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Divine Riddles: A Sourcebook for Greek and Roman Mythology
March, 2014
E. Edward Garvin, Editor
What follows is a collection of excerpts from Greek literary sources in translation. The intent
is to give students an overview of Greek mythology as expressed by the Greeks themselves. But
any such collection is inherently flawed: the process of selection and abridgement produces a
falsehood because both the narrative and meta-narrative are destroyed when the continuity of the
composition is interrupted. Nevertheless, this seems the most expedient way to expose students to
a wide range of primary source information.
I have tried to keep my voice out of it as much as possible and will intervene as editor (in this
Times New Roman font) only to give background or exegesis to the text. All of the texts in Goudy
Old Style are excerpts from Greek or Latin texts (primary sources) that have been translated into
Ancient Texts
In the field of Classics, we refer to texts by Author, name of the book, book number, chapter
number and line number. 1 Every text, regardless of language, uses the same numbering system.
Homer’s Iliad, for example, is divided into 24 books and the lines in each book are numbered.
Hesiod’s Theogony is much shorter so no book divisions are necessary but the lines are numbered.
Below is an example from Homer’s Iliad, Book One, showing the English translation on the
left and the Greek original on the right. When citing this text we might say that Achilles is first
mentioned by Homer in Iliad 1.7 (i.7 is also acceptable).
[1] Sing, goddess, about the anger of Achilles [1] μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
son of Peleus,
[2] οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί' Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε' ἔθηκε,
[2] which brought countless evils upon the
[3] πολλὰς δ' ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προί̈αψεν
[3] Many a brave soul did it send hurrying [4] ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
down to Hades,
[4] and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs [5] οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι, Διὸς δ' ἐτελείετο βουλή,
and vultures,
[6] ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε
[5] for so were the wishes of Zeus fulfilled
[6] from the day on which they first began to [7] Ἀτρεί̈δης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος
[7] the son of Atreus, king of men, and great
Achilles. 2
Muthos, Logos, Faith and Reason:
The word ‘myth’ comes to English from ancient Greek but the meaning has changed
somewhat over the centuries. The Archaic Greek meaning of muthos, was ‘statement,’ ‘utterance’
or any sort of spoken declaration or story: Simply ‘that which is said.’ The Archaic meaning of
logos was ‘story,’ ‘account’ or ‘argument’ implying a computation of things; of ideas or facts. In
that sense, a logos could be constructed out of a series of muthoi. By the Classical period of Ancient
Greece the two words had taken on very distinct and even oppositional meanings: Muthos was
associated with unsubstantiated or fantastic utterances while logos referred to a statement,
argument or proposition derived from a computation of verifiable evidence.
This is not to say that logos is ‘true’ and muthos ‘false:’ but rather that the former operates in
the realm of the empirical while the latter operates in the realm of the metaphysical. Aristotle, the
father of scientific method, thought that myth, or poetry as it was more commonly called, was
actually a superior method for the communication of ideas because it deals with the general while
more pragmatic forms such as history can only deal with the particular.
Aristotle, Poetics 1451a. 35 – b. 5
The work of Herodotus might be put into verse, and it would still be a species of history,
with metre no less than without it. The true difference is that one relates what has happened,
Book and chapter numbers are used where applicable.
This is the Samuel Buttler translation (1898), edited by E. Garvin.
Divine Riddles - 3
the other what may happen. Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing
than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular.
There were others, however, who thought that the myths were nonsense and that reason and
rational investigation, philosophy and history, provided a better source of knowledge.
Pausanias i.3.3
There are many false beliefs current among the mass of mankind, since they are ignorant
of history and consider trustworthy whatever they have heard from childhood in choruses
and tragedies... 1
Pausanias viii. 2.6-7
All through the ages, many events that have occurred in the past, and even some that
occur today, have been generally discredited because of the lies built up on a foundation of
fact. Those who like to listen to the miraculous are themselves apt to add to the marvel, and
so they ruin truth by mixing it with falsehood.
But most of the ancient Greeks believed that the stories we now call myths were based in
actual fact; that these things did occur and that the people and events depicted in these stories were
real. It was a matter of religious necessity, just as today one could not claim to be a Christian and
also deny the truth of the miracles of Jesus, in ancient Greece one could not claim to be pious
without accepting the truth of the stories of the gods. Even Pausanias, cited above for his
scepticism, eventually concedes:
Pausanias viii.2.4 2
I for my part believe this story; it has been a legend among the Arcadians from of old,
and it has the additional merit of probability. For the men of those days, because of their
righteousness and piety, were guests of the gods, eating at the same table; the good were
openly honored by the gods, and sinners were openly visited with their wrath. Nay, in those
days men were changed to gods, who down to the present day have honors paid to them…
Pausanias viii.8.3
When I began to write my history I was inclined to count these legends as foolishness,
but on getting as far as Arcadia I grew to hold a more thoughtful view of them, which is this.
In the days of old those Greeks who were considered wise spoke their sayings not straight
out but in riddles 3, and so the legends about Cronus I conjectured to be one sort of Greek
wisdom. In matters of divinity, therefore, I shall adopt the received tradition.
The Greeks understood that mankind must be very old indeed, but they had no empirical
knowledge of the more distant past. Plutarch likens it to geography:
In all fairness, Pausanias is here referring to the myth that Theseus was the founder of Athenian democracy, what
we might call a myth of political expediency rather than tradition.
See also Pausanias viii.8.3, reproduced in the section below.
The original is αἴνιγμα (ainigma) from whence we derive the English ‘enigma.’
Divine Riddles - 4
Plutarch, Theseus 1.1
Just as the historians, in their geographical sections, fill the parts of the earth which
elude their knowledge with explanatory notes like ‘What lies beyond is sandy desert without
water and full of wild beasts,’ or ‘blind marsh,’ or ‘Scythian cold,’ or ‘frozen sea,’ so in the
writing of my Parallel Lives, now that I have traversed those periods of time which are
accessible to probable reasoning and which afford a basis for a history dealing with facts, I
might well say of the earlier periods ‘What lies beyond is full of marvels and unreality, a
land of poets and fabulists, of doubt and obscurity
To compound the problem, Ancient Greece seems to have been an amalgam of at least three
earlier cultures and their religious traditions were, therefore, a blending of a variety of mythic and
religious beliefs.
Diodorus iv.1.1-2
I am not unaware that the writers of antiquities in many things fall short of the truth
in their editions. For being that ancient things are (as it were) scraped out of the rubbish
with very great difficulty, they greatly perplex the writer. And because the reconstruction of
times wherein things were done cannot now be so exact as to infer an infallible argument
for the truth of the actions related, therefore it is that the reader despises the authors of
these stories. And the multitude and variety of the gods, demi-gods, and other famous men,
whose genealogies are to be treated of, add much more to the difficulty. And the greatest
vexation of all is that the writers of antiquities and mythologies differ exceedingly in their
relations one from another, [2] and therefore the most famed and noted historians of later
times have altogether waved treatises of ancient things, and applied themselves to
composing histories only of such as have happened in times a little before their own.
Divine Inspiration
The idea that only God, or the gods, can have true knowledge, and that man only acquires a
sampling of this knowledge from the divine, is both ancient and current: Christians believe that
the various authors of the Bible, especially the Apostles who composed the books of the New
Testament, were merely conduits for the word of God. Muslims also believe that the Prophet
Mohamed was given the Quran (Koran) by God through a vision. 1 The ancients too believed that
true knowledge was the sole possession of the gods but that the gods would occasionally impart
glimpses of that universal knowledge to man, through the poets, seers and oracles.
All of our extant works of epic poetry that treat of things divine or things very ancient, begin
with the invocation of the gods as the source of knowledge.
Hesiod, Theogony 1 - 29
[1] From the Heliconian Muses let us begin to sing, who hold the great and holy mount
of Helicon, and dance on soft feet about the deep-blue spring and the altar of the almighty
son of Cronus…
Quran 2.4.32: “Glory to thee: of knowledge we have none, save what Thou hast taught us: in truth it is Thou who art
perfect in knowledge and wisdom”
Divine Riddles - 5
And one day they taught Hesiod glorious song while he was shepherding his lambs
under holy Helicon, and this word first the goddesses said to me -- the Muses of Olympus,
daughters of Zeus who holds the aegis: [26] “Shepherds of the wilderness, wretched things
of shame, mere bellies, we know how to speak many false things as though they were true;
but we know, when we will, to utter true things.” So said the ready-voiced daughters of great
The phrase “we know how to speak many false things…” may be a reference to the nature of
the information that the gods impart. Divine wisdom is always given in riddles, parables; stories
which are not literally ‘true’ but are representations of a divine truth.
Truth, is a much more complex issue than one might initially suppose. Is it true, for example,
that the sun rose this morning? Of course not. The sun doesn’t ‘rise,’ the earth rotates into the sun’s
rays, but we still express the untruth of the rising sun every day because it is a convenient
expression of the world as we observe it. In the ancient world it was not merely a matter of
convenience, it was more the fact that the world around them was strange and often inexplicable.
Ancient mythographers were looking for explanations and the simplest (still employed by many
today) was the Intelligent Design theory. If some god or gods created the world we live in, who
better than they to tell us how and why they did it?
Ovid, Metamorphoses i.1
My design leads me to speak of forms changed into new bodies. You gods, (for you it
was who changed them,) favour my attempts, and bring down the lengthened narrative from
the very beginning of the world, even to my own times.
The Origins of Things
It seems a universally human characteristic to ponder the origins of our world, and it seems
equally universal that ancient humans, unable to come up with a better explanation, attributed their
existence, and the existence of all around them, to some superior and sentient being(s). A brief
walk in the countryside at night is enough to make anyone appreciate why these early peoples
often assumed the gods to be above the earth and the canopy of the stars to be some indication of
a divine force. Ovid, a Roman poet of the first century BC, equated this ‘looking up’ to human
curiosity and saw in that the distinction between man and animal:
Ovid, Metamorphoses i.85
And, whereas other animals bend their looks downwards upon the Earth, to Man, god
gave a countenance to look on high and to behold the heavens, and to raise his face erect to
the stars.
Compare this to Johannes Kepler’s epitaph: “My mind was in the stars, my body held firm on
the earth” (Mens coelestis erat, corporis umbra iacet). Theology, philosophy and what we now
call science are not so different, all looking to the heavens for some revelations about the nature
of man.
Hesiod, a Greek from Boeotia, composed several texts on the nature of the gods and the origins
of man and the world around us. These texts, combined with the works of Homer, comprise the
main canon of the Greek mythical past and the foundations of the Greek identity.
Herodotus ii.53
…whence the several gods had their birth, or whether they all were from the beginning,
and of what form they are, the Greeks did not learn till yesterday, as it were, or the day
before: for Hesiod and Homer, I suppose, were four hundred years before my time 1 and not
more, and these are they who made a Theogony for the Hellenes and gave the titles to the
gods and distributed to them honours and arts, and set forth their forms: but the poets who
are said to have been before these men were really in my opinion after them. Of these things
the first are said by the priestesses of Dodona, 2 and the latter things, those namely which
have regard to Hesiod and Homer, by myself.
The Formation of the Earth and the Birth of the Gods:
Hesiod, Theogony 104 – 115: Invocation
[ 104] Hail, children of Zeus! Grant lovely song and celebrate the holy race of the deathless
gods who are for ever, those that were born of Earth and starry Heaven and gloomy Night
and them that briny Sea did rear. Tell how at the first gods and earth came to be, and
rivers, and the boundless sea with its raging swell, and the gleaming stars, and the wide
heaven above, and the gods who were born of them, givers of good things, and how they
divided their wealth, and how they shared their honours amongst them, and also how at
Herodotus was writing in the 430s BC, which would put Hesiod and Homer ca. 830 BC. Most scholars today agree
with a mid-ninth century date for Homer but suggest that Hesiod was likely later.
Dodona is a temple and sanctuary of Zeus in N. Western Greece.
Divine Riddles - 7
the first they took many-folded Olympus. These things declare to me from the beginning,
ye Muses who dwell in the house of Olympus, and tell me which of them first came to be.
Descent from Chaos: Theogony 116 - 138
[116 - 138] Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the eversure foundations of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim
Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros (Love), fairest among the deathless
gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all
men within them. From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night; but of Night were born
Aether and Day, whom she conceived and bare from union in love with Erebus. And Earth
first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an ever-sure
abiding-place for the blessed gods. And she brought forth long Hills, graceful haunts of the
goddess-Nymphs who dwell amongst the glens of the hills. She bare also the fruitless deep
with his raging swell, Pontus, without sweet union of love. But afterwards she lay with
Heaven and bare deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia
and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them
was born Cronus the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty
Cyclopes Theogony 139 – 146
[139 - 146] And again, she bare the Cyclopes, overbearing in spirit, Brontes, and
Steropes and stubborn-hearted Arges, who gave Zeus the thunder and made the thunderbolt:
in all else they were like the gods, but one eye only was set in the midst of their fore-heads.
And they were surnamed Cyclopes (Orb-eyed) because one orbed eye was set in their
foreheads. Strength and might and craft were in their works.
Revolt of Cronus against Heaven: Theogony 147 - 169
[147 - 163] And again, three other sons were born of Earth and Heaven, great and
doughty beyond telling, Cottus and Briareos and Gyes, presumptuous children. From their
shoulders sprang an hundred arms, not to be approached, and each had fifty heads upon
his shoulders on their strong limbs, and irresistible was the stubborn strength that was in
their great forms. For of all the children that were born of Earth and Heaven, these were
the most terrible, and they were hated by their own father from the first. And he used to
hide them all away in a secret place of Earth so soon as each was born, and would not suffer
them to come up into the light: and Heaven rejoiced in his evil doing. But vast Earth groaned
within, being straitened, and she made the element of grey flint and shaped a great sickle,
and told her plan to her dear sons. And she spoke, cheering them, while she was vexed in
her dear heart:
[164 - 169] `My children, gotten of a sinful father, if you will obey me, we should punish
the vile outrage of your father; for he first thought of doing shameful things.' So she said;
but fear seized them all, and none of them uttered a word. But great Cronus the wily took
courage and answered his dear mother:
[170 - 180] `Mother, I will undertake to do this deed, for I reverence not our father of
evil name, for he first thought of doing shameful things.' So he said: and vast Earth rejoiced
Divine Riddles - 8
greatly in spirit, and set and hid him in an ambush, and put in his hands a jagged sickle,
and revealed to him the whole plot. And Heaven came, bringing on night and longing for
love, and he lay about Earth spreading himself full upon her. Then the son from his ambush
stretched forth his left hand and in his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth,
and swiftly lopped off his own father's members and cast them away to fall behind him.
The Giants and Aphrodite, Theogony 181 – 210
And not vainly did they fall from his hand; for all the bloody drops that gushed forth
Earth received, and as the seasons moved round she bare the strong Erinyes 1 and the great
Giants with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands and the Nymphs whom
they call Meliae all over the boundless earth. And so soon as he had cut off the members
with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the
main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it
there grew a maiden. First she drew near holy Cythera, and from there, afterwards, she came
to sea-girt Cyprus, and came forth an awful and lovely goddess, and grass grew up about her
beneath her shapely feet. Her gods and men call Aphrodite, and the foam-born goddess and
rich-crowned Cytherea, because she grew amid the foam, and Cytherea because she reached
Cythera, and Cyprogenes because she was born in billowy Cyprus, and Philommedes because
sprang from the members. 2 And with her went Eros, and comely Desire followed her at her
birth at the first and as she went into the assembly of the gods. This honour she has from
the beginning, and this is the portion allotted to her amongst men and undying gods, -- the
whisperings of maidens and smiles and deceits with sweet delight and love and graciousness.
Titans, Theogony 207 – 210
[207 - 210] But these sons whom be begot himself great Heaven used to call Titans
(Strainers) in reproach, for he said that they strained and did presumptuously a fearful deed,
and that vengeance for it would come afterwards.
Children of Night, Theogony 211 - 232
[211 - 225] And Night bare hateful Doom and black Fate and Death, and she bare Sleep
and the tribe of Dreams. And again the goddess murky Night, though she lay with none,
bare Blame and painful Woe, and the Hesperides who guard the rich, golden apples and the
trees bearing fruit beyond glorious Ocean. Also she bare the Destinies and ruthless avenging
Fates, Clotho and Lachesis and Atropos, who give men at their birth both evil and good to
have, and they pursue the transgressions of men and of gods: and these goddesses never
cease from their dread anger until they punish the sinner with a sore penalty. Also deadly
Night bare Nemesis to afflict mortal men, and after her, Deceit and Friendship and hateful
Age and hard-hearted Strife.
[226 - 232] But abhorred Strife bare painful Toil and Forgetfulness and Famine and
tearful Sorrows, Fightings also, Battles, Murders, Manslaughters, Quarrels, Lying Words,
The Furies, the avenging goddesses who pursue the guilty. At Athens they were called the Semnai Theai: The August
Goddesses (Paus. i.28.6).
Homer nowhere acknowledges this tradition, but maintains that Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus and Dione. See
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite.
Divine Riddles - 9
Disputes, Lawlessness and Ruin, all of one nature, and Oath who most troubles men upon
earth when anyone wilfully swears a false oath.
Medusa and the Gorgons, Theogony 270 - 294
[270 - 294] And again, Ceto bare to Phoreys the fair-cheeked Graiae, sisters grey from
their birth: and both deathless gods and men who walk on earth call them Graiae,
Pemphredo well-clad, and saffron-robed Enyo, and the Gorgons who dwell beyond glorious
Ocean in the frontier land towards Night where are the clear- voiced Hesperides, Sthenno,
and Euryale, and Medusa who suffered a woeful fate: she was mortal, but the two were
undying and grew not old. With her lay the Dark-haired One in a soft meadow amid spring
flowers. And when Perseus cut off her head, there sprang forth great Chrysaor and the horse
Pegasus who is so called because he was born near the springs (pegae) of Ocean; and that
other, because he held a golden blade (aor) in his hands. Now Pegasus flew away and left
the earth, the mother of flocks, and came to the deathless gods: and he dwells in the house
of Zeus and brings to wise Zeus the thunder and lightning. But Chrysaor was joined in love
to Callirrhoe, the daughter of glorious Ocean, and begot three-headed Geryones. Him
mighty Heracles slew in sea-girt Erythea by his shambling oxen on that day when he drove
the wide-browed oxen to holy Tiryns, and had crossed the ford of Ocean and killed Orthus
and Eurytion the herdsman in the dim stead out beyond glorious Ocean.
Cerberus and other Monsters, Theogony 306 - 332
[306 - 332] Men say that Typhaon the terrible, 1 outrageous and lawless, was joined in
love to her, the maid with glancing eyes. So she conceived and brought forth fierce offspring;
first she bare Orthus the hound of Geryones, and then again she bare a second, a monster
not to be overcome and that may not be described, Cerberus who eats raw flesh, the brazenvoiced hound of Hades, fifty-headed, relentless and strong. And again she bore a third, the
evil-minded Hydra of Lerna, whom the goddess, white-armed Hera nourished, being angry
beyond measure with the mighty Heracles. And her Heracles, the son of Zeus, of the house
of Amphitryon, together with warlike Iolaus, destroyed with the unpitying sword through
the plans of Athena the spoil-driver. She was the mother of Chimaera who breathed raging
fire, a creature fearful, great, swift-footed and strong, who had three heads, one of a grimeyed lion; in her hinderpart, a dragon; and in her middle, a goat, breathing forth a fearful
blast of blazing fire. Her did Pegasus and noble Bellerophon slay; but Echidna was subject
in love to Orthus and brought forth the deadly Sphinx which destroyed the Cadmeans, and
the Nemean lion, which Hera, the good wife of Zeus, brought up and made to haunt the
hills of Nemea, a plague to men. There he preyed upon the tribes of her own people and
had power over Tretus of Nemea and Apesas: yet the strength of stout Heracles overcame
Sun and Moon, Theogony 371 - 74
[371 - 74] And Theia was subject in love to Hyperion and bare great Helius (Sun) and
clear Selene (Moon) and Eos (Dawn) who shines upon all that are on earth and upon the
deathless Gods who live in the wide heaven.
Not to be confused with Typhoeus
Divine Riddles - 10
Leto and Hecate, Theogony 404 - 452
[404 – 452] Again, Phoebe came to the desired embrace of Coeus. Then the goddess
through the love of the god conceived and brought forth dark-gowned Leto, always mild,
kind to men and to the deathless gods, mild from the beginning, gentlest in all Olympus.
Also she bare Asteria of happy name, whom Perses once led to his great house to be called
his dear wife. And she conceived and bare Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronus honoured
above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She
received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods.
For to this day, whenever anyone of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favour
according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honour comes full easily to him whose
prayers the goddess receives favourably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power
surely is with her. For as many as were born of Earth and Ocean amongst all these she has
her due portion. The son of Cronus did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that
was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first
from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea. Also, because she is
an only child, the goddess receives not less honour, but much more still, for Zeus honours
her. Whom she will she greatly aids and advances: she sits by worshipful kings in judgement,
and in the assembly whom she will is distinguished among the people. And when men arm
themselves for the battle that destroys men, then the goddess is at hand to give victory and
grant glory readily to whom she will. Good is she also when men contend at the games, for
there too the goddess is with them and profits them: and he who by might and strength gets
the victory wins the rich prize easily with joy, and brings glory to his parents. And she is
good to stand by horsemen, whom she will: and to those whose business is in the grey
discomfortable sea, and who pray to Hecate and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, easily the
glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes it away as soon as seen, if so she will.
She is good in the byre with Hermes to increase the stock. The droves of kine and wide
herds of goats and flocks of fleecy sheep, if she will, she increases from a few, or makes many
to be less. So, then. Albeit her mother's only child, she is honoured amongst all the deathless
gods. And the son of Cronus made her a nurse of the young who after that day saw with
their eyes the light of all-seeing Dawn. So from the beginning she is a nurse of the young,
and these are her honours.
Zeus, and the other Children of Cronus, Theogony 453 – 506
[453 – 506] But Rhea was subject in love to Cronus and bare splendid children, Hestia,
Demeter, and gold-shod Hera and strong Hades, pitiless in heart, who dwells under the
earth, and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, 1 and wise Zeus, father of gods and men, by whose
thunder the wide earth is shaken. These great Cronus swallowed as each came forth from
the womb to his mother's knees with this intent, that no other of the proud sons of Heaven
should hold the kingly office amongst the deathless gods. For he learned from Earth and
starry Heaven that he was destined to be overcome by his own son, strong though he was,
through the contriving of great Zeus. Therefore he kept no blind outlook, but watched and
swallowed down his children: and unceasing grief seized Rhea. But when she was about to
Divine Riddles - 11
bear Zeus, the father of gods and men, then she besought her own dear parents, Earth and
starry Heaven, to devise some plan with her that the birth of her dear child might be
concealed, and that retribution might overtake great, crafty Cronus for his own father and
also for the children whom he had swallowed down. And they readily heard and obeyed
their dear daughter, and told her all that was destined to happen touching Cronus the king
and his stout-hearted son. So they sent her to Lyetus, to the rich land of Crete, when she
was ready to bear great Zeus, the youngest of her children. Him did vast Earth receive from
Rhea in wide Crete to nourish and to bring up. Thither came Earth carrying him swiftly
through the black night to Lyctus first, and took him in her arms and hid him in a remote
cave beneath the secret places of the holy earth on thick-wooded Mount Aegeum; but to the
mightily ruling son of Heaven, the earlier king of the gods, she gave a great stone wrapped
in swaddling clothes. Then he took it in his hands and thrust it down into his belly: wretch!
He knew not in his heart that in place of the stone his son was left behind, unconquered
and untroubled, and that he was soon to overcome him by force and might and drive him
from his honours, himself to reign over the deathless gods.
Zeus Defeats Cronus, Theogony 492 – 506
[492–506] After that, the strength and glorious limbs of the prince increased quickly,
and as the years rolled on, great Cronus the wily was beguiled by the deep suggestions of
Earth, and brought up again his offspring, vanquished by the arts and might of his own son,
and he vomited up first the stone which he had swallowed last. And Zeus set it fast in the
wide-pathed earth at goodly Pytho under the glens of Parnassus, to be a sign thenceforth
and a marvel to mortal men. And he set free from their deadly bonds the brothers of his
father, sons of Heaven whom his father in his foolishness had bound. And they remembered
to be grateful to him for his kindness, and gave him thunder and the glowing thunderbolt
and lightening: for before that, huge Earth had hidden these. In them he trusts and rules
over mortals and immortals.
Titanomachy, Theogony 617 – 735
[617] But when first their father was vexed in his heart with Obriareus and Cottus and
Gyes, 1 he bound them in cruel bonds, because he was jealous of their exceeding manhood
and comeliness and great size: and he made them live beneath the wide-pathed earth, where
they were afflicted, being set to dwell under the ground, at the end of the earth, at its great
borders, in bitter anguish for a long time and with great grief at heart. But the son of Cronus
and the other deathless gods whom rich-haired Rhea bore from union with Cronus, brought
them up again to the light at Earth's advising. For she herself recounted all things to the
gods fully, how that with these they would gain victory and a glorious cause to vaunt
themselves. For the Titan gods and as many as sprang from Cronus had long been fighting
together in stubborn war with heart-grieving toil, the lordly Titans from high Othyrs, but
the gods, givers of good, whom rich-haired Rhea bare in union with Cronus, from Olympus.
So they, with bitter wrath, were fighting continually with one another at that time for ten
full years, and the hard strife had no close or end for either side, and the issue of the war
hung evenly balanced. But when he had provided those three with all things fitting, nectar
The sons of Earth and Heaven, see above line 147.
Divine Riddles - 12
and ambrosia which the gods themselves eat, and when their proud spirit revived within
them all after they had fed on nectar and delicious ambrosia, then it was that the father of
men and gods spoke amongst them:
[644] `Hear me, bright children of Earth and Heaven, that I may say what my heart
within me bids. A long while now have we, who are sprung from Cronus and the Titan gods,
fought with each other every day to get victory and to prevail. But do you show your great
might and unconquerable strength, and face the Titans in bitter strife; for remember our
friendly kindness, and from what sufferings you are come back to the light from your cruel
bondage under misty gloom through our counsels.'
[654] So he said. And blameless Cottus answered him again: `Divine one, you speak
that which we know well: nay, even of ourselves we know that your wisdom and
understanding is exceeding, and that you became a defender of the deathless ones from chill
doom. And through your devising we are come back again from the murky gloom and from
our merciless bonds, enjoying what we looked not for, O lord, son of Cronus. And so now
with fixed purpose and deliberate counsel we will aid your power in dreadful strife and will
fight against the Titans in hard battle.'
