represents the embrac
e as a mighty event, at the very beginning of
the world. The remarkable account in the
about Gaia, spreading himself full upon her."
n by its survival in famous myths. In
onjugal pair do not bear such transparent names
as '"heaven" and "earth"; Zeus appears in the ma
Danae, Semele, or other human women. But upon
closer examination it
becomes clear that
e same primal motif under various names and in various
the feminine in the religious thought of the early period remains unalterable. The god of
heaven in particular must have played only a sl
ight part in early religion, however persistent
the myths concerning him may be. So in the reli
gions of primitive peoples, of which there is
much to remind us here, the masculine divinity
of heaven often remains in the background.
phenomena of the prehistoric world, the myth.
We must understand that
great myths in the
of the world came to pr
eated personal figure. But myth is always
a happening in which the magnit
ude and importance of the indivi
dual agents or victims are
happening so dominates them th
at their images may easily
appear monstrous, grotesque, and
comic to the tamer taste of later generations. Thus we see
that the Homeric poems disdain their characteris
they were ignorant of them, though they
knew them well enough, and that Plato who was
himself gifted in mythic thought-though in a ne
One such myth, filled with the spirit of the
primal period, is that of Cronus and Uranus.
Uranus does not suffer the children whom Gaia is
on the point of bearing to him to reach the
light but hides them in her depths. In her afflic
s mother had given him falls upon his father
from ambush just as, at nightfa
ll and yearning for love, Uranus is spreading himself full over
the earth. Cronus amputates his father's male member and flings it into the sea. This
remarkable myth bears unmistakable kinship with
the famous Polynesian story of the primal
parents, heaven and earth, and of their enforced separation by one of their sons. Long ago
It is not as if some histor
The myth of Cronus and Rhea repeats the myth
and other names. lust as Uranus did not suffer
his children to come to light but hid them in
erance comes. In this connection it is
impossible not to think of the famous myth of
first tells the story. Athena's mother is said to
we have added the new motif that the child is born
of the father himself, and in very peculiar
fashion-from the head. Ts reminds us of the birth of Dionysus, whom Zeus caught up into his
It is quite remarkable that all these myths could latterly have been considered as
relatively late creations of speculation or exegesis
. With full regard to the caution that is here
called for it may still be positively asserted that of
all possible interpretations this is the least
probable. Whatever the original meaning of th
ese stories may have be
romantic, and gigantic qualities ar
ty as creations of
myths among primitive civilizations and strike us
with the same sense of strangeness. Even
the remarkable birth of Athena has a Polynesian
parallel, at least in
the circumstance that
there too the mythical personage was born out of
mother Papa bore him not in the usual manner but
through her arm, or, according to another
version, "straight out of her head.''
Homer knew well enough that Athene sprang fr
Along with ancient myth, magic also peri
shed, and though both may have survived
here and there in Greece in one form or another,
the main line of the Greek spirit proves that it
had once and for all decided against them. And th
is decision was made in the period for which
the Homeric poems are the great document.
We can classify the world-view of peoples according to the degree by which they are
A genuine miraculous hero in early myth
is Perseus, whom his mother Danae
th from the golden rain of the
reach the horrid Gorgons at the western extrem
ity of the world, beyond Ocean, he first visited
the Old Women and forced them to show him the way to the Nymphs, from whom he
the world and hewed Medusa's head off, wher
eupon there sprang from her trunk Chrysaor,
"the man with the golden sword," and Pega
sus, the lightning steed, whom Medusa had
conceived from Poseidon.
How different is the world to which this
heroic myth belongs from the world of
Homeric gods and men; how differe
acles or from the heroes of
Homer! Here adventure and marvel is everyt
involved. All that happens has a marvellous, fair
of monstrosity. When the head of Medusa is
severed from her body and man and horse spring
forth, one feels that something powerful and
near the gods and perhaps once was one.
Kinship with Hermes is very st
those traits in the picture of
Hermes which, as we shall see, belong to the ol
dest mode of conceiving the world. And thus it
becomes possible for us to recognize clearly what
of the gods from the Homeric, and in
The most miraculous happening in the worl
d and the most astonishing and magical
are the images and thoughts by wh
ich the spirit was at one
time filled. But the new spirit looks into existen
ce with different eyes. For it, not happening
and capacity are most important, but being. The di
vinities become figure
the manifold being o£ nature finds its perfect
1. THE PELASGIAN CREATION MYTH
In the beginning, Eurynome, The Goddess of
All Things, rose naked from Chaos, but
b. Next, she assumed the form of a dove, br
time laid the Universal Egg. At her bidding, Ophi
on coiled seven times about this egg, until it
c. Eurynome and Ophion made their hom
by claiming to be the author of the Universe.
1. Only tantalizing fragments of this pre—Hellenic myth survive in Greek literature,
the largest being Apollonius Rhodius's
2. Ophion, or Boreas, is the serpent demiur
ntly shown in his company. The earth—born
3. The Titans ('lords') and Titanesses had
their counterparts in early Babylonian and
Palestinian astrology, where they were deities ru
ling the seven days of
reduced to a mixed company of seven. The
4. In the end, mythically speaking, Zeus sw
d a transcendent God, composed of all the
5. Pausanias's statement that Pelasgus was th
e first of men records
the continuance of a
Palaeolithic culture in Arcadia until Classical times.
THE HOMERIC AND ORPHIC CREATION MYTHS
l living creatures originated
in the stream of Oceanus
ght, a goddess of whom even Zeus stands
in awe, was courted by the Wind a
nd laid a silver egg in the womb of Darkness; and that Eros,
whom some call Phanes, was hatched from this
1. Homer's myth is a version of the Pelasgia
2. The Orphic myth is another version, but in
(Eros) and theories about the pr
's silver egg means the moon,
silver being the lunar metal. As Ericepaius
('feeder upon heather'),
('revealer') is a loudly—buzzing celestial bee,
and confirmed the myth of the Golden Age, when honey dropped
from the trees. Rhea's brazen drum was beaten to prevent bees from swarming in the wrong
the bull—roarers used in the Mysteries. As
Phaëthon Protogenus ('first—born shiner'), Phan
es is the Sun, which the Orphics made a
symbol of illumination, and his four heads corr
espond with the symbolic beasts of the four
transcendent god Iao: Zeus (ram), Spring; He
lius (lion), Summer; Hades (snake), Winter;
Dionysus (bull), New Year. Night's sceptre passed to Uranus with the advent of
patriarchalism.
rth emerged from Chaos and bore her son
from the mountains, he
Her first children of semi-human form
yed Cyclopes, builders of gigantic
walls and master—smiths, formerly of Thrace,
c. The Libyans, however, claim that Ga
ramas was born before the Hundred—handed
Ones and that, when he rose from the plain, he
1. This patriarchal myth of Uranus gain
ed official acceptance under the Olympian
religious system. Uranus, whose name came to m
ean 'the sky', seems to have won his position
oral god Varuna, one of the Aryan male trinity;
but his Greek name is a masculine form of U
r-ana ('queen of the mountains', 'queen of
summer', 'queen of the winds', or 'queen
of wild oxen') — the goddess in her orgiastic
midsummer aspect. Uranus's marriage to Mother
Earth records an early Hellenic invasion of
Northern Greece, which allowed Varuna's people to claim that he had fathered the native
acknowledging him to be Mother
Earth's son. An emendation to
the myth, recorded by Apollodorus, is that Earth a
strife and were then
reunited in love: this is
mentioned by Euripides (
Melanippe the Wise
2. The Cyclopes seem to have been a guild of Early Helladic bronze—smiths. Cyclops
means 'ring—eyed', and they are likely to have
e source of their furnace fires;
tattoo themselves until Classical times. Concentric
circles are part of the mystery of smith—
3. Garamas is the eponymous ancestor of th
Oasis of Djado, south of the Fezzan, and were
conquered by the Roman General Balbus in 19
BC. They are said to have been of Cushite—Berber stock, and in the second century AD were
subdued by the matrilineal Lemta Berbers. They
south bank of the Upper Niger and adopted th
village under the name of Koromantse.
is derived from the words
meaning 'Gara's state people'. Gara seems to be
the Goddess Ker, or Q're, or Car, who gave
her name to the Carians, among other people, a
TWO PHILOSOPHICAL CREATION MYTHS
from Darkness sprang Chaos. From a union
— whoever he may have been, for some call
him Nature — appearing suddenly in Chaos, sepa
rated earth from the heavens, the water from
the earth, and the upper air from the lower. Ha
1. In Hesiod's
philosophical myths is based —
2. The second myth, found only in Ovid, wa
s borrowed by the later Greeks from the
Babylonian Gilgamesh epic, the introduction to
which records the goddess Aruru's particular
creation of the first man, Eabani, from a pi
ece of clay; but, although Zeus had been the
Universal Lord for many centuries, the mythogra
phers were forced to admit that the Creator
of all things might possibly have been a Creatrix. The Jews, as inheritors of the 'Pelasgian', or
same embarrassment: in the Genesis account, a
female 'Spirit of the Lord' broods on the face of the waters, though she does not lay the world
egg; and Eve, ' the Mother of All Living ', is or
dered to bruise the Serpent's head, though he is
3. Similarly, in the Talmudic version of
SOME deny that Prometheus created men,
or that any man sprang from a serpent's
meneus was the first man to app
before even the Moon was. He acted as Zeus's counsellor on the occasion of his quarrel with
while she was still a girl.
b. These men were the so—called golden r
ace, subjects of Cronus, who lived without
and honey that dripped from the trees, drinking
the milk of sheep and goats, never growing ol
was no more terrible than sleep. They are all g
d, likewise divinely created. The men were
disobey them, although they might live to be a
hundred years old. They were quarrelsome and ignor
at least, did not make war on one an
d. Next came a brazen race, who fell like fruits from the ash—trees, and were armed
pitiless men. Black Death has seized them all.
e. The fourth race of men was brazen t
oo, but nobler and more generous, being
begotten by the gods on mortal mothers. They f
War. These became heroes, and dwell in the
f. The fifth race is the present race of ir
on, unworthy descendants of the fourth. They
are degenerate, cruel, unjust, malicious, libidinous, unfilial, treacherous.
1. Though the myth of the Golden Age derives
eventually from a tradition of tribal—
of her reign in pre—agricultural times had
been forgotten by Hesiod's day, and all that remained was an idealistic conviction that men
THE CASTRATION OF URANUS
sons, the Cyclopes, into Tartarus, a gloomy place in the Underworld, which lies as far distant
from the earth as the earth does from the sky; it
would take a falling anvil nine days to reach
its bottom. In revenge, Mother Earth persuaded th
e Titans to attack their father; and they did
whom she armed with a flint sickle. They
ith the flint sickle that the merciless Cronus
ill—omen) and afterwards throwing them, and the
sickle too, into the sea by Cape Drepanum.
But drops of blood flowing from the wound fe
Erinnyes, furies who avenge crimes of pa
rricide and perjury — by name Alecto, Tisiphone,
and Megaera. The nymphs of the ash—tree, calle
d the Meliae, also sprang from that blood.
b. The Titans then released the Cyclopes fr
om Tartarus, and awarded the sovereignty
of the earth to Cronus. However, no sooner did Cronus find himself in supreme command
1. Hesiod, who records this myth, was a
Cadmeian, and the Cadmeians came from
Asia Minor, probably on the collapse of the Hitti
te Empire, bringing with them the story of
Uranus's castration. It is known, however, that
the myth was not of Hittite composition, since
an earlier Hurrian (Horite) version has been
discovered. Hesiod's version may reflect an
2. The later Greeks read 'Cronus' as Chronos,
'Father Time' with hi
But he is pictured in the company of a crow,
like Apollo, Asclepius, Saturn, and the early
probably means 'crow', like the Latin
cornix
Furies, who sprang from the drops of Uranus's blood,
ring the king's sacrifice, designed to fructify
the cornfields and orchards, her priestesse
s will have worn menacing Gorgon masks to
His genitals seem to have been thrown into the sea, to
encourage fish to breed. The vengeful Erin
nyes are understood by the mythographer as
warning Zeus not to emasculate Cronus with the
same sickle; but it was their original function
to avenge injuries inflicted only on a mother, or
a suppliant who claime
4. The ash—nymphs are the Three Furies in
more gracious mood: the sacred king was
in rain—making ceremonies. In Scandinavia it
became the tree of universal magi
c; the Three Norns, or Fates,
dispensed justice under an ash
which Odin, on claiming the fatherhood of ma
nkind, made his magical steed. Women must
have been the first rain—makers in Greece as in Libya.
5. Neolithic sickles of bone, toothed with flint or obsidian, seem to have continued in
6. The Hittites make Kumarbi (Cronus) b
by him is cut from his side by Anu's brother
e Greeks into a tale of how Aphrodite rose
from a sea impregnated by Uranus's severed gen
storm—chariot drawn by a bull, and comes to A
nu's help. The 'knife th
at separated the earth
from the sky' occurs in the same story, as
the weapon with which Kumarbi's son, the earth—
born giant Ullikummi, is destroyed.
THE DETHRONEMENT OF CRONUS
CRONUS married his sister Rh
ea, to whom the oak is sa
b. Rhea was enraged. She bore Zeus, her th
Lycaeum in Arcadia, where no creature casts a sh
adow and, having bathed him in the River
Neda, gave him to Mother Earth; by whom he
was carried to Lyctos in
c. Around the infant Zeus's golden cradle
might find him neither in heaven, nor on earth, no
d. Zeus grew to manhood among the shepherd
, Mother Earth prophesied victory to her
Cronus had confined in Tartarus; so he came
exemplary punishment, being ordered to carry
the sky on his shoulders; but the Titanesses
g. Some say that Poseidon was neither eaten
a foal to eat in his stead, and hid him among th
1. Rhea, paired with Cronus as Titaness of
the seventh day, may be equated with
Dione, or Diana, the Triple—goddess of the Dove and Oak cult. The bill—hook carried by
Saturn, Cronus's Latin counterpart, was shaped
like a crow's bill and apparently used in the
seventh month of the sacred thirteen—month y
ear to emasculate the oak by lopping off the
3. Amaltheia's name, 'tender', shows her to have been a maiden—goddess; Io was an
orgiastic nymph—goddess; Adrasteia means 'the
inescapable One', the oracular Crone of
the Titan—cult, but gradually detached thei
r subject—allies from them, and overrun the
Peloponnese. Zeus's victory in
undred—handed Ones over the Titans of
Thessaly is said by Thallus, the first—century historian, quoted by Tatian in his
Address to
322 years before the siege of Troy'
: that is to say 1505 BC, a
Zeus recalls a similar event
to fight Tiamat by his elders Lahmu and Lahamu.
Zeus recalls that of the Vedic male
trinity — Mitra, Varuna, and Indra — who app
y dated to about 1380
BC — but in this myth they seem to repres
ent three successive Helle
e—Hellenic worshippers of the Mother—
goddess assimilated the Ionians, who became child
ren of Io; tamed the Aeolians; but were
overwhelmed by the Achaeans. Early Hellenic chieftains who became sacred kings of the oak
and ash cults, took the titles 'Zeus' and 'Poseidon'
7. The victory of the Achaeans ended the tr
picturing both as armed w
double—axe, once wielded by Rhea, and in the Minoan and Mycenaean religions withheld
from male use. Later, Poseidon's thunderbol
8. Rhea's name is probably a variant of Era, 'earth'; her chief bird was the dove, her
chief beast the mountain—lion. Demeter's name means 'Barley—mother'; Hestia is the
goddess of the domestic hearth. The stone at De
lphi, used in rain—making ceremonies, seems
to have been a large meteorite.
9. Dicte and Mount Lycaeum were ancient seat
probably offered on Mount Lycaeum, when no creat
ure cast a shadow — that is to say, at
noon on midsummer day; but Pausanias adds that
10. Pan's sudden shout which terrified the Titans became proverbial and has given the
three nymphs of Libya, who dress in goat—
skins. As a girl she killed her playmate, Pallas, by accident, while they were engaged in
belonged to an epoch when fatherhood was not recognized. Neith had a temple at Sais, where
Solon was treated well merely because he was an Athenian (Plato:
annually in armed combat (
), apparently for the
position of High—priestess. Apollodorus's account of
2. Pottery finds suggest a Libyan immigrati
3. Among other mythological personages na
med Pallas was the Titan who married the
River Styx and fathered on her Zelus ('zeal'), Cr
atus ('strength'), Bia ('force'), and Nice
('victory') (Hesiod:
sacred to the Moon—goddess. Homer calls another Pa
llas 'the father of
the moon' (Homeric
). A third begot the fifty Pallantids,
Theseus's enemies, who seem to have
scribed as Athene's father.
er named Pallas, a winged goatish giant,
who later attempted to outrage
her, and whose name she added
of his skin to make the
not the skin of Medusa the Gorgon, whom she
onus, a king of Iton in Phthiotis, whose
c. Still others say that Poseidon was her fa
d. But Athene's own priests tell the following
his mouth and swallowed her, and that was
Athene's birth from Zeus's head as 'a
' It is also a dogmatic
insistence on wisdom as a male prerogative; h
has, in fact, managed to reconcile th
Athene, the Athenians' city—goddess, wa

Achaeans insisted that the Athenians must
acknowledge Zeus's patriarchal overlordship).
He has borrowed the mechanism of his myth
from analogous examples: Zeus pursuing
Nemesis; Cronus swallowing his so
ns and daughters; Dionysus's
rebirth from Zeus's thigh;
and the opening of Mother Earth's head by two me
oil—jar in the Bibliothèque Nationale at
Paris. Thereafter, Athene is Zeus's obedi
ent mouthpiece, and deliberately suppresses her
antecedents. She employs priests, not priestesses.
2. Pallas, meaning 'maiden', is an inappr
opriate name for the winged giant whose
attempt on Athene's chastity is probably deduced
from a picture of her ritual marriage, as
ter an armed contest with her
rival. This Libyan custom of
goat—marriage spread to Northern Europe as
part of the May Eve merrymakings. The Akan,
3. Athene's repudiation of Poseidon's fath
4. The myth of Itonus ('willow—man') repres
ents a claim by the It
onians that they
worshipped Athene even before the Athenians di
d; and his name shows that she had a willow
cult in Phthiotis — like that of her counterpart, the goddess Anatha, at Jerusalem until
Jehovah's priests ousted her and claimed the rain—making willow as his tree at the Feast of
5. It will have been death for a man to remove an
— the goat—skin chastity—
without the owner's consent;
6. Iodama, probably meaning 'heifer calf of Io', will have been an antique stone image
7. It would be a mistake to think of Athene
ominantly the goddess of
Pheneus (Pausanias). All these are pre—Hellenic sites.
THERE are three conjoined Fates, robed in white, whom Erebus begot on Night: by
name Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos.
Of these, Atropos is the smalle
st in stature, but the most
terrible.
forms the Fates of his decisions can, it is
said, change his mind and intervene to save whom
Clotho's spindle, and measured by the rod of L
achesis, is about to be snipped by Atropos's
shears. Indeed, men claim that they themselves
can, to some degree, control their own fates
by avoiding unnecessary dangers. The younger gods,
therefore, laugh at the Fates, and some
say that Apollo once mischievously made them
drunk in order to save his friend Admetus
from death.
that Zeus himself is subject to the Fates, as the Pythian
priestess once confessed in an oracle; because
they are not his children, but parthenogenous
daughters of the Great Goddess Necessity, agains
t whom not even the gods contend, and who
is called 'The Strong Fate'.
Aphrodite Urania is called the eldest of the three.
1. This myth seems to be based on the custom
of weaving family and clan marks into a
2. Zeus called himself 'The Leader of the Fa
tes' when he assumed supreme sovereignty
and the prerogative of measuring man's life; hence, probably, the disappearance of Lachesis,
'the measurer', at Delphi. But his claim to be
3. The Athenians called Aphrodite Urania 'the
eldest of the Fates' because she was the
Nymph—goddess, to whom the sacred king had, in ancient times, been sacrificed at the
means 'queen of the mountains'.
rose naked from the foam
a scallop shell, stepped ashore
first on the island of Cythera;
but finding this only a small
still the principal seat of he
r worship. Grass and flowers sprang from the soil wherever she
is, hastened to clot
b. Some hold that she sprang from the foam
which gathered abort the genitals of
Uranus, when Cronus threw them into the sea;
either of Oceanus and Tethys the sea—nymph, or
takes to the air accompanied by doves and sparrows.
1. Aphrodite ('foam—born') is the same
wide—ruling goddess who rose from Chaos
Her most famous centre of worship was Paphos,
where the original white aniconic image of
the goddess is still shown in the ruins of a grandiose Roman temple; there every spring her
2. She is called daughter of Dione, because Dione was the goddess of the oak—tree, in
which the amorous dove nested. Zeus claimed to be
her father after seizing Dione's oracle at
Dodona, and Dione therefore became her moth
HERA AND HER CHILDREN
been born on the island of Samos or,
some say, at Argos, was brought up in Arcadia by Temenus, son of Pelasgus. The Seasons
Cronus, Hera's twin—brother Zeus sought her
notably Mother Earth gave Hera a tree
the Hesperides in Hera's orchard on Mount
on Samos, and it last
Hera bathes regularly in the
ies Ares, Hephaestus, and Hebe, though some
say that Ares and his twin—sister Eris were
conceived when Hera t
1. Hera's name, usually taken to be a Greek
word for 'lady', may re
present an original
('Protectress'). She is the pre—Hellenic
Great Goddess. Samos and Argos were the
chief seats of her worship in Greece, but the Arcad
ians claimed that their cult was the earliest,
and made it contemporary with their earth—born an
cestor Pelasgus ('ancient'). Hera's forced
marriage to Zeus commemorates conquests of
2. Hebe, the goddess as child, was made cup—bearer to the gods in the Olympian cult.
She eventually married Heracles, after Ganymedes had usurped her office. 'Hephaestus' seems
lar demi—god; 'Ares', a title of his war—chief, or
tanist, whose emblem was the wild boar. Both
became divine names when the Olympian cult
was established and they were chosen to fill the roles, respectively, of War—god and Smith—
god. The 'certain flower' is likely to have
been the may—blossom: Ovid makes the goddess
e may—blossom was associated — point it out to Hera. The
4. In Argos, Hera's famous statue was seated
of her imprisonment in a chair may have arisen
from the Greek custom of framing divine
statues to their thrones 'to prevent escape'. By lo
city might forfeit divine protection, and the Ro
mans, therefore, made a practice of what was
politely called 'enticing' gods to Rome— which by Imperial times had become a jackdaw's
nest of stolen images. 'The Seasons were her
nurses' is one way of saying that Hera was a
pomegranate of late autumn, which she carried in
her left hand to symbolize the death of the
back of the North Wind. His golden apples, in
Greek and Celtic myth, were passports to this
Aphrodite at Paphos; it seems to
ceremony prescribed to a Moon—
priestess after the murder of her lover, th
7. The wedding—night on Samos lasted for three hundred years: perhaps because the
Samian sacred year, like the Etruscan one, co
nsisted of ten thirty—day months only: with
January and February omitted (Macrobius). Each day was lengthened to a year. But the
mythographers may here be hinting that it t
forced monogamy on Hera's people.
ZEUS AND HERA
ONLY Zeus, the Father of Heaven, might wi
eld the thunderbolt; and it was with the
his quarrelsome and rebel
lious family of Mount
Olympus. He also ordered the heavenly bodies
, made laws, enforced oaths, and pronounced
oracles. When his mother Rhea, foreseeing what
cause, forbade him to
marry, he angrily threatened to violate her. Thou
gh she at once turned into a serpent, this did
not daunt Zeus, who became a ma
le serpent and, twining about
made good his threat. It was then that he bega
fathered the Seasons and the Three Fates on Themis; the Charites on Eurynome; the Three
Muses on Mnemosyne, with whom he lay for
Queen of the Underworld, whom his brother
Hades forcibly married, on the nymph Styx.
Thus he lacked no power either above or below
earth; and his wife Hera was equal to him in
one thing alone: that she could still bestow the gift of prophecy on
any man or beast she
b. Zeus and Hera bickered constantly. Ve
xed by his infidelities, she often humiliated
him by her scheming ways. Though he would confid

1. The marital relations of Zeus and Hera re
rbarous Dorian Age,
when women had been deprived of all their magical power, except that
of prophecy, and come
to be regarded as chattels. It
is possible that the occasion on
which the power of Zeus was
a palace revolution by vassal princes of the He
llenic High King, who nearly succeeded in
2. Zeus's violation of the Earth—goddess
Rhea implies that the Zeus—worshipping
Hellenes took over all agricultural and funerary
ceremonies. She had forbidden him to marry,
in the sense that hitherto monogamy had b
een unknown; women took whatever lovers they
pleased. His fatherhood of the Seasons, on Themis
enes also assumed
control of the calendar: Themis ('order') wa
thirteen months, divided by the summer and wint
er solstices into two seasons. At Athens
and Carpo (originally 'Carpho'), which mean
respectively 'sprouting' and 'withering', and th
eir temple contained an altar to the phallic
Dionysus. They appear in a rock—c
3. Charis ('grace') had been the Goddess in
the disarming aspect she presented when
r lover. Homer menti
Pasithea and Cale, which seems to be a forced separation of three words:
Pasi thea cale
, 'the
Goddess who is beautiful to all men'. The tw
o Charites, Auxo ('increase') and Hegemone
('mastery'), whom the Athenians honoured, co
rresponded with the two Seasons. Later, the
Charites were worshipped as a triad, to ma
tch the Three Fates — the Triple—goddess in her
most unbending mood. That they
were Zeus's children, born
to Eurynome the Creatrix,
implies that the Hellenic overlord had power
to dispose of all marriageable young women.
4. The Muses ('mountain goddesses'), originally
goddess in her orgiastic aspect. Zeus's claim to be
one; Hesiod calls them
daughters of Mother Earth and Air.
BIRTHS OF HERMES, APOLLO, ARTEMIS, AND DIONYSUS
AMOROUS Zeus lay with numerous nymphs de
scended from the Titans or the gods
and, after the creation of man,
with mortal women too; no le
ss than four great Olympian
he begat Hermes on Ma
cadia. Next, he begat Apollo and Artemis on
b. The mother of Zeus's son Dionysus is
variously named: some say 'that she was
follows. Zeus, disguised as
in his true nature and form.
Semele followed this advice and, when Zeus refu
sed her plea, denied him further access to her
bed. Then, in anger, he appeared as thunder and lightning, and she was consumed. But
Hermes saved her six—months son; sewed him
up inside Zeus's thigh, to mature there for
three months longer; and, in du
e course of time, delivered him. Thus Dionysus is called
'twice—born', or 'the child of the double door'.
1. Zeus's rapes apparently refer to Hellenic conquests of the goddess's ancient shrines,
s marriages, to an ancient custom
tle 'Zeus' to
the sacred king of the oak cult. Hermes, his so
goddess as Crone — was originally
not a god, but the totemistic virt
cairn. Such pillars were the centre of
an orgiastic dance in the goddess's honour.
2. One component in Apollo's godhead seems to have been an oracular mouse —
Apollo Smintheus ('Mouse—Apollo') is among his
earliest titles — consulted in a shrine of
the Great Goddess, which perhaps explains w
namely underground. Mice were associated with
therefore worshipped Apollo as a god of medici
and a date—palm on the north side of a mountain. They called
him a twin—brother of Artemis Goddess of Ch
ildbirth, and made his
3. Artemis, originally an orgi
Flocks of quail will have made Ortygia a res
ting—place on their way north during the spring
migration. The story that Delos, Apollo's birt
en a floating island may
be a misunderstanding of a record that his birt
hplace was now officially
fixed: since in Homer
) he is called Lycegenes, 'born in Lycia'; a
Ortygia near Ephesus (Tacitus:
). Both the Boeotian Tegyrans and the Attic Zosterans
also claimed him as a native son (Stephanus of Byzantium sub Tegyra).
acred king whom the goddess ritually killed
with a thunderbolt in the seve
nth month from the winter sols
tice, and whom her priestesses
devoured. This explains his mothers: Di
one, the Oak—goddess; Io and Demeter, Corn—
ch, when calling him 'Dionysus, a son of
5. The story of Semele, daughter of Cadm
us, seems to record the summary action
on of royal sacrifice: Olympian Zeus asserts
his power, takes the doomed king under his own
own thunderbolt. Dionysus thus becomes an immort
his immortal father.
Semele was worshipped at Athens during the Le
naea, the Festival of the Wild Women, when
a yearling bull, representing Dionysus, was cut in
to nine pieces and sacrificed to her: one
piece being burned, the remainder
Semele is usually explained
as form of Selene ('moon'), and nine wa
s the traditional numbe
r of orgiastic moon—
priestesses who took part in such feasts —
, and nine more killed and
devoured St. Samson of Dol's
hed from the world—egg, was the first of the gods since,
without him, none of the rest could have b
een born; they make him contemporary with
b. Others hold that he was Aphrodite's son
by Hermes, or by Ares or by her own father,
Zeus; or the son of Iris by the West Wind. Er
age or position, but flied about on golden wi
ngs, shooting barbed arrows at random or
1. Eros ('sexual passion') was a mere abstra
ction to Hesiod. The early Greeks pictured
him as a Ker, or winged 'Spite', like Old Age,
y responsible god to figure among the ruling
Olympian family of Twelve.
POSEIDON'S NATURE AND DEEDS
s, after deposing their fath
er Cronus, shook lots in a
b. Needing a wife who would be at home in
constellation, the Dolphin. Amphitrite bore
Benthesicyme; but he caused her almost as much
with goddesses, nymphs, and mortals. Especially
daughter of Phorcys, whom she
changed into a barking monste
c. Poseidon is greedy of earthly kingdoms
, and once claimed possession of Attica by
thrusting his trident into the
, where a well of sea—water immediately
e South Wind blows you may
Cecrops, Athene came and took possession in a
gentler manner, by planting the first olive—
tree beside the well. Poseidon, in a fury,
challenged her to single combat, an Athene w
ould have accepted had not Zeus interposed and
ordered them to submit the disp
en, they appeared before a
divine court, consisting of their supernal
fellow—deities who called on Cecrops to give
evidence. Zeus himself expressed opinion, but while all the other gods supported Poseidon, all
the goddesses supported Athene. Thus, by a majority
Athene's city of Athenae stood, whereupon she
e Poseidon's wrath, the women of Athens were
deprived of their vote, and the men forbidde
n to bear their mothers' names hitherto.
e. Poseidon also disputed Troezen with At
hene; and on this occasion Zeus issued an
order for the city to be shared equally betw
een them, an arrangemen
ully to claim Aegina from Zeus,
and Naxos from Dionysus; and in a
claim for Corinth with Helius received the
Acropolis. In fury, he tried to seize Argolis fr
om Hera, was again ready
to fight, refusing to
appear before his Olympian peers who, he said,
were prejudiced against him. Zeus, therefore,
referred the matter to the River—gods Inach
Hera's favour. Since he had been forbidden to
revenge himself with a flood as before, he did
exactly the opposite: he dried up judges' streams
so that they now never flow in summer.
However, the sake of Amymone, one of the Da
f. He boasts of having created the horse,
though some say that, when he was newly
done so before him; but his claim to have in
the second element, air. In the Homeric poems
Amphitrite means simply ‘the sea’; she is not
. Her reluctance to marry Posei
don matches Hera’s
to marry Zeus, and Persephone’s to marry Hades; the marriage involved the interference by
male priests with female control of the fishing
industry. The fable of Delphinus is sentimental
calm. Amphitrite’s children were herself in
triad: Triton, lucky new moon; Rhode, full ha
rvest-moon; and Benthesicyme, dangerous old
moon. But Triton has since become masculinise
expedition mustered against Troy.
2. The story of Amphitrite’s vengeance on Scy
lla is paralleled in that of Pasiphaë’s
vengeance on another Scylla. Scylla (‘she w
ho rends’ or ‘puppy’) is merely a disagreeable
aspect of herself: the dogheaded Death-goddess Hecate, who was at home both on land and in
the waves. A seal impression from Cnossus s
hows her threatening a man in a boat, as she
3. Poseidon’s attempts to take possession of cer
over Athens suggests an unsuccessful
attempt to make him the city
’s tutelary deity in place of
4. The cultivated olive was originally importe
d from Libya, which supports the myth of
Athene’s Libyan origin; but what she brought
will have been only a cutting—the cultivated
olive does not breed true, but must always be gr
afted on the oleaster, or wild olive. Her tree
century BC, which meteorologists reckon to ha
ve been a period of maximum rainfall, the
rivers of Arcadia never ran dry, and that thei
r subsequent shrinking was attributed to the
5. The myth of Demeter and Poseidon record
6. Demeter as Fury, like Nemesis as Fury, wa
al mood of murder;
and the story, also told of Poseidon and Demete
and an unnamed Fury at the fountain of Tilphusa in Boeotia (Scholiast on Homer’s
me. It appears in early Indi
an sacred literature, where
Saranyu turns herself into a mare, Vivaswat becomes a stallion and covers
Hermes’s Nature And Deeds
WHEN Hermes was born on Mount Cyllene his mo
ther Maia laid him in swaddling bands
her back was turned slipped off and went looking for adventure. Arrived at Pieria, where
c. At that moment Apollo cam
severely that Hermes must rest
ore the stolen cows. Maia pointed
to the child, st
sleep. ‘What an absurd charge
she cried. But Apollo had
already recognized the bands. He picked Hermes
, carried him to Olympus, and there formally
accused him theft, offering the bands as evidence. Zeus, loathing to believe that his own new-
born son was a thief, encouraged him to plead
Hermes, at last, weakened confessed.
‘Very well, come with me,’ he said, ‘and
you may have your herd. I slaughtered only two,
‘Twelve gods?’ asked Apollo. ‘Who is the twelfth?’
‘Your servant, sir,’ replied Hermes modestly.
‘l ate no more than my share, though I was
Now, this was the first flesh-sacrifice ever made.
‘What have you there?’ asked Apollo.
In answer, Hermes showed his newly-invent
ed tortoise-shell lyre and played such a
ravishing tune on it with the plectrum he had also invented,
at the same time singing in praise
of Apollo’s nobility, intelligence,
and generosity, that he was fo
rgiven at once. He led then
pollo to Pylus, playing all the wa
y, there gave him the remainder of
the cows, and I take the lyre.”
‘Agreed,’ said Hermes, and they shook hands on at.
e. While the hungry cows were grazing, Hermes
cut reeds, made them into a shepherd’s
ghted, cried: ‘A bargain! If you give me that
h I herd my cattle; in future you shall be the
god of all herdsmen and shepherds.’
‘My pipe is worth more than your staff,’ replie
d Hermes. ‘But I will make the exchange, if
you teach me augury too, because it seems to be a most useful art.’
go to my old nurses, the Thriae who live on
to divine from pebbles.’
e child back to Olympus, told Zeus all
that had happened. Zeus warned Hermes that hen
ceforth he must respect
and refrain from telling downright lies;
but he could not help being amused.
‘You seem to be a very ingenious, eloquent
‘Then make me your herald, Father,’ Hermes an
Zeus, with a smile. ‘But your duties would
include the making of treaties, the promotion of
commerce, and the maintenance of free rights
of way for travellers on any road m the worl
d.’ When Hermes agreed to these conditions,
Zeus gave him a herald’s staff with white ri
sandals which carried him about with the
swiftness of wind. He was at once welcomed to
the Olympian family, whom he taught the art
of making fire by the rapid
twirling of the fire-stick.
g. Afterwards, the Thriae showed Hermes how to
h. He then assisted the Three Fates in
i. Some hold that the lyre invented by Hermes
e number up to seven.
j. Hermes had numerous sons, including Ec
1. The myth of Hermes’s childhood has been pr
eserved in a late literary form only. A
tradition of cattle raids made by
been mythologically comb
of how the barbarous Hellenes took over and
exploited, in the name of their adopted god
2. Hermes was evolved as a god from the ston
ount of his rapid growth may be Homer’s playful obscenity—
but also from the Divine Child of the pre-He
llenic Calendar; from the Egyptian Thoth, God of
intelligence; and from Anubis, conduct
or of souls to the Underworld.
3. The heraldic white ribbons on Hermes’s staff
were later mistaken for serpents, because
me. The Thriae are the
Triple-Muse (‘mountain
goddess’) of Parnassus, their divination by means
Narrationum). Athene was
first credited with the
invention of divinatory dice ma
de from knuckle-bones (Zenobius:
Proverbs
), and these came
into popular use; but the art of augury remained
an aristocratic prerogative both in Greece and
at Rome. Apollo’s ‘long-winge
d bird’ was probably Hermes’s own sacred crane; for the
e territory of Hermes, an earlier patron of
soothsaying, literature, and the arts; as did th
4. Silenus and his sons, the satyrs, were convent
ional comic characters in the Attic drama;
originally they had been primitive mountain
eers of Northern Greece. He was called an
one of the nymphs (Normus:
; Aelian:
5. The romantic story of Daphnis has been bui
at Cephalenitanum,
and a fountain at Syracuse, each probably surrounded by a laurel grove, where songs were
e orgiastic goddess of Tempe.
APHRODITE could seldom be persuaded to
lend the other goddesses her magic girdle
which made everyone fall in love with its we
arer; for she was jealous of her position. Zeus
had given her in marriage to Hepha
estus, the lame Smith-god; but
the true father of the three
children with whom she presented him—P
hobus, Deimus, and Harmonia—was Ares, the
dishonour. He then announced that he would not
release his wife until the valuable marriage-
ther, Zeus, were restored to him.
Aphrodite’s embarrassment; but
the goddesses, from a sense
of delicacy, stayed in their houses. Apollo,
nudging Hermes, asked: ‘You would not mind
Hermes swore by his own head, th
en if there were three times as many
Aphrodite myself.’ So Ares was set at liberty,
d. Flattered by Hermes’s frank confession of his love for her, Aphrodite presently spent a
night with him, the fruit of which was Herma
behalf, she bore him two sons, Rhodus and
s madly in love with Aphrodite and had
, and bore him Priapus;
enormous genitals—it was Hera who had given
him this obscene appearance, in disapproval
of Aphrodite’s promiscuity. He is a
hter Aphrodite, as some say that he did,
the magic of her girdle put him under constant te
mptation, and at last he decided to humiliate
her by making her fall desperately in love with
a mortal. This was the handsome Anchises,
herdsman’s hut on Trojan Mount Ida, Aphrodite
visited him in the guise of a Phrygian
with him on a couch spread with the skins of
bears and lions, while bees buzzed drowsily a
bout them. When they parted at dawn, she
revealed her identity, and made him promise not
to tell anyone that she had slept with him.
her to spare his life. She assured him that he
famous. Some days later, while Anchises was drinking with his companions, one of them
asked: ‘Would you not rather
herself?’ ‘No,’ he replied ungua
killed him outright, had not Aphr
thus diverted the bolt into the
h. One day, the wife of King Cinyras the
Cyprian—but some call him King Phoenix of
Byblus, and some King Theias the Assyrian—foo
r daughter Smyrna was
more beautiful even than Aphrodite. The goddess avenged this insult by making Smyrna fall
in love with her father and climb into his be
her nurse had made him
too drunk to realize what he was doing. Later, Ci
and grandfather of Smyrna’s unborn child and,
her from the palace. He overtook
Smyrna into a myrrh-tree, which the descending
sword split in halves. Out tumbled the infant
ting of the mischief that the
had made, concealed Adonis in
a dark place.
lovely that she lifted him out and brought hi
m up in her own palace. The news reached
Tartarus to claim
assent, having by now made him her lover, sh
e appealed to Zeus. Zeus, well aware that
transferred it to a lower court,
rdict was that
Persephone and Aphrodite had equal claims on
Persephone for rescuing him from the chest—bu
holiday from the amorous demands of both thes
Aphrodite, and the third by himsel
: by wearing her magic girdle
all the time, she persuaded Adoni
j. Persephone, justly aggrieved, went to Thr
ace, where she told her benefactor Ares that
Aphrodite now preferred Adonis to himself. ‘A
mere mortal,’ she cried, ‘and effeminate at
on Mount Lebanon, and gored him to death befo
re Aphrodite’s eyes. Anemones sprang from
d to Tartarus. Aphrodite went
that Adonis should not have to spend more than
the gloomier half of the year with Persephone,
but might be her companion for the summer months. This Zeus magnanimously granted. But
some say that Apollo was the
boar, and revenged himself for
odite had done
him.
k. Once, to make Adonis jealous, Aphrodite sp
ent several nights at Lilybaeum with Butes
the Argonaut; and by him became the mother
Beroea in Thrace; and some say that Adonis, not
duty only, namely to make love; but one day,
Athene catching her surreptitiously at work on
a loom, complained that her own prerogatives
had been infringed and threatened to aban
iterranean, who had long been
supreme at Corinth, Sparta, Thespiae, and Athe
ns, by placing her under male tutelage and
regarding her solemn sex-orgies as adulte
llic images which presided over Dionysian
orgies. He is made a son of A
donis because of the miniature ‘gardens’ offered at his festivals.
The pear-tree was sacred to Hera as prime
called Apia.
3. Aphrodite Urania (‘queen of the mountai
n’) or Erycina (‘of the heather’) was the
nymph-goddess of midsummer. She destroyed
obe in her mountain-top affair with Anchises; hence also the
Aphrodite of Mount Ida, as
self-castration of her priests in memory of
her lover Attis. Anchises was one of the many
lt after consorting with the Death-in-Life
Goddess. In the earliest version of the myth he was killed, but in later ones he escaped: to
make good the story of how pious Aeneas, w
Palladium to Rome,
carried his father away from burning Troy. His
name identifies Aphrodite with Isis, whose
s’ is, in fact, a synonym of
ve died at Drepanum, a neighb
the mountain (
omb was displayed, said to have been a
4. As Goddess of Death-in-Life, Aphrodite
earned many titles which seem inconsistent
with her beauty and complaisance. At Athens, sh
e was called the Eldest of the Fates and sister
of the Erinnyes; and elsewhere Melaenis (‘bl
ack one’), a name inge
Pausanias as meaning that most love-maki
Androphonos (‘man-slayer’); and even, according to
Plutarch, Epitymbria (‘of the tombs’).
5. The myth of Cinyras and Smyrna evidently
ory when the sacred
the Syrian demi-god Tammuz,
7. Tammuz was killed by a boar, like many simi
8. Aphrodite’s son Hermaphroditus was a yout
Like the androgyne, or bearded woman, the he
rmaphrodite had, of course, its freakish
matriarchy to patriarchy. Hermaphroditus is the sacred king deputizing for the Queen, and
wearing artificial breasts. Androgyne is the mo
ther of a pre-Hellenic clan which has avoided
order to keep her magistratal pow
ers or to ennoble children born to
her from a slave-father, she assumes a false
beard, as was the custom at Argos. Bearded
goddesses like the Cyprian Aphrodite, and woma
these transitional social stages.
9. Harmonia is, at first sight, a strange name
but, then as now, more than usual affection and
harmony prevailed in a state which was at war.
er Eris is always stirring up occasions for
war by the spread of rumour and the inculcatio
city or party more than another, but fights on th
men and the sacking of towns.
All his fellow-immortals hate
him, from Zeus and Hera downwards, except
Eris, and Aphrodite who nurses a perverse
passion for him, and greedy Hades who welcom
es the bold young fighting-men slain in cruel
tly victorious. Athene, a much
more skilful fighter than he,
has twice worsted him in battle; and once, the
gigantic sons of Aloeus conquered and kept
him imprisoned in a brazen vessel for thirteen
Hermes; and, on another occasion, Heracles sent
him running in fear back to Olympus. He
professes too deep a contempt for litigation ever to
appear in court as a plaintiff, and has only
ded justification, claiming to have saved his
daughter Alcippe, of the House of Cecrops, from being violat
t Ares himself, and Alcippe, who naturally
confirmed her father’s evidence, the court acqui
tted him. This was the first judgement ever
pronounced in a murder trial; and the hill on wh
ich the proceedings took place became known
as the Areiopagus, a name it still bears.
r some other equally
barbarous because they made it a pastime.
2. In Pausanias’s account of the murder, Halirrh
ynonym for Poseidon; and Alcippe a synonym for
the mare-headed goddess. The myth, in fact, recalls
Poseidon’s rape of Demeter, and refers to
a conquest of Athens by Poseidon’s people a
nd the goddess’s humiliation at their hands. But
it has been altered for patriotic reasons, and co
mbined with a legend of some early murder
probably means ‘the kill
Olympians, she never takes part in wars or
disputes. Like Artemis and Athene, moreover,
virgin for ever. At that, Zeus gratefully awarde
d her the first victim of every public sacrifice,
because she had preserve
d the peace of Olympus.
a rustic feast attended by accident or in
token of mourning, it is kindled afre
ere the family had been subordinated to the
State—was the domestic hearth, also regarded as
d the sacred duty of hospitality. The story of
her marriage-offers from Poseidon and Apollo
has perhaps been deduced from the joint
pus’s attempt to violate her is an anecdotal
ill-treatment of women-gue
sts who have come under the
protection of the domestic or public
lust, proclaims Priapus’s
criminal folly.
2. The archaic white aniconic image of the Great Goddess, in use throughout the Eastern
Mediterranean, seems to have represented a
covering of white ash, which was the most cosy and economical means of heating in ancient
times; it gave out neither smoke nor flame, and fo
rmed the natural centre of family or clan
anslated into limestone for out-of-doors use,
and became the
marked the supposed centre of the world. This hol
me of Mother Earth, is about th
oom. In Classical times the Pythone
grains, hemp, and laurel over an oil lamp in an enclosed
21. Apollo’s Nature And Deeds
b. Mother Earth reported this out
rage to Zeus, who not only or
dered Apollo to visit Tempe
for purification, but instituted the Pythian Game
s, in honour of Python, over which he was to
preside penitentially. Quite unabashed, Apollo disregarded Zeus
’s command to visit Tempe.
Instead, he went to Aigialae fo
r purification, accompanied by Ar
temis; and then, disliking the
a follower of the goddess Cybele. This was how
it came about. One day, Athene made a double fl
ute from stag’s bones,
curse. He stumbled upon the flute, which he
itself, inspired by th
e memory of Athene’s
cried out that Apollo himself could not have ma
g. This, with a flute, was manifestly impossibl
h. Afterwards, Apollo won a second musical c
ontest, at which King Midas presided; this
time he beat Pan. Becoming the acknowledged god of Music, he has ever since played on his
i. Though Apollo refuses to bind himself in
marriage, he has got many nymphs and mortal
women with child; among them, Phthia, on whom
Thalia the Muse, on whom he fathered the Co
rybantes; and Coronis, on whom he fathered
Asclepius; and Aria, on whom he fathered
j. He also seduced the nymph Dryope, who wa
k. Apollo was not invariably successful in
love. On one occasion he tried to steal
Marpessa from Idas, but she remained true to her husband. On another, he pursued Daphne,
the mountain nymph, a priestess of Mother Earth,
h who, in the nick of time, spirited her
l. His attempt on Daphne, it must be adde
, son of Oenomaus, who
disguised himself as a girl and joined Daphne
phs to bathe naked, and thus make sure that everyone in
their company was a woman; Leucippus’s impos
ture was at once discovered, and the nymphs
tore him to pieces.
youth Hyacinthus, a Spartan prince, with
ached moderation in al
excess’ were always on his lips. He brought the Muses down
from their home on Mount Helicon to Delphi, tame
d their wild frenzy, and led them in formal
2. Apollo, among the Hyperborea
ns, sacrificed hecatombs of asses (Pindar), which
identifies him with the ‘Child Horus’, whose
defeat of his enemy Se
celebrated by driving wild asses over a precipice (Plutarch:
: Python is said to ha
ve been sent against
Pan commemorate the Hellenic conquests of
sion in those regions of wind instruments by
yas’s punishment may refer to the ritual
flaring of a sacred king—as Athene stripped Pallas of his magical
—or the removal of
the entire bark from an alder-shoot, to make a
a god or demi-god. Apollo was claimed as an
Milesians, who paid him esp
ncers at the Winter Solstice
festival, were called his children by Thalia
the Muse, because he was god of Music;
6. His pursuit of Daphne the Mountain-nymph, daught
e Hellenic capture of Tempe, where the goddess
After suppressing the college—Plutarch’s account s
uggests that the prieste
8. The myth of Hyacinthus, which seems at firs
t sight no more than a sentimental fable
told to explain the mark on the Greek
and at Amyclae, a Mycenaean city, another ‘t
omb of Hyacinthus’ became the foundation of
is time, Hyacinthus rei
9. Coronis (‘crow’), mother of Asclepius by A
e had children, and disguised the myth.
On
the
Nature of the Gods,
12. Apollo’s killing of the Python is not, however, so simple a myth as at first appears,
on which the Pythoness sat was traditionally the tomb of the hero
incarnate in the serpent, whos
). The Hellenic priest of Apollo
king who, legitimately and ceremonially, had always
killed his predecessor, the hero. This is
proved by the Stepteria rite recorded in Plutarch’s
hut representing a king’s dwelling was built on the threshing floor at Delphi and a night attack
13. The sudden concerted assault on the inmate of
the hut recalls the mysterious murder of
Romulus by his companions. It al
hout looking behind them;
then ate the flesh at a communal feast, stag
ed a mimic resurrection of the ox, and brought up
14. At Delphi, as at Cnossus, the sacred king must have reigned until the ninth year. The
boy went to Tempe doubtless because the
Apollo cult had originated there.
death among mortals, and to heal
them. She is the protectress
of little children, and of all sucking animals, but
she also loves the chase, especially that of
b. One day, while she was still
a three-year-old child, her fa
was sitting, asked her what presents she would li
ke. Artemis answered at once: ‘Pray give me
enough, because I intend to live on mountains
most of the time. Unfortunately, women in
labour will often be invoking me, since my mother
d. Artemis thanked him, sprang from his knee,
harnessed them to a golden
racian Mount Haemus. She cut her first pine
torch on Mysian Olympus, and lit
it at the cinders of a lightni
h. Artemis requires the same perfect chastity from her companions as she practises herself.
When Zeus had seduced one of them, Callisto,
daughter of Lycaon, Artemis noticed that she
was with child. Changing her into a bear, she shouted to the pack, and Callisto would have
istaeus, stood leaning against a rock near
Orchomenum when he happened to see Artemis bath
ing in a stream not far off, and stayed to
watch. Lest he should afterwards dare boast to his companions that she had displayed herself
naked in his presence, she changed him into
tore him to pieces.
1. The Maiden of the Silver Bow, whom the Greeks enrolled in the Olympian family, was
the youngest member of the Artemis Triad, ‘
Artemis’
being one more title of the Triple
oil, a symbol of trinity. Her
silver bow stood for the new mo
2. The myth of her pursuit by Alpheius seems m
s hopeless pursuit of
‘strong-limbed’, from
artemes
e Spartans called her Artamis,
from
; or ‘the lofty convener’, from
; or the ‘
syllable may mean
‘water’, because the moon was regard
s, was also sacred to Artemis.
4. The myth of Callisto has been
small girls, dressed as she-
bears, who appeared in the Attic festival of
Brauronian Artemis, and for the traditional
5. Why Brontes had his hair plucked out
is doubtful; Callimachus may be playfully
referring to some well-known pict
ure of the event, in which the paint had worn away from the
Cyclops’ chest.
6. As ‘Lady of Wild Things’, or patroness
of all the totem clans, Artemis had been
annually offered a living holocaust of totem b
easts, birds, and plants, and this sacrifice
survived in Classical time at Patrae, a Calydonian city (Pausanias);
Artemis Laphria. At Messene a similar burnt sacr
HEPHAESTUS, the Smith-god, was so weakly at
gusted mother, Hera,
dropped him from the height of Olympus, to rid
herself of the embarrassm
appearance caused her. He survived this mi
sadventure, however, without bodily damage,
b. Hephaestus became so far reconciled with Hera
that he dared reproach Zeus himself for
hanging her by the wrists from Heaven when
she rebelled against him. But silence would
have been wiser, because angry Zeus only h
eaved him down from Olympus a second time. He
the island of Lemnos,
when the islanders found him. Afterwards
pardoned and restored to Olympus, he c
c. Hephaestus is ugly and ill-tempered, but has great power in his arms and shoulders, and
all his work is of matchless skill. He once ma
Athens, and his name may be a worn-down
form of
e sun), whereas Athene was the
of smith craft and of all mechanical arts.
weapon, or utensil had magical
properties, and that the smith was something of
ve, it seems, much same origin as the
with three legs, like the heraldic device of
the Isle of Man, doubtless bordering some early
phaestus being married
his reign; he dies at the
THOUGH the priestesses of Demeter, goddess
b. Demeter herself has a gentle soul, and
Erysichthon, son of Tropias, was one of the
few men with whom she ever de
twenty companions, Erysichthon
d planted for her at Dotium, and began cutting
and calling fruitlessly all the while. The only
counter with Poseidon among the herds of
e. ‘Oh, how greedily you drink!’ cried Abas, an elder son of Celeus’s, as Demeter
with mint. Demeter threw him a
f. For Triptolemus who herded his father’s
cattle, had recognized Demeter and given
is his brothers Eumolpus, a shepherd, and
n by black horses appeared, and dashed down the chasm. The
chariot—driver’s face was invisible, but his
right arm was tightly clasped around a shrieking
girl. Eumolpus had been told of the event by
Eubuleus, and made it the subject for a lament.
his brother Zeus. Demeter was so angry that, instead of
h. Only one course of action remained for Zeus. He sent Hermes with a message to
ll undone!’ and with another to Demeter: ‘You
may have your daughter again, on the single cond
i. Because Core had refused to eat so much as a crust of bread ever since her abduction,
ing her mildly: ‘My child, you seem to be
d to send you home.’
j. Core’s tears ceased to flow, and Hermes help
ed her to mount his chariot, But, just as
k. At Eleusis, Demeter joyfully embraced
Core; but, on hearing about the pomegranate,
grew more dejected than ever, and said again:
my curse from the land.’ Zeus then persuade
d Rhea, the mother of Hades, Demeter, and
himself, to plead with her;
and a compromise was at last
reached. Core should spend three
months of the year in Hades’s company, as Qu
and the remaining nine in Demeter’s. Hecate offe
red to make sure that this arrangement was
1. Core, Persephone, and Hecate were, clearl
and Crone, at a time when only women practised the mysteries of agriculture. Core stands for
the green corn, Persephone for the ripe ears,
and Hecate for the harvested corn—the ‘carline
2. Persephone (from
ruction’), also called
Persephatta at Athens (from
(‘the fearful one’) at Rome was, it seems, a title of the Nymph when she sacrificed the sacred
e hundred lunar months of his
3. Core’s abduction by Hades forms part of the
myth in which the Hellenic trinity of gods
forcibly marry the pre-Hellenic Triple-godde
ss—Zeus Hera; Zeus or Poseidon Demeter;
Hades Core—as in Irish myth Brian, Iuchar,
and Iucharba marry the Triple-goddess Eire,
Fodhla, and Banbha. It refers to male usurpa
tion of the female agri
cultural mysteries in
is moral anecdote: among the Greeks, as
among the Latin and early Irish, the felling of a
sacred grove carried the death penalty. But a
5. The myths of Hylas (‘of the woodland’), A
annual mourning for the sacred ki
ced to placate the goddess of
6. It was at Eleusis (‘advent’), a Mycenaean city, that the great Eleusinian Mysteries were
celebrated, in the month called Boedromion (‘runni
ng for help’). Demeter’s ecstatic initiates
symbolically consummated her love affair with
Iasius, or Triptolemus, or Zeus, in an inner
, ‘[the temple] of her who rages in a
lurking place’. The mystagogues, dressed as she
7. Eumolpus represents the singing shepherds
who brought in the child; Triptolemus is a
cowherd, in service to Io the Moon-goddess as cow, who watered the seed-corn; and Eubuleus
who made the corn sprout. Eubuleus was the first
to reveal Core’s fate, because ‘swineherd’,
in early European myth, means soothsayer, or
magician. Thus Eumaeus (‘searching well’),
by Classical times,
Rarus’
9. Iambe and Baubo personify the obscene songs,
in iambic metre, which were sung to
relieve emotional tension at the Eleusinian My
10. The story of Demeter’s attempt to make
Demophoön immortal is paralleled in the
rried around them at birt
11. A primitive taboo rested on red-coloured
food, which might be offered to the dead
only; and the pomegranate was supposed to ha
evil omen; and the fable of his tale-
bearing is told to account for the noisiness of
owls in November, before the three winter
Heracles released Ascalaphus.
13. Demeter’s gift of the fig to Phytalus, whos
e family was a leading one in Attica, means
no more than that the practice of fig capri
mestic tree with a
branch of the wild one—ceased to be a female
prerogative at the same time as agriculture.
The taboo on the planting of beans by men seems
to have survived late
14. Demeter is said to have reached Greece by wa
15. The flowers which, according to Ovid, Core was picking were poppies. An image of a
ATHENE'S NATURE AND DEEDS
have married Athene, but she has repulsed
course of the Trojan War, not
wishing to borrow arms from
Zeus, who had declared himself neutral, she as
c. ‘Very well,’ said Athene, ‘I will take care of it
d. Cecrops, a son of Mother Earth and, like Erichthonius—whom some suppose to have
paternity. He married a
daughter of Actaeus, the earliest King of Attica.
monogamy, divided Attica
into twelve communities,
was named Agraulos; a
Aglauros, Herse, and Pandrosos, lived in a thre
e-roomed house on the Acropolis. One evening,
e. On learning of this fatality, Athene was so
’s death is current: namely that once, when
rself from the Acropolis, in
This version purports
Athenians, on first taking up arms, visit the te
mple of Agraulos and there dedicate their lives
to the city.
g. Athene, though as modest as Artemis, is fa
r more generous. When
accidentally surprised her in a bath, she laid her hands over his eyes and blinded him, but
gave him inward sight by way of a compensation.
ustrations of Olympian love affairs, the goddess searched
re it up in a cold, vengeful rage. When the
hates most—and the rope into a cobwe
1. The Athenians made their goddess’s maidenh
ood symbolic of the city’s invincibility;
and therefore disguised early myths of her out
Erichthonius, Apollo, and Lychnus (‘lamp’) we
, ‘wool’, or
, ‘strife’, and
the myth of his birth to explain the presence,
in archaic pictures, of a serpent-child peeping
from the goddess’s
been a simpler and more direct one; why else should Erichthonius intr
four-horse chariot into Athens.
2. Athene had been the Trip
Nymph, was suppressed and myths relating to he
Alcippe, there remained the Maiden clad in goat-
who inspired oracles and presided over all the ar
ts. Erichthonius is perhaps an expanded form
of Erechtheus, meaning ‘from the
land of heather’ rather than ‘muc
h earth’, as is usually said:
the Athenians represented him as a serpent with
a human head, because he was the hero, or
who made the Crone’s wishes
e ardent royal family of Athens claimed
descent from Erichthonius and Er
ruments invented by Athe
eaped from the Acropolis may have been
, after which an attempt wa
s made to force monogamy on
Athene’s priestesses, as in the myth of Ha
at Agraulos’s shrine. The other story of
Agraulos’s death is merely a moral anecdote:
mysteries. ‘Agraulos’ was one
more title of the Moon-goddess:
transliteration
mean much the same thing,
image of the goddess—Aglauros turned to stone.
5. Athene’s expulsion of the crow is a myth
ic variant of Cronus’s banishment—Cronus
means ‘crow’—the triumph, in f
act, of Olympianism, with the
lls the name of Athene’s Wels
crow’, sister to Bran. Athene was, it seems, titled ‘Coronis ‘.
6. Her vengeance on Arachne may be more than ju
rs in Homer. According to the
eece have never been enrolled among the
Olympian Twelve. Pan, for instance, a humble fe
in rural Arcadia; and Hades, Persephone, and
Hecate know that their presence is unwelcome
on Olympus; and Mother Earth is far too old and
b. Some say that Hermes fathered Pan on
he visited in the form of a ram; or on
Amaltheia the Goat; He is said to have been so
legs, that his mother ran away from him in fear, and Hermes
carried him up to Olympus for
the gods’ amusement. But Pan was Zeus’s foster-b
rother, and therefore far older than Hermes,
or than Penelope, on whom (others say) he
was fathered by all the suitors who wooed her
during Odysseus’s absence. Still others make
him the son of Cronus and Rhea; or of Zeus by
Hybris, which is the least improbable account.
revels of the mountain-nymphs, and helped hunters
d. Pan seduced several nymphs, such as Ec
ho, who bore him Iynx and came to an unlucky
end for love of Narcissus; and Eupheme, nurse
of the Muses, who bore him Crotus, the
Bowman in the Zodiac. He also boasted that
e. Once he tried to violate the chaste
metamorphosed into a fir-tree, a branch of which
his simplicity and love of riot, exploited
e art of prophecy from him, a
nd Hermes copied a pipe which
died in our time. The news of his death came to one
Thamus, a sailor in a ship bound for Italy by way of
across the sea: ‘Thamus, are you there? When you reach Palodes, take care to proclaim that
the great god Pan is dead!’, which Thamus did;
1. Pan, whose name is usually derived from
‘upright man’, of the Arcadian fertility cult,
which closely resembled the witch cult of North-
western Europe. This man, dressed in a goat-
e high mountains, and sooner or
vary greatly. Since Hermes wa
s the power resident in a
phallic stone which formed the centre of thes
as his son by a woodpecker, a bird whose tapping is held to portend the welcome summer rain.
The myth that he fathered Pan on Oeneis
used other intoxicants than wine; and the name
of his reputed mother, Penelope (‘with a web
over her face’), suggests that the Maenads wore
some form of war paint for their orgies,
3. Pan’s son, the wryneck, or make-bird, was
a spring migrant employed in erotic charms.
Squills contain an irritant poison—valuable against mice and rats—and were used as a purge
4. His seduction of Selene must refer to a
moonlight May Eve orgy,
Queen of the May rode upon her upright man’s
back before celebrating a greenwood marriage
with him. By this time the ram cult ha
.5. The Egyptian Thamus apparently misheard the ceremonial lament “
Dionysus’s Nature And Deeds
ite his transformati
ons, tore him into shreds. These they
boiled in a cauldron, while a pomeg
ranate sprouted from the so
but, rescued and reconstituted by his grandmother Rhea, he came to life again. Persephone,
now entrusted with his charge by Zeus, brought
him to King Athamas of Orchomenus and his
wife Ino, whom she persuaded to
e women’s quarters, di
But Hera could not be deceived, and punished th
e royal pair with madness, so that Athamas
mistaking him for a stag.
b. Then, on Zeus’s instructions, Hermes tempor
arily transformed Dionysus into a kid or a
ram, and presented him to the nymphs Ma
cris, Nysa, Erato, Bromia, and Bacche, of
c. He then turned east and made for India.
Coming to the Euphrates, he was opposed by
the King of Damascus, whom he flayed alive, bu
Zeus, helped him across the river Tigris. He
reached India, having met with much oppos
ition by the way, and conquered the whole
f. Dionysus met with no further opposition in
Thrace, but travelled on to his well-beloved
Cithaeron. Pentheus, King of Thebes, disliking Di
onysus’s dissolute appearance, arrested him,
g. At Orchomenus the three daughters of Minyas, by name Alcithoë, Leucippe, and
revels, though Dionysus himself
invited them, appearing in the form of a
girl. He then changed his shape, becoming
successively a lion, a bull, and a panther, and drove them insane. Leucippe offered her own
en by lot—and the three
sisters, having torn
him to pieces and devoured him, skimmed the mountains in a frenzy until at last Hermes
changed them into birds, though some say that
Dionysus changed them in
to bats. The murder
at Orchomenus, in a feast cal
h. When all Boeotia had acknowledged Dionysus’s
divinity, he made a tour of the Aegean
was unseaworth and hired another from certain Tyrrhenian sailors who claimed to be bound
to sell him there as a slave. Dionysus made a vine
grow from the deck and enfold the mast, he
also turned the oars into serpents, and becam
e a lion himself, filling the vessel with phantom
became dolphins.
j. From Naxos he came to Argos and punish
fought opposed him and
killed many of his followers, by inflicting
a madness on the Argive
women: they began
Perseus hastily admitted his
error, and appeased Dionysus
by building a temple in his honour.
as one of the Twelve Great Ones. The self-
escape the jealous wranglings of her family,
1. The main clue to Dionysus’s mystic history
Asia, and North Africa. Wine was not invented
Mount Nysa in Libya, by way of Pales
e Moon-goddess Semele—also called Thyone, or
Cotytto—and the destined victim of
Prolegomena
Wine-god is a late
superimposition on Dionysus the Beer-god, also ca
lled Sabazius, suggests that tragedy may be
derived not from
Athens for beer-brewing. She a
gs, horse-men, not goat-men, are
pictured as Dionysus’s companions
4. Dionysus had epiphanies as Lion, Bull,
and Serpent, because these were Calendar
emblems of the tripartite year. He was born in wi
nter as a serpent (hence his serpent crown);
became a lion in the spring; and was killed and devoured as a bull, goat, or stag at midsummer.
These were his transformations when the Ti
5. Hera’s hatred of Dionysus and his wine-cup,
like the hostility shown by Pentheus and
Perseus, reflects conservative opposition to the
ritual use of wine and to the extravagant
Maenad fashion, which had spread from Thrace
to Athens, Corinth, Si
cyon, Delphi, and other
and early sixth centuries BC, Periander, tyrant
held to have been accepted to Heaven—he ous
ted Hestia from her position as one of the
Twelve Olympians at the close of the fifth century BC—though so
me gods continued to exact
‘sober sacrifices’. But, although one
of the recently deciphered tabl
6. Dionysus voyaged in a new-moon boat, and th
e story of his conflict with the pirates
seems to have been based on the same icon which gave rise to the legend of Noah and the
beasts in the Ark: the lion, serpent, and other creatures are his seasonal epiphanies. Dionysus
is, in fact, Deucalion. The Laconians of Brasi
ae preserved an uncanonica
l account of his birth:
how Cadmus shut Semele and her child in an
ark, which drifted to Brasiae, where Semele
7. Pharos, a small island off the Nile Delta,
the same transformations as Dionysus, had the greatest harbour of Bronze Age Europe. It was
9. Agave, mother of Pentheus, is the Moon-goddess who ruled the beer revels. The tearing
Nymph, is paralleled
in the Welsh tale of Pwyll Pr
Eve, Rhiannon, a corruption of
10, The pomegranate which sprouted from
Dionysus’s blood was also the tree of
Tammuz-Adonis-Rimmon; its ripe fruit split
inside. It symbolizes death and the promise of
resurrection when held
in the hand of the
11. Dionysus’s rescue of Semele, renamed Th
from pictures of a ceremonial held at Athens
dicated to the Wild
Women. There to the sound of si
the scattering of flower
Semele was, in fact, another name for Core,
on many Greek vases, some of which show Saty
rs assisting the heroine’s emergence with
mattocks; their presence indicates that this wa
s a Pelasgian rite. What they disinterred was
d about on earth with Demeter until the time
d its month corresponded with
September, when the vintage feast took place.
October, when the Maenads revelled and int
oxicated themselves by chewing ivy leaves; and
was important also because, like four other
sacred trees—El’s pric
and pomegranate—it
the Byzantine monk (Rugerus:
an King Oeagrus and the Muse
Calliope, was the most
c. One day, near Tempe, in the valley of the river Peneius, Eurydice met Aristaeus, who
tried to force her. She trod on a serpent as she fled, and died of its
d. When Dionysus invaded Thrace, Orpheus
m, but taught other
sacred mysteries and preached the evil of sacr
ificial murder to the men of Thrace, who
listened reverently. Every morning he would ri
f. It is said that Orpheus had condemned
the Maenads’ promiscuity and preached
homosexual love; Aphrodite was therefore
Olympians, however, could not agree that his
ees, which remained rooted to the ground. The
Thracian men who had survived the massacre
the custom survives to this day.
acked by a jealous Lemnian serpent (which
Apollo at once changed into a stone) it was la
id to rest in a cave at Antissa, sacred to
Gryneium, and Clarus were deserted, came a
nd stood over the head, crying: ‘Cease from
interference in my business; I have borne
long enough with you and your singing!’ Thereupon
the head fell silent. Orpheus’s lyre had likewise
drifted to Lesbos and been laid up in a temple
of Apollo, at whose intercession, and that of th
Constellation.
h. Some give a wholly different account of how
him with a thunderbolt for divulging divine secr
e decapitated Alder-god Bran which, according
to the
Mabinogion
e name of Orpheus’s
father, Oeagrus (‘of the wild sorb-apple’), po
ints to the same cult, since the sorb-apple
alisier
) both bear the name of the pre-Hellenic River-
Orpheus went after death. Aornum is Avernus, an
Italic variant of the Celtic Avalon (‘apple-
tree island’).
used the old thirt
seems to have been brought to the Northern
Aegean by the fugitive priesthood of the monotheistic Akhenaton, in the fourteenth century
BC, and grafted upon the local cults; hence Orpheus’s alleged visit to Egypt. Records of this
Fragments
), where the sun is referred to as ‘
the eldest flame,
.’ It seems
to have been forcefully resisted by the more
in some parts of the country. But later Orphic
priests, who wore Egyptian costume, called the
demi-god whose raw bull’s flesh they ate ‘Diony
sus’, and reserved the name Apollo for the
the senses, from Apollo, the god of the
lyre in Apollo’s. Head
and lyre are both said to have drifted to Lesbos, which was the chief
seat of lyric mimic; Terpander, the earliest
historical musician, came from Antissa. The
serpent’s attack on Orpheus’s head represents e
ither the protest of an earlier oracular hero
against Orpheus’s intrusion at Antissa, or that
of Pythian Apollo which Philostratus recorded
in more direct language.
the sunlight, figure only in late myth. They se
em to be mistakenly
which show Orpheus’s welcome in Tartarus,
where his music has charmed the Snake-goddess
Hecate, or Agriope (‘savage face’), into giving
special privileges to all ghosts initiated into
the Orphic Mysteries, and from other pictures
descending to Tartarus in search of his mother
Semele. Eurydice’s victims died of snake-bite,
5. The alder-month is the fourth of the sacral
precedes the willow-
month, associated with the water magic of th
e goddess Helice (‘willow’); willows also gave
their name to the river Helicon, which curves
s shown in a temple-painting
at Delphi (Pausanias) leaning against a will
alder cult was suppressed in very early times, ye
t vestiges of it remain in Classical literature:
alders enclose the death-island of
ss Circe (Homer:
)—she also had a
decapitation was never more than a metaphor
ng necessarily suffered dismemberment, and
the Thracians may well have had the same custom
as the Iban Dayaks of modern Sarawak.
When the men come home from a successful he
trophy as a means of fertilizing the rice crop by
invocation. The head is made to sing, mourn,
y lap until it finally consents to enter an
oracular shrine, where it gives advice on all im
Eurystheus, Bran, and Adam, repels invasions.
his name to Troy, was the most beautiful
desiring Ganymedes also as his bedfellow, dis
guised himself in eagle’s feathers and abducted
him from the Trojan plain.
b. Afterwards, on Zeus’s behalf, Hermes presented Tros with a golden vine, the work of
Hephaestus, and two fine horses, in compensati
on for his loss, assuring him at the same time
that Ganymedes had become immortal, exempt
from the miseries of old age, and was now
smiling, golden bowl in hand, as he dispensed br
c. Some say that Eos had first abducted Ga
nymedes to be her paramour, and that Zeus
took him from her. Be that as it may, Hera certai
1. Ganymedes’s task as wine-pourer to all
the gods—not merely Zeus in early accounts—
mpensation for his death, suggest the misreading
ing for his sacred marriage. Ganymedes’s bowl
will have contained a libation, poured to the ghost
of his royal predecessor; and the officiating
priest in the picture, to whom he is making a
token resistance, has apparently been misread as
amorous Zeus. Similarly, the waiting bride ha
s been misread as Eos by a mythographer who
Laomedon—because Laomedon is also said, by
Euripides to have been Ganyme
des’s father. This icon would equally illustrate Peleus’s
the form of an eagle, is a widespread
by sending his hero up on the back of a
his reign—he was flying to discover a magical he
rb of fertility. His story is woven into an
3. The Zeus-Ganymedes myth gained imme
nse popularity in Greece and Rome because it
afforded religious justification for a grown ma
a boy. Hitherto, sodomy
had been tolerated only as an extreme form of
goddess-worship: Cybele’s male devotees tried,
to achieve ecstatic unity with her by emascula
ting themselves and dressing like women. Thus
a sodomitic priesthood was a recognized instituti
on in the Great Goddess’s temples at Tyre,
lem until just before the Exile. But this new passion, for the
introduction of which Thamyris has been gi
ven the credit by Apollodorus, emphasized the
victory of patriarchy over matr
ophy into an intellectual game
that men could play without the assistance of
women, now that they had found a new field of
homosexual romance. Plato exploited this to the all, and used the myth of Ganymedes to
justify his own sentimental feelings towards his pupils (
he outraced sodomy as against nature, and call
ed the myth of Zeus’s indulgence in it ‘
4. Ganymedes’s name refers, properly, to the j
prospect of marriage, not to that of Zeus when
refreshed by nectar from his bedfellow’s hand;
but, becoming
catamitus
in Latin, it has given English the word
, meaning the passive
object of male homosexual lust.
ith Ganymedes, was originally the Egyptian
wine, from a flagon (Pindar:
r mythographers described as a
in fact, a primitive brown mead; and ambrosia, the delectable food of the gods, seems to have
ngs were pampered when their
on asphodel, mallow, and acorns.
d and buried at Delphi, and Ze
us struck the Titans dead
with thunderbolts.
1. This myth concerns the annual sacrifice
last of Zagreus’s transforma
rrection the same story
d serpent locks at birth—and his Orphic devotees ate him
sacramentally in bull form. Zagreus became ‘Zeus
in a goat-skin coat’, because Zeus or his
child surrogate had ascended to Heaven weari
ng a coat made from the hide of the goat
Amaltheia. ‘Cronus making rain’ is a reference
roarer in rain-making
ceremonies. In this context the Titans were
g to the Ras Shamra
The Gods Of The Underworld
WHEN ghosts descend to Tartarus, the main en
poplars beside the Ocean stream, each is supplied
by pious relatives with a coin laid under the
y Charon, the miser who ferries them in a crazy
heroes stray without purpose amon
a landless peasant than rule
ood poured to them by the living:
themselves almost men again. Beyond these mea
proaches it, a white cypress shades the pool of
c. Elysium, ruled over by Cronus, lies near Hades’s dominions, its entrance close to the
pool of Memory, but forms no part of them; it
ghts, seldom visits th
business or when he is overcome by sudden lust
difficulty had not Queen Persephone made a
timely appearance and metamorphosed Minthe
e world above, or in Olympus, except for
fragmentary information which comes to him wh
en mortals strike th
and invoke him with oaths and curses. His most pr
ous and merciful. She is faithful to Hades,
but has had no children by him a
nd prefers the company of Hecate,
goddess of witches, to his.
Zeus himself honours Hecate so greatly that he never denies her the ancient power which she
ng on mortals, or withholding fr
om them, any desired gift. She
e heads—lion, dog, and mare.
e in Erebus, and are older
task is to hear complaints brought by mortals
s—and to punish such crimes by hounding the
These Erinnyes are crones, with snakes for hair, dogs’ heads, coal-black bodies, bats’ wings,
their victims die in
torment. It is unwise to mention them by name
in conversation; hence they are usually styled
the Eumenides, which means ‘The Kindly Ones’—
as Hades is styled Pluton, or Pluto, ‘The
1. The mythographers made a bold effort to
licting views of the
afterworld held by the primitive
inhabitants of Greece. One view
was that ghosts lived in their
tombs, or underground caverns or fissures, where
they might take the form of serpents, mice,
as human beings. Another was th
walked visibly on the sepulchral islands where their bodies had been buried. A third was that
ghosts could become men again by entering bean
prospective mothers. A fourth was that they we
and returned, if at all,
. A fifth was that they went to the Far West,
nic hope of regeneration; but Hades, a
to enjoy the pleasures of Elysium, since that had always been the privilege of a sacred king,
and Menelaus was promised the same enjoymen
t, not because he had been particularly
se he had married Helen, the
goddess. The Homeric adjective
, applied only to
(‘meadows’), probably
means ‘in the valley of that whic
to ashes’ (from
valley)—namely the hero’s ghost after his body ha
the damned were hunted to the Northern Hell by
Herne, Arthur, or Gabriel—a myth derived
from the noisy summer migration of wild geese
to their breeding places in the Arctic circle.
Cerberus was, at first, fifty-headed, like th
afterwards three-headed, like his mistress Hecate.
4. Styx (‘hated’), a small stream in Arcadia,
deadly poison, was located in Tartarus only by later mythographers. Acheron (‘stream of
woe’) and Cocytus (‘wailing’) ar
e fanciful names to describe
the misery of death. Aornis
(‘birdless’) is; Greek mistranslation of the Italic ‘
ound in Mesopotamian burials of the fourth
6. Hades had a temple at the foot of Mount Ment
he in Elis, and his rape of Minthe (‘mint’)
is probably deduced from the use of mint in fune
7. Hesiod’s account of Hecate shows her to have been the original Triple-goddess,
supreme in Heaven, on earth, and in Tartarus;
but the Hellenes emphasized her destructive
rites of black magic especially
at places where three roads met. That Zeus did not deny her the
ancient power of granting every mort
al his heart’s desire is a trib
ute to the Thessalian witches,
of whom everyone stood in dread. Lion, dog, and
horse, her heads, evidently refer to the
8. Hecate’s companions, the Erinnyes, were pe
rsonified pangs of conscience after the
or violence to a mother.
Suppliants and guests came under
the protection of Hestia, Godde
treat them would be to disobey and insult her.
9. Leuce, the largest island in the Black Sea,
Romanian penal colony.
Tyche And Nemesis
TYCHE is a daughter of Zeus, to whom he has
this or that mortal shall be. On some she heaps gifts from a horn of plenty, others she deprives
of all that they have. Tyche is altogether irre
with a ball to exemplify the uncertainty of ch
b. Some say that Zeus once fell in love with Nemesis, and pursued her over the earth and
the form of a swan, and from the egg she laid
came Helen, the cause of the Trojan War.
tural Law, or Justice, and
Shame), was an artificial deity invented by
enactment’) had been the Nymph-goddess of Deat
h-in-Life whom they now redefined as a
moral control on Tyche. That Nemesis’s wheel was originally the solar year is suggested by
the name of her Latin counterpart, Fortuna (from
, ‘she who turns the year about’).
own announce this—but when it came full circle,
he revenged himself on the rival
who had supplanted him. Her scourge was formerly used for
ritual flogging, to fructify th
Elysium.
2. The Nemesis whom Zeus chased, is not the
philosophical concept of divine vengeance
on overweening mortals, but the original Ny
mph-goddess, whose usual name was Leda. In
pre-Hellenic myth, the goddess chases the sa
seasonal transformations, counters each of them
in turn with her own, and devours him at the
summer solstice. In Hellenic myth the parts ar
3. The philosophical Nemesis was worshipped at
Rhamnus where, according to Pausanias,
4. Nemesis is called a daughter of Oceanus
, because as the Nymph-goddess with the
The Children Of The Sea
to by Phorcys, another wise old man of the
some say, the three Hesperides. The Gorgons we
re named Stheino, Euryale, and Medusa, all
once beautiful. But one night Me
bedded in one of her own temples, changed her into a winged monster with glaring eyes, huge
c. The Graeae are fair-faced and swan-like, but with hair grey from
d. The three Hesperides, by name Hespere, Aegl
orchard which Mother Earth gave to Hera. Some
call them daughters of
e. Half of Echidne was lovely woman, half wa
s speckled serpent. She once lived in a deep
cave among the Arimi, where she ate men raw, and
ful toototers to her
f. Ladon was wholly serpent, though gifted w
ith the power of human speech, and guarded
the golden apples of the Hesperid
es until Heracles shot him dead.
g. Nereus, Phorcys, Thaumas, Eurybia, and Ce
to were all children born to Pontus by
Mother Earth; thus the Phorcids and Nereids claim cousinhood
the fair-haired and swift-winged daughters of
Thaumas by the Ocean-nymph Electra, who
snatch up criminals for punishment by the
1. It seems that the Moon-goddess’s title Eu
rynome (‘wide rule’ or ‘wide wandering’)
proclaimed her ruler of heaven
and earth; Eurybia (‘wide strength’),
(‘wide justice’) the serpent-gras
Male human sacrifices were
apparently caused by viper’s venom. Echidne’s
, his coils embracing
llege of fifty Moon-priestesses, whose magic
prophylactic masks with scowl, glaring eyes, an
examining the divine mysteries
t Gorgon masks on their ovens, to discourage
busy-bodies from opening the oven door, peeping i
bread. The Gorgons’ names—Stheino (‘strong’),
Euryale (‘wide roaming’), and Medusa
(‘cunning one’)—are titles of the Moon-goddess;
the Orphics called the moon’s face ‘the
ecalls his fathering of
the horse Arion on
5. Chrysaor was Demeter’s new-moon sign, the golden sickle, or
falchion
from his head, and a traitress to the old relig
ion. The three Harpies, regarded by Homer as
personifications of the storm winds (
), were the earlier Athene, the Triple-goddess, in
her capacity of sudden destroyer. So were th
e Graeae, the Three Grey Ones, as their names
Enyo (‘warlike’), Pemphredo (‘wasp’), and Deino
are misreadings of a sacred picture, and the
swan is a death-bird in European mythology.
6. Phorcys, a masculine form of Phorcis,
the Goddess as Sow, who devours corpses,
appears in Latin as Orcus, a title of Hades, and as
, hog. The Gorgons and Grey Ones
profane the Goddess’s Mysteries; but Phorcys’s
ECHIDNE bore a dreadful brood to Typhon: name
Hell; the Hydra, a many-beaded water-serpent liv
ing at Lerna; the Chimaera, a fire-breathing
with his own mother and begot on he
r the Sphinx and the Nemean Lion.
conducted souls to the Underworld, seems to ha
ve originally been the Death-goddess Hecate
or Hecabe; she was portrayed as a bitch because
dogs eat corpse flesh and howl at the moon.
2. The Chimaera was, apparently, a calendar-sy
mbol of the tripartite year, of which the
seasonal emblems were lion, goat, and serpent.
3. Orthrus, who fathered the Chimaera, the Sphinx, the Hydra, and the Nemean Lion on
heads, like Janus, because the reformed year in
Athens had two seasons, not three: Orthrus’s
son, the Lion, emblemizing the first half, a
nd his daughter, the Serpent, emblemizing the
second. When the Goat-emblem disappeared, th
e Chimaera gave place to Sphinx, with her
reform New Year began when the Sun was in
in two directions—forward to the New
Cardea, whom the Romans named Postvorta
d ‘early’ presumably because he introduced
ENRAGED because Zeus had confined their brot
hers, the Titans, in Tartarus, certain tall
b. Without warning, they seized rocks and fire
-brands and hurled them upwards from their
mountain tops, so that the Olympians were ha
rd pressed. Hera prophesied gloomily that the
y by a single, lion-skinned mortal; and that
even he could do nothing unless the enemy were an
ticipated in their sear
ch for a certain herb
d. Then Porphyrion leaped into Heaven from
the great pyramid of rocks which the giants
defence. Rushing by her, Porphyrion made for He
ra, whom he tried to strangle; but, wounded
in the liver by a timely arrow from Eros’s bow,
he turned from anger to lust, and ripped off
, or Hecate singed Clytius with torches, or
Hephaestus scalded Mimas with a ladle of
red-hot metal, Athene crushed the lustful Pallas
the death blow. The peace-loving goddesses Hestia
f. Discouraged, the remaining giants fled back
e Olympians. Athene
threw a vast missile at Enceladus, who crushed
him flat and became the island of Sicily. And
es; this became the
g. The remaining giants made a last stand at
h. Silenus, the earth-born Satyr, claims to have ta
the side of his pupil
among the giants by the braying of his old
1. This is a post-Homeric story, preserved in
who take part in the fighting, are late-comer
Olympus, and Heracles is admitted there before
so the Aloeids’ Revolt, of
as a double—seems to be a concerted attempt by non-Hellenic
mountaineers to storm certain Hellenic fortresse
allies. But the powerlessness and cowardice of the gods, contrasted with the invincibility of
e, are more characteristic of popular fiction
than of myth.
ligious element in the story. These giants are not flesh
possession of a magical herb. No
mythographer mentions the na
me of the herb, but it was
ephialtion
, a specific against the nightmare. E
phialtes, the name of the giants’
leader, means literally ‘he who leaps upon’ (
in Latin); and the attempts of Porphyrion
Pallas to rape Athene, suggest that the story mainly concerns
the wisdom of invoking Heracles
by erotic nightmares at any
4. Alcyoneus (‘mighty ass’) is pr
cco, ‘the breath of the Wild
Ass’, or Typhon, which brings bad dreams, and mu
makes Silenus’s claim to have routed the giants with the braying of his pack-ass still more
ridiculous. Mimas (‘mimicry’) may refer to th
e delusive verisimilitude of dreams; and
Hippolytus (‘stampede of horses') recalls the an
rror-dreams to the Mare-
headed goddess. In the north, it was Odin whom sufferers from ‘the Nightmare and her
ce was taken by St. Swithold.
5. What use Heracles made of the herb can
be deduced from the Babylonian myth of the
IN revenge for the destruction
of the giants, Mother Earth lay with Tartarus, and presently
in the Corycian Cave of Cilicia brought fo
rth her youngest child, Typhon: the largest monster
ever born. From the thighs downward he was not
, and his arms which,
when he spread them out, reached a hundred
and flaming rocks hurtled from his mouth. When
he came rushing towards Olympus, the gods fled in terror to Egypt, where they disguised
themselves as animals: Zeus becoming a ra
m; Apollo—a crow; Dionysus—a goat; Hera—a
white cow; Artemis—a cat; Aphrodite—a fish
; Ares—a boar; Hermes—an ibis, and so on.
b. Athene alone stood her ground, and taunted Zeus with cowardice until, resuming his
c. The news of Zeus’s defeat spread dismay among the gods, but Hermes and Pan went
d. But some say that it was Cadmus who wheed
ay her delightful music; and Apollo who shot
1. ‘Corycian’, said to mean
‘of the leather sack’, may record the ancient custom of
and preserved by mediaeval witches. In the
serpent-mate was called Python, not Typhon.
the destructive North Wind—winds
with serpent tails—which whirls down on Sy
ria from Mount Casius, and on Greece from
s ‘stupefying smoke’, and his appearance
said to have buried him at last under Mount
On Sacrifices
animal form—Zeus-Ammon as ram, Hermes-
Thoth as ibis or crane, Hera-Isis as cow, Artemi
s-Pasht as cat, and so on; but it may also refer
s and priestesses from the Aegean Archipelago,
Cats were not domesticated in Classical Greece. A further source of this legend seems to be
the Babylonian Creation Epic, the
, according to which, in Damascius’s earlier
version, the goddess Tiamat, her consort’ Apsu,
and their son Mummi (‘c
3. The myth of Zeus, Delphyne, and the bear-s
kin records Zeus’s humiliation at the hands
the Cadmeians of Boeotia s
eem to have been concerned
with preserving the Zeus cult. Typhon’s ‘epheme
Hittite version of the my
overcomes the Storm-god and takes away his eyes
and heart, which he recovers by stratagem.
him with a cord and he is despatched by the
Storm-god.
4. Mount Casius (now Jebel-el-Akra) is th
story of Ullikummi the stone gi
ant, who grew at an enormous
rate, and was ordered by his
of Heaven. The Storm-god, the Sun-god, the
Goddess of Beauty and all their fellow-deities
failed to kill Ullikummi,
Wisdom, using the knife that originally severed
The Aloeids
Iphimedeia, a daughter of Triops. She had
child. Ephialtes and Otus were,
however, called the Aloeids because Iphimedeia
subsequently married Aloeus, who had been
made king of Boeotian Asopia by his father Heliu
and one fathom height every year and, when they
ing then nine cubits
broad and nine fathoms high, declared war on
Olympus. Ephialtes swor
outrage Hera, and Otus similarl
y swore to outrage Artemis.
War must be their first capt
disarmed him, bound him, and confined him to a
brazen vessel, which they hid in the house of
their stepmother Eriboea, Iphimedeia being now
they made a mound for its assault by pili
threatened to cast mountains into the sea until
it became dry land, though the lowlands were
swamped by the waves. Their c
that no other men, nor any gods, could kill them.
c. On Apollo’s advice, Artemis sent the Aloeid
s a message: if they raised their siege, she
d. The siege of Olympus being thus raised, He
rmes went in search of Ares, and forced
Eriboea to release him, half—dead, from the
brazen vessel. But the souls of the Aloeids
descended to Tartarus, where they were securely
tied to a pillar with knotted cords of living
Nymph Styx perches grimly on the pillar-top, as a
reminder of their unfulfilled oaths.
on of the Giants’ Revolt. The name Ephialtes, the assault
on Olympus, the threat to Hera, and the prop
versions. Ephialtes and Otus, ‘sons of the
threshing-floor’ by ‘her
genitals’, grandsons of ‘Three
Face’, namely Hecate, and wors
hippers of the wild Muses,
, or orgiastic nightmare, which st
ifles and outrages sleeping women.
Like the Nightmare in British legend, they are a
ssociated with the number nine. The myth is
a Thessalian, sent his sons to liberate their moth
er Iphimedeia and their sister Pancratis (‘all-
strength’) from the Thracians,
who had carried them off to Naxos; their expedition was
successful, but they quarrelled about
the partition of the island
and killed each other. However,
though Stephanus of Byzantium records that the c
ity of Aloeium in Thessaly was named after
the Aloeids, early mythographers make them Boeotians.
3. Ares’s imprisonment for thirt
een months is an unrelated my
thic fragment of uncertain
date, referring perhaps to an armistice of one
it from the Ogygian
caused by Zeus’s anger against the impious
himself first civilized Arcadia and instituted th
e worship of Zeus Lycaeus; but angered Zeus
ansformed into a wolf, and his house struck by
lightning. Lycaon’s sons were, some say, twen
b. News of the crimes committed by Lycaon’s sons reached Olympus, and Zeus himself
survivors of the Flood,
for Megarus, a son of Zeus, had been roused from his couch by the scream of cranes that
summoned him to the peak of Mount Gerania,
escaped was Cerambus of Pelion, whom the nymphs
the summit of Parnassus.
f. Similarly, the inhabitants of Parnassus—
to the mountain top. They named their new city Lycorea, after the wolves.
g. Thus the flood proved of little avail, for some of the Parnassians migrated to Arcadia,
and revived Lycaon’s abominations. To this da
y a boy is sacrificed to Lycaean Zeus, and his
guts mixed with others in an umble soup, which is
a stream. The shepherd who eat
m by lot), howls like a wolf,
hangs his clothes upon an oak, swims across the
stream, and becomes a werewolf. For eight
ains from eating men th
roughout that period, may
1. The story of Zeus and the boy’s guts is
not so much a myth
as a moral anecdote
expressing the disgust felt in more civilized
parts of Greece for the
ancient cannibalistic
practices of Arcadia, which were still performed in the name of Zeus, as ‘barbarous and
). Lycaon’s virtuous Athenian contemporary Cecrops,
m animal sacrifices. The Lycaonian rites,
enanced, were apparently intended to discourage
the wolves from preying on flocks and herd
s, by sending them a human king. ‘Lycaeus’
means ‘of the she-wolf’, but also ‘of the light
’, and the lightning in the Lycaon myth shows
rain-making sacred king—in servic
Moon, to whom the wolfpack howls.
months, or eight solar years,
3. The myth of Deucalion’s Flood, apparently
same origin as the Biblical
subject of a Hebrew moral tale
, incidentally justifying the enslavement of the Canaanites by
their Kassite and Semitic conquerors, Deucalion’s claim to the invention has been suppressed
by the Greeks in favour of Dionysus. Deucalion is, however, described as the brother of
ous vine-cult tribes, and has kept his name
‘new-wine sailor’ (from
and
halieus
). The Deucalion myth records a Mesopotamian
flood of the third millennium BC; but also the au
tumnal New Year feast of Babylonia, Syria,
htim’s outpouring of sweet new wine to the
builders of the ark, in which (according to the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic) he and his family
. The ark was a moon-ship and the feast was
tumnal equinox, as a means of inducing the
in the Greek myth, is called Pyrrha—
the name of the goddess-mother of
4. Xisuthros was the hero of the Sumerian Flood legend, recorded by Berossus, and his
ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. All these arks
were built of acacia-wood, a timber also used
5. The myth of an angry god who decides to
punish man’s wickedness with a deluge
seems to be a late Greek borrowing from the
different mountains, in Greece, Thrace, and Sicil
y, on which Deucalion is said to have landed,
suggests that an ancient Flood myth has been
superimposed on a later legend of a flood in
Northern Greece. In the earliest Greek version of
the myth, Themis renews the race of man
without first obtaining Zeus’s cons
ent; it is therefore
6. The transformation of stones into a people
similar legend, in a pun on the Hebrew words
ildren to Abraham from the desert
est Greek wine myth. The name Ozolian is
said to be derived from
, ‘vine shoots’. One of the wicked sons of Lycaon was also named
Orestheus, which may account for the forced co
nnection which the mythographers have made
8. Amphictyon, the name of another of Deucalio
n’s sons, is a male form of Amphictyonis,
the goddess in whose name the famous north
ern confederation, the Amphictyonic League,
had been founded; according to Strabo, Callimachus, and the Scholiast on Euripides’s
of Argos. Civilized Greeks, unlike the dissolute Thracians,
abstained from neat wine; and its tempering with
water at the conference
of the member states,
ermopylae, will have been a
precaution against murderous disputes.
9. Deucalion’s son Hellen was the eponymous
name shows that he was a royal deputy for th
Selene, the Moon; and, according to Pausanias, th
e first tribe to be called Hellenes came from
Thessaly, where Helle was worshipped.
Meteorologica
took place ‘in ancient Greece
(Graecia), namely the district ab
out Dodona and the Achelous River’.
means
Peloponnese because unusually heavy rains
had swamped their gr
worship seems to have ousted that of the Graeae.
of the sea;
kingdom with a precipitous coast
d. Atlas was the father of the Pleiades, the
the Heavens ever since, except on one occasion
when Heracles temporarily relieved him of
was, indeed, the wisest of his race, and Athene, at whose birth from
assisted, taught him architect
ure, astronomy, mathematics, na
vigation, medicine
, as to which portions of a sacrificial bull
should be offered to the gods, and which should
to make a clay woman, and the four Winds
of Olympus to adorn he
r. This woman, Pandora,
the most beautiful ever created, Zeus sent as
circulating a falsehood: At
1. Later mythographers understood
Atlas as a simple personif
North-western Africa, whose peak seemed to
hold up the Heavens; but, for Homer, the
columns on which he supported the firmament stood
named in his honour by Herodotto. He began, perhaps, as the Titan of the Second day of the
the firmament from the ware
of the earth. Most rain comes
to Greece from the Atlantic, especially the he
liacal rising of Atlas’
s star-daughters, the
Hyades; which part explains why his home was in
the west. Heracles took the Heavens from
from Gibraltar to the Hebrides, and among the
s not to be dismissed
as pure fancy, and seems to date from the third millennium BC. But Plato’s version, which he
claims that Solon learned from his friends
the Libyan priests of Sais in the Delta, he
ter tradition: how the Minoan Cr
the vast numbers of el
which may refer to the heavy import of Gr
borrowed from the elder legend. The whereabouts
subject of numerous theories
attention on the Atlantic Ocean.
4. These were farmers and arrived in Great Britain towards the close of the third
millennium BC; but no explanation has been o
ffered for their mass movement westwards by
According to the Welsh Atlantis legend of the lo
Cardigan Bay), a heavy sea broke down the sea-
tlantians, mentioned by Diodorus
Siculus as a most civilized
s, from whom the Libyan Amazons, meaning the
matriarchal tribes later descri
cannot be archaeologically dated, but he makes
Islands and Thrace, an event which cannot have
taken place later than the third millennium
BC. If, then, Atlantis was Western Libya, the
been due either to a phenomenal rainfall
such as caused the famous Mesopotamian and
le, such as washed away a
the coastal region. Atlantis may, in
fact, have been swamped at the
formation of Lake Tritonis, which apparently
and square miles of
ard into the Western Gulf of Sirte, called
ke mentioned by Diodorus was perhaps the
Chaamba Bou Rouba in the Sahara. Diodorus seems to be referring to such a catastrophe
of the Amazons and Atlantians: ‘
’ Since Lake Tritonis still existed in his
that as a result of earthquakes in the Western
Mediterranean the sea engulfed part of Libya
and formed Lake Tritonis. The Zuider Zee and the Copaic Lake have now both been
reclaimed; and Lake Tritonis, which, according
d nine hundred square
miles in Classical times, has sh
tt el Jerid. If
this was Atlantis, some of the dispossessed agriculturists were driven west to Morocco, others
their story with them; a few
remained by the lakeside. Plato’s elephants may
the mountainous coastline of Atlantis belongs
7. The five pairs of Poseidon’s twin sons who took the oath of allegiance to Atlas will
have been representatives at
Pharos of ‘Keftiu’ kingdoms a
Since this was written, history ha
s repeated itself disastrously.
9. Greek islanders still carry fire from one place
to another in the pith of giant fennel, and
s to deny that their goddess to
12. While the right-handed
is a symbol of the sun, the left-handed is a symbol of
the moon. Among the Akan of West Africa, a peopl
e of Libyo-Berber ancestry, it represents
the Triple-goddess Ngame.
Hyperion and Theia, rises from
her couch in the east, mounts
her chariot drawn by the horses
Lampus and Phaëthon, and rides to Olympus,
brother Helius. When Helius appears, she
becomes Hemera, and accompanies him on his
travels until, as Hespera, she announces their
safe arrival on the western shores of Ocean.
nd Ares in Eos’s bed, and cursed her with a constant
longing for young mortals, whom thereupon she secr
c. Lastly, Eos carried off Ganymedes and T
ithonus, son of Tros or Ilus. When Zeus
robbed her of Ganymedes she begged him to
grant Tithonus immortal
1. The Dawn-maiden was a Hellenic fancy, gr
e mythographers as
d her announcement of the Sun’s
advent are allegories. She evolved from the
with young mortals ar
wn brings midnight
most usual time for men
a simple one: the stars merge with dawn in
it were their emanation. Then, because wind was
held to be a fertilizing agent, Eos became the mo
ther Astraeus of the Mo
in the sky. (Astraeus was another name for Cephal
us, also said to have fathered the Morning
since the Evening Star is identical with the
appearance, all the stars must be born from
Eos, and so must every wind but the dawn
myth of Boreas’s creatio
n by the Moon-goddess Eurynome.
3. In Greek art, Eos and Hemera
by the allegorist to mean ‘a gr
e handsomest man alive, was the son of
Poseidon and Euryale. Coming one
on. Oenopion had promised Mero
pe to Orion in marriage,
s wine, which so inflamed
him that he broke into Merope’s
bedroom, and forced her to lie with him. When dawn came,
until he fell fast asleep; whereupon Oenopion
put out both his eyes and flung him on the
seashore. An oracle announced that the blind man w
c. After visiting Delos in Eos’s company, Or
d. Now, Apollo was aware that Orion had not
holy island of Delos—Dawn still daily blushes to
and he consented but was destroyed by Zeus’s
e. Some, however, say that the scorpion stung
at Artemis was vexed
with him for having amorously chased the virg
in companions, the seven Pleiades, daughters
across the meadows of Boeotia
for his name (which
three or four unrelated myth
is recorded on one of the Hittite
him. To her great grief the clumsy Yatpan not on
ly killed Aqhat, but dropped the bow into the
sea. The astronomical meaning of this myth is that Orion and the Bow—a part of the
whole months every spring. In Greece this story
seems to have been ad
how the orgiastic priestesses of Artemis—Opis
being a rifle of Artemi
5. The myth of Orion’s birth is perhaps mo
re than a comic tale modelled on that of
Philemon and Baucis (Ovid:
6. The name Pleiades, from the root
good weather for sailing approaches. But Pindar form
perhaps the original form, since the Hyades are pi
HELIUS, whom the cow-eyed Euryphaessa, or
Theia, bore to the Titan Hyperion, is a
brother of Selene and Eos. Roused by the crowi
ng of the cock, which is sacred to him, and
iot daily across the Heav
ens from a magnificent
palace in the far east, near Colchis, to an
equally magnificent far-western palace, where his
s home along the Ocean
stream, which flows around the world, embarking his chariot and team on a golden ferry-boat
made for him by Hephaestus, and sleep
s all night in a comfortable cabin.
sacred cattle by Odysseus’s companions. He has
several herds of such cattle,
each consisting of three hundred and fifty head. Those in Sicily
island emerging from
I shall be well content with that.’
the waves, Helius claimed it and begot seven
me say that Rhodes had existed before this
time, and was re-emerging from the waves afte
re its aboriginal inhabitants and Poseidon fell in love with
one of them, the nymph Halia, on whom he begot
Aphrodite in her passage from Cy
ck mad by her;
they ravished
their mother and committed other outrages so
foul that Poseidon sank them underground, and
they became the Eastern Demons. But Halia thre
w herself into the sea and was deified as
Leucothea—though the same story is told of
Ino, mother of Corinthian Melicertes. The
Telchines, foreseeing the flood, sailed away in
abandoned their claims on Rhodes. Rhode was thus
left the sole heiress, and her seven sons
by Helius ruled in the island after its re-emergence. They became famous astronomers, and
had one sister named Electryo, who died a vi
One of them, by name Actis, was banished for fr
The Rhodians have now built the Colossus, se
venty cubits high, in his honour. Zeus also
added to Helius’s dominions the new island of Si
cily, which had been a missile flung in the
d. One morning Helius yielded to his son Phaët
for permission to drive the sun-chariot. Ph
aëthon wished to show his sisters Prote and
Clymene what a free fellow he was: and his fo
nd mother Rhode (whose name is uncertain
because she had been called by both her daughter
s’ names and by that of Rhode) encouraged
him. But, not being strong enough to check the
had yoked for him, Phaëthon drove them first so
and then so near the earth that he scorched the
fields. Zeus, in a fit of rage, killed him with a
on its banks, which weep amber tears; or, some say, into alder-trees.
1. The Sun’s subordination to the Moon, until Apollo usurped Helius’s place and made an
intellectual deity of him, is a remarkable feat
ure of early Greek myth. Helius was not even an
Olympian, but a mere Titan’s son; and,
characteristics from the Hittite
her oriental sun-gods, these
were unimportant compared with his command of
thunder and lightning. The number of cattle
in Helius’s herds—the Odyssey makes him Hype
rion—is a reminder of his tutelage to the
Great Goddess: being the number
2. In the story of Phaëthon, which is another name for Helius himself (Homer:
Iliad
), an instructive fable has been grafted on the chariot allegory, the moral being that
to female advice. This fable, however, is not
quite so simple as it seems: it has a mythic im
sidereal year, namely that which followed the
e white gave promise of resurrection; thus
the transformation of Phaëthon’s sisters into poplars points to a sepulchral island where a
sepulchral island lying at the head of the Adriat
outh of the Po (Homer:
valley was the southern terminus of the Bronze
Age route down which amber, sacred to the
rranean from the Baltic.
4. Rhodes was the property of the Moon-goddess Danaë—called Cameira, Ialysa, and
Linda—until she was extruded by the Hittite Sun-god Tesup, worshipped as a bull. Danaë
may be identified with Halia (‘of the sea
(‘amber’). Poseidon’s six sons and one daughter
, and Helius’s seven sons, point to a seven-
The Sons Of Hellen
HELLEN, son of Deucalion, married Orseis, and
b. Hellen’s youngest son, Dorus, emigrated to
first Dorian community. The second son, Xuthus
accused of theft by his brothers, and there marri
ed Creusa, daughter of Erechtheus, who bore
him Ion and Achaeus. Thus the four most famous Hellenic nations, namely the Ionians,
Aeolians, Achaeans, and Dorians, are all descended from Hellen. But Xuthus did not prosper
Erechtheus’s death, he pronounced his eldest
one. This decision proved
age; and Desmontes, discovering
that she was with child, blinde
r in an empty
tomb, and supplied her with the
very least amount of bread a
sustain life. There she bore twin sons, whom
Desmontes ordered his servants to expose on
t an Icarian herdsman found and rescued the
twins, one of whom so closely resembled his maternal grandfather that he was named Aeolus;
t with the name Boeotus.
she appealed to the herdsman for help, and he brought her the foundlings whom, on
f. At this, Aeolus and Boeotus fled to their
sman, where Poseidon in
might one day sweep both earth an
d sea away into the air, and Ae
olus took charge of them at
of patriarchal Hellenes
their social customs accordingly, becoming Greeks (
Goddess, or Crone’). Later, the Achaeans and Do
rians succeeded in es
tablishing patriarchal
rule and patrilinear inheritance, and therefore described Achaeus and Dorus as first-generation
sons of a common ancestor, Hellen—a masculin
e form of the Moon-goddess Helle or Helen.
at this change from Greeks to
xuthos
iestesses cared nothing for the patriarchal view that
women were the property of thei
r fathers and husbands. But Euri
Athens, makes Ion elder brother to Dorus and
duction of the Mare-headed Demeter, and
Aeolus’s seduction of Euippe, all
refer perhaps to the same event: the seizure by Aeolians of
the pre-Hellenic horse-cult centres. The myth
of Arne’s being blinded and imprisoned in a
tomb, where she bore the twins Aeolus and Boeo
mountain among wild beasts, is apparently dedu
ced from the familiar icon that yielded the
myths of Danaë, Antiope, and the rest. A priest
tomb, presenting the New Year twins to the
shepherds, for revelation at her Mysteries;
tombs have their entrances always facing
east, as if in promise of rebirth. These
d on the mountainside,
being suckled by some sacred animal—cow, sow, she-goat, bitch, or
she-wolf. The wild
beasts from whom the twins are supposed to
transformations of the newly-born sacred king.
3. Except for the matter of the imprisoned winds, and the family incest on Lipara, the
remainder of the myth concerns tribal
migrations. The mythographers are thoroughly
4. Since the Homeric gods did no
of Hera, and the male god had no power over
them; indeed, in Diodorus’s account, Aeolus mere
ly teaches the islander
s the use of sails in
representatives have been most
loth to surrender; witches in England; Scotland and Brittany
still claimed to control and sell winds to sailors as late as the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. But the Dorians had been thoroughly
already by Homer’s time they had advanced
Aeolus, the eponymous ancestor of the Aeolians,
and given him charge
Aeolian Islands, which bore his name, being
situated in a region notorious for the violence and diversity of its winds. This compromise
was apparently accepted with bad grace by the
priests of Zeus and Poseidon, who opposed the
by Hera’s conservati
APOLLO lay secretly with Erechtheus’s daughte
r Creusa, wife of Xuthus, in a cave below
the Athenian Propylaea. When her son was born
Apollo spirited him away to Delphi, where
he became a temple servant, and the priests
named him Ion. Xuthus had no heir and, after
many delays, went at last to ask the Delphic Or
acle how he might procure one. To his surprise
b. Afterwards, Ion married Helice, daughter
of Selinus, King of Aegialus, whom he
succeeded on the throne; and, at the death of Er
henians—farmers, craftsmen, priests, and soldiers—are named
1. This theatrical myth is told to substant
Achaeans, and also to award them divine desc
ent from Apollo. But Creusa in the cave is
nt, or infants, to a shepherd—mistaken for
Apollo in pastoral dress. Helice, the willow, was the tree of the fifth month, sacred to the
water-magic; the Ionians
seem to have subordinated themselves willingly to her.
Alcyone And Ceyx
ALCYONE was the daughter of
they were so happy in each other’s company
Hera, and him Zeus. This naturally vexed the Olympian Zeus
stayed behind in Trachis, whereu
pon distraught with grief, she leapt into the sea. Some
pitying god transformed them both into kingfishers.
b. Now, every winter, the hen-kingfisher carries
her dead mate with great wailing to his
y compacted nest from the thor
it on the sea, lays her eggs in it, and hatches out her chicks. She does all this in the Halcyon
Days—the seven which precede the winter so
lstice, and the seven which succeed it—while
c. But some say that Ceyx was turned into a seamew.
w sacred king at the wi
nter solstice—after the
queen who represents his mother, the Moon-godde
sepulchral island. But because the winter solsti
ce does not always coincide with the same
phase of the moon, ‘every year’ must be under
r time were roughly synchronized, and the sacred
king’s term ended.
2. Homer connects the halcyon with Alcyone,
cannot therefore mean
off evil’. This derivation is confirmed by the myth of Alcyone and Ceyx, and the manner of
their punishment by Zeus and Hera. The seamew
eems that late in the second millennium BC the
sea-faring Aeolians, who had agreed to wo
divine ancestress and protectress, became tri
was the leader of
the seven Pleiades. The Pleiades’ heliacal risi
ground that where once it strikes it
will not strike again. The Mediterranean is inclined to be
calm about the time of the winter solstice.
though some say that he was King
s—and, having acted as mediator in a
married their sister Procne, who bore him a son, Itys.
concealing Procne in a rustic cabin near his
ted her death to Pandion. Pandi
generously offered him Philomela in Procne’s
place, and provided Athenian guards as her
Philomela reached the palace had
him. Procne soon heard the
news, but, as a measure of precaution, Tereus cu
t out her tongue and confined to the slaves’
quarters, where she could communicate with Ph
ilomela only by weavi
seize the throne, struck him
down unexpectedly with an axe. The same day,
Philomela read the message woven into robe.
ers, found one of the rooms, br
Procne, who was chattering unintelligib
ly and running around in circles.
reply, but flew out and, seized her son Itys, killed him,
gutted him, and then boiled him in a cau
d. When Tereus realized what flesh he had been
the axe with which he
had killed Dryas and pursued the sisters as they fled from the palace. He soon overtook them
and was on the point of committing a double murd
er when the gods changed all three into
birds; Procne became a swallow; Philomela—a nightingale; Tereus—a hoopoe. And the
Phocians say that no swallow dares nest in Da
screams and flies arou
?’ (where? where?). Meanwhile, the
e. But some say that Tereus was turned into a hawk.
1. This extravagant romance seems to have been invented to account for a series of
invaders in a temple at Daulis (‘shaggy’),
which illustrated different methods of prophecy in local use.
2. The cutting-out of Procne’s tongue misr
misrepresents another scene: a priestess has cas
in the Celtic Fashion
3. Two further scenes may be presumed: a
Erechtheus and Butes who was th
e most famous bee-keeper of
antiquity, the
Procne and Philomela. Their mother was Zeuxippe, ‘she who yokes horses’, doubtless a
4. All mythographers but Hyginus make Procne a nightingale, and Philomela a swallow.
This must be a clumsy attempt to rectify a slip made by some earlier poet: that Tereus cut out
Philomela’s tongue, not Procne’s. The hoopoe is a royal bird, because it has a crest of feathers,
and is particularly appropriate to the story of
Tereus, because it is notorious for their stench.
5. Daulis, afterwards called Phocis, seems to have been the cent
eponymous founder of the new state, was the s
on of Ornytion (‘moon bird’), and a later king
was named Xuthus (‘sparrow’). Hyginus reports that Tereus became hawk, a royal bird of
Egypt, Thrace, and North-western Europe.
KING Pandion died prematurel
Philomela, and Itys. His twin sons shared the
in inheritance: Erechtheus becoming King of
b. By his wife Praxithea, Erechtheus had four
sons, among the successor, Cecrops; also
seven daughters: namely Protogonia, Pandora, Proc
Chthonia, who married her uncle Bu
alarmed, and when Erechtheus consulted an
Otionia to Athene, if he hoped for
victory. Otionia was willingly led to the altar,
whereupon her two elde
st sisters, Protogonia
and Pandora, also killed themselves, having
of them should die
because of violence, they would die too.
ans to victory; and Erechtheus struck down
Eumolpus as he fled. Poseidon appealed fo
destroyed Erechtheus with a thunderbolt; but some
say that Poseidon felled him with a trident
th opened to receive him.
f. By the terms of a peace then conclude
d, the Eleusinians became subject to the
Athenians in everything, except the control of
their Mysteries. Eumolpus was succeeded as
g. Ion reigned after Erechtheus; and, because
ll poured to them today.
1. The myth of Erechtheus and Eumolpus conc
the Eleusinian Mysteries. An Athenian cult of the orgiastic
Bee-nymph of Midsummer also ente
rs into the story, since Butes is associated in Greek myth
with a bee cult on Mount Eryx; and his twin
name of King Tegyrius of Thrace, whose ki
ngdom Erechtheus’s grandson inherited, makes a
the Pelasgian Triple-goddess, to whom libations were poured on solemn occasions: Otionia
(‘with the ear-flaps’), who is sa
id to have been chosen as a sacrifice to Athene, being
evidently Owl-goddess Athene hers
Eurynome; and Pandora, the
Earth-goddess Rhea. At the transition from ma
some of Athene’s
priestesses may have been
me weapon, the sacred
, or double-axe, but distinguished from ot
her when Poseidon became god of the sea,
and Zeus claimed the right to the thunderbolt.
4. Butes, who was enrolled among the Argonauts,
family; but his descendants, the Butadae of At
s, when Boreas, son of Astraeus and Eos, and
brother of the South West Winds,
in a mantle of dark clouds, he ravished her.
him off with vain promises until at the end, complaining that he had wasted too much time in
Cicones, where she became his wife, and bore
e. Once, disguising himself as a dark-maned
stallion, he covered twelve of the three
thousand mares belonging to Erichthonius, son of
meadows beside the river Scamander. Twelve f
illies were born from this union; they could
race over ripe ears of standing
corn without bending them, or over the crests of waves.
r brother-in-law and, having once successfully
invoked him to destroy King Xerxes
another name for the demiurge Ophion who
danced with Eurynome, or Oreithyia, Goddess
of Creation, and impre
Ophion was to Eurynome, or Boreas to Oreithyi
a, so was Erechtheus to the original Athene;
for whom Oreithyia danced,
may have been Athene Polias-
Athene the Filly, goddess of the local horse cult,
and beloved by Boreas-Erechtheus, who thus
became the Athenians’ brother-in-law. The Boreas
cult seems to have originated in Libya. It
should be remembered that Hermes, falling in
love with Oreithyia’s predecessor Herse while
2. A primitive theory that children were the re
into women’s wombs as sudden gusts of wind linge
and Homer’s authority was wei
ghty enough to make educated Romans still believe, with
Pliny that Spanish mares could conceive by
). Varro mentions the same phenomenon, and L
makes it an analogy of the Virgin’s impregnation by the Sanctus Spiritus.
3. Boreas blows in winter from the Haemus range and the Strymon, and, when Spring
comes with its flowers, seems to have impre
blow backwards, the myth of Oreithyia’s rape a
pparently also records the spread of the North
Wind cult from Athens to Thrace. From Thrace,
or directly from Athens reached the Troad,
where the owner of the three thousand mares is
twelve fillies will have served to draw three f
each of annual triad:
Spring, Summer, and Autumn. Mount Haemus was haunt of the monster Typhon.
ing of myths, misses the point
suggests that a princess of that
name, playing on cliffs near the
was accidentally blown off the edge and killed (Plato:
). The cult of Boreas has
recently been revived at Athens to commemorat
(Pausanias).
knowledge, bore a son whom she ordered a
nurse to expose a mountain. A shepherd found him being suckled by a mare, and took him to
the sheep-cotes, where his rich robe attracted
oo, in proof of his noble birth. The two shepherds
began quarrel, and murder would have been done
, had their companions not led them before
obe and, when it was brought, recognized it
as having been cut from a garment belonging to
child to be exposed again. He was once more suckled by the mare and, this time, found by the
1. This myth is of familiar pattern, except
the first occasion, the shepherds come to blows.
The anomaly is perhaps due to a misreading
s being found by shepherds, and these same
twins coming to blows when grown to ma
2. Alope is the Moon-goddess as vixen who gave her name to the Thessalian city of Alope
sub Alope); the vixen was also the emblem
of Messene. The mythographer is
probably mistaken in record
ing that the robe worn by
clan and family marks were woven.
piths, Ixion’s brother, lived on the shores
b. Apollo became her lover, and left a crow w
ith snow-white feathers to guard her while
c. When Apollo complained to his sister Arte
mis of the insult done to him, she avenged it
r corpse, Apollo was
filled with sudden remorse, but could not now rest
ore her to life. Her spirit had descended to
ral pyre, the last fume
his presence of mind; then he motioned to
Hermes, who in the light of the flames cut the
still living child from Coronis’s womb. It was a
boy, whom Apollo named Asclepius, and carrie
where he learned the arts of medicine and chas
e. As for Ischys, also called Chylus: some say
Apollo himself shot him.
ey say that Coronis’s father,
Phlegyas, who founded the city of that name, wher
e. Asclepius, say the Epidaurians, learned th
om Apollo and from
Cheiron. He became so skilled in surgery and th
e use of drugs that he is revered as the
founder of medicine. Not only did he heal the
sick, but Athene had given him two phials of
the Gorgon Medusa’s blood; with what had been
from her right side, he
Tyndareus. It is not known on which occasion Ha
des complained to Zeus that his subjects
were being stolen from him—
h. The Messenians claim that Asclepius was a na
tive of Tricca in Messene; the Arcadians,
that he was born at Thelpusa; and the Thessalian
s, that he was a native of Tricca in Thessaly.
The Spartans call him Agnitas, because they
have carved his image from a willow-trunk; and
the people of Sicyon honour him in the form of
a serpent mounted on a mule-cart. At Sicyon
the left hand of his image holds the cone of
Epidaurus it rests on a
serpent’s head; in both cases
ant Hygieia. The Latins call him Aesculapius,
1. This myth concerns ecclesiastical politi
cs in Northern Greece, Attica, and the
on, in Apollo’s name, of pre-Helle
nic medical cult, presided over
or ravens. Among their names were Phoroneus, id
ed; and Cronus, which is a form of
(‘crow’ or
‘raven’), the name of two other Lapith kings.
Asclepius (‘unceasingly gentle’) will have been
a complimentary title given to
s not originally regarded as a maiden; the
r. She received the title ‘Coronis’ because of
the oracular crow, or raven, and ‘Hygieia’ becau
se of the cures she brought about. Her symbol
was the mistletoe,
, a word with which the name Ischys (‘strength’) and Ixion (‘strong
native’) are closely connected. The Eastern European
curative rites used in this cult were a secr
4. Apollo’s mythographers have made his sist
er Artemis responsible for Ischys’s murder;
and, indeed, she was originally the same godde
ss as Athene, in whose honour the oak-king
met his death. They have also made Zeus dest
beneath the double-axe, later form
death for her illegitimate love affair with
Ischys, and claimed Asclepius as his own son;
then Cheiron and he taught him the art of
Apollo’s Hellenic priests were he
lped by their Magnesian allies the
Centaurs, who were hereditary enemies of the Lapiths, to take over a Thessalian crow-oracle,
6. Asclepius’s serpent form, like that of Er
ichthonius—whom Athene also empowered to
lar hero; but several tame
serpents were kept in his temple at Epidauru
s (Pausanias) as a symbol
serpents cast their slough every year. The bitch who suckled Asclepius, when the goat-herd
hailed him as the new-born king, must be Hecate,
this bitch, with whom he is always pictured,
that Cheiron has been made to tutor him in
hunting. His other foster-mother, the she-goa
t, must be the Goat
by a mare, and Neleus by a bitch—this will have been Erichthonius.
ympian Zeus, had to follow
Apollo’s example and curse the crow, her former familiar.
8. The willow was a tree of powerful moon-magi
c; and the bitter drug prepared from its
rheumatism—to which the Spartans in their damp valleys will
have been much subject. But branches of th
e particular variety of willow with which the
Spartan Asclepius was associated, namely the
castus
matrons at the Athenian Thesmophoria, a fertil
ity festival, supposedly to keep off serpents
(Arrian:
Asclepius’s priests may therefore have sp
ecialized in the cure
The Oracles
er Greece are many; but the el
dest is that of Dodonian
om Egyptian Thebes: one to Libyan Ammon, the
other to Dodona, and each alighted on an oak-tree, which they proclaimed to be an oracle of
leaves, or to the clanking of brazen vessels
suspended from the branches. Zeus has another
famous oracle at Olympia, where his priests repl
y to questions after inspecting the entrails of
sacrificial victims.
b. The Delphic Oracle first belonged to Mo
was made of bees-wax a
nd feathers; the second,
d. Apollo owns numerous other oracular shrine
s: such as those in the Lycaeum and on the
over by a priestess. But at
Boeotian Ismenium, his oracles
e. Demeter’s priestesses give oracles to the
sick at Patrae, from a mirror lowered into her
f. Hera has a venerable oracle near Pagae; and
Achaea, which means ‘The Place of Black Poplar
s’, where her priestess drinks bull’s blood,
deadly poison to all other mortals.
g. Besides these, there are many other oracles
Achaean Bura, where the answer is given by a th
row of four dice; and numerous oracles of
Asclepius, where the sick flock for consultation and for cure, and are told the remedy in their
dreams after a fast. The oracles of Theban
ian Amphilochus—with
Mopsus, the most infallible extant
—follow the Asclepian procedure.
onian Thalamae, patronized by the Kings of
Sparta, where answers are also given in dreams.
i. Some oracles are not so easily consulted as others. For instance, at Lebadeia there is an
ut, where the suppliant must purify himself
a and sacrificing to Trophonius, to his nurse
Demeter Europe, and to other deities. There he
ecially that of a ram
amedes, the brother of Trophonius, who helped
him to build Apollo’s temple at Delphi.
j. When fit to consult the oracle, the suppl
thirteen years of age, and ther
drinks from a spring called the
Genii, belonging to Golden Age of Cronus,
who have descended from the moon to be in char
made a practice of stealing he
Bridge is Broken Down’, told of the various
unsuitable materials with which the shrine was su
ccessively built; but it may also refer to an
, the tomb of a hero who was incarnate in the python. The
beehive-shaped ghost-house, appears to be of
African origin, and introduced into Greece by
way of Palestine. The Witch of Endor presided
at a similar shrine, and the ghost of Adam
Philostratus refers to the golden birds in his
and describes them as sire
r calls them nightingales
3. Inspection of entrails seems to have been
an Indo—European mantic device. Divination
4. Apollo’s priests exacted virginity from th
e Pythian priestesses at Delphi, who were
regarded as Apollo’s br
ly seduced by a votary, they had
thereafter to be about fifty years old on installation, though still dressing as brides. Bull’s
of its magical potency
persons was symbolised by the tripod which her priestess sat.
Aeneas’s descent, mistletoe in hand, to Tartar
us, where he consulted his father Anchises, and
Teiresias; it also shows the relevance of these myths to a
common form of initiation rite in which the no
vice suffers a mock-death, receives mystical
ess at Pagae, and Persephone had a black
poplar grove in the Far West (Pausanias).
8. Amphilochus and Mopsus had killed each othe
r, but their ghosts agreed to found a joint
THE Three Fates or, some say, Io the sister of
c. Alpha was the first of the eighteen letters, because
means honour, and
to invent
, and because the Alpheius is the most
notable of rivers; moreover, Cadmus,
2. There is evidence, however, that before
the introduction of the
modified Phoenician
5 April 15 S willow; SS (Z), blackthorn
13 Nov. 25 R cider, or myrtle
correspond with a new calendar system: B, I. N, H,
tion of the year: O (greenweed) the Spring
oplar) Autumn Equinox; A (fir, or palm) the
birth-tree, and I (yew) death-tree, shared the
, Syria and Asia Minor. The goddess Carmen
vowels, because each of these calendar-consonants
introduced one half of her year, as divided
6. Cranes were sacred to Hermes, protector
the removal of the
(F) impoverished the canon.
This complicated and important s
8. The vowels added by the priests of Apollo
to his lyre were pr
obably those mentioned
by Demetrius, an Alexandrian philosopher of th
In Egypt the priests sing hymns to the Gods by uttering the seven
therapeutic lyre music
The Dactyls
e pressed her fingers into the soil to ease
s: five females from her left
hand, and five males from her
birth of Zeus, and some say that the nymph Anchiale bore them in the Dictaean Cave near
Oaxus. The male Dactyls were smiths and first
c. Acmon, Damnameneus, and Celmis are titles
of the three eldest Dactyls; some say that
Celmis was turned to iron as a punishment for insulting Rhea.
1. The Dactyls personify the fingers, and Hera
cles’s Olympic Games are a childish fable
illustrated by drumming one’s fingers on a ta
ble, omitting the thumb—when the forefinger
2. The story of Acmon, Damnameneus, and Celm
is, whose names refer to smith craft, is
an anvil, and then slipping tip of the middle
3. The Olympic Games originated in a foot
race, run by girls, for the privilege of
becoming the priestess of the Moon-goddess Hera (P
this event took place
in the month Parthenios, ‘of the maiden’, it se
ems to have been annual. When Zeus married
Hera—when, that is, a new form of sacred ki
Achaeans—a second foot race was run by young men for the dangerous privilege of
becoming the priestess’s consort, Sun to her
made his daughter’s suitors race for her (Pindar:
Pythian Odes
), following the example of
4. The Games were thereafter held every four y
night before or a fortnight after the Olympian
Games proper; and the sacred kingship conferred on the victor of the f
oot race at his marriage
to the new priestess, is recalled in the divine honours that the victory continued to bestow in
Classical times. Having been wreathed with Her
Heracles’, and pelted with le
aves like a Jack o’Green, he
led the dance in a triumphal
procession and ate sacrificial bul
5. The original prize, an apple, or an apple-
spray, had been a promise of immortality when
he was duly killed by his successor; for Plutarch
mentions that though a foot race was the sole
Olympic Games, a single combat al
the death of the vanquished. This combat is my
Olympic Games began with a wrestling match
), quoting Comarchus, shows that the Elian New
Year was reckoned from the full moon nearest to
and that a second New
Year began at midsummer. Presumably therefor
e the new Zeus-Heracles, that is to say, the
winner of the foot race, killed the Old Year
tanist, Cronus-Iphicles, at midwinter. Hence
Heracles first instituted the Games and named
the sepulchral Hill of Cronus ‘at a season when
7. In ancient times, Zeus-Heracles was pelted wi
midsummer, just before being ki
e royal wild-olive branch at
midwinter. The replacement of th
e apple by wild-olive, which is the tree that drives away evil
spirits, implied the abortion of this death-
combat, and the conversion of the single year,
a Great Year. This began at mi
dwinter, when solar and lunar
time coincided favourably for a Sun-and-M
oon marriage, and was divided into two
Olympiads of four years apiece
Though by Classical times the solar chariot race—f
contest with Oenomaus for Deidameia—had become
the most important event in the contests,
8. Olympia is not a Mycenaean site and the pr
e-Achaean myths therefore unlikely to have
The Telchines
cities of Cameirus, Ialysus,
and Lindus; and migrating thence
the Sea, acted as the hounds of Artemis,
created magic mists, and founded the cities named after the three Danaids: Cameira, Ialysa,
re originally emanations of
the Moon-goddess Danaë, each of
her three persons in triad. ‘Telchin’ wa
s derived by the Greek grammarians from
enchant’. But, since woman, dog and fish were likewise combined in pictures of Scylla the
2. Magic mists were raised by willow spells. Styx water was supposedly so holy that the
ss drunk from a cup made of a
nes’ magical use of
aks’), at one time the
of Greece; even the Olympic gods swore their most solemn oath by the Styx.