[664] So he said: and the gods, givers of good things, applauded when they heard his
word, and their spirit longed for war even more than before, and they all, both male and
female, stirred up hated battle that day, the Titan gods, and all that were born of Cronus
together with those dread, mighty ones of overwhelming strength whom Zeus brought up to
the light from Erebus beneath the earth. An hundred arms sprang from the shoulders of all
alike, and each had fifty heads growing upon his shoulders upon stout limbs. These, then,
stood against the Titans in grim strife, holding huge rocks in their strong hands. And on
the other part the Titans eagerly strengthened their ranks, and both sides at one time showed
the work of their hands and their might. The boundless sea rang terribly around, and the
earth crashed loudly: wide Heaven was shaken and groaned, and high Olympus reeled from
its foundation under the charge of the undying gods, and a heavy quaking reached dim
Tartarus and the deep sound of their feet in the fearful onset and of their hard missiles. So,
then, they launched their grievous shafts upon one another, and the cry of both armies as
they shouted reached to starry heaven; and they met together with a great battle-cry.
[687 - 712] Then Zeus no longer held back his might; but straight his heart was filled
with fury and he showed forth all his strength. From Heaven and from Olympus he came
forthwith, hurling his lightning: the bold flew thick and fast from his strong hand together
with thunder and lightning, whirling an awesome flame. The life-giving earth crashed
around in burning, and the vast wood crackled loud with fire all about. All the land seethed,
and Ocean's streams and the unfruitful sea. The hot vapour lapped round the earthborn
Titans: flame unspeakable rose to the bright upper air: the flashing glare of the thunderstone and lightning blinded their eyes for all that there were strong. Astounding heat seized
Chaos: and to see with eyes and to hear the sound with ears it seemed even as if Earth and
wide Heaven above came together; for such a mighty crash would have arisen if Earth were
being hurled to ruin, and Heaven from on high were hurling her down; so great a crash was
there while the gods were meeting together in strife. Also the winds brought rumbling
earthquake and dust storm, thunder and lightning and the lurid thunderbolt, which are the
shafts of great Zeus, and carried the clangour and the war cry into the midst of the two hosts.
Divine Riddles - 13
An horrible uproar of terrible strife arose: mighty deeds were shown and the battle inclined.
But until then, they kept at one another and fought continually in cruel war.
[713] And amongst the foremost Cottus and Briareos and Gyes insatiate for war raised
fierce fighting: three hundred rocks, one upon another, they launched from their strong
hands and overshadowed the Titans with their missiles, and buried them beneath the widepathed earth, and bound them in bitter chains when they had conquered them by their
strength for all their great spirit, as far beneath the earth to Tartarus. For a brazen anvil
falling down from heaven nine nights and days would reach the earth upon the tenth: and
again, a brazen anvil falling from earth nine nights and days would reach Tartarus upon the
tenth. Round it runs a fence of bronze, and night spreads in triple line all about it like a
neck-circlet, while above grow the roots of the earth and unfruitful sea. There by the counsel
of Zeus who drives the clouds the Titan gods are hidden under misty gloom, in a dank place
where are the ends of the huge earth. And they may not go out; for Poseidon fixed gates of
bronze upon it, and a wall runs all round it on every side. There Gyes and Cottus and greatsouled Obriareus live, trusty warders of Zeus who holds the aegis.
Tartarus, Theogony 736 – 57
[736] And there, all in their order, are the sources and ends of gloomy earth and misty
Tartarus and the unfruitful sea and starry heaven, loathsome and dank, which even the gods
It is a great gulf, and if once a man were within the gates, he would not reach the floor
until a whole year had reached its end, but cruel blast upon blast would carry him this way
and that. And this marvel is awful even to the deathless gods.
[744] There stands the awful home of murky Night wrapped in dark clouds. In front of
it the son of Iapetus 1 stands immovably upholding the wide heaven upon his head and
unwearying hands, where Night and Day draw near and greet one another as they pass the
great threshold of bronze: and while the one is about to go down into the house, the other
comes out at the door.
And the house never holds them both within; but always one is without the house
passing over the earth, while the other stays at home and waits until the time for her
journeying come; and the one holds all-seeing light for them on earth, but the other holds
in her arms Sleep the brother of Death, even evil Night, wrapped in a vaporous cloud.
Hades, Theogony 758 – 806
[758] And there the children of dark Night have their dwellings, Sleep and Death, awful
gods. The glowing Sun never looks upon them with his beams, neither as he goes up into
heaven, nor as he comes down from heaven. And the former of them roams peacefully over
the earth and the sea's broad back and is kindly to men; but the other has a heart of iron,
and his spirit within him is pitiless as bronze: whomsoever of men he has once seized he
holds fast: and he is hateful even to the deathless gods.
[767] There, in front, stand the echoing halls of the god of the lower-world, strong
Hades, and of awful Persephone. 2 A fearful hound guards the house in front, pitiless, and
For the marriage of Hades and Persephone see below: The Gods and Goddesses: Demeter; Hades
Divine Riddles - 14
he has a cruel trick. On those who go in he fawns with his tail and both his ears, but suffers
them not to go out back again, but keeps watch and devours whomsoever he catches going
out of the gates of strong Hades and awful Persephone.
[775] And there dwells the goddess loathed by the deathless gods, terrible Styx, eldest
daughter of back-flowing Ocean. She lives apart from the gods in her glorious house vaulted
over with great rocks and propped up to heaven all round with silver pillars. Rarely does the
daughter of Thaumas, swift- footed Iris, come to her with a message over the sea's wide back.
But when strife and quarrel arise among the deathless gods, and when any of them who live
in the house of Olympus lies, then Zeus sends Iris to bring in a golden jug the great oath of
the gods from far away, the famous cold water which trickles down from a high and beetling
rock. Far under the wide-pathed earth a branch of Oceanus flows through the dark night
out of the holy stream, and a tenth part of his water is allotted to her. With nine silverswirling streams he winds about the earth and the sea's wide back, and then falls into the
main; but the tenth flows out from a rock, a sore trouble to the gods. For whoever of the
deathless gods that hold the peaks of snowy Olympus pours a libation of her water is
forsworn, lies breathless until a full year is completed, and never comes near to taste
ambrosia and nectar, but lies spiritless and voiceless on a strewn bed: and a heavy trance
overshadows him. But when he has spent a long year in his sickness, another penance and
harder follows after the first. For nine years he is cut off from the eternal gods and never
joins their councils of their feasts, nine full years. But in the tenth year he comes again to
join the assemblies of the deathless gods who live in the house of Olympus. Such an oath,
then, did the gods appoint the eternal and primaeval water of Styx to be: and it spouts
through a rugged place.
Zeus and Typhoeus, Theogony 820 - 880
[820] But when Zeus had driven the Titans from heaven, huge Earth bare her youngest
child Typhoeus of the love of Tartarus, by the aid of golden Aphrodite. Strength was with
his hands in all that he did and the feet of the strong god were untiring. From his shoulders
grew an hundred heads of a snake, a fearful dragon, with dark, flickering tongues, and from
under the brows of his eyes in his marvellous heads flashed fire, and fire burned from his
heads as he glared. And there were voices in all his dreadful heads which uttered every kind
of sound unspeakable; for at one time they made sounds such that the gods understood, but
at another, the noise of a bull bellowing aloud in proud ungovernable fury; and at another,
the sound of a lion, relentless of heart; and at another, sounds like whelps, wonderful to
hear; and again, at another, he would hiss, so that the high mountains re-echoed. And truly
a thing past help would have happened on that day, and he would have come to reign over
mortals and immortals, had not the father of men and gods been quick to perceive it. But
he thundered hard and mightily: and the earth around resounded terribly and the wide
heaven above, and the sea and Ocean's streams and the nether parts of the earth. Great
Olympus reeled beneath the divine feet of the king as he arose and earth groaned thereat.
And through the two of them heat took hold on the dark-blue sea, through the thunder and
lightning, and through the fire from the monster, and the scorching winds and blazing
thunderbolt. The whole earth seethed, and sky and sea: and the long waves raged along the
beaches round and about, at the rush of the deathless gods: and there arose an endless
shaking. Hades trembled where he rules over the dead below, and the Titans under Tartarus
Divine Riddles - 15
who live with Cronus, because of the unending clamour and the fearful strife. So when Zeus
had raised up his might and seized his arms, thunder and lightning and lurid thunderbolt,
he leaped form Olympus and struck him, and burned all the marvellous heads of the
monster about him. But when Zeus had conquered him and lashed him with strokes,
Typhoeus was hurled down, a maimed wreck, so that the huge earth groaned. And flame
shot forth from the thunder- stricken lord in the dim rugged glens of the mount, when he
was smitten. A great part of huge earth was scorched by the terrible vapour and melted as
tin melts when heated by men's art in channelled crucibles; or as iron, which is hardest of
all things, is softened by glowing fire in mountain glens and melts in the divine earth
through the strength of Hephaestus. Even so, then, the earth melted in the glow of the
blazing fire. And in the bitterness of his anger Zeus cast him into wide Tartarus. 1
Zeus, King of the Gods, Theogony 881 –85
[881] But when the blessed gods had finished their toil, and settled by force their
struggle for honours with the Titans, they pressed far-seeing Olympian Zeus to reign and to
rule over them, by Earth's prompting. So he divided their dignities amongst them.
The Division of the Realms, Iliad xv. 184 – 193.
… We were three brothers whom Rhea bore to Cronus- Zeus, myself, 2 and Hades who
rules the world below. Heaven and earth were divided into three parts, and each of us was
to have an equal share. When we cast lots, it fell to me to have my dwelling in the sea for
evermore; Hades took the darkness of the realms under the earth, while air and sky and
clouds were the portion that fell to Zeus; but earth and great Olympus are the common
property of all.
Metis and Zeus, Theogony 886 – 900
[886-900] Now Zeus, king of the gods, made Metis his wife first, and she was wisest
among gods and mortal men. But when she was about to bring forth the goddess bright-eyed
Athena, Zeus craftily deceived her with cunning words and put her in his own belly, as Earth
and starry Heaven advised. For they advised him so, to the end that no other should hold
royal sway over the eternal gods in place of Zeus; for very wise children were destined to be
born of her, first the maiden bright-eyed Tritogeneia, equal to her father in strength and in
wise understanding; but afterwards she was to bear a son of overbearing spirit, king of gods
and men. But Zeus put her into his own belly first, that the goddess might devise for him
both good and evil.
Lesser Children of Zeus, Theogony 901 - 17
[901-906] Next he married bright Themis who bare the Horae (Hours), and Eunomia
(Order), Dike (Justice), and blooming Eirene (Peace), who mind the works of mortal men,
and the Moerae (Fates) to whom wise Zeus gave the greatest honour, Clotho, and Lachesis,
and Atropos who give mortal men evil and good to have.
See Ovid, Metamorphoses v.341 – 68, where Typhoeus is said to be held under Sicily.
Poseidon is speaking here.
Divine Riddles - 16
[907-911] And Eurynome, the daughter of Ocean, beautiful in form, bare him three faircheeked Charites (Graces), Aglaea, and Euphrosyne, and lovely Thaleia, from whose eyes as
they glanced flowed love that unnerves the limbs: and beautiful is their glance beneath their
[912-914] Also he came to the bed of all-nourishing Demeter, and she bare white-armed
Persephone whom Aidoneus 1 carried off from her mother; but wise Zeus gave her to him.
[915-917] And again, he loved Mnemosyne with the beautiful hair: and of her the nine
gold-crowned Muses were born who delight in feasts and the pleasures of song.
Zeus, Father of the Gods, Theogony 918 – 29
[918-920] And Leto was joined in love with Zeus who holds the aegis, and bore Apollo
and Artemis delighting in arrows, children lovely above all the sons of Heaven.
[921-923] Lastly, he made Hera his wife: and she was joined in love with the king of
gods and men, and brought forth Hebe and Ares and Eileithyia.
[924-929] But Zeus himself gave birth from his own head to bright-eyed Tritogeneia, 2
the awful, the strife-stirring, the host-leader, the unwearying, the queen, who delights in
tumults and wars and battles. But Hera without union with Zeus -- for she was very angry
and quarrelled with her mate -- bore famous Hephaestus, who is skilled in crafts more than
all the sons of Heaven.
The Origins of Man
The Five Ages in Hesiod
Hesiod, Works and Days 109ff.
[109] First of all the deathless gods who dwell on Olympus made a golden race of mortal
men who lived in the time of Cronus when he was reigning in heaven. And they lived like
gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not
on them; but with legs and arms never failing they made merry with feasting beyond the
reach of all evils. When they died, it was as though they were overcome with sleep, and they
had all good things; for the fruitful earth unforced bare them fruit abundantly and without
stint. They dwelt in ease and peace upon their lands with many good things, rich in flocks
and loved by the blessed gods.
[121] But after earth had covered this generation -- they are called pure spirits dwelling
on the earth, and are kindly, delivering from harm, and guardians of mortal men; for they
roam everywhere over the earth, clothed in mist and keep watch on judgements and cruel
deeds, givers of wealth; for this royal right also they received; -- then they who dwell on
Olympus made a second generation which was of silver and less noble by far. It was like the
golden race neither in body nor in spirit. A child was brought up at his good mother's side
an hundred years, an utter simpleton, playing childishly in his own home. But when they
were full grown and were come to the full measure of their prime, they lived only a little
time in sorrow because of their foolishness, for they could not keep from sinning and from
wronging one another, nor would they serve the immortals, nor sacrifice on the holy altars
of the blessed ones as it is right for men to do wherever they dwell. Then Zeus the son of
Cronus was angry and put them away, because they would not give honour to the blessed
gods who live on Olympus.
[140] But when earth had covered this generation also -- they are called blessed spirits
of the underworld by men, and, though they are of second order, yet honour attends them
also -- Zeus the Father made a third generation of mortal men, a bronze race, sprung from
ash-trees; and it was in no way equal to the silver age, but was terrible and strong. They loved
the lamentable works of Ares and deeds of violence; they ate no bread, but were hard of
heart like adamant, fearful men. Great was their strength and unconquerable the arms which
grew from their shoulders on their strong limbs. Their armour was of bronze, and their
houses of bronze, and of bronze were their implements: there was no black iron. These were
destroyed by their own hands and passed to the dank house of chill Hades, and left no name:
terrible though they were, black Death seized them, and they left the bright light of the sun.
[156] But when earth had covered this generation also, Zeus the son of Cronus made
yet another, the fourth, upon the fruitful earth, which was nobler and more righteous, a
god-like race of hero-men who are called demi-gods, the race before our own, throughout
the boundless earth. Grim war and dread battle destroyed a part of them, some in the land
of Cadmus at seven- gated Thebes when they fought for the flocks of Oedipus, and some,
when it had brought them in ships over the great sea gulf to Troy for rich-haired Helen's
sake: there death's end enshrouded a part of them. But to the others father Zeus the son of
Cronus gave a living and an abode apart from men, and made them dwell at the ends of
earth. And they live untouched by sorrow in the islands of the blessed along the shore of
Divine Riddles - 18
deep swirling Ocean, happy heroes for whom the grain-giving earth bears honey-sweet fruit
flourishing thrice a year, far from the deathless gods, and Cronus rules over them; for the
father of men and gods released him from his bonds. And these last equally have honour
and glory.
[169c] And again far-seeing Zeus made yet another generation, the fifth, of men who are
upon the bounteous earth. [170] Thereafter, would that I were not among the men of the
fifth generation, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race
of iron, and men never rest from labour and sorrow by day, and from perishing by night;
and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have
some good mingled with their evils. And Zeus will destroy this race of mortal men also when
they come to have grey hair on the temples at their birth. The father will not agree with his
children, nor the children with their father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with
comrade; nor will brother be dear to brother as aforetime. Men will dishonour their parents
as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted
they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost their
nurture, for might shall be their right: and one man will sack another's city. There will be
no favour for the man who keeps his oath or for the just or for the good; but rather men
will praise the evil-doer and his violent dealing. Strength will be right and reverence will
cease to be; and the wicked will hurt the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and
will swear an oath upon them. Envy, foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face,
will go along with wretched men one and all. And then Aidos and Nemesis, with their sweet
forms wrapped in white robes, will go from the wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind to
join the company of the deathless gods: and bitter sorrows will be left for mortal men, and
there will be no help against evil.
In contrast to Hesiod’s rather fatalistic view, Ovid presents a more progressive view,
suggesting that the succession of the ages had more to do with man’s changing relationship to
nature and the advent of technology. Ovid is a Roman writing in Latin. Many of the names of the
gods are in their Latin equivalents.
Ovid, Metamorphoses i.76 – 88
[76] But an animated being, more holy than these, more fitted to receive higher
faculties, and which could rule over the rest, was still wanting. Then Man was formed.
Whether it was that the Artificer of all things, the original of the world in its improved state,
framed him from divine elements, [80] or whether the Earth, being newly made, and but
lately divided from the lofty ether, still retained some divine force which tempered with the
waters of the stream the son of Iapetus 1 fashioned after the image of the gods, who rule over
all things. And, whereas other animals bend their looks downwards upon the Earth, [85] to
man he gave a countenance to look on high and to behold the heavens, and to raise his face
erect to the stars. 2 Thus, that which had been lately rude earth and without any regular
shape, being changed, assumed the form of Man, till then unknown.
os homini sublime dedit, caelumque videreiussit et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus. 85-6.
Divine Riddles - 19
[89] The Golden Age was first founded, which, without any avenger, of its own accord,
without laws, practised both faith and rectitude. Punishment, and the fear of it, did not
exist, and threatening decrees were not read upon the brazen tables, fixed up to view, nor
yet did the suppliant multitude dread the countenance of its judge; but all were in safety
without any avenger. [95] The pine-tree, cut from its native mountains, had not yet
descended to the flowing waves, that it might visit a foreign region; and mortals were
acquainted with no shores beyond their own. Not as yet did deep ditches surround the
towns; no trumpets of straightened, or clarions of crooked brass, no helmets, no swords
then existed. [100] Without occasion for soldiers, the minds of men, free from care, enjoyed
an easy tranquillity.
[101] The Earth itself, too, in freedom, untouched by the harrow, and wounded by no
ploughshares, of its own accord produced everything; and men, contented with the food
created under no compulsion, gathered the fruit of the arbute-tree, and the strawberries of
the mountain, [105] and cornels, and blackberries adhering to the prickly bramble-bushes,
and acorns which had fallen from the wide-spreading tree of Jove. 1 Then it was an eternal
spring; and the gentle Zephyrs, with their soothing breezes, cherished the flowers produced
without any seed. Soon, too, the Earth unploughed yielded crops of grain, and the land,
[110] without being renewed, was whitened with the heavy ears of corn. Then, rivers of milk,
then, rivers of nectar were flowing, and the yellow honey was distilled from the green holm
[113] Afterwards (Saturn 2 being driven into the shady realms of Tartarus), the world
was under the sway of Jupiter; 3 then the Silver Age succeeded, inferior to that of gold, but
more precious than that of yellow brass. Jupiter shortened the duration of the former spring,
and divided the year into four periods by means of winters, and summers, and unsteady
autumns, and short springs. Then, for the first time, did the parched air glow with sultry
heat, [120] and the ice, bound up by the winds, was pendant. Then, for the first time, did
men enter houses; those houses were caverns, and thick shrubs, and twigs fastened together
with bark. Then, for the first time, were the seeds of Ceres 4 buried in long furrows, and the
oxen groaned, pressed by the yoke of the ploughshare.
[125] The Age of Bronze succeeded, as the third in order, after these; fiercer in
disposition, and more prone to horrible warfare, but yet free from impiety. The last Age was
of hard iron. Immediately every species of crime burst forth, in this age of degenerated
tendencies; modesty, truth, and honor took flight; [130] in their place succeeded fraud,
deceit, treachery, violence, and the cursed hankering for acquisition. The sailor now spread
his sails to the winds, and with these, as yet, he was but little acquainted; and the trees,
which had long stood on the lofty mountains, now, as ships bounded through the unknown
waves. [135] The ground, too, hitherto common as the light of the sun and the breezes, the
cautious measurer marked out with his lengthened boundary.
[137] And not only was the rich soil required to furnish corn and due sustenance, but
men even descended into the entrails of the Earth; and riches were dug up, the incentives
Another name for Zeus common in Roman writers.
The Roman name for Cronus.
The Roman name for Zeus.
Roman Name for Demeter.
Divine Riddles - 20
to vice, which the Earth had hidden, and had removed to the Stygian shades. [140] Then
destructive iron came forth, and gold, more destructive than iron; then War came forth,
that fights through the means of both, and that brandishes in his blood-stained hands the
clattering arms. Men live by rapine; the guest is not safe from his host, [145] nor the fatherin-law from the son-in-law; good feeling, too, between brothers is a rarity. The husband is
eager for the death of the wife, she for that of her husband. Horrible stepmothers then
mingle the ghastly wolfsbane; the son prematurely makes inquiry into the years of his father.
Piety lies vanquished, and the virgin Astraea 1 is the last of the heavenly deities to abandon
the Earth, now drenched in slaughter.
While Hesiod attributes the creation of mankind to Zeus, another tradition claims that
Prometheus created mankind. Both agree that Prometheus was the great patron of mankind
amongst the gods, always working to improve our lot by giving us knowledge of useful things.
Apollodorus, Library, i. 7.1
i.7 [1] Prometheus moulded men out of water and earth and gave them also fire, which,
unknown to Zeus, he had hidden in a stalk of fennel. But when Zeus learned of it, he
ordered Hephaestus to nail his body to Mount Caucasus, which is a Scythian mountain. On
it Prometheus was nailed and kept bound for many years. Every day an eagle swooped on
him and devoured the lobes of his liver, which grew by night. That was the penalty that
Prometheus paid for the theft of fire until Hercules afterwards released him, as we shall
show in dealing with Hercules.
Theogony 507 – 559
[507] Now Iapetus took to wife the neat-ankled maid Clymene, daughter of Ocean, and
went up with her into one bed. And she bore him a stout-hearted son, Atlas: also she bore
very glorious Menoetius and clever Prometheus, full of various wiles, and scatter-brained
Epimetheus who from the first was a mischief to men who eat bread; for it was he who first
took of Zeus the woman, the maiden whom he had formed. But Menoetius was outrageous,
and far-seeing Zeus struck him with a lurid thunderbolt and sent him down to Erebus
because of his mad presumption and exceeding pride. And Atlas through hard constraint
upholds the wide heaven with unwearying head and arms, standing at the borders of the
earth before the clear-voiced Hesperides; for this lot wise Zeus assigned to him. And readywitted Prometheus he bound with inextricable bonds, cruel chains, and drove a shaft
through his middle, and set on him a long- winged eagle, which used to eat his immortal
liver; but by night the liver grew as much again everyway as the long-winged bird devoured
in the whole day. That bird Heracles, the valiant son of shapely-ankled Alcmene, slew; and
delivered the son of Iapetus from the cruel plague, and released him from his affliction -not without the will of Olympian Zeus who reigns on high, that the glory of Heracles the
Theban-born might be yet greater than it was before over the plenteous earth. This, then,
The goddess of justice.
Divine Riddles - 21
he regarded, and honoured his famous son; though he was angry, he ceased from the wrath
which he had before because Prometheus matched himself in wit with the almighty son of
[535 – 542] For when the gods and mortal men had a dispute at Mecone, 1 even then
Prometheus was forward to cut up a great ox and set portions before them, trying to befool
the mind of Zeus. Before the rest he set flesh and inner parts thick with fat upon the hide,
covering them with an ox paunch; but for Zeus he put the white bones dressed up with
cunning art and covered with shining fat. Then the father of men and of gods said to him:
[543] `Son of Iapetus, most glorious of all lords, good sir, how unfairly you have divided
the portions!'
[545] So said Zeus whose wisdom is everlasting, rebuking him. But wily Prometheus
answered him, smiling softly and not forgetting his cunning trick:
[548] `Zeus, most glorious and greatest of the eternal gods, take whichever of these
portions your heart within you bids.' So he said, thinking trickery. But Zeus, whose wisdom
is everlasting, saw and failed not to perceive the trick, and in his heart he thought mischief
against mortal men which also was to be fulfilled. With both hands he took up the white fat
and was angry at heart, and wrath came to his spirit when he saw the white ox-bones craftily
tricked out: and because of this the tribes of men upon earth burn white bones to the
deathless gods upon fragrant altars. But Zeus who drives the clouds was greatly vexed and
said to him:
[559] `Son of Iapetus, clever above all! So, sir, you have not yet forgotten your cunning
The myth of Prometheus’ trick is used to explain the sacrificial practices of the Greeks. Just
as Christians, Jews and other faiths give thanks to their God before eating a meal, so too the Greeks
thanked the gods by sharing a portion with them in the form of a sacrifice. Passages that refer to
these sacrifices often make it sound like the ritual is primarily religious, but we have to keep in
mind that the ‘victims’ were cooked and the meat distributed:
Homer, Iliad i. 458 – 67
When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley-meal, they drew back the heads
of the victims and killed and flayed them. They cut out the thigh-bones, wrapped them
round in two layers of fat, set some pieces of raw meat on the top of them, and then Chryses
laid them on the wood fire and poured wine over them, while the young men stood near
him with five-pronged spits in their hands. When the thigh-bones were burned and they had
tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest up small, put the pieces upon the spits, roasted
them till they were done, and drew them off: then, when they had finished their work and
the feast was ready, they ate it, and every man had his full share, so that all were satisfied.
Zeus, wanting mankind to remain in a state of nature, kept the secret of fire from them.
Prometheus, who loved mankind, stole the fire and gave it to man:
Mecone is the earlier name of Sicyon. See Strabo viii.6.25 who says that even before that it was called Aegialeia. It
was founded by Aegialeus (Pausanias ii.7)
Divine Riddles - 22
Hesiod, Works and Days 53 - 105
[53] Zeus who gathers the clouds said to him in anger: “Son of Iapetus, surpassing all in
cunning, you are glad that you have outwitted me and stolen fire -- a great plague to you
yourself and to men that shall be. But I will give men as the price for fire an evil thing in
which they may all be glad of heart while they embrace their own destruction.”
[60] So said the father of men and gods, and laughed aloud. And he bade famous
Hephaestus make haste and mix earth with water and to put in it the voice and strength of
human kind, and fashion a sweet, lovely maiden-shape, like to the immortal goddesses in
face; and Athena to teach her needlework and the weaving of the varied web; and golden
Aphrodite to shed grace upon her head and cruel longing and cares that weary the limbs.
And he charged Hermes the guide, the Slayer of Argus, to put in her a shameless mind and
a deceitful nature. [69] So he ordered. And they obeyed the lord Zeus the son of Cronus.
Forthwith the famous Lame God moulded clay in the likeness of a modest maid, as the son
of Cronus purposed. And the goddess bright-eyed Athena girded and clothed her, and the
divine Graces and queenly Persuasion put necklaces of gold upon her, and the rich-haired
Hours crowned her head with spring flowers. And Pallas Athena bedecked her form with all
manners of finery. Also the Guide, the Slayer of Argus, contrived within her lies and crafty
words and a deceitful nature at the will of loud thundering Zeus, and the Herald of the gods
put speech in her. And he called this woman Pandora, 1 because all they who dwelt on
Olympus gave each a gift, a plague to men who eat bread.
[83] But when he had finished the sheer, hopeless snare, the Father sent glorious ArgusSlayer, the swift messenger of the gods, to take it to Epimetheus as a gift. And Epimetheus
did not think on what Prometheus had said to him, bidding him never take a gift of
Olympian Zeus, but to send it back for fear it might prove to be something harmful to men.
But he took the gift, and afterwards, when the evil thing was already his, he understood.