The Empusae
THE filthy demons called Empusae, children of Hecate, are ass-haunched and wear
brazen slippers—unless, as some declare, each
has one ass’s leg and one brazen leg. Their
habit is to frighten travelle
rs, but they may be routed by insulting words, at the sound of
which they flee shrieking. Empusae disguise them
selves in the forms of bitches, cows, or
beautiful maidens and, in the latt
ith men by night, or at the time of midday
1. The Empusae (‘forcers-in’) are greedily sedu
ctive female demons—a concept probably
brought to Greece from Palestine, where they we
re known by the name of Lilim (‘children of
Lilith’) and were thought to
be haunched, the ass symbolizi
IO, daughter of the River-god Inachus, was a priestess of Argive Hera. Zeus, over whom
him with infidelity and turned Iynx into a wryn
eck as a punishment, he lied: ‘I have never
ra claimed as hers and handed
Panoptes, ordering him: ‘
b. Io first went to Dodona, and presently reached the sea called the Ionian after her, but
led north to Mount Haemus a
ossing the Crimean Bosphorus, and following
the River Hybristes to its source in the Cau
afterwards died there from the sting of the gadf
ly; and that, as a cow, she changed her colour
1. This myth consists of several strands.
The Argives worshipped the moon as a cow,
w moon, red for the harvest moon, black for the
Crone. Io changed her colour, as the moon changes, but for ‘red’ the
mythographer substitutes
d spread of this r
(‘woodpecker’), King of Eleusis. Hermes is ca
lled the son of Zeus Picus (‘woodpecker’)—
accuses Zeus of stealing the woodpecker’s sceptre—as Pan is said
to have been Hermes’s son by the Nymph Dr
yope (‘woodpecker’); and Faunus, the Latin Pan,
was the son of Picus (‘woodpecker’) whom Cir
3. Zeus’s fathering of Epaphus, who became
the ancestor of Libya, Agenor, Belus,
med sovereignty over
4. The myth of pygmies and cranes seems to
concern the tall cattle-breeding tribesmen
who had broken into the upper Nile-valley from Somaliland and driven the native pygmies
1. Phoroneus’s name, which the Greeks read as
the sense that he
r, who seems to have derived his title from
his Moon-mother Artemis
Hermes to drive Agenors cattle down to the
seashore at Tyre, where she and her companions
used to walk. He himself joined the herd,
d. Agenor sent his sons in search of their si
e. Cadmus sailed with Telephassa to Rhode
s, where he dedicated a brazen cauldron to
Athene of Lindus, and built Poseidon’s temple,
leaving a hereditary priesthood behind to care
for it. They next touched at Thera, and built a similar temple, finally reaching the land of the
ed them hospitably. Here Tele
her funeral, Cadmus and his companions procee
asked where Europe might be found, the Pythoness advised him to give up his search and,
instead, follow a cow and build a city wherever she should sink down for weariness.
Delphi to Phocis, Cadmus came upon some
e of King Pelagon, who sold him a cow marked with a white full moon
on each flank. This beast he drove eastward
through Boeotia, never allowing her to pause
until, at last, she sank down where the city of Thebes now stands, and here he erected an
image of Athene, calling it by he
r Phoenician name of Onga.
g. Cadmus, warning his companions that the co
w must be sacrificed to Athene without
1. There are numerous confusing variations of
above: for instance,
Thasus is alternatively described as the s
on of Poseidon, Cilix (Apollodorus), or Tityus
‘Canaan’; many Canaanite customs point to an
East African provenience and the Canaanites
may have originally come to Lower Egypt fr
om Uganda. The dispersal of Agenor’s sons
seems to record the westward flight of Can
the second millennium BC,
under pressure from Arya
n and Semitic invaders.
and their search for Io the moon-cow has influenced that of
nix is a masculine form
ddess of Death-in-Life. Europe means ‘broad-
face’, a synonym for the full moon, and a title
of Moon-Goddesses Demeter at Lebadeia and
),
it may mean ‘good for willows’—that is, ‘well-watered’. The willow rules the fifth month of
ed with witchcraft and with
fertility rites throughout Europe,
especially on May Eve, which falls in th
is month. Libya, Telephassa, Argiope, and
Alphesiboea are all, similarly, titles of the Moon-goddess.
3. Zeus’s rape of Europe, which records an early Hellenic occupation
ory of Europe also commemor
5. Tyrian Heracles, whom Theseus worshipped at Olympia, was the god Melkarth; and a
small tribe, speaking a Semitic language, seems
to have moved up from the Syrian plains to
Cadmeia in Caria—Cadmus is a Semitic word meaning ‘eastern’—whence they crossed over
to Boeotia towards the end of the second millennium, seized Thebes, and became masters of
the country. The myth of the Sown Men and
Cadmus’s bondage to Ar
invading Cadmeans secured their hold on Boeotia
by successfully intervening in a civil war
among the Pelasgian tribes who claimed to be au
rule of an eight-year reign for the sacred king.
Cadmus killed the serpent in the same sense as
Apollo killed the Python at Delphi. The na
mes of the Sown Men—Echion (‘viper’); Udaeus
the soil’); Hyperenor (‘man
who comes up ‘) and Pelorus
not merely the Thebans, claimed to be born in
it is less likely that this practice was literally
carried out, than that the cow was turned loosely
e temple of the Moon-goddess founded where she lay
down. A cow’s strategic and commercial
ge to Ares, to expiate the murder of the
Castallan serpent, Athene secured him the land of
Boeotia. With the help of his Sown Men, he
built the Theban polis, named ‘The Cadmea’ in
his own honour and, after being initiated into
the mysteries which Zeus had taught Iasion, married Harmonia, the daughter of Aphrodite and
Ares; some say that Athene …brought… her to him when he visited Samothrace.
attended by the Olympians. Twelve golden
yet wholly forgiven him for him for killing
the serpent, Cadmus resigned the Theban thr
one in favour of his grandson Pentheus, whom
d. Cadmus and Harmonia therefore emigrated
attacked by the Illyrians, chose them as their rulers, in accordance with Dionysus’s advice.
Agave was now married to Lycotherses, King of Illyria, at whose cour
ng that her parents commanded the Enchelean
forces, she murdered Lycotherses too, and gave the kingdom to Cadmus.
e. In their old age, when the prophecy had been wholly fulfilled, Cadmus and Harmonia
duly became blue-spotted black serpents, and were
sent by Zeus to the Islands of the Blessed.
But some say that Ares changed them into li
Cadmus had built the city of Buthoë. He was
succeeded by Illyrius, the son of his old age.
1. Cadmus’s marriage to Harmonia, in the pres
ence of the Twelve Olympian deities, is
have been transformed,
were perhaps twin
iconic image—as on the famous Lion Gate at
Mycenae. The mythographer suggests that he was
allowed to emigrate with a colony at the
Belus And The Danaids
KING Belus, who ruled at Chemmis in the
Anchinoë, daughter of Nilus, bore him the
m; but also subdued the country of the
Melampodes, and named it Egypt after himself.
Fifty sons were born to him of various
sent to rule Libya, had fifty
rious mothers: Naiads, Hamadryads, Egyptian
r their inheritance,
d. With Athene’s assistance, he built a ship
for himself and his daughters—the first two-
prowed vessel that ever took to sea—and th
e. From Rhodes they sailed to the Peloponne
become King of Argos. Though the Argive King,
Gelanor, naturally laughed at this claim, his
subjects assembled that evening to discuss it.
declaration that Athene was
supporting him, had not the Argi
il dawn, when a wolf came
boldly down from the hills, attacked a herd of cat
tle grazing near the city walls, and killed the
leading bull. This they read as an omen that
were opposed, and therefore persuade
d Gelanor to resign it peacefully.
Apollo in disguise, dedicated the famous
shrine to Wolfish Apollo at Argos, and became so
powerful a ruler that all the Pelasgians of
Greece called themselves Danaans. He also
built the citadel of Ar
gos, and his daughters
brought the Mysteries of Demeter, called Thes
mophoria, from Egypt, and taught these to the
Pelasgian women, But, since the Dorian inva
sion, the Thesmophoria are no longer performed
g. Danaus had found Argolis suffering from
l the rivers and streams. He
placate Poseidon by any means they knew.
One of them, by name Amymone, while chasing a
vish her; but Poseidon, whom she invoked, hurled
Poseidon himself lay with Amymone, who was gl
h. At Amymone the monstrous Hydra was born to
the near-by Lernaean Lake, to which murderers
come for purification—he
nce the proverb: ‘A
j. A mass-marriage was arranged, and Danaus
made in some cases because the bride and brid
egroom had mothers of equal rank, or because
their names were similar—thus Cleite, Sthenele
, and Chrysippe married Cleitus, Sthenelus,
and Chrysippus—but in most cases he drew lots from a helmet.
l. The murdered men’s heads were buried at
Lerna, and their bod
hene and Hermes purified the Danaids in
the Lernaean Lake with Zeus’s permission, the Judges of the Dead have condemned them the
ding to marry off the other
n. Meanwhile, Aegyptus had come to Greece, but
o. Amymone’s son by Poseidon, Nauplius, a fam
steering by the Great Bear, and founded the city
1. This myth records the early arrival in Gr
eece of Helladic colonists from Palestine, by
way of Rhodes, and their introduction of agriculture in
is claimed that
2. The three Danaids, also known as the Telchines, or ‘enchanters’, who named the three
oon-goddess Danaë. The names Linda, Cameira, and
Ialysa seem to be
worn-down forms of
(‘binder with linen thread’),
catamerizousa
(‘wailing woman’); they are, in fact, the familiar Three Fates, or
Moerae, otherwise known as Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, because they exercised very
same functions. The Classical th
eory of the linen-thread was
that the goddess tied the human
being to the end of a carefully measured thread
which she paid out year
ly, until the time came
ich his clan and family mark
s were embroidered and thus
3. Danaë’s Sumerian name was Dam-ki
na. The Hebrews called her Dinah (
), also
masculinized as Dan. Fifty Moon-priestesses were
the regular complement of a college, and
d by rain-making charms, irrigation, and well-
digging; hence the Danaids’ name has been connected with the Greek word
4. The Hydra, destroyed by Heracles, seem to have personified this college of water-
and the myth of the Danaids apparently records two Hellenic attempts
ally. After the second successful attempt, the
Hellenic leader married the Chief-priestess and
5. ‘Aegyptus’ and ‘Danaus’ seem to have been
early titles of Argi
it was a widespread custom to bury the sacred
king’s head at the approaches of a city, and
eads of Aegyptus’s sons buried at Lerna are
7. Hypermnestra’s and Lynceus’s beacon-fires w
ill have been those lighted at the Argive
ate the triumph of the Sun. It may be
rough his heart: a comparatively merciful end.
rated at Athens, in
the course of which the severed ge
nitals of the sacred king, or
his surrogate, were carried in a
, Lamia, who ruled in Libya
, and on whom Zeus, in
acknowledgement of her favours, bestowed the
her eyes at will. She bore him several children,
but all of them except Scylla were killed by
Hera in a fit of jealousy. Lamia took her reve
behaved so cruelly that her face turned into a nightmarish mask.
b. Later, she joined the company of the Em
pusae, lying with young men and sucking their
1. Lamia was the Libyan Neith, the Love-and-Battle goddess, also named Anatha and
nurse bogey. Her name, Lamia, seems to be akin to
lamyros
(‘gluttonous’), from
SOME say that when Zeus fell in love with Nemesis, she fled from him into the water and
became a fish; he pursued her as a beaver, ploughing up the waves. She leaped ashore, and
transformed herself into this wild beast or th
at, but could not shake Zeus off, because he
borrowed the form of even fiercer and swifter b
easts. At last she took to the air as a wild
goose; he became a swan, and trod her triumphantly at Rhamnus in Attica. Nemesis shook her
egg lying in a marsh, which she brought home and hid in a chest:
from it Helen of Troy was hatched. But some
opped from the moon, like
the egg that, in ancient times plunged into the river Euphrates and, being towed ashore by fish
veal the Syrian Goddess of Love.
c. The most usual account, however, is th
companied in the form of a swan beside the rive
r Eurot: that she laid
an egg from which were
ntly deified as the goddess
Nemesis. Now, Leda’s husband Tyndareus had al
so lain with her the same night and, though
some hold that all these three were Zeus’s
children—and Clytaemnest
hatched, with Helen, from a second egg—others r
areus’s sons; some others again, that Castor
1. Nemesis was the Moon-goddess as Nymph and, in
the earliest form of the love-chase
nd finally devoured him. With the victory of
the patriarchal system, the chase was reversed
: the goddess now fled from Zeus, as in the
English ballad of the Coal-black Smith. She had ch
a survival of this myth, whereas that of
Polydeuces (‘much sweet wine’) records the ch
aracter of the festivities during which the
chase took place.
Lada
variants of the Moon-goddess, whose identity with Lucian’s Syrian goddess is emphasized by Hyginus. But Hyginus’s account is confused: it was the goddess herself who laid the world-egg after coupling with the serpent Ophion, and who hatched it on the waters, adopting the form
of a dove. She herself rose from the Void.
Helen had two temples near Sparta: one at Ther
apnae, built on a Mycenaean site; another at
s. Pollux mentions a Spartan
festival called the Helenephoria, closely resemb
ling Athene’s Thesmophor
which certain unmentionable objects were
4. Zeus tricked Nemesis, the goddess of the Pe
reed to marry Dia, daughter of Eioneus,
b. Though the lesser gods thought this a heinou
having behaved equally ill himsel
ed him but brought him to eat
c. Ixion was ungrateful, and planned to seduce Hera who, he guessed, would be glad of a
Hera with whom Ixion, being too far gone in
drink to notice the deception, duly took his pleasu
re. He was surprised in the act by Zeus, who
ordered Hermes to scourge him mercilessly until
he repeated the words: ‘Benefactors deserve
honour’, and then bind him to a fiery wheel
which rolled without cease through the sky.
d. The false Hera, afterwards called Nephele
when he grew to manhood, is said to have si
red horse-centaurs on Magnesian mares, of whom
the most celebrated was the learned Cheiron
1. Ixion’s name, formed from
(‘strength’) and
(‘moon’), also suggests
2. Horses were sacred to the moon, and hobby-
horse dances, designed to make rain fall,
the Centaurs were ha
earliest Greek representation of Centaurs—two me
n joined at the waist to horses’ bodies—is
found on a Mycenaean gem from the Heraeum at Ar
gos; they face each other and are dancing.
1. This myth records how an Aeolian chief invaded Elis, and accepted the consequences
of marrying the Pelasgian Moon-goddess Hera’s
names of Endymion’s
wives are all moon-titles—head of a college of
he was duly sacrificed and awarde
d a hero shrine at Olympia. Pi
sa, the city to which Olympia
belonged, is said to have meant in the Lydian
2. The name Endymion, from
(Latin:
inducere
e were one of the Empusae; but the an
cients explain it as referring to
, ‘the sleep put upon him’.
4. Apis is the noun formed from
, a Homeric adjective usua
lly meaning ‘far off’ but,
), ‘of the pear-tree’.
PYGMALION, son of Belus, fell in love w
se she would not lie
with him, made an ivory image of
her and laid it in his bed, praying to her for pity. Entering
into this image, Aphrodite brought it to life as
1. Pygmalion, married to Aphr
Paphos, seems to have kept the
goddess’s white cult-image in his bed as a m
THE River-god Asopus—whom some call the s
b. Several of these had been carried off and ravished on various occasions by Zeus,
swarms of serpents went wriggling over the
fields into all the other streams and rivers. Thic
heat spread across the
island, which Aeacus had renamed Aegina, and th
e pestilential South Wi
nd blew for not less
and famine ensued; but the islanders were
stream, where they died as th
d. Appeals to Zeus were in vain: the emaciated suppliants and their sacrificial beasts fell
single warm-blooded crea
ture remained alive.
e. One day, Aeacus’s prayers were answered
with thunder and lightning. Encouraged by
this favourable omen, he begged Zeus to
replenish the empty land, giving him as many
corn up a near-by oak. The tree, sprung from a
Dodonian acorn, was sacred to Zeus; at Aeacus’s
prayer, therefore, it trembled, and a rustling
came from its widespread boughs, not caused by any wind. Aeacus, though terrified, did not
tree-trunk and the earth beneath it. That night, in a dream, he
the sacred oak, and bringing up as men. When
he awoke, he dismissed this as
ly his son Telamon called him
outside to watch a host of men approaching, and he recognized their faces from his dream.
vided the deserted city and lands among his new
people, whom he called Myrmidons, that is ‘ant
like thrift, patience, and tenacity. Later, thes
e Myrmidons followed Peleus into exile from
g. But some say that Achilles’s allies, th
e Myrmidons, were so named in honour of King
Myrmidon, whose daughter Eurymedusa was seduced by Zeus in the form of an ant—which
in Thessaly. And others tell of
a nymph named Myrmex who, when her
companion Athene invented the plough, boasted th
at she had made the discovery herself, and
was turned into an ant as a punishment.
h. Aeacus, who married Endeis of Megara, was
i. Apollo and Poseidon took Aeacus with
them when they built
ed in this work, the city would be impregnable and its
had they finished their task when three grey-
eyed serpents tried to scale the walls. Two
j. Aeacus, Minos, and Rhadamanthys were the
three of Zeus’s sons whom he would have
The Fates, however, would not permit this, and
Zeus, by graciously accepting their ban, provide
d the other Olympians with a good example.
k. When Aeacus died, he became one of the thre
1. Asopus’s daughters ravished by Apollo and
seized by the Aeolians. Aegina’s rape seems
to record a subsequent Achaean conquest of
opus; and an unsuccessful appeal made by their
neighbours for military aid from Corinth. Eu
2. The Aeacus myth concerns the conquest of
Aegina by Phthioti
an Myrmidons, whose
tribal emblem was an ant. Previously, the island was, it seems, held by goat-cult Pelasgians,
and their hostility towards the invaders is re
corded in Hera’s pois
oning of the streams.
3. The Phthiotian colonists of Aegina later
merged their myths with those of Achaean
4. In the original myth, Aeacus will have induced
the rain-storm not by an appeal to Zeus,
but by some such magic as Salmoneus used. Hi
SISYPHUS, son of Aeolus, married Atlas’s
daughter Merope, the Pleiad, who bore him
herd of cattle on the Isthmus of Corinth.
b. Near him lived Autolycus, son of Chione
, whose twin-brother
Philammon was begotten
by Apollo, though Autolycus himself claimed Hermes as his father.
c. Now, Autolycus was a past master in th
eft, Hermes having given him the power of
metamorphosing whatever beasts he stole, from
horned to unhorned, or from black to white,
grew steadily smaller
while those of Autolycus increased, he was
unable at first to accuse him of theft; and
the monogram SS or,
some say, with the words ‘Stolen by Autolycus’
. That night Autolycus helped himself as
summon neighbours in witness of the theft. He visited Autolycus’s stable, recognized his
his witnesses to remonstrate with the thief,
hurried around the house, entered by the portal, and while the argument was in progress
wife to Laertes the Argive. She bore him
Odysseus, the manner of whose conception is
showed, and for his nickname ‘Hypsipylon’.
n as Corinth, and peopled it with men
sprung from mushrooms, unless it be true that
Medea gave him the kingdom as a present. His
contemporaries knew him as the worst knave
that he promoted
Corinthian commerce and navigation.
e. When, on the death of Aeolus, Salmoneus
: ‘Sire children on your
niece; they will avenge you!’ He therefore
seduced Tyro, Salmoneus’s daughter, who,
happening to discover that his motive was not love
her father, killed the
two sons she had borne him. Sisyphus then en
er the River-god Asopus came to Corinth in
Asopus accordingly made the spring Peirene rise
now images of the goddess, armed; of the Sun;
and of Eros the Archer. Then Sisyphus told
him all he knew.
ed Asopus’s vengeance, orde
red his brother Hades to
instructed his wife Merope not to bury hi
m; and, on reaching the Palace of Hades went
straight to Persephone, and told her that, as an
i. It may have been because he had injured
As soon as he has almost reached the summit,
he is forced back by the weight of the
shameless stone, which bounce the
very bottom once more; where he
j. Merope, ashamed to find herself the only Pleiad with a husband
in the Underworld—
and a criminal too—deserted her si
x starry sisters from the night
since. And as the whereabouts of Neleus’s tomb
derstood it to mean ‘very wise’, is spelled Sesephus
2. Sisyphus’s ‘shameless stone’ was originally a sun—disk, and the hill up which he
eaven; this made a familiar enough icon. The existence of a
acropolis in succession, and shared a temple
there (Pausanias). Moreover, Sisyphus is
invariably placed next to Ixion in Tartarus, and
Ixion’s fire-wheel is a
symbol of the sun. This
explains why the people of Ephyra sprang from
mushrooms: mushrooms were the ritual tinder
of Ixion’s fire-wheel, and the Sun-god demande
d human burnt sacrifices
to inaugurate his
perhaps from a pict
marriage to Aphrodite; and the mythographer’
disgust at the strategic planti
masculine form of Hypsipyle: a title, probably, of the Moon-goddess.
gic points on the Isthmus as a charm
against invasion. A lacuna occurs in Hyginus’s account of Sisyphus’s revenge on Salmoneus;
I hay supplied a passage which makes sense of the story.
had no emanation and never failed. Peirene was also
the name of a fountain outside the city
5. One of the seven Pleiads disappeared in early Classical times, and her absence had to be
6. A question remains: was the double-S
really the monogram Sisyphus. The icon
illustrating the myth probably showed him examin
ing the tracks of the stolen sheep and cattle
which, since they ‘parted hoof’, were formalized
Greek script, and could also be read as the co
unar month and all that
these implied—waxing and waning,
—and the SS will therefore have referred to Selene the Moon,
sun-king merely held her sacred herd in trust.
The figure CC representing the full moon (as dis
tinguished from O, representing the simple
sun-disk) was marked on each flank of the sacred cow which directed Cadmus to the site of
b. Alcidice, Salmoneus’s wife, had died many y
daughter named Tyro. Tyro was under the charge
of her stepmother Sidero, and treated with
of the family’s expulsion from Thessaly; having killed the two sons
e river Enipeus, and haunted
But the River-god, although amused and even
how her the least encouragement.
Disguising himself as
the River-god, he invited Tyro to join him at
the confluence of the Enipeus and the Alpheius;
and there threw her into a magic sleep, while
a dark wave rose up like a mountain and cured
in crest to screen his knavery. When Tyro awok
d. Tyro contrived to keep her secret until she
bore the promised twins, but then, unable to
face Sidero’s anger, exposed them on a mount
ain. A passing horse-herd took them home with
him, but not before his brood-mare had kicked
the elder in the face. The horse-herd’s wife
sed one to the mare for suckli
ng and calling him Pelias; the
nature from the bitch which served as his
foster-mother. But some say that the twins
their mother’s name and learned how unkindly
) recounts that
a rain-bringing
coins show) to splash about the water from
the jars which it contained. Rain always
came, according to Antigonus. Thus Salmoneus’s
charm for inducing thunderstorms have been co
like rattling pebbles
from the Danaids’ sieves and the Argive cow
dance, rain-making was originally female pr
erogative—as it remains among certain primitive
African tribes—the Hereros and the Damaras
Queen permitted him to act as her deputy.
2. Tyro was the Goddess-mother of the Tyrians and Tyrrhenians, or Tyrsenians, and
obably a pre-Hellenic name, but supplied Greek
with the word
anny’. Her ill-treatment by
Sidero recalls that of Antiope by Dirce, a myth which it closely resembles; and may originally
was held to impregnate brides
menstruation, or child-birth—and it is likely that Tyro’s Enipeus, like the Scamander, was
Tyro’s seduction by Poseidon purports to
explain why Salmoneus’s descendants were so
metimes called ‘Sons of Enipeus’, which was
3. Tyro’s ark, in which she sent the twins fl
oating down the Enipeus, will have been of
Rhea Silvia sent Romulus and
Remus floating down the Tiber.
lly fixed to the cult-
image of the Cow-goddess Hera, Astarte, Io, Isis,
ems to have been an
Achaean conqueror who forcibly reorganized the Aeolian Goddess cult of Southern Thessaly.
ALCESTIS, the most beautiful of Pelias’s
daughters, was asked in marriage by many
on by refusing any of them, and
bound to him for one year as a herdsman, and aske
to your godhead? ‘You have indeed,’ Apollo a
ssented, ‘and I have shown my gratitude by
making all your ewes drop twins.’ ‘As a final fa
vour, then,’ pleaded Admetus, ‘pray help me
to win Alcestis, by enabling me to fulfill Pelias’s conditions.’ ‘I shall be pleased to do so,’
replied Apollo. Heracles lent him a hand with
the taming of the wild beasts presently
b. It is not known why Admetus omitted the
customary sacrifice to Artemis before
marrying Alcestis, but the goddess was quick eno
ugh to punish him. When, flushed with wine,
the bridal chamber that night, he
awaited him on the marriage couch, but a tangled
knot of hissing serpents. Admetus ran shouting for Apollo, who kindly intervened with
Artemis on his behalf. The neglected sacrifice
Apollo even obtaining Artemis’s promise that,
c. This fatal day came sooner than Admetus e
xpected. Hermes flied into the palace one
morning and summoned him to Tartarus. General consternation prevailed;
a little time for Admetus by making the Three Fate
d. Then, for love of Admetus, Alcestis took
at a wife should die instead of a husband. ‘Back
e. Some tell the tale differently. They say th
boar to the same chariot is
the theme of a Theban myth,
where the original meaning has been equally
obscured. Lion and boar were the animal
symbols given to the first and second halv
2. Artemis was hostile to monogamic marriage
because she belonged to the pre-Hellenic
cult in which women mated promiscuously out
The patriarchal practice of suttee, attested he
grew from the Indo-European custom which
forbade widows to remarry; once this ban was
relaxed, suttee became less attractive.
3. In the first version of this myth, Pers
sacrifice—Persephone
represents the matriarchal point of view. In
chosen as the instrument of Zeus’s will, that is
ATHAMAS the Aeolian, brother of Sisyphus a
nd Salmoneus, ruled over Boeotia. At
Hera’s command, he married Nephele, a phantom wh
om Zeus created in her likeness when he
wished to deceive Ixion the Lapith, and who
was now wandering disconsolately about the
But Athamas resented the disdain in which Ne
phele held him and, falling in love with Ino,
daughter of Cadmus, brought her
b. Learning about her rival from the palace serv
ants, Nephele turned in a fury to Olympus,
complaining to Hera that she had been insu
Laphystium, where she publicly reported
Hera’s vow, and demanded that Athamas should
die. But the men of Boeotia, who feared
Athamas more than Hera, would not listen to
Nephele; and the women of Boeotia were
devoted to Ino, who now persuaded them to
but no blade appeared, Athamas wo
at was amiss. She
had already bribed Athamas’s messengers to bri
ng back a false reply:
namely, that the land
Laphystium.
d. This Phrixus was a handsome young man, with
‘Climb on my back!’ cried the ram, and Phrixus obeyed.
‘Take me too’ pleaded Helle. ‘Do not l
eave me to the mercy of my father.’
the ram flew eastwards, making for the land
s his horses. Before long, Helle
she fell into the straits between Europe and As
iced the ram to Zeus the Deliverer. Its golden
fleece became famous a generation later wh
en the Argonauts came in search of it.
f. Over-awed by the miracle of Mount Laphys
tium, Athamas’s messengers confessed that
false reply from Delphi; and presently all her
wiles, and Biadice’s, came to light. Nephele thereupon again demanded that Athamas should
g. But Hera was incensed with Athamas
and drove him mad, not
bastard by her sister Semele, who was living in
the palace disguised as a girl. Seizing his bow,
Athamas suddenly yelled: ‘Look, a white stag! Stand back while I shoot!’ So saying, he
transfixed Learchus with an arrow, and proceed
ed to tear his still-quivering body into pieces.
Athamas’s vengeance, had not the infant Dionysus
temporarily blinded him, so that he began
to flog a she-goat in mistake for her. Ino ran to the Molurian Rock, where she leaped into the
sea and was drowned—this rock afterwards beca
me a place of ill repute, because the savage
Sciron used to hurl strangers from it. But
Zeus, remembering Ino’s kindness to Dionysus,
Tartarus and deified her inst
ss Leucothea.
rtes as the God Palaemon, and sent him to the Isthmus of
Corinth riding on dolphin-back; the Isthmian
Games, founded in his honour by Sisyphus, are
still celebrated ther
i. Athamas, now banished from Boeotia, and
remaining son, Leucon,
j. Others tell the tale differently. Omitting At
hamas’s marriage to Nephele, they say that
k. The following day, Themisto ordered her guard
s to break into the
the twins who were dressed in mounting, but
what was in Themisto’s mind, had provided wh
ite garments for her own sons, and mourning
garments for her rival’s. Thus Themisto’s tw
ins were murdered, and the news sent Athamas
mad: he shot Learchus dead, mistaking him
sprang into the sea, and became immortal.
they wandered in a wood, their mother came upon them in a Bacchic frenzy, leading a golden
ram by the horns. ‘Look,’ she babbled, ‘here is
many suitors, so Poseidon changed her into a ew
e and himself into a ram, and topped her on
the Island of Crumissa.’
‘What happened to the suitors,
mother?’ asked little Helle.
‘They became wolves,’ Ino answered, ‘and ho
me no more questions, but climb on this ram’
s back, both of you, and ride away to the
kingdom of Colchis, where Helius’s son Aeëtes
Ares.’ Phrixus carried out his mother’s stra
hung up the golden fleece in
a temple of Ares at Colchis, where it was gua
rded by a dragon; and, many years later his son
Presbon, or Cytisorus, coming to Orchomenus fr
om Colchis, rescued Athamas as he was
1. Athamas’s name is connected in the myth with
Athamania, the city which he is said to
have founded in the Thessalian wilderness; but seems formed, rather, from
(‘high’), and
(‘to reap’)—meaning ‘the king dedicated to
the Reaper on High’, namely the Goddess
2. The myth of Athamas and Phrixus records th
e annual mountain sacrif
of the king’s surrogate—first a boy dressed
in a ram’s fleece, and later a ram—during the
ram-sacrifice on the summit of Mount Pelion,
not far from Laphystium, took place in April
when, according to the Zodiac, the Ram was in
the ascendant; the chief men of the district
today in the mock-sacrifice and resurrection of
an old man who wears
a black sheep’s mask.
The mourning garments, ordered for the children
fleece was worn by the victim, and white ones by th
e priest and the spectators. Biadice’s love
r Joseph, a companion myth from Canaan; much
the same story is also told of Anteia a
3. That Nephele (‘cloud’) was Hera’s gift
to Athamas and create
version Athamas the Aeolian king himself represented the
thunder-god, like his predecessor Ixion, and his br
other Salmoneus; and that, when he married
Themisto (who, in Euripides’s version of the my
4. Ino was Leucothea, ‘the White Goddess ‘, an
by revelling on Mount Parnassus. Her name (‘s
he who makes sinewy’) suggests ithyphallic
orgies, and the sturdy growl of corn; boys will have been bloodily sacrificed to her before eve
of winter sowing. Zeus is himself credited with
to Dionysus, and Athamas bears an agricultura
l name in her honour; in other words, the
Ionian farmers settled the relig
5. The myth, however, is a medley of early cu
lt elements. The sacramental Zagreus cult,
which became that of Dionysus the Kid is sugg
ested when Athamas takes Ino for a she-goat;
the sacrament Actaeon cult is suggested when he
him in pieces. Ino’s younger son
Melicertes is the Canaanite Her
acles Melkarth (‘protector of
the city’), alias Moloch as the new-born sola
r king, comes riding on dolphin-back towards the
isthmus; and whose death, at the close of his four
years’ reign, was celebrated at the Isthmian
Funeral Games. Infants were sacrificed to
Melicertes on the Island of
6. Only when Zeus became god of the clear s
did the fleece become golden—thus the First Va
fleece in which Zeus ascended the sky’—but whil
e he was inducer of the thunderstorm it had
been purple-black (Simonides).
7. In one version of the myth (Hippias: Frag
ment, Ino is called Gorgopis (‘grim-faced’), a
the cliff, took his name from
Molurian Rock was evidently the cliff from wh
his surrogates, were
nd the myth is ambivalent:
9. Athamas’s tribe is more likely to have
migrated from Boeotian Mount Laphystium and
Athamania to Thessalian Mount Laphystius and
Athamania, than contrariwise; he had a
Athamas’ (Stephanus of Byzantium sub Acraephia).
e also credited with
King of Orchomenus, which would have given
him power over the Copaic Plain and Mount
Laphystium (Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius)
and allied him with Corinth against the
intervening states of Athens and Thebes
. The probable reason for the Athamanians’
GLAUCUS, son of Sisyphus and Merope, and father of Bellerophon, lived at Potniae near
the horses at the Isthmian Games, thus causi
ng many deaths. Another horse-scarer is the ghost
of Myrtilus whom Pelops killed. He haunts the
stadium at Olympia, where charioteers offer
him sacrifices in the hope
1. The myths of Lycurgus and Diomedes sugges
t that the pre-Hellenic sacred king was
torn in pieces at the close of
his reign by women disguised as
mares. In Hellenic times, this
ritual was altered to death by being dragged at the tail of a four-
horse chariot, as in the myths
of Hippolytus, Laius, Oenomaus, Abderus, Hect
e Babylonian New Year
fighting the sea-monster Tiamat, a chariot draw
n by four masterless hor
2. The myth of Glaucus is unusual: he is not
by the mares. That he despised Aphrodite
c royal statue, marking the first turn of the
race-course; horses new to the stadium were
e moment when their
charioteer was trying to cut in and take the inne
r berth; but this was also the place where the
the removal of his linchpins.
cian title of the King of Cori
b. His brother Bias, to whom he was deeply att
ached, fell in love with their cousin Pero;
but so many suitors came for her hand that she wa
s promised by her father Neleus to the man
c. Now, Melampus could understand the langu
d rescued these from death at the hands of
dead bodies. Moreover, Apollo, whom he met
the river Alpheius, had taught him
to prophesy from the entrails of
sacrificial victims. It thus came to his knowledge
be made a present of them, though only after
being imprisoned for exactly one year. Since
Bias was in despair, Melampus decided to visi
g, and Phylacus, springing up from the straw,
led him away to prison. This was, of c
ourse, no more than Melampus expected.
imprisonment ended, Melampus heard two
woodworms talking at the end of a beam whic
The other worm, his mouth full of wood-dust,
replied: ‘We a making good progress. The
beam will collapse tomorrow at dawn, we waste no time in idle conversation.’
Melampus at once shouted: ‘Phylacus, Phylac
us, pray transfer me to another cell!’
pus’s reasons this request, did not deny him. When the
beam duly collapsed and killed one of the
women who was helping
to carry out the bed,
mpus’s prescience. ‘I will
grant you both your freedom and
re my son Iphiclus of impotency.’
e. Melampus agreed. He began the task by sa
crificing two bulls Apol
burned the thigh-bones with the fat, left th
e carcasses lying by the altar. Presently two
vultures flew down, and remarked to the other:
‘It must be several years since we were here—
that time when Phylacus was gelding rams
and we collected our perquisites.’
‘I well remember it,’ said the other vulture. ‘I
father coming towards him with
. He apparently feared to
be gelded himself because he screamed at the
top of his voice. Phylacus drove the knife into
the sacred pear-tree over there, for safe-keeping, while he ran to comfort Iphiclus. That fright
accounts for the impotency. Loo Phylacus forgot to
‘In that case,’ remarked the first vulture, ‘the
remedy for Iphiclus’s impotency would be to
e rust left the rams’ blood and ad
minister it to him, mixed in
sense to prescribe such a medicine?’
f. Thus Melampus was able to cure Iphiclus, who soon begot a son named Podarces; and,
having claimed first the cattle and then Pero, pr
esented her, still a vi
brother Bias.
h. Melampus, when he heard the news, came to Tiryns and offered to cure them, on
The madness then spread to the Argive wo
men, a great many of whom killed their
children, deserted their homes, a
tus’s three daughters, so that
d heavy losses because the wild women tore
them in pieces and devoured them raw. At this
j. Then Melampus, helped by Bias and a c
hosen company of sturdy young men, drove the
disorderly crowd of women down from the mo
untains to Sicyon, where their madness left
them, and then purified them by immersion in
e overlooking the river St
yx. There Lysippe and
Iphianassa regained their sanity and were
purified; but Iphinoë had died on the way.
k. Melampus then married Lysippe, Bias (whos
e wife Pero had recently died) married
1. It was a common claim of wizards that thei
r ears had been licked by serpents, which
were held to be incarnate spirits of oracular heroes (
by J. R. Frazer,
and insects. Apollo’s priests appear to have
been more than usually astute in claiming to
prophesy by this means.
is factual rather than mythical: the rust of the gelding-knife would
3. It appears that ‘Melampus’, a leader of Ae
olians from Pylus, seized part of Argolis
wine cult, given many centuries later, was aimed at the discouragement of all earlier, more
primitive, rites; and seems to have put an end to cannibalism and ritual murder, except in the
wilder parts of Greece. At Patrae in Achaea,
for instance, Artemis Tridaria (‘threefold
the desecration of the
ouse could be put to flight mere
married Aglaia, to whose twin sons, Proe
tus and Acrisius, he bequeathed his kingdom,
bidding them rule alternately. Their quarrel,
which began in the womb, became more bitter
b. Seven gigantic Cyclopes, called Gasteroche
ires, because they earned their living as
c. Acrisius, who was married to Aganippe, ha
whom Proteus had seduced; and, when he asked
an oracle how to procure a male heir, was
told: ‘You will have no sons, and your grandson mu
st kill you.’ To forestall this fate, Acrisius
imprisoned Danaë in a dungeon with brazen doors, guarded by savage dogs; but, despite these
precautions, Zeus came upon her in a shower of
gold, and she bore him a son named Perseus.
that Zeus was the father,
d. Some years passed and Perseus, grown to
manhood, defended Danaë against Polydectes
force marriage upon her. Polydectes then
to marry Hippodameia, and not my mother, I will
er gift you name.’
e. ‘That would indeed please me more than a
for whose frightful appearance she had herself been responsible, accompanied Perseus on his
adventure. First she led him to
the city of Deicterion in Samos, where images of all the three
Gorgons are displayed, thus enabling him to di
stinguish Medusa from her immortal sisters
Stheno and Euryale; then she warned him never to look at Medusa directly, but only at her
reflection, and presented him with
g. Hermes also helped Perseus, giving him an
adamantine sickle with which to cut off
Medusa’s head. But Perseus still needed a pair
of winged sandals, a ma
j. Perseus paused for refreshment at Chemmis
woman chained to a sea-cliff, and instantly fe
ll in love with her. This was Andromeda,
k. As Perseus flew towards Andromeda, he
saw Cepheus and Cassiopeia watching
anxiously from the shore near by, and alighted
lcomed him as thei
Andromeda’s insistence, the wedding took place
interrupted when Agenor, King Belus’s twin brothe
r, entered at the head
of an armed party,
claiming Andromeda for himself. He was
Cepheus at once broke faith with Perseus, pl
eading that the promise
of Andromeda’s hand
had been forced from them by circumstances,
and that Agenor’s claim was the prior one.
‘Perseus must die!’ cr
down many of his opponents but, being greatly
outnumbered, was forced to snatch the Gorgon’s
head from its bed of coral and turn the
remaining two hundred of them to stone.
p. After raising Dictys to the throne of Se
the local acropolis and then, being ashamed to re
r. Perseus fortified Midea, and founded Mycenae, so called because, when he was thirsty,
a mushroom [
] sprang up, and provided him with a stream of water. The Cyclopes built
s. Others give a very different account of the matter. They say that Polydectes succeeded
in marrying Danaë, and reared Perseus in the te
mple of Athene. Some
time to kill Perseus with his own
hand. Polydectes intervened and made each of
them solemnly swear never to attempt the
other’s life. However, a storm arose and, while
Acrisius’s ship was still hauled up on the
s funeral games, Perseus threw a discus
which accidentally struck Acrisius on the head and killed him. Perseus then sailed to Argos
had offended Athene, and led the Libyans of La
ke Tritonis in battle. Perseus, coming from
Argos with an army, was helped by Athene to
assassinate Medusa. He cut off her head by
night, and buried it under a mound of earth in
Esau and Jacob; and Pharez and Zarah, both
ed from a picture of a walled city: seven sun-
aced above it, and the sacred king is being
rikes his sacred heel. This would mean that
4. The myth of Danaë, Perseus, and the ark seem
s related to that of Isis, Osiris, Set, and
the Child Horus. In the earliest
5. Dynastic disputes at Argos were complicat
Caria—as appears both in this myth and in
terranean. The myths of
Perseus and Bellerophon are closely related. Pe
rseus killed the monstrous Medusa with the
help of winged sandals; Bellerophon used a
winged horse, born from the decapitated body of
Chimaera. Both feats reco
fied in an archaic Boeotian vase-painting
of a Gorgon-headed mare. This mare is
endar-symbol was the
Chimaera; and the Gorgon-head is a prophylactic
mask, worn by her priestesses to scare away
the uninitiated, which the He
llenes stripped from them.
6. In the second and simpler version of
the myth, Perseus fights a Libyan queen,
Oxford, as a protective charm for the whole Ki
ngdom of Britain; though pigs, in that context,
may be an euphemism for children.
7. Andromeda’s story has probably been deduced
from a Palestinian icon of the Sun-god
s white horse and killing the sea-monster
Tiamat. This myth also formed part of He
brew mythology: Isaiah
mentions that Jehovah
(Marduk) hacked Rahab in pieces
with a sword; and according to
the same icon, the jewelled, naked Andromeda, st
Ishtar, or Astarte, the lecher
ous Sea-goddess, ‘ruler of men’.
rescued; Marduk has bound her there himself, after killing her emanation, Tiamat the sea-
serpent, to prevent further mischief. In the
it was she who sent the
Flood. Astarte, as Sea-goddess, had temples all
was Hesione, ‘Queen of Asia’, whom Heracles is said to have rescued from another sea-
monster. A Greek colony planted at Chemmis,
millennium BC, identified Perseus with the go
d Chem, whose hieroglyph was a winged bird
and a solar disk; and Herodotus emphasizes the
9. The second, simpler version of the myth sugges
WHEN the male line of Polycaon’s House ha
, to be their king, and he married Perseus’s
daughter Gorgophone. She survived him and was
the first widow to remarry, her new husband
customary for women to commit suicide on
was the first to leap ashore when the Greek
b. Aphareus and Leucippus were Gorgophone’s sons by Perieres, whereas Tyndareus and
Icarius were her sons by Oebalus. Tyndareus
succeeded his father on the throne of Sparta,
sons expelled both of them,
arius (later to become Odysseus’s father-in-law) took
daughter Leda, who bore him Castor and Clytaemn
estra, at the same time bearing Helen and
and was one of those whom Asclepius raised from
the dead. His tomb is still shown at Sparta.
succeeded Perieres on the throne of Messene,
where Leucippus—from whom, the Messenians say,
who bore him Idas and Lynceus;
daughters, the Leucippides, namely Phoebe, a prie
one another in an adventure, became the
pride of Sparta. Castor was famous as a soldie
r and tamer of horses, Polydeuces as the best
c Games. Their cousins and rivals were not
than Lynceus, Lynceus such sharp eyes that
e. Now, Evenus, a son of Ares, had married
Alcippe, by whom he became the father of
Marpessa. In an attempt to keep her a virgin, he invited each of her suito
rs in turn to run a
chariot race with him; victor would win Ma
rpessa, the vanquished would forfeit his head.
Soon many heads were nailed to the walls of Ev
enus’s house and Apollo, falling in love with
of so barbarous a custom; and
said that he would soon end it
by challenging Evenus to a race. But Idas had
f. When Idas reached Messene, Apollo tried to
take Marpessa from him. They fought a
duel, but Zeus parted them, and ruled that Marp
she grew old, as he had done with many
another of his loves, she chose Idas for her husband.
g. Idas and Lynceus were among the Calydon
sufficiently to join forces in a cattle-raid on Arcadia. The raid proved successful, and Idas was
of them. He therefore quartered a cow, and
il should go to the man who ate his shar
e first, the remainder to the next
ynceus, and that Idas, distracted by grief,
broke off the fight and began to bury him. Cast
or then approached and insolently demolished
the monument which Idas had
i. Others say that it was Lynceus who mo
Lynceus attacked Sparta; and
still others, that both Dioscuri survived the fi
j. It is generally agreed, at least, that Polyde
uces was the last survivor of the two sets of
Menelaus to Sparta, where
he resigned the kingdom to him; and since the H
an heir, Nestor succeeded to the throne of all
Messenia, except for the part ruled over by the
Dioscuri lived. It was afterwards owned by
m. Poseidon made Castor and Polydeuces the
them power to send favourable wi
ce of white lambs offered on the
ship, they will come hastening through the sky,
anger by impersonalizing them. It happened that
the Spartan army was celebrating a feast of
the demi-gods, when twin spearmen rode into
the camp at full gallop, dressed in white tunics,
The Spartans fell down to wo
rship them, and the pretended
Dioscuri, two Messenian youths named Gonippus
and Panormus, killed many of them. After
therefore, the Dioscuri sat on
a wild pear-tree, and spirited
away the shield belonging to the victorio
us Messenian commander Aristomenes, which
prevented him from pressing on the Spartan re
treat, and thus saved many lives; again, when
Aristomenes attempted to assault Sparta by nigh
t, the phantoms of the Dioscuri and of their
sister Helen turned him back. Later, Castor
and Polydeuces forgave the Messenians, who
sacrificed to them when Epaminonda
p. They preside at the Spartan Games, and because they invented the war-dance and war-
like mimic are the patrons of all bards who sing of
sanctuary at Sparta, the two priestesses are st
Leda’s twins were hatched is su
spended from the roof. The Spar
tans represent the Dioscuri by
two parallel wooden beams, joined
into battle and when, for the first time, a
Spartan army was led by one king alone, it was
decreed that one beam should also remain at
Sparta. According to those who have seen the
1. In order to allow the sacred king precedence over his tanist, he was usually described as
the son of a god, by a mother on whom her husband
subsequently tithered a mortal twin. Thus
Amphitryon, similar story is told both about the
Classical times, had
Delphic Oracle, to impose their twin heroes
on the rest of Greece, as enjoying greater favour w
Spartan kingdom did indeed outlast all its rivals.
Had this not been so, the constellation of the
Twins might have commemorated Heracles and Iphi
s enroyalled the Spartan co-ki
priestesses of Athene and Artemis, and gi
ven moon-names, being, in fact, the Moon-
by the Dioscuri. As the Spirit of the Waxing Year
, the sacred king would naturally mate with
Artemis, a Moon-goddess of spring and summer; a
of the Waning Year,
with Athene, who had become a Moon-goddess of
autumn and winter. The mythographer is
ans, and that their leaders forcibly married
the heiresses of Arene, a principal city of
Messenia, where the Mare-headed Mother was
4. Similarly with Marpessa: apparently the Mess
been combined in the story with the Hellenic cu
stom of marriage by capture. The fatal cattle-
raid may record a historical incident: a quarr
visit to Phormio’s house is
6. Wild pear-trees were sacred
white blossom, and the most
ancient image of the Death-godd
ess Hera, in the Heraeum at
Mycenae, was made of pear-
wood. Plutarch and Aelian mention the pear as
‘of the pear-tree’. Athene, also a Death-
goddess, had the name Oncë (‘pear-tree’) at her
that they were genuine heroes; moreover, the
pear-tree forms fruit towards the end of May, when the sun is in the house of the Twins; and
when the sailing season begins in the Eastern Mediterranean. Sparrows that follow the
Aphrodite; Xuthus (‘sparrow’), the father of
7. In the Homeric
convention of suttee marrying again.
ckname Bellerophontes,
own brother, whose name is
usually given as Deliades.
llerophon to do him the service
of destroying the Chimaera, a fire-breathing
she-monster with lion’s head, goat’s body, and
ughter of Echidne, whom my enemy, the King of
Caria, has made a household pe
c. Pegasus was absent from Helicon, but Be
r of his wells; and threw ove
r his head a golden bridle,
Athene’s timely present. But some say that
as it may, Bellerophon overcame the Chimaer
riddling her with arrows, and then thrusting be
tween her jaws a lump of lead which he had
fixed to the point of his spear. The Chimaera’
s fiery breath melted the
d. Iobates, however, far from rewarding Bell
at, sent him at once
against the warlike Solymians and their allies
, the Amazons; both of whom he conquered by
soaring above them, well out of bow-shot, and
band of Carian pirates led by one Cheimarrhus, a
figurehead and a serpent
stern. When Iobates showed no gratitude even
f. Bellerophon, at the height of his fortune
, presumptuously undertook a flight to Olympus,
making him rear and fling Bellerophon ingloriously
1. Anteia’s attempted seduction of Belleropho
Palestinian parallel in the st
2. Echidne’s daughter, the Chimaera, who is de
lding at Carchemish,
was a symbol of the Great Godde
ed Year—lion for spring, goat for summer,
serpent for winter. A damaged glass plaque f
with a lion, from the back of wh
ich emerges what appears to be
dates from a period when the goddess was still supreme, this
3. Bellerophon’s taming of Pegasus, the Moon-hor
se used in rain-making, with a bridle
at the candidate for the sacred kingship was charged by the
Triple Muse (‘mountain goddess’), or her represen
tative, with the capture of a wild horse;
(‘moon-creature on high’) when
he took possession of Elis. To
judge from primitive Danish and Irish practice, the flesh of this horse was sacramentally eaten
by the king after his symbolic rebirth from th
of the myth is equally ambivalent: it can also
at Ascra on Mount Helicon, and Corinth. A
4. Bellerophon’s enemies, the So
lymians, were Children of Salma. Since all titles and
capes beginning with the syllable
but she soon became masculini
zed as the Sun-god Solyma, or
Selim, Solomon, or Ab-Salom, who gave his na
me to Jerusalem. The Amazons were the
6. Cheimarrhus’s name is derived from
Bellerophon’s story by some euhemerists to expl
ain away the fire-breathing Chimaera. Mount
Chimaera (‘goat mountain’) was also the name of
Natural History
), which accounts for the fierce breath.
the King of Sicyon, who agreed to marry her, and thus occasioned a war in which Nycteus
was killed. Antiope’s uncle Lycus presently de
feated the Sicyonians in a bloody battle and
refused to shelter her. Dirce then came rushing
up in a Bacchic frenzy, seized hold of Antiope,
‘My lads,’ cried the cattle-man, ‘you
‘Why the Furies?’ they asked.
‘Because you have refused to protect your mother, who is now being carried off for
of a wild bull, which made short work of her.
Sicyon impersonated Lycus, to whom she wa
s married, and seduced her. Lycus divorced
Antiope in consequence and married
how how free the mythographers felt to make
their narrative fit the main elements of a litera
ry tradition which, in this case, seems to have
been deduced from a series of sacred icons. Antiope, emerging joyfully out of her dungeon
and followed by the scowling Dirce, recalls Core
’s annual reappearance in Hecate’s company.
ng’) in this context, because he
r face is upturned to the sky,
not bent towards the Underworld, and ‘Daught
she emerges from the darkness. The ‘raging on
the mountain’ by Dirce and Antiope has been
will have been moon-shaped. Antiope’s sons are the familiar royal
twins borne by the Moon-
2. Amphion’s three-stringer lyre, with which he
raised the walls of Lower Thebes—since
Hermes was his employer, it can have had onl
y three strings—was constructed to celebrate
the Triple-goddess, who reigned in the air, on
earth, and in the Underworld, and will have
to safeguard the city’s foundations, gates, ant towers. The
name ‘Amphion’ (‘native of two lands’) reco
NIOBE, sister of Pelops, had married Amphi
on, King of Thebes an borne him seven sons
and seven daughters, of whom she was so inordinately proud that, one
eban women tried to
iled her dead, and found no one to bury them,
d. All men mourned for Amphion, deploring the extinction of his race, but none mourned
en is given by Homer as twel
ve and (according to various
ich makes the best sense, is that she had
e Theban version of the myth was a grand-
or mother of Phoroneus, also
aim to be the first mortal woman violated by
Zeus, the myth may concern the defeat of the
sses by the Olympians.
If so, it records the suppression of the calendar system prevailing in Pelasgian Greece,
Palestine, Syria, and North-western Europe;
which was based on a month divided into four
twelve children, in Homer’s version of the myth,
perhaps stand for the thir
teen months of this
calendar. Mount Sipylus may have been the last
home in Asia Minor of the Titan’s cult, as
Thebes was in Greece. The statue
of roughly human shape, which seems to
cap of snow, and the likeness is reinforced by a
Hittite Goddess mother carved in rock on the
same mountain and dating
from perhaps the late
fifteenth century BC. ‘Niobe’ probably means snowy—the
representing the
in the Latin
, or the
which makes no sense in Greek, unless it be a worn-down form of
Love Stories)
gives a different account of
POSEIDON once lay with the Nymph Caenis, daughter of Elatus the Magnesian or, some
say, of Coronus the Lapith, and asked her to name a love-gift.
‘Transform me’, she said, ‘into an invulnera
ble fighter. I am weary of being a woman.’
Poseidon obligingly changed her sex, and she
became Caeneus, waging war with such
king; and she even begot a son, Coronus, whom
Heracles killed many years later while fighting
for Aegimius the Dorian. Exalted by this new
igated the Centaurs to an act of murder.
During the wedding of Peirithous they made a s
in killing five or six of them, without incu
rring the slightest wound, because their weapons
rebounded harmlessly from her charmed skin. Howe
ver, the remaining Centaurs beat her on
the head with fir logs, until they had driven her under the earth, and then piled a mound of
logs above. So Caeneus smothered and died.
Presently out flew a sa
soul; and when they came to bury her,
the corpse was again a woman’s.
1. This myth has three distinct strands. First,
a custom which still prevails in Albania, of
girls joining a war-band and dressing in men’s clothes, so that when they are killed in battle
the enemy is surprised to discover their sex.
throne. Third, the ritual record
ed on a black-figured oil jar,
in which naked men, armed with
ALTHOUGH Oeneus was the first mortal to
anticipated him in the making of wine. He offered a sample from his trial jarful to a party of
Mount Pentelicus, who, failing to mix it with
themselves bewitched, and killed Icarius.
robe, and then dug up the corpse. In despair, Er
igone hanged herself from the pine, praying
same fate as hers while Icarius remained
shepherds fled overseas, but many Athenian
maidens were found hanging from the pine one after another, until the Delphic Oracle
explained that it was Erigone who demanded thei
r lives. The guilty shepherds were sought out
at once and hanged, and the present Vintage Fe
stival instituted, during which libations are
1I. Maera was the name given to Priam’
s wife Hecabe, or Hecuba, after her
transformation into a dog, and
Hecate, the libations poured to Erigone and Icariu
s were probably meant for her. The valley in
which this ceremony took place is now called ‘Dionysus’. Erigone’s pine will have been the
tree under which Attis the Phrygian was castrated and bled to death, and the explanation of
the myth seems to be that when the Lesser Dog-star was in the ascendant, the shepherds of
tim to the goddess called Erigone.
2. Icarius means ‘from the Icarian Sea’, i.e.
from the Cyclades, whence the Attis cult came
to Attica. Later, the Dionysus cult was superimposed on it; and the story of the Athenian girls’
suicide may have been told to
account for the masks of Dionys
us, hung from a pine-tree in the
middle of a vineyard, which turned with the
wind and were supposed to fructify the vines
ed, effeminate youth,
and his masks would have suggested hanged women. But it is likely that
iously hung from fruit-trees. The girls’
swinging at the vintage festival will have been
magical in its original intention: they
represented bird-goddesses, and their swings ma
de a semi-circle in hono
ur of the new moon.
This custom may have been brought to Attica
3. The name Erigone is explained by the mythogr
rife’, because of the
trouble she occasioned; but its obvious meaning is ‘plentiful offspring’, a reference to the
Greece, as he proved at Acastus’s funeral ga
mes. He might still be alive but for an
c. Many answered the call, among them Castor
Lynceus from Messene; Theseus from Athens a
nd Peirithous from Larissa; Jason from Iolcus
d. Oeneus entertained the huntsmen royall
y for nine days; and though Ancaeus and
t in company with a woman, Me
leager declared, on Oeneus’s
ew their objection he
e. Amphiaraus and Atalanta were armed with
rs with boar-spears,
javelins, or axes, each being so anxious to wi
n the pelt for himself that hunt discipline was
stion, the company advanced in a half-moon, at some paces
f. The first blood shed was human. When At
alanta posted herself on the extreme right
flank at some distance from her fellow-hunters,
two Centaurs, Hylaeus and Rhaecus, who had
But as soon as they ran
g. Presently the boar was flushed from a water-course overgrown with willows. It came
mstrung another, and drove young Nestor, who
veral others flung ill-aimed javelins at the
lder. Then Telamon and Peleus went in boldly
with boar-spears; but Telamon tripped over a tree root and, while Peleus was pulling him to
to the most honourable person
present—namely himself, as Oeneus’s brothe
him with the contention that Iphicles, not Atalanta, had drawn first
lover’s rage, killed them both.
j. Delighted by Atalanta’s success, Iasus recogn
e the Delphic Oracle had warned her against marriage. She
one condition. Any suitor for my ha
nd must either beat me in
k. Many unfortunate princes lost their lives in
consequence, because she was the swiftest
a son of Amphidamas the
l. The marriage took place, but the Oracle’s wa
ded Atalanta to come inside and lie with
lions do not mate with lions, but only with leopa
rds, and they were thus prevented from ever
again enjoying each other. This was Aphrodite’s
punishment first for Atalanta’s obstinacy in
remaining a virgin, and then for
in the matter of th
some say that before this Atalanta had been
called Parthenopaeus, whom she exposed on the same hill where the she-bear had suckled her.
Idas in Ionia and marched with the Seven
Champions against Thebes. According to othe
Hippomenes; and she was the daughter of
not of Zeus but of Cybele, who turned them
into lions and yoked them to her chariot.
1. Greek physicians credited the marshmallow (
althaia
, from
, ‘to cure’) with
t spring flower from which bees
same mythic importance as ivy-blossom, the la
ed by Remus’s leap over Romulus’s wall; it
suggests the widespread custom of sacrificing
). Meleager’s brand recalls se
veral Celtic myths: a hero’s
death taking place when some
, or an animal—is destroyed.
3. Artemis was worshipped as a
origin, to judge from
4. She-bears were sacred to Artemis, and At
alanta’s race against Melanion is probably
deduced from an icon which showed the doomed
being chased to death by the goddess. A companion icon will have shown an image of
Artemis supported by two lions, as on the gate
5. Why the lovers were punished—here the my
thographers mistakenly refer to Pliny,
vigorously punish lionesses for mating with
Natural History
)—is a problem of greater interest than Sir James Frazer in his notes
on Apollodorus allows. It seems to record an old exogamic ruling, according to which
members of the same totem clan could not marry
one another, nor could lion clansmen marry
into the leopard clan, which belonged to the
same sub-phratry; as the lamb and goat clans
could not intermarry at Athens.
crifice from Artemis. Her
demands were much more severe than those of
times included holocausts of living animals. Th
ese Oeneus will hardly have denied her; but
ce the king himself, or a surrogate, as the
Actaeon stag; and Oeneus may well have
THE mother of Aeacus’s two elder sons,
namely Telamon and Peleus, was Endeis,
id Psamathe, who had turned
herself into a seal while unsuccessfully tryi
ng to escape from Aeacus’s embraces. They all
b. Phocus was Aeacus’s favourite, and his ex
extended the state of Phocis to its present limits.
One day Aeacus sent for Phocus, perhaps in
tending to bequeath him the island kingdom;
c. Telamon took refuge in the island of Salami
a messenger, denying any part in the murder. Aeacu
mis, daughter of the river Asopus, had been
chosen King of Salamis when he
killed a serpent to end its wide
young serpent of the same breed which behaved
in the same destructive way until expelled by
Eurylochus, a companion of Odysseus; Demeter
then welcomed it at Eleusis as one of her
attendants. But some explain that Cychreus hi
mself, called ‘Serpent’
because of his cruelty,
appointed to a minor
lamon married Periboea of Athens, a grand-
m Great Ajax; and later the
captive Hesione, daughter of
Laomedon, who bore him the equally well-known Teucer.
purified. Actor then gave him hi
s daughter Polymela in marriag
kingdom. One day Eurytion, who ruled over anothe
Peleus to hunt the
Calydonian hoar, but Peleus speared him accident
ally and fled to Iolcus, where he was once
more purified, this time by Acastus, son of Pelias.
h. Loth to kill the man whom
nged him to a hunting contest
ty, the gods had given Peleus a magic sword,
making its owner victorious in battle and
even more Acastus’s companions claimed the prey as their
i. After a festive supper, in
d all other as a trencher-man,
us awoke to find himself deserted, disarmed,
the point of murdering him however, their
restored it to him.
j. Meanwhile, on the advice of Themis, Zeus c
ron’s cave on Mount Pelion. The Olympians
ones. Hera herself raised the bridal torch, and Zeus, now
ished its shaft, which was cut from an ash
on the summit of Pelion; and Hephaestus had forg
ods’ joint gift was a
magnificent suit of golden armour, to which Po
and Xanthus—by the West Wind out of the Harpy Podarge.
p. Meanwhile Peleus, whose fortunes the kindly
acquired large herds of cattle as
a dowry, sent some of these to
Phthia as an indemnity for his
accidental killing of Eurytion; but, when the pa
yment was refused by the Phthians, let them to
roam at will about the countryside. This proved
fierce wolf which Psamathe had sent after him,
glutted its hunger on these mast
ly crawl. When Peleus and
d tongue, and turned it into a st
one, which is still pointed out
s. Too old to fight at Troy himself, Peleus
later gave Achilles the golden armour, the
ho no longer feared him when they heard of
t. Neoptolemus, meanwhile, was refitting his
1. The myth of Aeacus, Psamathe (‘sandy sh
ore’), and Phocus (‘seal’) occurs in the
folklore of almost every European country. Us
ually the hero sees a flock of seals swimming
towards a deserted shore under a full moon, and th
themselves as young women. He hides behind a
owner, whom he ge
ts with child.