[90] For before this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills and hard
toil and heavy sickness which bring the Fates upon men; for in misery men grow old quickly.
But the woman took off the great lid of the jar with her hands and scattered all these and
her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. Only Hope remained there in an
unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door; for
ere that, the lid of the jar stopped her, by the will of Aegis-holding Zeus who gathers the
clouds. But the rest, countless plagues, wander amongst men; for earth is full of evils and
the sea is full. Of themselves diseases come upon men continually by day and by night,
bringing mischief to mortals silently; for wise Zeus took away speech from them. So is there
no way to escape the will of Zeus.
Despite this ‘sharing’ of the feast with Zeus and the other gods, Zeus was still angry with
Prometheus for tricking him and continued his efforts to keep mankind in a state of nature:
Pandora, Theogony 548 – 616
[561] So spoke Zeus in anger, whose wisdom is everlasting; and from that time he was
always mindful of the trick, and would not give the power of unwearying fire to the Melian 2
The name means ‘all gifts.’
Inexplicably, Evelyn-White translates Μελίῃσι as ‘Melian’ as if to suggest that mankind came from Melos. The
Greek refers to the Ash tree. See Works and Days 145.
Divine Riddles - 23
race of mortal men who live on the earth. But the noble son of Iapetus outwitted him and
stole the far-seen gleam of unwearying fire in a hollow fennel stalk. And Zeus who thunders
on high was stung in spirit, and his dear heart was angered when he saw amongst men the
far-seen ray of fire. Forthwith he made an evil thing for men as the price of fire; for the very
famous Limping God formed of earth the likeness of a shy maiden as the son of Cronus
willed. And the goddess bright-eyed Athena girded and clothed her with silvery raiment, and
down from her head she spread with her hands a broidered veil, a wonder to see; and she,
Pallas Athena, put about her head lovely garlands, flowers of new-grown herbs. Also she put
upon her head a crown of gold which the very famous Limping God made himself and
worked with his own hands as a favour to Zeus his father. On it was much curious work,
wonderful to see; for of the many creatures which the land and sea rear up, he put most
upon it, wonderful things, like living beings with voices: and great beauty shone out from
[585] But when he had made the beautiful evil to be the price for the blessing, he
brought her out, delighting in the finery which the bright-eyed daughter of a mighty father
had given her, to the place where the other gods and men were. And wonder took hold of
the deathless gods and mortal men when they saw that which was sheer guile, not to be
withstood by men.
[590] For from her is the race of women and female kind: of her is the deadly race and
tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmeets in hateful
poverty, but only in wealth. And as in thatched hives bees feed the drones whose nature is
to do mischief -- by day and throughout the day until the sun goes down the bees are busy
and lay the white combs, while the drones stay at home in the covered skeps and reap the
toil of others into their own bellies -- even so Zeus who thunders on high made women to
be an evil to mortal men, with a nature to do evil. And he gave them a second evil to be the
price for the good they had: whoever avoids marriage and the sorrows that women cause,
and will not wed, reaches deadly old age without anyone to tend his years, and though he at
least has no lack of livelihood while he lives, yet, when he is dead, his kinsfolk divide his
possessions amongst them. And as for the man who chooses the lot of marriage and takes a
good wife suited to his mind, evil continually contends with good; for whoever happens to
have mischievous children, lives always with unceasing grief in his spirit and heart within
him; and this evil cannot be healed.
[613] So it is not possible to deceive or go beyond the will of Zeus; for not even the son
of Iapetus, kindly Prometheus, escaped his heavy anger, but of necessity strong bands
confined him, although he knew many a while.
The Giants (Gigantomachy)
We have seen above that Hesiod (Theogony 170 – 210) described the birth of the Giants from
the blood of Uranus as it washed across the earth. The famous war between the gods and the giants,
the Gigantomachy, is nowhere attested by Hesiod or Homer and may be a later confusion with the
Titanomachy. In Ovid’s version of the story mankind was created out of the blood of the Giants:
Divine Riddles - 24
Diodorus, iv.15.1 – 2
[1] Afterwards, when the giants fought with the immortal gods at Pallene, Heracles aided
the gods, and, after a great slaughter made by him of those sons of the earth, he became
greatly renowned. For Zeus gave the epithet ‘Olympian’ to those who assisted him in that
war, by this title of honour to distinguish the courageous from the coward; and he gave this
epithet to Dionysus and Heracles, though their mothers were mortals, not only because they
were the offspring of Zeus, but likewise for that they were like him in virtuous qualities,
doing good generally to all mankind.
[2] But Prometheus, because he stole fire from heaven and handed it to men, was
clapped in chains by Zeus, who caused an eagle to seize and feed continually upon his liver;
but Heracles, seeing that he suffered so much for his kindness to mankind, shot the bird
with an arrow and then, having pacified Zeus, freed this common benefactor from all further
Ovid, Metamorphoses i.151 – 62
[151] And that the lofty realms of ether might not be more safe than the Earth, they say
that the Giants aspired to the sovereignty of heaven, and piled the mountains, heaped
together, even to the lofty stars. Then the omnipotent Father, hurling his lightning, broke
through Olympus, and struck Ossa away from Pelion, that lay beneath it. 1 While the
dreadful carcasses lay overwhelmed beneath their own structure, they say that the Earth was
wet, drenched with the plenteous blood of her sons, and that she gave life to the warm gore;
and that, lest no memorial of this ruthless race should be surviving, she shaped them into
the form of men. But that generation, too, was a despiser of the Gods above, and most
greedy of ruthless slaughter, and full of violence: you might see that they derived their origin
from blood.
This violent and impious race of man would have to be destroyed by the gods and replaced
with a more gentle being and this sets up the legend of The Flood.
Three mountains in north-eastern Greece, Olympus the northernmost, then Ossa and Pelion to the south.
Moral Philosophy and Religious Thought
Greek philosophical, moral and political thought was dominated by one single idea,
commonly referred to as the Tragic Trilogy. It involves three psychological conditions, three
mental states: First is Hubris, a sense of entitlement, an inflated ego; too much ambition; second
is Atê, carelessness, recklessness, foolishness; and third is Nemesis, divine punishment and the
downfall of the afflicted. These conditions, of course, follow each other in sequence, one leading
to the next.
Solon, Fragment 13.1-32, 65-76 (West).
Glorious children of Memory and Olympian Zeus,
Pierian Muses, hear me as I pray:
Grant me olbos 1 from the blessed gods, and from all
Men a noble reputation always.
With these may I be sweet to my friends, bitter to my enemies,
an object of reverence to the former, to the latter a dreadful vision to see.
Indeed, I long to have wealth, but I do not wish to acquire it
unjustly: for dike 2 is certain to come afterward.
Ploutos 3 which the gods grant stays beside a man
enduring and sound from its uttermost foundation to its pinnacle.
But that ploutos which men revere through hubris does not come
in decorous fashion but, persuaded by their unjust deeds,
it attends them against its will and quickly comes to be mingled with atê.
This latter grows from a small beginning, like a fire,
trivial at first, but a grievous evil in the end.
For the deeds of hubris do not prosper long for mortals:
rather, Zeus oversees the end of all things. Suddenly,
as the wind quickly scatters the clouds
in spring when it whips up the depths of the weariless
sea with its teaming waves and over the grain-bearing earth
it destroys the noble works of men, arriving at last at the lofty seat of the gods,
the heavens, and leaving behind a sparkling clear sky for all to see —
the might of the sun shines brightly over the good rich earth
and no trace of clouds is any longer to be seen:
in such fashion comes the punishment of Zeus. Nor does he indulge his wrath
at each transgression, as would a mortal man,
and yet never does it escape his eye forever just who possesses
a criminal spirit: such a one stands revealed altogether in the end.
But while some pay the penalty immediately, others do so later. And others still
themselves escape, nor does the allotted wrath of the gods come upon them,
Olbos can be translated as ‘happiness’ or ‘wealth’ but wealth in a holistic way: good health, family, lack of want,
reasonable comfort and, most importantly, a good reputation.
Wealth as in riches, money, material wealth.
Divine Riddles - 26
yet it comes with dread certainty in later times: the innocent pay for their deeds,
either their children or the family line thereafter.
Indeed, there is danger involved in every undertaking, nor does one know,
at the time some project is being undertaken, how things will turn out for him.
Instead, one who attempts to act nobly and well with no warning
falls into great atê, grievous to bear,
yet to another who acts out of wickedness god gives good fortune
in all things, a lucky escape from his thoughtless folly.
Of ploutos no bound lies clearly marked for men:
those of us who now possess the richest livings
seek to double their goods. Who might satisfy them all?
The immortals have granted mortals means of profit,
but atê arises therefrom. The latter, when Zeus sends it as an agent
of punishment, besets now one man, now another.
The Tragic Trilogy is so named because many of the Attic playwrights employed it as a basic
plot structure. The downfall of the protagonist in most tragic plays can be easily identified with
some crime against the gods, usually involving hubris. The downfall of Agamemnon, for example,
is so explained:
Aeschylus, Agamemnon 375 - 80
Now it stands revealed! [375] The penalty for reckless crime is ruin when men breathe
a spirit of pride above just measure, because their mansions teem with more abundance than
is good for them. But let there be such wealth as brings no distress, enough to satisfy [380]
a sensible man. For riches do not protect the man who in wantonness has kicked the mighty
altar of Justice into obscurity.
One of the pervasive themes of the myth cycle is that sins are passed from generation to
generation. Agamemnon has himself committed enough sins, but he is cursed by the sins of his
father as well.
Aeschylus, Agamemnon 764 – 70
But an old hubris 1 tends to come forth [765] in evil men, sooner or later, at the fated
hour of birth, a young Hubris and that irresistible, unconquerable, unholy spirit,
Recklessness, [770] and for the household black Curses, which resemble their parents.
The Tragic Trilogy often refers to Zeus as a god of justice…
Hesiod, Works and Days 1 – 10.
Muses of Pieria who give glory through song, come hither, tell of Zeus your father and
chant his praise. Through him mortal men are famed or un-famed, sung or unsung alike, as
great Zeus wills. For easily he makes strong, and easily he brings the strong man low; easily
The reference here is to the crimes of Atreus, Agamemnon’s father.
Divine Riddles - 27
he humbles the proud and raises the obscure, and easily he straightens the crooked and
blasts the proud, -- Zeus who thunders aloft and has his dwelling most high.
… but also to a sort of meta-divine law to which even the gods are subject.
Pindar Fr. 169.1-4
Law the king of all,
Of mortals and immortals,
Guides and justifies the violent act
With its supreme hand
This very famous fragment of Pindar’s poetry has been much disputed by scholars, but it
seems to suggest that law, Nomos, rules over the gods and men and that any act of force or violence
must be sanctioned by law.
The Gods and Goddesses
Most of what we know about the various conceptions of and stories about the gods and
goddesses has to be gleaned from anecdotal references in a variety of sources. We do, however,
have a few detailed narratives that we can use as benchmarks. We have already encountered
Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days and to this we can add a collection of prayers and stories
called the Homeric Hymns. The authorship of these hymns is disputed but they are usually ascribed
to the Homeric Corpus. Aside from Homer and Hesiod, the most detailed descriptions of the gods
is the Metamorphoses of Ovid, a Roman poet of the late first century BC. Below are reproduced
several of the Homeric Hymns and much of Metamorphoses with other sources added where
Aphrodite (Venus)
To Aphrodite, Homeric Hymn #5.
[1-6] Muse, tell me the deeds of golden Aphrodite the Cyprian, who stirs up sweet
passion in the gods and subdues the tribes of mortal men and birds that fly in air and all
the many creatures that the dry land rears, and all the sea: all these love the deeds of richcrowned Cytherea.
[7-32] Yet there are three hearts that she cannot bend nor yet ensnare. First is the
daughter of Zeus who holds the aegis, bright-eyed Athena; for she has no pleasure in the
deeds of golden Aphrodite, but delights in wars and in the work of Ares, in strife and battles
and in preparing famous crafts. She first taught earthly craftsmen to make chariots of war
and cars variously wrought with bronze, and she, too, teaches tender maidens in the house
and puts knowledge of goodly arts in each one's mind. Nor does laughter-loving Aphrodite
ever tame in love Artemis, the huntress with shafts of gold; for she loves archery and the
slaying of wild beasts in the mountains, the lyre also and dancing and thrilling cries and
shady woods and the cities of upright men. Nor yet does the pure maiden Hestia love
Aphrodite's works. She was the first-born child of wily Cronus and youngest too, 1 by will of
Zeus who holds the aegis, -- a queenly maid whom both Poseidon and Apollo sought to wed.
But she was wholly unwilling, nay, stubbornly refused; and touching the head of father Zeus
who holds the aegis, she, that fair goddess, swore a great oath which has in truth been
fulfilled, that she would be a maiden all her days. 2 So Zeus the Father gave her a high honour
instead of marriage, and she has her place in the midst of the house and has the richest
portion. In all the temples of the gods she has a share of honour, and among all mortal men
she is chief of the goddesses.
[33-44] Of these three Aphrodite cannot bend or ensnare the hearts. But of all others
there is nothing among the blessed gods or among mortal men that has escaped Aphrodite.
Even the heart of Zeus, who delights in thunder, is led astray by her; though he is greatest
of all and has the lot of highest majesty, she beguiles even his wise heart whenever she
pleases, and mates him with mortal women, unknown to Hera, his sister and his wife, the
Cronus swallowed his children as they were born. Hestia, first born, was the first swallowed and, therefore, the last
to emerge when they were all freed by Zeus. As the last to emerge from Cronus, she is the youngest.
Athena, Artemis and Hestia are the virgin goddesses, never engaging in sex and so immune to Aphrodite.
Divine Riddles - 29
grandest far in beauty among the deathless goddesses -- most glorious is she whom wily
Cronus with her mother Rhea did beget: and Zeus, whose wisdom is everlasting, made her
his chaste and careful wife.
[45-52] But upon Aphrodite herself Zeus cast sweet desire to be joined in love with a
mortal man, to the end that, very soon, not even she should be innocent of a mortal's love;
lest laughter-loving Aphrodite should one day softly smile and say mockingly among all the
gods that she had joined the gods in love with mortal women who bare sons of death to the
deathless gods, and had mated the goddesses with mortal men.
[53-74] And so he put in her heart sweet desire for Anchises 1 who was tending cattle at
that time among the steep hills of many-fountained Ida, 2 and in shape was like the immortal
gods. Therefore, when laughter-loving Aphrodite saw him, she loved him, and terribly desire
seized her in her heart. She went to Cyprus, to Paphos, where her precinct is and fragrant
altar, and passed into her sweet-smelling temple. There she went in and put to the glittering
doors, and there the Graces bathed her with heavenly oil such as blooms upon the bodies
of the eternal gods -- oil divinely sweet, which she had by her, filled with fragrance. And
laughter-loving Aphrodite put on all her rich clothes, and when she had decked herself with
gold, she left sweet-smelling Cyprus and went in haste towards Troy, swiftly travelling high
up among the clouds. So she came to many-fountained Ida, the mother of wild creatures
and went straight to the homestead across the mountains. After her came grey wolves,
fawning on her, and grim-eyed lions, and bears, and fleet leopards, ravenous for deer: and
she was glad in heart to see them, and put desire in their breasts, so that they all mated, two
together, about the shadowy valleys.
[75-88] But she herself came to the neat-built shelters, and him she found left quite
alone in the homestead -- the hero Anchises who was comely as the gods. All the others were
following the herds over the grassy pastures, and he, left quite alone in the homestead, was
roaming hither and thither and playing thrillingly upon the lyre. And Aphrodite, the
daughter of Zeus 3 stood before him, being like a pure maiden in height and mien, that he
should not be frightened when he took heed of her with his eyes. Now when Anchises saw
her, he marked her well and wondered at her mien and height and shining garments. For
she was clad in a robe out-shining the brightness of fire, a splendid robe of gold, enriched
with all manner of needlework, which shimmered like the moon over her tender breasts, a
marvel to see. Also she wore twisted brooches and shining earrings in the form of flowers;
and round her soft throat were lovely necklaces.
[91-105] And Anchises was seized with love, and said to her: “Hail, lady, whoever of the
blessed ones you are that are come to this house, whether Artemis, or Leto, or golden
Aphrodite, or high-born Themis, or bright-eyed Athena. Or, maybe, you are one of the
Graces come hither, who bear the gods company and are called immortal, or else one of
those who inhabit this lovely mountain and the springs of rivers and grassy meads. I will
make you an altar upon a high peak in a far seen place, and will sacrifice rich offerings to
The son of Capys and Themis. Themis was the daughter of Ilus, founder of Ilium, now known as Troy. For further
details see below, The Troiad.
In Anatolia, Turkey. The region around Mt. Ida is called The Troad because Troy is located nearby.
Hesiod (Theogony 190) has it that Aphrodite was born of the foam of the sea that came about from the castration of
Uranus. Homer nowhere acknowledges this tradition and asserts that Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus and Dione
(Iliad v.370; xx.105)
Divine Riddles - 30
you at all seasons. And do you feel kindly towards me and grant that I may become a man
very eminent among the Trojans, and give me strong offspring for the time to come. As for
my own self, let me live long and happily, seeing the light of the sun, and come to the
threshold of old age, a man prosperous among the people.”
[106-142] Thereupon Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus answered him: “Anchises, most
glorious of all men born on earth, know that I am no goddess: why do you liken me to the
deathless ones? Nay, I am but a mortal, and a woman was the mother that bore me. Otreus
of famous name is my father, if you have heard of him, and he reigns over all Phrygia rich
in fortresses. 1 But I know your speech well beside my own, for a Trojan nurse brought me
up at home: she took me from my dear mother and reared me thenceforth when I was a
little child. So comes it, then, that I well know you tongue also. And now the Slayer of Argus
with the golden wand has caught me up from the dance of huntress Artemis, her with the
golden arrows. For there were many of us, nymphs and marriageable maidens, playing
together; and an innumerable company encircled us: from these the Slayer of Argus with
the golden wand rapt me away. He carried me over many fields of mortal men and over
much land untilled and unpossessed, where savage wild-beasts roam through shady valleys,
until I thought never again to touch the life-giving earth with my feet. And he said that I
should be called the wedded wife of Anchises, and should bear you goodly children. But
when he had told and advised me, he, the strong Slayer of Argos, went back to the families
of the deathless gods, while I am now come to you: for unbending necessity is upon me. But
I beseech you by Zeus and by your noble parents -- for no base folk could get such a son as
you -- take me now, stainless and unproved in love, and show me to your father and careful
mother and to your brothers sprung from the same stock. I shall be no ill-liking daughter
for them, but a likely. Moreover, send a messenger quickly to the swift- horsed Phrygians, to
tell my father and my sorrowing mother; and they will send you gold in plenty and woven
stuffs, many splendid gifts; take these as bride-piece. So do, and then prepare the sweet
marriage that is honourable in the eyes of men and deathless gods.”
[143-144] When she had so spoken, the goddess put sweet desire in his heart. And
Anchises was seized with love, so that he opened his mouth and said:
[145-154] “If you are a mortal and a woman was the mother who bare you, and Otreus
of famous name is your father as you say, and if you are come here by the will of Hermes
the immortal Guide, and are to be called my wife always, then neither god nor mortal man
shall here restrain me till I have lain with you in love right now; no, not even if far-shooting
Apollo himself should launch grievous shafts from his silver bow. Willingly would I go down
into the house of Hades, O lady, beautiful as the goddesses, once I had gone up to your
[155-167] So speaking, he caught her by the hand. And laughter-loving Aphrodite, with
face turned away and lovely eyes downcast, crept to the well-spread couch which was already
laid with soft coverings for the hero; and upon it lay skins of bears and deep-roaring lions
which he himself had slain in the high mountains. And when they had gone up upon the
well-fitted bed, first Anchises took off her bright jewelry of pins and twisted brooches and
earrings and necklaces, and loosed her girdle and stripped off her bright garments and laid
Phrygia was a kingdom to the north-east of Ilium. The only other reference to Otreus is Iliad iii.186 where Priam
says that he allied with the Phrygians in a war against the Amazons.
Divine Riddles - 31
them down upon a silver-studded seat. Then by the will of the gods and destiny he lay with
her, a mortal man with an immortal goddess, not clearly knowing what he did.
[168-176] But at the time when the herdsmen drive their oxen and hardy sheep back to
the fold from the flowery pastures, even then Aphrodite poured soft sleep upon Anchises,
but herself put on her rich raiment. And when the bright goddess had fully clothed herself,
she stood by the couch, and her head reached to the well-hewn roof-tree; from her cheeks
shone unearthly beauty such as belongs to rich-crowned Cytherea. Then she aroused him
from sleep and opened her mouth and said:
[177-179] “Up, son of Dardanus! -- why sleep you so heavily? -- and consider whether I
look as I did when first you saw me with your eyes.”
[180-184) So she spoke. And he awoke in a moment and obeyed her. But when he saw
the neck and lovely eyes of Aphrodite, he was afraid and turned his eyes aside another way,
hiding his comely face with his cloak. Then he uttered winged words and entreated her:
[185-190 “So soon as ever I saw you with my eyes, goddess, I knew that you were divine;
but you did not tell me truly. Yet by Zeus who holds the aegis I beseech you, leave me not
to lead a palsied life among men, but have pity on me; for he who lies with a deathless
goddess is no healthy man afterwards.”
[191-201] Then Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus answered him: “Anchises, most glorious
of mortal men, take courage and be not too fearful in your heart. You need fear no harm
from me nor from the other blessed ones, for you are dear to the gods: and you shall have a
dear son who shall reign among the Trojans, and children's children after him, springing up
continually. His name shall be Aeneas, because I felt awful grief in that I laid me in the bed
of mortal man: yet are those of your family always the most like to gods of all mortal men
in beauty and in stature.
[202-217] “Verily wise Zeus carried off golden-haired Ganymedes because of his beauty,
to be amongst the Deathless Ones and pour drink for the gods in the house of Zeus -- a
wonder to see -- honoured by all the immortals as he draws the red nectar from the golden
bowl. But grief that could not be soothed filled the heart of Tros; for he knew not from
where the heaven-sent whirlwind had caught up his dear son, so that he mourned him
always, unceasingly, until Zeus pitied him and gave him high- stepping horses such as carry
the immortals as recompense for his son. These he gave him as a gift. And at the command
of Zeus, the Guide, the slayer of Argus, told him all, and how his son would be deathless
and ageless, even as the gods. So when Tros heard these tidings from Zeus, he no longer
kept mourning but rejoiced in his heart and rode joyfully with his storm-footed horses.
[218-238] “So also golden-throned Eos rapt away Tithonus who was of your clan and
like the deathless gods. And she went to ask the dark-clouded Son of Cronus that he should
be deathless and live eternally; and Zeus bowed his head to her prayer and fulfilled her
desire. Too simply was queenly Eos: she thought not in her heart to ask youth for him and
to strip him of the slough of deadly age. So while he enjoyed the sweet flower of life he lived
rapturously with golden-throned Eos, the early- born, by the streams of Ocean, at the ends
of the earth; but when the first grey hairs began to ripple from his comely head and noble
chin, queenly Eos kept away from his bed, though she cherished him in her house and
nourished him with food and ambrosia and gave him rich clothing. But when loathsome
old age pressed full upon him, and he could not move nor lift his limbs, this seemed to her
Divine Riddles - 32
in her heart the best counsel: she laid him in a room and put to the shining doors. There
he babbles endlessly, and no more has strength at all, such as once he had in his supple
[239-246] “I would not have you be deathless among the deathless gods and live
continually after such sort. Yet if you could live on such as now you are in look and in form,
and be called my husband, sorrow would not then enfold my careful heart. But, as it is,
harsh old age will soon enshroud you -- ruthless age which stands someday at the side of
every man, deadly, wearying, dreaded even by the gods.
(ll. 247-290) “And now because of you I shall have great shame among the deathless
gods henceforth, continually. For until now they feared my jibes and the wiles by which, or
soon or late, I mated all the immortals with mortal women, making them all subject to my
will. But now my mouth shall no more have this power among the gods; for very great has
been my madness, my miserable and dreadful madness, and I went astray out of my mind
who have gotten a child beneath my girdle, mating with a mortal man. As for the child, as
soon as he sees the light of the sun, the deep-breasted mountain Nymphs who inhabit this
great and holy mountain shall bring him up. They rank neither with mortals nor with
immortals: long indeed do they live, eating heavenly food and treading the lovely dance
among the immortals, and with them the Sileni 1 and the sharp-eyed Slayer of Argus mate in
the depths of pleasant caves; but at their birth pines or high-topped oaks spring up with
them upon the fruitful earth, beautiful, flourishing trees, towering high upon the lofty
mountains (and men call them holy places of the immortals, and never mortal lops them
with the axe); but when the fate of death is near at hand, first those lovely trees wither where
they stand, and the bark shrivels away about them, and the twigs fall down, and at last the
life of the Nymph and of the tree leave the light of the sun together. These Nymphs shall
keep my son with them and rear him, and as soon as he is come to lovely boyhood, the
goddesses will bring him here to you and show you your child. But, that I may tell you all
that I have in mind, I will come here again towards the fifth year and bring you my son. So
soon as ever you have seen him -- a scion to delight the eyes -- you will rejoice in beholding
him; for he shall be most godlike: then bring him at once to windy Ilion. And if any mortal
man asks you who got your dear son beneath her girdle, remember to tell him as I bid you:
say he is the offspring of one of the flower-like Nymphs who inhabit this forest-clad hill. But
if you tell all and foolishly boast that you lay with rich-crowned Aphrodite, Zeus will smite
you in his anger with a smoking thunderbolt. Now I have told you all. Take heed: refrain
and name me not, but have regard to the anger of the gods.”
[291] When the goddess had so spoken, she soared up to windy heaven.
[292-293] Hail, goddess, queen of well-built Cyprus! With you have I begun; now I will
turn me to another hymn.
The Satyrs, often called the Sileni after Silenus, the most famous of the Satyrs.
Divine Riddles - 33
Homeric Hymn 3. To Apollo
To Delian Apollo
[1-18] I will remember and not be unmindful of Apollo who shoots afar. As he goes
through the house of Zeus, the gods tremble before him and all spring up from their seats
when he draws near, as he bends his bright bow. But Leto alone stays by the side of Zeus
who delights in thunder; and then she unstrings his bow, and closes his quiver, and takes
his archery from his strong shoulders in her hands and hangs them on a golden peg against
a pillar of his father's house. Then she leads him to a seat and makes him sit: and the Father
gives him nectar in a golden cup welcoming his dear son, while the other gods make him sit
down there, and queenly Leto rejoices because she bare a mighty son and an archer. Rejoice,
blessed Leto, for you bore glorious children, the lord Apollo and Artemis who delights in
arrows; her in Ortygia, and him in rocky Delos, as you rested against the great mass of the
Cynthian hill hard by a palm-tree by the streams of Inopus.