Eventually they quarrel; she regains her skin
and swims away. The dance of the fifty Nereids
ceremony: coronation implying marriage to the trib
the king’s ritual combat with men dressed as
beasts, and the drawing a regal sword from a
4. It may well be that the author of the old English
Seege or Battayle of Troy
drew on a
lost Classical source when he made Peleus ‘hal
f man, half horse’: that is to say, Peleus was
adoption will have imp
s and Xanthus without a chariot for them to
draw. The Centaurs of Magnesia and the Thessalia
ns of Iolcus seem to have been bound by an
exogamic alliance: hence the statement by the sc
5. Peleus’s embarrassment when he looked at
the apple of immortality to the sacred king.
Acastus’s murder, and Peleus’s march into
6. The frequent murders, accidental or inte
ntional, which caused princes to leave home
ey then married, are an invention of later
at a time when kingship went by matrilinea
l succession, candidates for the throne always
came from abroad, and the new king was reborn into the royal house after ritually murdering
his predecessor. He then changed his name a
nd tribe, which was expected to throw the
vengeful ghost of the murdered man off his scen
t. Similarly, Telamon of Aegina went to
Salamis, was chosen as the new king, killed the old king—who became an oracular hero—and
married the chief-priestess of an
ent, in more civilized times,
when much the same ritual was used to purify
ke that of Acrisius, seems to
kingdom into three parts is
tus: the sacred king, instead of
that his name was a royal title
Iolcus, and Salamis. He became king of the
Myrmidons because the Phthians worshipped
the Naiad Creusa bore to the River-god
Peneius, married Chlidanope, another Naiad,
on Mount Pelion all day and half the night, ex
wrestling with a power
ful lion; he summoned
King Cheiron the Centaur to witness the comb
at (from which Cyrene, as usual, emerged
b. Cheiron further prophesied that Apollo w
garden of Zeus, and make her the queen of a gr
about a hill rising from a plain. Welcomed by
queendom equally beneficent to hunters and farmer
s, and there bear him a son. Hermes would
act as man-midwife and carry the child, called Ar
and Mother Earth, bidding them feed him on n
ectar and ambrosia. When Aristaeus grew to
manhood, he would win the titles
of ‘Immortal Zeus’, ‘Pure A
ariot, to the site of
what is now the city
d. The Myrtle-nymphs, nicknaming Aristaeus ‘A
greus’ and ‘Nomius’, taught him how to
curdle milk for cheese, build bee-hives, and make the oleaster yield the cultivated olive. These
honours. From Ulbya he
sailed to Boeotia, after which Apollo led him
to Cheiron’s cave for instruction in certain
e. When Aristaeus had grown to manhood, th
e Muses married him to Autonoë, by whom
he became the father of the ill-fated Actaeon, and of Macris, nurse to Dionysus. They also
taught him the art of healing and prophecy, a
e, and was told to visit the island of Ceos,
h. Proteus was taking his midday rest in a cav
taeus, having overcome him, desp
the bees’ sickness was his punishment for havi
ng caused Eurydice’s death; and it was true
that when he had made love to her on the rive
r-bank near Tempe, she had fled from him and
been bitten by a serpent.
h of his son Actaeon, which arose in him a hatred of Boeotia,
he sailed with his followers to Libya, where he
ant islands, and spent some years in Sicily, where he
received divine honours, especially from the o
live-growers. Finally he went to Thrace, and
supplemented his education by taking part in
Aristaeum, he disappeared without trace,
Battus who, in 691 BC led a colony from Thera to
Libya, where he founded Cyrene, and was
the first king of a long dynasty. The Cyrenean
s claimed their ancestor Aristaeus—according
to Justin, Battus (‘tongue-tied’) was only his ni
ckname as the son of Apollo, because Apollo
Cyrene was consequently called Apollonia.
But Cyrene was a mythological figure long befo
re Battus’s time. Her association with the
cult imported to Thera; for
Cheiron’s name also appears in early Theran
rock inscriptions. The myth of Idmon’s birth
from Cyrene and Ares refers to this earlier goddess.
3. Aristaeus was a cult-title of Arcadian a
nd Cean Zeus; and elsewhere of Apollo and
Hermes. According to Servius Hesiod called Aris
taeus ‘a pastoral Apo
llo’. At Tanagra in
Boeotia (Pausanias) Hermes was known as ‘Ram
-bearer’, and fish were sacred to him at
Pharae in Achaea (Pausanias). Thus a tomb-pai
nting at Cyrene show
s ‘Aristaeus’ surrounded
xplanation of the cult—
title Aristaeus, which occurs in Sicily, Sardinia, Ceos, Boeotia, Thessaly, Macedonia, and
h, identified with Hermes, who was known as
Aristaeus by the Ceans.
4. His raising of bees from the carcasses of cattle has been mistold by Virgil. They will
have swarmed, rather, from the lion which Cyrene
This myth, like that of Samson’s bees which
swarmed from a lion’s carcass, seems to be
deduced from a primitive icon showing a naked woman tussling amorously with a lion, while
man is the Lion-goddess Cyrene,
or Hera the Lion-goddess of Mycenae, and her
partner is the sacred
midsummer sign of Leo, emblemized
or Heracles, he wears a lion mask and skin,
and is animated by the spirit of
spring-time, when bees first swarm, but afte
rwards, as the Midsummer Bee-goddess, she will
sting him to death, and emasculate him. The lion which the sacred king himself killed—as did
nese; or Cyzicus on Mount Dindymum in the
Sea of Marmara; or Samson in Philistia (
of myth: Proteus, who lived at Pharos in the N
heels—there was a famous oracle of Apollo at
Tempe, which Aristaeus, his son; would
6. Export of oil to Sicily will have been more
satyr whose name is not remembered, was
a pleasure-loving King of Macedonian Bromium,
where he ruled over the Brigians (also
celebrated rose gardens. In hi
s infancy, a procession of ants
Dionysus’s former pedagogue, happened to
straggle from the main body of th
e riotous Dionysian army as it
marched out of Thrace into
him with garlands of flowers and led him before
Midas, to whom he to
an immense continent lying beyond the Ocean str
c. Dionysus, who had been anxious on Silenus’s account, sent to ask how Midas wished to
However, not only stones, flowers, and the furnishings of his house turned to gold but, when
there wash himself. He obeyed, and was at on
ce freed from the golden touch, but the sands of
Phrygian King Gordius. While only a poor peasant,
Gordius had been surp
rised one day to see
a royal eagle perch on the pole of his ox-cart. Sin
e. Meanwhile, the King of Phrygia had di
When the ox-cart entered the ma
f. After Gordius’s death, Midas succeeded to
the throne, promoted the worship of
Brigians who had come with him became
are alternately named Midas and Gordius to
mistakenly described as a son of Gordius.
g. Midas attended the famous musical contes
ta, King of the Moschians (‘calf-men’), or
Mushki, a people of Pontic origin who, in th
e middle of the second millennium BC, occupied
the western part of Thrace, afterwards know
n as Macedonia; they crossed the Hellespont
about the year 1200 BC, broke the power of the
Hittites in Asia Minor, and captured Pteria,
their capital. ‘Moschians’ refers perhaps to a cult
of the bull-calf as the spirit of the sacred
to whom the rose was sacred. Th
the riches of the Mita dynasty, and for the pres
hideously lengthened ears, in Athenian comic drama.
3. It is likely that the icon from which the
royal power, is shorn off, like Samson’s; his
decapitated body is buried in a hole to guard the
city of Ancyra from invasion. The reed an
ambivalent symbol: as the ‘tree’ of the tw
elfth month, gives him
oracular warning of
imminent death; it also enroyals his successor.
Because of the great ma
hout harm, and being the blood
Jerusalem. Alexander’s brutal cutting of the
knot when he marshalled his army at Gordium
sword above that of religious mystery. Gordius (from
gruzein
, ‘to grunt’ or ‘grumble’) was
perhaps so named from the mutte
5. Why the story of the Atlantic Continent sh
Silenus may be divined from three incidents reported by Plutarch (
Life of Solon
). The first is
story of Atlantis and turned it into an epic poem; the third that he quarrelled with Thespis the
dramatist who, in his plays about Dionysus, put l
udicrous speeches, apparently full of topical
allusion into the mouths of satyrs. Solon asked: ‘
’ When Thespis answered ‘
ently with his staff: ‘
theatre, an they will soon creep into our contracts and treaties!
Theopompus as his authority, seems to have ha
d access at second or third hand to a comedy
on for utopian lies told in the epic poem, and
presenting him as Silenus, footloose about E
gypt and Asia Minor. Silenus and Solon are not
dissimilar names and as Silenus
was tutor to Dionysus, so wa
incorporated in his epic, and which lent them
Youth Ocean—where Niamh of the Golden
CLEOBIS and Biton, two young Argives, were th
When the time came for her to perform the
b. A similar gift was granted to Agamedes
oundations laid by Apollo himsel
f for his temple at Delphi.
His oracle told them: ‘Live and indulge yourse
hose whom gods love die young.
oracular shrine in Boeotian Lebadea.
1. The myth of Cleobis and Biton apparently re
fers to the human sacrifices offered when a
new temple was dedicated to the Moon-goddess:
moon-chariot in place of the white bulls, the
usual sacrifice. They will have been buried unde
r the temple threshold to keep away hostile
influences; perhaps this was why the twins Ca
e Titan Cronus (and to Cronian Jehovah at
ue Nymph Leiriope, whom the River-god
s streams, and ravished. The seer Teiresias
told Leiriope, the first person ever to consult
him: ‘Narcissus will live to a ripe old age,
mself.’ Anyone might excusabl
Narcissus, even as a child, and when he reached the age of sixteen, his
b. Among these lovers was the nymph Echo, who could no longer use her voice, except in
‘Here!’ Echo answered, which surprised
‘Come!’
‘Come!’
‘Why do you avoid me?’
‘Why do you avoid me?’
‘Lie with me!’ Echo pleaded.
love and mortification, until only her voice remained.
c. One day, Narcissus sent a sword to Ameinius
, his most insistent suitor, after whom the
river Ameinius is named; it is
a tributary of the river Helisson, which flows into the Alpheius.
Ameinius killed himself on Narcissus’s thres
d. Artemis heard the plea, and made Narcis
denying him love’s
consummation. At Donacon in Thespiae he came
with its red corollary, from which an unguent ba
lm is now distilled at
recommended for affections of the ear (though ap
for the cure of frost-bite.
eath of Demeter and Persephone (Sophocles:
issus
inthus
PHYLLIS, a Thracian princess, was in love
with Acamas, a son of
to fight at Troy. When Troy fell, and the Athenian
s beloved of Dionysus, but died suddenly
at Caryae, and was metamorphosed by him into
a walnut-tree. Artemis brought the news to
the Laconians, who thereupon built a temple to Artemis Caryatis, from which Caryatids—
female statues used as columns—take their na
1. Both these myths are told to account for th
ond or walnut, in honour
ia, stood close to a stream re
the same peculiar kind of fish (Pausanias).
2. The goddess Car, who gave her name to Ca
ria, became the Italia
Carmenta, ‘Car the Wise’, and the Caryat
ids are her nut-nymphs—as the Meliae are
ashnymphs; the Mëliae, apple-nymphs; and the Dr
yads, oak-nymphs. Pliny has preserved the
tradition that Car invented augury (
). Phyllis (‘leafy’) may be a humble Greek
Great Goddess Belili; in the Demophon myth
she is associated with Rhea.
Nymph Oneaea, was a master of the lyre,
and invented the dithyramb in Dionysus’s honour
Corinth, reluctantly gave him permission to vi
‘What crime have I committed?’ asked Arion.
‘You are too rich,’ replied the captain.
‘Spare my life, and I will give
you all my prizes,’
gnedly. ‘But pray allow me
rmission, Arion, dressed in his
finest robe, mounted on the
prow, where he invoked the gods with impassioned
ok the ship and reached the port of Corinth
chor there. Periander was overjoyed at his miraculous escape,
and the dolphin, lath to part from Arion, insi
sted on accompanying him to court, where it soon
succumbed to a life of luxury. Ar
the captain and crew,
answered, ‘by the lavish hospitality of the
Periander made them all swear at the dolphin’s tomb that this was the truth, and then
suddenly confronted them with Arion. Unable to
deny their guilt, they were executed on the
c. Nor was Arion the first man to have
phin. A dolphin rescued
characters of the seve
fragment of Arian’s
from murdering him for his money—dolphins a
his own eyes the dolphin at Proselyte, which
was mauled by fishermen, but had its wounds
dressed by a boy, coming in answer to the
boy’s call and gratefully allowing him to ride on its
back. This suggests that the ritual advent
of the New Year Child was dramatically presen
ted at Corinth with th
2. The myth of Enables and Phonies is pr
obably deduced from an icon which showed
Amphitricha and Triton riding on dolphins. Enable
s is also associated by Plutarch with an
octopus cult, and his name recalls that of Oe
dipus, the Corinthian New Year Child, he will
have been at Mytilene, as Helianthus was in Italy. Taras, a son
Child of Tarentum,
founder of Dorian Tarentum in 708 BC, took
ered Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon on
b. This marriage proving childless, Asterius
adopted Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon,
and made them his heirs. But when the brothers
grew to manhood, they quarrelled for the love
c. After Asterius’s death, Minos claimed the Cr
by its beauty that he sent it to
claim to the throne was accepted by every Cr
e. Meanwhile, Minos had married Pasiphaë,
f. But some say that Minos, having annually sa
year, and sacrificed merely
Zeus whom he offended; others
again, that Pasiphaë had failed
now punished her with this monstrous lust.
g. Minos consulted an oracle to know how
he might best avoid scandal and conceal
h. Rhadamanthys, wiser than Sarpedon, remained
i. Rhadamanthys eventually fl
ed to Boeotia because he had killed kinsman, and lived there
in exile at Ocaleae, where he married Alcmene, Heracles’s mother, after the death of
Amphitryon. His tomb, and that of Alcmene, are
Alcmene was married to Rhadamanthys in the
and he resided in the Elysian Fields.
1. Sir Arthur Evans’s classifica
tion of successive periods of
3. The gigantic rulers of Anactoria recall the Anakim of
) ousted
by Caleb from the oracular shrine which had
Minor, and thence sailed west in the thirteenth
brothers refers to the Dorians’ eventual
6. Sarpedon’s name (‘rejoicing in a wooden ark’) suggests that he brought with him to
Year, makes his annual reappearance as a child
floating in an ark—like Moses, Perseus, Aniu
name, a title of Athene as rain-maker (Pausanias), the myth of Pasiphaë and the bull points to
8. Minos’s palace at Cnossus was a complex of
rooms, ante-rooms, ha
which a country visitor might easily lose his way.
Sir Arthur Evans suggests that this was the
Labyrinth, so called from the
9. The cult of Rhadamanthys may have been
brought from Boeotia
her Moon-title. Though said
Cave, sacred to Zeus.
colonized Paros anti were later killed by
Heracles; also with Androgeneia, the mother of
the senior Asterius, as well as many others;
but especially he pursued Britomartis of Go
b. Britomartis hid from Minos under thick-leaved
oak-saplings in the water meadows, and
then for nine months he pursued her over
craggy mountains and level plains until, in
desperation, she threw herself into the sea, an
c. Minos’s many infidelities so enraged Pasiph
aë that she put a spell upon him: whenever
he lay with another woman, he discharged
not seed, but a swarm of noxious serpents,
scorpions, and millipedes, which preyed on her vitals. One day Procris, daughter of the
d. Eos bore Cephalus a son named Phaëthon; but A
phrodite stole him whil
be the night-watchman of her most sacred
in Athens, her desertion being the subject of
ught—a decoction of magical
Circe—to prevent him from filling her with reptil
es and insects. This draught had the desired
effect, but Procris feared that Pasiphaë might be
f. Cephalus, whom she now joined on a hunting expedition, did not recognize her and
after him in the half light. Presently
to how this contradiction shoul
d be resolved: in the end, Zeus
i. Cephalus next assisted Amphitryon in a su
Before it began, Amphitryon made all his allies sw
j. Cephalus’s share of the Teleboan dominions
was the island of Cephallenia, which still
bears his name. He never pardoned Minos for ha
1. Minos’s seduction of nymphs in the style of
ritual marriage to Moon-priestesses of
various city states in his empire.
—‘Dictynna’s place’. After the introduction of the system a murderous chase of
the sacred king by the goddess arme
3. To judge from the ritual of the Celtic
North, where the goddess is called Goda (‘the
Good’)—Neanthes translates the syllable
Greek Historical Fragments
)—she
ris has passed from myth into
anecdote, and from anecdote
into street-corner romance, recalling some of
the tales in the Golden Ass. Being linked with
nd the eventual downf
all of Cnossus, it records perhaps the
6. Cephalus’s leap from the white rock at Ca
pe Leucas rightly reminds Strabo that the
Leucadians used every year to fling a man, pr
e cliff into the sea. The victim, a
scapegoat, whose removal freed the island from
guilt, seems also to have carried a white
pick him up if he survived, and convey him to
some other island.
8. The fox was the emblem of Messene (Apol
myth of the Teumessian vixen may record
Aeolian raids on Cadmeia in search of child
sacrifices, to which the Zeus-worshipping
Achaeans put an end.
9. Phaëthon and Adymnus (from
a-dyomenos
10. Epeius, who built the wooden horse, appears in early legends as an outstandingly
courageous warrior; but his name was ironically applied to boasters, until it became
synonymous with cowardice (Hesychius sub Epeius).
AMONG Pasiphaë’s children by
Minos were Acacallis, Ariadne, Androgeus, Catreus,
Glaucus, and Phaedra. She also bore Cydon
to Hermes, and Libyan Ammon to Zeus.
en by Dionysus, bore many famous children.
Catreus, who succeeded Minos on the throne, wa
s killed in Rhodes by his own son. Phaedra
c. Glaucus, while still a child, was playing ball one day in the palace at Cnossus or,
perhaps, chasing a mouse, when he suddenly
and low but, being unable to find him, had
informed that whoever could give
the best simile for a recent
d. Polyeidus wandered through the labyrinthine
palace, until he came upon an owl sitting
at the entrance to a cellar, frightening away
a swarm of bees, and took this for an omen.
consulted with the
e. When Polyeidus grew accustomed to the darkness of the tomb he saw a serpent
gliding up, and finding that its mate was dead,
when he was about to sail home, told Glaucu
s: ‘Boy, spit into my open mouth!’ Glaucus did
dition westward, and demanded
a kingdom from the Italians;
but they despised him for failing to be so great
a man as his father;
est in the All-Athenian Games. But King
fearing that he might
have him ambushed at Oenoë on the way to Thebes
the garlands and commanded the flute-players to cease, but
j. Glaucus son of Minos has sometimes been
by Cronus in the Golden Age, when a dead fish (or, some say, a hare) was laid upon it and
came to life again. He tasted the herb and, beco
ming immortal, leaped into the sea, where he
is now a marine god, famous for his amorous
adventures. His underwater home lies off the
the ports and islands of Greece, issuing oracles
much prized by sailors and fishermen-Apollo
himself is described as Glaucus’s pupil.
with numerous sons: Cydon, the eponymous
2. The myth of Acacallis (‘unwalled’) appa
rently records the capture, by invading
3. White, red, and black, the colours of Minos’s
to swallow—a desperate remedy prescribed
for sick children in the ancient Eastern
Mediterranean. His manner of death may also
refer to the use of honey as an embalming
fluid—many jar-burials of children occur in Cr
greus and the demi-god Asclepius, whose
regenerative herb seems to have been mistle
esh provides a parallel to the serpent’s
lyeidus recalls a similar action of Apollo
when Cassandra failed to pay him for the gift
result was not that she lost the gi
6. The goddesses to whom Minos s
e customary flutes
he heard that his son had died, were the Pariae, or Ancient Ones, presumably the Three Fates,
euphemistically called the ‘Gr
aces’. Myth has here broken down
me, and his love-affair
s, one of which was
with Scylla suggest that he was a personifi
8. A version of the Glaucus myth is quoted
), and commemorated on a
Sardis. When the hero Tylon, or Tylus (‘knot’ or
poisonous serpent, his sister Moera (‘fate’) a
ppealed to the giant Damasen (‘subduer’), who
MINOS was the first king to control the Medite
rranean Sea, which he cleared of pirates,
by King Aeacus of Aegina and departed, sweari
ng revenge. Aeacus then answered an appeal
from Cephalus to join the Athenians against Minos.
b. Meanwhile, Minos was partying the Isthmus of
Nisus the Egyptian, who had a daughter name Scylla. A tower stood in the city, built by
Apollo [and Poseidon?], an at its foot lay
a musical stone which, if
upon from above, rang like a lyre—because Apollo
had once rested his lyre there while he
was working as a mason. Scylla used to spend
much time at the top of the tower, playing
pebbles; and here she climbe
Scylla soon came to know the name of every
ber, and cut off the famous bright lock on
opened it, and stole out. She made
offered him the lock of hair
in exchange for his love. ‘It is a bargain!’ cr
ied Minos; and that same
the city and sacked it, he duly lay with Scylla
honour of Megareus, a son of Oenope by
Hippomenes; he had been Nisus’s ally and married
succeeded him on the throne.
f. This war dragged on until Minos, finding that
he could not subdue Athens, prayed Zeus
to avenge Androgeus’s death; and the whole
of Greece was consequently afflicted with
earthquakes and famine. The kings of the various
city states assembled
the Oracle, and were instructed to make Aeacu
s offer up prayers on their behalf. When this
had been done, the earthquakes everywhere ceased, except in Attica.
g. The Athenians thereupon sought to redeem th
emselves from the cu
Persephone the daughters of Hyacinthus, namely
Antheis, Aegleis, Lyctaea, and Orthaea, on
midsummer, cuts off the king’s ha
) identifies this Scylla with a name
sake whom Amphitrite turned into
a dog-monster because Poseidon had seduced her, and says that she harboured wild dogs in
her womb and loins as a punishment for cutting off Nisus’s lock. Ovid is rarely mistaken in
his mythology, and he may here be recordi
made him fill Scylla’s womb with puppies, ra
ther than with serpents, scorpions, and
millipedes. Pasiphaë and Amphitrite are the same Moon-and-Sea-goddess, and Minos, as the
ruler of the Mediterranean, became identified with Poseidon.
hus on Geraestus’s tomb may refer to the
‘gardens of Adonis’ planted in honour of the doomed king—being cut flowers, they withered
pre-Achaean Cyclops, and according to the
sacrificed annually in place of
the Cnossian king. It will have been found convenient to use
DAEDALUS AND TALOS
is named Alcippe by some; by
l house of Athens, which claimed descent from
smith, having been instructed in his art by Athene herself.
b. One of his apprentices, Talos the son of hi
surpassed him in craftsmanship while only twelve
cut a stick in half, copied it in
iron and thereby invented the saw. This, and other inventions of
his – such as the potter’s wheel, and the compass for marking out circles – secured him a
aimed himself to have forged the first saw,
of Athene’s temple on the
c. Now, the soul of Talos – whom some call
ntalus – flew off in
the form of a partridge, but his body was buried
where it had fallen. Polycaste hanged herself
ans built a sanctuary in her honour beside the
demes, whose people are named Daedalids
e. It was not easy, however, to escape from
s behind them on the left hand, and were
leaving Lebynthos and Calymne behind on the ri
scattered feathers floated on the waves below. The heat of the sun had melted the wax, and
Icarus had fallen into the sea and drowned. D
aedalus circled around, until
the corpse rose to
the surface, and then carried it to the near—by island now called Icaria, where he buried it. A
partridge sat perched on a holm—oa
k and watched him, chattering fo
name to the surrounding sea.
sails, not wings, as a means of
; and that Icarus, steering
h. Daedalus flew westward until, alighting
at Cumae near Naples, he dedicated his
wings to Apollo there, and built him a gol
den—roofed temple. Afterwards, he visited
Camicus in Sicily, where he was hospitably
Sicilians, enjoying great fame a
nd erecting many fine buildings.
j. Minos’s followers buried him with great
pomp, and Zeus made him a judge of the
dead in Tartarus, with his brother Rhadamant
e of Aphrodite’s temple at Camicus, he was honoured there
for many generations by great crowds of Sicilians
who came to worship Aphrodite. In the end,
l. But Daedalus left Sicily
to join Iolaus, the nephew a
to this day in Sardinia; they are called Daedaleia [or Daidala].
m. Now, Talos was also the name of Minos’s
bull-headed servant, given him by Zeus to
1. Hephaestus is sometimes described as Hera
’s son by Talos, and Talos as Daedalus’s
young nephew; but Daedalus was a junior memb
(‘he who shines by day’), are shown by the similarity
of attributes to be merely different titles
of the same mythical ch
aracter. Icarus (from
e Moon-goddess Car’)
2. It seems that in the spring an erotic pa
rtridge dance was performed in honour of the
Moon-goddess, and that the male
In Palestine this ceremony,
Pesach
3. The myth of Daedalus and Ta
los, like its variant, the myth Daedalus and Icarus, seems
to combine the ritual of burning the solar ki
, a similar surrogate, over a rock in
to the sea, and
king in the heel with a poisoned arrow. But th
e fishermen’s and peasants’ admiration of flying
from which Daedalus and Icarus escaped was the mosaic
floor with the maze pattern, which they had to
follow in the ritual partridge dance; but
Daedalus’s escape to Sicily, Cumae, and Sardinia
refers perhaps to the flight of the native
.5. The name Naucrate (‘sea-power’) records
6. If Polycaste, the other name of Talos’s mother Perdix, means
, ‘much tin’,
it belongs to the myth of the bronze man, Ta
7. Talos is said by Hesychius to be a name for the Sun; originally, therefore, Talos will
Sun was also called Taurus (‘the bull’), his thrice-yearly visit to the villages was probably a
aring his ritual bull-mask—the
mystery of early bronze casting by the
9. Compasses are part of the
10. Poeas’s shooting of Talos recalls Paris’s
shooting of Achilles in the heel, and the
us and Cheiron. These myths ar
Cheiron died from Heracles’s poisoned arrows.
which poisoned him. Paris then borrowed
arrows to kill Achilles, Cheiron’s foster-son. Finally, when
11. In Celtic myth the labyrinth came to mean the royal tomb (
); and that it
also did so among the early Greeks is
12. Although Daedalus ranks as
an Athenian, because of the
named in his honour,
the Daedalic crafts were introduced Attica from
made for daughters of Cocalus are likely to ha
ve been dolls with movable limbs like those
and which seem to have been used in the
Attic tree cult of Erigone. At any rate, Polycaste,
Daedalus’s sister, hanged herself, as did two
Oria, were known in Classical times for
d three daughters: Aerope, Clymene, and
Apemosyne; and a son, Althaemenes. When an oracl
by one of his own children, Althaemenes and the
b. One day Hermes fell in love
with Apemosyne, who rejected hi
s and fled from him. That
succeeded in ravishing
c. Meanwhile Catreus, mistrusting Aerope
and Clymene, the other daughters, banished
1. This artificial myth, which records a
ccount for libations poured down a chasm to a
ic sports in the course of which women danced on the newly-
flayed hide of sacrificial beasts. The termination
, occurs in the royal title of
usurped Tesup’s Rhodian cult. The roar of bu
ced by the whirling of
frighten away evil spirits.
g. Apemosyne’s death at Cameirus may refer to
lled by Poseidon, his so
n Cecrops, Pandorus,
d. After Pandion’s death his sons marched agai
e. Pylas’s son Sciron, who married one of Pa
red Nisus’s claim to
Megara, and Aeacus, called in to judge the di
spute, awarded the kingship to Nisus and his
descendants, but the commandment of its armies
to Sciron. In those days Megara was called
Nisa, and Nisus also gave his name to the
port of Nisaea, which he founded. When Minos
his tomb is still shown behind the Lyceum. The
Megarans, however, who do not admit that their
life constantly threatened by the plots of
his kinsmen, among them Lycus, whom is said to have exiled from Euboea. Lycus took
nd gave his name to Lycia, after fi
autochthonous king of Athens reigning at the time of the Deucalonian Flood. The oak-cops at
Andania, where Lycus purified the initiates, st
ill bears his name. He had been granted the
power of prophecy, and it was his oracle which la
g. The Athenian Lyceum is also named in honour of Lycus; from very earliest times it has
been sacred to Apollo who there first receive
d the surname ‘Lycaean’, and expelled wolves
from Athens by the scent of his sacrifices.
ed whenever the sovereignty of states or
The Birth Of Theseus
daughter of Rhexenor; but neither bore him an
y children. Ascribing this, and the misfortunes
of his sisters Procne and Philomela, to Aphrod
lt the Delphic Oracle. The Oracle
warned him not to untie the
b. On his way home he called at
Corinth; and here Medea made him swear a solemn oath
that he would shelter her from all enemies if
she ever sought refuge at Athens, and undertook
c. Pittheus was the most lear
ned man of his age, and one of
his most known apothegms on
friendship, is often quoted: ‘Blast not the hope
the friendship hath conceived; but fill its
measure high!’ He founded sanctuary of Oracula
r Apollo at Troezen, which is the oldest
surviving shrine in Greece; and also dedicated an altar to
the Triple-goddess Themis. Three
white marble thrones, now placed above his tomb behind the temple of Artemis the Saviour,
used to serve him and the others
as judgement seats. He also
ked to marry his daughter
e. Aegeus, when he awoke and found himself in
Troezen with Pittheus, remove
d his lion-skin and threw it
over a stool. When the palace children came in, th
ey screamed and fled, all except seven-year-
h. At the age of sixteen years he
s first shaven hair-clippings
ians and Mysians, or
like the war-like Euboeans, who thereby deny their enemies any advantage in combat. This
kind of tonsure, and the precinct where he
performed the ceremony, are both still called
Thesean. He was now an intelligent and prudent
1. Pittheus is a masculine form of Pitthea. The names of the towns which he united to
form Troezen suggests a matriarchal calendar-
e Goddess of Summer, when the sun is its
zenith; and Pitthea (‘pine-goddess’), worshipped in
autumn when Attis-Adonis was sacrificed
on his pine. They may be identified with the Tr
iple-goddess Themis, to whom Pittheus raised
an altar, since the name Troezen is apparently a worn-down form of
city] of the three sitters’, which refers to th
e three white thrones which served ‘Pittheus and
eats of justice.
n, since his mother lay with both a god and a
mortal on the same night; the myths of Idas an
and Iphicles, make this certain. Moreover, he wo
Heracles, and therefore
have been the sacred king, not the tanist. But when, after the Persian Wars, Theseus became
the chief national hero of Athens
, paternity at least had to be
Athenian, because his mother
came from Troezen. The mythographers then d
Athenian, the son of Aegeus, a mortal; but wh
mother remained a Troezenian; Athens had
important interests there. He was also allowed an honorary twin, Peirithous who, being mortal,
eus himself did. No
efforts were spared to connect Theseus with
Heracles, but the Atheni
enough to make him into an Olympian god.
3. There seem, however, to have been at
least three mythological characters called
Theseus: one from Troezen, one from Marathon in
Attica, and the third from Lapith territory.
These were not unified into a single character until the sixth century BC, when (as Professor
George Thomson suggests) the Butads, a Lapith
clan who had become l
Athenian Theseus as a rival to Dorian Heracles
rly both an Elean and
e eponymous hero of an Attic
t symbols of royalty; the draw
ing of a sword from a rock
seems to have formed part of the Bronze Ag
were all in turn required to
perform a similar feat; and an
immense sword, lion-hilted and
plunged into a rock, figures in the sacred marri
the Rock of Theseus, it may be assumed that
‘Zeus’ and ‘Theseus’ were altern
ative titles of the sacred ki
the goddess armed him. The ‘Apollo’ to whom Th
eath, like those of Tyrian Samson and Megarean
Nisus. At a feast called the Comyria (‘hair tri
mming’), young men sacrifi
yearly mourning for him, and were afterwards
THESEUS set out to free the bandit-ridden coas
t road which led from Troezen to Athens.
take vengeance on all who dared to molest him, making the
punishment fit the crime, as was Heracles’s wa
Theseus wrenched the club from his hands a
nd battered him to death. Delighted with its
terwards; and though he himself had been
able to parry its murderous swing, in
visible, lived Sinis, the son of Pemon; or,
some say, of Polypemon and Sylea, daughter of
Corinthus, who claimed to be Poseidon’s bastar
d. He had been nicknamed Pityocamptes, or
‘pinebender’, because he was strong enough to be
nd down the tops of pine-trees until they
touched the earth, and would often ask innocent passe
rs-by to help him with this task, but then
and killed by the fall. Or he would bend dow
n the tops of two neighbouring trees until they
e. Theseus wrestled with Sinis, overpowered h
im, and served him as
d. Some, however, say that Theseus killed
Sinis many years later, and rededicated the
Isthmian Games to him, although they had been
e. Next, at Crommyum, he hunt
d monstrous wild sow, which
had killed so many Crommyonians that they no
named after the crone who bred it, was sa
f. Following the coast road, Theseus came to the precipitous cliffs rushing sheer from the
sea, which had become a stronghold of the bandi
t Sciron; some call him a Corinthian, the son
g. The Megareans, however, say that the only Sciron with whom Theseus came in conflict
was an honest and generous prince of Megara,
the father of Endeis, who married Aeacus and
bore him Peleus and Telamon; they add, that Thes
many years later, and celebrated the Isthmi
an Games in his honour under the patronage of
footpath, made by him when he commanded the
armies of Megara. A
ghts is called Sciron by the Athenians.
means ‘parasol’; and the month of
eus met Cercyon the Arcad
ian, whom some call
the son of Branchus and the nymph Argiope; othe
rs, the son of Hephaestus, or Poseidon. He
would challenge passers-by to wrestle with him a
nd then crush them to death in his powerful
embrace; but Theseus lifted him up by the knees
and, to the delight of Demeter, who
witnessed the struggle, dashed him h
instantaneous. Theseus did not trust to strength so much as to skill, for he had invented the art
of wrestling, the principles of which were
not hitherto understood. The Wrestling-ground of
ew Sinis’s father Polypemon, surnamed
two beds in his house, one small, the other
large. Offering a night’s lodging to travellers, he would lay the short men on the large bed,
and rack them out, to fit it; but the tall men on the small bed, sawing off as much of their legs
as projected beyond it. Some say, however, that
shortened his lodgers according to its measure.
In either case, Theseus served him as he had
2. Since the North Wind, which bent the pines,
was held to fertilize women, animals, and
plants, ‘Pityocamptes’ is described as the
father of Perigune, a cornfield-goddess. Her
descendants’ attachment to wild asparagus and
pparently based on a series of icons which
illustrated the ceremony of hurling a sacred king as a
from the White Rock. The
first hero who had met his death here was Melicer
tes, namely Heracles Melkarth of Tyre who
seems to have been stripped
shown making ready to kick a traveller into the sea, is the
being prepared for his
in the last month of the year, namely at
midsummer; and that a second scene, explaine
d as Theseus’s wrestling with Cercyon, shows
4. All these feats of Theseus’
s seem to be interrelated. Grammarians associate the white
parasol with a gypsum image of
dolls, called
‘Argives’ (‘white men’), thrown into running
water once a year at th
e May purification of
temples; also the white cakes shaped like pigs
, and made of flour mixed with gypsum (Pliny:
), which were used in the Thesmophoria
to replace the pig remains recovered
from Eubuleus’s chasm ‘
Dialogues Between Whores
. The Scirophoria Festival formed part of the
Thesmophoria.
has the same meaning in
: namely ‘tokens
5. Cercyon’s name connects him with the pig cult
to the grunting of pigs, and Argiope is a synonym for Phaea. It will have been Poseidon’s son
scribed as the hero in whose honour the Isthmian Games
were rededicated; Sinis’s nickname was Pityoc
amptes; and Sciron, like Pityocamptes, was a
Isthmian Games had originally been founded in memory of
ptes seems to record
Isthmian Games are analogous to the Pythian Ga
mes, founded in memory of Python, who was
both the fertilizing North Wind and the ghost of
Moreover, ‘
, according to Ovid and the scholiast on Euripides’s
Hippolytus
only another nickname for Sinis—Pityocamptes
; and Procrustes seems to be a fictional
character, invented to account for a familiar ic
on: the hair of the old king—Samson, Pterelaus,
Nisus, Curoi, Llew Llaw, or whatever he ma
Hellenes abolished the custom of throwing the old king over the Molurian Rock, and
rededicated the Games to Poseidon
Theseus And Medea
HAVING arrived in Attica, Theseus was met
Phytalus, who purified him from the blood he had sp
illed, but especially from that of Sinis, a
maternal kinsman of his. The altar of Graci
ous Zeus, where this ceremony was performed,
hytalids welcomed Theseus as their guest, which
was the first true hospitality he had received si
nce leaving Troezen. Dressed in a long garment
e fled from Corinth in the celebrated chariot
drawn by winged serpents, and married her, rightl
on behalf of Medus, her son by Aegeus, who was generally expected to succeed him on the
that Theseus came as a spy or an assassin,
and had him invited to a feast at the Dolphin Temple; Aegeus, who used the temple as his
residence, was then to offer him a cup of wine
d brought from Bithyni
from the deadly foam scattered by Cerberus
when Heracles dragged him out of Tartarus;
s, the peasants call it ‘aconite’.
d. Some say that when the roast beef wa
s served in the Dolphin Temple, Theseus
Erechtheid serpents carved on th
spot where the cup fell is still shown, barred off from the rest of the temple.
at Athens had ever known. Aegeus embraced
every altar and heaped the gods’ images with
gifts; hecatombs of garlanded oxen were
of Medea, who eluded him by casting a magic
generously provided. But some say that sh
g. Pallas and his fifty sons, who even before
into open revolt when this
forces: Pallas with twenty-five of his sons a
h. This Leos must be distinguished from th
e other Leos, Orpheus’s son, and ancestor of
the Athenian Leontids. Once, in a time of plague, Leos obeyed the Delphic Oracle by
Eubule to save the city. The Athenians made
up the Leocorium in their honour.
1. This artificial roma
nce with its theatrical
in the poisoning scene recalls that
to the air seems merely a crude imitation of
Heracles’s feats. The ‘masons’ question is
anachronistic, because in the heroic age young
woman went about unescorted; neith
er could Theseus have been mistaken for a girl if he had
2. Medea’s expulsion first from
Corinth, and then from Athe
ent chariot shows her to be a Corinthian
Demeter. Theseus’s defeat of th
e Pallantids similarly
refers to the suppression of the original
Athene cult, with its college of fifty priestesses—
can mean either ‘youth’ or ‘maiden’.
Still another version of the same story is th
e face’), the New Moon; the Nymph
is Praxithea (‘active goddess’), the Queen-bee—Cecrops’s mother bore the same name in
inter-marriage may have been a relic of
exogamy, with its complex system of group-ma
4. To judge from the Theseus and Heracles
Athens, and Hera’s at Argos, belonged to a li
on clan, into which they
on-men offering libation vessels to a seated
goddess, who must be Hera, since a cuckoo perche
s behind her throne. Despite the absence of
eseus were true Erechtheids may reflect a
the immigrant Butadae (who
spinster named Hecale, or Hecalene, who vowed
ram to Zeus if he came back safely. But she
youths and seven maidens every ninth year—at th
d. On the two previous occasions, the ship
which conveyed the victims had carried black
sails, but Theseus was confident that the gods
him a white sail as a signal of success—though some
e. When the lots had been cast at the La
s companions to the
bound with white wool. The mothers brought provis
and heroic tales to hearten them. Theseus, howev
er, replaced two of the maiden victims with a
pair of effeminate youths, of unusual courage a
nd presence of mind. Thes
warm baths, avoid the rays of
the sun, perfume their heads a
nd bodies with unguent oils, and
women. He was thus able to deceive Minos by
passing off as maidens.
f. Phaeax, the ancestor of Phaeacians, among
whom he were called Odysseus, stood as
pilot at the prow of the thirty-yard ship in wh
Nausitheus are likely to be right, since Theseu
on the voyage. He therefore sacrificed to her on the strand; and the victim, a she-goat, became
a he-goat death-throes. This prodigy w
e of Epitragia.
Athenians still send virgins to
itiate Apollo, because Theseus
omitted to do so before taking his leave. The
god’s displeasure was shown in a storm, which
forced him to take shelter at Delphi and there offer belated sacrifice
ather Zeus, hear me!’ was at once answered by lightning
and a rap of thunder. Without more ado Theseus
dolphins escorted him honourably down to the pal
ace of the Nereids. Some
e. Aphrodite had indeed accompanied Theseu
s: for not only did Periboea and Phereboea
Ariadne fell in love with him at first sight.
‘I will help you to kill
my half-brother, the
m. When Theseus emerged from the Labyr
inth, spotted with blood, Ariadne embraced
group to the harbour. For, in the meantime,
the two effeminate-looking youths had killed the guards of the women’s quarters, and
released the virgin victims. They all stole
aboard their ship, where Nausitheus and Phaeax
were expecting them, and rowed hastily away. But although Theseus broke in the hulls of
n. Some days later, after disembarking on th
e island then named Dia, but now known as
Naxos, Theseus left Ariadne asleep on the beach
and sailed away. Why he did so must remain
a mystery. Some say that he deserted her in
favour of a new mistress, Aegle, daughter of
Panopeus; others that, while wind-bound on Dia, he reflected on the scandal at Athens would
aring to Theseus in a dream, threateningly
demanded Ariadne for himself, and that, when
o. Whatever the truth of the matter may be, Dionys
us’s priests in Athens affirm that when
deserted shore, she broke into bitter laments, remembering
q. A traditional Boeotian song confirms this tradition that none of the victims were put to
Pittheus had a naval yard about which the Cr
s. After long feasting they sa
t. To resume the history of Theseus: from Naxos
and there sacrificed to
u. A horned altar stands beside the round lake
of Delos. Apollo himself built it, when he
Artemis on Mount Cynthus—his firs
enclosing walls, are also made en
tirely of horns; all taken from
the same side of the victims—
the Temple of the Wingless Victory now sta
t some say that he deliberately cast himself
into the sea, which was thenceforth named the Aegean.
w. Theseus was not informed of this so
us, called the Minotaur,
his wrestling match with Taurus (‘b
space in front of the palace was occupied by a da
nce floor with a maze pattern used to guide
performers of an erotic spring dance. The
seems to have been the traditional brushwood m
aze used to decoy partridges towards one of
challenges; and the spring dancers will have im
itated the ecstatic hobbling love-dance of the
Ecclesiasticus
4. At Cnossus the sky-bull cult succeeded the partridge cult, and the circling of the
dancers came to represent the annual courses of
youths and maidens took part, they may have re
(‘very holy’), will have been a
title of the Moon-goddess honoured in the dance, and in the
Barley-mother’, also called Aridela, ‘the ve
ry manifest one’. The
boughs in Ariadne’s honour, and Dionysus’s, an
Artemis’, suggest that Ariadne-dolls were at
ling, is Ariadne, or Erigone, or Hanged
Ariadne’s crown made by Hephaestus in the form
gold wreaths with gemmed flowers
6. Theseus’s marriage to the Moon-priestess made him lord of Cnossus, and on one
7. Many ancient Athenian customs of the Mycen
8. Bean-eating by men seems to have been
prohibited in pre-Hellenic times—the
Pythagoreans continued to abstain from beans,
at, if a man (as opposed to a wo
man) ate a bean, he might be
the goddess who imposed the taboo; so does
Theseus’s gift of a male priesthood to the Phytal
ids (‘growers’), the feminine form of whose
name is a reminder that fig-culture, like beans
planting, was at first a mystery confined to
women.
‘Birth-goddess of Amathus
the New Year; and the young man
10. Apollo’s horn temple on Delos has recently been excavated. The altar and its
foundations are gone, and bull has succeeded goa
t as the ritual animal in the stone
decorations—if it indeed ever was a goat; a Mi
altar made entirely of bulls’ horns.
12. Oenopion and Thoas are sometimes called
The federalization Of Attica
WHEN Theseus succeeded his father Aegeus on
the throne of Athens, he reinforced his
mainder of his fifty
sons. Some years later he killed these too as
a precautionary measure and, when charged with
murder in the Court of Apollo the Dolphin,
offered the unprecedented plea of ‘justifiable
homicide’, which secured his acquittal. He wa
s purified of their blood at Troezen, where his
and initiated the policy of federalization,
ter well-being. Hitherto, Attica
communities, each managing its own affairs wit
hout consulting the Athenian king, except in
time of emergency. The Eleusinians had even declared war on Erechtheus, and other
these communities were to
Theseus must approach each clan and family in turn; which he did. He found the yeomen and
serfs ready to obey him, and persuaded most of
the large landowners to agree with his scheme
by promising to abolish the monarchy and substitute democracy for it, though remaining
commander-in-chief and supreme judge. Those
who remained unconvinced by the arguments
all local governments,
both of which stand to this day. But he forbore to
interfere with the laws of private property.
Next, he united the suburbs with the City proper which, until then, had consisted of the
Acropolis and its immediate Southern dependencies, inducting the ancient Temples of
Olympian Zeus, Pythian Apollo, Mother Earth,
l call the Acropolis ‘the City’.
d. He named the sixteenth day of Hecatomboe
on [July] ‘Federation Day’, and made it a
renaming the Athenian Games celebrated on this day to ‘All-Athenian’, he opened it to the
whole Attica; and also introduced the worship
resigning the throne, as he had promised, he
gained Attica its new constitution, and under the
e. To enlarge the city still further, Theseu
s invited all worthy stra
oughout Greece, used a formula which is still
employed, namely: ‘Come hither, all ye people!’
Attica into three classes: th
deserve well of their fatherland’;
the Georges, or ‘farmers’; and
the Demiurges, or ‘artificers’.
the first king to found a commonwealth, which is why Homer, in the
styles only the Athenians a sovereign people—a
nd his constitution remained in force until the
tyrants seized power. Some, however, deny the trut
h of this tradition: they say that Theseus
and that, after the death of King Menestheus, who led the
Athenians against Troy, his dynasty
f Theseus, the first Athenian king to mint
money, stamped his coins
with the image of a
1. The mythical element of the Theseus story ha
s here been submerged in what purports to
be Athenian constitutional history; but the
Federalization of Attica would have happened
making democratical
reforms was probably
invented in the fifth century BC for Cleisthene
s. Legal reforms made during the late Jewish
ent Greece, Italy, and Ireland, as they still
do among backward pastoral trib
nearly five hundred years after the Trojan War.
3. The division of Attica into twelve commun
ities is paralleled by a similar happenings
the Nile Delta and in Etruria, and by the di
stributing Canaanite territory among the twelve
tribes of Israel; the number may in each cas
e have been chosen to allow for a monthly
procession of a monarch from tribe to tribe.
Theseus And The Amazons
Amazons, and received as his share of the boot
b. Others say that Theseus visited their country some years later, in the company of
ons, delighted at the arrival of so many
handsome warriors, offered them no violence. Anti
c. Antiope’s sister Oreithyia, mistaken by so
me for Hippolyte, whose girdle Heracles won,
liance with the Scythians, and led a large
ice of the Cimmerian Bosphorus
passed through Thrace, Thessaly, and Boeotia.
At Athens she encamped on the Areiopagus
and there sacrificed to Ares; an event from which, some say, the hill won its name; but first
d. The Athenian forces were already marshalled, but neither side cared
crificed to Phobus, son of Ares, and offered
battle on the seventh day of Boedromion, the da
mia is now celebrated
at Athens; though some say the festival had al
which Xuthus won over Eumolpus in the reig
n of Erechtheus. The Amazons’ battle-front
stretched between what is now called the
Amazonium and the Pnyx Hill near Chrysa.
Theseus’s right wing moved down from the Mu
seum and fell upon their left wing, but was
e. Some say that the Amazons offered peace term
s only after four months
the armistice, sworn near the
l commemorated in the Amazonian
heroically at his side, until shot dead by one
Molpadia, whom Theseus then killed; that
Oreithyia with a few followers escaped to Mega
ra, where she died of
that the remaining Amazons, driven from Attica by
f. This, at any rate, was the first time that
the Athenians repulsed foreign invaders. Some
of the Amazons left wounded on the field of battl
and Molpadia are buried near the temple of
Mother Earth, and an earthen pillar marks
Antiope’s grave. Others lie in the Amazoni
um. Those Amazons who fell while crossing
g. According to one account, the Amazons entere
and founded the sanctuary of Ephesian Artemis as
they marched along the
another, they had taken refuge in this sanctuary on two earlier occasions: namely in their
flight from Dionysus, and after
h. The truth about Antiope seems to be that sh
1. ‘Amazons’, usually derived from
and mazon, ‘without breasts’, they were believed to
notion is fantastic), seems to be an Armenian
word, meaning “Moon women’. Since the priest
esses of the Moon-goddess on the shores of
the Black Sea bore arms, as they also did in the
them which brought back confused the interp
may have been deduced from an icon
her companions. Antiope was not Theseus’s le
AFTER marrying Phaedra, Theseus sent his
bastard son Hippolytus to Pittheus, who
adopted him as heir to the throne of Troeze
n. Thus Hippolytus had no cause to dispute the
right of his legitimate brothe
rs Acamas and Demophoön, Phaedra’s
b. Hippolytus, who had inherited his mother
Artemis, raised a new temple to the goddess at
Troezen, not far from the theatre. Thereupon
c. Since at that time Theseus was away in
Thessaly with Peirithous, or it may have been
in Tartarus, Phaedra followed Hippolytus to
Troezen. There she built th
e Temple of Peeping
Aphrodite to overlook the gymnasium, and w
ould daily watch unobserved while he kept
himself fit by running, leaping, a
the Temple enclosure; Phaedra would jab at its
much perforated. When, later,
ace, she used the Temple of Aphrodite on the
Acropolis for the same purpose.
the truth at last, and offici
fated to be dishonoured in love: witness my
grandmother Europe, my mother Pasiphaë, and
f. Theseus, on receiving the note, cursed Hippolytus, and gave orders that he must quit
nd then against the rock
s, was dragged to death by his horses, while
the pursuer vanished.
h. Some, however, relate improbably that Arte
mis then told Theseus the truth, and rapt
arrived just in time to be reconciled to his
certain, though, she commanded the Troezenians to pay Hippolytus divine honours, and all
Troezenian brides henceforth to cut off a lock
of their hair, and dedica
te it to him. It was
Diomedes who dedicated the ancient temple and image of Hippolytus at Troezen, and who
first offered him his annual sacrifice. Both
tombs, the latter a
mound of earth, are shown in th
e enclosure of the temple, n
that he lies buried in his temp
le; nor will the reveal the wherea
’s memory, close to the Temple of Themis,
because his death had been brought about by bad curses. Some say that Theseus, accused of
his murder, was found guilty, ostracized, and bani
shed to Scyros, where he ended his life in
shame and grief. But his downfall is more ge
ve been cause by an
attempted rape of Persephone.
, and Artemis, in big indignation, begged
mis then wrapped Hippolytus in a thick cloud, disguised him
as an aged man, and changed his features. Af
for Hippolytus, like that of Potiphar’s wife
is borrowed either from the Egyptian
or from a common Canaanite source. It
s sequel has been based upon the familiar
the end of a sacred king’s rei
appears in the story of Oenomaus’s chariot cr
ash; whereas wild olive symbolized the first
is a false derivation of Virbius, which seems to
represent the Greek
: as in Hestia and Vesta, or
Sir James Frazer has shown that the branch which
perhaps to deprive women of the magical po
wer resident in their hair, as Mohammedan
women are shaved on marriage.
3. The concealment of Hippolytus’s tomb is
at some strategic point of the Isthmus.
SOME say that Peirithous the Lapith was the
son of Ixion and Dia, daughter of Dioneus;
sguised as a stallion, coursed around Dia before
b. Almost incredible reports of Theseus’s st
rength and valour had reached Peirithous, who
c. Peirithous married Hippodameia, or Deidam
eia, daughter of Butes—or, some say, of
ne and, when they smelled its fragrance,
e. Peirithous and his paranymph Theseus sp
rang to Hippodameia’s rescue, cut off
the Lapiths, threw him out of the cavern. The
ensuring fight, in the course of which Caeneu
s the Lapith was killed, lasted until nightfall;
f. On this occasion the Centaurs suffered a serious reverse, and Theseus drove them from
vengeful Centaurs expulsed them and converted
.4. It was during Theseus’s campa
he met Heracles again, for
the first time since his childhood;
him into the Myster
ies of Demeter at
t from Ixion, an oak-hero, and had a horse
cult in common. They were primitive mountain tr
ibes in Northern Greece, of whose ancient
rivalry the Hellenes took
advantage by allying themselves first with one, and then with the
other. Centaur and Lapith may be italic words:
Theseus in Tartarus
AFTER Hippodameia’s death Peirithous persua
recently hanged herself, to visit Sparta in
Iris company and carry away Helen, a sister of
they were both ambitious
marriage. Where the sanctuary of Serapis now st
ands at Athens, they swore to stand by each
other in this perilous enterprise; to draw lots
the loser, whatever the danger might be.
b. This decided, they led an army into Lacedaemon; then, riding
ahead of the main body,
seized Helen while she was offe
ring a sacrifice in the Temple
of Upright Artemis at Sparta,
ced their pursuers, shaking them off at Tegea
where, as had been agreed, lots were drawn
no means approve of his having thus picked a
c. Some years passed and, when Helen wa
s old enough for Theseus to marry her,
d. Thus they remained in torment for four full years, until Heracles, coming at
e. According to some accounts,
however, Heracles released Pe
s chained for ever to a fiery
chair, and Peirithous reclining beside Ixion
on a golden couch—before their famished gaze
1. Leading heroes in several mythologies are said to have harrowed Hell: Theseus,
nd Marduk in Babylonia; Aeneas in Italy;
The origin of the myth seems to be a tempor
od of demise in batt
le with the marine
monster Tiamat, an embodiment of the Sea-goddess who sent the Delu
e Atlantic breakers, they seem to have
3. Athenian mythographers have succeeded in
ifice recalls that of Oreit
hyia by Boreas, and may have
been deduced from the same icon, which repr
Thesmophoria. It is possible t
contained an image or other cult object st
olen by the Athenians from her Laconian
5. The four years of Theseus’s stay in Tart
arus are the usual peri
made room for his tanist; a new sacred king, Theseus
attempt was made by Athenians to elevate Thes
eus to the status of an Olympian god, by
from death, as Dionysus and He
enemies successfully opposed this claim. Some
insist that he had never escaped, but was
Olympian or, at least, a national demi-god.
The central source of this hostility towards
The Death Of Theseus
DURING Theseus’s absence in Tartarus the Di
oscuri assembled an army of Laconians
and Arcadians, marched against Athens, and
b. Others say that the revealer of Helen’s
hiding-place was one Academus, or Echedemus,
an Arcadian, who had come to Attica on Theseu
him with great honour while he was
ons, spared his small estate
Athens. This is now called the Academia: a
oscuri’s army and, in obedience to an
oracle, offered himself for sacrifice at the h
ead of his men. Some say that it was he, not
Marathon the father of Sicyon and Corinthus, wh
o gave his name to the city of Marathon.
e. When Aphidnae fell, and At
welcome the Dioscuri into the city as their bene
most correctly, and asked only to be admitted to the Eleusinian Mysteries, as Heracles had
been. This request was granted, and the Dioscuri became honorary citizens of Athens.
Aphidnus was their adoptive father, as Pytius
had been Heracles’s on a similar occasion.
them at the rising of thei
the clemency which they had shown to th
Helen back to Sparta, with Theseus’s mother
g. A storm blew his ship off
her course, and his first landfall was the island of Scyros,
near Euboea, where King Lycomedes, though a close friend of Menestheus, received him with
all the splendour due to his fame
and lineage. Theseus, who had inherited an estate on Scyros,
possession of the throne, was among Helen’s
e he won great fame as
killed in battle. The sons of Theseus succeeded him.
i. Theseus is said to have forcibly abducted An
have lain with Iope,
daughter of Tirynthian Iphicles. His love-affairs caused the Athenians such frequent
embarrassment that they were slow to appreciat
of Marathon, however, his spirit
rose from the earth to hearten
them, bearing down fully armed upon the Persians
me. The people of Athens had
suffered from the Scyrians continually for ma
j. Theseus was a skilled lyre-player and has
now become joint patron with Heracles and
Hermes of every gymnasium and wrestling school
in Greece. His resemblance to Heracles is
unt; avenged the champions who fell at Thebes;
for his outstanding military skill,
eus’s four years’ absence in Tartarus, seems to have been
his mortal twin and co-king, the Athenian co
magogues who, throughout the Peloponnesian War,
favoured peace with Sparta at any price; but the
mythographer, while deploring his tactics, is
careful not to offend the Dioscuri, to whom
Athenian sailors prayed for succour when
overtaken by storms.
2. The theme of the feathered
reappears in the names
of Menestheus’s father
mself. This took place on the island of Scyros
at, in the icon from wh
ich the story has been
(an abbreviated form of Scirophoria
flung from a cliff) has been mistaken for the
name of the island. If
so, Lycomedes will have
been the victim; his was a common Athenian name. Originally, it seems, sacrifices were
offered to the Moon-goddess on the eighth day of
each lunation, when she entered her second
phase, this being the right time of the month fo
r planting; but when Poseidon married her, and
appropriated her cult, the month became a so
lar period, no longer linked with the moon.
3. The mythic importance of Marathus (‘fenne
l’) lay in the made of fennel stalks for
carrying the new sacred fire from a central hearth
LAIUS, son of Labdacus, married Iocaste
story, Laius did not expose Oedipus on the
mountain, but locked him in a chest, which was
lowered into the sea from a ship. This chest
e Periboea, Polybus’s
supervising her royal laundry-women. She pick
least resembling his supposed
y in store for him. ‘Away from
and shrank from bringing disaster upon
‘So much the worse for you!’ cried Laius,
drive on. One of the wheels bruised Oedipus’s
whipping up the team, he made them drag him to
e. Laius had been on his way to ask the Oracle how he might rid Thebes of the Sphinx.
This monster was a daughter of Typhon an Ec
hidne or, some say, of the dog Orthrus and the
Chimaera, and had flown to Thebes from the uttermost part of Ethiopia. She was easily
recently sent the Sphinx to punish Thebes fo
r Laius abduction of the boy Chrysippus from
Oedipus, approaching Thebes fresh from th
e murder of Laius, guessed the answer.
the Delphic Oracle, when consulted once
more, replied: ‘Expel the murder
er of Laius!’ Oedipus, not know
in Greece at this time now demanded an
audience with Oedipus. Some sa
him for having
inadvertently
ea and, taking the serpent Erichthonius from
with your tongue that he may understand
of coupling. When both attacked him, he struck
at them with his staff, killing the female.
Immediately he was turned into a woman, a
nd became a celebrated harlot; but seven years
later he happened to see the sa
me sight again at the same spot
manhood by killing the male serpent. Still othe
rs say that when Aphrodite and the three
as to which of the four was most beautiful,
Teiresias awarded Cale the prize; whereupon Aphrodite turned him into an old woman. But
‘Women, of course, derive infinitely great
er pleasure from the sexual act than men,’
‘What nonsense!’ cried Hera. ‘The exact cont
‘If the parts of love—pleas

Hera was so exasperated by Zeus’s triumphant
Teiresias; but Zeus
compensated him with inward sight, a
ourt, leaning on the cornel-wood staff given
him by Athene, and revealed to Oedipus the will
if a Sown Man died for the sake of the city. Iocaste’s father Menoeceus, one of those who had
risen out of the earth when Cadmus sowed the
Teiresias then announced further: ‘Menoeceus did well, and the plague will now cease.
to reveal the circumstances of Oedipus’s adoption;
k. Some say that, although tormented by th
e Erinnyes, who accuse him of having
brought about his mother’s death, Oedipus continue
fell gloriously in battle. Accord
r, Iocaste’s brother
Creon expelled him,
s been deduced from
2. Laius’s murder is a record of the solar
been deduced from an icon showing the
Theban year—lion for the waxing part, serpent for the waning part—and to whom the new
king offers his devotions before marrying her pr
iestess, the Queen. It seems also that the
om the Muses has been invented
infant, a warrior, and an old man, all worshippin
g the Triple-goddess: each
nx, overcome by Oedipus, killed herself, and so
did her priestess Iocaste. Wa
s Oedipus a thirteenth-centu
the calendar? Under the old
system, the new king, though a forei
4. Though Theban patriots, loth to admit th
city by storm, preferred to make him the lost
heir to the kingdom, the
death of Menoeceus, a member of the pre-Hellenic
e Peloria festival in
memory of Ophion the Demiurge, from whose t
Sphinx did.
Teiresias’
, a common title for soothsayers, throughout Greek
been granted a remarkably long life by Zeus.
witness will be punished with the ‘female
disease’ (as Herodotus calls it), namely
homosexuality; here the Greek fabulist has taken
the tale a stage further in order to raise a
laugh against women. Cornel, a divinatory tree
sacred to Cronus, symbolized the fourth
month, that of the Spring Equinox; Rome was
Romulus’s cornel—wood javelin struck th
Charites into three, calling them
)—Sosostratus’s
account of the beauty contest makes poor sense, because
to all’, seems to have been Aphrodite’s own title. He may
have borrowed it from the Judgement of Paris.
6. Two incompatible accounts of Oedipus’s e
nd survive. According to Homer, he died
brother, a member of the Cadmean royal hous
cities of Greece until he came to Colonus in At
tica, where the Furies hounded him to death.
Oedipus’s remorseful self-blinding has been in
7. According to the non-Homeric story, Oe
dipus’s defiance of the City-goddess was
ally died a victim of his ow
certainly, his sons’ and brothers’ unwillingness
to award him the shoulde
r of the sacrificial
victim amounted to a denial of his divine
perquisite at Jerusalem (
te patrilineal for matrilineal laws of
9. Teiresias here figures dramatically as th
bequeathed from father to son in the male lin
e, which is a Corinthian custom, instead of
remaining the gift of Hera the Throttler. Oedipu
s confessed that he felt himself disgraced as
The Seven Against Thebes
SO many princes visited Argos in the hope of
marrying either Aege
fearing to make powerful enemie
of them as his sons-in-law, he consulted the
a two-wheeled chariot the boar and
lion which fight in your palace.’
b. Among the less fortunate of these suitors
c. Now, the emblem of Thebes is a lion,
and the emblem of Ca
two fugitive suitors displayed these devices on thei
r shields. That night, in Adrastus’s palace,
ective cities, and murder might
reconciled them. Then, mi
he married Aegeia to Polyneices, and Deipyl
a to Tydeus, with a promise to restore both
princes to their kingdoms; but said that he woul
d first march against Thebes, which lay nearer.
ains: Capaneus, Hippomedon, his brother-in-
law Amphiaraus the seer, and his Arcadian ally
e. It happened that Adrastus had formerly
quarrelled with Amphiaraus about Argive
y men might have killed each ot
her, but for Adrastus’s sister
Eriphyle, who was married to Amphiaraus. Snat
g. Their march took them through Nemea, where Lycurgus was king. When they asked
leave to water their troops in his country
, Lycurgus consented, and his bond-woman
Hypsipyle guided them to the nearest spring. H
ypsipyle was a Lemnian princess, but when the
women of Lemnos had sworn to murder all thei
r men in revenge for an
injury done them, she
oas: they therefore so
ld her into slavery,
acting as nursemaid to Lycurgus’ son Opheltes.
h. When Amphiaraus warned them that this
was an ominous sign, they instituted the
Nemean Games in the boy’s honour, calling him Ar
chemorus, which means ‘the beginner of
doom’; and each of the champions had the sati
sfaction of winning one of the seven events.
The judges at the Nemean Games, which are cel
worn dark robes in mourning fo
r Opheltes, and the victor’s wreath is plaited of luckless
us as his herald to the Thebans, with a
now remained of the seven champions;
mounted his winged hor
Creon would not permit his dead enemies to be buried, visited
to march against Thebes and punish Creon’s
originally conveyed the wisdom of forming
double kingdoms; in order to prev
2. The mythographers often ma
describes a high arch across the sky; and the
Nemean Games, like the Olympian, will have
been celebrated at the end of the sacred king’
s term, when he had reigned his fifty lunar
months as the Chief-priestess’s husband. The my
th preserves the tradition that boys were
which means simply ‘benefactor’, has here
serpent’, as though it were derived from
4. Tydeus’s gulping of Melanippus’s brains is reported as a moral anecdote. This old-
established means of improving one’s fightin
g skill, introduced by the Hellenes and still
practised by the Scythians in Classical times
barbarous. But the icon from which the mythogr
must have closely resembled the Indian
aste: the same theme of ki
nsman pitted against kinsman
Iliad
mischievous part, suttee is honoured, and Bhis
hma, like Tydeus, drinks his enemy’s blood.
6. Evadne’s self-immolation recalls the myth of Alcestis. Relics of a royal cremation
king and queen were buried at the same time; a
nd A. W. Persson believes
voluntarily. But they may both have been murdered, or died of the same illness, and no
similar Mycenaean burial is reported elsewhere.
Suttee, in fact, which seems to have been a
and since ‘holy’ and ‘unclean’ mean much
the same in primitive religion—the tabooed
animals in Leviticus were unclean because th
ey were holy—the grave of a man struck by
lightning was fenced off, like that of a calf that
has died of anthrax on a modern farm, and he
was given heroic rites. The graveyard near Eleu
sis where the champions are said by Pausanias
to have been eventually interre
d, has now been identified an
7. The myth of Antigone, Haemon, and the
shepherds seems to have been deduced
from the same icon as those of Arne and Alope.
We are denied the expected end of the story:
THE sons of the seven champions who had fa
llen at Thebes swore to avenge their
fathers. They are known as the Epigoni. The
Delphic Oracle promised them victory if
Alcmaeon, son of Amphiaraus, took command. But
Adrastus, and Teiresias the seer then warned th
e Thebans that their city
remained alive, and Adrastus, now the sole su
the Thebans’ wisest course was to flee that very night.
Thebans escaped northward with their wives,
and founded the city of Hestiaea. At dawn,
Teiresias, who went with them, paused to
c. That same day, which was the very day on which Adrastus heard of Aegialeus’s
death and died of grief, the Argives, finding
Thebes evacuated, broke in, razed the walls, and
at Delphi, including Teiresias’s
daughter Manto, or Daphne, who had stayed behind; and she became his Pythoness.
d. Nor was this the end of the matter. Th
ersander happened to boast in Alcmaeon’s
hearing that most of the credit for the Argive
mself: he had bribed
lyneices did before him, to give the order to march. Alcmaeon
thus learned for the first time that Eriphyle’s
ther’s death, and might
well have caused his own. He consulted the De
lphic Oracle, and Apollo replied that she
deserved death. Alcmaeon mistook this for a disp
e. Alcmaeon fled first to Thesprotia where
he was refused entry, and then to Psophis,
where King Phegeus purified him for Apollo’s
sake. Phegeus married him to his daughter
Arsinoë, to whom Alcmaeon gave the necklace
e Delphic Oracle then advised Alcmaeon to
he was once more purified; he married
f A year later, Callirrhoë, fearing that sh
e might lose her beauty, refused Alcmaeon
admittance to her couch unless he gave her the
celebrated robe and necklace. For love of
Callirrhoë, he dared to revisit Psophis, where
he deceived Phegeus: making no mention of his
marriage to Callirrhoë, he invented a prediction of
would never be rid of the Erinnyes until he had dedicated both robe and necklace to Apollo’s
shrine. Phegeus thereupon made Arsinoë surrend
er them, which she was glad to do, believing
g. Phegeus’s sons obeyed him; but, meanwhile, Callirrhoë, informed of what had
sons by Alcmaeon might become full-grown men
in a day, and avenge his murder. Zeus heard
her plea, and they shot up into manhood, took
arms, and went to Nemea where, they knew,
the sons of Phegeus had broken their rerum
purify them of their crimes, they travelled we
stward to Epirus, and
which was named after the elder of the two, Acarnan.
lphi until the Sacred War [fourth century
i. And some say that Teires
nd Manto. Daphne remained a
virgin and became a Sibyl, bur Alcmaeon begot
Amphilochus and Tisiphone on Manto before
; he entrusted both children to
Alcmaeon, not knowing who she was, bought her as
fortunately abstained
from incest. As for Manto: Apollo sent her
to Colophon in Ionia, where she married Rhacius,
opsus, the famous soothsayer.
1. This is a popular minstrel tale, containing
few mythic elements, which could be told
Psophis, Nemea, and the Achelous valley; which purposed to account for the founding of
and which had a strong moral flavour. It taught
the instability of women’s judgement, the folly of
men in humouring their vanity or greed, the
wisdom of listening to seers w
2. Eriphyle’s continuous power to decide between war and peace is the most
The true meaning of her name,
‘very leafy’, suggests that she
is likely to have been a pear, sacred to Hera. Both the ‘War of the Seven Against Thebes’,
preceded the Argonautic expedition and the Trojan War, and may be tentatively referred to
the fourteenth century BC.
disputed. His mother was Pluto, a daughter
of Cronus and Rhea or, some say, of Oceanus a
e River-god Pactolus; or by Eurythemista,
tia, daughter of Amphid
amantes; or by the
Pleiad Dione, Tantalus became the father of Pe
c. Tantalus was the intimate friend of Ze
us, who admitted him to
he committed a worse. Having called the Olympi
d. For these two crimes Tantalus was punished
with the ruin of his kingdom and, after
e. Moreover, an enormous stone, a crag fr
om Mount Sipylus, ove
f. According to others, however, it was Ta
ntalus who stole the golden mastiff, and
Pandareus to whom he entrusted it and w
to revive Pelops; and therefore ordered
Hermes to collect his limbs and boil them again in the same cauldr
The Fate Clotho then rearticulated them; Demete
r gave him a solid ivor
fe into him; while Goat-Pan danced for joy.
i. Pelops emerged from the magic cauldr
diant beauty that
Poseidon fell in love with him on the spot, and carried him off
to Olympus in a chariot drawn
by golden horses. There he appointed him his
cup-bearer and bed-fellow; as Zeus later
appointed Ganymedes, and fed him on ambrosia. Pe
was of ivory when he bared his breast in mour
of Pelops are marked in this way and, after hi
made the most diligent search for him,
Olympus; she learned from the
boiled and served to the gods, who seemed to have eaten every last shred of his flesh. This
version of the story became current throughout
Lydia; many still credit it and deny that the
on was the same Pelops who succeeded him.
carved the oldest image of
the Mother of the Gods,
the north of Mount Sipylus. He was a famous
hunter, but refused to honour Artemis, who drove
him mad; crying aloud
that no flame could
burn him, he threw himself upon a lighted pyre a
1. According to Strabo, Tantalus, Pelops,
2. Strabo’s historical view, however, even if archaeologically plausible, does not
account for Tantalus’s connection with Argos, Co
3. To make sense of this scene, it must be
remembered that Tantalus’s father Tmolus
wreathed with oak,
grandsons was also called Tantal
us, enjoyed hero-rites at Olympi
a, in which ‘Zeus’s forester’
rally agreed, the criminals in Ta
the pre-Olympian epoch, Tantalus will have re
presented the annual Sacred King, dressed in
Oschophoria, who was flung into a river as a
—a custom surviving in the Green George ritual of the Balkan countryside,
tantalize
, derived from this myth,
has prevented scholars from
the fate of his ugly son Broteas.
) may be right when he derives Tantalus from
, ‘most
5. When the mythographers recorded that Ta
ntalus was a frequent guest on Olympus,
they were admitting that his cu
lt had once been dominant in the Peloponnese; and, although
6. This ancient myth distressed the later
mythographers. Not content with exculpating
Demeter from the charge of deliberate man-eat
original Achaean violation of Rhea’s shrine, but
to a temporary recovery of the cult object by
8. The nature of the stolen cult object is uncertain. It may have been a golden lamb, the
symbol of Pelopid sovereignty; or the cuc
koo-tipped sceptre which Zeus is known to have
stolen from Hera; or the porpoi
se-ivory Palladium; or the
9. The three daughters of Pandareus, one of whom, Cameiro, bears the same name as
the youngest of the three Rhodian Fates, are the Triple-goddess, here humiliated by Zeus for
the goddess is shown in the stories of his son
Broteas, who carved her image on Mount Sipylus,
White Goddess, who defied the Olympians and w
Tantalis. Omphale, the name of Tantalus’s moth
was chosen for his extreme ugliness, which accounts for
Broteas. It is recorded that in Asia Minor, the
was first beaten on the genitals with
squill to the sound of Lydian flutes. Tantalus
(Pausanias) and his father Tmolus (Ovid:
an throne from his father
b. Some say that Oenomaus had been begot
on Asterope; or on Eurythoë, daughter of
Danaus; while others call him the
an hour or so earlier, before he himself sacr
ificed a ram on the alta
r of Warlike Zeus at
Olympia. The chariots would then race towards
the Isthmus and if the suitor would be taken,
he must die; but should he win the race, Hippod
ameia would be his, and Oenomaus must die.
Since, however, the wind-like mares, Psylla and Harpirma, which Pelops’s father Ares have
given him, were immeasurably the best in Gr
eece, being swifter even than North Wind; and
since his chariot, skilfully driven by Myrtilus, was especially designed for racing, he had
e. In this manner Oenomaus disposed of tw
elve or, some say thirteen princes, whose
beads and limbs he nailed above the palace, while their trunks were flung barbarously in a
heap on the ground. When he killed Marmax, the fi
rst suitor, he also butchered his mares,
e river Parthenia, where their tomb is still
hippodrome at Olympia, and that
f. Myrtilus, Oenomaus’s charioteer, was th
e son of Hermes by Theobule, or Cleobule;
d to Temnian Aphrodite an image made
of green myrtle-wood, Pelops tested his chariot
Aegean Sea. Almost
before he had time to glance about him, he ha
d reached Lesbos, where his charioteer Cillus,
or Cellas, or Cillas, died because of the swif
tness of the flight. Pelops spent the night on
Lesbos and, in a dream, saw Cillus’s ghost lamenting his fate, and pleading for heroic honours.
over the ashes, and founded the sanctuary of
h. On coming to Pisa, Pelops was alarmed to
i. Before entering the race—the scene is car
ved on the front gable of Zeus’s temple at
Olympia—Pelops sacrificed to
Cydonian Athene. Some say th
undertook to help him; others, that Sphaerus
it is more generally
, Hippodameia standing beside him
j. Meanwhile, Hippodameia had fallen in lo
progress, had herself offered to reward Myrtilus generously, if her father’s course could by
some means be checked. Myrtilus therefore removed the lynch-pins from the axles of
Oenomaus’s chariot, and replaced them with
others made of wax. As chariots reached the
neck of the Isthmus and Oenomaus, in hot purs
f, he fell entangled in the wreckage and was
scarer at Olympia. There are
some, however, who say that the swiftness of
enabled Pelops to outdistance Oenomaus and reach the Isthmus first; whereupon Oenomaus
either killed himself in despair, or was killed
others, the contest took place in the Hippodrome
at Olympia, Amphion gave Pelops a magic
that Oenomaus’s team bolted and wrecked his
chariot. But all agree that Oenomaus, before he
might perish at the hands of Pelops.
m. Pelops drove on, until he reached the western stream of Oceanus, where he was
afterwards he came back to
Pisa, and succeeded to the
throne of Oenomaus. He soon subjugated nearly
the whole of what was then known as Apia,
or Pelasgiotis, and renamed it the Peloponnese, m
eaning ‘the island of Pelops’, after himself.
His courage, wisdom, wealth, and numerous ch
n. From King Epeius, Pelops took Olympia,
phalus of Arcadia by force of arms, he invited him to a
friendly debate, cut him into pieces, and sca
nd wide; a crime which
caused a famine throughout Greece. But his celebr
ation of the Olympian Games in honour of
ndymion, was more splendi
o. To atone for the murder of Myrtilus, w
ho was Hermes’s son, Pelops built the first
temple of Hermes in the Peloponnese; he also
cenotaph for him in the hippodrome at Olympi
a, and paying him heroic honours. Some say
that neither Oenomaus, nor the spiteful Alcathou
s, nor the magic object which Pelops buried,
is the true Horse-scarer: it
p. Over the tomb of Hippodameia’s unsuccessf
ul suitors, on the farthest side of the
paying them heroic honou
furlong away stands the sanctuary of Artemis
here celebrated his victories by dancing the Rope Dance, which they had brought from Lydia.
q. Pelops’s sanctuary, where his bones are preserved in a brazen chest, was dedicated
dson, when he came to celebrate the Olympian Games; and
the Elean magistrates still offer Pe
im are forbidden to enter Zeus’s temple
neck is the traditional perquisite of his forester. The sanctuary
g men scourge themselves at Pelops’s altar,
offering him a libation of their blood. His chario
t is shown on the roof of the Anactorium in
d in their treasury at Olympia; and his spear-
shaped sceptre, at Chaeronea,
is perhaps the only genuine work of Hephaestus still extant.
orse-beater’; and the Achaeans claim him as their
ancestor.
1. According to Pausanias and Apollodorus, Ta
mythographers refer to him and to Pelops as
native kings of Greece. This suggests that their
names were dynastic titles taken by early Gree
ought back by emigrants before
the Achaean invasion of the
Peloponnese in the thirteenth century BC. It is
known from Hittite insc
kings reigned in Pamphylia and Lesbos as
2. The horse, which had been a sacred animal
in Pelasgian Greece long before the cult
of the Sun-chariot, was a native European
larger Trans-Caspian horse came to Egypt
chariotry displaced ass chariotry in the Egyp
tian armed forces about the year 1500 BC—and
3. Oenomaus, who represented Zeus as the in
milarly named Pleiad; and Queen Hippodameia, by
marriage to whom he was enroyalled, repres
remained matrilineal in the Peloponnese, whic
h assured the good-will of the conservative
peasantry. Nor might the King’s reign be
prolonged Beyond a Great Year of one hundred
calendars coincided; he was then fated to be
her concession to the older cult at Pisa, where Zeus’s
representative had been killed by his tanist
each mid-summer, Oenomaus agreed to die a
mock death at seven successive mid-winters,
on each occasion appointing a surrogate to take
ariot beside the Queen. At the close of
this day, the surrogate was killed in a chariot crash, and the King stepped out from the tomb
where he had been lurking, to resume his reign.
This explains the myth of Oenomaus and the
that of Evenus. The mythographers must be
mistaken when they mention ‘twelve or thirte
en’ suitors. These numbers
lunations—alternately twelve and
chariot race at Olympia twelve
circuits of the stadium were
made in honour of the Moon-
the old king with his own sceptre-spear.
was staged in the Hippodrome.
his horses—which seem, from the myth of Gl
aucus, to have been maddened by drugs—down
e the course bent around a white marble statue,
called the Marmaranax (‘marble king), or the Hors
e-scarer, the outer wheel flew off for want
of a lynch-pin, the chariot collapsed, and the ho
ate to death. Myrtle
was the death-tree, that of the thirteenth mont
the chariot crash took
place: hence Myrtilus is said to
have removed the metal lynch-
pins, and replaced them with
wax ones—the melting of wax also caused the
5. In the second half of the myth, Myrtilus
interrex, the surrogate was entitled to ride beside the Queen in the sun-chariot, and to sleep
destroyed him and, metaphorically, rode on in hi
treme west, where he
was purified in the Ocean stream. Myrtilus’s fall
from the chariot into the sea is a telescoping
of myths: a few miles to the east of the Hi
ppodrome, where the Isthmian Games took place,
an identical ceremony was probably performed at
scarers are also reported from Thebes and Io
crashes were staged in the hippodromes. But since the Olympian Hippodrome, sacred to solar
Zeus, and the Isthmian Hippodrome, sacred to so
6. Amphion’s entry into this myth, though a
native of Sicyon on the Isthmus. ‘
Myrto’
the first syllable standing for ‘sea’, as in
Myrtea
, ‘sea—goddess’; Myrtoessa, a longer form of
es. Thus Myrtilus may originally mean ‘phallus of the sea’:
myr-tylos
7. Pelops hacks Stymphalus in pieces, as he
himself is said to have been treated by
Tantalus; this more ancient form of the royal
sacrifice has been rightly reported from Arcadia.
chariot: namely the Arcadian shepherd cult of
oak and ram, attested by Pelops’s connection
with Tantalus and his sacrifice of a black ram
8. The butchering of Marmax’s mares may
refer to Oenomaus’s coronation ceremony,
which involved mare-sacrifice. A ‘Cydonian apple’,
ympia, symbolized the hope of
reincarnation after he had been hacked in pieces—because those who went to Elysium were
h. A close parallel to the bloods
hed at Pelops’s Olympic altar
to the image of Upright Artemis. Pelops
was, in fact, the victim, and suffe
red in honour of the goddess Hippodameia.
IN gratitude to Hera for facilitati
ng her marriage with Pelops, Hippodameia
summoned sixteen matrons, one from
every city of Elis
the Heraean Games.
Every fourth year, ever since the Sixteen Ma
Hera and celebrated the Games;
which consist of a single race
a share of the cow sacrificed to Hera, a victrix ma
name.
not one killed by Oenomaus; the Argonaut
Hippalcus, Hippalemus, Hippalc
imus; Copreus the herald; Sciron the bandit; Epidaurus
Argive, sometimes called the so
Hippasus; Cleon; Argeius; Aelinus; Astydameia
, whom some call the mother of Amphitryon;
Lysidice, whose daughter Hippothoë was carried
and there bore Taphius; Eurydice, whom some
call the mother of Alcmene; Nicippe; Antibia;
and lastly Archippe, mother of Eurystheus and Alcyone.
d. The Megarians, in an attempt to obliterate the memory of how Minos captured their
city, and to suggest that King Nisus was p
eaceably succeeded by his son-in-law Megareus,
the elder of whom, Timalcus, was killed at Aphidnae during the invasion of Attica by the
promised his daughter Euachme, and his thro
Alcathous killed the lion and, becoming king of Megara, built a temple there to Apollo the
Hunter and Artemis the Huntress. The truth is
, however, that Alcathous came from Elis to
Megara immediately after the de
Alcathous sacrificed to Apo
Builders’, and then rebuilt the city wall on new foundations, the course of the old wall having
e. Alcathous was the father of Ischepolis; of
Callipolis; of Iphinoë, who died a virgin,
buried in the Law Courts; Me
Record Office; and that of
Timalcus, the Council Hall.
lops and Hippodameia; but was, in fact, a
bastard, whom Pelops had begotten on the nymp
Laius, when banished from Thebes, was hospitabl
with Chrysippus, to whom he taught the chario
banishment was annulled, carried the boy off in
his chariot, from the Nemean Games, and
brought him to Thebes as his catamite. Some sa
y that Chrysippus killed himself for shame;
others, that Hippodameia, to prevent Pelops
the heads of her own sons, came to Thebes, wher
to kill the boy by throwing him to the well. When
both refused to murder their father’s guest,
Hippodameia at dead of night, stole into La
ius’s chamber and, finding him asleep pulled
down his sword from the wall and plunged it into
accused of the murder, but Chrysippus had visi
ted Hippodameia as she fled, and accused her
Laius was already imprisoned by Atreus and T
only an affectionate love had prompted this
breach of hospitality. Some say that Laius, and
not Thamyris, or Minos, was the first pederast;
which is why Thebans, far from condemning
the practice, maintain a regiment, called the Sa
i. Hippodameia fled to Argolis, and there
killed herself; but in accordance with an
ack to Olympia, where women enter her walled sanctuary
the turns of the Hippodrome stands Hippodameia
1. The Heraean Games took place on the day before the Olympic Games. They
victrix, who wore the olive as a symbol of
peace and fertility, became one with the goddess
trons may once have taken turns to officiate
xteen seasons of the four-year Olympiad—each
wheel of the royal chariot represented the solar
or swastika. ‘Narcaeus’ is clearly a back-for
mation from Athene Narcaea (‘benumbing’), a
death-goddess. The matrons who organized th
e Heraean Games, which had once involved
human sacrifice, propitiated th
then washed themselves in
running water. Hippodameia’s many children attest
over by the Pelopid dynasty—all their names are
Isthmus.
2. Alcathous’s murder of his son Callipolis at the altar of Apollo has probably been
deduced from an icon which showed him offering
ifice to the ‘previous
). Moreover, like Samson and David, he
had killed a lion in ritual combat.
Corinthian mythology has many clos
e affinities with Palestinian.
3. The myth of Chrysippus survives in degene
rate form only. That he was a beautiful
Pisan boy who drove a chariot, was carried o
ff like Ganymedes, or Pelops himself (though not,
indeed, to Olympus), and killed by Hippodameia, s
uggests that, originally, he was one of the
royal surrogates who died in the chariot cras
h; but his myth has become confused with a
sty, and with the legend of a dispute about the Nemean Games
after the death of Chrysippus, in which he
may have been more deeply implicated than
fortune favoured him. His nephew Eurystheus, w
ho was just about to march against the sons
sence; and, when presently news came of
the Mycenaean notables chose Atre
us as their king, because he
seemed a likely warrior to protect them ag
Pelops became more famous even than that
authority, that Eurystheus’s
banished Amphitryon, and seized the throne of Mycenae, sent for Atreus and Thyestes, his
brothers-in-law, and installed them at near-by
Midea. A few years later, when Sthenelus and
oracle advised the Mycenaeans to choose a prince of the
Pelopid house to rule over them. They there
upon summoned Atreus and
Thyestes from Midea
and debated which of these two (who were fate
c. Now, Atreus had once vowed to sacrifice
ks to Artemis; and
Hermes, anxious to avenge the death of Myr
Goat-Pan, who made a horned lamb with a
golden fleece appear among the Acarnanian flock
Thyestes. He foresaw that Atreus would claim it
as his own and, from his reluctance to give Artemis the honour due to her, would become
involved in fratricidal war with Thyestes. Some
, however, say that it was Artemis herself who
sent the lamb, to try him. Atreus kept his vow, in
part at least, by sacrif
icing the lamb’s flesh;
but he stuffed and mounted the fleece and locked it in a chest. He grew so proud of his life-
uld not refrain from boasting about
claimed the throne of
primogeniture, and also as possessor of the la
mb Thyestes asked him:
smiling grimly. A herald then summoned the people of Mycenae to acclaim their new king;
the temples were hung with gold,
throughout the city and songs were sung in praise
of the horned lamb with the golden fleece.
magistrates to his home, where he displayed the
lamb, justified his claim to its ownership, and
Hermes to him, saying: ‘Call Thyestes,
f. Now, this Aerope, whom some call Eu
lure Thyestes back to Mycenae, with the offer of an
amnesty and a half-share in the kingdom; but, as
Aglaus, Orchomenus, and Callileon, Thyestes’s th
s twin. He hacked them all limb from limb,
h. Exiled once more, Thyestes fled first to
King Thesprotus in Sicyon, where his own
i. Meanwhile, fearing the consequences of
his crime, Atreus consulted the Delphic
Oracle, and was told: ‘Recall Thyestes from Si
j. A succession of bad harvests then plagued Mycenae, and Atreus sent Agamemnon
standing over him, sword in hand; he
en he rose, disarmed
ord. But it was his own, lost years before in
ied: Tell me instantl
y how this came into
your possession?’ Aegisthus stammered: ‘Alas, my
mother Pelopia gave it me.’ ‘I will spare
your life, boy,’ said Thyestes, ‘if you carry out the three orders I now give you.’ ‘I am your
expected no mercy. ‘My first order is to bring
your mother here,’ Thyestes told him.
wept on his neck, called him her
dearest father, and commiserated
did you come by this sword, daughter?’ Thyestes
unknown stranger who ravished me one night at
‘It is mine,’ said
Thyestes. Pelopia, stricken with horror, seized the sword, and plunged it into her breast.
nd tell him that you have carried out your
d lamb then appeared am
grew to be a ram and, afterwards, every new
Pelopid king was thus divinely confirmed in
possession of his golden sceptre; these ra
ms grazed at ease in a paddock enclosed by
unscaleable walls. But some say
silver bowl, on the bottom of wh
have been Aegisthus who killed Atreus, because
when Agamemnon drove his father Thyestes fr
om Mycenae, wresting the sceptre from him.
the road that leads from Mycenae to Argos, near the
shrine of Perseus. Above his tomb stands the
stone figure of a ram. Th
e tomb of Atreus, and
shown among the ruins of Mycenae.
happened some years later to Clymenus, the Arcadian son of Schoenus, who conceived an
his daughter by Epicaste. Ha
married her to Alastor, but afterwards took her
murdered the son she bore him—who was also
bird of prey, and Clymenus hanged himself.
1. The Atreus—Thyestes myth, which surviv
nt in the story: she will have provoked
one must think not allegorically, nor
philosophically, but mythologica
which appears in the myth of Tantalus,
ifice of child surrogate
vomiting up of his children by Rh
a recalls the myth of Cinyras
and Smyrna, and is best explained as the
king’s attempt to prolong his reign beyond the
customary limit by marriage with his step-daughte
r, the heiress. Aerope’s rescue from the
5. The story of Clymenus and Harpalyce—ther
e was another Thracian character of the
same name, a sort of Atalanta—combines the
myth of Cinyras and Smyrna with that of
is an artificial composition fo
r the theatre, as Clymenus’s
unmythical suicide by hanging sugges
in a title to the throne when
his reign ended, by marrying the
killing him and taking her himself.
means ‘avenger’, but his vengeance does not
appear in the myth; perhaps the original ve
rsion made Alastor the victim of the human
SOME say that Agamemnon and Menelaus were of
an age to arrest Thyestes at Delphi;
nts, whom their nurse had the
presence of mind to rescue. Snatching them up, one under each arm, she fled with them to
b. It is said that Zeus gave power to th
om to the House of
Amythaon, but wealth to the House of Atreus.
e to Agamemnon, both on land and sea.
c. Agamemnon first made war against Tantalus
Broteas, killed him in battle and forcibly ma
rried his widow Clytaenmestra, whom Leda had
oscuri, Clytaenmestra’s brothers, thereupon
marched on Mycenae; but Agamemnon had already
gone as a suppliant to his benefactor
d. Clytaenmestra bore Agamemnon one son, Ores
ters: Electra, or
themis; though some say that Iphigeneia was
Clytaemnestra’s niece, the daughter of Theseus and Helen, whom she took pity upon and
e. When Paris, the son of King Priam of Troy, abducted Helen
Trojan War, both Agamemnon and Menelaus were
absent from home for ten years; but
f. Now, Nauplius, the husband of Clymene,
Agamemnon and the other Greek leaders for th
e stoning of his son Palamedes, had sailed
away from Troy and coasted around Attica and th
his enemies to adultery. Aegist
d that Clytaemnestra was among
those most eager to be convinced by Nauplius,
planned not only to become her lover, but to
kill Agamemnon, with her assistance, as soon as the Trojan War ended.
g. Hermes, sent to Aegisthus by Omniscient Zeus, warned him to abandon this project,
to manhood, he would be bound to avenge his
father. For all his eloquence, however, Hermes
h. Clytaemnestra had small cause to love
Agamemnon: after killing her former
child at her breast,
he had married her by force, and then
gone away to a war which promised never to e
Priam’s daughter Cassandra, the
i. Clytaemnestra therefore conspired with Aegisthus to kill both Agamemnon and
Cassandra. Fearing, however, that they might
arrive unexpectedly, she wrote Agamemnon a
j. Hera had rescued Agamemnon from the fi
erce storm which destroyed many of the
n. The Spartans claim that Agamemnon is buried at Amyclae, no more than a small
village, where are shown the tomb and statue of
Clytaemnestra, also th
of Cassandra; the inhabitants even believe that
he was killed there. But the truth is that
Agamemnon’s tomb stands among the ruins of My
his comrades murdered with him by
1. The myth of Agamemnon, Aegisthus, Clytaem
stylized a dramatic form that its origins are almo
st obliterated. In tragedy of this sort, the clue
is usually provided by the manner of the king’s
3. ‘ Zeus Agamemnon’, ‘very resolute Zeus’,
will have been a divine title borne not
azomene; and, presumably,
also by the kings of a Danaan
4. The thirteenth day, also observed as a fe
, had corresponded with the full moon at a ti
me when the calendar month was a simple
lunation. It seems that the sacrifice of the ki
ng always took place at the full moon. According
The Vengeance Of Orestes
accompanied Clytaemnestra and Iphigeneia to Au
lis. But some say that Clytaemnestra sent
b. After hiding for awhile among the shephe
Argolis from Laconia, the tutor
made his way with Orestes to
the court of Strophius, a firm
isa, at the foot of Mount Parnassus. This
Strophius had married Agamemnon’s sister Astyoch
ea, or Anaxibia, or Cyndragora. At Crisa,
Orestes found an adventurous playmate, namely
Strophius’s son Pylades, who was somewhat
younger than himself, and their friendship was de
stined to become proverbial. From the old
tutor he learned with grief that Agamem
hastily buried by Clytaemnestra, without either
libations or myrtle-boughs; and that the
idden to attend the funeral.
years, riding in Agamemnon’s chariot,
e. Thus, neglected by Clytaenmestra, who ha
f. Orestes, now grown to manhood, visited th
g. In the eighth year—or, according to some,
after a passage of twenty years—Orestes
i. When the slave-women told Orestes of
Clytaemnestra’s dream, he recognized the
serpent as himself, and declared that he woul
from her false body. Then he instructed Electra to enter the Palace and tell Clytaemnestra
j. Clytaemnestra at once welcomed Oreste
s inside and, concealing her joy from the
drawing his sword and cutting him down. Clytaemne
ling to his filial duty; Orestes, however,
me sword, and she fell be
paramour. Standing over the corpses, he addresse
off the sons of Nauplius, who had come to
l. Some say, however, that these events t
s went at once to the altar where the bull
with the sacrificial axe. Meanwhile, Electra
, to whom he presented the head, enticed
n. Others, though agreeing that the murder t
ook place at Argos, say that Clytaemnestra
sent Chrysothemis to Agamemnon’s tomb with the libations, having dreamed that
Agamemnon, restored to life, snatched his sceptre from Aegist
firmly in the ground that it budded and put forth branches, which overshadowed the entire
Clytaemnestra was that Orestes had been accide
Clytaemnestra with his own hands, say that
he committed her for trial by the judges, who conde
mned her to death, and that his one fault,
if it may be called a fault, was that
1. This is a crucial myth with numerous va
riants. Olympianism had been formed as a
2. Matrilineal inheritance was one of the
axioms taken over from the pre-Hellenic
religion. Since every king must necessarily be a
their mother as the main support of the kingdom,
and matricide as an unthinkable crime. They we
re brought up on myths of
3. The antiquity of the Orestes myth is evident from his friendship for Pylades, to
whom he stands in exactly the same relation as
of his reign, and became the new king by ma
rriage to Chrysothemis, Clytaemnestra’s
in Aeschylus, Sophocles, and
ss Hera, while cutting
myrtle-boughs; and despatched, like the Minos bull,
with a sacrificial axe. Geilissa’s rescue of
Orestes (‘mountaineer’) in a robe ‘embroidered w
the tutor’s stay among
5. How far, then, can the main features of
the story, as given by the Attic dramatists,
be accepted? Though it is improbable that the Er
innyes have been wantonly introduced into
the myth—which, like that of Alcmaeon and Eri
phyle, seems to have been a moral warning
against the least disobedience, injury, or insu
6. It seems, then, that this myth, which was
of wide currency, had placed the mother of
family dispute arose,
did so by making Orestes not mere
ly commit Clytaemnestra to trial, but kill her himself, and
in the most venerable court of Gr
ilarly encouraged Alcmaeon to murder his
and for all, to invalidate the
religious axiom that motherhood is
7. In the revision patrilocal marriage and pa
trilineal descent are taken for granted, and
the Erinnyes are successfully defied. Electra, w
hose name, ‘amber’, sugges
ts the paternal cult
of Hyperborean Apollo, is favourably contrasted with Chrysothemis, whose name is a
reminder that the ancient concept of matriarcha
l law was still golden in most parts of Greece,
acted for the mother only; and Aeschylus is
). Apollo’s threat of leprosy if Orestes
did not kill his mother, was a most
all the Erinnyes accept Apollo’s Delphic ruling,
and Euripides appeases his female audience
d been most unwise (
Electra
contrives to kill Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra, are of interest only as proving that the
Classical dramatists were not bound by tradition.
Theirs was a new version of an ancient myth;
and both Sophocles and Euripides tried to impr
ove on Aeschylus, who first formulated it, by
making the action more plausible.
The Trial Of Orestes
his unheard-of action would not allow
the bodies of Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus to li
e within their city, but buried them at some
tomb, lest anyone should dare rob it; but, during their vigil, the serp
nging their scourges. Driven to distraction by these fierce
attacks, against which Apollo’s bow of horn wa
s of little avail, Orestes fell prostrate on a
b. Old Tyndareus now arrived from Sparta,
matricide against
Orestes or Electra, and that bot
fire, and water. Thus Orestes was prevented even from washing his bloodstained hands. The
c. Meanwhile, Menelaus, laden with trea
, where a fisherman
told him that Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra ha
d been murdered. He sent Helen ahead to
confirm the news at Mycenae; but by night, lest
Troy should stone her. Helen, feeling ashamed to mourn in public for her sister Clytaenmestra,
now nursing the afflicted Orestes: ‘Pray, niece, ta
ke offerings of my hair and lay them on
Clytaenmestra’s tomb, after pouring libations to
had been prevented by vanity from cutting off more
do so. ‘Send your daughter Hermione instead,’
summoned Hermione from the palace. She had
mother eloped with Paris, and Menelaus had committed her to Clytaemnestra’s charge at the
she was told.
d. Menelaus then entered the palace, wher
eloquent plea of Orestes himsel
f, who was present in court and had the support of Pylades
desert either him or Electra,
tomb and holding her as a hostage for Me
entered the palace, with swords hidden beneat
h their cloaks, and took refuge at the central
to lay as a gift on Clytaemnestra’s tomb, was
deceived by their lamentations, and approached
to welcome them. Whereupon both drew their
Helen’s Phrygian slaves, Orestes attempted to
murder her. But Apollo, at Zeus’s command,
rapt her in a cloud to Olympus, where she be
came an immortal; joining her brothers, the
sailors in distress.
f. Meanwhile, Electra had secured Hermione
, led her into the palace, and barred the
men burst open the gates, and Orestes was just
g. With wool-wreathed laurel-branch and chaple
riod which must elapse before a homicide
may again move among his fellow-citizens. He
rlongs from Gythium, stands an unwrought
stone, named the stone of Zeus the Reliever,
relieved of his madness. He is said to have al
so been purified in seven streams near Italian
Rhegium, where he built a temple; in three tributaries of the Thracian Hebrus; and in the
j. Seven furlongs down the high road from
Megalopolis to Messene, on the left, is
madness on Orestes; also a small mound, surmo
Tomb. This marks the place where, in desperation, he bit off a finger to placate these black
goddesses, and some of them, at least, changed
restored. He then shaved his head at a near-
by sanctuary called Ace, and made a sin-offering
e white. It is now customary to sacrifice to
the latter conjointly with the Graces.
k. Next, Orestes went to live among the Azanes
and Arcadians of the Parrhasian Plain
ty formerly called Oresthasiu
m after its founder Orestheus,
son of Lycaon, changed its name to Oresteiu
m. Some, however, say that Oresteium was
formerly called Azania, and that he went to liv
e there only after a vi
ile in Epirus, where he founded the city of Orestic Argos and
gave his name to the
Orestae
d foothills of the Illyrian
l. When a year had passed, Orestes visite
kinsman Pandion; or, some say,
by Demophoön. He went at once
Acropolis, sat down, and embraced her image. Th
rrived, out of breath,
having lost track of him while he crossed the Is
to receive him, as being hated by the gods, pr
esently some were emboldened to invite him
into their homes, where he sa
nk from a separate wine cup.
accuse him to the Athenians, were soon
Clytaemnestra; also, some say, by Clytaenmestra’s
having heard Orestes’s supplication from Scam
hurried to Athens and, swearing-in the nobles
n. In due course the trial took place, Apollo
appearing as council for the defence, and
the eldest of the Erinnyes as public prosecutrix. In an elaborate speech, Apollo denied the
importance of motherhood, asserting that a woma
n was no more than the inert furrow in
which the husband man cast his seed
e name. When the voting proved equal, Athene
confessed herself wholly on the father's side,
fulfilment of
1. The tradition that Clytaemnestra’s Eri
nnyes drove Orestes mad cannot be dismissed
as an invention of the Attic dramatists; it was too early established, not only in Greece, but in
Melanesia, of killing a man w
ho has rashly or inadvertently
mad and leap from a coconut palm, or wrap his h
or drink until he dies of star
formed of his guilt. Paul would
have suffered a similar fate at Damascus but for the timely arrival of Ananias. The common
3. Wine instead of blood libati
ons, and offerings of small ha
whole crop, were Classical amendments on this
ritual of appeasement, the significance of
connected with the ancient habit of deceiving
ghosts by altering one’s normal appearance.
4. Euripides’s imaginative account of wh
at happened when Helen and Menelaus
5. Orestes’s name, ‘mountaineer’, has connected him with a wild, mountainous district
; the second is a theatrical
for the Rhodian cult
the Tree’, who is the same char
acter as Ariadne and the other
Erigone. This Erigone was also hanged.
The Pacification Of The Erinnyes
cated an altar to Warlike Athene; but the
Erinnyes threatened, if the judgeme
birth of children, and even seats in the Erechth
eum. If they accepted this invitation she would
from them might prosper; but they, in
b. With expressions of grat
itude, good wishes, and charms against withering winds,
drought, blight, and sedition, the Erinnyes—hen
ceforth addressed as the Solemn Ones—bade
matrons, and crones (dressed in purple, and ca
rrying the ancient image of Athene) to the
entrance of a deep grotto at the south-eastern
angle of the Areiopagus. Appropriate sacrifices
d. In the grotto of the Solemn Ones at At
only to the second-
ematurely mourned for dead—their three images
wear no more terrible an aspect than do those
of the Underworld gods standing beside them,
namely Hades, Hermes, and Mother Earth. Here
the Areiopagus sacrifice a black victim; numer
ous other offerings are brought to the Solemn
Ones in accordance wit Athene’s promise; and
e. The rites of the Solemn Ones are si
lently performed; hence the priesthood is
hereditary in the clan of the Hesychids, who o
ffer the preliminary sacrifice of a ram to their
ancestor Hesychus at his hero-s
f. A hearth-altar has also been provided for th
e Solemn Ones: Phlya, a small Attic township;
sacred to them near Titane,
on the farther bank
p are sacrificed, libations of
the usual myrtle wreaths. Similar rites are
performed at the altar of the Fa
te which stands in the oak-grove, unprotected from the weather.
1. The ‘hearts’ blood’ of the Erinnyes, with
which Attica was threatened, seems to be a
euphemism for menstrual blood. An immemorial
charm used by witches who wish to curse a
it, counter-sunwise, nine times, while in a
menstrual condition. This curse is considered
2. Philemon the Comedian did right to quest
ion the Athenian identification of the
Erinnyes with the Solemn Ones. According to the more respected authorities, there were only
three Erinnyes: Tisiphone, Alecto and Megaera,
who lived permanently in Erebus, not at
accepted the new view of fatherhood as superior
to motherhood, and consented to share their
grotto with such male underworld deities as Ha
des and Hermes, they w
whatsoever, and with it their traditional perquisites of first-fruits.
3. Second-fated men were debarred from en
goddesses, who might be expected to take offen
milar embarrassment is felt in
India when men recover from a
official existence and smuggled
the dead. The evergreen oak, also called the kern
(cochineal insects) from which the Greeks extrac
Apollo, suggests that, in the original myth, he
without success; as, in the my
th of Eriphyle, Alcmaeon went
reported to have found peace on the reclaimed silt of any
the Scamander—he will have met hi
Delphi, where he threw himself on the temple
floor and threatened to take his own life unles
s Apollo saved him from their scourgings. In
reply, the Pythian priestess or
dered him to sail up the Bos
d seized an ancient wooden image of Artemis
from her temple in the Tauric Chersonese, and
brought it to Athens or (some say) to Argolis.
c. Taurian Artemis has several Greek title
s: among them are Artemis Tauropolus, or
Tauropole; Artemis Dictynna; Artemis Orthia; Thoantea; Hecate;
and to the Latins she is
d. Now, Iphigeneia had been rescued from s
acrifice at Aulis by Artemis, wrapped in a
cloud, and wafted to the Tauric Chersonese, wh
ndling the sacred image. The Ta
as Artemis, or Hecate, or Orsiloche. Iphigene
ia loathed human sacrifice, but piously obeyed
is; they still believed that Iphigeneia had
they left at anchor, guarded by their oarsmen,
while they hid in a sea-cave. It was their intention to approach the temple at nightfall, but they
were surprised beforehand by some credulous
herdsmen who, assuming them to be the
Dioscuri, or some other pair of immortals,
fell down and adored them. At this juncture
Orestes went mad once more, bellowing like a cal
he mistook a herd
of calves for Erinnyes, and rushed from the
cave, sword in hand, to slaughter them. The
disillusioned herdsmen thereupon overpowered th
marched off to the temple for immediate sacrifice.
f. During the preliminary rites Orestes conve
identity, and on learning the na
ture of his mission, she began
to lift down the image for him to carry away.
Thoas, however, suddenly appeared, impatient
at the slow progress of the sacrifice, and the
g. Thoas, wholly deceived, stood for a time lost in admiration of
then began to purify the temple. Presently Ip
higeneia, Orestes, and Pylades conveyed the
image down to the shore by torchlight but, instead
of bathing it in the sea, hastily carried it
s, who had come with them, now suspected
oarsmen rowed the ship away. A sudden gale, however, sprang up, driving her back towards
idon calmed the sea at Athene’s
request; with a favouring breeze, they made the Island of Sminthos.
h. This was the home of Chryses, the priest of Apollo, and his grandson of the same
name, whose mother Chryseis now proposed to
i. But some say that a storm drove Orestes
childbed. According to this account, the ship fi
nally made port at Brauron, where Iphigeneia
deposited the image and then, while the temple was being built, went with Orestes to Delphi;
she met Electra in the shrine and brought he
marriage to Pylades.
j. What is claimed to be the authentic wooden image of Tauric Artemis may still be
seen at Brauron. Some, however, say that it is
afterwards, they add, it was pr
worship it to this day. Others, again, loth to allow credit to Xerxes, say that Orestes himself,
on his homeward voyage from the Tauric Chersonese, was driven by a storm to the region
now named Seleuceia, where he left the image;
named Mount Melantius,
m, Mount Amanon, that is ‘not mad’, in his memory. But the
Lydians, who have a sanctuary of Artemis Anäei
tis, also claim to possess the image; and so
do the people of Cappadocian Comana, whose city is
said to take its name from the mourning
tresses (
comai
en he brought the rites of Artemis
k. Others, again, say that Orestes concealed the image in a bundle of faggots, and took
himself died and was buried, his bones being later transferred to
Rome; and that the image was sent from Aricia
to Sparta, because the cruelty of its rites
displeased the Romans; and there placed
in the Sanctuary of Upright Artemis.
l. But the Spartans claim that the imag
foundation of Rome, Orestes ha
ving brought it with him wh
en he became their king, and
Menelaus went in search of
Orestes and, arriving among the Taurians shortly after he did, we
her: she helped Aegisthus to supplant and murd
2. Patriarchal Greeks of a later era will have
disliked this myth—a version of which,
making Menelaus, not Orestes, the object of
Artemis’s vengeance, has been preserved by
Photius. They exculpated Agamemnon of murd
er, and Artemis of opposing the will of Zeus,
and carried her away to be a sacrificial
priestess—not at Brauron, but among the savage
Taurians, for whose actions they disclaimed
r the matter of that, any Greek
victim) but, on the contrary, helped him to take th
3. This face-saving story, influenced by the myth of Jason’s expedition to the Black
the image from Colchis, not the Tauric
n of human throat-slitting at
extraction of a drop of blood from a slight cut,
and similar sacrifices at Mycenae, Aricia,
have once involved human sacrifice, were
held in honour of Upright Artemis. To judge from primitive practice elsewhere in the
Mediterranean, the victim was bound with willow-thongs, full of lunar magic, to the image—
a sacred tree-stump, perhaps of pear-wood, and flogged until the lashes induced an erotic
ilizing the land with semen
and blood. Alopecus’s name, and
ving similarly fallen from heaven—such as the
carefully worked Neolithic spear heads, identi
derbolts by the later
hidden in the head-dress worn by the image of
Ephesian Artemis. The images themselves,
such as the Brauronian Artemis and the oliv
e-wood Athene in the Erechtheum, were then
likewise said to have fallen from heaven, throu
image at Brauron contained an
ancient sacrificial knife of obs
idian—a volcanic glass from the
island of Melos—with which the victims’ throats were slit.
onese (the Crimea), seems forced; but
THE REIGN OF ORESTES
out to Electra as Orestes’s
from the altar and, not recognizing Iphigeneia
en Orestes himself entered and
ildren of Agamemnon then went
b. Some say that Iphigeneia died either at
sanctuary; others, that Artemis immortalized
Pylades, bore him Medon and
Strophius the Second;
married his cousin Hermione—having been present
at the sacrificial murder of Achilles’s son
c. When Menelaus died, the Spartans invite
d Orestes to become their king, preferring
him, as a grandson of Tyndareus, to Nicostratu
added a large part of Arcadia to his Mycenaean
domains, now made hims
elf master of Argos
as well; for King Cylarabes, grandson of Capane
us, left no issue. He also subdued Achaea but,
in obedience to the Delphic Oracle, finally em
igrated from Mycenae to Arcadia where, at the
snake bite at Oresteium, or Orestia, the town which he had
ign of Anaxandrides,
co-king with Aristo,
the same time, the
possess themselves of Orestes’s bones. Since the
further enlightenment. He was given th
e following response in hexameters:
Go thou Where two winds are ever
There all—teeming earth doth enclose
the prince whom thou seekest.
Bring thou him to the, house, and thus be Tegea’s master!
e. Lichas guessed that the winds mentioned
in the verses must be those raised by the
smith’s bellows; the strokes those of his ha
mmer; and the evil lying upon evil, his hammer—
d—for the Iron Age brought in crue
f. Pelops’s spear-sceptre, which his grandson Orestes also wielded, was discovered in
Phocis about this time: lying buried with a
h. Tisamenus meanwhile succeeded to his fath
er’s dominions, but was driven from the
1. Iphigeneia seems to have been a title of
the earlier Artemis, who was not merely
maiden, but also nymph—‘Iphigeneia’ means
‘mothering a strong race’—and crone, namely
the Solemn Ones or Triple Hecate. Orestes is sa
so many places that his
name must also be regarded as
at Arcadian Oresteia links him
with other primitive kings: such as Apesantus s
on of Acrisius, identifiable with Opheltes of
Nemea; Munitus son of Athamas; Mopsus the
Ra, an aspect of Osiris, also bitten by a Libyan
snake. These bites are always in the heel; in
some cases, among them those of Cheiron and Ph
2. Artemis’s rescue of Erigone from Oreste
s' vengeance is one more incident in the
e of a tribal ancestor, were regarded as a
magical means of protecting a city; thus the
Athenians, by oracular
what they claimed to be Theseus’s bones from
Scyros and brought them back to Athens).
These may well have been unusually large, because a race of giants—of which the Hamitic
Watusi who live in Equatorial Africa are an
offshoot—flourished in Neolithic Europe, and
as soon as anyone might possess an iron weapon or
tool, the age of myth came to an end; if
only because iron was not included among the fi
priestess; thus, according to Euripides, th
e spear with which Oenomaus was killed—
presumably the same instrument—was hidden in
Iphigeneia’s bedroom; Clytaemnestra then
claims to possess it (Sophocles:
to Phocis. The Greeks of Asia Minor were pleased to think that Ores
Aeolian colony there: his name being one of thei
r royal titles. They may have been relying on
a tradition that concerned a new stage in the
history of kingship: when the king’s reign came
d to sacrifice a surroga
te—an act of homicide
s second exile—after which he might lead a colony overseas.
The mythographers who explained that the Spar
because these were born of a slave-woman, did not realize that descent was still matrilineal.
Orestes, as a Mycenaean, could reign by marri
age to the Spartan heiress Hermione; her
brothers must seek kingdoms elsewhere. In
Argolis a princess could have free-born children
by a slave; and there was nothing to prevent
Electra’s peasant husband at Mycenae from
raising claimants for the throne.
6. The psalmist’s tradition that
n was the number of holiness, and ten of
perfection. Orestes similarly
7. Anaxandrides’s breach of the monogamic tradition may have been due to dynastic
soon before the end of his reign to warrant a
led by virtue of his marriage
substituted for him both as king and husband.
that there was already an Ac
haean kingdom in Lesbos during
the late fourteenth century.
The Birth Of Heracles
ELECTRYON, Son of Perseus, High Ki
marched vengefully against the Taphians and Teleboans. They had joined in a successful raid
on his cattle, planned by one Pterelaus, a claimant to the Mycenaean throne; which had
sons. While he was away, his nephew King
Amphitryon of Troezen acted as
regent. ‘Rule well, and when
b. Amphitryon, accompanied by Alcmene, fled to Thebes, where King Creon purified
him and gave his sister Pealmede in marriage
ing son, Licynmius, a
bastard home by a Phrygian woman named Midea.
But the pious Alcmene would not lie with
Amphitryon until he had avenged the death of he
r eight brothers. Creon therefore gave him
permission to raise a Boeotian army for this purpose, on condition that he freed Thebes of the
Teumessian vixen; which he did by borrowi
ng the celebrated hound Laelaps from Cephalus
Amphitryon overcame the Teleboans and Taphians, and bestowed their islands on his allies,
among them his uncle Heleius.
c. Meanwhile, Zeus, taking advantage of
Amphitryon’s absence, impersonated him
and, assuring Alcmene that her brothers
were now avenged—since Amphitryon had indeed
very morning—lay with her al
the length of three. For Hermes, at Zeus’s
command, had ordered Helius to quench the solar
fires, have the Hours unyoke his team, and sp
at home; because the
procreation of so great a champion as Zeus ha
d in mind could not be accomplished in haste.
Helius obeyed, grumbling about the good old times
and when Cronus, the then Almighty God, did not
leave his lawful wife and go off to Thebes
on love adventures. Hermes next ordered the Moon to go slowly, and Sleep to make mankind
happening. Alcmene, wholly deceived, listened
d. Nine months later, on Olympus, Zeus happene
d to boast that he had fathered a son,
ich means ‘Glory of Hera’, and
eus. Hera thereupon made him promise that any prince born
Alcmene’s door, with her clothing tied into kno
f. Now, unlike Zeus’s former human love
s, from Niobe onwards, Alcmene had been
selected not so much for hi
ll other women of her day in
beauty, stateliness, and wisdom—as with a
g. Some say that Hera did not herself hinder
Alcmene’s travail, but sent witches to do
so, and that Historis, daughter of Teiresias, de
ceived them by raising a cry of joy from the
birth chamber—which is still shown at Thebes—s
o that they went away and allowed the child
and a faithful handmaiden of Alcmene’s, the yell
birth chamber to announce, untrul
y, that Alcmene had been delivered. When Eileithyia sprang
Galanthis laughed at the successful deception—wh
ich provoked Eileithyia to seize her by the
uent Alcmene’s house, but was
henians. They hold that Galanthis was a
harlot, turned weasel by Hecate in punishment
for practising unnatural lust, who when Hera
month; but some hold that he
eat Bear, swinging westward at
midnight over Orion—which it does as the
Sun quits the Twelfth Sign—looked down on him
1. Alcmene {‘strong in wrath’
) will have originally been
a Mycenaean title of Hera,
against the encroachments of
her Achaean enemy Perseus (‘destroyer’). Th
e Achaeans eventually triumphed, and their
descendants claimed Heracles as a member
his garment for a sail. Heracles finds the magic
herb of immortality as Gilgamesh does, and is
similarly connected with the progr
3. Zeus is made to impersonate Amphitryon
a rebirth at his coronation, he became titularl
y a son of Zeus, and disclaimed his mortal
if disturbed, carry their young from place to place in
their mouths, like cats, gave rise to the legend of
the horrid performance of Thessalian witches di
sguised as weasels, Hecate’s attendants, and
Pausanias’s mention of human sacrifices o
ffered to the Teumessiau Vixen, recall Cerdo
said to have introduced Hera’s worship into
the Peloponnese. The Theban cult of Galinthias is a relic of primitive Hera-worship, and when
the witches delayed Heracles’s birth they will ha
ve been disguised as weasels. This myth is
more than usually confused; though it appears
that Zeus’s Olympianism was resented by
golis, and that the witches made a concerted
6. To judge from Ovid’s remark about th
e Tenth Sign, and from the story of the
Erymanthian Boar, which presents Heracles as
the Child Horus, he shared a midwinter
ods. The Theban year began at midwinter. If,
as Theocritus says, Heracles was ten months ol
d at the close of the twelfth, then Alcmene
bore him at the spring equinox, when the Italia
ns, Babylonians, and others, celebrated New
mined the birth chamber. The fourth day of the
month will have been dedicated to
the Olympic Games.
her newly-born child in a field outside
the walls of Thebes; and here, at Zeus’s ins
‘Look, my dear! What a wonderfully robust child!’
with a smile, telling her to guard and rear hi
m well. The Thebans still show the place where
b. Some, however, say that Herm
es to Olympus; that Zeus
himself laid him at Hera’s breast while she slept; and that the Milky Way was formed when
she awoke and pushed him away, or when he greedily sucked more milk than his mouth
short while; and the Thebans therefore style
him her son, and say that he had been Alcaeus
before she gave him suck, but was renamed in her honour.
eight or ten mont
say, one year, and was still unweaned, Alcmene
them to rest under a lamb-fl
illumined the chamber. Iphicl
es screamed, kicked off the
e. While Alcmene comforted the terror-s
tricken Iphicles, Amphitryon spread the
f.. When Heracles ceased to be a child, Am
phitryon taught him how to drive a chariot,
him fencing lessons, instructed
him in weapon drill, in cavalry and infantry tact
ics, and in the rudiment
Hermes’s sons became his boxing teacher—it was either Autolycus, or else Harpalycus, who
d face him. Eurytus taught him archery; or it
may have been the Scythian Teutarus, one of
Amphitryon’s herdsmen, or even Apollo. But
his companion Alcon, father of Phalerus the
Argonaut, who could shoot through a succession
g. Eumolpus taught Heracles how to sing and
play the lyre; while Linus, son of the
River-god Ismenius, introduced him to the study of literature. Once, when Eumolpus was
ons as well; but Heracl
which he had been grounded by Eumolpus, an
r murder, Heracles quoted a law of Rhadamanthys,
which justified forcible resistance to an ag
Nevertheless Amphitryon, fearing
that the boy might commit further crimes of violence, sent
him away to a cattle ranch, where he remained until his eighteenth year, outstripping his
contemporaries in height, strength,
en to be a laurel-bearer of
Ismenian Apollo; and the Theb
which Amphitryon dedicated for
him on this occasion. It is not known who ta
Olympian stadium, making it si
an unerring aim, both w
ith javelin and arrow.
e food was roast meat and Doric barley-cakes,
) to have made a hired labourer grunt ‘enough!’
augury led him especially to welcome the appearance of
vultures, whenever he was a
w Labour. ‘Vultures’, he would say, ‘are
the most righteous of birds: they do not at
tack even the smallest living creature.’
j. Heracles claimed never to have picked a quarrel, but always to have given
aggressors the same treatment as they intended fo
r him. One Termerus used
to kill travellers
by challenging them to a butting match; Heracles
Termerus’s head as though it
d the enemy their dead for burial.
ky Way was formed when Rhea forcibly
weaned Zeus. Hera’s suckling of Heracles is
a myth apparently base
ritual rebirth from the queen-mother.
2. An ancient icon on which the post-Homeric st
will have shown Heracles caressing them while
they cleansed his ears with their tongues, as
happened to Melampus, Teiresias, Cassandra,
and probably the sons of Laocoön.. Without
a Harpy to carry him off. The
icon has been misread by Pindar, or his informant,
as an allegory of the New Year Solar Child,
who destroys the power of Wint
er, symbolized by the serpents
. Alcmene’s sacr
to Zeus is the ancient midwinter one, sullyi
ng in the Christmas boar’s head of Old England.
Wild olive in Greece, like birch in Italy and
North-western Europe, wa
s the New Year tree,
symbol of inception, and used as a besom to expe
for his club, and brought a sapling to Olympi
a from the land of the Hyperboreans. What
Teiresias told Alcmene to light was the Ca
ndlemas bonfire, still lighted on February 2
many parts of Europe: its object being to bur
n away the old scrub and encourage young shoots
3. The cake-eating Dorian Heracles, as opposed to his cultured Aeolian and Achaean
predecessors, was a simple cattle-
the fifteenth-century
Malleus Maleficarum
: when the candidate for initiation into the archers’
guild was required to shoot at an object pl
aced on his own son’s cap—either an apple or a
silver penny. The brothers of Laodameia, compe
shoot through a ring placed on a child’s breast; but this myth must be misreported, since
child-murder was not their object. It seems that
the original task of
5. Greek and Roman archers drew the bow-string back to the chest, as children shoot,
e javelin remained the chief missile weapon of
the Roman armies until the sixth century AD,
when Belisarius armed his cataphracts with
heavy bows, and taught them to draw the st
Heracles’s accurate marksmanship is therefor
Teutarus the Scythian—the name
is apparently formed from
which the ordinary Greek archer does not seem to have done. It may be because of the
Scythians’ outstanding skill with the bow that th
ey were described as Heracles’s descendants:
Scythes, the only one of
IN his eighteenth year, Heracles left the ca
wife Megamede, daughter of Arneus, as
gay as any in Thespiae. Fearing that they might
his priestess in the shrine at Thespiae: for to this day the
Thespian priestess is required to be chaste. Bu
Procris, the eldest, bearing him the twins
atched it with an untrimmed club cut from a
himself in its pelt and wore
fifty maidens with whom the Celtic god Bran
(Phoroneus) lay in a single night—must have
goddess, to whom the lion-pelted sacred king
had access once a year during their erotic orgies
around the stone phallus called Eros (‘erotic
desire’). Their number corresponded with th
number of Latin Vestals who guarded the phalli
c Palladium and who seem to have celebrated
a similar annual orgy on the Alban H
ill, under the early Roman monarchy.
espius’s daughters bore Heracles twins:
namely, a sacred king and his tani
st. The mythographers are confus
to reconcile
the earlier tradition that Heracles
married the youngest daughter—matrilineal
ultimogeniture—with the patrilineal rights of pr
imogeniture. Heracles, in Classical legend, is
a patrilineal figure; with the doubtful exception of
4. Pausanias, dissatisfied with the myth,
writes that Heracles
himself—as though he were a god—so early in
identify the King of Thespiae with the Thespiads’
marriage tasks imposed on the candidate for kingship.
5. Heracles cut his club from the wild-olive, the tree of the first month, traditionally
used for the expulsion of evil spirits.
wounded the Minyan King Clymenus
. Clymenus was carried b
ack, dying, to Orchomenus
enge him. The eldest
whose mother was the Boeotian princess Budeia
, or Buzyge, mustered an army, marched
against the Thebans, and utterly defeated them.
By the terms of a treaty then confirmed with
oaths, the Thebans would pay Erginus an annual
tribute of one hundred cattle for twenty years
in requital for Clymenus’s death.
c. When Erginus instructed King Creon at
Thebes to surrender the author of this
e Minyans had disarmed Thebes; nor could
d. Presently, the Minyans marched against Th
ebes, but Heracles ambushed them in a
ns. This victory, won almost
single-handed, he exploited by making a sudden
descent on Orchomenus, where he battered
down the gates, sacked the palace, and compe
Thebes. Heracles had also blocked up the two large tunnels built by the Minyans of old,
s to immobilize the cavalry
of the Minyans, their most
formidable arm, and carry war into the hills,
om Colchis. After many years spent in
recovering his former prosperit
y, he found himself rich indeed, but old and childless. An
oracle advising him to put a new shoe on the ba
1. Heracles’s treatment of the Minyan hera
lds is so vile—a he
universally held sacrosanct, with whatever in
solence he might behave—that he must here
2. According to Strabo, certain natural limestone channels which drained the waters of
the Cephissus were sometimes blocked and
at other times freed by earthquakes; but
Plain became a marsh, despite th
e two huge tunnels which had
Pelasgians—to make th
more effective. Sir James Frazer, who visited
d with stones in ancient times, perhaps by the
Thebans who destroyed Orchomenus in 368 BC, put
all the male inhabitants to the sword, and
sold the women into slavery (
). Recently a British company has drained the
marshland and restored th
3. When the city of Thebes was in danger, the Theban Oracle frequently demanded a
; but only in a fully patriarchal soci
4. ‘Heracles the Horse-binder’ may refer to his capture of Diomedes’s wild mares, and
all that this feat implied.
5. Athene Girder-on-of-Arms was the earlie
r Athene, who distributed arms to her
chosen sons; in Celtic and German myths, the
giving of arms is a ma
triarchal prerogative,
properly exercised at a sacred marriage.
Madness Of Heracles
HERACLES’ defeat of the Minyans made hi
m the most famous of heroes; and his
reward was to marry King Creon’s eldest da
protector of the city;
while Iphicles married the youngest
daughter. Some say that Heracles
e, four, or even eight. They are known as the
b. Heracles next vanquished Pyraechmus,
King of the Euboeans, an ally of the
Minyans, when he marched against Thebes; and
place called the Colts of Pyraechmus, which gi
ves out a neighing echo whenever horses drink
him mad. He first a
mistaking six of his own children for enemies,
shot them down, and fl
d. When Heracles recovered his sanity, he s
hut himself up in a dark chamber for some
days, avoiding all human intercourse and then,
after purification by King Thespius, went to
thoness, addressing him for the first time as
Heracles, rather than Palaemon, advised him to
perform whatever Labours might be se
t him, in payment for which he
would be rewarded with immortality. At this, Heracl
es felt into deep despair, loathing to serve
a man whom he knew to be far inferior to hims
e. Some, however, hold that it
as his charioteer, or shield-bearer.