[19-29] How, then, shall I sing of you who in all ways are a worthy theme of song? For
everywhere, O Phoebus, 1 the whole range of song is fallen to you, both over the mainland
that rears heifers and over the isles. All mountain-peaks and high headlands of lofty hills
and rivers flowing out to the deep and beaches sloping seawards and havens of the sea are
your delight. Shall I sing how at the first Leto bare you to be the joy of men, as she rested
against Mount Cynthus in that rocky isle, in sea- girt Delos -- while on either hand a dark
wave rolled on landwards driven by shrill winds -- whence arising you rule over all mortal
[30-50] Among those who are in Crete, and in the township of Athens, and in the isle
of Aegina and Euboea, famous for ships, in Aegae and Eiresiae and Peparethus near the sea,
in Thracian Athos and Pelion's towering heights and Thracian Samos and the shady hills of
Ida, in Scyros and Phocaea and the high hill of Autocane and fair-lying Imbros and
smouldering Lemnos and rich Lesbos, home of Macar, the son of Aeolus, and Chios,
brightest of all the isles that lie in the sea, and craggy Mimas and the heights of Corycus and
gleaming Claros and the sheer hill of Aesagea and watered Samos and the steep heights of
Mycale, in Miletus and Cos, the city of Meropian men, and steep Cnidos and windy
Carpathos, in Naxos and Paros and rocky Rhenaea -- so far roamed Leto in travail with the
god who shoots afar, to see if any land would be willing to make a dwelling for her son. But
they greatly trembled and feared, and none, not even the richest of them, dared receive
Phoebus, until queenly Leto set foot on Delos and uttered winged words and asked her:
[51-61] “Delos, if you would be willing to be the abode of my son Phoebus Apollo and
make him a rich temple --; for no other will touch you, as you will find: and I think you will
never be rich in oxen and sheep, nor bear vintage nor yet produce plants abundantly. But if
you have the temple of far-shooting Apollo, all men will bring you hecatombs and gather
here, and incessant savour of rich sacrifice will always arise, and you will feed those who
dwell in you from the hand of strangers; for truly your own soil is not rich.” 2
Phoebus means ‘shining one’ in Greek. Apollo is often associated with the sun.
Delos is a small but wealthy island in the Aegean Sea. If not for the lucrative traffic of pilgrims to the temple of
Apollo there, the economy might not have been so robust.
Divine Riddles - 34
[62-82] So spoke Leto. And Delos rejoiced and answered and said: “Leto, most glorious
daughter of great Coeus, joyfully would I receive your child the far-shooting lord; for it is all
too true that I am ill-spoken of among men, whereas thus I should become very greatly
honoured. But this saying I fear, and I will not hide it from you, Leto. They say that Apollo
will be one that is very haughty and will greatly lord it among gods and men all over the
fruitful earth. Therefore, I greatly fear in heart and spirit that as soon as he sets the light of
the sun, he will scorn this island -- for truly I have but a hard, rocky soil -- and overturn me
and thrust me down with his feet in the depths of the sea; then will the great ocean wash
deep above my head for ever, and he will go to another land such as will please him, there
to make his temple and wooded groves. So, many-footed creatures of the sea will make their
lairs in me and black seals their dwellings undisturbed, because I lack people. Yet if you will
but dare to swear a great oath, goddess, that here first he will build a glorious temple to be
an oracle for men, then let him afterwards make temples and wooded groves amongst all
men; for surely he will be greatly renowned.
[83-88] So said Delos. And Leto swore the great oath of the gods: “Now hear this, Earth
and wide Heaven above, and dropping water of Styx (this is the strongest and most awful
oath for the blessed gods), surely Phoebus shall have here his fragrant altar and precinct,
and you he shall honour above all.”
[89-101] Now when Leto had sworn and ended her oath, Delos was very glad at the birth
of the far-shooting lord. But Leto was racked nine days and nine nights with pangs beyond
wont. And there were with her all the chiefest of the goddesses, Dione and Rhea and Ichnaea
and Themis and loud-moaning Amphitrite and the other deathless goddesses save whitearmed Hera, who sat in the halls of cloud-gathering Zeus. Only Eilithyia, goddess of sore
travail, had not heard of Leto's trouble, for she sat on the top of Olympus beneath golden
clouds by white-armed Hera's contriving, who kept her close through envy, because Leto
with the lovely tresses was soon to bear a son faultless and strong.
[102-114] But the goddesses sent out Iris from the well-set isle to bring Eilithyia,
promising her a great necklace strung with golden threads, nine cubits long. And they bade
Iris call her aside from white-armed Hera, lest she might afterwards turn her from coming
with her words. When swift Iris, fleet of foot as the wind, had heard all this, she set to run;
and quickly finishing all the distance she came to the home of the gods, sheer Olympus, and
forthwith called Eilithyia out from the hall to the door and spoke winged words to her,
telling her all as the goddesses who dwell on Olympus had bidden her. So she moved the
heart of Eilithyia in her dear breast; and they went their way, like shy wild-doves in their
[115-122] And as soon as Eilithyia the goddess of sore travail set foot on Delos, the
pains of birth seized Leto, and she longed to bring forth; so she cast her arms about a palm
tree and kneeled on the soft meadow while the earth laughed for joy beneath. Then the
child leaped forth to the light, and all the goddesses washed you purely and cleanly with
sweet water, and swathed you in a white garment of fine texture, new-woven, and fastened a
golden band about you.
[123-130] Now Leto did not give Apollo, bearer of the golden blade, her breast; but
Themis duly poured nectar and ambrosia with her divine hands: and Leto was glad because
she had borne a strong son and an archer. But as soon as you had tasted that divine heavenly
Divine Riddles - 35
food, O Phoebus, you could no longer then be held by golden cords nor confined with
bands, but all their ends were undone. Forthwith Phoebus Apollo spoke out among the
deathless goddesses:
[131-132] “The lyre and the curved bow shall ever be dear to me, and I will declare to
men the unfailing will of Zeus.”
[133-139] So said Phoebus, the long-haired god who shoots afar and began to walk upon
the wide-pathed earth; and all goddesses were amazed at him. Then with gold all Delos was
laden, beholding the child of Zeus and Leto, for joy because the god chose her above the
islands and shore to make his dwelling in her: and she loved him yet more in her heart, and
blossomed as does a mountain-top with woodland flowers.
[140-164] And you, O lord Apollo, god of the silver bow, shooting afar, now walked on
craggy Cynthus, and now kept wandering about the island and the people in them. Many
are your temples and wooded groves, and all peaks and towering bluffs of lofty mountains
and rivers flowing to the sea are dear to you, Phoebus, yet in Delos do you most delight your
heart; for there the long robed Ionians gather in your honour with their children and shy
wives: mindful, they delight you with boxing and dancing and song, so often as they hold
their gathering. A man would say that they were deathless and ageless if he should then
come upon the Ionians so met together. For he would see the graces of them all, and would
be pleased in heart gazing at the men and well- girded women with their swift ships and
great wealth. And there is this great wonder besides -- and its renown shall never perish -the girls of Delos, hand-maidens of the Far-shooter; for when they have praised Apollo first,
and also Leto and Artemis who delights in arrows, they sing a strain-telling of men and
women of past days, and charm the tribes of men. Also they can imitate the tongues of all
men and their clattering speech: each would say that he himself were singing, so close to
truth is their sweet song.
[165-178] And now may Apollo be favourable and Artemis; and farewell all you maidens.
Remember me in after time whenever any one of men on earth, a stranger who has seen and
suffered much, comes here and asks of you: `Whom think ye, girls, is the sweetest singer
that comes here, and in whom do you most delight?' Then answer, each and all, with one
voice: `He is a blind man, and dwells in rocky Chios: his lays are evermore supreme.' As for
me, I will carry your renown as far as I roam over the earth to the well-placed this thing is
true. And I will never cease to praise far-shooting Apollo, god of the silver bow, whom richhaired Leto bore.
To Pythian Apollo
[179-181] O Lord, Lycia is yours and lovely Maeonia and Miletus, charming city by the
sea, but over wave-girt Delos you greatly reign your own self.
[182-206] Leto's all-glorious son goes to rocky Pytho, playing upon his hollow lyre, clad
in divine, perfumed garments; and at the touch of the golden key his lyre sings sweet.
Thence, swift as thought, he speeds from earth to Olympus, to the house of Zeus, to join
the gathering of the other gods: then straightway the undying gods think only of the lyre
and song, and all the Muses together, voice sweetly answering voice, hymn the unending
gifts the gods enjoy and the sufferings of men, all that they endure at the hands of the
deathless gods, and how they live witless and helpless and cannot find healing for death or
Divine Riddles - 36
defence against old age. Meanwhile the rich-tressed Graces and cheerful Seasons dance with
Harmonia and Hebe and Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, holding each other by the wrist. And
among them sings one, not mean nor puny, but tall to look upon and enviable in mien,
Artemis who delights in arrows, sister of Apollo. Among them sport Ares and the keen-eyed
Slayer of Argus, while Apollo plays his lyre stepping high and featly and a radiance shines
around him, the gleaming of his feet and close-woven vest. And they, even gold-tressed Leto
and wise Zeus, rejoice in their great hearts as they watch their dear son playing among the
undying gods.
[207-228] How then shall I sing of you -- though in all ways you are a worthy theme for
song? Shall I sing of you as wooer and in the fields of love, how you went wooing the
daughter of Azan along with god-like Ischys the son of well-horsed Elatius, or with Phorbas
sprung from Triops, or with Ereutheus, or with Leucippus and the wife of Leucippus....
[LACUNA] ....you on foot, he with his chariot, yet he fell not short of Triops. Or shall I
sing how at the first you went about the earth seeking a place of oracle for men, O farshooting Apollo? To Pieria first you went down from Olympus and passed by sandy Lectus
and Enienae and through the land of the Perrhaebi. Soon you came to Iolcus and set foot
on Cenaeum in Euboea, famed for ships: you stood in the Lelantine plain, but it pleased
not your heart to make a temple there and wooded groves. From there you crossed the
Euripus, far-shooting Apollo, and went up the green, holy hills, going on to Mycalessus and
grassy-bedded Teumessus, and so came to the wood-clad abode of Thebe; for as yet no man
lived in holy Thebe, nor were there tracks or ways about Thebe's wheat-bearing plain as yet.
[229-238] And further still you went, O far-shooting Apollo, and came to Onchestus,
Poseidon's bright grove: there the new- broken cold distressed with drawing the trim chariot
gets spirit again, and the skilled driver springs from his car and goes on his way. Then the
horses for a while rattle the empty car, being rid of guidance; and if they break the chariot
in the woody grove, men look after the horses, but tilt the chariot and leave it there; for this
was the rite from the very first. And the drivers pray to the lord of the shrine; but the chariot
falls to the lot of the god.
[239-243] Further yet you went, O far-shooting Apollo, and reached next Cephissus'
sweet stream which pours forth its sweet- flowing water from Lilaea, and crossing over it, O
worker from afar, you passed many-towered Ocalea and reached grassy Haliartus.
[244-253] Then you went towards Telphusa: and there the pleasant place seemed fit for
making a temple and wooded grove. You came very near and spoke to her: “Telphusa, here
I am minded to make a glorious temple, an oracle for men, and hither they will always bring
perfect hecatombs, both those who live in rich Peloponnesus and those of Europe and all
the wave-washed isles, coming to seek oracles. And I will deliver to them all counsel that
cannot fail, giving answer in my rich temple.”
[254-276] So said Phoebus Apollo, and laid out all the foundations throughout, wide
and very long. But when Telphusa saw this, she was angry in heart and spoke, saying: “Lord
Phoebus, worker from afar, I will speak a word of counsel to your heart, since you are minded
to make here a glorious temple to be an oracle for men who will always bring hither perfect
hecatombs for you; yet I will speak out, and do you lay up my words in your heart. The
trampling of swift horses and the sound of mules watering at my sacred springs will always
irk you, and men will like better to gaze at the well-made chariots and stamping, swift-footed
Divine Riddles - 37
horses than at your great temple and the many treasures that are within. But if you will be
moved by me -- for you, lord, are stronger and mightier than I, and your strength is very
great -- build at Crisa below the glades of Parnassus: there no bright chariot will clash, and
there will be no noise of swift-footed horses near your well-built altar. But so the glorious
tribes of men will bring gifts to you as Iepaeon (`Hail- Healer'), and you will receive with
delight rich sacrifices from the people dwelling round about.” So said Telphusa, that she
alone, and not the Far-Shooter, should have renown there; and she persuaded the FarShooter.
[277-286] Further yet you went, far-shooting Apollo, until you came to the town of the
presumptuous Phlegyae who dwell on this earth in a lovely glade near the Cephisian lake,
caring not for Zeus. And thence you went speeding swiftly to the mountain ridge, and came
to Crisa beneath snowy Parnassus, a foothill turned towards the west: a cliff hangs over if
from above, and a hollow, rugged glade runs under. There the lord Phoebus Apollo resolved
to make his lovely temple, and thus he said:
[287-293 “In this place I am minded to build a glorious temple to be an oracle for men,
and here they will always bring perfect hecatombs, both they who dwell in rich Peloponnesus
and the men of Europe and from all the wave-washed isles, coming to question me. And I
will deliver to them all counsel that cannot fail, answering them in my rich temple.”
[294-299] When he had said this, Phoebus Apollo laid out all the foundations
throughout, wide and very long; and upon these the sons of Erginus, Trophonius and
Agamedes, dear to the deathless gods, laid a footing of stone. And the countless tribes of
men built the whole temple of wrought stones, to be sung of for ever.
[300-310] But nearby was a sweet flowing spring, and there with his strong bow the lord,
the son of Zeus, killed the bloated, great she-dragon, a fierce monster wont to do great
mischief to men upon earth, to men themselves and to their thin-shanked sheep; for she was
a very bloody plague. She it was who once received from gold-throned Hera and brought up
fell, cruel Typhaon to be a plague to men. Once on a time Hera bare him because she was
angry with father Zeus, when the Son of Cronus bare all-glorious Athena in his head.
Thereupon queenly Hera was angry and spoke thus among the assembled gods:
[311-330] “Hear from me, all gods and goddesses, how cloud-gathering Zeus begins to
dishonour me wantonly, when he has made me his true-hearted wife. See now, apart from
me he has given birth to bright-eyed Athena who is foremost among all the blessed gods.
But my son Hephaestus whom I bare was weakly among all the blessed gods and shrivelled
of foot, a shame and disgrace to me in heaven, whom I myself took in my hands and cast
out so that he fell in the great sea. But silver-shod Thetis the daughter of Nereus took and
cared for him with her sisters: would that she had done other service to the blessed gods! O
wicked one and crafty! What else will you now devise? How dare you by yourself give birth
to bright-eyed Athena? Would not I have borne you a child? I, who was at least called your
wife among the undying gods who hold wide heaven. Beware now lest I devise some evil
thing for you hereafter: yes, now I will contrive that a son be born me to be foremost among
the undying gods -- and that without casting shame on the holy bond of wedlock between
you and me. And I will not come to your bed, but will consort with the blessed gods far off
from you.”
Divine Riddles - 38
[331-333] When she had so spoken, she went apart from the gods, being very angry.
Then straightway large-eyed queenly Hera prayed, striking the ground flatwise with her hand,
and speaking thus:
[334-362] “Hear now, I pray, Earth and wide Heaven above, and you Titan gods who
dwell beneath the earth about great Tartarus, and from whom are sprung both gods and
men! Harken you now to me, one and all, and grant that I may bear a child apart from Zeus,
no wit lesser than him in strength -- nay, let him be as much stronger than Zeus as all-seeing
Zeus than Cronus.' Thus she cried and lashed the earth with her strong hand. Then the lifegiving earth was moved: and when Hera saw it she was glad in heart, for she thought her
prayer would be fulfilled. And thereafter she never came to the bed of wise Zeus for a full
year, not to sit in her carved chair as aforetime to plan wise counsel for him, but stayed in
her temples where many pray, and delighted in her offerings, large-eyed queenly Hera. But
when the months and days were fulfilled and the seasons duly came on as the earth moved
round, she bare one neither like the gods nor mortal men, fell, cruel Typhaon, to be a plague
to men. Straightway large-eyed queenly Hera took him and bringing one evil thing to another
such, gave him to the dragoness; and she received him. And this Typhaon used to work great
mischief among the famous tribes of men. Whosoever met the dragoness, the day of doom
would sweep him away, until the lord Apollo, who deals death from afar, shot a strong arrow
at her. Then she, rent with bitter pangs, lay drawing great gasps for breath and rolling about
that place. An awful noise swelled up unspeakable as she writhed continually this way and
that amid the wood: and so she left her life, breathing it forth in blood. Then Phoebus
Apollo boasted over her:
[363-369] “Now rot here upon the soil that feeds man! You at least shall live no more
to be a fell bane to men who eat the fruit of the all-nourishing earth, and who will bring
hither perfect hecatombs. Against cruel death neither Typhoeus shall avail you nor ill-famed
Chimera, but here shall the Earth and shining Hyperion make you rot.”
[370-374] Thus said Phoebus, exulting over her: and darkness covered her eyes. And the
holy strength of Helios made her rot away there; wherefore the place is now called Pytho, 1
and men call the lord Apollo by another name, Pythian; because on that spot the power of
piercing Helios made the monster rot away.
[375-378] Then Phoebus Apollo saw that the sweet-flowing spring had beguiled him,
and he started out in anger against Telphusa; and soon coming to her, he stood close by and
spoke to her:
[379-381] “Telphusa, you were not, after all, to keep to yourself this lovely place by
deceiving my mind, and pour forth your clear flowing water: here my renown shall also be
and not yours alone?”
[382-387] Thus spoke the lord, far-working Apollo, and pushed over upon her a crag
with a shower of rocks, hiding her streams: and he made himself an altar in a wooded grove
very near the clear-flowing stream. In that place all men pray to the great one by the name
Telphusian, because he humbled the stream of holy Telphusa. 2
[388-439] Then Phoebus Apollo pondered in his heart what men he should bring in to
be his ministers in sacrifice and to serve him in rocky Pytho. And while he considered this,
From the Greek word putho, ‘to rot’ or ‘decay.’
He created an underground hot spring, the steam of which rises through the crevasse.
Divine Riddles - 39
he became aware of a swift ship upon the wine-like sea in which were many men and goodly,
Cretans from Cnossos, the city of Minos, they who do sacrifice to the prince and announce
his decrees, whatsoever Phoebus Apollo, bearer of the golden blade, speaks in answer from
his laurel tree below the dells of Parnassus. These men were sailing in their black ship for
traffic and for profit to sandy Pylos and to the men of Pylos. But Phoebus Apollo met them:
in the open sea he sprang upon their swift ship, like a dolphin in shape, and lay there, a
great and awesome monster, and none of them gave heed so as to understand; but they
sought to cast the dolphin overboard. But he kept shaking the black ship every way and
made the timbers quiver. So they sat silent in their craft for fear, and did not loosen the
sheets throughout the black, hollow ship, nor lowered the sail of their dark-prowed vessel,
but as they had set it first of all with oxhide ropes, so they kept sailing on; for a rushing
south wind hurried on the swift ship from behind. First they passed by Malea, and then
along the Laconian coast they came to Taenarum, sea-garlanded town and country of Helios
who gladdens men, where the thick- fleeced sheep of the lord Helios feed continually and
occupy a glad-some country. There they wished to put their ship to shore, and land and
comprehend the great marvel and see with their eyes whether the monster would remain
upon the deck of the hollow ship, or spring back into the briny deep where fishes shoal. But
the well-built ship would not obey the helm, but went on its way all along Peloponnesus:
and the lord, far-working Apollo, guided it easily with the breath of the breeze. So the ship
ran on its course and came to Arena and lovely Argyphea and Thryon, the ford of Alpheus,
and well-placed Aepy and sandy Pylos and the men of Pylos; past Cruni it went and Chalcis
and past Dyme and fair Elis, where the Epei rule. And at the time when she was making for
Pherae, exulting in the breeze from Zeus, there appeared to them below the clouds the steep
mountain of Ithaca, and Dulichium and Same and wooded Zacynthus. But when they were
passed by all the coast of Peloponnesus, then, towards Crisa, that vast gulf began to heave
in sight which through all its length cuts off the rich isle of Pelops. There came on them a
strong, clear west- wind by ordinance of Zeus and blew from heaven vehemently, that with
all speed the ship might finish coursing over the briny water of the sea. So they began again
to voyage back towards the dawn and the sun: and the lord Apollo, son of Zeus, led them
on until they reached far-seen Crisa, land of vines, and into haven: there the sea-coursing
ship grounded on the sands.
[440-451] Then, like a star at noonday, the lord, far-working Apollo, leaped from the
ship: flashes of fire flew from him thick and their brightness reached to heaven. He entered
into his shrine between priceless tripods, and there made a flame to flare up bright, showing
forth the splendour of his shafts, so that their radiance filled all Crisa, and the wives and
well-girded daughters of the Crisaeans raised a cry at that outburst of Phoebus; for he cast
great fear upon them all. From his shrine he sprang forth again, swift as a thought, to speed
again to the ship, bearing the form of a man, brisk and sturdy, in the prime of his youth,
while his broad shoulders were covered with his hair: and he spoke to the Cretans, uttering
winged words:
[452-461] “Strangers, who are you? Whence come you sailing along the paths of the sea?
Are you for traffic, or do you wander at random over the sea as pirates do who put their
own lives to hazard and bring mischief to men of foreign parts as they roam? Why rest you
so and are afraid, and do not go ashore nor stow the gear of your black ship? For that is the
Divine Riddles - 40
custom of men who live by bread, whenever they come to land in their dark ships from the
main, spent with toil; at once desire for sweet food catches them about the heart.”
[462-473] So speaking, he put courage in their hearts, and the master of the Cretans
answered him and said: “Stranger -- though you are nothing like mortal men in shape or
stature, but are as the deathless gods -- hail and all happiness to you, and may the gods give
you good. Now tell me truly that I may surely know it: what country is this, and what land,
and what men live herein? As for us, with thoughts set otherwards, we were sailing over the
great sea to Pylos from Crete (for from there we declare that we are sprung), but now are
come on shipboard to this place by no means willingly -- another way and other paths -- and
gladly would we return. But one of the deathless gods brought us here against our will.”
[474-501] Then far-working Apollo answered them and said: “Strangers who once dwelt
about wooded Cnossos but now shall return no more each to his loved city and fair house
and dear wife; here shall you keep my rich temple that is honoured by many men. I am the
son of Zeus; Apollo is my name: but you I brought here over the wide gulf of the sea, meaning
you no hurt; nay, here you shall keep my rich temple that is greatly honoured among men,
and you shall know the plans of the deathless gods, and by their will you shall be honoured
continually for all time. And now come, make haste and do as I say. First loose the sheets
and lower the sail, and then draw the swift ship up upon the land. Take out your goods and
the gear of the straight ship, and make an altar upon the beach of the sea: light fire upon it
and make an offering of white meal. Next, stand side by side around the altar and pray: and
in as much as at the first on the hazy sea I sprang upon the swift ship in the form of a
dolphin, pray to me as Apollo Delphinius; also the altar itself shall be called Delphi and
overlooking for ever. 1 Afterwards, sup beside your dark ship and pour an offering to the
blessed gods who dwell on Olympus. But when you have put away craving for sweet food,
come with me singing the hymn, the Paean (Hail, Healer!), until you come to the place where
you shall keep my rich temple.”
[502-523] So said Apollo. And they readily harkened to him and obeyed him. First they
unfastened the sheets and let down the sail and lowered the mast by the forestays upon the
mast- rest. Then, landing upon the beach of the sea, they hauled up the ship from the water
to dry land and fixed long stays under it. Also they made an altar upon the beach of the sea,
and when they had lit a fire, made an offering of white meal, and prayed standing around
the altar as Apollo had bidden them. Then they took their meal by the swift, black ship, and
poured an offering to the blessed gods who dwell on Olympus. And when they had put away
craving for drink and food, they started out with the lord Apollo, the son of Zeus, to lead
them, holding a lyre in his hands, and playing sweetly as he stepped high and featly. So the
Cretans followed him to Pytho, marching in time as they chanted the Paean after the manner
of the Cretan paean-singers and of those in whose hearts the heavenly Muse has put sweetvoiced song. With tireless feet they approached the ridge and straightway came to Parnassus
and the lovely place where they were to dwell honoured by many men. There Apollo brought
them and showed them his most holy sanctuary and rich temple.
[524-525] But their spirit was stirred in their dear breasts, and the master of the Cretans
asked him, saying:
The temple of Apollo at Delphi became the most sacred of all religious sites in the Greek World.
Divine Riddles - 41
[526-530] “Lord, since you have brought us here far from our dear ones and our
fatherland, -- for so it seemed good to your heart, -- tell us now how we shall live. That we
would know of you. This land is not to be desired either for vineyards or for pastures so that
we can live well thereon and also minister to men.”
[531-544] Then Apollo, the son of Zeus, smiled upon them and said: `Foolish mortals
and poor drudges are you, that you seek cares and hard toils and straits! Easily will I tell you
a word and set it in your hearts. Though each one of you with knife in hand should slaughter
sheep continually, yet would you always have abundant store, even all that the glorious tribes
of men bring here for me. But guard you my temple and receive the tribes of men that gather
to this place, and especially show mortal men my will, and do you keep righteousness in
your heart. 1 But if any shall be disobedient and pay no heed to my warning, of if there shall
be any idle word or deed and outrage as is common among mortal men, then other men
shall be your masters and with a strong hand shall make you subject for ever. All has been
told you: do you keep it in your heart.”
[545-546] And so, farewell, son of Zeus and Leto; but I will remember you and another
hymn also.
The story of Apollo’s arrival in Delphi is also told by Ovid as following the Great Flood:
Ovid, Metamorphoses i. 434 – 51
… when, therefore, the Earth, covered with mud by the late deluge, [435] was thoroughly
heated by the ethereal sunshine and a penetrating warmth, it produced species of creatures
innumerable; and partly restored the former shapes, and partly gave birth to new monsters.
She, indeed, might have been unwilling, but then she produced you as well, you enormous
Python; and you, unheard-of serpent, [440] was a source of terror to this new race of men,
so vast a part of a mountain did you occupy.
[441] The god that bears the bow, 2 and that had never before used such arms, but against
the deer and the timorous goats, destroyed him, overwhelmed with a thousand arrows, his
quiver being well-nigh exhausted, as the venom oozed forth through the black wounds; [445]
and that length of time might not efface the fame of the deed, he instituted sacred games,
with contests famed in story, called “Pythia,” from the name of the serpent so conquered.
In these, whosoever of the young men conquered in boxing, in running, or in chariot-racing,
received the honor of a crown of beechen leaves. [450] As yet the laurel existed not, and
Phoebus 3 used to bind his temples, graceful with long hair, with garlands from any tree.
This is followed in Metamorphoses by the story of Apollo and Daphne, reproduced in the
section below: The Myth Cycles; Thebaid.
People would come to Delphi from all over the ancient world. For a fee, they could ask a question to the god. The
Pythia, a priestess, would sit on a tripod that spanned the chasm and as the steam rose and enveloped her, she would
begin to speak the language of the gods in answer to the question. The priests would then translate the answer for
the ‘customer.’ These answers were called Delphic Oracles and were believed to predict the future.
Another name for Apollo
Divine Riddles - 42
Ares (Mars)
To Ares, Homeric Hymn #8.
[1-17] Ares, exceeding in strength, chariot-rider, golden- helmed, doughty in heart,
shield-bearer, saviour of cities, harnessed in bronze, strong of arm, unwearying, mighty with
the spear, O defence of Olympus, father of warlike Victory, ally of Themis, stern governor
of the rebellious, leader of righteous men, sceptred king of manliness, who whirl your fiery
sphere among the planets in their sevenfold courses through the ether wherein your blazing
steeds ever bear you above the third firmament of heaven; hear me, helper of men, giver of
dauntless youth! Shed down a kindly ray from above upon my life, and strength of war, that
I may be able to drive away bitter cowardice from my head and crush down the deceitful
impulses of my soul. Restrain also the keen fury of my heart which provokes me to tread the
ways of blood-curdling strife. Rather, O blessed one, give you me boldness to abide within
the harmless laws of peace, avoiding strife and hatred and the violent fiends of death.
Ares, impetuous, self-serving and short-tempered, is far from the favourite son of Zeus. After
being chased from the field of battle by Diomedes and Athena, he complained to his father but was
soundly rebuked:
Iliad v.888 - 98
[888] Zeus looked angrily at him and said, "Do not come whining here, fickle one. I
hate you worst of all the gods in Olympus, for you are ever fighting and making mischief.
You have the intolerable and stubborn spirit of your mother Hera: it is all I can do to manage
her, and it is her doing that you are now in this plight: still, I cannot let you remain longer
in such great pain; you are my own off-spring, and it was by me that your mother conceived
you; if, however, you had been the son of any other god, you are so destructive that by this
time you should have been lying lower than the sons of Heaven." 1
Artemis (Diana)
To Artemis, Homeric Hymn #27
[1-20] I sing of Artemis, whose shafts are of gold, who cheers on the hounds, the pure
maiden, shooter of stags, who delights in archery, own sister to Apollo with the golden
sword. Over the shadowy hills and windy peaks she draws her golden bow, rejoicing in the
chase, and sends out grievous shafts. The tops of the high mountains tremble and the
tangled wood echoes awesomely with the outcry of beasts: earthquakes and the sea also where
fishes shoal. But the goddess with a bold heart turns every way destroying the race of wild
beasts: and when she is satisfied and has cheered her heart, this huntress who delights in
arrows slackens her supple bow and goes to the great house of her dear brother Phoebus
Apollo, to the rich land of Delphi, there to order the lovely dance of the Muses and Graces.
There she hangs up her curved bow and her arrows, and heads and leads the dances,
gracefully arrayed, while all they utter their heavenly voice, singing how neat-ankled Leto
bare children supreme among the immortals both in thought and in deed.
The Titans, sent to Tartarus by Zeus.
Divine Riddles - 43
[21-22] Hail to you, children of Zeus and rich-haired Leto! And now I will remember
you and another song also.
Athena (Minerva)
To Athena, Homeric Hymn #28.
[1-16] I begin to sing of Pallas Athena, the glorious goddess, bright-eyed, inventive,
unbending of heart, pure virgin, saviour of cities, courageous, Tritogeneia. From his awful
head wise Zeus himself bare her arrayed in warlike arms of flashing gold, and awe seized all
the gods as they gazed. But Athena sprang quickly from the immortal head and stood before
Zeus who holds the aegis, shaking a sharp spear: great Olympus began to reel horribly at the
might of the bright-eyed goddess, and earth round about cried fearfully, and the sea was
moved and tossed with dark waves, while foam burst forth suddenly: the bright Son of
Hyperion stopped his swift-footed horses a long while, until the maiden Pallas Athena had
stripped the heavenly armour from her immortal shoulders. And wise Zeus was glad.
[17-18] And so hail to you, daughter of Zeus who holds the aegis! Now I will remember
you and another song as well.
Demeter (Ceres)
To Demeter, Homeric Hymn #2.
[1-3] I begin to sing of rich-haired Demeter, awful goddess -- of her and her trim-ankled
daughter 1 whom Aidoneus 2 rapt away, given to him by all-seeing Zeus the loud-thunderer.
[4-18] Apart from Demeter, lady of the golden sword and glorious fruits, she was playing
with the deep-bosomed daughters of Oceanus 3 and gathering flowers over a soft meadow,
roses and crocuses and beautiful violets, irises also and hyacinths and the narcissus, which
Earth made to grow at the will of Zeus and to please the Host of Many, 4 to be a snare for
the bloom-like girl -- a marvellous, radiant flower. It was a thing of awe whether for deathless
gods or mortal men to see: from its root grew a hundred blooms and is smelled most sweetly,
so that all wide heaven above and the whole earth and the sea's salt swell laughed for joy.
And the girl was amazed and reached out with both hands to take the lovely toy; but the
wide-pathed earth yawned there in the plain of Nysa, and the lord, Host of Many, with his
immortal horses sprang out upon her -- the Son of Cronus, He who has many names. 5
[19-32] He caught her up reluctant on his golden car and bore her away lamenting. Then
she cried out shrilly with her voice, calling upon her father, the Son of Cronus, who is most
high and excellent. But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her
voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tender-hearted Hecate, bright-coiffed,
Persephone, the daughter of Demeter and Zeus (Theogony 912-14).
Another name for Hades.
For their names, see below lines 405-33.
Hades, again.
Speaking or writing the name of Hades was something of a taboo, so he is given several alternative epithets.
Divine Riddles - 44
the daughter of Perses, 1 heard the girl from her cave, and the lord Helios, Hyperion's bright
son, as she cried to her father, the Son of Cronus. But he was sitting aloof, apart from the
gods, in his temple where many pray, and receiving sweet offerings from mortal men. So he,
that Son of Cronus, of many names, who is Ruler of Many and Host of Many, was bearing
her away by leave of Zeus on his immortal chariot -- his own brother's child and all unwilling.
[33-39] And so long as she, the goddess, yet beheld earth and starry heaven and the
strong-flowing sea where fishes shoal, and the rays of the sun, and still hoped to see her dear
mother and the tribes of the eternal gods, so long hope calmed her great heart for all her
trouble.... [LACUNA] ....and the heights of the mountains and the depths of the sea rang
with her immortal voice: and her queenly mother heard her.
[40-53] Bitter pain seized her heart, and she rent the covering upon her divine hair with
her dear hands: her dark cloak she cast down from both her shoulders and sped, like a wildbird, over the firm land and yielding sea, seeking her child. But no one would tell her the
truth, neither god nor mortal men; and of the birds of omen none came with true news for
her. Then for nine days queenly Demeter wandered over the earth with flaming torches in
her hands, so grieved that she never tasted ambrosia and the sweet draught of nectar, nor
sprinkled her body with water. But when the tenth enlightening dawn had come, Hecate,
with a torch in her hands, met her, and spoke to her and told her news:
[54-58] “Queenly Demeter, bringer of seasons and giver of good gifts, what god of
heaven or what mortal man has rapt away Persephone and pierced with sorrow your dear
heart? For I heard her voice, yet saw not with my eyes who it was. But I tell you truly and
shortly all I know.”
[59-73] So, then, said Hecate. And the daughter of rich- haired Rhea answered her not,
but sped swiftly with her, holding flaming torches in her hands. So they came to Helios,
who is watchman of both gods and men, and stood in front of his horses: and the bright
goddess enquired of him: “Helios, do you at least regard me, goddess as I am, if ever by word
or deed of mine I have cheered your heart and spirit. Through the fruitless air I heard the
thrilling cry of my daughter whom I bore, sweet scion of my body and lovely in form, as of
one seized violently; though with my eyes I saw nothing. But you -- for with your beams you
look down from the bright upper air over all the earth and sea -- tell me truly of my dear
child, if you have seen her anywhere, what god or mortal man has violently seized her against
her will and mine, and so made off.”
[74-87] So said she. And the Son of Hyperion answered her: “Queen Demeter, daughter
of rich-haired Rhea, I will tell you the truth; for I greatly reverence and pity you in your grief
for your trim-ankled daughter. None other of the deathless gods is to blame, but only cloudgathering Zeus who gave her to Hades, her father's brother, to be called his buxom wife.
And Hades seized her and took her loudly crying in his chariot down to his realm of mist
and gloom. Yet, goddess, cease your loud lament and keep not vain anger unrelentingly:
Aidoneus, the Ruler of Many, is no unfitting husband among the deathless gods for your
child, being your own brother and born of the same stock: also, for honour, he has that
third share which he received when division was made at the first, and is appointed lord of
those among whom he dwells.”
Son of the Titan, Crius.
Divine Riddles - 45
[88-89] So he spoke, and called to his horses: and at his chiding they quickly whirled
the swift chariot along, like long- winged birds.
[90-112] But grief yet more terrible and savage came into the heart of Demeter, and
thereafter she was so angered with the dark-clouded Son of Cronus that she avoided the
gathering of the gods and high Olympus, and went to the towns and rich fields of men,
disfiguring her form a long while. And no one of men or deep-bosomed women knew her
when they saw her, until she came to the house of wise Celeus 1 who then was lord of fragrant
Eleusis. 2 Vexed in her dear heart, she sat near the wayside by the Maiden Well, from which
the women of the place were used to draw water, in a shady place over which grew an olive
shrub. And she was like an ancient woman who is cut off from childbearing and the gifts of
garland-loving Aphrodite, like the nurses of king's children who deal justice, or like the
house-keepers in their echoing halls. There the daughters of Celeus, son of Eleusis, saw her,
as they were coming for easy-drawn water, to carry it in pitchers of bronze to their dear
father's house: four were they and like goddesses in the flower of their girlhood, Callidice
and Cleisidice and lovely Demo and Callithoe who was the eldest of them all. They knew
her not, -- for the gods are not easily discerned by mortals -- but standing nearby her spoke
winged words:
[113-117) “Old mother, whence and who are you of folk born long ago? Why are you
gone away from the city and do not draw near the houses? For there in the shady halls are
women of just such age as you, and others younger; and they would welcome you both by
word and by deed.”
[118-1440 Thus they said. And she, that queen among goddesses answered them saying:
“Hail, dear children, whosoever you are of woman-kind. I will tell you my story; for it is not
unseemly that I should tell you truly what you ask. Doso is my name, for my stately mother
gave it me. And now I am come from Crete over the sea's wide back, -- not willingly; but
pirates brought me from there by force of strength against my liking. Afterwards they put in
with their swift craft to Thoricus, and there the women landed on the shore in full throng
and the men likewise, and they began to make ready a meal by the stern-cables of the ship.
But my heart craved not pleasant food, and I fled secretly across the dark country and
escaped my masters, that they should not take me unpurchased across the sea, there to win
a price for me. 3 And so I wandered and am come here: and I know not at all what land this
is or what people are in it. But may all those who dwell on Olympus give you husbands and
birth of children as parents desire, so you take pity on me, maidens, and show me this clearly
that I may learn, dear children, to the house of what man and woman I may go, to work for
them cheerfully at such tasks as belong to a woman of my age. Well could I nurse a new
born child, holding him in my arms, or keep house, or spread my masters' bed in a recess of
the well-built chamber, or teach the women their work.'
[145-146] So said the goddess. And straightway the unwed maiden Callidice, goodliest
in form of the daughters of Celeus, answered her and said:
Kings of Eleusis and father of Demophon and Triptolemus
The cult of Demeter at Eleusis was one of the most important in Athens. Unfortunately, it was a mystery cult and its
secrets were so closely and devotedly guarded that we know nothing about it today.
There was a lucrative trade in slaves in the ancient world. Pirates would often kidnap travelers and take them to a
foreign country to be sold.
Divine Riddles - 46
[147-168] “Mother, what the gods send us, we mortals bear perforce, although we suffer;
for they are much stronger than we. But now I will teach you clearly, telling you the names
of men who have great power and honour here and are chief among the people, guarding
our city's coif of towers by their wisdom and true judgements: there is wise Triptolemus and
Dioclus and Polyxeinus and blameless Eumolpus and Dolichus and our own brave father.
All these have wives who manage in the house, and no one of them, so soon as she has seen
you, would dishonour you and turn you from the house, but they will welcome you; for
indeed you are godlike. But if you will, stay here; and we will go to our father's house and
tell Metaneira, our deep-bosomed mother, all this matter fully, that she may bid you rather
come to our home than search after the houses of others. She has an only son, late-born,
who is being nursed in our well-built house, a child of many prayers and welcome: if you
could bring him up until he reached the full measure of youth, any one of womankind who
should see you would straightway envy you, such gifts would our mother give for his
[169-183] So she spoke: and the goddess bowed her head in assent. And they filled their
shining vessels with water and carried them off rejoicing. Quickly they came to their father's
great house and straightway told their mother according as they had heard and seen. Then
she bade them go with all speed and invite the stranger to come for a measureless hire. As
hinds or heifers in spring time, when sated with pasture, bound about a meadow, so they,
holding up the folds of their lovely garments, darted down the hollow path, and their hair
like a crocus flower streamed about their shoulders. And they found the good goddess near
the wayside where they had left her before, and led her to the house of their dear father.
And she walked behind, distressed in her dear heart, with her head veiled and wearing a
dark cloak which waved about the slender feet of the goddess.
[184-211] Soon they came to the house of heaven-nurtured Celeus and went through
the portico to where their queenly mother sat by a pillar of the close-fitted roof, holding her
son, a tender scion, in her bosom. And the girls ran to her. But the goddess walked to the
threshold: and her head reached the roof and she filled the doorway with a heavenly
radiance. Then awe and reverence and pale fear took hold of Metaneira, and she rose up
from her couch before Demeter, and bade her be seated. But Demeter, bringer of seasons
and giver of perfect gifts, would not sit upon the bright couch, but stayed silent with lovely
eyes cast down until careful Iambe placed a jointed seat for her and threw over it a silvery
fleece. Then she sat down and held her veil in her hands before her face. A long time she
sat upon the stool without speaking because of her sorrow, and greeted no one by word or
by sign, but rested, never smiling, and tasting neither food nor drink, because she pined
with longing for her deep-bosomed daughter, until careful Iambe -- who pleased her moods
in aftertime also -- moved the holy lady with many a quip and jest to smile and laugh and
cheer her heart. Then Metaneira filled a cup with sweet wine and offered it to her; but she
refused it, for she said it was not lawful for her to drink red wine, but bade them mix meal
and water with soft mint and give her to drink. And Metaneira mixed the draught and gave
it to the goddess as she asked. So the great queen Demeter received it to observe the
sacrament.... 1 [LACUNA]
One of few details we do know about the rites of Demeter: the holy communion in which initiates drank a mixture
of barley-meal and mint.
Divine Riddles - 47
[212-223] And of them all, well-girded Metaneira first began to speak: “Hail, lady! For I
think you are not meanly but nobly born; truly dignity and grace are conspicuous upon your
eyes as in the eyes of kings that deal justice. 1 Yet we mortals bear perforce what the gods
send us, though we be grieved; for a yoke is set upon our necks. But now, since you are come
here, you shall have what I can bestow: and nurse me this child whom the gods gave me in
my old age and beyond my hope, a son much prayed for. If you should bring him up until
he reach the full measure of youth, any one of womankind that sees you will straightway
envy you, so great reward would I give for his upbringing.”
[224-230] Then rich-haired Demeter answered her: “And to you, also, lady, all hail, and
may the gods give you good! Gladly will I take the boy to my breast, as you bid me, and will
nurse him. Never, I believe, through any heedlessness of his nurse shall witchcraft hurt him
nor yet the Undercutter: for I know a charm far stronger than the Woodcutter, and I know
an excellent safeguard against woeful witchcraft.” 2
[231-247] When she had so spoken, she took the child in her fragrant bosom with her
divine hands: and his mother was glad in her heart. So the goddess nursed in the palace
Demophon, wise Celeus' goodly son whom well-girded Metaneira bore. And the child grew
like some immortal being, not fed with food nor nourished at the breast: for by day richcrowned Demeter would anoint him with ambrosia as if he were the offspring of a god and
breathe sweetly upon him as she held him in her bosom. But at night she would hide him
like a brand in the heart of the fire, unknown to his dear parents. And it wrought great
wonder in these that he grew beyond his age; for he was like the gods face to face. And she
would have made him deathless and ageless, had not well-girded Metaneira in her
heedlessness kept watch by night from her sweet-smelling chamber and spied. But she wailed
and smote her two hips, because she feared for her son and was greatly distraught in her
heart; so she lamented and uttered winged words:
[248-249] “Demophon, my son, the strange woman buries you deep in fire and works
grief and bitter sorrow for me.”
[250-255] Thus she spoke, mourning. And the bright goddess, lovely-crowned Demeter,
heard her, and was angry with her. So with her divine hands she snatched from the fire the
dear son whom Metaneira had born unhoped-for in the palace, and cast him from her to
the ground; for she was terribly angry in her heart. Forthwith she said to well-girded
[256-274] “Witless are you mortals and dull to foresee your lot, whether of good or evil,
that comes upon you. For now in your heedlessness you have wrought folly past healing; for
-- be witness the oath of the gods, the relentless water of Styx -- I would have made your dear
son deathless and ageless all his days and would have bestowed on him everlasting honour,
but now he can in no way escape death and the fates. Yet shall unfailing honour always rest
upon him, because he lay upon my knees and slept in my arms. But, as the years move round
and when he is in his prime, the sons of the Eleusians shall ever wage war and dread strife
with one another continually. Lo! I am that Demeter who has share of honour and is the
Until very recently it was believed that nobility were a special breed of humans – innately endowed with wisdom
and beauty such that they were easily recognizable to each other. Regardless of their circumstances, one noble is
obligated to offer hospitality to another.
The Undercutter and the Woodcutter are both names for the worm that causes teething and toothaches.
Divine Riddles - 48
greatest help and cause of joy to the undying gods and mortal men. But now, let all the
people build be a great temple and an altar below it and beneath the city and its sheer wall
upon a rising hillock above Callichorus. And I myself will teach my rites, that hereafter you
may reverently perform them and so win the favour of my heart.”
[275-281] When she had so said, the goddess changed her stature and her looks,
thrusting old age away from her: beauty spread round about her and a lovely fragrance was
wafted from her sweet-smelling robes, and from the divine body of the goddess a light shone
afar, while golden tresses spread down over her shoulders, so that the strong house was filled
with brightness as with lightning. And so she went out from the palace.
[281-291] And straightway Metaneira's knees were loosed and she remained speechless
for a long while and did not remember to take up her late-born son from the ground. But
his sisters heard his pitiful wailing and sprang down from their well-spread beds: one of
them took up the child in her arms and laid him in her bosom, while another revived the
fire, and a third rushed with soft feet to bring their mother from her fragrant chamber. And
they gathered about the struggling child and washed him, embracing him lovingly; but he
was not comforted, because nurses and handmaids much less skilful were holding him now.
[292-300] All night long they sought to appease the glorious goddess, quaking with fear.
But, as soon as dawn began to show, they told powerful Celeus all things without fail, as the
lovely-crowned goddess Demeter charged them. So Celeus called the countless people to an
assembly and bade them make a goodly temple for rich-haired Demeter and an altar upon
the rising hillock. 1 And they obeyed him right speedily and harkened to his voice, doing as
he commanded. As for the child, he grew like an immortal being.
[301-320] Now when they had finished building and had drawn back from their toil,
they went every man to his house. But golden-haired Demeter sat there apart from all the
blessed gods and stayed, wasting with yearning for her deep-bosomed daughter. Then she
caused a most dreadful and cruel year for mankind over the all-nourishing earth: the ground
would not make the seed sprout, for rich-crowned Demeter kept it hid. In the fields the
oxen drew many a curved plough in vain, and much white barley was cast upon the land
without avail. So she would have destroyed the whole race of man with cruel famine and
have robbed them who dwell on Olympus of their glorious right of gifts and sacrifices, had
not Zeus perceived and marked this in his heart. First he sent golden-winged Iris to call richhaired Demeter, lovely in form. So he commanded. And she obeyed the dark-clouded Son
of Cronus, and sped with swift feet across the space between. She came to the stronghold of
fragrant Eleusis, and there finding dark-cloaked Demeter in her temple, spoke to her and
uttered winged words:
[321-323] “Demeter, father Zeus, whose wisdom is everlasting, calls you to come join
the tribes of the eternal gods: come therefore, and let not the message I bring from Zeus
pass unobeyed.”
[324-333] Thus said Iris imploring her. But Demeter's heart was not moved. Then again
the father sent forth all the blessed and eternal gods besides: and they came, one after the
other, and kept calling her and offering many very beautiful gifts and whatever right she
might be pleased to choose among the deathless gods. Yet no one was able to persuade her
mind and will, so wrath was she in her heart; but she stubbornly rejected all their words: for
The remains of the temple are still there, the subject of ongoing archaeological work.
Divine Riddles - 49
she vowed that she would never set foot on fragrant Olympus nor let fruit spring out of the
ground, until she beheld with her eyes her own fair-faced daughter.
[334-346] Now when all-seeing Zeus the loud-thunderer heard this, he sent the Slayer of
Argus whose wand is of gold to Erebus, 1 so that having won over Hades with soft words, he
might lead forth chaste Persephone to the light from the misty gloom to join the gods, and
that her mother might see her with her eyes and cease from her anger. And Hermes obeyed,
and leaving the house of Olympus, straightway sprang down with speed to the hidden places
of the earth. And he found the lord Hades in his house seated upon a couch, and his shy
mate with him, much reluctant, because she yearned for her mother. But she was afar off,
brooding on her fell design because of the deeds of the blessed gods. And the strong Slayer
of Argus drew near and said:
[347-356] “Dark-haired Hades, ruler over the departed, father Zeus bids me bring noble
Persephone forth from Erebus unto the gods, that her mother may see her with her eyes and
cease from her dread anger with the immortals; for now she plans an awful deed, to destroy
the weakly tribes of earthborn men by keeping seed hidden beneath the earth, and so she
makes an end of the honours of the undying gods. For she keeps fearful anger and does not
consort with the gods, but sits aloof in her fragrant temple, dwelling in the rocky hold of
[357-359] So he said. And Aidoneus, ruler over the dead, smiled grimly and obeyed the
behest of Zeus the king. For he straightway urged wise Persephone, saying:
[360-369] “Go now, Persephone, to your dark-robed mother, go, and feel kindly in your
heart towards me: be not so exceedingly cast down; for I shall be no unfitting husband for
you among the deathless gods, that am own brother to father Zeus. And while you are here,
you shall rule all that lives and moves and shall have the greatest rights among the deathless
gods: those who defraud you and do not appease your power with offerings, reverently
performing rites and paying fit gifts, shall be punished for evermore.”
[370-383] When he said this, wise Persephone was filled with joy and hastily sprang up
for gladness. But he on his part secretly gave her sweet pomegranate seed to eat, taking care
for himself that she might not remain continually with grave, dark- robed Demeter. Then
Aidoneus the Ruler of Many openly got ready his deathless horses beneath the golden
chariot. And she mounted on the chariot, and the strong Slayer of Argus took reins and
whip in his dear hands and drove forth from the hall, the horses speeding readily. Swiftly
they traversed their long course, and neither the sea nor river-waters nor grassy glens nor
mountain- peaks checked the career of the immortal horses, but they clave the deep air above
them as they went. And Hermes brought them to the place where rich-crowned Demeter was
staying and checked them before her fragrant temple.
[384-404] And when Demeter saw them, she rushed forth as does a Maenad down some
thick-wooded mountain, while Persephone on the other side, when she saw her mother's
sweet eyes, left the chariot and horses, and leaped down to run to her, and falling upon her
neck, embraced her. But while Demeter was still holding her dear child in her arms, her
heart suddenly misgave her for some snare, so that she feared greatly and ceased fondling
her daughter and asked of her at once: `My child, tell me, surely you have not tasted any
food while you were below? Speak out and hide nothing, but let us both know. For if you
Divine Riddles - 50
have not, you shall come back from loathly Hades and live with me and your father, the
dark-clouded Son of Cronus and be honoured by all the deathless gods; but if you have
tasted food, you must go back again beneath the secret places of the earth, there to dwell a
third part of the seasons every year: yet for the two parts you shall be with me and the other
deathless gods. But when the earth shall bloom with the fragrant flowers of spring in every
kind, then from the realm of darkness and gloom you shall come up once more to be a
wonder for gods and mortal men. And now tell me how he rapt you away to the realm of
darkness and gloom, and by what trick did the strong Host of Many beguile you?'
[405-433] Then beautiful Persephone answered her thus: “Mother, I will tell you all
without error. When luck-bringing Hermes came, swift messenger from my father the Son
of Cronus and the other Sons of Heaven, bidding me come back from Erebus that you might
see me with your eyes and so cease from your anger and fearful wrath against the gods, I
sprang up at once for joy; but he secretly put in my mouth sweet food, a pomegranate seed,
and forced me to taste against my will. Also I will tell how he rapt me away by the deep plan
of my father the Son of Cronus and carried me off beneath the depths of the earth, and will
relate the whole matter as you ask. All we were playing in a lovely meadow, Leucippe and
Phaeno and Electra and Ianthe, Melita also and Iache with Rhodea and Callirhoe and
Melobosis and Tyche and Ocyrhoe, fair as a flower, Chryseis, Ianeira, Acaste and Admete
and Rhodope and Pluto and charming Calypso; Styx too was there and Urania and lovely
Galaxaura with Pallas who rouses battles and Artemis delighting in arrows: we were playing
and gathering sweet flowers in our hands, soft crocuses mingled with irises and hyacinths,
and rose-blooms and lilies, marvellous to see, and the narcissus which the wide earth caused
to grow yellow as a crocus. That I plucked in my joy; but the earth parted beneath, and there
the strong lord, the Host of Many, sprang forth and in his golden chariot he bore me away,
all unwilling, beneath the earth: then I cried with a shrill cry. All this is true, sore though it
grieves me to tell the tale.'
[434-437] So did they turn, with hearts at one, greatly cheer each the other's soul and
spirit with many an embrace: their heart had relief from their grief while each took and gave
back joyousness.
[438-440] Then bright-coiffed Hecate came near to them, and often did she embrace the
daughter of holy Demeter: and from that time the lady Hecate was minister and companion
to Persephone.
[441-459] And all-seeing Zeus sent a messenger to them, rich-haired Rhea, to bring darkcloaked Demeter to join the families of the gods: and he promised to give her what right she
should choose among the deathless gods and agreed that her daughter should go down for
the third part of the circling year to darkness and gloom, but for the two parts should live
with her mother and the other deathless gods. Thus he commanded. And the goddess did
not disobey the message of Zeus; swiftly she rushed down from the peaks of Olympus and
came to the plain of Rharus, rich, fertile corn-land once, but then in nowise fruitful, for it
lay idle and utterly leafless, because the white grains were hidden by design of trim-ankled
Demeter. But afterwards, as springtime waxed, it was soon to be waving with long ears of
corn, and its rich furrows to be loaded with grain upon the ground, while others would
already be bound in sheaves. There first she landed from the fruitless upper air: and glad
Divine Riddles - 51
were the goddesses to see each other and cheered in heart. Then bright-coiffed Rhea said to
[460-469] “Come, my daughter; for far-seeing Zeus the loud- thunderer calls you to join
the families of the gods, and has promised to give you what rights you please among the
deathless gods, and has agreed that for a third part of the circling year your daughter shall
go down to darkness and gloom, but for the two parts shall be with you and the other
deathless gods: so has he declared it shall be and has bowed his head in token. But come,
my child, obey, and be not too angry unrelentingly with the dark-clouded Son of Cronus;
but rather increase forthwith for men the fruit that gives them life.”