1. Madness was the Classical Greek excuse for
child-sacrifice; the truth being that the
after he had lain hidden for twenty four hours
in a tomb, shamming death, and then reappeared to claim the throne once more.
2. The death of Pyraechmus, torn in two by w
ild horses, is a familiar one. Heracles’s
title Palaemon identifies him with Melicertes of Corinth, w
ho was deified under that name;
Melicertes is Melkarth, the Lord of the City, th
e Tyrian Heracles. The eight Alcaids seem to
have been members of a swor
d-dancing team whose performan
ce, like that of the eight
morris-dancers in the English Christmas Play, e
nded in the victim’s resurrection. Myrtle was
the tree of the thirteenth twenty-eight day mo
rture; wild-olive, the
tree of the first month, symbolized inception.
Electryon’s eight sons may have formed a
similar team at Mycenae.
3. Heracles’s homosexual relations with
accounts of his lustrous armour, are meant to ju
stify Theban military custom. In the original
himself. His twelve Labours,
Servius points out, were eventually equated with the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac; although
Homer and Hesiod do not say that there were twelve of them, nor does the sequence of
e Celtic God of the Year, celebrated in the
Irish
, the Pelasgian Heracles seems to
have made a progress through a
thirteen-month year. In Irish and Welsh myth
the successive emblems were: stag, or bull;
er; bonfire; spear; salmon; hill
ilgamesh epic are related to the signs of the
Zodiac, and the Tyrian Heracles had much in
common with him. Despite Homer and Hesiod,
the scenes pictured on ancient shields seem not
to have been dazzling works of art, but rough
pictograms, indicative of the
4. The occasion on which the twelve Olym
pians heaped gifts on Heracles was
doubtless his sacred marriage, and they will have all been presented to him by his priestess-
bride—Athene, Auge, Iole, or whatever her name happened to be—either directly, or by the
es was being armed for his Labour
ritual combats and magical feats.
The Nemean Lion
THE First Labour which Eurystheus imposed
on Heracles, when he came to reside at
Tiryns, was to kill and flay the Nemean, or Cleonaean lion, an enormous beast with a pelt
b. Although some call this lion the offspr
ing of Typhon, or of the Chimaera and the
lene created the lion from sea foam enclosed
in a large ark; and that Iris,
rdle, carried it to the Nemean mountains.
These were named after a daughte
still shown about two miles
from the city of Nemea.
e. Heracles reached Nemea at midday, but since the lion had depopulated the
direct him; nor were any tr
searched Mount Apesas—so called after Apesantus, a shepherd whom the lion had killed;
though some say that Apesantus was a son of Acri
f. Carrying the carcass on his shoulders, Heracles returned to Cleonae, where he
g. For a while, Heracles was at a loss how to
flay the lion, until by divine inspiration,
he thought of employing its own razor-sharp claws, and soon could wear the invulnerable pelt
h. The honours received by Heracles from the c
ity of Nemea in recognition of this feat,
his side in the Elean War, and
fell to the number of three hundred and sixty.
As for Molorchus, he founded the near-by city
the Nemean Wood, where the Nemean Games are now held.
man to strangle a lion in th
ose days. The same feat was
accomplished by his friend Phylius as the first of three love-tasks imposed on him by Cyenus,
catch alive several mons
trous man-eating birds,
not unlike vultures, and after wrestling with a fier
ce bull, lead it to the altar of Zeus. When all
three tasks had been accomplished, Cyenus fu
rther demanded an ox which Phylius had won
as a prize at certain funeral games. Heracles advised Phylius to refuse this and press for a
1. The sacred king’s ritual combat with w
ild beasts formed a regular part of the
coronation ritual in Greece, As
of the year. Their number varied
with the calendar: in a three-seasoned year, they consisted,
like Chimaera, of lion, goat, and serpent—hence
Chimaera’s child by Orthrus the
seasonal changes, according to Euripides’s
of Phanes (see described in
; or bull, lion, eagle, and seraph, as in Ezekiel’s
i); or, more simply, bull, lion, scorpi
es. These last four appear, from the First,
his finger in fighting the lion; Ptolemy
is more probable that he bit
it off to placate the ghosts of his children—as Orestes did when pursued by his mother’s
Erinnyes. Another two-mouthed cave is mentioned incidentally in
eonaeans suggests a
calendar mystery—this
being the number of days in th
e sacred Egyptian year, exclusive
enemy Oenopion of Hyria,
bronze urn underground and emerge
d, he will have made an
bitten in the heel by a viper. He may be
identified with Opheltes of Nemea, though what
related.
The Second Labour: The Lernaean Hydra
a monster born to Typhon and Echidne, and reared by Hera as a menace to Heracles.
miles from the city of Argos. To the west
c. This fertile and holy dist
rict was once terrorized by the
beneath a plane-tree at the seven-fold s
ource of the river Amymone and haunted the
unfathomable Lernaean swamp n
failed—the grave of many an incautious travelle
and eight or nine snaky heads, one of them i
mmortal; but some credit it with fifty, or one
the smell of its tracks, could destroy life.
d. Athene had pondered how Heracles might
best kill this monster and, when he
reached Lerna, driven there in his chariot by Io
laus, she pointed out the Hydra’s lair to him.
On her advice, he forced the Hydra to emerge by
monster twined around his
to trip him up. In vain did he batter at its h
eads with his club: no sooner was one crushed, than
e. An enormous crab scuttered from th
e swamp to aid the Hydra, and nipped
racles severed the immortal head, part
The carcass he disembowelled, and
Henceforth, the least wound
from one of them was invariably fatal.
1. The Lernaean Hydra puzzled the Classica
l mythographers. Pausanias held that it
might well have been a huge and ve
nomous watersnake; but that ‘
Pisander had first called it
me time, add to the
’. According to the euhemeristic Servius (On Virgil’s
out and inundate the land: if
one of its numerous channels were blocked,
2. In the earliest version of this
myth, Heracles, as the aspira
gold from the water-monster living in its depth.
the Eurotas. The dog-like body is a reminiscence
headed monster (on a late Babylonian cylind
er-seal) which the hero Gilgamesh kills.
y so as to make Heracles’s Twelve Labours
with the Nemean lion, the next Sign.
3. This ritual myth has become attached to
that of the Danaids, who were the ancient
water-priestesses of Lerna. The number of head
college of priestesses it had fifty heads; as the sacred cuttle-fish,
4. Heracles’s destruction of the Hydra seems to record a historical event: the attempted
new priestesses always appeared in the plane-
Persephone. There was a separate cult of
from Oenoe to Mycenae. This swift, dappled
her a stag. She was sacred to
Artemis who, when only a child,
, one after the other, with her own hands, and harnessed them
to her chariot; the fifth fled across the river
Celadon to the Ceryneian Hill, as Hera intended,
already having Heracles’s Labours in mind. Acco
rding to another account, this hind was a
masterless monster which used to ravage the
struggle, sacrificed to Artemis
on the summit of Mount Artemisium.
Heracles performed this Labour without
ed her tirelessly for one whole year, his chase taking him as
far as Istria and the Land of the Hyperboreans
Mount Artemisium, and thence
racles pinned her forelegs
om most of the others. Historically it may
record the Achaean capture of a shrine wher
e Artemis was worshipped as Elaphios (‘hind-
like’); her four chariot-stags re
present the years of the Olympi
ad, and at the close of each a
victim dressed in deer-skins was hunted to death.
Artemis’s nurse, which means Artemis herself
(Pausanias). Mythical
seems to concern Heracles the Dactyl, iden
tified by the Gauls with Ogmius (Lucian:
experts in these very mysteries. According to
because apples were offered to him, presumably in recognition of his wisdom; but such
wisdom came only with death, and his pursuit of
the hind, like his visit to the Garden of the
Hesperides, was really a journey to the Celtic
2. In Europe, only reindeer does have horns, and reports of these may have come down
from the Baltic by the Amber Route; reindeer, unlike other deer, can of course be harnessed.
4. Nights of promiscuous revel were held
Alban Holiday at Rome: a concession to archaic sexual customs which preceded monogamy.
THE Fourth Labour imposed on Heracles was
to capture alive the Erymanthian Boar:
a fierce, enormous beast which haunted the
cypress-covered slopes of Mount Erymanthus,
b. Heracles, passing through Pholoë on his way to Erymanthus where he killed one
rtained by the Centaur Pholus, whom one of the ash-nymphs
quivering in Cheiron’s knee. Distressed at the acc
ident to his old friend,
Heracles drew out the
arrow and though Cheiron himself supplied the ru
various directions: some with Eurythis to Pholoë; some
with Nessus to the river Evenus; some to Moun
t Malea; others to Sicily, where the Sirens
destroyed them. Poseidon received the remainde
r at Eleusis, and hid them in a mountain.
Among those whom Heracles later killed was Homadus the Arcadian, who tried to rape
ng insult offered to an enemy, Heracles won
great fame.
e. Pholus, in the meantime, while burying his dead kinsmen, drew out one of
Heracles’s arrows and examined it. ‘How can so robust creature have succumbed to a mere
scratch?’ he wondered. But the arrow slipped fr
om his fingers and, piercing his foot, killed
him the and then. Heracles broke off the pursu
g. According to some accounts,
his left foot, while he and Pholus and the young Achilles were entertaining Heracles on
1. Boars were sacred to the Moon because of their crescent—shaped tusks, and it
seems that the tanist who killed and emasculate
when he did so. The snow drift in which the Erymanthian Boar was overcome indicates that
this Labour took place at midwinter. Here Heracles is the Child Horus and avenges the death
2. It is probable that Heracles’s battle wi
th the Centaurs, like the similar battle at
presented the ritual combat be
establish his sovereignty, he shot to each of th
ky, and a fifth straight up
also of Achilles, Cheiron’
s pupil: all of them Magnesian
sacred kings, whose souls the Sirens naturally received. The presence of Centaurs at Malea
er than half horse. Their presence at Eleusis,
where Poseidon hid them in a mountain, suggests
proceedings.
HERACLES’S Fifth Labour was to cleanse King Augeias’s filthy cattle yard in one
for many years, and though its poisonous stench not
affect the beasts themselves, it spread a
c. Heracles hailed Augeias from afar, a
d. On the advice of Menedemus the Elean, and
es first breached
diverted the neighbouring rivers Alpheus and
Peneius, or Menius, so that their streams ru
went on to cleanse the sheep-fol
hus Heracles accomplished this
iling so much as hi
Augeias, on being informed by Copreus that
Heracles had already been under orders from
Eurystheus to cleanse the cattle yards, refused to
pay the reward and even dared deny that he
e. Heracles suggested that the case be s
f. Phyleus then went to Dulichium; and Heracl
es to the court of Dexamenus, King of Olenus,
whose daughter Mnesimache he later rescued from the Centaur Eurytion.
1. This confused myth seems to be founded on the legend that Heracles, like Jason,
was ordered to tame two bulls, yoke them, clean an overgrown hill, then plough, sow, and
reap it in a single day—the usual tasks set a ca
Celtic versions of the myth, but of dung—probably
because the name of Eurystheus’s herald, who delivered the order, was Copreus (‘dung-man’).
Sir James Frazer commenting on Paus
anias, quotes a Norse tale, ‘
” in which a
prince who wishes to win a giant’s daughter mu
st fix three stables. For each pitch-fork of
upside-down the handle. He does so, and the stab
the original version, Athene may have given He
racles this advice; more likely, however, the
Norse tale is a variant of this Labour. Augeia
s’s cattle are irrelevant to the story, except to
account for the mass of dung to be removed. Cattle manure, as the myth shows, wasn’t valued
by Greek farmers. Hesiod, in his
Works and Days
, does not mention it; and H. Mitchell
) shows that the cattle on fallow
land is prohibited in several
ancient leases. The dog Argus did, indeed, lie on a midden used for dunging the land
), but wherever the Odyssey may have b
een written—and it certainly was not on the
Greek mainland—the references to agriculture a
2. The Fifth Labour, which properly con
and the Seventh, namely the capture of Poseidon
HERACLES’S Sixth Labour was to rem
ove the countless brazen-beaked, brazen-
clawed, brazen-winged, man-eating birds, sacred
Wolves’ Ravine on the Orchomenan Road, had flocked to the Stymphalian Marsh. Here they
bred and waded beside the river of the same
name, occasionally taking to the air in great
flocks, to kill men and beasts by discharging a sh
ower of brazen feathers and at the same time
muting a poisonous excrement, which blighted the crops.
himself unable to drive away the birds with hi
s arrows; they were t
oo numerous. Moreover,
the marsh seemed neither solid enough to s
upport a man walking, nor liquid enough for the
use of a boat. As Heracles paused irresolutely on the bank, Athene gave him a pair of brazen
c. Stymphalian birds are the size of cranes,
and closely resemble ibises, except that
d. According to some accounts, the so-c
alled Stymphalian Birds were women:
daughters of Stymphalus and Ornis, whom He
racles killed because they refused him
hospitality. At Stymphalus, in the ancient temple of Stymphalian Artemis, images of these
birds are hung from the roof, and
of maidens with birds’ legs.
Here also Temenus, a son of Pelasgus, founded th
was worshipped as Child, because Temenus had r
eared her; in the second as Bride, because
she had married Zeus; in the third as Widow, b
marriage—task sequence but glorifies him as th
e healer who expels fever demons, identified
in size considerably whenever the
underground channel which carried away its waters became locked, as happened in
Pausanias’s time; and Iphicratus, when besiegin
. It may well be that in one version of the
story Heracles drained the marsh by freeing the
3. The myth, however, seems to have a hi
storical, as well as a ritual, meaning.
Bride, and Crone, took refuge at Stymphalus, af
ter having been driven from Wolves’ Ravine
by invaders who worshipped Wolfish Zeus;
expulsion, or massacre, of the
Stymphalian Birds as the suppressi
tribe of Achaeans. The name
Stymphalus suggests erotic
may have been sun-stroke demons, kept
at bay by bark spine-protectors,
beaked ostriches, which the
, ‘white heron’, is the Greek name for spoon-bill; an ancestor of
Herod the Great is said to have been a temple
slave to Tyrian Heracles (Africanus, quoted by
Ecclesiastical History
), which accounts for the family name. The spoon-bill is
closely related to the ibis, another marsh-bir
d, sacred to the god Thoth, inventor of writing;
r of learning, which made Tyre
famous (
ram of Tyre excha
Solomon.
1. The combat with a bull, or a man in bull’
s disguise—one of the ritual tasks imposed
Jason and the fire-breathing bulls of Aeëtes. When the immortality implicit in the sacred
lth’) became a common rite both
in Arcadia (Pausanias) and L
form of a lion and a serpent.
king to fertilize the land in the name of the
Moon-goddess by making rain—the magical explan
thunderstorms, which
, or bull-roarers, were accordingly swung to induce. Torches
were also flung to simulate lightning a
nd came to suggest the bull’s fiery breath.
2. Dionysus is called Plutodotes (‘w
ealth-giver’) because of his
a bull, which was primarily a water charm; he
mares of Thracian King Diomedes—it is disputed
b. With a number of volunteers, Heracles set sail for Thrace, visiting his friend King
Admetus of Pherae on the way. Arrived at Tiri
da, he overpowered Diomedes’s grooms and
ea, where he left them on a
knoll in charge of his mignon
outnumbered, he overcame them by ingeniously
cutting a channel which caused the sea to
run, he pursued them, stunned Diomedes with
Opus in Locris, was employed
by Diomedes. Some call him the son of Hermes;
and others the son of
Heracles’s friend,
a sacrificial horse feast, seems to have
been a coronation rite in some regions of Gr
eece. Heracles’s mastery of Arion—a feat also
performed by Oncus and Adrastus (Pausani
Pegasus. This ritual myth has here been co
mbined with a legend of how Heracles, perhaps
representing the Teans who seized Abdera fr
om the Thracians (Herodotus), annulled the
custom by which wild women in horse-masks used
to chase and eat the sacred king at the end
of his reign; instead he was killed in an or
ganized chariot crash. The omission of chariot-
racing from the funeral games at
revised sacrifice.
called after Podarge the Harpy, mother of Xant
ls Lampon, one of Eos’s team. Diodorus’s
uits were often described as the work
of Heracles.
The Ninth Labour: Hippolyte’s Girdle
b. The Amazons were children of Ares by th
Phrygian Acmonia; but some call their mother A
er of Ares. At first
they lived beside the river Amazon, now name
d after Tanais, a son of the Amazon Lysippe,
who offended Aphrodite by his scorn of marri
Aphrodite caused Tanais to fall in love with hi
s mother; but, rather than yield to an incestuous
passion, he flung himself into the river and drow
the river Thermodon,
which rises in the lofty Amazonian mountains. Th
ere they formed three tribes, each of which
c. Then as now, the Amazons reckoned descent only through the mother, and Lysippe
had laid it down that the men must perform a
the women fought and
governed. The arms and legs of infant boys were
capacitate them for
women, whom the Scythians call
for justice or decency, but were famous warri
Paphlagonian land from the Bebrycans;
this he restored to Lycus, who renamed it
Heracleia in his honour. Later, Heracleia was
them to plant a colony beside the Black
f. Arrived at the mouth of the river Therm
Themiscyra, where Hippolyte paid him a visit
and, attracted by his muscular body, offered
him Ares’s girdle as a love gift. But Hera
had meanwhile gone about
, disguised in Amazon
dress, spreading a rumour that these strange
incensed warrior-women mounted their horses
moved her girdle, seized her axe and other
weapons, and prepared to defend himself. He
killed each of the Amazon leaders in turn,
putting their army to fli
g. Some, however, say that Melanippe was
ambushed, and ransomed by Hippolyte at
i. Sailing thence to Troy, Heracles rescue
d Hesione from a sea-monster; and continued
to sea again, shot and killed on the Aenian
beach Poltys’s insolent brother Sarpedon, a son of
k. Amazons are still to be f
from Themiscyra at the same time as their ne
ighbours, the Gargarensian
s. When they reached
Gargarensians who, because they have no mean
r paternity, distribute
them by lot among their huts. In recent times,
the Amazon queen Minyt
l. These Amazons of the Black Sea must
be distinguished from Dionysus’s Libyan
allies who once inhabited Hespera, an island
in Lake Tritonis which was so rich in fruit-
over to Cerne, captured the city; she then put
every man to the sword, enslaved the women
and children, and razed the city walls. When th
e remaining Atlantians agreed to surrender, she
treated them fairly, made friends with them a
nd, in compensation for their loss of Cerne, built
n. Myrine contrived to escape—her dead
lie buffed under three huge mounds, still
called the Mounds of the Amazons—and, after trav
ersing most of Libya, entered Egypt with a
new army, befriended King Horus, the son of Is
Some hold that it was these Libyan Amazons, no
t those from the Black Sea, who conquered
after selecting the most suitable sites in her new empire,
founded a number of coastal ci
ties, including Myrine, Gyme,
nds, notably Lesbos, where she
built the city of Mitylene, named after a sister
who had shared in the campaign. While Myrine
the islands, a storm overtook her fl
ir fight, and she was killed. The Amazon army
mete—the gold-guardi
overcame being Ladon—and that she may also have
nd, a wild mare, and
cloud before he contrived to win her maidenhead.
2. A tradition of armed priestesses still linge
red at Ephesus and other cities in Asia
Minor; but the Greek mythographe
rs, having forgotten the former existence of similar
ties in Greece itself, sent Hera
girdle to the Black Sea, who matriarchal tribes
were still active. A three-tribe system is the
3. Admete is another name for Athene, who
must have appeared the icons standing by,
under arms, watching Heracles’s f
eats and helping him when in difficulties. Athene was Neith,
ne or Marienna, who gave her name to
the city of the gynocratic Lemnians; and
whom the Trojans worshipped
as ‘Leaping Myrine’ (Homer:
). ‘Smyrna’ is ‘Myrine’
na, the Sumerian form, means ‘High fruitful
Artemis was fertility-goddess.
in a storm and saved by the Mother of the
Samothrace—because she was herself the
ors from shipwreck. Much the same mother-
goddess was anciently worshipped in Thrace, the region of the river Tanais (Don), Armenia,
s’s expedition to Amazonia, a myth modelled
on that of Heracles, confuses the issue and has tempted mythographers to invent the fictitious
invasion of Athens by Amazons
6. Stephanus of Byzantium (sub Paros) record
nians, whom Ezekiel calls Gog (
Ezekiel
had already acquired a fairy-tale lustre; it is es
tablished, however, that in the third millennium
BC Neolithic emigrants went out from Libya
in all directions, probably expelled by an
9. According to Apollonius Rhodius, Titias was “
(“fingers”) who dispense doom
’. He names another Dactyl ‘Cyllenius’. I have shown (
White
) that in finger-magic Titias, the Dactyl, re
presented the middle finger; that Cyllenius,
alias Heracles, was the thumb; and that Dascyl
his name implies. These three raised, while the
fourth and little finger
are turned down, made
the ‘Phrygian blessing’. Originally given in Myrine’s name, it is now used by Catholic priests
in that of the Christian Trinity.
10. Tityus, whom Apollo killed, may be a doubl
11. So much for the mythical elements of
the Thermodon and his wars in My
far back as the middle of the second millennium BC; a the intrusion of Minyans from Iolcus,
Aeacans from Aegina, and Argives in these waters suggests that though Helen may have been
beautiful, and may have eloped
of ships, but mercantile intere
Diomedes the Argive were among the Greek al
lies of Agamemnon who insisted that Priam
should allow them the free passage through th
as Laomedon’s had been, and for the same reason. Hence the
dubious Athenian claims to have been represente
Menestheus, Demophon, and Acaman. These
were intended to justify their eventual contro
l of Black Sea trade which the destruction of
Troy and the decline of Rhodes had allow them to seize.
The Tenth Labour: Th
e Cattle Of Geryon
Europe, one in Africa. Some hold that the two c
ontinents were formerly joined together, and
c. Helius beamed down upon Heracles who, find
ing it impossible to work in such heat,
d. On his arrival, he ascended Mount Abas. The dog Orthrus rushed at him, barking,
m lifeless; and Eurytion, Ge
ryon’s herdsman, hurrying to
Orthrus’s aid, lied in the same manner. Heracles
then proceeded to drive away the cattle.
some describe it as an island beyond the Ocean stream, others place it off the coast of
Lusitania. Still others identify it with the island
island, but on the mountain slopes of the fart
her part of Spain, confronting the Ocean; and
whose three strong and courageous sons helped him in the defence of his kingdom, each
leading an army recruited from warlike races. To
confront these, Heracles assembled a large
entified with Mount Calpe in Europe, and
rs make them the islets near Gades, of which the larger is
sacred to Hera. All Spaniards and Libyans, ho
wever, take the word ‘Pillars’ literally, and
place them in Gades, where brazen columns are
consecrated to Heracles, eight cubits high and
hundred miles beyond the straits, to
by unfavourable omens when they offered sacrifices, and
h. Some, however, deny that it
i. A temple of Heracles stands on the
Sacred Promontory in Lusitania, the most
ecinct by night, the time
j. How he then drove the cattle to Mycenae is
much disputed. Some say that he forced
Abyle and Calpe into temporary
nt bridge into Libya; but,
according to a more probable account he passed
k. When Heracles was driving Geryon’s cat
named Ialebion and Dercynus tried to steal them
from him, and were both killed. At one stage
lt down, in tears,
mould, he could find no stones to throw at
the enemy—Ligys, the brother of Ialebion, was
overshadowed the earth with a cloud, from whic
acles carved a road fit for his armies and
the ground inside gleamed white with the bones
of his victims. While Heracles
s by their tails into his lair.
that the cattle were
missing. After searching for them in vain, he wa
s about to drive the remainder onward, when
one of the stolen heifers mewed hungrily. Heracl
es traced the sound to the cave, but found the
entrance barred by a rock which ten yoke of oxen
could hardly have moved; nevertheless, he
bble and, undaunted by the smoky flames which
Cacus was now belching, grappled with
him and battered his face to pulp.
then built an altar to Zeus, at which he sacrificed
one of the recovered bulls, and afterwards ma
o. King Evander ruled rather by personal ascendancy than by force: he was
particularly reverenced for the knowledge of le
tters which he had imbi
p. According to the Romans, Heracles freed
King Evander from the tribute owed to the
to rest near the frontier of Rhegium and
Epizephyrian Locris and, being much disturbe
d by cicadas, begged the gods to silence them.
His prayer was immediately granted; and cicadas
away from the herd and, plunging
into the sea, swam over to Si
found it concealed among herds of Eryx, King of th
e Elymnians, a son of Aphrodite by Butes.
Eryx, who was a wrestler and a boxer, challenged
him to a fighting contest. Heracles accepted
his kingdom against the
the first events; finally, in the wrestling match, he
the air and dashed him
to the ground and killed him—which taught the
Sicilians that not everyone born of a goddess
is necessarily immortal. In this manner, He
racles won Eryx’s kingdom, which he left the
n descendants should come to claim it.
r. Some say that Eryx—whose wrestling-
ground is still shown—had a daughter named
on and Promachus. Having been reared in
Erymanthus, they renamed it Psophis after their mo
main. The hero-shrines of Echephron and
Promachus have long since lost their importa
racles came to a plain where now stands
honoured Heracles in the Plain of Leontini, he left undying memorial of his visit. Close to the
city of Agyrium, the hoof mark
nd imprinted on a stony road, as
though in wax; and, regarded as an intimation of
acknowledgement of their favours,
thence to the Peloponnese by way of the Isthmus.
g them across Thrace a
ld, stormy night drew
the lion pelt about him
and fell fast asleep on a rocky hillside. When
he awoke, he found that his chariot-mares,
ze, were likewise missing. He wandered far and
wide in search of them until he reached the wooded district called Hylaea, where a strange
being, half woman, half serpent, shouted at him
from a cave. She had his mares, she said, but
would give them back to him only if he beca
t-tailed woman embraced him
was free to go, asked him: ‘W
hat of the three sons whom I
now carry in my womb? When they grow to
v. ‘When they grow up, watch carefully!’ Hera
himself with this belt’—thus, as I now gird
myself—choose him as the ruler of
burned his hands. Gelonus was similarly reje
pon he carried home the four golden treasures
and the elder brothers agreed to yield him the kingdom.
s mares and most of the stra
yed cattle, drove them back
across the river Strymon, which he clammed w
further adventures until the giant herdsman
Corinthian Isthmus, hurled a rock at the army
no less than twelve chariots and double that number of horsemen. This was the same
e: from Erytheia, and from the citadel of
again, and this time hurled it at Heracles,
who bandied it back with his club and so killed
the giant; the very rock is still shown on the
Isthmus.
1. The main theme of Heracles’s Labours is
his performance of certain ritual feats
before being accepted as consort to Admete, or
Auge, or Athene, or Hippolyte, or whatever
the Queen’s name was. This wild Tenth Labour may originally have been
relevant to the same
theme, if it records the patr
iarchal Hellenic custom by wh
with the proceeds of a cattle raid. In Homeri
c Greece, women were valued at so many cattle,
ca. But other irrelevant elements have become
attached to the myth, including a visit to th
2. Pre-Phoenician Greek colonies planted in
Spain, Gaul, and Italy under Heracles’s
protection have contributed to the myth; and,
in the geographical sense, the Pillars of
3. In a mystical Celto-Iberian sense, however
, the Pillars are alpha
sacrifice of Cronus by the wild women (
). Since the Gorgons had a grove on
d by Pherecydes with the island of Gades—and since ‘trees’
in all Celtic languages mean
tricephalon
, meaning the same thing. ‘
recalls Torvos Trigaranus, the
felling a willow-tree. Geryon, a meaningless word in Greek, seems to be a worn-down form
of Trigaranus. Since alike in Gr
eek and Irish tradition cranes are
Hermes—Hermes is recorded to have
6. Verrius Flaccus seems to have been misre
ported by Servius; he is more likely to
not Cacus, was the name of Heracles’s
mother Carmenta suppressed the thirteen-con
the myth, represented by the English ballad of
three times, she turns into ‘
the fairest woman you ever did see
.’
7. The Alcyoneus anecdote seems to have be
s coronation ceremony.
HERACLES had performed these Ten Labours
b. Some say that Ladon was the offspring of
the youngest-born of Ceto and Phorcys; others
again, that he was a parthogenous son of
e Garden of the Hesperides lay, marched
river Po, the home of the oracular sea-god Nereus. On the way he
crossed the Echedorus, a small Macedonian st
ream, where Cycnus, the son of Ares and
ed as Cycnus’s second, and manhailed the
e. Nereus had advised Heracles
not to pluck the apples hims
his agent, meanwhile relieving
him of his fantastic burden;
asked Atlas to do him this favour
almost any task for the sake of an hour’s
respite, but he feared Ladon, whom Heracles
receive the weight of the celes
f. After some months Heracles brought th
e apples to Eurystheus, who handed them
tling match, both combatants cast off their lion pelts, but
while Heracles rubbed himself with oil in th
e Olympic fashion, Antaeus poured hot sand over
his limbs lest contact with th
i. Some say that this conflict took place at
his father Zeus; but Zeus was loth to reveal
himself and, when Heracles persisted, flayed a
ram, put on the fleece, with the ram’s head hi
ding his own, and issued certain instructions.
Hence the Egyptians give their images of Ze
us Ammon a ram’s face. The Thebans sacrifice
rams only once a year when, at the end of Zeus’s
festival, they slay a single ram and use its
fleece to cover Zeus’s image; after which the wo
rshippers beat their breasts in mourning for
the victim, and bury it
in a sacred tomb.
k. Heracles then struck south, and f
honour of his birthplace; but some say that Osir
is had already founded it. All this time, the
had once been visited with drought and famine fo
Greek augurs to give him advice. His nephe
w, a learned Cyprian seer, named Phrasius,
Thrasius, or Thasius, son of Pygmalion, announced
that the famine would cease if every year
one stranger were sacrificed in
with Phrasius himself, and
afterwards sacrificed to him ch
in at Thermydrae, the harbour of Rhodian
Lindus, where he unyoked one of the bullocks from
a farmer’s cart, sacrif
on its flesh, while the owner stood upon a certain mountain and cu
rsed him from afar. Hence
the Lindians still utter curses when they sacrif
ice to Heracles. Finally he reached the Caucasus
es represent differe
constituted the Farthest West. One account pl
aced the scene of this Labour at Berenice,
formerly called the city of
the Hesperides (Pliny:
), Eusperides (Herodotus),
ations of the myth.
means both ‘sheep’ and
‘apple’), or sheep with a peculiar red fl
eece resembling gold, which were guarded by a
shepherd named Dragon to whom Hesperus’s
Heracles carried off the sheep (Servius on Virgil’s
s makes Hesperus a native of
abducted from their family orchard by Egyptian pr
iests; and Atlas, in gr
atitude, not only gave
him the object of his Labour, but taught him astr
onomy into the bargain. For Atlas, the first
astronomer, knew so much that he carried the
obe from him (Diodorus Siculus). Heracles did
indeed become Lord of the Zodiac, but the Titan astronomer whom he superseded was Coeus
found in ritual, rather than
allegory. It will be shown that the candidate for the kingship had to overcome a serpent and
e with the Hydra. But the gold
the form of golden apples—those were given
him at the close of his reign by
port to Paradise. And, in this
funerary context, the Serpent
was not his enemy, but the form
would assume after he had been sacrificed. Ladon was hundred-headed and spoke with
diverse tongues because many oracular heroes could
call themselves ‘Heracles’: that is to say,
ted to the service of Hera. The Garden of the
three Hesperides—whose names identify them w
5. Nereus’s behaviour is modelled on that
of Proteus, whom Menelaus consulted on
Pharos (Homer:
). Heracles is said to have ascended the Po, because it led to the Land
apped gifts from the Hyperboreans to Delos
came by this route (Herodotus). But though their land was, in one sense, Britain—as the
centre of the Boreas cult—it was Libya in another, and the Caucasus in another; and the
Paradise lay either in the Far West, or at the
back of the North Wind, th
which the wild geese flew in summertime. Heracl
grew at Tangier: ‘This must have been a
uld have killed him.
Heracles, who put up those enormous pillars
at Ceuta and Gibraltar!’ A wrestling match
ssociation linked Dodona and Ammon; and the Zeus
s father Zeus when passing through Libya;
later.
9. Curses uttered during sacrifices to Hera
cles recall the well—established custom of
cursing and insulting the king from a near-by hill
off divine jealousy. Roman generals were simila
rly insulted at their triumphs while they
impersonated Mars. But sowers also cursed th
e seed as they scattered it in the furrows.
es in Libya, and Iolaus restored him
Circuit of the Earth
Athenaeus. But it was the Tyrian Heracles Melkarth, whom the god Esmun (‘he whom we
meaning is that the year
the arrival of the quails from Sinai, and that qua
The Twelfth Labour: The
HERACLES’S last, and most difficult, Labour
Tartarus. As a preliminary, he went to Eleusis
wear the myrtle wreath. Nowadays, any Greek of
good repute may be initiated at Eleusis, but
since in Heracles’s day Athenians alone were admitted, Theseus suggested that a certain
Pylius should adopt him. This Pylius did so
slaughter of the Centaurs, because no one with
d view the Mysteries,
Eumolpus, the founder of the Gr
eater Mysteries, had decreed that no foreigners should be
admitted, and therefore the Eleusinians, loth
c. Thus cleansed and prepared, Heracles
us from Laconian
Taenarum; or, some say, from the Acherusian
peninsula near Heracleia on the Black Sea,
where marks of his descent are still shown at
Hermes—for whenever, exhausted by his Labours,
he cried out in despair to Zeus, Athene
always came hastening down to comfort him. Te
rrified by Heracles’s scowl, Charon fortied
him across the river Styx without demur; in punish
ment of which irregula
found his friends Theseus and Peirithous
fastened to cruel chairs, and wrenched Theseu
s free, but obliged to
leave Peirithous behind;
next, he rolled away the stone under which
e. When Heracles demanded Cerberus, Hade
grimly: ‘He is yours, if you can master him without
which rose three heads, each maned with serpents
protected by the lion pelt, did not relax
his grip until Cerberus choked and yielded.
f. On his way back from Tartarus, Heracles wove himself a wreath from the tree which
mere memorial to his mistress, the beautiful
nymph Leuce. The outer leaves of
the wreath remained black, because
that is the colour of the
aspen, is sacred to him: colour signifying that he has
g. With Athene’s assistance, Heracles recr
ossed the river Styx safely, and then half-
us up the chasm in Troezen,
conducted his mother Semele. In the temple of Saviour Artemis, built by Theseus over the
mouth this chasm, altars now st
fernal deities. At Tr
discovered by Heracles and called after him is
shown front of Hippolytus’s former palace.
dragged Cerberus, born with adamantine
the gloomy cave of Acone
the Black Sea. As Cerberus resisted averting hi
s eyes from the sunlight, and barking furiously
with all three mouths, his slaver
hecateis
, because Hecate was the first to
use it. Still another account is
that Heracles came back to the upper air through Taenarum, famous for its cave-like temple
with an image of Poseidon standing before it; but
if a road ever led thence to the Underworld,
it has since been blocked up. Finally, some say that reemerged from the precinct of
nds an image of Bright-eyed Heracles.
j. Besides the aconite, Heracles also discovered the following simples: the all-heal
heracleon
or ‘wild origanum’; the Siderian
, with its thin stem, red flower, and leaves like the
rs, and is an excellent remedy for all wounds
inflicted by iron; and the
, or henbane, which causes
Nymphaean
, which has a club-like root, was name
d after a certain nymph deserted
sy; it makes men impotent for the space of twelve days.
1. This myth seems to have been deduced from an icon which showed Heracles
of the Dead welcomed him in the form of
a three-headed monster—perhaps with one h
apples, led him away to the Elys
ian Fields. Cerberus, in fact,
was here carrying off Heracles; not contrariwise.
The familiar version is a logical result of his
elevation to godhead: a hero must
remain in the Underworld, but a god will escape and take
his jailer with him. Moreover, deification of
2. The Greater Eleusinian Mysteries were of
3. The Lesser Mysteries, which became a preparation for the Greater, seem to have
early in February at Candlemas, when the
trees first leaf—which is the meaning of
Anthesterion.
4. Now, since Dionysus was identified with Osiris, Semele must be Isis; and we know
that Osiris did not rescue Isis from the Unde
rworld, but she, him. Thus the icon at Troezen
will have shown Semele restoring Dionysus to
the upper air. The goddess who similarly
of Alcestis was probably deduced from the same
icon—he is led, not leading. His emergence in
the precinct of Mount Laphystius makes an
interesting variant. No cavern exists on the summ
it, and the myth must refer to the death and
resurrection of the sacred king which was celebrated there—a rite that helped to form the
legend of the Golden Fleece.
manufacture of their flying ointment: it humbed th
from Stymphalus, became credited with its discovery.
Hyginus arrange the Twelve Labours in the same
order as Apollodorus, except that they both
place the Fourth before the Third, and the Sixth be
fore the Fifth; and th
at Diodorus places the
Twelfth before the Eleventh. Nearly all mythographers agree that the killing of the Nemean
Lion was the First Labour, but in Hyginus’s sequence of ‘the Twelve Labours of Heracles set
), it is preceded by the strangling of the serpents. In one place,
another, with the Eleventh. And while some write
rs make Heracles sail with the Argonauts in
his youth (Silius Italicus); others place this a
dventure after the Fourth Labour (Apollonius
t some make him perform the
Ninth (Valerius Flaccus:
he was then serving as Queen Omphale’s
itiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries
8. Albricus lists the following Twelve Labo
urs in this order, with allegorical
explanations: defeating the Centaurs at a we
rescuing Alcestis from
Tartarus and chaining Cerberus; winning the appl
es of the Hesperides; destroying the Hydra;
ng the mares of Diomedes; defeating Antaeus;
9. Various Labours and bye-works of Heracles were represented on Apollo’s throne at
Amyclae (Pausanias); and in the
e Spartan acropolis (Pausanias).
Praxiteles’s gable sculptures on the Theban shri
Labours, but the Stymphalian Birds were mi
ssing, and the wrestling match with Antaeus
replaced the cleansing of Augeias’s stables. The evident desire of so many cities to be
rs suggests that much the same
ritual marriage-task drama,
as a preliminary to coronation, wa
s performed over a wide area.
compare with me and my sons as an archer,’
use magic arrows, which cannot miss their mark.
This contest is void, and I would not, in any
case, entrust my beloved daughter to such
a ruffian as yourself! Moreover, you are
y blows from a free man.’ So saying, he drove
b. Three of Eurytus’s sons, namely Didae
on, Clytius, and Toxeus, had supported their
‘Look about you!’ he demanded, ‘and tell
‘I cannot see them,’ Iphitus admitted.
‘Then you have falsely accused me in your he
!’ Heracles roared,
distraught with anger, and hurled him to his death.
r would any of his sons, except the youngest,
Hippolytus, to purify him at Amyclae. However,
he still suffered from evil dreams, and went
d of them. The Pythoness
‘You murdered your guest,’ she said. ‘I
‘Then I shall be obliged to institute an or
acle of my own!’ cried Heracles. With that,
man from his Canopic namesake,’ the Pythoness
said severely as he carried the tripod from
the shrine; she meant that the Egyptian Heracles
had once come to Delphi and beha
d. Up rose the indignant Apollo, and fought Heracles until Zeus parted the combatants
with a thunderbolt, making them cl
must be sold into slaver
‘Whose slave am I to be?’ asked Heracles humbly.
purchase you,’ Xenoclea replied.
suffering upon me and all his family too!’ Some
Apollo heard that it
had been taken to the
city of Pheneus, he punished the Pheneans by
blocking the channel which Heracles had dug to
carry the heavy rains,
and flooded their city.
e. Another wholly different account of thes
e events is current
according to which
Lycus the Euboean, son of Poseidon and Dirce
attacked Thebes during a time of sedition,
Lycus tried to seduce Megara and, when she re
sisted him, would have killed her and the
pparently records a Do
3. The Pythoness’s reproach seems to mean that the Dorians, who had conquered the
Peloponnese, called themselves ‘Sons of Heracles’,
and did not show her the same respect as
their Achaean, Aeolian, and Ionian predecessors, whose religious ties were with the
gyptian Delta, rather than w
ith the Hellenic cattle-kings;
Zeus’s daughter by Lamia and
called ‘Sibyl’ by the Libyans over whom she ruled (Pausanias; Euripides:
).
Cicero confirms this view when he denies that
Alcmene’s son (i.e. th
On the Nature of the Gods
). Attempts were
later made, in the name of religious decenc
HERACLES was taken to Asia and offered for sale as a nameless slave by Hermes,
patron of all important financia
afterwards handed the purchase money of
itus’s orphans. Nevertheless,
d, according to some authorities, the
e kingdom by her unfortunate husband Tmolus,
son of Ares and Theogone. While out hunting
on Mount Carmanorium—so called in honour
of Carmanor son of Dionysus and Alexirrhoë,
who was killed there by a wild boar—he fell in
love with a huntress named Arrhippe, a chaste
attendant of Artemis. Arrhippe, deaf to
Tmolus’s entreaties, fled to her mistress’s temple
where, disregarding it
elf from a beam, after invoking Artemis,
c. Among the many bye-works which Heracles
performed during this servitude was
were twin brothers named either Passalus and
Acmon; or Oius and Eurybatus; or Sillus and
Theia, and the most accomplished cheats and liars known to
mankind, who roamed the world, continually practising new deception. Theia had warned
them to keep clear of Heracles and her word
d. Some say that the Cercopes were eventua
lly turned to stone for trying to deceive
Zeus; others, that he punished their fraudulence by changing them into apes with long yellow
hair, and sending them to the Italian islands named Pithecusae.
them to dig his vineyard; but Heracles tore
from Itone began plundering Omphale’s country,
rmer, a bastard son of King Minos, who would
offer hospitality to wayfarers but force them to
river Sagaris, Heracles shot
was destroying men and crops; and the grateful
Omphale, having at last discovered his
identity and parentage, released
him and sent him back to Tiryns
, laden with gifts; while Zeus
contrived the constellation Ophiuchus to commemo
way, was named after a son of Myndon and Alexirrhoë who, driven mad by the Mother of the
s and insulting her eunuch priests, drowned himself in its
g. Omphale had bought Heracles as a lover rath
three sons, namely Lamus; Agelaus, ancesto
r of a famous King Croesus who tried to
immolate himself on a pyre when the Persians
Laomedon. Some add a
had discarded his lion pelt and his aspen
wreath, and instead wore jewelled necklaces,
i. What, however, had happened was no more
than this. One day, when Heracles and
Omphale were visiting the vine
yards of Tmolus, she in a purple, gold-embroidered gown,
them from a high hill. Falling in love with
Omphale, he bade farewell to the mountain-
e alone shall be my love!’
Omphale and Heracles reached
otto, where it amused them to
a dawn sacrifice to
Dionysus, who requires marital purity from his
devotees on such occasions. At midnight, Pan
crept into the grotto and, fumbling about in
Omphale’s couch, because the sleeper was clad in silk. With trembling hands he untucked the
bed-clothes from the bottom, and wormed his
way in; but Heracles, waking and drawing up
one foot, kicked him across the grotto. Heari
ng a loud crash and a howl, Omphale sprang up
and called for lights, and when these came she
and Heracles laughed until they cried to see
Pan sprawled in a comer, nursing his bruises.
summons his officials naked to his rites; it
spreading the rumour that his whimsical exchan
ge of garments with Omphale was habitual
1. Carmanor will have been a title of Adonis, also killed by a boar. Tmolus’s
desecration of the temple of Artemis cannot be
e order that Heracles
should compensate Eurytus for his son’s murder.
Both events, however, seem to be historical
in origin. It is likely that Omphale stands
who awarded the compensation, making Heracles a
temple-slave until it should be paid, and
that, ‘Omphale’ being also the name of a L
changed by the mythographers, to su
2. The Cercopes, as their various pairs of names show, were
, or Spites, coming
in the shape of delusive and mischievous dr
eams, and could be foiled by an appeal to
Heracles who, alone, had power over the Nightma
re. Though represented at first as simple
ghosts, like Cecrops (whose name is another form of
cercopithecoi
Pillars, from which Carthaginian merchants brou
3. The vine-dressers’ custom of seizing and killing a stranger at
Syria and Asia Minor; and a similar harvest
sacrifice took place both there and in Europe.
Sir James Frazer has discussed this subject
. Heracles is here credited
with the abolition of human
sacrifice: a social reform on which the Greeks pr
ided themselves, even when their wars grew
4. Classical writers made Heracles’s servitude to Omphale an allegory of how easily a
strong man becomes enslaved by a lecherous a
nd ambitious woman; and that they regarded
the navel as the seat of female passion sufficien
tly explains Omphale’s name in this sense.
But the fable refers, rather, to an early stage
in the development of th
matriarchy to patriarchy, when the king, as the
for her in ceremonies and sacrif
this was the system at Lagash in early Sumerian
affairs with slaves
enic origin and made a virtue of
AFTER serving as a slave to Queen Omphale,
Heracles returned to
follows. He and Telamon, either on their way back from the country of the Amazons, or when
they landed with the Argonauts at Sigeium, ha
d been astonished to find Laomedon’s daughter
jewels, chained to a rock on th
e Trojan shore. It appeared
that Poseidon had sent a sea-monster to puni
sh Laomedon for having failed to pay him and
Apollo their stipulated fee when they built the city walls and tended his flocks. Some say that
he should have sacrificed to them all the cattle
born in his kingdom that year; others, that he
had promised them only a low wage as day-labour
ers, but even so cheated them of more than
thirty Trojan drachmae. In revenge, Apollo se
nt a plague, and Poseidon ordered this monster
by spewing sea water over them. According to
another account, Laomedon fulfilled his obliga
therefore sent the plague as well as the monster.
b. Laomedon visited the Oracle of Zeus
Hesione on the seashore for the monster to devour
the city, and offered to destroy the
d. With Athene’s help, the Trojans then bui
lt Heracles a high wall which served to
protect him from the monster as
On reaching the wall, it opened its great jaws an
d Heracles leaped fully-armed down its throat.
He spent three days in the monster’s belly,
and emerged victorious,
cost him every hair on his head.
e. What happened next is much disputed.
Some say that Laomedon gave Hesione to
Heracles as his bride—at the same time persua
ding him to leave her, and the mares, at Troy,
, after the Fleece had be
en won, his cupidity
f. The most circumstantial
version, however, is that Laomedon cheated Heracles by
whereupon Heracles threatened to make war
on Troy, and put to sea in a rage. Fi
e he prophesied Laomedon’s doom;
. 4. Laomedon, in the meantime, had killed
to Sicilian merchants which come to buy victims
sta, lay with the river Crimissus, who took
the form of a dog—and bore him a son, Aegestes,
called Acestes by the Latins. This Aegestes,
he brought from Troy,
founded the cities of
named after his wife;
i. Heracles had found Telamon at Salamis
feasting with his friends. He was at once
invited to pour the first libati
the ships, while he himself
led the other champions in an assault on the c
ity. Laomedon, taken by surprise, had no time to
marshal his army, but supplied the common folk
first to breach the wall and enter was Telam
father Aeacus as the weakest spot, but Heracl
es came hard at his heels, mad with jealousy.
Telamon, suddenly aware that Heracles’s draw
the presence of mind to stoop and collect some
large stones dislodged from the wall. ]What
Heracles the Victor, Heracles the Averter of
Illness!’ answered the resourceful Telamon.
thanked him briefly, and raced on. He then shot down Laomedon and all his sons, except
Podarces, who alone had maintained that Heracl
e immortal mares; and
rewarded Telamon with the hand of Hesione,
whom he gave permission to ransom any one
‘Very well,’ said Heracles. ‘But first he must be
sold as a slave.’ So Podarces was put up for
sale, and Hesione redeemed him with the golden veil which bound her head: hence Podarces
won the name of Priam, which means ‘redeemed’.
But some say that he was a mere infant at
the time.
ft its highways desolate, Heracles set Priam on the throne,
and put to sea. Hesione accompanied Telamon to Salamis, where she bore him Teucer;
m. Some say that Oides did not fall at
Troy, but was still alive when five Erinnyes
drove his grandson Alcmaeon mad.
His tomb is shown in Arcad
n. Heracles now sailed from the Troad, taki
ng with him Glaucia,
river Scamander. During the siege, she had be
en Deimachus’s mistress, and when he fell in
to a son named Scamander.
o. Now, while Sleep lulled Zeus into drowsiness, Hera summoned Boreas to raise a
storm, which drove Heracles far off his course to
suppliant to Night, whom even Zeus dared not
the gods about Olympus. Some say that it was
wrists to the rafters, tying anvils to her ankles; and hurled Hephaestus down to earth. Having
thus vented his ill-temper to th
acles from Cos and led
him back to Argos,
where his adventures ar
p. Some say that the Coans mistook him for a
by pelting his ship with stones. But he forced
assault, and killed the king, Eurypylus, a s
on of Poseidon and Astypalaea. He was himself
despatched. Others
say that he attacked Cos because he had fallen
in love with Chalciope, Eurypylus’s daughter.
q. According to still another account, five
of Heracles’s six ships foundered in the
worsted them; after which he was purified of th
eir blood and, still dressed in women’s clothes,
married Chalciope, by whom he became the father
an bridegrooms wear
women’s clothes when they welcome their br
ides home—as the priest of Heracles at
Antimacheia also does before he begins a sacrifice.
Hera honoured them with horns like cows; but so
me say that this was a punishment inflicted
on them by Aphrodite for daring to
win their battle against the giants. Thence he
came to Boeotia where, at his insistence, Scamander was elected king. Scamander renamed
the river Inachus after himself, and a near-by st
ream after his mother Glaucia; he also named
the spring Acidusa after his wife, by whom he
under the name of ‘Maidens’.
h, or pre-Homeric, city of Troy: probably by
upported by Lelegians, when a timely earthquake
overthrew its massive walls. From the legend of
the Golden Fleece we gather that Laomedon
had opposed Lelegian as well as Minyan mercantil
way to bring him to reason was to destroy hi
Scamander plain where the East-West fair wa
Black Sea enterprises of the same sort. Heracl
by Perseus’s rescue of Andromeda, is
clearly derived from an icon common in Syri
Sea-monster Tiamat, an emanation of the goddess Ishtar, whose power he annulled by
by Tiamat, and disappears for three days before
brew moral tale appare
ntly based on the same
the Whale’s belly; and so Mar
Babylon, spent a period in demise every y
Tiamat. Marduk’s or Perseus’s white solar ho
rse here becomes the reward for Hesione’s
rescue. Heracles’s loss of hair emphasizes his
solar character: shearing of the sacred king’s
locks when the year came to an end, signified
the reduction of his magical strength, as in the
story of Samson. When he reappeared, he had no more hair than an infant. Hesione’s ransom
of Podarces may represent the Queen—mother of
Seha’s (Scamander?) intervention with the
her scapegrace son Manapadattas.
3. Phoenodamas’s three daughters represen
three-cornered island of Sicily. The dog was sacr
ed to her as Artemis, Aphrodite, and Hecate.
Greek-speaking Sicilians were a
ttached to the Homeric epics, like the Romans, and equally
anxious to claim Trojan ances
ds. Scamander’s three daughters
represent the same goddess in Boeotia. Glaucia’
s bearing of a child to Scamander was not
), Trojan brides used to bathe in the
river, and cry: ‘Scamander, take my virginity!’;
which points to an archaic period when it was
women’s dress by the bridegroom, when he
welcomed his bride home, seems to be a conces
sion to the former matrilocal custom by which
she welcomed him to her house, not contrariwi
se. A cow-dance will have been performed on
Cos, similar to the Argive rite honouring
the Moo-goddess Io. At Antimacheia, the sacred
king was still at the primitive stage of being the Queen’s deputy, and obliged therefore to
wear female dress.
5. Laomedon’s mares were of the same breed as those sired at Troy by Boreas.
ch seems to be the sole authority for a
Boeotian Inachus, or Scamander.
or Molionides, after their mother, to
distinguish them from those of the other Acto
r, who married Aegina. They were twins, born
from a silver egg, and surpassed all their cont
emporaries in strength; but, unlike the Dioscuri,
c. Heracles did not cover hims
elf with glory in this Elean
the Moliones routed his army, which was encamp
intervened by proclaiming the Isthmian Tr
uce. Among those wounded by the Moliones was
; his friends carried him fainting to Phencus in Arcadia, where
he eventually died and became a hero. Thre
onensians also died
them he ceded the honours awarded him by the
Nemeans after he had killed the lion. He now
e. Afterwards, hearing that the Eleans we
at the Third Isthmian Festival, and that the Mo
mes and take part in
the sacrifices, Heracles ambushed them from a
her sons, and made the Eleans demand
satisfaction from Eurystheus,
cles was a native of Tiryns. When
Eurystheus disclaimed responsibility for the
misdeeds of Heracles, whom he had banished,
l Argives from the Isthmian Games until
a curse on every Elean who might take part in th
e festival. Her curse is still respected: no
Elean athlete will ever enter for the Isthmian Games.
g. Heracles now borrowed the black-maned hor
se Arion from Oncus, mastered him,
raised a new army in Argos, Thebes, and Arcadia, and sacked the city of Elis. Some say that
h. About this time, Heracles won his title of
ydameia, who founded the city of Lepreus in
i. After the conquest of Elis,
Heracles assembled his army at
establish the famous four-yearl
om the sun. Heracles ther
k. Some say that Heracles won all the even
ring. The match was drawn, Zeus revealed himsel
cheered, and the full moon s
gend is that the Olympic Games were founded by Heracles
the Dactyl, and that it was he who brought the
wild olive from the land of the Hyperboreans.
racles the son of Alcmene refounded the
Games: for an ancient walled gymnasium is shown at Elis, where athl
forty-nine and fifty months,
according to the calendar, and now lasts for five days: from the eleventh to the fifteenth of the
laim an absolute armistice throughout Greece
for the whole of this month, and no athlete is permitted to attend who has been guilty of any
the Festival was managed by the Pisans; but,
o. On the northern side of the Hill of Cronu
custom commemorates a miracle which drove aw
the holy land of Elis: an unknown woman came to
and gave it to them as their champion. They
1. This myth apparently records an unsuccessful Achaean invasion of the Western
Peloponnese followed, at the close of the th
irteenth century BC, by a second, successful,
invasion which has, however, been confused with
the Dorian invasion of the eleventh century
BC—Heracles having also been a Dorian hero.
The murder of Eurytion may be deduced from
the same wedding-icon that showed the killing of
channel is paralleled by similar feats in Elis, Boeotia, and Thrace; and the honours paid to the
hundred and sixty are the number of
reach Europe until the first century BC.
referred to the eat
ing of an ox by his
worshippers.
4. Sosopolis must have been the ghost of
Cronus after whom the hillock was called,
and whose head was buried on its northern slopes, to protect the stadium which lay behind it,
near the junction of the Cladeus and Alpheius. His British counterpart Bran similarly guarded
Tower Hill, commanding London. The spring equinox, when fawns are dropped, occurs
during the alder-month of the tree-calendar,
New Year began at the spring solstice, as in
e King of the old year,
the wild women, or ‘Queens’; Heracles the
Dactyl belongs to this cult. The Pelopians se
arrived with their solar char
iot and porpoise, making the
funeral games celebrate the
midsummer murder and suppression of Zeus,
revenged himself on the tanist at midwinter. In
Classical times, therefor
e, the Elean New Year
was celebrated in the summer. The mention of Pe
s mixed with water to plaste
called the Green Zeus, or Achilles, as well as Heracles.
5. Wild olive, used in Greece to expel old-
year demons and spites, who took the form
of flies, was introduced from Libya, where the
cult of the North Wind originated, rather than
the North. At Olympia, it will have been mistle
toe (or loranthus), not wild-olive, which the
sickle; wild-olive figu
girls’ footrace for the position of priestess to
Hera was the earliest event; but when the single
Great Year of nomina
permit a more exact synchronization of solar and
lunar time—the king reigned for one half of
of Sparta. It may be th
at a case of Siamese
force the metaphor. But Augeias’s division of Elis, reported
by Homer, shows that at a still la
oness of the Games,
meaning ‘Queen of the Moly’; the
where defied moon-magic.
She was also known as Agamede (‘very cunning’
); and this is the name of Augeias’s
ugs that grow on earth’ (Homer:
). In Classical
Greece, ‘Athene the Mother’ was a strange and
indecent concept and had to be explained
7. The mastery of Arion, it seems, formed
The Capture Of Pyllis
HERACLES next sacked and burned the city
the Pylians had gone
Gerania, but Neleus himsel
f escaped with his life.
b. Athene, champion of justice, fought fo
Poseidon, Hades, and Ares. While Athene enga
ged Ares, Heracles made for Poseidon, club
against trident, and forced him to give way. Ne
’s shield, dashing him headl
ong to the ground; then with a
Olympus, where Apollo spread soothing unguents
so he renewed the fight, until one of Heracles’s
arrows pierced his shot-rider, and forced him
off the field for good. Meanwhile, Heracles had al
three-barbed arrow.
e. Neleus’s eldest son, Periclymenus
the Argonaut, was gifted by Poseidon with
boundless strength and the power of assuming what
remembering that Nestor had
taken no part in robbing him of
Geryon’s cattle; and soon came
to love him more even than Hylas and Iolaus
rst swore an oath by
e. The Eleans, though they themselves rebu
y among the claimants,
Eleans advanced on Pylus in full array—among them the two orphaned sons of the Moliones,
who had inherited their title—and crossed the
Plain from Thryoessa. But Athene came by
night to warn and marshal the Pylians; and when
battle had been join
foot, struck down Amarynceus, the Elean comma
nder and, seizing his chariot, rushed like a
black tempest through the Elean
men. The Moliones would also have fallen to
Poseidon wrapped them
f. A truce being then agreed upon, Amarynceu
s was buried at Buprasium, and awarded
funeral games, in which numerous Pylians t
Nestor himself, in garrulous old age, was the principal witness; since
who granted him the years of which his maternal
centuries, and no contemporary survived to gainsay him.
1. The capture of Pylus seems to
ra, Poseidon, Hades, and Ares,
Elis; the younger ones, Athene reborn from Zeus
them. Heracles’s defeat of Periclymenus, the
shape-shifter, may mark
New Year child-sacrifice; and Periclymenus’s
power to take the shape of any tree refers,
thirteen months through which the
east with a three-barbed arrow seems to
of the Western Peloponnese when the three tribes, who called
themselves Sons of Heracles, humbled the power of the Elean Goddess.
only refused to purify him afte
s, and fought against him under Neleus’s
command, but also murdered his friend, Oeonus. It
happened that Oeonus son of Licymnius,
who had accompanied Heracles to Sparta, was
him; in self-defence, he threw a stone
sons of Hippocoön and beat him with cudgels.
b. Having mustered a small army, Heracles
now marched to Tegea in Arcadia and
c. Thus Cepheus joined the expedition agains
t Sparta, in which, by ill forttree, he and
seventeen of his sons fell. Some say that Iphicles
is is likely to have
at Sparta, and sacrificed goats,
having no other victims at his di
sposal. The Spartans are thus
the only Greeks who surname Hera ‘Goat-eating’, a
Heracles also raised
a temple to Athene of the Just Deserts; and, on
Asclepius which commemorates the wound in th
Arcadians’, is remarkable for its statue of Heracles with
; and pseudo-myth is introduced to explain
such anomalies as Goat-eating Hera, Hollow
-of-the-Hand Asclepius, Heracles of the
Wounded Thigh, and Tegea’s long immunity from
capture. But Hera’s wild women had once
eaten Zagreus, Zeus, and Dionysus in wild-goat form; Asclepius’s statue probably held
medicines in the hollow of the
hand; the wound in Heracles’s thigh will have been made by a
boar; and the Tegeans may have displayed a
Gorgon’s head on their gates as a prophylactic
charm. To assault a city thus protected was, as
e maiden-goddess Athene:
2. Whenever Heracles leaves an Achaean, Aerolian, Sicilian, or Pelasgian city in trust
for his descendants, this is an attempted just
ification of its later seizure by the Dorians.
as, married Neaera, a daughter of Pereus,
who bore him Auge, Cepheus, Lycurgus, and Aphida
mas. An ancient shrine of Athene Alta,
b. When, on a visit to Delphi, Aleus wa
s warned by the Oracle that Neaera’s two
ed home and appointed Auge a
his way, and at Stymphalus
daughter of Stymphalus; But meanwhile pestile
nce and famine came upon Tegea, and Aleus,
informed by the Pythoness that a crime had been committed in Athene’s sacred precinct,
d. Auge’s son was suckled by a doe on Mount Parthenius (where he now has a sacred
precinct) and some cattle-men found him, named
him Telephus, and took
him to their master,
King Corythus. At the same time, by a coincidence, Corythus’s shepherds discovered
Atalanta’s intent son, whom she had borne to
Meleager, exposed on the same hillside: they
named him Parthenopaeus, which is ‘son of a
pierced maidenhead’, because Atalanta was
e. When Telephus grew to manhood, he approach
parents. He was told: ‘Sail and seek King Te
uthras the Mysian.’ In Mysia he found Auge,
now married to Teuthras, from whom he learne
d that she was his mother and Heracles his
believe, for no woman had ever
borne Heracles a son so like
himself. Teuthras thereupon gave Telephus daug
hter Argiope in marriage, and appointed him
heir to the kingdom.
killed Hippothous and Nereus, his maternal
uncles, went silent and speechless to Mysia in se
arch of his mother. ‘The silence of Telephus’
became proverbial; but Parthenopaeus came with him as spokesman. It happened that the
Teuthras in desperation promised to resign it
to Telephus and give him his adopted daughter
in marriage, if only Idas were driven awa
y. Thereupon Telephus, with Parthenopaeus’s help,
d he know that she was his mo
memory, she took a sword into her bedroom
g. Others say that Telephus married Astyoche
h. This Teuthras, hunting on Mount Teuthras, once pursued a monstrous boar, which
fled to the temple of Orthosian Artemis. He
was about to force his way in, when the boar
cried out: ‘Spare me, my lord! I am the Godde
killed it, thereby offending Artemis so
1. …. a sacred king to ensure good crops. Relics of this custom were found in
Heracles’s temple at Rome, where his
bride was called Acca—counterpart of the
Peloponnesian White Goddess Acco—a
nd at Jerusalem where before the religious reforms of
the Exile, a sacred marriage seems to have
2. That Auge and her child drived in an ark to the river Caicus—a scene illustrated on
the altar of Pergamus, and on Permanence coin
s—means merely that the cult of Auge and
Telephus had been imported into Mysia by Teg
t to the New Year celebrations. Athene’s
subsequent change from orgiastic
bride to chaste warrior-maiden has confused the story: in
some versions Teuthras becomes Auge’s brideg
room, but in others he piously adopts her.
Hyginus’s version is based on some
late and artificial drama.