[470-482] So spoke Rhea. And rich-crowned Demeter did not refuse but straightway
made fruit to spring up from the rich lands, so that the whole wide earth was laden with
leaves and flowers. Then she went, and to the kings who deal justice, Triptolemus and
Diocles, the horse-driver, and to doughty Eumolpus and Celeus, leader of the people, she
showed the conduct of her rites and taught them all her mysteries, to Triptolemus and
Polyxeinus and Diocles also, -- awful mysteries which no one may in any way transgress or
pry into or utter, for deep awe of the gods checks the voice. Happy is he among men upon
earth who has seen these mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them,
never has lot of like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom.
[483-489] But when the bright goddess had taught them all, they went to Olympus to
the gathering of the other gods. And there they dwell beside Zeus who delights in thunder,
awful and reverend goddesses. Right blessed is he among men on earth whom they freely
love: soon they do send Pluto as guest to his great house, Pluto who gives wealth to mortal
[490-495] And now, queen of the land of sweet Eleusis and sea-girt Paros and rocky
Antron, lady, giver of good gifts, bringer of seasons, queen Demeter, be gracious, you and
your daughter all beauteous Persephone, and for my song grant me heart-cheering substance.
And now I will remember you and another song also.
For Ovid’s version of this story see below under Hades.
Dionysus (Bacchus)
Dionysus is the youngest of the gods of Olympus. Although he is included in the Homeric
Hymns¸ he is nowhere mentioned in the Iliad.
Divine Riddles - 52
To Dionysus, Homeric Hymn #7. 1
[1-16] I will tell of Dionysus, the son of glorious Semele, 2 how he appeared on a jutting
headland by the shore of the fruitless sea, seeming like a stripling in the first flush of
manhood: his rich, dark hair was waving about him, and on his strong shoulders he wore a
purple robe. Presently there came swiftly over the sparkling Tyrsenian Sea 3 pirates on a welldecked ship -- a miserable doom led them on. When they saw him they made signs to one
another and sprang out quickly, and seizing him straightway, put him on board their ship
exultingly; for they thought him the son of heaven-nurtured kings. They sought to bind him
with rude bonds, but the bonds would not hold him, and the withes fell far away from his
hands and feet: and he sat with a smile in his dark eyes. Then the helmsman understood all
and cried out at once to his fellows and said:
[17-24] “Madmen! What god is this whom you have taken and bind, strong that he is?
Not even the well-built ship can carry him. Surely this is either Zeus or Apollo who has the
silver bow, or Poseidon, for he looks not like mortal men but like the gods who dwell on
Olympus. Come, then, let us set him free upon the dark shore at once: do not lay hands on
him, lest he grow angry and stir up dangerous winds and heavy squalls.”
[25-31] So said he: but the master chid him with taunting words: “Madman, mark the
wind and help hoist sail on the ship: catch all the sheets. As for this fellow we men will see
to him: I reckon he is bound for Egypt or for Cyprus or to the Hyperboreans or further still.
But in the end he will speak out and tell us his friends and all his wealth and his brothers,
now that providence has thrown him in our way.” 4
[32-54] When he had said this, he had mast and sail hoisted on the ship, and the wind
filled the sail and the crew hauled taut the sheets on either side. But soon strange things
were seen among them. First of all sweet, fragrant wine ran streaming throughout all the
black ship and a heavenly smell arose, so that all the sailors were seized with amazement
when they saw it. And all at once a vine spread out both ways along the top of the sail with
many clusters hanging down from it, and a dark ivy-plant twined about the mast, blossoming
with flowers, and with rich berries growing on it; and all the thole-pins were covered with
garlands. When the pirates saw all this, then at last they bade the helmsman to put the ship
to land. But the god changed into a dreadful lion there on the ship, in the bows, and roared
loudly: amidships also he showed his wonders and created a shaggy bear which stood up
ravening, while on the forepeak was the lion glaring fiercely with scowling brows. And so
the sailors fled into the stern and crowded bemused about the right-minded helmsman, until
suddenly the lion sprang upon the master and seized him; and when the sailors saw it they
leapt out overboard one and all into the bright sea, escaping from a miserable fate, and were
Homeric Hymn #1 is To Dionysus and seems to have related the story of his birth. It survives only as a few lines and
has been left out of this collection.
The story of the birth of Dionysus, and myths associated with this god, see below under Myth Cycles; Thebaid;
Semele, Dionysus.
Tyrrhenian Sea. The Tyrrhenians were of Pelasgain origin from the area of Dodona. They colonized the northwestern area of the Italian peninsula later called Etruria, but their habitation extended some distance south. Rome
itself may have originally been a Tyrrhenian settlement.
When pirates, often slave traders, captured a wealthy or noble person, they would ransom the captive rather than sell
them as a slave.
Divine Riddles - 53
changed into dolphins. But on the helmsman Dionysus had mercy and held him back and
made him altogether happy, saying to him:
[55-57] “Take courage, good...; you have found favour with my heart. I am loud-crying
Dionysus whom Cadmus' daughter Semele bore in union with Zeus.”
[58-59] Hail, child of fair-faced Semele! He who forgets you can in no wise order sweet
To Dionysus, Homeric Hymn #26.
[1-9] I begin to sing of ivy-crowned Dionysus, the loud- crying god, splendid son of Zeus
and glorious Semele. 1 The rich- haired Nymphs received him in their bosoms from the lord
his father and fostered and nurtured him carefully in the dells of Nysa, where by the will of
his father he grew up in a sweet-smelling cave, being reckoned among the immortals. But
when the goddesses had brought him up, a god often hymned, then began he to wander
continually through the woody valleys, thickly wreathed with ivy and laurel. And the
Nymphs followed in his train with him for their leader; and the boundless forest was filled
with their outcry.
[10-13] And so hail to you, Dionysus, god of abundant clusters! 2 Grant that we may
come again rejoicing to this season, and from that season onwards for many a year.
Gaia (Terra)
To Gaia, Mother Earth, Homeric Hymn #30.
[1-16] I will sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all, eldest of all beings. She feeds all
creatures that are in the world, all that go upon the goodly land, and all that are in the paths
of the seas, and all that fly: all these are fed of her store. Through you, O queen, men are
blessed in their children and blessed in their harvests, and to you it belongs to give means
of life to mortal men and to take it away. Happy is the man whom you delight to honour!
He has all things abundantly: his fruitful land is laden with corn, his pastures are covered
with cattle, and his house is filled with good things. Such men rule orderly in their cities of
fair women: great riches and wealth follow them: their sons exult with ever-fresh delight,
and their daughters in flower-laden bands play and skip merrily over the soft flowers of the
field. Thus is it with those whom you honour O holy goddess, bountiful spirit.
[17-19] Hail, Mother of the gods, wife of starry Heaven; freely bestow upon me for this
my song substance that cheers the heart! And now I will remember you and another song
Hades (Pluto)
Hades is not included in the Homeric Hymns for obvious reasons: no one wanted to invoke
the god of the underworld and few would even mention his name either in voice or in print.
For the birth of Dionysus see below under Myth Cycles; Thebaid; Semele.
Cluster of grapes, that is… Dionysus is god of wine and the vine.
Divine Riddles - 54
The most famous story associated with Hades is his marriage to Persephone. 1
Hephaestus (Vulcan)
To Hephaestus, Homeric Hymn #20.
[1-7] Sing, clear-voiced Muses, of Hephaestus famed for inventions. With bright-eyed
Athena he taught men glorious gifts throughout the world, -- men who before used to dwell
in caves in the mountains like wild beasts. But now that they have learned crafts through
Hephaestus the famed worker, easily they live a peaceful life in their own houses the whole
year round.
[8] Be gracious, Hephaestus, and grant me success and prosperity!
The Infidelity of Aphrodite: Ovid, Metamorphoses v.170 – 191
[170] Love has captivated even this Sun, who rules all things by his ethereal light. I will
relate the loves of the Sun. This god is supposed to have been the first to see the adultery of
Venus with Mars; 2 this god is the first to see everything. He was grieved at what was done,
and showed to the husband, the son of Juno, 3 the wrong done to his bed, and the place of
the intrigue. [175] Both his senses, and the work which his skilful right hand was then
holding, quitted him on the instant. Immediately, he files out some slender chains of brass,
and nets, and meshes, which can escape the eye. The finest threads cannot surpass that work,
nor yet the cobweb that hangs from the top of the beam. [180] He makes it so, too, as to
yield to a slight touch, and a gentle movement, and skilfully arranges it drawn around the
bed. When the wife and the gallant come into the same bed, being both caught through the
artifice of the husband, and chains prepared by this new contrivance, they are held fast in
the very midst of their embraces.
[185] The Lemnian god 4 immediately threw open the folding doors of ivory, and
admitted the Deities. There they lay disgracefully bound. And yet many a one of the gods,
not the serious ones, could fain wish thus to become disgraced. The gods of heaven laughed,
and for a long time was this the most noted story in all heaven. [190] The Cytherean goddess
exacts satisfaction of the Sun, in remembrance of this betrayal; and, in her turn, disturbs
him with the like passion, who had disturbed her secret amours.
Aphrodite then bore Harmonia, a mortal woman, and she became the wife of Cadmus. See
below Myth Cycles; Thebaid; Cadmus.
Hera (Juno)
To Hera, Homeric Hymn #12.
[1-5] I sing of golden-throned Hera whom Rhea bore. Queen of the immortals is she,
surpassing all in beauty: she is the sister and the wife of loud-thundering Zeus, -- the glorious
See Theogony 758 -806 above: The Origin of Things: The Formation of the Earth and the Birth of the Gods:
Aphrodite and Ares.
Referring to Vulcan (Hephaestus) the son of Juno (Hera). Hephaestus and Aphrodite were married but the latter had
an affair with Ares (Mars), the god of war.
The island of Lemnos was the favorite haunt of Hephaestus.
Divine Riddles - 55
one whom all the blessed throughout high Olympus reverence and honour even as Zeus who
delights in thunder.
Hera was the wife of Zeus but their relationship was not always a healthy one. They fought
bitterly over a number of issues, including the conduct and outcome of the Trojan war. At one
point, Hera decides to trick her husband to get her way:
Iliad xiv. 156 – 353
Then she turned her eyes to Zeus as he sat on the topmost crests of many-fountained
Ida, and loathed him. She set herself to think how she might hoodwink him, and in the end
she deemed that it would be best for her to go to Ida and array herself in rich attire, in the
hope that Zeus might become enamoured of her, and wish to embrace her. While he was
thus engaged a sweet and careless sleep might be made to steal over his eyes and senses.
[166] She went, therefore, to the room which her son Hephaestus had made her, and
the doors of which he had cunningly fastened by means of a secret key so that no other god
could open them. Here she entered and closed the doors behind her. She cleansed all the
dirt from her fair body with ambrosia, then she anointed herself with olive oil, ambrosial,
very soft, and scented specially for herself- if it were so much as shaken in the bronze-floored
house of Zeus, the scent pervaded the universe of heaven and earth. With this she anointed
her delicate skin, and then she plaited the fair ambrosial locks that flowed in a stream of
golden tresses from her immortal head. She put on the wondrous robe which Athena had
worked for her with consummate art, and had embroidered with manifold devices; she
fastened it about her bosom with golden clasps, and she girded herself with a girdle that had
a hundred tassels: then she fastened her earrings, three brilliant pendants that glistened
most beautifully, through the pierced lobes of her ears, and threw a lovely new veil over her
head. She bound her sandals on to her feet, and when she had arrayed herself perfectly to
her satisfaction, she left her room and called Aphrodite to come aside and speak to her. "My
dear child," said she, "will you do what I am going to ask of you, or will refuse me because
you are angry at my being on the Danaan side, while you are on the Trojan?"
[193] Zeus's daughter Aphrodite answered, "Hera, august queen of goddesses, daughter
of mighty Cronus, say what you want, and I will do it for at once, if I can, and if it can be
done at all."
[197] Then Hera told her a lying tale and said, "I want you to endow me with some of
those fascinating charms, the spells of which bring all things mortal and immortal to your
feet. I am going to the world's end to visit Oceanus (from whom all we gods proceed) and
mother Tethys: they received me in their house, took care of me, and brought me up, having
taken me over from Rhaea when Zeus imprisoned great Cronus in the depths that are under
earth and sea. I must go and see them that I may make peace between them; they have been
quarrelling, and are so angry that they have not slept with one another this long while; if I
can bring them round and restore them to one another's embraces, they will be grateful to
me and love me for ever afterwards."
[212] Thereon laughter-loving Aphrodite said, "I cannot and must not refuse you, for
you sleep in the arms of Zeus who is our king."
[215] As she spoke she loosed from her bosom the curiously embroidered girdle into
which all her charms had been wrought- love, desire, and that sweet flattery which steals the
Divine Riddles - 56
judgement even of the most prudent. She gave the girdle to Hera and said, "Take this girdle
wherein all my charms reside and lay it in your bosom. If you will wear it I promise you that
your errand, be it what it may, will not be bootless." When she heard this Hera smiled, and
still smiling she laid the girdle in her bosom. Aphrodite now went back into the house of
Zeus, while Hera darted down from the summits of Olympus. She passed over Pieria and
fair Emathia, and went on and on till she came to the snowy ranges of the Thracian
horsemen, over whose topmost crests she sped without ever setting foot to ground. When
she came to Athos she went on over the waves of the sea till she reached Lemnos, the city
of noble Thoas. There she met Sleep, own brother to Death, and caught him by the hand,
saying, "Sleep, you who lord it alike over mortals and immortals, if you ever did me a service
in times past, do one for me now, and I shall be grateful to you ever after. Close Zeus's keen
eyes for me in slumber while I hold him clasped in my embrace, and I will give you a beautiful
golden seat, that can never fall to pieces; my clubfooted son Hephaestus shall make it for
you, and he shall give it a footstool for you to rest your fair feet upon when you are at table."
[242] Then Sleep answered, "Hera, great queen of goddesses, daughter of mighty
Cronus, I would lull any other of the gods to sleep without compunction, not even excepting
the waters of Oceanus from whom all of them proceed, but I dare not go near Zeus, nor
send him to sleep unless he bids me. I have had one lesson already through doing what you
asked me, on the day when Zeus's mighty son Heracles set sail from Ilium after having sacked
the city of the Trojans. At your bidding I suffused my sweet self over the mind of aegisbearing Zeus, and laid him to rest; meanwhile you hatched a plot against Heracles, and set
the blasts of the angry winds beating upon the sea, till you took him to the goodly city of
Cos away from all his friends. Zeus was furious when he awoke, and began hurling the gods
about all over the house; he was looking more particularly for me, and would have flung me
down through space into the sea where I should never have been heard of any more, had
not Night who cows both men and gods protected me. I fled to her and Zeus left off looking
for me in spite of his being so angry, for he did not dare do anything to displease Night.
And now you are again asking me to do something on which I cannot venture."
[263] And Hera said, "Sleep, why do you take such notions as those into your head? Do
you think Zeus will be as anxious to help the Trojans, as he was about his own son? Come,
I will marry you to one of the youngest of the Graces, and she shall be your own- Pasithea,
whom you have always wanted to marry."
[270] Sleep was pleased when he heard this, and answered, "Then swear it to me by the
dread waters of the river Styx; lay one hand on the bounteous earth, and the other on the
sheen of the sea, so that all the gods who dwell down below with Cronus may be our
witnesses, and see that you really do give me one of the youngest of the Graces- Pasithea,
whom I have always wanted to marry."
[277] Hera did as he had said. She swore, and invoked all the gods of the nether world,
who are called Titans, to witness. When she had completed her oath, the two enshrouded
themselves in a thick mist and sped lightly forward, leaving Lemnos and Imbrus behind
them. Presently they reached many-fountained Ida, mother of wild beasts, and Lectum where
they left the sea to go on by land, and the tops of the trees of the forest soughed under the
going of their feet. Here Sleep halted, and ere Zeus caught sight of him he climbed a lofty
pine-tree- the tallest that reared its head towards heaven on all Ida. He hid himself behind
Divine Riddles - 57
the branches and sat there in the semblance of the sweet-singing bird that haunts the
mountains and is called Chalcis by the gods, but men call it Cymindis. Hera then went to
Gargarus, the topmost peak of Ida, and Zeus, driver of the clouds, set eyes upon her. As
soon as he did so he became inflamed with the same passionate desire for her that he had
felt when they had first enjoyed each other's embraces, and slept with one another without
their dear parents knowing anything about it. He went up to her and said, "What do you
want that you have come here from Olympus- and that too with neither chariot nor horses
to convey you?"
[300] Then Hera told him a lying tale and said, "I am going to the world's end, to visit
Oceanus, from whom all we gods proceed, and mother Tethys; they received me into their
house, took care of me, and brought me up. I must go and see them that I may make peace
between them: they have been quarrelling, and are so angry that they have not slept with
one another this long time. The horses that will take me over land and sea are stationed on
the lowermost spurs of many-fountained Ida, and I have come here from Olympus on
purpose to consult you. I was afraid you might be angry with me later on, if I went to the
house of Oceanus without letting you know."
[312] And Zeus said, "Hera, you can choose some other time for paying your visit to
Oceanus- for the present let us devote ourselves to love and to the enjoyment of one another.
Never yet have I been so overpowered by passion neither for goddess nor mortal woman as
I am at this moment for you- not even when I was in love with the wife of Ixion who bore
me Perithous, peer of gods in counsel, nor yet with Danae the daintily-ancled daughter of
Acrisius, who bore me the famed hero Perseus. Then there was the daughter of Phoenix,
who bore me Minos and Rhadamanthus: there was Semele, and Alcmena in Thebes by whom
I begot my lion-hearted son Heracles, while Semele became mother to Dionysus the
comforter of mankind. There was queen Ceres again, and lovely Leto, and yourself- but with
none of these was I ever so much enamoured as I now am with you."
[329] Hera again answered him with a lying tale. "Most dread son of Cronus," she
exclaimed, "what are you talking about? Would you have us enjoy one another here on the
top of Mount Ida, where everything can be seen? What if one of the ever-living gods should
see us sleeping together, and tell the others? It would be such a scandal that when I had
risen from your embraces I could never show myself inside your house again; but if you are
so minded, there is a room which your son Hephaestus has made me, and he has given it
good strong doors; if you would so have it, let us go thither and lie down."
[341] And Zeus answered, "Hera, you need not be afraid that either god or man will see
you, for I will enshroud both of us in such a dense golden cloud, that the very sun for all
his bright piercing beams shall not see through it."
[346] With this the son of Cronus caught his wife in his embrace; whereon the earth
sprouted them a cushion of young grass, with dew-bespangled lotus, crocus, and hyacinth,
so soft and thick that it raised them well above the ground. Here they laid themselves down
and overhead they were covered by a fair cloud of gold, from which there fell glittering dewdrops.
[352] Thus, then, did the sire of all things repose peacefully on the crest of Ida,
overcome at once by sleep and love, and he held his spouse in his arms.
Divine Riddles - 58
Hermes (Mercury)
The Homeric Hymn to Hermes has as much to do with Apollo as it does Hermes:
To Hermes, Homeric Hymn #4.
[1-29] Muse, sing of Hermes, the son of Zeus and Maia, lord of Cyllene 1 and Arcadia
rich in flocks, the luck-bringing messenger of the immortals whom Maia bare, the richtressed nymph, when she was joined in love with Zeus, -- a shy goddess, for she avoided the
company of the blessed gods, and lived within a deep, shady cave. There the son of Cronus
used to lie with the rich-tressed nymph, unseen by deathless gods and mortal men, at dead
of night while sweet sleep should hold white-armed Hera fast. And when the purpose of
great Zeus was fixed in heaven, she was delivered and a notable thing was come to pass. For
then she bare a son, of many shifts, blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of
dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates, one who was soon to show forth wonderful
deeds among the deathless gods. Born with the dawning, at mid-day he played on the lyre,
and in the evening he stole the cattle of far-shooting Apollo on the fourth day of the month;
for on that day queenly Maia bare him. So soon as he had leaped from his mother's heavenly
womb, he lay not long waiting in his holy cradle, but he sprang up and sought the oxen of
Apollo. But as he stepped over the threshold of the high-roofed cave, he found a tortoise
there and gained endless delight. For it was Hermes who first made the tortoise a singer.
The creature fell in his way at the courtyard gate, where it was feeding on the rich grass
before the dwelling, waddling along. When he saw it, the luck- bringing son of Zeus laughed
and said:
[30-38] “An omen of great luck for me so soon! I do not slight it. Hail, comrade of the
feast, lovely in shape, sounding at the dance! With joy I meet you! Where got you that rich
gaud for covering, that spangled shell -- a tortoise living in the mountains? But I will take
and carry you within: you shall help me and I will do you no disgrace, though first of all you
must profit me. It is better to be at home: harm may come out of doors. Living, you shall be
a spell against mischievous witchcraft; but if you die, then you shall make sweetest song.”
[39-61] Thus speaking, he took up the tortoise in both hands and went back into the
house carrying his charming toy. Then he cut off its limbs and scooped out the marrow of
the mountain-tortoise with a scoop of grey iron. As a swift thought darts through the heart
of a man when thronging cares haunt him, or as bright glances flash from the eye, so glorious
Hermes planned both thought and deed at once. He cut stalks of reed to measure and fixed
them, fastening their ends across the back and through the shell of the tortoise, and then
stretched ox hide all over it by his skill. Also he put in the horns and fitted a cross-piece
upon the two of them, and stretched seven strings of sheep-gut. But when he had made it
he proved each string in turn with the key, as he held the lovely thing. At the touch of his
hand it sounded marvellously; and, as he tried it, the god sang sweet random snatches, even
as youths bandy taunts at festivals. He sang of Zeus the son of Cronus and neat-shod Maia,
the converse which they had before in the comradeship of love, telling all the glorious tale
of his own begetting. He celebrated, too, the handmaids of the nymph, and her bright home,
and the tripods all about the house, and the abundant cauldrons.
The highest peak of the mountain range that separates Arcadia from Achaea, in the Peloponnese.
Divine Riddles - 59
[62-67] But while he was singing of all these, his heart was bent on other matters. And
he took the hollow lyre and laid it in his sacred cradle, and sprang from the sweet-smelling
hall to a watch-place, pondering sheet trickery in his heart -- deeds such as knavish folk
pursue in the dark night-time; for he longed to taste flesh.
[68-86] The Sun was going down beneath the earth towards Ocean with his horses and
chariot when Hermes came hurrying to the shadowy mountains of Pieria, 1 where the divine
cattle of the blessed gods had their steads and grazed the pleasant, unmown meadows. Of
these the Son of Maia, the sharp-eyed slayer of Argus then cut off from the herd fifty loudlowing kine, and drove them straggling-wise across a sandy place, turning their hoof-prints
aside. Also, he bethought him of a crafty ruse and reversed the marks of their hoofs, making
the front behind and the hind before, while he himself walked the other way. Then he wove
sandals with wicker-work by the sand of the sea, wonderful things, unthought of,
unimagined; for he mixed together tamarisk and myrtle-twigs, fastening together an armful
of their fresh, young wood, and tied them, leaves and all securely under his feet as light
sandals. The brushwood the glorious Slayer of Argus plucked in Pieria as he was preparing
for his journey, making shift as one making haste for a long journey.
[87-89] But an old man tilling his flowering vineyard saw him as he was hurrying down
the plain through grassy Onchestus. So the Son of Maia began and said to him:
[90-93] “Old man, digging about your vines with bowed shoulders, surely you shall have
much wine when all these bear fruit, if you obey me and strictly remember not to have seen
what you have seen, and not to have heard what you have heard, and to keep silent when
nothing of your own is harmed.”
[94-114] When he had said this much, he hurried the strong cattle on together: through
many shadowy mountains and echoing gorges and flowery plains glorious Hermes drove
them. And now the divine night, his dark ally, was mostly passed, and dawn that sets folk
to work was quickly coming on, while bright Selene, daughter of the lord Pallas, Megamedes'
son, 2 had just climbed her watch-post, when the strong Son of Zeus drove the wide-browed
cattle of Phoebus Apollo to the river Alpheus. 3 And they came unwearied to the high-roofed
byres and the drinking-troughs that were before the noble meadow. Then, after he had wellfed the loud-bellowing cattle with fodder and driven them into the byre, close-packed and
chewing lotus and began to seek the art of fire.
He chose a stout laurel branch and trimmed it with the knife.... [LACUNA)] ....held
firmly in his hand: and the hot smoke rose up. For it was Hermes who first invented firesticks and fire. Next he took many dried sticks and piled them thick and plenty in a sunken
trench: and flame began to glow, spreading afar the blast of fierce-burning fire.
[115-137] And while the strength of glorious Hephaestus was beginning to kindle the
fire, he dragged out two lowing, horned cows close to the fire; for great strength was with
him. He threw them both panting upon their backs on the ground, and rolled them on their
sides, bending their necks over, and pierced their vital chord. Then he went on from task to
task: first he cut up the rich, fatted meat, and pierced it with wooden spits, and roasted flesh
The district around Mt. Olympus, between Thessaly to the south and Macedonia to the north.
This is the only known reference to either a Pallas or a Megamedes in connection to Selene. The Moon, Selene, was
the daughter of Hyperion and Theia (Theog. 371
This river flows from Elis into Laconia, near Pylos.
Divine Riddles - 60
and the honourable chine and the paunch full of dark blood all together. He laid them there
upon the ground, and spread out the hides on a rugged rock: and so they are still there many
ages afterwards, a long, long time after all this, and are continually. Next glad-hearted
Hermes dragged the rich meats he had prepared and put them on a smooth, flat stone, and
divided them into twelve portions distributed by lot, making each portion wholly
honourable. Then glorious Hermes longed for the sacrificial meat, for the sweet savour
wearied him, god though he was; nevertheless his proud heart was not prevailed upon to
devour the flesh, although he greatly desired. But he put away the fat and all the flesh in the
high- roofed byre, placing them high up to be a token of his youthful theft. And after that
he gathered dry sticks and utterly destroyed with fire all the hoofs and all the heads.
[138-154] And when the god had duly finished all, he threw his sandals into deepeddying Alpheus, and quenched the embers, covering the black ashes with sand, and so
spent the night while Selene's soft light shone down. Then the god went straight back again
at dawn to the bright crests of Cyllene, and no one met him on the long journey either of
the blessed gods or mortal men, nor did any dog bark. And luck-bringing Hermes, the son
of Zeus, passed edgeways through the key-hole of the hall like the autumn breeze, even as
mist: straight through the cave he went and came to the rich inner chamber, walking softly,
and making no noise as one might upon the floor. Then glorious Hermes went hurriedly to
his cradle, wrapping his swaddling clothes about his shoulders as though he were a feeble
babe, and lay playing with the covering about his knees; but at his left hand he kept close
his sweet lyre.
[155-161] But the god did not pass unseen by the goddess his mother; but she said to
him: “How now, you rogue! Whence come you back so at night-time, you that wear
shamelessness as a garment? And now I surely believe the son of Leto will soon have you
forth out of doors with unbreakable cords about your ribs, or you will live a rogue's life in
the glens robbing by whiles. Go to, then; your father got you to be a great worry to mortal
men and deathless gods.”
[162-181] Then Hermes answered her with crafty words: “Mother, why do you seek to
frighten me like a feeble child whose heart knows few words of blame, a fearful babe that
fears its mother's scolding? Nay, but I will try whatever plan is best, and so feed myself and
you continually. We will not be content to remain here, as you bid, alone of all the gods
unfed with offerings and prayers. Better to live in fellowship with the deathless gods
continually, rich, wealthy, and enjoying stories of grain, than to sit always in a gloomy cave:
and, as regards honour, I too will enter upon the rite that Apollo has. If my father will not
give it to me, I will seek -- and I am able -- to be a prince of robbers. And if Leto's most
glorious son shall seek me out, I think another and a greater loss will befall him. For I will
go to Pytho 1 to break into his great house, and will plunder therefrom splendid tripods, and
cauldrons, and gold, and plenty of bright iron, and much apparel; and you shall see it if you
[182-189] With such words they spoke together, the son of Zeus who holds the aegis,
and the lady Maia. Now Eros the early born was rising from deep-flowing Ocean, bringing
light to men, when Apollo, as he went, came to Onchestus, 2 the lovely grove and sacred
Delphi, the temple of Apollo there.
See above, To Pythian Apollo 229.
Divine Riddles - 61
place of the loud-roaring Holder of the Earth. There he found an old man grazing his beast
along the pathway from his court-yard fence, and the all-glorious Son of Leto began and said
to him.
[190-200] “Old man, weeder of grassy Onchestus, I am come here from Pieria seeking
cattle, cows all of them, all with curving horns, from my herd. The black bull was grazing
alone away from the rest, but fierce-eyed hounds followed the cows, four of them, all of one
mind, like men. These were left behind, the dogs and the bull -- which is great marvel; but
the cows strayed out of the soft meadow, away from the pasture when the sun was just going
down. Now tell me this, old man born long ago: have you seen one passing along behind
those cows?”
[201-211] Then the old man answered him and said: “My son, it is hard to tell all that
one's eyes see; for many wayfarers pass to and fro this way, some bent on much evil, and
some on good: it is difficult to know each one. However, I was digging about my plot of
vineyard all day long until the sun went down, and I thought, good sir, but I do not know
for certain, that I marked a child, whoever the child was, that followed long-horned cattle -an infant who had a staff and kept walking from side to side: he was driving them backwards
way, with their heads toward him.”
[212-218] So said the old man. And when Apollo heard this report, he went yet more
quickly on his way, and presently, seeing a long-winged bird, he knew at once by that omen
that thief was the child of Zeus the son of Cronus. So the lord Apollo, son of Zeus, hurried
on to goodly Pylos seeking his shambling oxen, and he had his broad shoulders covered with
a dark cloud. But when the Far-Shooter perceived the tracks, he cried:
[219-226] “Oh, oh! Truly this is a great marvel that my eyes behold! These are indeed
the tracks of straight-horned oxen, but they are turned backwards towards the flowery
meadow. But these others are not the footprints of man or woman or grey wolves or bears
or lions, nor do I think they are the tracks of a rough-maned Centaur -- whoever it be that
with swift feet makes such monstrous footprints; wonderful are the tracks on this side of the
way, but yet more wonderfully are those on that.”
[227-234] When he had so said, the lord Apollo, the Son of Zeus hastened on and came
to the forest-clad mountain of Cyllene and the deep-shadowed cave in the rock where the
divine nymph brought forth the child of Zeus who is the son of Cronus. A sweet odour
spread over the lovely hill, and many thin-shanked sheep were grazing on the grass. Then
far-shooting Apollo himself stepped down in haste over the stone threshold into the dusky
[235-253] Now when the Son of Zeus and Maia saw Apollo in a rage about his cattle, he
snuggled down in his fragrant swaddling-clothes; and as wood-ash covers over the deep
embers of tree-stumps, so Hermes cuddled himself up when he saw the Far- Shooter. He
squeezed head and hands and feet together in a small space, like a new born child seeking
sweet sleep, though in truth he was wide awake, and he kept his lyre under his armpit. But
the Son of Leto was aware and failed not to perceive the beautiful mountain-nymph and her
dear son, albeit a little child and swathed so craftily. He peered in every corner of the great
dwelling and, taking a bright key, he opened three closets full of nectar and lovely ambrosia.
And much gold and silver was stored in them, and many garments of the nymph, some
purple and some silvery white, such as are kept in the sacred houses of the blessed gods.
Divine Riddles - 62
Then, after the Son of Leto had searched out the recesses of the great house, he spoke to
glorious Hermes:
[254-259] “Child, lying in the cradle, make haste and tell me of my cattle, or we two will
soon fall out angrily. For I will take and cast you into dusty Tartarus and awful hopeless
darkness, and neither your mother nor your father shall free you or bring you up again to
the light, but you will wander under the earth and be the leader amongst little folk.”
[260-277] Then Hermes answered him with crafty words: “Son of Leto, what harsh
words are these you have spoken? And is it cattle of the field you are come here to seek? I
have not seen them: I have not heard of them: no one has told me of them. I cannot give
news of them, nor win the reward for news. Am I like a cattle-liter, a stalwart person? This
is no task for me: rather I care for other things: I care for sleep, and milk of my mother's
breast, and wrappings round my shoulders, and warm baths. Let no one hear the cause of
this dispute; for this would be a great marvel indeed among the deathless gods, that a child
newly born should pass in through the forepart of the house with cattle of the field: herein
you speak extravagantly. I was born yesterday, and my feet are soft and the ground beneath
is rough; nevertheless, if you will have it so, I will swear a great oath by my father's head and
vow that neither am I guilty myself, neither have I seen any other who stole your cows -whatever cows may be; for I know them only by hearsay.”
[278-280] So, then, said Hermes, shooting quick glances from his eyes: and he kept
raising his brows and looking this way and that, whistling long and listening to Apollo's
story as to an idle tale.
[281-292] But far-working Apollo laughed softly and said to him: “O rogue, deceiver,
crafty in heart, you talk so innocently that I most surely believe that you have broken into
many a well- built house and stripped more than one poor wretch bare this night, gathering
his goods together all over the house without noise. You will plague many a lonely herdsman
in mountain glades, when you come on herds and thick-fleeced sheep, and have a hankering
after flesh. But come now, if you would not sleep your last and latest sleep, get out of your
cradle, you comrade of dark night. Surely hereafter this shall be your title amongst the
deathless gods, to be called the prince of robbers continually.”
[293-300] So said Phoebus Apollo, and took the child and began to carry him. But at
that moment the strong Slayer of Argus had his plan, and, while Apollo held him in his
hands, sent forth an omen, a hard-worked belly-serf, a rude messenger, 1 and sneezed directly
after. 2 And when Apollo heard it, he dropped glorious Hermes out of his hands on the
ground: then sitting down before him, though he was eager to go on his way, he spoke
mockingly to Hermes:
[301-303] “Fear not, little swaddling baby, son of Zeus and Maia. I shall find the strong
cattle presently by these omens, and you shall lead the way.”
[304-306] When Apollo had so said, Cyllenian Hermes sprang up quickly, starting in
haste. With both hands he pushed up to his ears the covering that he had wrapped about
his shoulders, and said:
A very odd phrase indeed: It clearly refers to a hired labourer rather than a slave, but what a ‘belly-servant/labourer
might be is not certain. Evelyn-White’s translation “rude” is a bit conservative, the Greek atasthalon suggests
irresponsible and impious criminality.
A sneeze was considered a good omen
Divine Riddles - 63
[307-312] “Where are you carrying me, Far-Worker, hastiest of all the gods? Is it because
of your cattle that you are so angry and harass me? O dear, would that all the sort of oxen
might perish; for it is not I who stole your cows, nor did I see another steal them -- whatever
cows may be, and of that I have only heard report. Nay, give right and take it before Zeus,
the Son of Cronus.”
[313-326] So Hermes the shepherd and Leto's glorious son kept stubbornly disputing
each article of their quarrel: Apollo, speaking truly.... [LACUNA] ....not fairly sought to
seize glorious Hermes because of the cows; but he, the Cyllenian, tried to deceive the god of
the Silver Bow with tricks and cunning words. But when, though he had many wiles, he
found the other had as many shifts, he began to walk across the sand, himself in front, while
the Son of Zeus and Leto came behind. Soon they came, these lovely children of Zeus, to
the top of fragrant Olympus, to their father, the Son of Cronus; for there were the scales of
judgement set for them both. There was an assembly on snowy Olympus, and the immortals
who perish not were gathering after the hour of gold-throned Dawn.
[327-329] Then Hermes and Apollo of the Silver Bow stood at the knees of Zeus: and
Zeus who thunders on high spoke to his glorious son and asked him:
[330-332] “Phoebus, whence come you driving this great spoil, a child new born that
has the look of a herald? This is a weighty matter that is come before the council of the
[333-364] Then the lord, far-working Apollo, answered him: “O my father, you shall
soon hear no trifling tale though you reproach me that I alone am fond of spoil. Here is a
child, a burgling robber, whom I found after a long journey in the hills of Cyllene: for my
part I have never seen one so pert either among the gods or all men that catch folk unawares
throughout the world. He stole away my cows from their meadow and drove them off in the
evening along the shore of the loud-roaring sea, making straight for Pylos. There were double
tracks, and wonderful they were, such as one might marvel at, the doing of a clever sprite;
for as for the cows, the dark dust kept and showed their footprints leading towards the
flowery meadow; but he himself -- bewildering creature -- crossed the sandy ground outside
the path, not on his feet nor yet on his hands; but, furnished with some other means he
trudged his way -- wonder of wonders! -- as though one walked on slender oak-trees. Now
while he followed the cattle across sandy ground, all the tracks showed quite clearly in the
dust; but when he had finished the long way across the sand, presently the cows' track and
his own could not be traced over the hard ground. But a mortal man noticed him as he
drove the wide-browed kine straight towards Pylos. And as soon as he had shut them up
quietly, and had gone home by crafty turns and twists, he lay down in his cradle in the gloom
of a dim cave, as still as dark night, so that not even an eagle keenly gazing would have spied
him. Much he rubbed his eyes with his hands as he prepared falsehood, and himself
straightway said roundly: ‘I have not seen them: I have not heard of them: no man has told
me of them. I could not tell you of them, nor win the reward of telling.’”
[365-367] When he had so spoken, Phoebus Apollo sat down. But Hermes on his part
answered and said, pointing at the Son of Cronus, the lord of all the gods:
[368-386] “Zeus, my father, indeed I will speak truth to you; for I am truthful and I
cannot tell a lie. He came to our house to-day looking for his shambling cows, as the sun
was newly rising. He brought no witnesses with him nor any of the blessed gods who had
Divine Riddles - 64
seen the theft, but with great violence ordered me to confess, threatening much to throw
me into wide Tartarus. For he has the rich bloom of glorious youth, while I was born but
yesterday -- as he too knows -- nor am I like a cattle-lifter, a sturdy fellow. Believe my tale (for
you claim to be my own father), that I did not drive his cows to my house -- so may I prosper
-- nor crossed the threshold: this I say truly. I reverence Helios greatly and the other gods,
and you I love and him I dread. You yourself know that I am not guilty: and I will swear a
great oath upon it: -- No! by these rich-decked porticoes of the gods. And some day I will
punish him, strong as he is, for this pitiless inquisition; but now do you help the younger.”
[387-396] So spoke the Cyllenian, the Slayer of Argus, while he kept shooting sidelong
glances and kept his swaddling-clothes upon his arm, and did not cast them away. But Zeus
laughed out loud to see his evil-plotting child well and cunningly denying guilt about the
cattle. And he bade them both to be of one mind and search for the cattle; and guiding
Hermes to lead the way and, without mischievousness of heart, to show the place where now
he had hidden the strong cattle. Then the Son of Cronus bowed his head and goodly Hermes
obeyed him, for the will of Zeus who holds the aegis easily prevailed with him.
[397-404] Then the two all-glorious children of Zeus hastened both to sandy Pylos, and
reached the ford of Alpheus, and came to the fields and the high-roofed byre where the
beasts were cherished at night-time. Now while Hermes went to the cave in the rock and
began to drive out the strong cattle, the son of Leto, looking aside, saw the cowhides on the
sheer rock. And he asked glorious Hermes at once:
[405-408] “How were you able, you crafty rogue, to flay two cows, new-born and babyish
as you are? For my part, I dread the strength that will be yours: there is no need you should
keep growing long, Cyllenian, son of Maia!”
[409-414] So saying, Apollo twisted strong twigs with his hands meaning to bind Hermes
with firm bands; but the bands would not hold him, and the twigs of chatsetree fell far from
him and began to grow at once from the ground beneath their feet in that very place. 1 And
intertwining with one another, they quickly grew and covered all the wild-roving cattle by
the will of thievish Hermes, so that Apollo was astonished as he gazed.
[414-435] Then the strong slayer of Argus looked furtively upon the ground with eyes
flashing fire.... desiring to hide.... [LACUNA] ....Very easily he softened the son of allglorious Leto as he would, stern though the Far-shooter was. He took the lyre upon his left
arm and tried each string in turn with the key, so that it sounded awesomely at his touch.
And Phoebus Apollo laughed for joy; for the sweet throb of the marvellous music went to
his heart, and a soft longing took hold on his soul as he listened. Then the son of Maia,
harping sweetly upon his lyre, took courage and stood at the left hand of Phoebus Apollo;
and soon, while he played shrilly on his lyre, he lifted up his voice and sang, and lovely was
the sound of his voice that followed. He sang the story of the deathless gods and of the dark
earth, how at the first they came to be, and how each one received his portion. First among
the gods he honoured Mnemosyne, mother of the Muses, in his song; for the son of Maia
was of her following. And next the goodly son of Zeus hymned the rest of the immortals
according to their order in age, and told how each was born, mentioning all in order as he
struck the lyre upon his arm. But Apollo was seized with a longing not to be allayed, and he
opened his mouth and spoke winged words to Hermes:
The Chastetree is common in the Mediterranean region. Its berries have medicinal uses.
Divine Riddles - 65
[436-462] “Slayer of oxen, trickster, busy one, comrade of the feast, this song of yours is
worth fifty cows, and I believe that presently we shall settle our quarrel peacefully. But come
now, tell me this, resourceful son of Maia: has this marvellous thing been with you from
your birth, or did some god or mortal man give it you -- a noble gift -- and teach you heavenly
song? For wonderful is this new-uttered sound I hear, the like of which I vow that no man
nor god dwelling on Olympus ever yet has known but you, O thievish son of Maia. What
skill is this? What song for desperate cares? What way of song? For verily here are three
things to hand all at once from which to choose, -- mirth, and love, and sweet sleep. And
though I am a follower of the Olympian Muses who love dances and the bright path of song
-- the full-toned chant and ravishing thrill of flutes -- yet I never cared for any of those feats
of skill at young men's revels, as I do now for this: I am filled with wonder, O son of Zeus,
at your sweet playing. But now, since you, though little, have such glorious skill, sit down,
dear boy, and respect the words of your elders. For now you shall have renown among the
deathless gods, you and your mother also. This I will declare to you exactly: by this shaft of
cornel wood I will surely make you a leader renowned among the deathless gods, and
fortunate, and will give you glorious gifts and will not deceive you from first to last.”
[463-495] Then Hermes answered him with artful words: “You question me carefully,
O Far-worker; yet I am not jealous that you should enter upon my art: this day you shall
know it. For I seek to be friendly with you both in thought and word. Now you well know
all things in your heart, since you sit foremost among the deathless gods, O son of Zeus, and
are goodly and strong. And wise Zeus loves you as all right is, and has given you splendid
gifts. And they say that from the utterance of Zeus you have learned both the honours due
to the gods, O Far-worker, and oracles from Zeus, even all his ordinances. Of all these I
myself have already learned that you have great wealth. Now, you are free to learn whatever
you please; but since, as it seems, your heart is so strongly set on playing the lyre, chant, and
play upon it, and give yourself to merriment, taking this as a gift from me, and do you, my
friend, bestow glory on me. Sing well with this clear-voiced companion in your hands; for
you are skilled in good, well-ordered utterance. From now on bring it confidently to the rich
feast and lovely dance and glorious revel, a joy by night and by day. Whoever with wit and
wisdom enquires of it cunningly, him it teaches through its sound all manner of things that
delight the mind, being easily played with gentle familiarities, for it abhors toilsome
drudgery; but whoever in ignorance enquires of it violently, to him it chatters mere vanity
and foolishness. But you are able to learn whatever you please. So then, I will give you this
lyre, glorious son of Zeus, while I for my part will graze down with wild-roving cattle the
pastures on hill and horse-feeding plain: so shall the cows covered by the bulls calve
abundantly both males and females. And now there is no need for you, bargainer though
you are, to be furiously angry.”
[496-502] When Hermes had said this, he held out the lyre: and Phoebus Apollo took
it, and readily put his shining whip in Hermes' hand, and ordained him keeper of herds.
The son of Maia received it joyfully, while the glorious son of Leto, the lord far-working
Apollo, took the lyre upon his left arm and tried each string with the key. Awesomely it
sounded at the touch of the god, while he sang sweetly to its note.
[503-512] Afterwards they two, the all-glorious sons of Zeus turned the cows back
towards the sacred meadow, but themselves hastened back to snowy Olympus, delighting in
Divine Riddles - 66
the lyre. Then wise Zeus was glad and made them both friends. And Hermes loved the son
of Leto continually, even as he does now, when he had given the lyre as token to the Farshooter, who played it skilfully, holding it upon his arm. But for himself Hermes found out
another cunning art and made himself the pipes whose sound is heard afar.
[513-520] Then the son of Leto said to Hermes: “Son of Maia, guide and cunning one,
I fear you may steal form me the lyre and my curved bow together; for you have an office
from Zeus, to establish deeds of barter amongst men throughout the fruitful earth. Now if
you would only swear me the great oath of the gods, either by nodding your head, or by the
potent water of Styx, you would do all that can please and ease my heart.”
[521-549] Then Maia's son nodded his head and promised that he would never steal
anything of all the Far-shooter possessed, and would never go near his strong house; but
Apollo, son of Leto, swore to be fellow and friend to Hermes, vowing that he would love no
other among the immortals, neither god nor man sprung from Zeus, better than Hermes:
and the Father sent forth an eagle in confirmation. And Apollo swore also: “Verily I will
make you only to be an omen for the immortals and all alike, trusted and honoured by my
heart. Moreover, I will give you a splendid staff of riches and wealth: it is of gold, with three
branches, and will keep you scatheless, accomplishing every task, whether of words or deeds
that are good, which I claim to know through the utterance of Zeus. But as for sooth-saying,
noble, heaven-born child, of which you ask, it is not lawful for you to learn it, nor for any
other of the deathless gods: only the mind of Zeus knows that. I am pledged and have vowed
and sworn a strong oath that no other of the eternal gods save I should know the wisehearted counsel of Zeus. And do not you, my brother, bearer of the golden wand, bid me
tell those decrees which all- seeing Zeus intends. As for men, I will harm one and profit
another, sorely perplexing the tribes of unenviable men. Whosoever shall come guided by
the call and flight of birds of sure omen, that man shall have advantage through my voice,
and I will not deceive him. But whoever shall trust to idly-chattering birds and shall seek to
invoke my prophetic art contrary to my will, and to understand more than the eternal gods,
I declare that he shall come on an idle journey; yet his gifts I would take.
[550-568] “But I will tell you another thing, Son of all- glorious Maia and Zeus who
holds the aegis, luck-bringing genius of the gods. There are certain holy ones, sisters born -three virgins gifted with wings: 1 their heads are besprinkled with white meal, and they dwell
under a ridge of Parnassus. These are teachers of divination apart from me, the art which I
practised while yet a boy following herds, though my father paid no heed to it. From their
home they fly now here, now there, feeding on honey-comb and bringing all things to pass.
And when they are inspired through eating yellow honey, they are willing to speak truth;
but if they be deprived of the gods' sweet food, then they speak falsely, as they swarm in and
out together. These, then, I give you; enquire of them strictly and delight your heart: and if
you should teach any mortal so to do, often will he hear your response -- if he has good
fortune. Take these, Son of Maia, and tend the wild roving, horned oxen and horses and
patient mules.”
[568a-573] So he spoke. And from heaven father Zeus himself gave confirmation to his
words, and commanded that glorious Hermes should be lord over all birds of omen and
grim-eyed lions, and boars with gleaming tusks, and over dogs and all flocks that the wide
The Thriai: Nymphs of Mt. Parnassus.
Divine Riddles - 67
earth nourishes, and over all sheep; also that he only should be the appointed messenger to
Hades, who, though he takes no gift, shall give him no mean prize.
[574-578] Thus the lord Apollo showed his kindness for the Son of Maia by all manner
of friendship: and the Son of Cronus gave him grace besides. He consorts with all mortals
and immortals: a little he profits, but continually throughout the dark night he cozens the
tribes of mortal men.
[579-580] And so, farewell, Son of Zeus and Maia; but I will remember you and another
song also.
Hestia (Vesta)
To Hestia, Homeric Hymn #24.
[1-5] Hestia, you who tend the holy house of the lord Apollo, the Far-shooter at goodly
Pytho, with soft oil dripping ever from your locks, come now into this house, come, having
one mind with Zeus the all-wise -- draw near, and withal bestow grace upon my song.
Poseidon (Neptune)
To Poseidon, Homeric Hymn #22.
[1-5] I begin to sing about Poseidon, the great god, mover of the earth and fruitless sea,
god of the deep who is also lord of Helicon 1 and wide Aegae. 2 A two-fold office the gods
allotted you, O Shaker of the Earth, to be a tamer of horses and a saviour of ships!
[6-7] Hail, Poseidon, Holder of the Earth, dark-haired lord! O blessed one, be kindly in
heart and help those who voyage in ships!
Poseidon took the side of the Greeks in the Trojan War, but his anger at the Greeks, especially
Odysseus, originates from the insult of the palisade constructed by the Greeks on the beach:
Iliad, vii. 444 - 463
Thus did the Achaeans toil, and the gods, seated by the side of Zeus the lord of
lightning, marvelled at their great work; but Poseidon, lord of the earthquake, spoke, saying,
"Father Zeus, what mortal in the whole world will again take the gods into his counsel? See
you not how the Achaeans have built a wall about their ships and driven a trench all round
it, without offering hecatombs to the gods? The fame of this wall will reach as far as dawn
itself, and men will no longer think anything of the one which Phoebus Apollo and I built
with so much labour for Laomedon."
Zeus was displeased and answered, "What, O shaker of the earth, are you talking about?
A god less powerful than yourself might be alarmed at what they are doing, but your fame
reaches as far as dawn itself. Surely when the Achaeans have gone home with their ships,
you can shatter their wall and Ring it into the sea; you can cover the beach with sand again,
and the great wall of the Achaeans will then be utterly effaced."
A river running from Mt. Olympus for about 15km. Also a mountain in Boeotia sacred to Apollo.
The Aegean Sea is meant here.
Divine Riddles - 68
Zeus (Jupiter)
Only one of the Homeric Hymns is addressed to Zeus, and it is a mere four lines:
To the Son of Cronus, Most High, Homeric Hymn #23.
[1-3] I will sing of Zeus, chiefest among the gods and greatest, all-seeing, the lord of all,
the fulfiller who whispers words of wisdom to Themis as she sits leaning towards him.
[4] Be gracious, all-seeing Son of Cronus, most excellent and great!
Zeus was by far the most powerful of the gods and in the confidence of that power, often acts
the tyrant – even towards his own wife, Hera.
When the dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon arose, Thetis, the mother of Achilles,
asked Zeus for his assistance; but Hera, who supports the Achaeans, is concerned that Zeus will
help the Trojans to avenge Achilles:
Iliad i. 531 – 601
[531] When the pair 1 had thus laid their plans, they parted- Zeus to his house, while the
goddess quitted the splendour of Olympus, and plunged into the depths of the sea. The
gods rose from their seats, before the coming of their sire. Not one of them dared to remain
sitting, but all stood up as he came among them. There, then, he took his seat. But Hera,
when she saw him, knew that he and the old merman's daughter, silver-footed Thetis, had
been hatching mischief, so she at once began to upbraid him. "Trickster," she cried, "which
of the gods have you been taking into your counsels now? You are always settling matters in
secret behind my back, and have never yet told me, if you could help it, one word of your
[544] "Hera," replied the sire of gods and men, "you must not expect to be informed of
all my counsels. You are my wife, but you would find it hard to understand them. When it
is proper for you to hear, there is no one, god or man, who will be told sooner, but when I
mean to keep a matter to myself, you must not pry nor ask questions."
[551] "Dread son of Cronus," answered Hera, "what are you talking about? I? Pry and
ask questions? Never. I let you have your own way in everything. Still, I have a strong
misgiving that the old man of the sea’s daughter Thetis has been talking you over, for she
was with you and had hold of your knees this self-same morning. I believe, therefore, that
you have been promising her to give glory to Achilles, and to kill many people at the ships
of the Achaeans."
[560] And Zeus the gatherer of clouds replied: "I can do nothing but you suspect me
and find it out. You will take nothing by it, for I shall only dislike you the more, and it will
go harder with you. Granted that it is as you say; I mean to have it so; sit down and hold
your tongue as I bid you for if I once begin to lay my hands about you, though all heaven
were on your side it would profit you nothing."
[568] On this Hera was frightened, so she curbed her stubborn will and sat down in
silence. But the heavenly beings were disquieted throughout the house of Zeus, till the
Zeus and Thetis.
Divine Riddles - 69
cunning workman Hephaestus began to try and pacify his mother Hera. "It will be
intolerable," said he, "if you two fall to wrangling and setting heaven in an uproar about a
pack of mortals. If such ill counsels are to prevail, we shall have no pleasure at our banquet.
Let me then advise my mother- and she must herself know that it will be better- to make
friends with my dear father Zeus, lest he again scold her and disturb our feast. If the
Olympian Thunderer wants to hurl us all from our seats, he can do so, for he is far the
strongest, so give him fair words, and he will then soon be in a good humour with us."
[584] As he spoke, he took a double cup of nectar, and placed it in his mother's hand.
"Cheer up, my dear mother," said he, "and make the best of it. I love you dearly, and should
be very sorry to see you get a thrashing; however grieved I might be, I could not help for
there is no standing against Zeus. Once before when I was trying to help you, he caught me
by the foot and flung me from the heavenly threshold. All day long from morn till eve, was
I falling, till at sunset I came to ground in the island of Lemnos, and there I lay, with very
little life left in me, till the Sintians came and tended me."
[595] Hera smiled at this, and as she smiled she took the cup from her son's hands.
Then Hephaestus drew sweet nectar from the mixing-bowl, and served it round among the
gods, going from left to right; and the blessed gods laughed out a loud applause as they saw
him ing bustling about the heavenly mansion.