3. The myth of the golden boar refers part
ly to the curative properties of the
rhaps, to a Mysian custom of avenging the
lled by Apollo in the form of
representative, a man wearing a boar’s hide with golden tusks, was now spared if he could
Apollo’s sister Artemis. The kings of Tegea,
Auge’s birthplace, were, it seem
s, habitually killed by boars.
name of the spring, which may originally
have been sacred to a jay totem-clan.
Deianeira
AFTER spending four years in Pheneus, He
no legitimate sons, and no wife
promise to the ghost of
become apparent when Meleager died and Arte
mis turned his lamenting sisters into guinea-
fowl; for Dionysus then persuaded Artemis to le
b. Many suitors came to Oeneus
manding the hand of lovely
of war; but all abandoned their claims
when they found themselves in rivalry with
common knowledge that immortal Ac
serpent, and as a bull-headed man. Streams of
and Deianeira would rather have died than marry him.
ead his suit, boasted that if he married
Zeus for a father-in-law, but
his own Twelve Labours. Achelous (now in bull-headed form) scoffed at this, remarking that
Heracles, and that the Oracle of Dodona had inst
ructed all visitants to offer him sacrifices.
your mother is an adulteress!’
d. Achelous cast aside his green garment, and wrestled with Heracles until he was
Achelous became a bull and charged; Heracles
nimbly stepped aside and, catching hold of
e. After marrying Deianeira, Heracles
marched with the Calydonians against the
Thesprotian city of Ephyra—later Cichyerus
—he overcame and killed
King Phyleus. Among
by whom Heracles became the father of
Tlepolemus; though some say that Tlepolemus’s mother was Astidameia, daughter of
Amyntor, whom Heracles abducted in E
phyra, a city famous for its poisons.
sent word to his friend Thespius: ‘Keep
seven of your sons in Thespiae, send three to Thebes and order the remaining forty to
Demuchi, governed the city until recently. The
forces led to Sardinia by Iolaus included
kings came of different stock from the comm
planted olive-trees, and made it so fertile that
to undergo immense troubles to come in its
encouraged the Athenians to found that of
Ogryle. With the consent of the sons of Thespius
their second father,
he called the colonists after hims
elf, Iolarians; and th
ey still sacrifice to Father Iolaus, as
Persians do to Father Cyrus. It has been said th
at Iolaus returned to
variously named Eunomus, Eurynomus, Eunomus Ar
hands, and clumsily splashed it on his legs.
Heracles boxed the boy’s ears harder than he
the home of Amphitryon’s nephew Ceyx.
h. A similar accident had occurred at Phlius,
a city which lies east of Arcadia, when
i. Some say that Heracles wrestled against
Achelous before the murder of Iphitus,
which was the cause of his removal to Trachis;
from Tiryns. At all events, he
where the Centaur Nessus, claiming that he
was the gods’ authorized ferryman and chosen
because of his righteousness, offered, for a small fee, to carry Deianeira dry-shod across the
water while Heracles swam. He agreed, paid
river, and plunged in. Nessus, how
his arms; then threw her to
her. She screamed for help, and Heracles, qu
ickly recovering his bow, took careful aim and
st from half a mile away.
j. Wrenching out the arrow, Nessus told De
ianeira: ‘If you mix the seed which I have
spilt on the ground with blood from my wound, add o
Locrians, where he died of the wound; but
with its noisome smell—hen
l. By Deianeira, Heracles had already beco
me the father of Hyllus, Ctesippus, Glenus,
1. The story of Meleager’s sisters is told
to account for a guinea-fowl cult of Artemis
a representative of the pre-Olympian Battle-
goddess Athene, with whose sacred marriages in di
lous, like that of Theseus w
read as part of the royal marriage ritual. Bu
of which the sacred king won domination. A bull’
earliest times as the
id hold of it when he wrestled
either with an actual bull, or with a bull-masked opponent. The Babylonian hero Enkidu,
Gilgamesh’s mortal twin, and devotee of the Qu
een of Heaven, seized the Bull of Heaven by
the horns and killed it with his sword; and the winning of a
was a marriage-task
imposed on the Welsh hero Peredur in the
4. Eunomus and Cyathus will have been boy-vi
ctims: surrogates for the sacred king at
5. Nessus’s attempted rape of Deianeira recall
s the disorderly scenes at the wedding of
assault by the Centaur Eurytion. Since the Centaurs
were originally depicted as goat-men, the
icon on which the incident is based probably showed the Queen riding on the goat-king’s
celebrations of Northern Europe
, before her sacred marriage;
Eurytion is the ‘interloper’, a stock-character made familiar by the comedies of Aristophanes,
who still appears at Northern Gr
eek marriage festivities. The earli
est mythical example of the.
interloper is the same Enkidu:
he interrupted Gilgamesh’s sacred marriage with the Goddess
of Erech, and challenged him to battle. Anothe
r interloper is Agenor, who tried to take
Andromeda from Perseus at his wedding feast.
7. ‘Ozolian’ (‘smelly’), a nickname given to
Heracles In Trachis
STILL accompanied by his Arcadian allies, He
b. It seems that Phylas, Theiodamas’s successo
r, violated Apollo’s temple at Delphi.
Phylas and carried off his daughter Meda; she
bore him Antiochus, founder of the Athenian
deme
which bears his name. He then expelled
the Dryopians from their city on Mount Parnassus,
Delphi and dedicated them at the shrine as
slaves; but, Apollo having no use for them, they
of other fugitive compatriots, they built thre
e cities, Asine, Hermione, and Eion. Of the
remaining Dryopians, some fled to Euboea, others
only the men of Asine still pride themselves on
ancient image, and celebrate
mysteries in his honour every
er of King Lycaon, for fear of whom she
k; hence his name. Some say that Dryops himself brought his
people from the Thessalian river Spercheius to Asine, and that he was
the nymph Polydora.
e. Heracles now came to Itonus, a city of
Phthiotis, where the ancient temple of
Athene stands. Here he met Cycnus, a son of
Ares and Pelopia, who was constantly offering
iot duel with him. The ever-victorious Cycnus
the way, was not the Cycnus whom Ares had bego
tten on Pyrene and transformed into a swan
se he waylaid and carried off herds of
cattle which were being sent for sacrifice to
Delphi, incited Heracles
to accept Cycnus’s
made for him, the curiously wrought golden
breast-plate given him by Athene, and a pair
of iron shoulder-guards. Armed with bow and
g. Athene, descending from Olympus, now wa
, although empowered
by Zeus to kill and despoil Cycnus, he must do no more than defend himself against Ares and,
even if victorious, not deprive him of either
his horses or his splendid armour. She then
h. Some, however, say that Cycnus lived at
Amphanae, and that Heracles transfixed
him with an arrow beside the ri
ver Peneius, or at Pegasae.
i. Passing through Pelasgiotis, Heracles now came to Ormenium, a small city at the
foot of Mount Pelion, where King Amyntor re
fused to give him his daughter Astydameia.
‘You are married already,’ he said, ‘and have be
trayed far too many princesses for me to trust
ity and, after killing Amyntor, carried off
Astydameia, who bore him Ctesippus or, some say, Tlepolemus.
odamas’s cursing, and
propitiates the Earth-goddess, curses avert divine anger from the sprouting seeds, the child
represents the coming crop—namely Plutus, whom
e Dryopians from Parnassus w
the Dryopian emigration to Southe
e Peloponnese. His combat with Cycnus recalls
Pelops’s race with Oenomaus, another son of Ar
d a woman: namely Oenomaus’s daughter
Hippodameia (the subject of his contention with
same character—namely the new king’s destined bride. Cycnus, like Spartan Polydeuces, is a
3. Aegimius’s name—if it means ‘acting th
uggests that he
performed a May Eve goat—marriage with the trib
al queen, and that in his war against the
enemies who, like the Satyrs, are depicted
in early works of art as goat-men.
for his carved chest, claimed descent from
AT Trachis Heracles mustered an army
of Arcadians, Melians, and Epienemidian
Locrians, and marched against O
echalia to revenge himself on King Eurytus, who refused to
surrender the princess Iole, fairly won in an ar
told his allies no more
ustly exacting tribute from the
Euboeans. He stormed the city,
ain of his comrades who had
fallen in the battle, namely Ceyx’s son Hippasus, and Argeius and Melas, sons of Licymnius,
b. It is disputed which city
Though Iole’s suicidal leap makes a plausible
fable—Mycenaean skirts were bell-shaped, and
my father once told a story of a Victorian suicide saved by her vast crinoline—it has most
probably been deduced from a Mycenaean pi
assaulted her city. The name Oechalia, ‘house
honour the mysteries were held was Demeter.
HAVING consecrated marble altars and a s
acred grove to his father Zeus on the
ng sacrifice for the capture of Oechalia. He
ask Deianeira for a fine shirt and a cloak of the sort which he
regularly wore on such occasions.
b. Deianeira, comfortably installed at Trachis, was by now resigned
to Heracles’s habit
of taking mistresses; and, when she recognized Iole
resentment for the fatal beauty which had been
s chariot when Deianeira, glancing at the piece
of wool which she had thrown down into the su
nlit courtyard, was horrified to see it burning
om the flag-stones. Realizing that Nessus
e would not survive him.
c. The courier arrived too late at the
Cenaean headland. Heracles had by now put on
the shirt and sacrificed twelve immaculate bulls as
the first-fruits of his spoils: in all, he had
brought to the altar a mixed herd of one hundred
cattle. He was pouring wine from a bowl on
the altars and throwing frank-incense on the flames
d. Ranging over the mountain, tearing up trees
as he went, Heracles came upon the
Lichas try to exculpate himself: Heracles sei
zed him, whirled him thrice about his head and
flung him into the Euboean Sea. There he was transformed: he became a rock of human
sentient. The army, watching from afar, raised
a great shout of lamentation, but none dared
approach until, writhing in agony, Heracles
summoned Hyllus, and asked to be carried away to die in solitude. Hyllus conveyed him to
rself or, some say, st
sword in their marriage bed. Heracles’s one tho
but when Hyllus assured him that she was
forgivingly and expressed a wish that Alcmene
assemble to hear his
last words. Alcmene, however, was at Tiryns
with some of his children, and most of the
others had settled at Thebes. Thus he could reveal Zeus’s prophecy, now fulfilled, only to
Hyllus: ‘No man alive may ever kill Heracles;
a dead enemy shall be his downfall.’ Hyllus
then asked for instructions, and was told: ‘Sw
ear by the head of Zeus that you will convey me
mountain, and there burn me, without
lamentation, on a pyre of
oak-branches and trunks of the male wild-olive.
Likewise swear to marry Iole as soon as you
come of age.’ Though scandalized by these re
quests, Hyllus promised to observe them.
f. When all had been prepared, Iolaus a
g. In Olympus, Zeus congratulated himself th
h, and I shall soon welcome him
to this blessed region. But if anyone here grieves
at his deification, so richly merited, that god
or goddess must nevertheless approve it willy-n
illy!’ All the Olympians assented, and Hera
decided to swallow the insult, which was clea
rly aimed at her, because she had already
h. The thunderbolts had consumed Heracles
’s mortal part. He no longer bore any
resemblance to Alcmene but, like a snake that has
cast its skin, appeared in all the majesty of
ed him from his companions si
ght as, amid peals of thunder,
Zeus bore him up to heaven in his four-horse
chariot; where Athene
took him by the hand and
solemnly introduced him to her fellow deities.
i. Now, Zeus had destined Heracles as one
j. Heracles became the porter of heaven, a
nd never tires of standing at the Olympian
l. A Tyrian image of Heracles, now in his shrine
at Erythrae, is said to
represent Heracles the
Dactyl. It was found floating on
ng the sacred king—as Calypso promised to
immortalize Odysseus—the Queen will have stri
pped him of his clothes and regalia. What
floggings and mutilations he suffered until he wa
suggested here, but the icons from which the account seems to be deduced probably showed
him bleeding and in agony, as he struggled into
2. A tradition that Heracles died on the Cenaean headland has been reconciled with
3. Formerly, Heracles’s soul had gone to the
e back of the North Wind—a legend which Pindar
has uncomprehendingly included in a brief acco
unt of the Third Labour. His admission to the
Olympian Heaven—where, however, he never se
cured a seat among the twelve, as Dionysus
did—is a late conception. It may be based on
the misreading of the same sacred icon which
temple will have been woven not of women’s ha
ir but of hair shorn from the sacred king
before his death at the winter solstice—as Del
ilah shore that of Samson, a Tyrian sun-hero. A
similar sun-hero had been sacrificed by the Th
racian women who adopted his cult. The statue
withdrawal from trade. ‘Ipoctonu
s’ may have been a local vari
slough,’ was a figure borrowed from the Egyptian
to Heaven in a four-horse chariot as a sola
r hero and patron of the Olympic Games; each
5. Hebe, Heracles’s bride, may not, perh
mentioned in the 48th and 49th
as Hipta the Earth-mo
ther, to whom Dionysus
was delivered for safe-keeping. Proclus says (
Against Timaeus
) that she carried him on her
Boghaz-Keui and apparently brought to Maeonia fr
om Thrace. If Heracles
married this Hebe,
the myth concerns the Heracles
identified with Zeus Sabazius. Hipta was
carving at Hattusas in Lycaonia shows her mount
marriage with the Hittite Storm-god. She is there called Hepatu, said to be a Hurrian word,
) equates her with Hawwa,
‘the Mother of All Li
prince of Jerusalem Abdihepa; and Adam, who marri
ed Eve, was a tutelary hero of Jerusalem
(Jerome:
The Children Of Heracles
ALCMENE, the mother of Heracles, had gone
to Tiryns, taking some of his sons with
her; others were still at Thebes and Trachis.
expel them all from
Greece, before they could reach manhood and depose him. He therefore sent a message to
Ceyx, demanding the extradition not only of the Heraclids, but also of Iolaus, the whole house
of Licymnius, and Heracles’s Arcadian allie
nd visited most of
nse of justice prevailed when they saw the
Heraclids seated at the Altar of Mercy.
Heraclids is even today a source of civic
his sons Alexander, Iphimedon,
Eurybius, Mentor, and Perimedes, besides many of his allies. Eurystheus fled in his chariot,
pursued by Hyllus, who overtook him at the Scir
; his tomb is shown near by. But some say
that he was captured by Iolaus at the Scironian Rocks, and taken to Alcmene, who ordered his
execution. The Athenians interceded for him,
carried out, Eurystheus shed tears
of gratitude and declared that
in death, as their firm friend, and a sworn enemy
on my tomb: even without such offerings I undertake to drive
all enemies from the land of Attica!’ Then he was executed and buried in front of Athene’s
been adopted by Aegimius the Dorian; he now we
nt to ask the Delphic Oracle when ‘the due
time’ would come, and was warned to ‘wait for the third crop’. Taking this to mean three
years, he rested until these
had passed and then marched agai
n. On the Isthmus he was met by
Atreus, who had meanwhile succeeded to the My
cenaean throne and rode at the head of an
challenged any opponent of rank to single
f. Alcmene went back to Thebes and, when sh
Hermes to plunder the coffin which the Heraclids
adroitly substituting a stone for
the body, which he carried off to
the Islands of the Blessed.
There, revived and rejuvenated, Alcmene b
ecame the wife of Rhadamanthys. Meanwhile,
eir shoulders, the Heraclids
plight their troths for Heracles
’s sake; although it is
generally admitted that Iolaus died in
h. At Argos, Tlepolemus accidentally killed
his beloved grand-uncle Licymnius. He
club when Licymnius, now old and blind,
i. Heracles begot another Hyllus on the
water-nymph Melite, daughter of the River-
god Aegaeus, in the land of the Phaeacians. He
had gone there after the murder of his children,
was the Hyllus who emigrated to the Cronian S
j. The latest-born of all the Heraclids is said to have been the Thasian athlete
Theagenes, whose mother was visited one night
in the temple of Heracles by someone whom
s, but who proved to be the god himself.
under Temenus, Cresphontes, and the twins Proele
s and Eurysthenes, after killing the High
King Tisamenes of Mycenae, a son of Orestes.
They would have succeeded earlier, had not
one of their princes murdered Carnus, an Acar
Peloponnese by uncul
tured patriarchal
mountaineers from Central Greece which, according to Pausanias and Thucydides, took place
about 1100 BC, was called the Dorian because its
leaders came from the sm
Three tribes composed this Dorian League
: the Hylleids, who worshipped Heracles; the
Dymanes (‘enterers’), who worshi
pped Apollo; and the Pamphylloi (‘men from every tribe’),
who worshipped Demeter. After overrunning Southe
allied themselves with the Athenians before th
attempt failed, though Mycenae was burned a
culture of Argolis. This invasi
on, which caused emigrations fr
om Argolis to Rhodes, from
Attica to the Ionian coast of
from Thebes to Sardinia,
brought the Dark Ages into Greece.
a hero’s head is commonplace in myth: thus, according to the
, Bran’s head was buried on Tower Hill to guard London from invasion by way of
the Thames: and according to Ambrose (
Epistle
), Adam’s head was buried at Golgotha, to
protect Jerusalem from the north. Moreover, Euripides (
makes Hector declare that the
ghosts even of strangers could serve as Tr
3. The land of the Phaeacians was Corcyra,
a masculinization of the ancient Triple-
goddess Danaë, or Damkina, after whose three persons Lindus, Ialysus,
named. According to other accounts, these c
5. Alcmene being merely a rifle of Hera
’s, there was nothing remarkable in the
dedication of a temple to her.
6. Polygnotus, in his famous painting at De
lphi, showed Menelaus with a serpent
badge on his shield (Pausanias)—presumably th
e water-serpent of Sparta. A fox helped the
Messenian hero Aristomenes to escape from a pit into which the Spartans had thrown him
(Pausanias); and the goddess as vixen was well known in Greece. The toad seems to have
become the Argive emblem, not only because it
had a reputation of being dangerous to handle,
and of causing a hush of awe among all who saw it (Pliny:
Natural History
), but because
THE child Linus of Argos must be distingu
ished from Linus, the son of Ismenius,
whom Heracles killed with a lyre. According
to the Argives, Psamathe, the daughter of
wrath, exposed him on a
mountain. He was found and reared
by shepherds, but afterwards
torn in pieces by Crotopus’s
mastiffs. Since Psamathe could not disguise
Linus’s mother, and condemned her to death. A
double crime by sending a sort of Harpy name
d Poene, who snatched young children from
their parents until one Coroebus took it upon hims
which advised them to propitiate Psamathe and
their ghosts, the women and maidens chanting dirges, still called
been reared among lambs, named the festival
, and the month in which it was held
c. The lament for Linus spread all over the world and is the theme, for instance, of the
portrait is carved in the wall of a small grott
o, where annual sacrifices to him precede those
offered to the Muses. It is claimed that he lie
s buffed at Thebes, and that Philip, father of
Alexander the Great, after defeating the Gr
Macedonia, in accordance with a dream; but af
terwards dreamed again, and sent them back.
1. Pausanias connects the myth of the Child
Corn-spirit, for whom dirges were chanted at
harvest time; but Linus seems to have been the
spirit of the flax-plant (
in summer. He had Psamathe for
mother because, according to Pliny (
grandfather, and murderer, was Crotopus because
—again according to Pliny—the yellowing
same passage. Frazer suggests, although without
supporting evidence, that Linus is a Greek
mishearing of the Phoenician
2. The myth has, however, been reduced to th
e familiar pattent of the child exposed for
nvasion or Egyptian underselling, or both, and was
3. Coroebus, when he killed Poene (‘punishment’), probably forbade child sacrifices at
the Linus festival, and substituted lambs, renaming the month ‘Lamb Month’; he has been
identified with an Elean of the same name w
ho won the foot-race at the First Olympiad (776
seems to have no connection with
tripods, but to be derived from
of plaintive dirges and rhythmic pounding,
and since at midsummer—to judge from the Sw
iss and Suabian examples quoted in Frazer’s
—young people leaped around a bonfire to ma
ke the flax grow high, another
mystical Linus was presumed: one who attain
ed manhood and became a famous musician, the
inventor of rhythm and melody.
This Linus had a Muse mother
, and for his father, Arcadian
Hermes, or Thracian Oeagrius, or Magnes, the eponymous ancestor of the Magnesians; he
ho tolerated no rivals in music—as he had
killed him off-hand; but this was an incorrect
ther than murdered, Linus. Later, his death was more
5. Linus is called Orpheus’s brother because of a similarity in their fate. In the
Austrian Alps (I am informed by Margarita
Schön-Wels) men are not admitted to the flax-
harvest, or to the process of drying, beati
ng, and macerating, or to the spinning-rooms. The
ruling spirit is the Harpatsch: a terrifying hag,
e rubbed with soot.
6. Little is known of what
goes on in the spinning-rooms, the women being so
b. Now, Aeson had married Polymele, also known as Amphinome, Perimede,
Alcimede, Polymede, Polypheme, Scarphe,
or Arne, who bore him one son, by name
Diomedes. Pelias would have destroyed th
e child without mercy, had not Polymele
summoned her kinswomen to weep over him, as
though he were still-born, and then smuggled
him out of the city to Mount Pelion; where Chei
ron the Centaur reared him, as he did before,
c. A second oracle warned Pelias to be
ware a one-sandalled man and when, one day
ined him in a solemn s
leopard-skin. He was armed with two broad-
uddy river Anaurus—which some miscall the
offered her his broad back; but he found himsel
e. When, therefore, Pelias asked the stra
nger roughly: ‘Who are you, and what is your
father’s name?’, he replied that Cheiron, his
foster-father, called him Jason, though he had
formerly been known as Diomedes, son of Aeson. Pelias glared at him balefully.
’What would you do,’ he enquired suddenly, ‘i
fellow-citizens were destined to kill you?’
f. When Pelias revealed his identity, Ja
son was unabashed. He boldly claimed the
throne usurped by Pelias, though not the flocks and herds which had gone with it; and since
he was strongly supported by his uncle Pheres, king of Pherae, and Amathaon, king of Pylus,
who had come to take part in the sacrifice, Peli
as feared to deny him his
our beloved country from a curse!’
ng haunted by the ghost of Phrixus, who had
fled from Orchomenus a generation before, riding
on the back of a divine ram, to avoid being
according to the Delphic Oracle, the land of Io
h. Jason could not deny Pelias this service, and therefore sent heralds to every court of
Greece, calling for volunteers who
would sail with him. He also prevailed upon Argus the
Thespian to build him a fifty-oared ship; and
this was done at Pagasae, with seasoned timber
from Mount Pelion; after which Athene herself f
itted an oracular beam into the Argo’s prow,
cut from her father Zeus’s oak at Dodona.
i. Many different muster-rolls of the Ar
gonauts—as Jason’s companions are called—
have been compiled at various times; but the
following names are those given by the most
Admetus, prince of Pherae
Amphiaraus, the Argive seer
Argus the Thespian, builder of the Argo
metes, a Pelopian
Butes of Athens, the bee-master
Caeneus the Lapith, who had once been a woman
Castor, the Spartan wrestle
Echion, son of Hermes, the herald
Euphemus of Taenarum, the swimmer
Eurydamas the Dolopian, from Lake Xynias
st man who ever lived, now a god
Ismon the Argive, Apollo’s son
Lynceus, the look-out man, brother to Idas
Melampus of Pylus, son of Poseidon
Peleus the Myrmidon
Peneleos, son of Hippalcimus, the Boeotian
Peridymenus of Pylus, the shape-shifting son of Poseidon
Phalerus, the Athenian archer
Poeas, son of Thaumacus the Magnesian
Polyphemus, son of Elatus, the Arcadian
Tiphys, the helmsman, of Boeotian Siphae
j. The Argonauts are often known as Minyans
, because they brought back the ghost of
Phrixus, grandson of Minyas, and the fleece of hi
s ram; and because many of them, including
Jason himself, sprang from the blood of Minyas’
had migrated from Thessaly to Orchomenus
in Boeotia, where he founded a kingdom, and
1. In Homer’s day, a ballad cycle about th
e Argo’s voyage to the land of Aeëtes
(‘mighty’) was ‘on everyone’s lips’ (
), and he places the Planctae—through which
the Islands of the Sire
son, after accomplishing many grievous tasks
imposed by Pelias, married Aeëtes’s daughter wh
o came with him to Iolcus, where ‘she was
subject to him’ and bore his son Medeius, whom
Cheiron educated. But Hesiod seems to have
been misinformed: in heroic times no prin
cess was brought to her husband’s home—he came
to hers. Thus Jason either married Aeëtes’s da
3. Neither Colchis, nor its capit
al of Aea, are mentioned in
describe Aeëtes as the son of Helius, and
the brother of Aeaean Circe. Nor must it be
supposed that the story known to Homer had
much in common with the one told by
4. The myth of Pelias and Diomedes—Jason’
s original name—seems to have been
about a prince exposed on a mountain, reared
5. It is indeed from the Tale of Kilhwych
and Olwen, and from the similar Tale of
, that the most plausi
ble guesses can be made
at the nature of Diomedes’s tasks. Kilhwyc
cauldron. Peredur, falling in love with an unknow
n maiden, had to kill a water-monster, called
the Avanc, in a lake near the Mound of Mourning—Aeaea means ‘mourning’. On condition
she gave him a magic stone, wh
ich enabled him to defeat the
Avanc, and win ‘all the gold a man might desire
.’ The maiden proved to be the Empress of
yle ‘towards India’; and Peredur remained her
lover for fourteen years. Since the only other
Welsh hero to defeat an Avanc was Hu Gadarn
mry, who by yoking two bulls to th
e monster, dragged it out of
), it seems likely that Jason also hauled his monster from the
water, with the help of his fire-breathing team.
7. This marriage-task myth, one version of wh
ich seems to have been current at Iolcus,
nother at Corinth, with Corinthus
as villain, evidently became
linked to the semi-historical legend of a Minya
n sea expedition sent out from Iolcus by the
Orchomenans. Orchomenus belonged to the ancient
Argos and Attica; it was the only inland city of the seven and strategically placed between the
Gulf of Corinth and the Thessalian Gulf. Its people, like He
siod’s Boeotians, may have been
farmers in the winter and sailors in the summer.
been carried away ‘to the land of Aeëtes’ by Ki
cort Phrixus’s ghost home to Orchomenus. Its
leader will have been a Mi
nyan—which Diomedes son of Aeson was not—perhaps Cytisorus
ominently into the story, and
who won the surname Jason (‘healer’) at Orch
omenus when he checked the drought and
e. Nevertheless, Diomedes was a Minyan on his mother’s
side; and descent is likely to have been matr
ilineal both at Orchomenus and Pelasgian Iolcus.
in at the other end of the
s the Gulf, lay Circe’s
Island of Aeaea, now called Lussin; and to have
been trapped by Aeëtes’s Colchians at the
sts, the small river Istrus,
which gives Istria its name. Medea then kille
vengeance, feared to incur Aeëtes’s anger by
returning empty-handed and therefore built the
city of Pola on the Istrian ma
h the Argo was then blown by the violent north-
act, be an error for ‘Colicaria’ on the Lower Po, not far from
Mantua, apparently a station on the Amber Route; since Helius’s daughters, who wept amber
Sun, and Electra (‘amber’), the island at which th
e Argo is said to have touched, will hardly
have been Samothrace, as the scholiasts believe;
but ‘the land of Aeëtes’,
a trading post at the
terminus of the Amber Route—perhaps Corint
from Corinth, but perhaps Pelasgia
n, because according to Dionysius’s
Description of the
a Pelasgian colony, originating from Dod
10. To the ungeographical myth of Diomedes
ement was added: the tradition of an early
coast of the Black Sea, made at
king. The sixth city of Troy, by its command
of the Hellespont, enjoyed a monopoly of the
Black Sea trade, which this raid will have
supposed objective on their Adriatic voyage was not a golden, but, according to Simonides
(quoted by scholiast on Apollonius Rhodi
us) a purple fleece which the First Vatican
n which Zeus used to ascend to Heaven.’ In other words, it
was a black fleece worn in a royal rain-making rite, like the one still performed every May
where an old man in a black
sheep-skin mask is killed
and brought to life again by his compani
British School at Athens
). According to Dicearchus, this rite
was performed in Classical times
s, or Acraeus (‘of the summit
’). Originally the man in the
black sheepskin mask will have been the king, Ze
ho was sacrificed at
same ceremony on Mount Pelion as on Mount
Laphystium will account for the combining of the
two Iolcan traditions, namely the myth of
Diomedes and the legend of the Black Sea ra
the mischief caused by Phrixus.
fleece became ‘golden’, be
cause Diomedes’s feat of
winning the sea-monster treasure had to be in
Strabo points out, the
d from the Colchian
Phasis (now the Rion), collected by the natives in fleeces laid on the river bed. Nor was it
Aea (‘earth’) with Aea
ea (‘wailing’), and of
made these different traditions coalesce.
e most easterly country known to
Homer; and Jasonica, shrines of
Heracles the Healer, were repor
ted from the Eastern Gulf of
the Black Sea, where the Aeolians had esta
blished trading posts. According to some
dition. Moreover, since Homer had mentioned
d the Greeks with wine during the siege of
Troy, and since Lemnos lay east of Thessaly, th
The Wandering, or Clashing, Rocks, which Homer pl
aced in Sicilian waters, have thus been
ading rights in the
Black Sea, and travelling minstrels were wi
another name or two
llad cycle. Several nom
irreconcilable, but for the most part based on th
not, indeed, an impossibility in Mycenaean tim
gend was in the main
took place before th
over the withholding of her
sacrifice, sugg
ests tension
The Lemnian Women And King Cyzicus
HERACLES, after capturing the Erymanthian
and was invited by a unanimous vote to captain
for the benches, two oars-men to each bench,
pollo of Embarkations. As the smoke of his
b. About a year before this, the Lemnian
complaining that they stank, and made concubine
revenge, the Lemnian women murdered them all without pity, old
acclaimed, and the Argonauts were welcomed
ll Jason the whole truth but, stammering and
l-treatment at the hands of their husbands, her companions had
risen in arms and forced them to emigrate.
The vacant throne of Le
mnos, she said, was now
d. Many children were begotten on this occasion by the other Argonauts too and, had
his club and summoning his comr
Colchis. He soon forced them down to the
shore; and that same night they sailed for Samo
thrace, where they were
duly initiated into the
save sailors from shipwreck.
e. Afterwards, when the Lemnian women disc
overed that Hypsipyle, in breach of her
oath, had spared Thoas—he was cast ashore on the island of Sicinos,
King Lycurgus of Nemea. But some say that
ining manhood, Euneus purified the
island of blood guilt, and the rites he used are
still repeated at the annual festival of the
Cabeiri: for the space of nine days, all Lemn
ian hearth-fires are ex
tinguished, and offerings
made to the dead, after which new fire is br
f. The Argonauts sailed on, leaving Imbros
that King Laomedon of Troy guarded the entr
g. Afterwards, the Argonauts dedicated their anchor-stone to Athene, in whose temple
them, and soon they were making so little way
back to the lee of the peninsula. He was dr
iven off his course; and the Argonauts, beaching
their skip at random in the pitch-dark, were
at once assailed by well-armed warriors. Only
when they had overcome these in a fierce battle, killing some and putting the remainder to
he had made the eastern shore of
Cyzicus, who had mistaken the Argonauts for pira
h. The Argonauts held funeral games in Cy
zicus’s honour, but remained weather-bound for
many days more, At last a halcyon tiered above
all would be well if they placated the goddess Rhea. She had exacted Cyzicus’s death in
ed lion’s, killed by him on M
ount Dindymum, and was now vexed
rnage among her six-arme
They therefore raised an image to the goddess, carved by Argus from an ancient vine-stock,
and danced in full armour on the mountain t
op. Rhea acknowledged their devotion: she made
from the neighbouring rocks. Fair breeze
mourning to a full month, lighting no fires, a
is still observed during the annual Cyzican Games.
1. Jason is made to call at Lemnos because
, according to Homer, Euneus, who reigned
there during the Trojan War, was his son;
and because Euphemus, another Argonaut, begot
2. Samothrace was a centre of the Helladi
3. Rhea’s brothers, the six-arme
ear Island, are perhaps deduced from
pictures of shaggy men, wearing bear-skins w
ith the paws extended. The account of Cyzicus’s
death is circumstantial enough to
Lemnian massacre with a similar ceremony at My
Cabeiri. At the close of the year, when the s
acred king was sacrificed, fires were habitually
extinguished in many kingdoms, to be renewed af
terwards as one of the rites in the new
Cyzicus in favour of Olympianism.
5. Halcyons were messengers of the Sea-godde
[storms]’).
row the longest. After many laborious hours,
Dioscuri, and Heracles alone
held out; other comrades having each in turn confessed
themselves beaten. Castor’s strength began to
induce him to desist, shipped his own oar. Jas
Argo forward, seated on opposite sides of the shi
p, until presently, as they reached the mouth
of the river Chius in Mysia, Jason fainted. Almo
about him, in anger and disgust; and his wear
y companions, thrusting
oar-holes again, beached the Argo by the riverside.
b. While they prepared the evening meal, He
racles went in search of a tree which
would serve to make him a new oar. He uprooted
an enormous fir, but when he dragged it
nd, since neither Heracles nor Polyphemus
appeared, though everyone shouted their names
until the hillsides echoed, Jason gave orders
for the voyage to be resumed. This decision
nd, as the Argo drew
farther away from the shore, several of the Argonauts accused him of having marooned
at rowing. They even tried to ma
d. After threatening to lay My
for Hylas, dead or alive, and then leading
Heracles resumed his
e. Hylas, indeed, suffered the same fate
as Bormus, or Borimus, son of Upius, a
f. Some therefore deride the story of Hylas,
ycos, also in the Sea of Marmara, ruled
on. This Amycus fancied himself as a boxer,
to a match, which invariably
declined, he flung them without ceremony over a
Argonauts, and refused them food or water unle
h. Amycus and Polydeuces went at it, hamm
from the beach. Amycus’s gloves were studded w
ith brazen spikes, and the muscles on his
shaggy arms stood out like boulders covered with
seaweed. He was by far the heavier man,
bull-like rushes, soon discovered the weak points in his defence and, before long, had him
spitting blood from a swollen mouth. After a prolonged bout, in whic
h Amycus’s guard, flattened his nose with a
straight left-handed punch, and dealt further merc
iless punishment on either side of it, using
hooks and jolts. In pain and desperation, Amycus
himself in the direction of the tug. The swi
broke the bones of
Amycus’s temple and killed him instantly.
i. When they saw their king lying dea
d, the Bebrycans sprang to arms, but
Polydeuces’s cheering companions routed them
easily and sacked the royal palace. To placate
Poseidon, Amycus’s father, Jason then offered
a holocaust of twenty red bulls, which were
found among the spoils.
day, and came to Salmydessus in Eastern
Thrace, where Phineus, the son of Agenor,
reigned. He had been blinded by the gods for
prophesying the future too accurately, and was also
Harpies: loathsome,
winged, female creatures who, at every meal, flew
into the palace and snatched victuals from
l. Now, Phineus had married first Cleopatra,
m. And some say that Phineus was blinde
e Argonauts’ visit,
Sea—though not in that of
es may have led the expedition. The story of
Hylas’s disappearance was invented to explain the
Mysian rites, still practised at Prusa, near
Pegae, in Roman times, of mourning for Adonis
of the Woods. Hylas’s fate at the hands of
Dryope and her nymphs will have been that
of Leucippus, Actaeon, Orpheus, or any other
namely, to be dismembered and
eaten by wild women, who then
purified themselves in a spring and announced
means ‘woodpecker’ (literally: ‘oak-face’), a bi
2. The story of Amycus may be derived from
so called because ship
s could expect the
ully balanced that they will rock from
side to side at the least impulse, are fune
rary monuments, appare
rrifying rocks, called Symplegades, or
Mariandyne—famous for the near-by chasm up
from the Underworld—and were warmly
welcomed by King Lycus. News that his enem
y, King Amycus, was dead had already reached
Lycus by runner, and he gratefully offered the Argonauts his son Dascylus to guide them on
y, as they were about
to embark, Idmon the
seer was attacked by a ferocious boar lurking
in the reed-beds of the river Lycus, which
Idas sprang to Idmon’s assistance and, when the
boar charged again, impaled it on
his spear; however, Idmon bled
to death despite their care,
and the Argonauts mourned him for three days
comrades were plunged in grief as they raised
they had raised for Idmon. Great Ancaeus first, and after him Erginus, Nauplius and
Euphemus, all offered to take Tiphys’s place
as navigator; but Ancaeus was chosen, and
served them well.
d. From Mariandyne they continued eastward trader sail for many days, until they
reached Sinope in Paphlagonia, a city named af
ter the river Asopus’s daughter, to whom Zeus,
falling in love with her, had promised what
ever gift she wished. Sinope craftily chose
virginity, having her home here
, and spent the remainder of
the vacant seats on his benches: namely the
brothers Deileon, Autolycus, and Phlogius, of
Tricca, who had accompanied Heracles on his
expedition to the Amazons but, being parted fr
om him by accident, were now strand in this
e. The Argo then sailed past the country
of the Amazons; and that the iron-working
Chalybians, who neither till the
wholly on the gains of their
e it is the custom for husbands to groan, as if
in wooden castles, couple promiscuously, and
carry immensely long spears and white shields
in the shape of ivy leaves.
himself into a stallion, and gall
ear her child, half man, half
on the learned Centaur. Loathi
ng the monster she now had to
suckle, Philyra prayed to become other than
she was; and was metamorphosed into a linden-
tree. But some say that this took place in The
h. Soon the Caucasus Range towered above th
entered the mouth
on of wine mixed with
honey to the gods of the land, Jason concealed th
e Argo in a sheltered backwater, where he
called a council of war.
1. The Clashing, Wandering, or Blue Rocks, sh
rouded in sea mist, seem to have been
ice-floes from the Russian rivers adrift in the
Black Sea; reports of these were combined with
runs at five knots. Other Wand
seem to have been known to the amber-merchants.
sts to honour the heroes Idmon and Tiphys
may account for the story of their deaths during th
e voyage. Idmon is said to have been killed
3. Mariandyne is named after Ma-ri-enna (S
umerian for ‘high fruitful mother of
heaven’), alias Myrine, Ay-mari, or Ma
riamne, a well-known goddess of the Eastern
on’, and ‘Chalybians’ seems to have been
another name for the Tibarenians, th
e first iron workers of antiquity. In
their land is
ands for the Tibarenians who had come down
from Armenia into Canaan with the H
yksos hordes. Modified forms of the
by the Tibarenians survive in many parts of
Europe. The customs of the Moesynoechians,
studied—are remarkably
similar to those of the Scottish Picts and the Irish Sidhe, tribes which came to Britain in the
early Bronze Age from the Black Sea region.
5. Cheiron’s fame as a doctor, scholar, a
and the Phasis river as the Rion.
The Seizure Of The Fleece
IN Olympus, Hera and Athe
might win the golden fleece. At last they decided to approach Aphrodite, who undertook that
her naughty little son Eros would make Medea, King Aeëtes’s daughter, conceive a sudden
passion for him. Aphrodite found Eros rolling di
ce with Ganymedes, but
city of Colchian Aea, where
Aeëtes ruled, and demanding the
fleece as a favour; only if this we
guile or force. All welcomed
his suggestion, and Augeias, Aeëtes’s half-brother, joined the party. They approached Aea by
c. King Aeëtes’s first wife, the Caucasian nymph Asterodeia, mother of Chalciope,
Phrixus’s widow, and of Medea, Hecate’s witch-priestess, was dead some years before this;
d. As Jason and his companions approached
e. At this point, the princess Medea emer
ged from the palace, when Jason answered
, ashamed of himself, undertook to yield the fleece, though on
seemingly impossible terms. Jason must yok
f. Chalciope, visiting Medea’s bedroom that
evening, to help on behalf of Cytisorus
and his brothers, found that she had fallen head over heels in love with Jason. When
g. Jason was summoned, and swore by all the gods of Olympus to keep faith with
Medea for ever. She offered him a flask of lotion, blood-red juice of the two-sulked, saffron-
t him against the bulls’ fiery breath; this
parting with his fleece, and shamelessly
repudiated his bargain. He threatened to burn the Argo, which was now
moored off Aea, and
massacre her crew; Medea, in whom he had unwisely confided, led Jason and a part of
Argonauts to the precinct of Ares, some
loathsome and immortal dragon of a million coils,
larger than the Argo herself, and born from
the blood of the monster Typhon, destroyed by
soporific drops on his
i. An alarm had already been raised by the
Colchians wounded Iphitus, Meleager, Argus, Atal
j. Now, the Sauromatians whom Jason had
three shiploads of Amazons cap
nth Labour; they broke their
1. This part of the legend embodies the
primitive myth of the tasks imposed on
Diomedes by the king whose daughter he wished to marry.
2. Aphrodite’s love charm, carefully desc
ribed by Theocritus, was used throughout
Greece, including Socrates’s circle (Xenophon:
). Because the wryneck builds in
willows, hisses like a snake and lays white eggs
, it has always been sa
cred to the moon; Io
(‘moon’) sent it as her messenger to amorous Ze
us. One of its popular names in Europe is
3. The Colchian custom of wrapping corpses in hides and exposing them on the tops of
willow-trees recalls the Parsee custom of leavi
ng them on platforms for the vultures to eat, in
order not to deface the sacred pr
inciple of fire, the Sun’s holy
gift, by the act of cremation.
Apollonius Rhodius mentions it, apparently to emphasize Pelias’s concern for Phrixus’s ghost:
te funeral rite. Aeëtes
’s fire-breathing bulls,
oners were roasted alive by Philtres of
Argumentum—Rhodium colony—presumably in
honour of their god Helius, whose symbol
), but the sown men with whom Jason contended are
able for Cadmus, a Canaanite stranger, to
fight the Pelasgian autochthons when he inva
4. Jason and Heracles are, in fact, the same character so far as the marriage-task myth
survive vestigial here in the killing of the
both of which Jason should have been
credited. ‘Jason’ was, of c
ourse, a title of Heracles.
colchicines, or meadow saffron, used by
the ancients as the most reliable specific agai
nst gout, still remains. Its dangerous reputation
6. The Sauromatians were the mounted Sc
ythian bowmen of the steppes; no wonder
d infantry could subdue them.
The Murder Of Apsyrtus
b. The most circumstantial and coherent acc
apped the Argo at the mouth of the Danube, where the Argonauts
c. Some would have it that, after Apsyrtus
’s murder, the Argo turned back and sailed
up the Phasis into the Caspian Sea, and thence into the Indian Ocean, regaining the
e Danube and Save, and
then down the Po, which joins the Save, into the Adriatic Sea; but was pursued by storms and
driven around the whole coast of Italy, until she reached Circe’s island of Aeaea. Others again,
eddying pools where is joined by the mighty Rhone.
d. Still others hold that the Argonauts rowed reached its source; then dragged the Argo
the Gulf of Finland. Or that from the Danube
be and, borne on its waters, reached Jutland. And
that they then shaped a westerly course towards the Ocean, passing by Britain and Ireland,
e. These are not, however, feasible routes.
the man-eating mares of King Diomedes, which
charge some years
acles killed him and all his
sons, except the infant Podarces, or Priam, whom he appointed king in his stead.
once more, refusing to carry either of them un
til they had been purified of murder, and from
warned not to come back without Medea
h. Some, however, say that Apsyrtus was stil
l commanding the Colchian flotilla at this
time, and that Medea trapped and murdered him
in one of the Illyrian
Apsyrtides.
1. The combination of the westerly with
the easterly voyage passed accepted until
Greek geographical knowledge increased and it became the principal elements in the story:
namely, the winning of the fleece from the Phas
is, and the purification of Medea and Jason by
2. The feasibility of this third route, too, being presently denied, mythographers
iled up the Don, presumed to ta
Finland, from which she could circumnavigate
of Minyas, and great-grandfather of Phrixus;
and Chryses ‘golden’. It may we
ll have been his spirit, rather than that which the Minyans
were ordered to appease when they fleece. According to Strabo, Phrixus enjoyed the Black
Sea, ‘where a ram is never sacr
oundation, prompted by the fame of
the Argo’s voyage thus the Romans also built te
mples to Greek heroes and heroines piously
4. The name ‘Apsyrtus’, which commemorates the remains downstream, was perhaps
a local title of Orpheus after
dismemberment by the Maenads.
5. Valerius Flaccus and Diodorus Siculus both record that sacked
Troy on the outward,
not the homeward, voyage; to be a mistake.
ARRIVING at Corcyra, which was then named Drepane, found the Argo beached
ll her what judgement
next morning, namely: ‘If Medea is
c. When, a year or two later,
Aeëtes heard of these happeni
and sent a herald to Greece demanding the person
for the injuries done
him; but was informed that no requital had ye
t been made for Io’s abduction by men of
Aeëtes’s race (though the truth was that she
fled because a gadfly
pursued her) and none
d. Jason now needed only to double Cape Mal
ast of Eastern Sicily, where
they watched the matchless white herds of He
stealing any of them. Suddenly they were stru
ck by a frightful North Wind which, in nine
days’ time, drove them to the uttermost parts
had already prepared themselves for death, when
appeared to Jason in a dream and gave him rea
f. Canthus was now killed by Caphaurus, a Garamantian shepherd whose flocks he
was driving off, but his comrades avenged him.
m in the heel; a thick mist spread over his
ter giving him a hero’s burial,
once more began to despair, being un
able to see any outlet to the Lake.
g. Jason, however, before he embarked on th
Delphi who gave him two massive brazen trip
ods, with one of which Orpheus now advised
him to propitiate the deities of
the land. When he did so, the god Triton appeared and took up
the tripod without so much as a word of tha
nks, but Euphemus barred his way and asked him
politely: ‘Pray, my lord, will you kindly direct
us to the Mediterranean Sea?’ For answer,
Triton merely pointed towards the Tacapae river
but, as an afterthought,
handed him a clod of
ignty over Libya to this day. Euphemus
sacrifice of a sheep, and Triton consented to draw the Argo
along by her keel, until once more she entered the Mediterranean Sea, predicting, as he went,
from his temple, a hundred Greek cities would rise around Lake Tritonis. The Libyan
h. Heading northward, the Argonauts reached Cr
ught in a storm from the south, but Jason
the Sporades, where Ancaeus managed to beach the
ship. In gratitude, Jason raised an altar to
Apollo; and Medea’s twelve Phaeacian bond-maidens, given her by Queen Arëte, laughed
merrily when, for lack of a victim, he a
nd his comrades poured water libations upon the
in reply, and tussled amorously
with them—a custom which survives to this
day at the Autumn Festival of Anaphe.
to who could first draw a pitcher of water
and carry it back to the ship;
k. Some minstrels arrange these
they say that the Argonauts
repopulated Lemnos on the homeward journey, not
as they were sailing for Colchis; others,
that their visit to Libya took place before the voyage to Aea began, when Jason went in the
again hold that they cruised down the western coast of Italy a
nd named a harbour in the island
rious forms. Further, that they founded the
temple of Argive Hera at Leucania; that, li
l. Still others maintain that Jason and his co
that one of them, Armenus, a Thessalian from Lake Boebe,
2. Herodotus’s account of Aeëtes’s embassy
to Greece makes little sense, unless he
Colchis in a fit of ma
heifer, and eventually become deified by the Egyp
Colchians (whom he describes as relics of Phar
aoh Sesostris’s army that invaded Asia) and
3. The three Sirens—Homer makes them onl
eadows of their island, where the bones of former victims lay
). They were pictured as bi
rd-women, and have much in
nnon in Welsh myth, who mourne
Rhiannon was a mare-headed Demeter. Siren-land is
priestesses who mourned for him, and the bi
Olympian cult—which is why they are said to
ses. Their home is variously
given as the Sirenusian Islands off Paestum; Ca
pri; and ‘close to Sicilian Cape Pelorus’
(Strabo). Pairs of Sirens were still carved on tombs in the time of Euripides (
name is usually derived from
, ‘to bind with a cord’; but if, as is more likely, it
comes from the other
which means ‘to dry up’, the tw
o Sirens will have represented
twin aspects of the goddess at midsummer when
of his mother, the
es from Corinth and Rhodes, where his sky-bull was
worshipped, had been planted in Sicil
5. Lake Tritonis, once an enormous inland se
a that had overwhelmed the lands of the
Neolithic Atlantians, has been slowly shrinking ev
er since, and though still of respectable size
in Classical times—the geographe
r Stylax reckoned it at some
nine hundred square miles—is
anticipated Athene with her
).
e heel was a common one appears also in
7. Caphaurus is an odd name for a Libyan—
being the Arabic for ‘camphor’,
which does not grow in Libya—but the myt
8. Talos the bronze man is a composite charac
ter: partly sky-bull,
with a vulnerable heel, partly a demonstration of the
cire-perdue
method of bronze casting.
Willows, the climax of their festival of Tabe
rnacles, when water was brought up in solemn
10. ‘Pebbles of variegated form’, iron crys
12. Armenia, meaning Ar-Minni, ‘the hi
Jeremiah to war against Babylon—has no historical
connection with Armenus of Lake Boebe.
nyas whom Josephus mentions (
Antiquities
Noah’s Flood: and the name of the Thessalian
The Death Of Pelias
ONE autumn evening, the Argonauts regained
the well-remembered beach of Pagasae,
b. Jason, hearing this doleful story from a so
litary boatman, forbade him to spread the
news of the Argo’s homecoming, and summoned a c
ouncil of war. All his comrades were of
the option that Pelias served death, but when Ja
son demanded an immediate assault on Iolcus,
Acastus remarked that he could hardly be ex
pected to oppose his fa
thought it wiser to disperse, each to his own home
and there, if necessary, raise contingents
ed too strongly garrisoned to be stormed by a
company so small as theirs.
instructed the Argonauts to conceal their shi
p, on some wooded and secluded beach within
sight of Iolcus. When they saw a torch waved
from the palace roof, this would mean that
d found a hollow image of Artemis and
brought it aboard the Argo. She now dressed he
r twelve Phaeacian bond-maidens in strange
disguises and led them, each in turn carrying th
e image, towards Iolcus. On reaching the city
Medea answered that Artemis
illusion of old age that she had cast about hers
elf, turned young again before his very eyes.
‘Such is the power of Artemis!’ she cried. He
then watched while she cut a bleary-eyed old
ram into thirteen pieces and boiled them in a cauldron. Using Colchian spells, which he
mistook for Hyperborean ones, and solemnly conj
uring Artemis to assi
Medea, by giving further proof of her magic
powers, persuaded Evadne and Amphinome to
d that they must invoke th
e Moon while the cauldron was
coming to a boil. From their ambush, the Argona
uts saw the distant gleam of torches and,
welcoming the signal, rushed into Io
lcus, where they met with no opposition.
ce, resigned the kingdom to him, neither
did he dispute the sentence of banishment pa
ssed on him by the Iolcan Council: for he hoped
h. Some deny that Aeson was forced to ta
contrary, Medea, after first dr
i. At Pelias’s funeral games, celebrate
d the following day, Euphemus won the two-
j. As for Pelias’s daughters: Alcestis marri
cheat, and how far her magic was genuine. Caul
drons of regeneration are common in Celtic
because she was both earth-goddess and moon-goddess. She appears in triad here as
4. Callimachus seems to credit the huntress Cyrene with winning the foot race at
Pelias’s funeral games.
JASON first visited Boeotian Orchomenus,
where he hung up the golden fleece in the
temple of Laphystian Zeus; next, he beached
the Argo on the Isthmus of Corinth, and there
iving child of Aeëtes, the
legitimate king of Corinth,
who when he emigrated to Colchis had his rege
nt a certain Bunus. The throne having fallen
vacant, without issue of the usurper Corint
hus, son of Marathon (calling himself ‘Son of
Zeus’), Medea claimed it, and the Corinthians
happily accepted Jason as
their king. But, after
reigning for ten prosperous years, he came to
suspect that Medea had secured his succession
c. Medea, while not denying her crime, held
the name of all the gods, and wh
that he also owed the th
have more respect for me than for you.’ Sinc
submission, sent Glauce a wedding gift by the hands of the royal princess—for she had borne
Jason seven daughters—namely,
Glauce put them on, than unquenchable flame appeared and consumed not only her—
although she plunged headlong to palace foun
tain—but King Creon, a crowd of other
assembled in the palace except of Jason; who
escaped by leaping from an upper window.
d. At this point Zeus, greatly admiring Medea’
s spirit, fell in love with her, but she
“I will make your children
immortal,’ said she, ‘if you lay them on sacrificia
l altar in my temple.’
om her grandfather Helius, bequeathing the
kingdom to Sisyphus.
e. The name of only one of Medea’s daughter
s by Jason is remembered: Eriopis. Her
afterwards ruled the Media; but Medeius’s father is sometimes called Aegeus. Other sons
were Mermerus, Pheres, or Thessalus, Alcime
des, Tisander and Argus; all of whom the
Corinthians, enraged by the murder of Glauce and Creon, seized and stoned to death. For this
crime they since made expiation: seven girl
s and seven boys, wearing white garments and
with their heads shaven, spend a whole year in the temple of Hera on the Heights, where the
murder was committed. By order of the Delphic Oracle, the dead children’s corpses were
buried; their souls, however, became immortal, as Hera had promised. There are those who
explain that he was
vexed beyond endurance by
Medea’s ambition on behalf of his children.
f. Others again, misled by the dramatist Euripide
s, whom the Corinthians bribed with fifteen
talents of silver to absolve them of guilt, pr
1. Glauce’s death was perhaps deduced from
the Temple of Hera, like that described by Lucian at Hierapolis (
emed priestess who directed th
e conflagration, not its victim;
though she also had some attributes of Athene
eyed’) points to cow-eyed Hera, and Glauce (‘owl’) to owl-eyed Athene. In Lucian’s time,
domestic animals were hung from the branches of
trees piled in the temple court of Hierapolis,
een children, and the expiation made for them,
suggest that human victims were originally o
4. Zeus’s love for Medea, like Hera’s for Jason (Homer:
Odysse
ll’) had the same wife as Zeus (Pausanias).
MEDEA fled first to Heracles at Thebes, wh
ere he had promised to shelter her should
Jason ever prove unfaithful, and cured him of the madness that had made him kill his children;
nevertheless, the Thebans would not permit her to take up residence among them because
Creon, whom she had murdered, was their King.
So she went to Athens, and King Aegeus
was glad to marry her. Next, banished from
Athens for her attempted poisoning of Theseus,
snake-charming; they
as the goddess Angitia. After a brief visit to
Perses, Medea went to Colchis with Medeius,
that time reconciled to Jason, and took him with
of course, been embellished and distorted by the extravagant fancies of many tragic dramatists.
whose names he had taken in
homeless from city to
city, hated of men. In
old age he came once more to Corinth, and sat
down in the shadow of the Argo, remembering
helmed him. He was about to
hang himself from the prow, when it suddenly to
ppled forward and killed him. Poseidon then
placed the image of the Argo’s stem, which
was innocent of homicide, among the stars.
c. Medea never died, but became an immort
al and reigned in the Elysian Fields where
some say that she, rather than Helen, married Achilles.
d. As for Athamas, whose failure to sacr
was on the point of being himself s
acrificed at Orchomenus, as the
sin-offering demanded by the Oracle of Lap
e. The homecomings of the Argonauts yield many
tales; but that of Great Ancaeus, the
helmsman, is the most instructive. Having surviv
1. An Attic cult of Demeter as Earth-goddess
has given rise to the story of Medea’s
stay at Athens. Similar cults account for her vi
the Marrubians may emigrated to Italy from Libya
, where the Psyllians were adept in the art
of snake-charming (Pliny:
). Medea’s reign in th
understandable: as the goddess who presided over cauldron of regeneration, she could offer
(‘moon’) will have been one of her titles.
2. In the heroic age, it seems, the king of
Orchomenus, when his reign ended, was led
for sacrifice to the top of Mount Laphystium. Th
an office hereditary in the matrilineal Minya
n clan; and at the time of the Persian Wars,
according to Herodotus, the clan chief was st
nd the Council Hall when
rced him to obey the summons, and he seems
from Herodotus’s account to have been repr
The deaths of Jason and Ancaeus are moral tales, emphasizing dangers of excessive fame,
prosperity, or pride. But Ancaeus dies royally in
his own city, from the gash of a boar’s tusk;
from city to city, hated of men, and is
eventually killed by accident. In the Isthmus wh
ere Jason had reigned, the custom was for the
pharmacos
banished to the life of an anonymous be
ggar, taking his ill-luck with him.
by the Zodiacal Signs: the Ram of Phrixus, the Bu
lls of Aeëtes, the Dios
curi as the Heavenly
that, in time of famine, a third of the
y. They deny that the Teucrians came from
arrived alone, paddling a raft made
of an inflated skin which he had ballasted with four stones.
Teucer received him hospitably and, on cond
ition that he helped to subdue certain
neighbouring tribes, gave him a sh
are of the kingdom a
nd married him to th
Some say that this Bateia was Teucer’s
d. Dardanus proposed to found a city on the small hill of Ate, which rises from the
Phrygian Apollo warned him
that misfortune would always attend its inhab
itants, he chose a site on the lower slopes of
Mount Ida, and named his city Dardania. Afte
remainder of the kingdom, giving it his own na
me, and extended his rule over many Asiatic
nations; he also sent out
e. Meanwhile, Dardanus’s youngest son Idaeus had followed him the Troad, bringing
the sacred images; which enabled Dardanus to
teach his people the Samothracian Mysteries.
An oracle then assured him that
the city which he was about to found would remain invincible
only so long as his wife’s dowry continued under Athene s protection. His tomb is still shown
in that part of Troy which was called Dardania be
fore it merged with th
e villages of Ileum and
rythus’s wife Electra. Both emigrated from
Idaea, who became Phineus’s second wife. When
Erichthonius succeeded to the kingdom of
Dardanus, he married Astyoche, the daughter
of Simoeis, who bore him Tros. Erichthonius,
games which he found in progress, he was vict
orious in the wrestling match and won fifty
youths and fifty maidens as his prize. The Phr
ygian king (whose name is now forgotten) also
gave him a dappled cow, and advised him to f
followed her; she lay down on reaching the hill of
Ate; and there he built the city of Ilium
fortifications. Some, however, say that it wa
s one of Ilus’s own Mysian cows which he
ons came from Apollo. But othe
rs hold that Ilium was founded
ey gave the name of their m
mountain of Cyme.
i. When the circuit of the city boundaries
had been marked out, Ilus prayed to
Almighty Zeus for a sign, and next morning noticed
half buried in the earth, and overgrown with weeds. This was the Palladium, a legless image
three cubits high, made by Athene in memory
of her dead Libyan playmate Pallas. Pallas,
whose name Athene added to her own, held a sp
spindle in the left; around
j. Apollo Smintheus now advised Ilus: ‘P
reserve the Goddess who fell from the skies,
she goes, she carries empire!’ Accordingly he
raised a temple on the ci
tadel to house the image.
k. Some say that the temple was alrea
dy rising when the image descended from
heaven, including the Samothracian images bro
Vestals at Rome now guard what
Palladium. No man may look at
it with impunity. Once, while it was still in Trojan hands, Ilus rushed to its rescue at an alarm
Ilus Laomedon, Themiste who married the
Phrygian Capys and, some say, the mother of
Anchises. By Strymo, a daughter of Scamander
and Leucippe, or Zeuxippe, or Thoösa, Laomedon
had five sons: Tithonus, Lampus, Clytius,
m. Priam, to whom Heracles generously aw
arded the Trojan throne, surmised that the
calamity which had befallen Troy was due to its luckless site, rather than to the anger of the
o. Hecabe, Priam’s second wife—whom the La
tins call Hecuba — was a daughter of
Dymas and the nymph Eunoë; or, some say, of
p. Among Hecabe’s younger children were the
twins Cassandra and Helenus. At their
birthday feast, celebrated in the sanctuary of Thymbraean Apollo, they gr
ew tired of play and
q. Another account of the matter is that one day Cassandra fell asleep in the temple,
Apollo appeared and promised to
teach her the art of prophecy if she would lie with him.
Cassandra, after accepting his gift, went back on
the bargain; but Apollo begged her to give
him one kiss and, as she did so, spat into
r. When, after several years of
prudent government, Priam had
restored Troy to its former
wealth and power, he summoned a Council to disc
uss the case of his sister Hesione, whom
Telamon the Acacid had taken away to Greece. T
hough he himself was in
favour of force, the
Council recommended that persuasion should first
his cousin Anchises therefore went to Greece
and delivered the Trojan demands to the
assembled Greeks at Telamon’s court; but were
t their business. The
incident was a main cause of the Trojan Wa
r, the gloomy end of which Cassandra was now
already predicting. To avoid scandal, Priam lo
to keep him informed of all her prophesised
ain at the entrance to the Hellespont,
though establishing it as the main centre of
3. The Palladium, which the Vestal Virgins gu
e luck of the city,
held immense importance for Italian mythographe
rs; they claimed that it had been rescued
from Troy by Aeneas (Pausanias) and brought to
Italy. It was perhaps made of porpoise-ivory.
‘Palladium’ means a stone or other cult-object
danced, as at Thespiae, or young men leaped,
being used indiscriminately for both
under instrument. Pre-Hellenic rain-makers
summoned storms by whirling bu
ll-roarers to imitate the s
ound of rising wind and, for
5. Cassandra and the serpents recall the myth
of Melampus, and Apollo’s spitting into
her mouth that of Glaucus. Her prison was prob
ably a bee-hive tomb from which she uttered
prophecies in the name of the hero who lay buried there.
8. The importance of Aeacus’s share in
building the walls of Troy should not be
in the first and the fourth generation, and
only the part built by Aeacus could be breached
). Andromache reminded Hector that
this part was the curtain on the
e the city might be most easily assailed (Homer:
), and ‘where the most valiant men who follo
w the two Ajax’s have thrice attempted to
9. Since one Teucer was Scamander’s son, and another was Aeacus’s grandson and
son of Priam’s sister Hesione, the Teucrian
element at Troy may be identified with the
Lelegian, or Aeacan, or Ilian;
the other two elements being
the Lydian, or Dardanian, or
Paris And Helen
to womanhood at Spar
ta in the palace
of her foster-father Tyndareus, all the princes of Greece came with rich gifts as her suitors, or
sent their kinsmen to represent them. Diomedes
, fresh from his victory at Thebes, was there
b. Tyndareus sent no suitor away, but would, on the other hand, accept none of the
s partiality for any one prince mi
‘If I tell you how to avoid a quarrel will you,
‘Then,’ continued Odysseus, ‘my advice to you
Tyndareus agreed that this was a prudent course. After sacrificing a horse, and jointing it, he
made the suitors stand on its bloody pieces,
formulated; the joints were then buried at
he Horse’s Tomb’.
she named Hermione; their sons were
e. Why, it is asked, had Zeus and Themis
planned the Trojan War? Was it to make
Helen famous for having embroiled Europe and
Asia? Or to exalt the
race of the demi-gods,
and at the same time to thin out the populous tribes that were oppressing the surface of
Mother Earth? Their reason must remain obscu
or the Fairest’ at the wedding of Peleus and
Hecabe had dreamed that she brought forth a
faggot from which wriggled countless fiery serpents. She awoke screaming that the city of
a were ablaze. Priam at once c
seer, who announced: ‘The child abou
do away with him.’
g. A few days later, Aesacus made a fu
rther announcement: ‘The
brings forth a child today must be destroyed,
and so must her offspring!’ Priam thereupon
do so; and in the end Priam was prevailed upon to
send for his chief herdsman, one Agelaus,
and entrust him with the task. Agelaus, being
exposed the infant on Mount Ida, where he was
h. Paris’s noble birth was soon disclosed by his outstanding behaviour, intelligence,
and strength: when little more th
an a child, he routed band of
ame Alexander. Though ranking no higher than a
slave at this time, Paris became the chosen l
over of Oenone, daughter of the river Oeneus, a
prophecy by Rhea, and that of medicine by
Apollo while he was serving as Laomedon’s herd
sman. Paris and Oenone used to herd their
us, the highest peak of Ida, when Hermes,
accompanied by Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite, deliv
ered the golden apple and Zeus’s message:
‘Paris, since you are as handsome as you are
‘How can a simple cattle-man like myself b
ecome an arbiter of divine beauty?’ he
‘No, no, you cannot disobey Almighty Zeus!’
Hermes replied hurriedly. ‘Nor am I
losers not to be vexed with me. I am only a
human being, liable to make the
stupidest mistakes.’ The goddesse
s all agreed to abide by his
‘Will it be enough to judge them as they ar
e?’ Paris asked Hermes, ‘or should they be
naked?’
de,’ Hermes answered
with a discreet smile.
‘In that case, will they kindly disrobe?’
Hermes told the goddesses to do s
sted that she should remove the famous
magic girdle, which gave her an unfair advant
age by making everyone fall in love with the
ondition that you remove your
at a time,’ announced Paris, ‘to avoid
distractive arguments. Come here, Divi
ne Hera! Will you other two goddesses be good
enough to leave us for awhile?’
‘Examine me conscientiously,’ said Hera
magnificent figure, ‘and remember that if you judge
me the fairest, I will make you lord of all
Asia, and the richest man alive.’
‘I am not to be bribed, my Lady ... Very we
need to see. Come
enough common sense to award me th
e prize, I will make you victorio
us in all your battles, as
well as the handsomest and wisest man in the world.’
‘I am a humble herdsman, not a soldier,’ sa
see for yourself that
at King Priam’s sovereignty is uncontested.
But I promise to consider fairly your claim to
the apple. Now you are at liberty to put on your
l. Aphrodite sidled up to him, and Paris bl
ushed because she came so close that they
were almost touching.
‘Look carefully, please, pass nothing over .... By the way, as soon as I saw you, I said
to myself: “Upon my word, there goes the ha
ndsomest young man in Phrygia! Why does he
waste himself here in the wilderness herd
ing stupid cattle?” Well, why do you, Paris? Why
not move into a city and lead
a civilized life? What have
you to lose by marrying someone
I am, and no less passionate? I am convinced that,
once you two have met, she would abandon her ho
me, her family, everything, to become your
mistress. Surely you have heard of Helen?’
‘Never until now, my Lady. I should be mo
on, having been born from a swan’s egg. She
can claim Zeus for a father, loves hunting and
wrestling, caused one war while she was still a
child—and, when she came of age, all the princes
of Greece were her suitors. At present she
is married to Menelaus, brother of the Hi
gh King Agamemnon; but
that makes no odds—you
she is already married?’
r heard that it is my divine duty to
arrange affairs of this sort? I suggest now
that you tour Greece with my son Eros as your
guide. Once you reach Sparta, he and I will see that
Helen falls head over heels in love with
‘Would you swear to that?’
awarded her the golden
apple. By this judgement he incurred the sm
went off arm-in-arm to plot the destruction
, with a naughty smile,
stood wondering how best to keep her promise.
o. It was a Trojan custom that, at the close
of the sixth lap of the chariot race, those
p. Paris’s married brothers pres
ently urged him to take a wife; but he told them that he
trusted Aphrodite to choose one for him, and
used to offer her prayers every day. When
another Council was called to discuss the rescue
of Hesione, peaceful overtures having failed,
e expedition, if Priam would pr
manned fleet. He cunningly added that, shoul
d he fail to bring Hesione back, he might
edly at Troy and enquired for the tombs
s. Helen eloped with Paris that
to him in love at the first
land of Cranaë. On the mainla
shrine of Aphrodite the Uniter, founded by Pari
s to celebrate this occasion. Some record
untruthfully that Helen rejected
rried her off by force while she
by disguising himself, with
daughter Hermione, then nine years of age,
but took away her son Pleisthenes, the greater
from Apollo’s temple; as well as five serving women, among
m sent by Hera forced Paris to touch at
s entertained by the king whom, being now
instructed in the ways of the Greek world, he
treacherously murdered and robbed in his own
welcomed her, entranced by such divine beau
on ablaze. What was more, all Troy, not Paris
w. Helen bore Paris three sons, Bunomus, Aganus, and Idaeus, all of them killed at Troy
elder son by Oenone, named Corythus, whom, in
t, is credited with the story that Helen
the war was fought for ‘only a phantom’. After writing a poem
which presented her in a most unfavourable light
This tale is true, thou didst not go aboard
,’
a public declamation of which
in what sense Paris, or Theseus before him, had abducted Helen. ‘
Spartan Moon-goddess, marriage to
whom, after a horse-sacrifice,
, ‘suitors of Helen’, were really
, ‘those who were mindful of the Hellespont’, and that the solemn
oath which these kings took on the bloody joints of the horse sacred to Poseidon, the chief
ghts of any member of the confederacy to
bore the name of their own goddess Helle. The He
len story comes, in fact, from the Ugarit
3. Paris’s birth follows the mythical pattern
rest; he is the familiar New Year child, with Ag
elaus’s son for twin. His defeat of the fifty
sons of Priam in a foot-race is no less familiar. ‘
seems to have been a title of the
princess whom he won on this occasion. He did not
the three goddesses. This tale is mistakenly
deduced from the icon which showed Heracles
—the naked Nymph-goddess in triad—Adanus
of Hebron being immortalized by the Canaanite
foot-race at Olympia receiving
presence of Hermes, Conductor
and Phoenicia suffered from frequent raids
the Trojans seem to have taken a leading part.
Among the tribes that gained a foothold
), namely
Teucrians from Gergis, or Gergithium, in the Troad (Homer:
Iliad
; Herodotus; Livy). Priam
and Anchise; figure in the Old Testament as Piram and Achish (
Joshua
); and
Pharez, an ancestor of the racially mixed tribe
mother’s womb (
), seems to be Paris. Helen’s ‘b
leeding stone’, found on the Trojan
of Priam’s nephew Munippus: Paris remained the
ifice. Antheus (‘flowery’), is a similar victim:
his name, a title of the Spring Dionysus, was gi
the flower of their lives; among them the s
on of Poseidon, killed and rayed by Cleomenes
); and Antheus of Halicarnassus,
(Parthenius:
5. Cilla, whose name means ‘the divinatory
dice made from ass’s bone’ (Hesychius
sub Cillae) must be Athene, the goddess of the Trojan citadel, who invented this art of
WHEN Paris decided to make Helen his wife,
he did not expect to pay for his outrage
b. Agamemnon consented to take this course
only if the envoys whom he now sent to
c. Next, accompanied by Menelaus and Pala
medes, the son of Nauplius, Agamemnon
As soon as Odysseus came of age, he duly vi
d. Odysseus married Penelope, daughter of
Icarius and the Naiad Periboea; some say,
at the request of Icarius’s brother Tyndareus,
who arranged for him to
e. After marrying Penelope to Odysseus, Icar
ius begged him to remain at Sparta and,
when he refused, followed the chariot in which the bridal pair were driving away, entreating
kept his patience, turned and told Penelope:
me’. Penelope’s only reply was to draw down he
an oracle: ‘If you go to Troy, you will not
with Agamemnon’s herald Talthybius to
former suitors, handed them a breastplate as
a gift for Agamemnon, and swore to contribute fift
y ships. He kept his promise, but sent only
one real ship and forty—me small earthenware
ones, with dolls for crews, which the captain
launched as he approached the coast of Greece.
Invoked by Agamemnon to avenge this fraud,
Apollo is said to have killed Cinyras, whereupon his fifty daughters
became halcyons; the truth is, however, that Cinyr
as killed himself when he discovered that
he had committed incest with his daughter Smyrne.
i. When Thetis deserted Peleus, he took th
him on Mount Pelion, feeding him on the umbles
rs, and the marrow of
to another account, on honey-comb, and fawns’
marrow to make him run swiftly. Cheiron instru
cted him in the arts of riding, hunting, pipe-
l. Some authorities disdain this as a fancif
Nestor and Odysseus
came on a recruiting tour to Phthia, where th
allowed Achilles, now fifteen years of age, to
Amyntor and Cleobule; and that Th
m. Achilles had an inseparable companion:
his cousin Patroclus, who was older than
well-born. The name of Patroclus’s father is
p. Great Ajax, son of Telamon and Periboea,
came from Salamis. He was second only
nearest rival, carrying a shie
ld of proof made from seven bulls’ hides. His body was
invulnerable except in the armpit, and some say,
at the neck, because of the charm Heracles
had laid upon him. As he went aboard his vess
and Eriopis, though small, outdid all the
s the third member of
Great Ajax’s team of fighters, and could easily
corslet and the tame
serpent, longer than a man, which followed
him everywhere like a dog. His half-brother
Medon, a bastard son of Oileus and the nymph Rhene, came from Phytace, where he had been
r. Diomedes, the son of Tydeus and Dei
pyle, came from Argos, accompanied by two
fellow-Epigoni, namely Sthenelus, son of Ca
s. Tlepolemus the Argive, a son of Heracles, brought nine ships from Rhodes.
of three daughters: Elais, Spermo, and
Oeno, who are called the Wine-growers; and of
a son, Andron, king of Andros, to whom
y. Being himself a priest of A
pollo, Anius dedicated the Wine-
growers to Dionysus, wishing his family to be
under the protection of more than one god. In
v. At Aulis, while Agamemnon was sacrificing to Zeus and Apollo, a blue serpent
with blood-red markings on its back darted from
beneath the altar, and made straight for a
free plane-tree which grew near by. On the high
est branch lay a sparrow’s nest, containing
eight young birds and their mother:
the serpent devoured them all
Anius’s prophecy: nine years must pass before
Zeus further heartened them all with a flash of lightning on their right,
w. Some say that the Greeks left Aulis
a month after Agamemnon had persuaded
Odysseus to join them, and Calchas piloted th
Oenone sent her son Corythus to guide them
. But, according to a third, more generally
accepted account, they had no pilot, and sailed in
error to Mysia, where they disembarked and
began to ravage the country, mistaking it fo
r the Troad. King Telephus drove them back to
his ground. Then up ran Achilles and Patroclus, at
sight of whom Telephus turned and fled
whereas the Mysians had neglected him; as a pun
ishment, therefore, Telephus was tripped up
by a vine that sprang unexpectedly from the soil, and Achilles wounded him in the thigh with
the famous spear which only he could wiel
d, Cheiron’s gift to his father Peleus.
x. Thersander was buried at Mysian Elaea,
where he now has a hero-shrine; the
Tisamenus, who had not been of age at the
time of his father’s death. But
y. Having bathed their wounded in the hot Ionian springs near Smyrna, called ‘The
Baths of Agamenmon’, the Greeks put to sea on
ce more but, their ships being scattered by a
violent storm which Hera had raised, each captain
steered for his own country. It was on this
occasion that Achilles landed at Scyros, and formally married Deidameia. Some believe that
Troy fell twenty years after the abduction of Helen: that the Greeks made this false start in the
s elapsed before they embarked again. But it is far more
r at Spartan Hellenium was held in the same year as their
rerrement from Mysia; they were still, it is
said, in great perplexity because they had no
only by its cause. So he visited Agamemnon at My
Clytaemnestra’s advice snatched
the infant Orestes from his cr
adle. ‘I will ki
cried, ‘unless you cure me!’ But Agamemnon, ha
advice, gladly undertook to aid him, if he
2. Among Agamemnon’s independent allies were
the islanders of Samos, Dulichium,
and Zacynthus led by Odysseus; the Southern Thessalians led by Achilles; and their Aeacan
and Agamenmon could keep them from each othe
r’s only by intrigue, with the loyal support
of his Peloponnesian henchmen Menelaus of Sparta
, Diomedes of Argos, and Nestor of Pylus.
Ajax’s rejection of the Olympi
misrepresented as evidence of atheism; they
gious conservatism. The
3. The Thebans and Athenians seem to have kept out of the war; though Athenian
, they play no memorable part before Troy. But
the presence of King Menestheus has been em
y-figure in Greek mythology. Despite his birth
from a daughter of the Corinthian Sun-god
and his old-fashioned foot-race winning of
Penelope, he breaks the ancient matrilocal rule
by insisting that Penelope shall come to his
kingdom, rather than he to hers. Also, like his fa
5. Achilles, a more conservative character,
hides among women, as befits a solar hero
) and takes arms in the fourth mont
h, when the Sun has passed the equinox
and so escapes from the tutelage of hi
6. All the Greek leaders before Troy are sacred kings. Little Ajax’s tame serpent
cannot have accompanied him into battle: he di
d not have one until he became an oracular
hero. Idomeneus’s boar’s tusk he
tion to Homer because the domestic hen did not reach Greece
until the sixth century BC. The original device is
emis (‘Pomegranate, daughter of Bunch
of Grapes and Golden Order’) came to Delos in a thest and is the familiar fertility-goddess
with her new-moon boat. She also appears in triad as her grand-daughters the Wine-growers,
whose names mean ‘olive oil’, ‘grain’ and ‘win
e’. Their mother is Dorippe, or ‘gift mare’,
which suggests that Rhoeo was the mare-headed Demeter. Her cult survives vestigially today
kernos
of the same type has been
found in an early Minoan tomb
at Koumasa; and the Wine-growers, being great-grandchildren
to Troy is contradicted by the ease with
Aphrodite cast a spell
which fogged their memory, as she afterwards
9. Achilles’s treatment of the spear wound, based on the ancient homeopathic principle
that ‘like cures like’, recalls Melampus’s use of
rust from a gelding-knife to restore Iphiclus.
10. Maenads, in vase-paintings, sometimes ha
ve their limbs tattooed with a woof-and-
warp pattern formalized as a ladder. If their faces were once similarly tattooed as a
camouflage for woodland revelling, this might
explain the name Penelope (‘with a web over
11. No commentator has hitherto troubled to
12. The fifty daughters of Cinyras’s who turned
into halcyons will have been a college
es was ‘Alcyone’, ‘the queen who wards off
[storms]’, and the halcyons, or king-fishers,
The Second Gathering At Aulis
his father Thestor. One day, Theonoë was wa
pirates bore her off, and she became mistress to
guise herself as a priest of
Apollo and go to Caria in search of them, Le
iest to my bedroom!’ Leucippe, failing to
recognize Theonoë, and fearing to be put to de
Theonoë, since she could not ask the palace serv
ants to commit sacrilege by killing a priest,
must do so, an sent a sword for his use.
ho went to the bedroom in which Leucippe
had been locked, displayed his sword,
and despairingly told her his story.
‘I will not kill you, sir,’ he said, ‘because I
too worship Apollo, and prefer to kill
‘Father, father!’ she exclaimed, ‘I am
weapon against yourself; use it to kill King Ic
me!’ They hurried to Theonoë
’s embroidery-chamber.
estor after her. ‘Prepare
of Idmon!’ Then it was Theonoë’s turn to
exclaim: ‘Father, father!’; and when the thr
them all home, laden with gifts.
c. Now Priam, after rejecting Agamemnon’
e. When Achilles found that his name ha
d been misused, he undertook to protect
Iphigeneia from injury; but she
neck to the sacrificial axe without a word of co
mplaint. Some say that, in the nick of time,
Artemis carried her off to the land of the Tauria
bear; or an old woman. Others, that a peal of
thunder was heard and that, at Artemis’s order
and Clytaemnestra’s plea, Achilles intervened, saved Iphigeneia, and sent her to Scythia; or
that he married her, and that she,
not Deidameia, bore him Neoptolemus.
King Philomeleides, who always compelled his guest
s to wrestle with him; and, amid the loud
cheers of every Greek present, threw him
ignominiously. Next, th
which is visible from Troy, and was then ru
led by Tenes who, though reputedly the son of
Cycnus and Procleia of Laomedon, could call Apollo his father.
or Harpale, ruled
in Colonae. He had
i. Palamedes offered a hecatomb to Apollo
Smintheus in gratitude for the Tenedan
ched the altar and bit Philoctetes, the famous
mentations availed, and the wound grew so
1. The lost play from which Hyginus has ta
shows the Greek dramatists at their most
theatrical; it has no
mythological value.
2. A version of the ‘Jephthah’s daughter’ my
th seems to have been confused with
Agamemnon’s sacrifice of a priestess at Aulis,
witchcraft; Six Francis Drake
same charge. Agamemnon’s high-handed action, it
seems, offended conservative opinion at
home, women being traditionally exempt from sacrifice. The Taurians, to whom Iphigeneia
was said to have been sent by Artemis, lived in the Crimea and worshipped Artemis as a man-
slayer; Agamemnon’s son Orestes fell into their clutches.
3. Odysseus’s wrestling match with King
Philomeleides, whose name means ‘dear to
the apple-nymphs’, is probably taken from a fa
miliar icon, showing the ritual contest in which
4. Achilles killed a second Cycnus; Heracles killed a third, and was prevented by Zeus
from killing a fourth. The name implied that sw
ans conveyed these royal souls to the Northern
Paradise. When Apollo appears in ancient work
back, or in a chariot
at midsummer. Singing
e grave remained a secret; this seems to
have been common practice on the Isthmus of Corinth, and among the primitive Hebrews
7. Tenes hurling rocks may be a misinterpr
etation of the familiar icon which shows a
from Tenedos and beached their ships
d—even Achilles, whom
d. Protesilaus’s wife Laodameia, daughter
of Acastus (whom some call Polydora
daughter of Meleager) missed him
so sadly that as soon as he sailed for Troy she made a
brazen, or wax, statue of him and
laid it in her bed. But this
was poor comfort, and when news
came of his death, she begged the gods to take p
e. According to another tr
adition, Protesilaus survived th
the Trojan shore, closely followed by his
Myrmidons, and killed Cycnus son of Pose
idon with a well-flung stone. Thereupon the
Trojans broke and fled back to their city, whil
e the remainder of the Greeks disembarked and
pressed murderously on the rout. Accordin
g to another account, Achilles, mindful of
Protesilaus’s rite, was the very la
g. Now, the city was fated not to fall if Tr
oilus could attain the
age of twenty. Some
remained coy, beheaded him at the altar, the
very place where he himself later perished.
Others say that Achilles speared Troilus whil
e he was exercising his horses in the temple
precinct; or that he lured him
crushed ribs and livid face, in such bear-like
fashion did Achilles make love. Others, again,
say that Troilus sallied vengefully from Tr
Memnon and encountered
Achilles, who killed him—or else he was taken
prisoner and then publicly slaughtered in cold
middle-aged, with a swarthy complexion and
nd the Trojans mourned for him
h. Troilus is said to have loved Briseis, Calchas’s beautiful daughter, who had been
and, since she had played no pa
to be treated there with courtesy. Calcha
Agamemnon to ask Priam for her on his behalf, lest she should be made a prisoner of war.
Priam generously gave his assent
rted Briseis to the Greek camp.
Diomedes the Argive, who fell passionately in l
i. On a night expedition, Achilles captured Lycaon, surprising him in his father
Priam’s orchard, where he was cutting fig-tree s
Lycaon to Lemnos, and sold him to Jason’s s
n mixing-bowl. But Eëtion of Imbros ransomed
k. Though Aeneas had connived at Paris’s abduction of Helen, he remained neutral for
the first few years of the war; being born of
of Tros, he resented the disdain shown him by
l. Many cities allied to Troy were now take
n by Achilles: Lesbos, Phocaea, Colophon,
Smyrna, Clazomenae, Cyme, Aegialus, Tenos, Adramyttium, Dide, Endium, Linnaeum,
another Eëtion, father of Hector’s wife Andr
omache, and his comrade
Cilicians. Achilles killed Eëtion, and seven of hi
s sons besides, but did not despoil his corpse:
e barrow which he heaped, mountain-nymphs
planted a grove of elm-trees. The captives in
cluded Astynome, or Chryseis, daughter of
inthos. Some call Astynome Eëtion’s wife; others
festival of Artemis.
Agamenmon, as did Brisei
Hypoplacian Thebes, Achilles also brought away
his immortal team.
brother Polydorus—their mother was Laothoë—a
carried off great spoils, among them the prin
cess Tecmessa, whom he made his concubine.
n. As the tenth year of the war approached, the Greeks refrained from raiding the coast
before Troy. The Trojans marshalled their allies
ans; Lycians; and so forth.
Sarpedon, whom Bellerophon’s daughter Laodameia had borne to Zeus, led the Lycians. This
is his story. When Laodameia’s brother Isa
kingdom, it was proposed that whichever of th
em might shoot an ar
hotly demanded the other’s child as the
victim, but Laodameia prevented
them from murdering each othe
agreed to resign their claims
edon; with whom Glaucus, the
o. Agamemnon had sent Odysseus on a foragi
came back empty-handed, Palamedes son of
Nauplius upbraided him
cowardice. ‘It was not my fault,’ cried
Agamemnon had sent you in my stead, you w
by which he might
be revenged on Palamedes; for his honour was
wounded. He sent word to Agamemnon: ‘The
gods have warned me in a dream that treachery is afoot: the camp must be moved for a day
and a night.’ When Agamemnon gave immediate orde
q. Some say that Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Diomedes were all plicated in this plot,
s. Palamedes had deserved the gratitude of
his comrades by the invention of dice, with
t. When Nauplius heard of the murder, he sailed
ce only with the tenth year of the siege, and each
mythographer has arranged the events of the
preceding in different order. According to
), Achilles kills Troilus; captures
Lycaon; raids Aeneas’s cattle; and
takes many cities. According to the
3. The Trojan War is histori
cal, and whatever the immediat
e reason may have been, it
was a trade war. Troy controlled the valuable
ship’s timber, linen, hemp, fish, oil, and Chines
e jade. When once Troy
were able to plant colonies all along the easte
rn trade route, which grew as those of Asia
hens, as the main maritime
power, profited most from the
Black Sea trade, especially its cheap grain; and
4. It is probable that the Greeks prepared for their final assault series of raids on the
coasts of Thrace and Asia Minor, to cripple th
e power of the Trojan al
liance; and that they
maintained a camp mouth of the Scamander to
trade from supplying
Troy, or the annual East-West Fair
from being celebrated. But the
Iliad
makes it clear that
Troy was not besieged in the sense that her lines
of communication with the interior were cut,
and while Achilles was about, the Trojans did no
spring a bow fly from the walls (
Iliad
5. Agamemnon had engaged in a war of attrition, the success of which Hector
an resources caused by the drying up of
producers, not merchants, and ready to have
mercantile Lycians, who imported goods from th
e South-east, seem to have been much
Minor was monopolized by Ag
amemnon’s allies the Rhodians,
and the Lycians were ruined.
6. The cold-blooded treatment of women, suppl
iants, and allies serves as a reminder
that the Iliad is not Bronze Age myth. With
7. The elm-tree, which does not form part of
the tree-calendar, is mainly associated
e Greeks trained vines on elm-sa
plings; but elms were planted
by nymphs around the tombs of Protesilaus and Eë
tion, presumably because the leaves and
the bark served as ruineraries (Pliny:
Natural History
), and promised to be even more
efficacious if taken from the graves of princes who had succumbed to many wounds.
8. Laodameia’s perverse attachment to Prot
esilaus’s statue may have been deduced
from a sacred-wedding icon: in some Hittite marri
age-seals, the procumbent
ue. The apples brought by a servant, and Acastus’s sudden entry,
9. Teuthrania may have been so called after the
Isthmian Glaucus, or transfixed with an arro
of Athamas.
WINTER now drew on, and since this has
b. Spring came and fighting was resumed. In
the first engageme
lenus pierced his hand with an arrow shot
from an ivory bow, Apollo’s love gift, and fo
rced him to give ground. Zeus himself guided
the arrow-head; and as he did
so decided to relieve the Trojans, whom the raids and the
Asiatic allies had greatly discour
c. When the Trojans became aware that
Achilles and his Myrmidons had withdrawn
from the field, they took heart and made a
vigorous sortie. Agamemnon, in alarm, granted
them a truce, during which Paris and Menelaus were to fight a duel for the possession of
saw that Paris was getting the worst of it, sh
e wrapped him in a magic mist and carried him
uce by making Pandarus son of
d; at the same time inspired Diomedes to
kill Pandarus and wound Aeneas and his mother
opposed Diomedes, but both recalled the close
courteously exchanged arms.
d. Hector challenged Achilles to single comb
at; and when Achilles sent back word that
he had retired from the war, the Greeks sent Great Ajax as his substitute. These two
champions fought without pause until nightfall,
the other’s skill and courage. Ajax gave Hect
baldric by which he was
later dragged to his death; and Hector gave Ajax the silver-studded sword with which he was
later to commit suicide.
e. An armistice being agreed upon, the Greek
s raised a long barrow over their dead,
omitted to appease the deities supported the Tr
ojans and, when fighting was resumed, were
. That night the Trojans encamped close to the
Greek ships.
f. In despair, Agamemnon sent Phoenix, Aj
Achilles, offering him countless gifts and Brisei
s (they were to swear
that she was still a
brought back his daughter, who protested that she had been very well treated by Agamemnon
and wished to remain with him; she was pregnant
h when the moon was high, Odysseus and
Diomedes, encouraged by a lucky auspice
from Athene—a heron on their right hand—
decided to raid the Trojan lines. They happene
d to stumble over Dolon,
had been sent out on patrol by the enemy and, af
ter forcibly extracting information from him,
h. On the following day, however, after a fierce struggle, in which Agamemnon,
Diomedes, Odysseus, Eurypylus, and Machaon the surgeon were all wounded, the Greeks
ce lent by Poseidon to the two Ajaxes and Idomeneus, broke
girdle and persuaded Zeus to come and sleep with
her; a ruse which allowed Poseidon to turn
ground; and Achilles, when he saw flames
swirling from the stern of Protes
j. The Greeks stripped Sarpedon of his armour
Apollo hastily mounted the wall,
and thrice thrust him
scale it. Fighting continued until nightfall, when
Apollo wrapped in a thick mist, came up
k. Up ran Menelaus and killed Euphorbus—who is said, by the way to have been
spoils; leaving Hector to stri
p Patroclus of his borrowed armour. Menelaus and Great Ajax
m. When Achilles at last
met Hector and engaged him
in single combat, both sides
azed. Hector turned and began to run around the city walls.
He hoped by this manoeuvre to weary Achill
therefore have been short of breath. But he was mistaken. Achilles chased him thrice around
the walls, and whenever he made for the shelter
always headed him off. Finally Hector ha
his dying plea that his body might
be ransomed for burial.
After possessing himself of the armour, Achilles
slit the flesh behind the tendons of Hector’s
heels. He then passed leather thongs through the slits, secured them to his chariot and,
whipping up Balius, Xanthus, and Pedasus, dra
canter. Hector’s head, its black locks stream
ing on either side, climbed up a cloud of dust
behind him. But some say that Achilles dragged
the corpse three times around the city walls,
by the baldric which Ajax had given him.
n. Achilles now buried Patroclus. Five Greek princes were sent to Mount Ida in search
of timber for the funeral pyre, upon which Ach
Patroclus’s own pack of nine hounds, but twelve noble Trojan captives, several sons of Priam
among them, by cutting their throat
rpse to the
remaining hounds; Aphrodite, however, restrain
ed him. At Patroclus’s funeral games
Diomedes won the chariot race, and Epeius, despite his cowardice, the boxing-match; Ajax
and Odysseus tied in the wrestling match.
o. Still consumed by grief, Achilles rose every day at dawn to drag Hector’s body
p. At the command of an oracle, Hector’s
ell in the city of Cadmus,
osperous, wealthy and blameless,
Others say that when a plague ravaged Greece,
Apollo ordered the reburial of Hector’s bones
in a famous Greek city which had
q. A wholly different tradition makes Hector
a son of Apollo, who Penthesileia the Amazon
means ‘blind’ rather than
‘hostage’, which is the usual tr
anslation; minstrelsy was a natu
2. The twenty-four books of the Iliad have grown out of a poem called
which dealt with the
unlikely that the text of the central events
3. Achilles’s hysterical behaviour when he heard that Patroclus was dead must have
shocked Homer, but he has clothed the barbarities of the funeral in mock-heroic language,
confident that his overlords will not recogni
ze the sharpness of the satire—Homer may be
whose caricature-portraits
family were so splendidly painted that they
could be accepted by the victims as honest
likenesses. But the point of the
as satire has been somewhat blunted by the Homeridae’s
mis must support the Trojans and
THE Amazon Queen Pentheseleia, daughter of
Troy from the Erinnyes of her sister Hippolyte
had accidentally shot, either while out hunting or
, according to the Athenians, in the fight
which followed Theseus's marriage to Phaedra. Pu
rified by Priam, she greatly distinguished
herself in battle, accounting for many Greeks, among them (it is said) Machaon, though the
commoner account makes him fall by the hand of
Achilles from the field on several occasions—some even claim that she killed him and that
b. This caused high indignation among the Greeks, and Diomedes, who was a cousin
of Thersites and wished to show his disdain
for Achilles, dragged Penthesileia’s body along
by the foot and threw it into the Scamander;
c. Priam had by now persuaded his half-broth
for the Assyrian king Teutamus, Priam’s
overlord, who put Memnon in command of a t
e. Meanwhile, at Troy, Memnon killed several leading Greeks, including Antilochus,
son of Nestor, when he came to his father’s resc
horses and terror made its team-mate unmanageable. This Antilochus had been exposed as a
child on Mount Ida by his mother Anaxibia,
Though too young to sail from Aulis at the beginni
owed some years later
and begged Achilles to soothe Nestor’s anger at his unexpected arrival. Achilles, delighted
with Antilochus’s warlike spirit, undertook to me
diate between them and, at his desire, Nestor
introduced him to Agamemnon. Antilochus was
one of the youngest, handsomest, swiftest
and most courageous Greeks who fought at Tr
oracle to protect him against an Ethiopian, appoi
bones of Antilochus were laid beside those of his friends, Achilles and Patroclus, whose
ghosts he accompanied to the Asphodel Fields.
f. That day, with the help of Memnon’s
and made the combat his own. The pan cont
Achilles dealt the death-blow, and presently
black head and bright armour crowned the
flaming pyre of Antilochus.
g. Some, however, report that Memnon wa
s ambushed by Thessalians; and that his
birds are Memnon’s girl companions, who
lamented for him so excessively that the gods, in
pity, metamorphosed them into birds. They
make an annual visit to his tomb, where they
weep and lacerate themselves until some of
them fall dead. The Hellespontines say that
when the Memnonides visit Memnon’s grave
beside the Hellespont, they use their wings to
sprinkle it with water from the river Aesepus;
him every morning. Pol
Memnon facing his rival Sarpedon
i. Others believe that Memnon’s bones were
Rhodes, where his sister Himera
ed them towards city, but his course, too,
punish certain insolent boasts that Achilles had
uttered over Hector’s
corpse, took counsel
k. According to another tradition, Achilles wa
s the victim of a plot. Priam had offered
him Polyxena in marriage on condition that si
could not forgive Achilles for murdering her brot
her Troilus, made him
past them through the doorway, th
ey entered, and Achilles, expiring in their arms, begged
them, after Troy fell, to sacrifi
ce Polyxena at his tomb. Ajax carried body out of the shrine on
his shoulders; the Trojans tried to capture them
to the ships. Some on the other hand, claim
that the Trojans won the tussle and did not
l. The Greeks were dismayed by their loss.
m. While the Achaeans were holding fune
ral games in his honour—Eumelus winning
the chariot race, Diomedes th
e foot-race, Ajax the discus-t
n. Achilles first lay with Helen, not long be
dream arranged by his
o. But others hold that Achilles remains under the power of Hades, and complains
Asphodel Meadows; others, again, that he married
t up for Achilles in the ancient gymnasium
at Olympia; there, at the opening of the fes
tival, the sun is sinking, the Elean women honour
him with funeral rites. The Thessalians, at
sacrifice annually to Achilles; and on the road
which leads northward from Sparta stands a
sanctuary built for him by Prax, his great-grandson which is closed to the general public; but
1. Penthesileia was on of the Amazons defeat
say, one of Athene's fighting priestesses, de
feated by the Aeolian invaders of Greece. The
incident has been staged at Troy because Priam's
confederacy is said to have comprised of all
the tribes of Asia Minor. Pent
, but Achilles's outrage of
her corpse is characteristically Homeric, and si
nce she is mentioned in
so many Classical texts,
a passage about her may well have been
suppressed by Peisistratus's editors.
2. Cissia (‘ivy’) seems to be an early
title of the variously named Goddess who
r, and Syria; Memnon’s
t of ‘Susians’ (‘lily-men’), so
Lirio, Susannah, or Astarte. Priam probably applie
d for help not to Syrians but to the Hittites,
who may well have sent reinforcements by la
nd, and also by sea, from Syria. ‘Memnon’
(‘resolute’), a common title of Greek kings—intensified in ‘Agamemnon’ (‘very resolute’)—
has been confused with Mnemon, a title of Ar
taxerxes the Assyrian, and Amenophis, the
name of the Pharaoh in whose honour singing statue
of sun fall at the hollow stone, making the air
3. Achilles in his birth, youth, and death is
as the ancient Pelasgian sacred king,
destined to become the ‘liple
ss’ oracular hero. His mythic
opponent bore various names, as
‘Apollo’. Here it is Memnon son
of Cissia. The duel with Memnon,
est of Cypselus (Pausanias), and on the
throne of Apollo in Amyclae (Pausanias);
him in Olympia. These two represent sacred
ight Spirit of the Waxing Year: Memnon, son
of the Ivy-goddess, dark Spirit of the Waning Year,
to whom the vine is sacred. They kill each
the solstices; the king always succumbs to a heel-wound, his successor
decapitates him with a sword. Achilles, in this
ancient sense, untainted by behaviour of the
e name, was widely worshipped as a hero; and
4. Because Memnon came from the East to help
Priam, he was styled ‘the son of Eos’
(‘dawn’); and because he needed a father, Eos’s lover Tithonus seemed the natural choice. A
5. Achilles as the sacred king of Olympia was mourned after the summer solstice,
when the Olympic funeral games were held in
his honour; his tanist, locally called ‘Cronus’,
was mourned after the winter solstice. In the
British Isles these feasts fell on Lammas and St.
Stephen’s Day respectively; but though the corpse of the golden-crested wren, the bird of
British Memnonides ‘fell a-sighing and a-sobbing’
only for the robin, not for his victim, the
7. Priam’s golden vine, his bribe to Tit
honus for sending Memnon, seems to have been
the one given Tros by Zeus in compensation for the rape of Ganymedes.
WHEN Thetis decided to award the arms of
Achilles to the most courageous Greek
left alive before Troy, only Ajax and Odysseus
b. Agamemnon therefore awarded the arms
insult Ajax in this manner had
Achilles still been alive: for
Achilles thought the world of his gallant c
ousin. It was Zeus hi
mself who provoked the
c. In a dumb rage, Ajax planned to reve
nge himself on his fello
w Greeks that very
night; Athene, however, struck him with madness and turned him loose, sword in hand,
among the cattle and sheep which had been lifted
from Trojan farms to form part of the
d. At last coming to his senses in utter
Tecmessa, and gave him the huge, sevenfold shield after which he had been named. ‘The rest
of my arms will be buried with
me when I die,’ he said. Ajax’s half-brother Teucer, son of
Priam’s captive sister Hesione, happened to be
away in Mysia, but Ajax left a message
appointing him guardian of Eurysaces, who wa
s to be taken home to his grandparents
Telamon and Eriboea of Salamis. Then, with a word to Tecmessa that he would escape
ing in a sea pool and finding some
to tell Teucer where his corpse might
be found; on Hermes, to conduct his soul to
vengeance, threw himself upon it. The sword, loathi
in the shape of a
bow, and dawn had broken before he contrived to commit suicide by driving the point
underneath his vulnerable arm-pit.
nd dismay overcame Teucer. How could he
h. Some hold that the cause of the qua
who stood aloof from him, rejecting his excuse
unfortunate affair. Odysseus had by that time
wisely presented the arms to Achilles’s son
j. The Salaminians report that a new flower
appeared in their island when Ajax died:
white, tinged with red, smaller than a lily and,
their eponymous heroes, and insist that
Philaeus, the son of Eurysaces, became an Athe
nian citizen and surrendered the sovereignty
of Salamis to them.
1. Here the mythological element is small. Ajax was perhaps shown on some Cyprian
icon tying the ram to a pillar; not because he
had gone mad, but because this was a form of
sacrifice introduced into
2. Homer’s hyacinth is the blue larkspur—
—which has markings on
to some far more ancient hero. Peisistratus made use of Ajax’s alleged connection with Attica
to claim sovereignty over the island of Salamis,
forged verses into the Homeric canon (
Aristotle:
Rhetoric
; Plutarch:
is an old form of
(‘earth’), and
(‘Ajax’)
will have meant ‘countryman’.
4. To kill a man with lumps of clay, rather than swords, was a primitive means of
avoiding blood guilt; and this other Ajax’s murder
must therefore have been the work of his
kinsmen, not the Trojan enemy.
r the possession of the Palladium is
The Oracles Of Troy
that Troy could not be taken except with the he
lp of Heracles’s bow and arrows. Odysseus
and Diomedes were therefore deputed to sail
b. Some say that King Actor’s shepherd
Phimachus, son of Dolophion, had sheltered
second time to my arrows. You shall be chosen
from among the Greeks as the boldest fighter
of all! You shall kill Paris, take part in the
sack of Troy, and send home rich spoils, reserving
t remember: you cannot take Troy without
Neoptolemus son of Achilles, nor can he do so without you!’
Deiphobus’s claim on the ground that he had
marriage to Paris had been divine
g. Upon hearing from Calchas that Helenus
ear,’ Helenus answered. ‘Troy falls this summer, if a
Athene’s Palladium is stolen from the citade
l—because the walls cannot be breached while it
remains there.
Agamemnon at once sent to Pisa for Pelops’s
and Diomedes sailed to Scyros, where they pe
my of Mysians, and
Priam, who had offered his mother Astyoche
why, in Asclepius’s sanctuary at Pergamus
, where every service begins with a hymn
celebrating Telephus, the name of his son Eur
ypylus may not be spoken on any occasion.
sanctuary at Geraneia; his garlanded bronze st
atue dominates the sacred place called ‘The
Rose’. Eurypylus himself was killed by Neoptolemus.
l. Some say that Odysseus stole the Palla
dium on this occasion, single-handed. Others
say that he and Diomedes, as favourites of At
climbed up to the citadel by way of a narrow
and muddy conduit, killed
1. All this is idle romance, or drama,
except for the stealing of the Palladium,
action of the sea-water in which it h
.’
ATHENE now inspired Prylis, son of Hermes,
into Troy by means of a wooden horse; and
Epeius, son of Panopeus, a Phocian from
ne’s supervision. Afterwards, of course,
Odysseus claimed all the credit for this stratagem.
b. Epeius had brought thirty ships from the
water—bearer to the House of Atreus; as appears in the frieze of Apollo’s temple at Carthea,
and though a skilled boxer and a consummate cr
aftsman, was born a coward, in divine
punishment for his father’s breach of faith—P
anopeus had falsely sworn in Athene’s name
not to embezzle any part of the Taphian
booty won by Amphitryon. Epeius’s cowardice has
c. He built an enormous hollow horse of fi
r planks, with a trap-door fitted into one
d. At nightfall, the remaining Greeks
under Agamemnon followed Odysseus’s
instructions, which were to burn their camp, pu
off Tenedos and the
scouts reported that the camp
lay in ashes and that the
eashore. Priam and several of his sons went
out to view it and, as they
silence. ‘Since this is a gift to Athene,’ he sa
e Greeks too long; we must
at the belly contains.’ But Priam declared:
f. This argument was interrupted by the ar
rival of Sinon, whom a couple of Trojan
soldiers were marching up in chains. Under in
Council hut and pointed at me. All present
welcomed this verdict, every man relieved at not
being chosen as the scapegoat, and I was put
Do not believe him, Priam!’ He
added: ‘Pray, my lord, give me
leave to sacrifice a bull to
had decided not to replace him
until the war seemed to have
ended. Now they chose Laocoön
by lot to propitiate Poseidon. He was already the
priest of Thymbraean Apollo, whom he had
the Trojans that Sinon had spoken the truth.
Priam mistakenly assumed that Laocoön was bei
rather than for having insulted Apollo. He at once dedicated the horse
k. Meanwhile, inside the horse’s belly, the Greeks had been trembling for terror, and
tasy of fear. Only Neoptolemus showed no emotion, even when
through the timbers close to his head. Time after time he
nudged Odysseus to order the assault—for Odysseus was in command—and clutched his
strolled from the palace and went around the horse three times, patting its flanks and, as if to
amuse Deiphobus who was with her, teased th
e hidden Greeks by imitating the voice of each
and Diomedes squatting in th
e middle of the horse next to
Odysseus, were tempted to leap out when th
ey heard themselves called by name; but he
his mouth and, some say, strangled him.
the stillness. But Helen lay aw
blazed above her chamber as signal to the Gree
ks. At midnight, just before the full moon
rose—the seventh of the year—Sinon crept from
the city to kindle a beacon of Achilles’s
tomb, and Anterior waved a torch. Agamemnon an
descended by Epeius’s rope-ladder. Some ran to
down drowsy sentries guarding the citadel an
1. Classical commentators on Homer were di
the wall, (Pausanias); that Antenor admitted
the Greeks into Troy by a postern which had a
stinguish the Greeks from their
enemies in the darkness and confusion; or th
med by means of a wheeled wooden tower,
Heracles. According to some versions, their de
himself, like Amphitryon, escaped unharmed. The serpents will, in fact, have merely been
cleansing the boys’ ears to give them prophe
tic powers. ‘Antiphas’ apparently means
5. Sweating images have been a recurrent
phenomenon ever since the Fall of Troy;
Roman gods later adopted this warning signal, a
reputation for courage was such that his name became
rt; and from braggart to coward is only a short step.
ODYSSEUS, it seems, had promised Hecabe and Helen that all who offered no
b. Meanwhile Odysseus and Menelaus had made for Deiphobus’s house, and there
ll their combats, emerging victor
d. Some even say that
Helen herself plunged a
resolution of Menelaus, who had sworn ‘She must
c. According to the Romans, the only other Trojan family spared by the Greeks was
of a just peace; Agamemnon, seeing him lift th
carry him towards the Dardanian Gate without a si
son should not be molested. Some, however, say th
city fell. Others, that
wandered at last to Latium, founded the city of
Lavinium and, falling in battle, was carried up
to Heaven. All these are fables: the truth is that Neoptolemus led him away captive on board
his ship, the most honourable prize won by any
of the Greeks, and held him for ransom,
d. Helicaon’s wife Laodice (whom some ca
ll the wife of Telephus) had lain with
Acamas the Athenian, when he came to Troy in
Diomedes’s embassy ten years before, and
f. No sooner had the massacre begun in Troy than Cassandra fled to the temple of
Athene and clutched the wooden image which ha
d replaced the stolen Palladium. There Little
she embraced the image so tightly that he had
to take it with him when he carried her off in
to concubinage; which was the common fate of
all Trojan women. Agamemnon, however, claimed
shrine; which was why the image kept its eyes up
turned to Heaven, as if horror-stricken. Thus
Cassandra became Agamemnon’s prize, while Ajax
earned the hatred of the whole army; and,
ed the Council that Athene must be placated
for the insult offered to her priestess. To
gratify Agamemnon, Odysse
’s altar, where he swore a
solemn oath that Odysseus was lying as usual; nor did Cassandra herself support the charge of
sorrow for having forcibly removed the image, and offered to expiate his crime. This he was
prevented from doing by death: the ship in which he sailed home to Greece being wrecked on
the Gyraean Rocks. When he scrambled ashore,
Poseidon split the rocks with his trident and
drowned him; or, some say, At
warned Ajax’s former subjects that they w
famine and pestilence
Troy every year for a thousand y
them at dead of night on th
famine and pestilence superveni
ng, they hastened to resume th
eir ancient custom, the term of
girls gain Athene’s sanctuary by way of an
h. After the massacre, Agamemnon’s people
awhile what should be done with Hector’s infant son Astyanax, otherwise called Scamandrius;
and when Odysseus recommended the systematic
extirpation of Priam’s descendants, Calchas
i. The Council also debated Polyxena’s fate. As he lay dying, Achilles had begged that
she should be sacrificed upon his tomb, and
more recently had appeared in dreams to
Neoptolemus and other chieftains
, threatening to keep the fl
j. Calchas now declared that Polyxena must
not be denied to Achilles, who loved her.
Agamemnon dissented, arguing that enough blood wa
s already shed, of old men and infants
ngeance, and that dead men, however famous,
enjoyed no rights over live wome
n. But Demophon and Acamas, who had been defrauded of
e spoils, clamoured that Agamemnon
please Polyxena’s sister Cassandra and make he
r submit more readily to his embraces. They
asked: ‘Which deserves the greater respect, Ac
high and Odysseus, intervening, persuaded Agamemnon to give way.
l. Though Achilles had killed Polydorus,
Priam’s son by Laothoë, the youngest and
m. Others say that Polymnestor was threatened by the Greeks with relentless war
unless he would give up Polydor
camp and offered to exchange him for Helen. Si
nce Priam declined to
Agamemnon had Polydorus stoned to death beneath the walls of Troy, afterwards sending his
body to Helen with the message
: ‘Show Priam this, and ask
n. Odysseus won Hecabe as his prize, and took her to the Thracian Chersonese, where
breaches of faith, that they found no alternativ
e but to put her to death. Her spirit took the
leaped into the sea and swam
away towards the Hellespont; they called the place
of her burial ‘The Bitch’s Tomb’. Another
aw Polymnestor having murdered him for the
gold with which Priam was defraying the e
o. Some say that Antenor founded a new Troj
an kingdom upon the ruins of the old one.
Others, that Astyanax survived and became Ki
ng of Troy after the departure of the Greeks;
s allies, Aeneas put him back on the throne
to which, however, Aeneas’s son Ascanius eventually succeeded, as had been prophesied. Be
that as it may, Troy has never since been mo
re than a shadow of its former self.
eatment of such renegades
as Antenor and Calchas is
contrasted here with the treachery he showed to his honest comrades Palamedes, Great Ajax,
Polyxena; but because Julius Caesar and A
nd regarded at Rome as a
Odysseus had married and w
have the original myth.
most mysterious in
ndra is dismissed by reputable
mythographers as an Odyssean lie, and it is ev
Troy as a matter of civic pride,
not of penance. A genuine atte
mpt was made by the Trojans to
keep them out, if we can trust Aeneas Tactic
scussing the danger of
correspond with the Delian (and thus the Home
ric) dating of the Trojan War, though
years later. Odysseus’s secr
to his
another Locrian from Thrace who connived at
Ajax’s removal of the Palladium? Hecabe had
facilitating his escape ca
prevent him from denouncing her to the Trojan
Palladium incident and he wanted to stop he
r mouth. She seems, howe
an War was Telamon’s abduction of Priam’s
sister Hesione, the mother of Great Ajax and
thus a kinswoman of Little Ajax; this points to
7. Agamemnon’s allies did not long enjoy the fruits of their triumph over Troy.
8. Aeneas’s wanderings belong to Roman, not
Greek, mythology; and have therefore
been omitted here.
b. A great many ships, though containing no l
enemies to their death, as if guiding them into
crime became known to Zeus, and it was by a false beacon that Nauplius himself met dead-
end many years later.
c. Amphilochus, Calchas, Podaleirius and
from that tree?’ Mopsus, closi
computation, answered:
‘Certainly: first ten thousand figs, then
‘To descend from thousands to lesser quant
with an unpleasant smil
e, ‘how many piglings, would you say, repose in the paunch of that
pregnant sow; and how many of each sex will she farrow; and when?’
‘Eight piglings, all male, and she will
farrow them within nine days,’ Calchas
answered at random, hoping to be gone
‘I am of a different opinion,’ said Mopsus
, again closing his eyes. ‘My estimate is
a boar; and the time of their
birth will be midday tomorrow,
not a minute earlier or later.’ Mopsus was right
once more, and Calchas died of a broken heart.
His comrades buried him at Nothium.
d. The timorous Podaleirius, instead of as
f. Neoptolemus sailed homeward as soon as
ed the great tempest which ca
ng to Delphi, he demanded satisfaction for the death of
his father Achilles whom Apollo,
have shot in his temple at
Troy. When the Pythoness coldly denied him this
he went to Sparta, and claimed that Menelaus
argued, that Hermione should become his wife
granted his plea, and the marriage took place at
Sparta. Hermione, however, proving barren,
h. He was ordered to offer placatory sacrif
ices to the god and, while doing so, met
Orestes at the altar. Orestes would have killed
that Neoptolemus must die by another hand that
been a perquisite of the temple servants; but
Neoptolemus, in his ignorance, could not bear
to see the fat carcasses of the oxen which he
‘Bury him beneath the threshold of our
famous warrior, and his ghost will guard it against al
l attacks. And if he has truly repented of
t him preside over processions and sa
himself.’ But some say that Or
estes instigated the murder.
i. Demophon the Athenian touched at Thrace on
for more than a few months at most.’
Demophon swore by every god in Olympus that he would be back within the year; but Phyllis
knew that he was lying. She accompanied him
as far as the port called Enneodos, and there
‘This contains a charm,’ Phyllis said. ‘Open it only when you have abandoned all hope
j. Demophon had no intention of going to Athe
k. Diomedes, like Agamemnon and others, e
xperienced Aphrodite’s bitter enmity. He
was first wrecked on the Lycian coast, where King Lycus would have sacrificed him to Ares,
helped him to escape; and, on
ed by an act of divine magic, and his
comrades turned into gentle and virtuous birds,
which still nest on those islands. Diomedes’s
golden armour has been preserved by the priest
l. Nauplius had also persuaded Idomeneus’s
and Idomeneus’s daughter Cleisithyra from the
palace and murdered them both in the temple where they had taken sanctuary. Leucus then
seduced ten cities from allegiance to their
m. Few of the other Greeks reached home
again, and those who did found only trouble
ps river in Libya, and he made his home
there. Pheidippus with his Coans went first to Andros and thence to Cyprus, where Agapenor
o. Only Nestor, who had always shown hims
elf just, prudent, generous, courteous, and
1. The mythographers make Aphrodite fight
Helen. But she was also the Sea-goddess whom
the commercial confederacy pa
storms allegedly raised by Athene
2. To bury a young warrior under a temple th
Neoptolemus had burned the old shrine at Delp
victim when a new building was planted on its ru
had been Agamedes and Trophonius.
3. Rhea, who sanctified the mysterious obj
ect in Demophon’s caske
t, was also called
Pandora, and this myth may ther
4. The birds into which Diomedes’s followe
rs were transformed are described as
‘virtuous’ evidently to distinguish them fr
om their cruel bird-neighbours, the Sirens.
5. A vow like Idomeneus’s was made by Maea
nder (‘searching for a man’), when he
e him on his storm of
Pessinus; and this proved to be his son Archelaus (‘ruler of the people’). Maeander killed him
and then remorsefully leaped into the river (Plutarch:
). A more familiar version of
the same myth is found in
er as a burnt offering to
riants suggest that Idomeneus vowed a male
an to Poseidon; as Maeander did to the Queen of Heaven, and
as Jephthah doubtless did to Anatha, who required such burnt offerings on her holy Judaean
campaign was once common practice—Jonathan w
King Saul, after the victory near Michmash,
interruption of Idomeneus’s sa
crifice, like Abraham’s on Mount Moriah, or Athamas’s on
Mount Laphystium was a warning that this custom no longer pleased Heaven. The
Mythographer’s account of Idomeneus’s vow
, marks the anti-matriarchal reaction
6. Menelaus’s wanderings in the Southern
Achaean piracies
and attempts at colonization. According to Xanthu
century BC, the men of Gibeon (Agabon
in one Septuagint text, meaning
city of the Achaeans’) came as
suppliants to Joshua in Greek fa
shion, pleading that they were
not native Canaanites, but Hivites, i.e. Ach
aeans, from overseas. Joshua recognized their
rights as foresters of the sacred groves and drawers of sacred water (
). It seems from
verse 9 that they reminded Joshua of the ancient maritime league of Keftiu presided over by
s and Abraham’s people both once belonged.
Abraham, who came into the Delta with the Hy
ksos kings, had married
‘Pharaoh’, meaning the Cnossian ruler of Ph
confederacy. But by the time of Me
nelaus, Cnossus lay in ruins, the confederates had turned
I trapped them
like wildfowl, they were dragged, hemmed in,
—and Pharos, no longer the largest
port in the ancient world, became
a mere breeding place for seals. A submarine
disaster had overwhelmed its harbour works,
and in early Classical times foreign trade passe
generate version of a familiar myth: the
b. Next he came to a fertile, well-woode
goats, and shot some of these for food. There he
Polyphemus alone was strong enough to shift the
stone from the entrance. He passed the night,
twelve sailors, whereupon Odysseus politely of
fered him an ivy-wood bowl of the heady wine
given him by Maro in Ciconian Ismarus; fortun
ately, he had brought a full wine-skin ashore.
Polyphemus drank greedily, called for a second bow
drink stronger than buttermilk, and condesce
nded to ask Odysseus his name. ‘My name is
at everyone calls me, for short’. Now,
means
‘Nobody’. ‘I will eat you last, frie
nd Oudeis,’ Polyphemus promised.
untempered with water, Odysseus and his rema
ining companions heated the stake in the
embers of the fire, then drove it into the si
ngle eye and twisted it about, Odysseus bearing
down heavily from above, as one drills a bo
lt hole in ship’s timber. The eye hissed,
‘I am blinded and in frightful agony! It is the fault of Oudeis,’ he bellowed. ‘Oudeis is
to blame!’
They went off grumbling, and Polyphemus felt his way to the cavern mouth, removed the slab
waited to catch the surviving Greeks as they
ook withies and tied each of hi
s comrades in turn under the
belly of a ram, the middle one of three, distri
buting the weight evenly. He himself chose an
enormous tup, the leader of the flock, and pr
f. Thus Odysseus contrived both to free his companions and to drive a flock of fat
rams down to the ship. Quickly she was launched,
and as the men seized their oars and began
Polyphemus hurled a large rock, which fell half
Warden of the Winds, who entertained him nobl
y for an entire month and, on the last day,
handed him a bag of winds, explaining that while
its neck was secured with silver wire, all
would be well. He had not, he said, imprisone
d the gentle West Wind, which would waft the
over by King Lamus, which is said by some to have lain in the north-western part of Sicily.
Others place it near Formiae in
Lamia claims descent from
King Lamus; and this seems credible, because
who would admit descent from cannibals,
unless it were a matter of co
i. He steered his sole remaining vessel due east and, after a long voyage, reached
oddess Circe, daughter of Helius and Perse,
and thus sister to Aeëtes, the
s skilled in all enchantments,
but had little love for human-kind. When lots were
the island, Odysseus’s mate Eu
ashore with twenty-two others. He
found Aeaea rich in oaks and ot
her forest trees, and at last
came upon Circe’s palace, built in a wide cleari
ng towards the centre of the island. Wolves
their hind legs and caressed them. One might ha
ve taken these beasts for human beings, and
transformed by Circe’s spells.
oom and, when Eurylochus’s party raised a
halloo, stepped out with a smile and invited them
except Eurylochus himself who, su
k. Eurylochus came back, weeping, and reported this misfortune to Odysseus, who
seized his sword and went off,
m. Odysseus forced his men aboard, unwilli
ng though they were to sail from pleasant
Aeaea to the land of Hades. Circe supplied a fav
ourable breeze, which wafted them swiftly to
the Ocean Stream and those lost frontiers
of the world where the fog-bound Cimmerians,
n. A mixed crowd of ghosts swarmed about
the trench, men and women of all dates
and every age, including Odysseus’s mother An
let even her drink
esias appeared, lapped the blood gratefully, and
wanted Odysseus to keep his men under strict c
Titan Hyperion. He must expect
great trouble in Ithaca, and t
hough he could hope to avenge himself on the scoundrels who
nd promised him the blood of another black ewe on his
p. He next entertained a troop of former
comrades: Agamemnon, who advised him to
q. Odysseus sailed back safely to Aeaea, where he buried the body of Elpenor and
planted his oar on the barrow as a memorial.
will have had two!’ She warned him that he must next pass the Island of the Sirens, whose
beautiful voices enchanted all who sailed near
. These children of Achelous or, some say,
r. After ship approached Siren Land, Odysseus took Circe’s advice, and the Sirens
s. Some believe that there were only two Sire
were three, namely
Thelxiope, and Molpe. Still ot
hers name four: Teles, Rai
u. Odysseus took this course in order
to avoid the Wandering, or Clashing, Rocks,
to find what had happened; and so was
Hyperion on hearing the story
y. Poseidon had been visiting his blameless
z. Next morning the lovely Nausicaa, daught
Jason and Medea, came to wash her linen in
the stream. When the work was done she played
at ball with her women. Their ball happened
to bounce into the water, a shout of dismay ra
ng out, and Odysseus awoke in alarm. He had
no clothes, but used a leafy olive-branch to
conceal his nakedness and, creeping forward,
addressed such honeyed words to Nausicaa that
carried him ashore and laid him gently on th
the Phaeacians’ kindness to Odysseus that he
struck the ship with the fiat of his hand as sh
e sailed home, and turned her into stone, crew
) that ‘some have taken the Odyssey to be an account
of a voyage around Sicily.’ Samu
to the same view and read
young and talented Sicilian noblewoman of the
Authoress of the Odyssey
, he adduces the intimat
of domestic life at court, contrasted with th
eaters as a nation living in
Western Libya near the matriarchal Gindians.
3. The cavern of the Cyclops is plainly
a place of death, and Odysseus’s party
consisted of thirteen men: the number of months for which the primitive king reigned. One-
eyed Polyphemus, who sometimes has a witch-mo
and can be traced back to the Caucasus; bu
t the twelve companions figure only in the
Whatever the meaning of the Caucasian ta
le may have been, A. B. Cook in his
that the Cyclops’s eye was a Greek solar embl
4. Telepylus, which means ‘the far-off gate
[of Hell]’, lies in the extreme north of
ght Sun, where the incoming shepherd hails the outgoing
shepherd. To this cold region, ‘at the back
of the North Wind’, belong the Wandering, or
Clashing, Rocks, namely ice-floes, and al
so the Cimmerians, whose darkness at noon
complemented their midnight sun in June. It wa
Hades; if so, the battle will have taken place during his visit to the Hyperboreans. The
barbarous behaviour the amber merchants were
5. Aeaea (‘wailing’) is a typical death is
land where the familiar Death-goddess sings
as she spins. The Argonautic legend places it at
ic Gulf; it may well be
Lussin near Pola. Circe means ‘falcon’, and sh
ove lay in the far-western
Tartarus, and Odysseus did
not ‘descend’ into it—like Heracles, Aeneas and Dante—though Circe assumed that he had
7. Sirens were carved on funeral monuments
as death-angels chanting dirges to lyre
the heroes whom they
mourned; and, since the
soul was believed to fly off in the form of a bird, were pictured, like the Harpies, as birds of
cousins of the Harpies, they did not live underground, or in caverns, but on a green sepulchral
island resembling Aeaea or Ogygia; and proved part
icularly dangerous in windless weather at
midday, the time of sunstroke and siesta-nightmare
Achelous, their island may originally of the Ec
hinades, at the mouth of the river Achelous.
Sicilians placed them near Cape Pelorus (now
9. Scylla (‘she who rends’), daughter of Phorcys, or Hecate, and Charybdis (‘the
sucker-down ‘), are titles of the destructiv
e Sea-goddess. These names became attached to
Messina, but must be understood in a larger
sense. Leucothea as a sea-mew was the
11. Odysseus, whose name, meaning ‘angry’, st
called ‘Ulysses’ or ‘Ulixes’ in La
tin—a word probably formed from
he came back to Ithaca. It was a common form
Odysseus’s Homecoming
Athene had cast a distorting glamour. Presently
she came by, disguised as a shepherd boy, and
which formed the kingdom—Dulichium, Samos,
wife Penelope, each hoping to marry her and
c. To Eumaeus, who received Odysseus kindly, he gave another false account of
himself, though declaring on oath that Odysse
us was alive and on the way home. Telemachus
the suitors’ plots to murder
him, and came straight to
Eumaeus’s hut; Athene had sent him back in
haste from Sparta. Odysseus however, did not
disclose his identity until Athene has permitted it and magically restored him to his true
tween father and son followed. But Eumaeus
d. Once more disguised as a beggar, Odysse
way he encountered his goat-herd Melantheus,
who railed indecently at him and kicked him
f. Meanwhile, a sturdy Ithacan beggar, nick
named ‘Irus’ because, like the goddess Iris,
chase Odysseus from the porch. When he would
not stir, Irus challenged him to a boxing matc
at the suitors’ mess. Odysseus
was kept from precipitate fli
of the suitors;
then Odysseus felled him with a single blow, ta
t too much notice by
making it a mortal one. The suitors applauded, sn
g. Odysseus instructed Telemachus to take down the spears which hung on the walls
to give him a foot-bath. Euryclei
for silence. Penelope missed the
longer in their usual places. Eurymachus begged
for mercy, and when Odysseus refused it,
drew sword and lunged at him, whereupon an a
j. Odysseus, at last reunited
ith his father Laertes, told them his
various adventures, this time keeping to the tr
uth. A force of Ithacan rebels approached, the
kinsmen of Antinous and other
Odysseus was outnumbered, the
Athene intervened and imposed a truce. The
rebels then brought a combined legal action
Odysseus agreed to accept his verdict, and Neoptolemus ruled that he should leave his
l. Some deny that Penelope remained fa
companying with Amphinomus of Dulichium, or w
ith all the suitors in turn, and say that the
fruit of this union was the mons
trous god Pan—at sight of whom Odysseus fled for shame to
longs to the Ulysses allegory: one more
in the archery contest held decide his successor, and destroys all the candidates. A primitive
archery test of the candidate for kingship seem
s to have consisted in
placed on a boy’s head. The
nce, though she bewitches the suitors by her
2. But Nausicaa, the authoress,
tells the story in her own
way, white-washing Penelope.
She accepts the patriarchal system into which
she has been born, and prefers gentle irony to
Iliad
by Almighty Zeus, kings are
myth has ended—very well! That need not
greatly disturb Nausicaa, while she can still joke
and play ball with her good-natured servant
s, and twist Father
breaks off with Laertes, Odysse
us, and Telemachus, patriarchal
male triad of heroes, supporte
mphing over their foes; while
disapproves of pre-marital promiscuity as cheap
4. Telemachus’s marriage to Circe, and Telegonu
sight. Sir James Frazer connects these apparently incestuous unions with the rule by which, in

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