[600] Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun they feasted, and
every one had his full share, so that all were satisfied. Apollo struck his lyre, and the Muses
lifted up their sweet voices, calling and answering one another. But when the sun's glorious
light had faded, they went home to bed, each in his own abode, which lame Hephaestus
with his consummate skill had fashioned for them. So Zeus, the Olympian Lord of Thunder,
hied him to the bed in which he always slept; and when he had got on to it he went to sleep,
with Hera of the golden throne by his side.
The Myth Cycles
The Greek myth cycles are a confusing, discordant, chronologically impossible jumble that
cannot be presented in any coherent or systematic structure.
The reason is likely that these myths represent at least three traditions, possibly more, each
originating from a distinct ethno-cultural group all of whom settled, in various waves of migration,
in and around the Greek peninsula. Over a period of centuries, these cultures coalesced into what
we now know as Greek culture.
Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Book I
[2] …it is evident that the country now called Hellas had in ancient times no settled
population; on the contrary, migrations were of frequent occurrence, the several tribes
readily abandoning their homes under the pressure of superior numbers. Without
commerce, without freedom of communication either by land or sea, cultivating no more of
their territory than the exigencies of life required, destitute of capital, never planting their
land (for they could not tell when an invader might not come and take it all away, and when
he did come they had no walls to stop him), thinking that the necessities of daily sustenance
could be supplied at one place as well as another, they cared little for shifting their
habitation, and consequently neither built large cities nor attained to any other form of
greatness. The richest soils were always most subject to this change of masters; such as the
district now called Thessaly, Boeotia, most of the Peloponnese, Arcadia excepted, and the
most fertile parts of the rest of Hellas. The goodness of the land favoured the aggrandizement
of particular individuals, and thus created faction which proved a fertile source of ruin. It
also invited invasion. Accordingly Attica, from the poverty of its soil enjoying from a very
remote period freedom from faction, never changed its inhabitants. And here is no
inconsiderable exemplification of my assertion that the migrations were the cause of there
being no correspondent growth in other parts. The most powerful victims of war or faction
from the rest of Hellas took refuge with the Athenians as a safe retreat; and at an early
period, becoming naturalized, swelled the already large population of the city to such a
height that Attica became at last too small to hold them, and they had to send out colonies
to Ionia.
[3] There is also another circumstance that contributes not a little to my conviction of
the weakness of ancient times. Before the Trojan war there is no indication of any common
action in Hellas, nor indeed of the universal prevalence of the name; on the contrary, before
the time of Hellen, son of Deucalion, no such appellation existed, but the country went by
the names of the different tribes, in particular of the Pelasgian. It was not till Hellen and
his sons grew strong in Phthiotis, and were invited as allies into the other cities, that one by
one they gradually acquired from the connection the name of Hellenes; though a long time
elapsed before that name could fasten itself upon all. The best proof of this is furnished by
Homer. Born long after the Trojan War, he nowhere calls all of them by that name, nor
indeed any of them except the followers of Achilles from Phthiotis, who were the original
Hellenes: in his poems they are called Danaans, Argives, and Achaeans. He does not even
use the term barbarian, probably because the Hellenes had not yet been marked off from
Divine Riddles - 71
the rest of the world by one distinctive appellation. It appears therefore that the several
Hellenic communities, comprising not only those who first acquired the name, city by city,
as they came to understand each other, but also those who assumed it afterwards as the
name of the whole people, were before the Trojan war prevented by their want of strength
and the absence of communication from displaying any collective action.
The Histories, by Herodotus of Halicarnassus, probably published in 429/8 BC, is the oldest
extant historical narrative. The subject of the Histories is the Persian Wars, but Herodotus offers a
vast amount of background information. This is his version of early Greek history:
Herodotus i .57 - 58.
57. What language however the Pelasgians used to speak I am not able with certainty to
say. But if one must pronounce judging by those that still remain of the Pelasgians who
dwelt in the city of Creston above the Tyrsenians, and who were once neighbours of the
tribe now called Dorian, dwelling then in the land which is now called Thessaliotis, and also
by those that remain of the Pelasgians who settled at Plakia and Skylake in the region of the
Hellespont, who before that had been settlers with the Athenians, and of the natives of the
various other towns which are really Pelasgian, though they have lost the name,--if one must
pronounce judging by these, the Pelasgians used to speak a Barbarian language. If therefore
all the Pelasgian tribe was such as these, then the Attic tribe, being Pelasgian, at the same
time when it changed and became Hellenic, unlearnt also its language. For the people of
Creston do not speak the same language with any of those who dwell about them, nor yet
do the people of Phakia, but they speak the same language one as the other: and by this it is
proved that they still keep unchanged the form of language which they brought with them
when they migrated to these places.
58. As for the Hellenic genus, it has used ever the same language, as I clearly perceive,
since it first took its rise; but since the time when it parted off feeble at first from the
Pelasgian genus, setting forth from a small beginning it has increased to that great number
of tribes which we see, and chiefly because many Barbarian tribes have been added to it
besides. Moreover it is true, as I think, of the Pelasgian genus also, that so far as it remained
Barbarian it never made any great increase.
Divine Riddles - 72
The Danaid
The Danaid is the story of the ancestors and descendants of Danaus, after whom the people of
the region are called Danaans. But Homer, it must be pointed out, refers to all of the Greeks as
Danaans, Achaeans and Argives interchangeably.
This could also be called the Pelasgain Epic since Pelasgus, the patronym of the Pelasgian
people, is named as one of the early members of this clan.
We begin with the Pelasgians and the Danaid because the Hellenes and the Dorians are said
to have migrated to the Greek peninsula after the Pelasgians, and the Pelasgian myth cycle suggests
that they were autochthonous, born of the soil, and had always been there.
Inachus and Phoroneus
Inachus was either the son of Ocean and Tethys, or an autochthon (born of the soil). He had
two sons, Aegialeus who died childless, and Phoroneus who became king of the land now called
Pausanias ii.15.4 – 5
The oldest tradition in the region now called Argolis is that when Inachus was king he
named the river after himself and sacrificed to Hera.
[2.15.5] There is also another legend which says that Phoroneus was the first inhabitant
of this land, and that Inachus, the father of Phoroneus, was not a man but the river. This
river, with the rivers Cephisus and Asterion, judged concerning the land between Poseidon
and Hera. They decided that the land belonged to Hera, and so Poseidon made their waters
disappear. For this reason neither Inachus nor either of the other rivers I have mentioned
provides any water except after rain. In summer their streams are dry except those at Lerna.
Phoroneus, the son of Inachus, was the first to gather together the inhabitants, who up to
that time had been scattered and living as isolated families. The place into which they were
first gathered was named the City of Phoroneus.
Pausanias ii.19.5
[ii.19.5] … there is a fire which they keep burning, calling it the fire of Phoroneus. For
they do not admit that fire was given to mankind by Prometheus, but insist in assigning the
discovery of fire to Phoroneus.
Apis (Serapis)
The son of Phoroneus. He abdicated the throne to his brother, Pelasgus, and moved to Egypt.
There and in Greece he is worshiped as Serapis. In Egypt his worship is associated with the Apis
The daughter of Phoroneus, she was the first woman with whom Zeus mated and their sons
were Argus and Pelasgus (Paus. ii.22.5; 34.4 / Apollodorus ii.1.1).
Divine Riddles - 73
The son of Phoroneus or, as some claim, an autochthon.
Pausanias viii.1.4 – 5
[8.1.4] The Arcadians say that Pelasgus was the first inhabitant of this land. It is natural
to suppose that others accompanied Pelasgus, and that he was not by himself; for otherwise
he would have been a king without any subjects to rule over. However, in stature and in
prowess, in beauty and in wisdom, Pelasgus excelled his fellows, and for this reason, I think,
he was chosen to be king by them. Asius 1 the poet says of him:–
The godlike Pelasgus on the wooded mountains
Black earth gave up, that the race of mortals might exist. 2
[8.1.5] Pelasgus on becoming king invented huts that humans should not shiver, or be
soaked by rain, or oppressed by heat. Moreover; he it was who first thought of coats of sheepskins, such as poor folk still wear in Euboea and Phocis. He too it was who checked the
habit of eating green leaves, grasses, and roots always inedible and sometimes poisonous.
[8.1.6] But he introduced as food the nuts of trees, not those of all trees but only the
acorns of the edible oak. Some people have followed this diet so closely since the time of
Pelasgus that even the Pythian priestess, when she forbade the Lacedaemonians to touch the
land of the Arcadians, uttered the following verses:
In Arcadia are many men who eat acorns,
Who will prevent you; though I do not grudge it you.
It is said that it was in the reign of Pelasgus that the land was called Pelasgia.
The story of Lycaon seems to represent two traditions but the most common has him the son
of Pelasgus. The less common has Lycaon (perhaps an earlier character of the same name) several
generations older, but in both the outcome is the same. For other versions see Pausanias viii.2.1 –
3 and Apollodorus Library iii.8.
Ovid, Metamorphoses i. 209 – 239
[209] “He, 3 indeed, (dismiss your cares) has suffered dire punishment; but what was the
offence and what the retribution, I will inform you. The report of the iniquity of the age
had reached my ears; wishing to find this not to be the truth, I descended from the top of
Olympus, and, a god in a human shape, I surveyed the earth. It was an endless task to
enumerate how great an amount of guilt was everywhere discovered; the report itself was
below the truth.”
Asius of Samos, a poet who lived ca. 700 BC. None of his works are extant.
In this version of the legend, Pelasgus was an autochthon.
Divine Riddles - 74
[216] I had now passed Maenalus, 1 to be dreaded for its dens of beasts of prey, and the
pine-groves of cold Lycaeus, together with Cyllene. 2 After this, I entered the realms and the
inhospitable abode of the Arcadian tyrant, just as the late twilight was bringing on the night.
[220] I gave a signal that a god had come, and the people commenced to pay their adorations.
In the first place, Lycaon derided their pious supplications. Afterwards, he said, I will make
trial, by a plain proof, whether this is a god, or whether he is a mortal; nor shall the truth
remain a matter of doubt. He then makes preparations to destroy me, when sunk in sleep,
by an unexpected death; this mode of testing the truth pleases him. [225] And not content
with that, with the sword he cuts the throat of a hostage that had been sent from the nation
of the Molossians, and then softens part of the quivering limbs, in boiling water, and part
he roasts with fire placed beneath. [230] Soon as he had placed these on the table, I, with
avenging flames, overthrew the house upon the household gods, worthy of their master.
Alarmed, he himself takes to flight, and having reached the solitude of the country, he howls
aloud, and in vain attempts to speak; his mouth gathers rage from himself, and through its
usual desire for slaughter, it is directed against the sheep, and even still delights in blood.
[235] His garments are changed into hair, his arms into legs; he becomes a wolf, and he still
retains vestiges of his ancient form. His hoariness is still the same, the same violence appears
in his features; his eyes are bright as before; he is still the same image of ferocity.
Callisto was the daughter of Lycaon and a priestess of Diana (Artemis). One day, when she
was out hunting in the forest she was noticed by Zeus:
Ovid, Metamorphoses ii. 417 - 507
[417] The lofty Sun had now obtained a position beyond the mid-course, when she
enters a grove which no generation had ever cut. Here she puts her quiver off from her
shoulders, and unbends her pliant bow, and lies down on the ground, which the grass had
covered, and presses her painted quiver, with her neck laid on it. When Jupiter saw her thus
weary, and without a protector, he said, “For certain, my wife will know nothing of this
stolen embrace; or, if she should chance to know, is her scolding, is it, I say, of such great
[425] Immediately he puts on the form and dress of Diana, 3 and says, “O Virgin! One
portion of my train, upon what mountains have you been hunting?” The virgin raises herself
from the turf, and says, “Hail, Goddess, who are, in my opinion, greater than Jove, even if
he himself should hear it.” [430] He both smiles and he hears it, and is pleased at being
preferred to himself; and he gives her kisses, not very moderate, nor such as would be given
by a virgin. He stops her as she is preparing to tell him in what wood she has been hunting,
by an embrace, and he does not betray himself without the commission of violence. She,
indeed, on the other hand, as far as a woman could do [435] (would that you had seen her,
daughter of Saturn, 4 then you would have been more merciful), she, indeed, I say, resists;
A town in Arcadia
A mountain that divides Arcadia from Achaea.
The Latin name for Artemis
The poet is addressing Juno (Hera).
Divine Riddles - 75
but what damsel, or who besides, could prevail against Jupiter? Jove, now the conqueror,
seeks the heavens above; the grove and the conscious wood is now her aversion. Making her
retreat thence, [440] she is almost forgetting to take away her quiver with her arrows, and
the bow which she had hung up.
[441] Behold, Dictynna, 1 attended by her train, as she goes along the lofty Maenalus,
and exulting in the slaughter of the wild beasts, beholds her, and calls her, thus seen. Being
so called, she drew back, and at first was afraid lest Jupiter might be under her shape; [445]
but after she saw the Nymphs walking along with her, she perceived that there was no deceit,
and she approached their train. Alas! How difficult it is not to betray a crime by one’s looks!
She scarce raises her eyes from the ground, nor, as she used to do, does she walk by the side
of the goddess, nor is she the foremost in the whole company; but she is silent, [450] and
by her blushes she gives signs of her injured honor. And Diana, but for the fact, that she is
a virgin, might have perceived her fault by a thousand indications; the Nymphs are said to
have perceived it.
[453] The horns of the Moon were now rising again in her ninth course, when the
hunting goddess, faint from her brother’s flames, lighted on a cool grove, out of which a
stream ran, flowing with its murmuring noise, and borne along the sand worn fine by its
action. When she had approved of the spot, she touched the surface of the water with her
foot; and commending it as well, she says, “All onlookers are far off; let us bathe our bodies,
with the stream poured over them.” [460] She of Parrhasia 2 blushed; they all put off their
clothes; she alone sought an excuse for delay. Her garment was removed as she hesitated,
which being put-off, her fault was exposed with her naked body. [465] Cynthia 3 said to her,
in confusion, and endeavoring to conceal her stomach with her hands, “Begone afar hence,
and pollute not the sacred springs;” and she ordered her to leave her train.
[466] The spouse of the great Thunderer had perceived this sometime before, and had
put off the severe punishment designed for her, to a proper time. There is now no reason
for delay; and now the boy Arcas (that, too, was a grief to Juno) was born of the mistress of
her husband. [470] Wherefore, she turned her thoughts, full of resentment, and her eyes
upon her, and said, “This thing, forsooth, alone was wanting, you adulteress, that you should
be pregnant, and that my injury should become notorious by your labors, and that thereby
the disgraceful conduct of my husband, Jupiter, should be openly declared. You shall not go
unpunished; for I will spoil that shape of your, on which you pride yourself, [475] and by
which you, mischievous one, do charm my husband.”
[476] Thus she spoke; and seizing her straight in front by the hair, threw her on her face
to the ground. She suppliantly stretched forth her arms; those arms began to grow rough
with black hair, and her hands to be bent, and to increase to hooked claws, and to do the
duty of feet, [480] and the mouth, that was once admired by Jupiter, to become deformed
with a wide opening; and lest her prayers, and words not needed, should influence her
feelings, the power of speech is taken from her; an angry and threatening voice, and full of
Dictynna is a surname for Britomartis, a huntress diety from Crete. With the introduction of Artemis into the local
myth cycle, Dictynna is completely absorbed under the image of Artemis.
An early name for Arcadia after Parrhasius, one of Lycaon’s sons. The area was renamed after Arcas, son of Callisto
and Zeus.
A surname for Artemis, after Mt. Cynthus on the island of Delos where she and Apollo were born.
Divine Riddles - 76
terror, is uttered from her hoarse throat. [485] Still, her former understanding remains in
her, even thus become a bear; and expressing her sorrows by her repeated groans, she lifts
up her hands, such as they are, to heaven and to the stars, and she deems Jove ungrateful,
though she cannot call him so. Ah! How often, not daring to rest in the lonely wood, [490]
did she wander about before her own house, and in the fields once her own. Ah! How often
was she driven over the crags by the cry of the hounds; and, a huntress herself, she fled in
alarm, through fear of the hunters! Often, seeing the wild beasts, did she lie concealed,
forgetting what she was; and, a bear herself, dreaded the he-bears seen on the mountains,
[495] and was alarmed at the wolves, though her father was among them. 1
[496] Behold! Arcas, the offspring of the daughter of Lycaon, ignorant of who is his
parent, approaches her, thrice five birthdays being now nearly past; and while he is following
the wild beasts, while he is choosing the proper woods, and is enclosing the Erymanthian 2
forests with his platted nets, [500] he meets with his mother. She stood still, upon seeing
Arcas, and was like one recognizing another. He drew back, and, in his ignorance, was
alarmed at her keeping her eyes fixed upon him without ceasing; and, as she was desirous to
approach still nearer, he would have pierced her breast with the wounding spear. [505]
Omnipotent Jove averted this, and removed both them and such wickedness; and placed
them, carried through vacant space with a rapid wind, in the heavens, and made them
neighboring Constellations.
Callisto and her son Arcas are the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor constellations.
Arcas, son of Callisto and Zeus, was married to Erato and they had a son, Elatus. Elatus had
a son Ischys who had an affair with Coronis, the daughter of Phlegyas.
Pausanias ii.26.3 – 10
[2.26.3] That the land is especially sacred to Asclepius is due to the following reason.
The Epidaurians say that Phlegyas came to the Peloponnesus, ostensibly to see the land, but
really to spy out the number of the inhabitants, and whether the greater part of them was
warlike. For Phlegyas was the greatest soldier of his time, and making forays in all directions
he carried off the crops and lifted the cattle. [2.26.4] When he went to the Peloponnesus,
he was accompanied by his daughter, who all along had kept hidden from her father that
she was with child by Apollo. In the country of the Epidaurians she bore a son, and exposed
him on the mountain called Nipple at the present day, but then named Myrtium. As the
child lay exposed he was given milk by one of the goats that pastured about the mountain,
and was guarded by the watch-dog of the herd. And when Aresthanas (for this was the
herdsman's name) [2.26.5] discovered that the tale of the goats was not full, and that the
watch-dog also was absent from the herd, he left, they say, no stone unturned, and on finding
the child desired to take him up. As he drew near he saw lightning that flashed from the
child, and, thinking that it was something divine, as in fact it was, he turned away. Presently
it was reported over every land and sea that Asclepius was discovering everything he wished
A reference to Zeus Lycaeus, Zeus of the Wolves.
A mountain range in Arcadia.
Divine Riddles - 77
to heal the sick, and that he was raising dead men to life. [2.26.6] There is also another
tradition concerning him. Coronis, they say, when with child with Asclepius, had
intercourse with Ischys, son of Elatus. She was killed by Artemis to punish her for the insult
done to Apollo, but when the pyre was already lighted Hermes is said to have snatched the
child from the flames. [2.26.7] The third account is, in my opinion, the farthest from the
truth; it makes Asclepius to be the son of Arsinoe, the daughter of Leucippus. For when
Apollophanes the Arcadian, came to Delphi and asked the god if Asclepius was the son of
Arsinoe and therefore a Messenian, the Pythian priestess gave this response:
Oh Asclepius, born to bestow great joy upon mortals,
Pledge of the mutual love I enjoyed with Phlegyas' daughter,
Lovely Coronis, who bare thee in rugged land Epidaurus.
This oracle makes it quite certain that Asclepius was not a son of Arsinoe, and that the
story was a fiction invented by Hesiod, or by one of Hesiod's interpolators, just to please the
Messenians. [2.26.8] There is other evidence that the god was born in Epidaurus for I find
that the most famous sanctuaries of Asclepius had their origin from Epidaurus. In the first
place, the Athenians, who say that they gave a share of their mystic rites to Asclepius, call
this day of the festival Epidauria, and they allege that their worship of Asclepius dates from
then. Again, when Archias, son of Aristaechmus, was healed in Epidauria after spraining
himself while hunting about Pindasus, he brought the cult to Pergamus. [2.26.9] From the
one at Pergamus has been built in our own day the sanctuary of Asclepius by the sea at
Smyrna. Further, at Balagrae of the Cyreneans there is an Asclepius called Healer, who like
the others came from Epidaurus. From the one at Cyrene was founded the sanctuary of
Asclepius at Lebene, in Crete. There is this difference between the Cyreneans and the
Epidaurians, that whereas the former sacrifice goats, it is against the custom of the
Epidaurians to do so. [2.26.10] That Asclepius was considered a god from the first, and did
not receive the title only in course of time, I infer from several signs, including the evidence
of Homer, who makes Agamemnon say about Machaon:
Talthybius, with all speed go summon me hither Machaon,
Mortal son of Asclepius.
As who should say, "human son of a god." 1
Asclepius, or Aesculapius, was the Greek god of medicine.
Argus was the brother of Pelasgus, son of Niobe and Zeus.
The tradition about Argus is confused but the solution seems to be to admit two men, both
named Argus. There is an Argus, son of Niobe and brother of Pelasgus (Apollod. ii.1/ Paus.
ii.22.5); and an Argus son of Agenor, son of Ecbasus, son of Argus. This second Argus is surnamed
Panoptes (‘All Seeing’ or ‘All Eyes’). His story is told as part of the story of Zeus and Io, below.
Io was the daughter of Iasus, son of Ecbasus, son of Argus Panoptes.
The quote appears to be from Iliad iv.194, but Pausanias has misquoted somewhat.
Divine Riddles - 78
Ovid, Metamorphoses i. 567 - 675
[567] There is a grove of Haemonia, which a wood, placed on a craggy rock, encloses on
every side. They call it Tempe; through this the river Peneus, flowing from the bottom of
mount Pindus, rolls along with its foaming waves, [570] and in its mighty fall, gathers clouds
that scatter a vapor like thin smoke, and with its spray besprinkles the tops of the woods,
and wearies places, far from near to it, with its noise. This is the home; this the abode, these
are the retreats of the great river; residing here in a cavern formed by rocks, he gives law to
the waters, [575] and to the Nymphs that inhabit those waters. The rivers of that country
first repair thither, not knowing whether they should congratulate, or whether console the
parent; the poplar-bearing Spercheus, and the restless Enipeus, the aged Apidanus, the
gentle Amphrysus, and Aeas, [580] and, soon after, the other rivers, which, as their current
leads them, carry down into the sea their waves, wearied by wanderings. 1 Inachus alone is
absent, and, hidden in his deepest cavern, increases his waters with his tears, and in extreme
wretchedness bewails his daughter Io as lost; he knows not whether she now enjoys life, or
whether she is among the shades below; [585] but her, whom he does not find anywhere, he
believes to be nowhere, and in his mind he dreads the worst.
[587] Jupiter had seen Io as she was returning from her father’s stream, and had said,
“O maid, worthy of Jove, and destined to make I know not whom happy in your marriage,
[590] repair to the shades of this lofty grove (and he pointed at the shade of the grove) while
it is warm, and while the Sun is at his height, in the midst of his course. But if you are afraid
to enter the lonely abodes of the wild beasts alone, you shall enter the recesses of the groves,
safe under the protection of a god, and that a god of no common sort; but with me, who
hold the sceptre of heaven in my powerful hand; [595] me, who hurl the wandering
lightning—Do not fly from me;” for now she was flying. And now she had left behind the
pastures of Lerna, 2 and the Lircaean plains planted with trees, when the god covered the
earth far and wide with darkness overspreading, and arrested her flight, and forced her
[600] In the meantime Juno 3 looked down upon the midst of the fields, and wondering
that the fleeting clouds had made the appearance of night under bright day, she perceived
that they were not the vapors from a river, nor were they raised from the moist earth, and
then she looked around to see where her husband was, [605] as being one who by this time
was full well acquainted with the intrigues of a husband who had been so often detected.
After she had found him not in heaven, she said, “I am either deceived, or I am injured;”
and having descended from the height of heaven, she alighted upon the earth, and
commanded the mists to retire. He had foreseen the approach of his wife, [610] and had
changed the features of the daughter of Inachus into a sleek heifer. As a cow, too, she is
beautiful. The daughter of Saturn, 4 though unwillingly, extols the appearance of the cow;
and likewise inquires, whose it is, and whence, or of what herd it is, as though ignorant of
the truth. Jupiter falsely asserts that it was produced out of the earth, [615] that the owner
may cease to be inquired after. The daughter of Saturn begs her of him as a gift. What can
The geography here is confused. Tempe is in N. Central Greece between Mt. Ossa and Mt. Olympus. Mt. Peneus is
west of that by about 100km. The scene of these events is in Argolis, some distance to the south.
A town in the Argolis, named for the stream that passes through the area.
Hera, the wife of Zeus (Jupiter).
Saturn is Latin for Cronus, father of Juno (Hera).
Divine Riddles - 79
he do? It is a cruel thing to deliver up his own mistress, and not to give her up is a cause of
suspicion. It is shame which persuades him on the one hand, love dissuades him on the
other. His shame would have been subdued by his love; [620] but if so trifling a gift as a cow
should be refused to the sharer of his descent and his couch, she might well seem not to be
a cow.
[621] The rival now being given up to her, the goddess did not immediately lay aside all
apprehension; and she was still afraid of Jupiter, and was fearful of her being stolen, until
she gave her to Argus, the son of Aristor, to be kept by him. 1 [625] Argus had his head
encircled with a hundred eyes. Two of them used to take rest in their turns, the rest watched,
and used to keep on duty. In whatever manner he stood, he looked towards Io; although
turned away, he still used to have Io before his eyes.
[667] Nor can the ruler of the Gods above, any longer endure so great miseries of the
granddaughter of Phoroneus; 2 and he calls his son Mercury 3, whom the bright Pleiad, Maia,
brought forth, and orders him to put Argus to death. [670] There is but little delay to take
wings upon his feet, and his soporiferous wand in his hand, and a cap for his hair. After he
had put these things in order, the son of Jupiter leaps down from his father’s high abode
upon the earth, and there he takes off his cap, and lays aside his wings; his wand alone was
retained. [675] With this, as a shepherd, he drives some she-goats through the pathless
country, taken up as he passed along, and plays upon oaten straws joined together.
Hermes lulled Argus to sleep with his lyre:
Ovid Metamorphoses i.712 – 22
[712] The Cyllenian god being about to say such things, perceived that all his eyes were
sunk in sleep, and that his sight was wrapped in slumber. At once he puts an end to his
song, and strengthens his slumbers, stroking his languid eyes with his magic wand. There is
no delay; he wounds him, as he nods, with his crooked sword, where the head is joined to
the neck; and casts him, all blood-stained, from the rock, and stains the craggy cliff with his
gore. Argus, You liest low, and the light which you had in so many eyes is now extinguished;
and one night takes possession of a whole hundred eyes. The daughter of Saturn takes them,
and places them on the feathers of her own bird, and she fills its tail with starry gems.
Hera was so enraged that she sent a gad-fly to torment Io. Attempting to escape the fly, Io
began to run and didn’t stop until she arrived in Egypt.
Ovid, Metamorphoses i.723 – 47.
[723] Immediately, she was inflamed with rage, and deferred not the time of expressing
her wrath; and she presented a dreadful Fury before the eyes and thoughts of the Argive
mistress, and buried in her bosom invisible stings, and drove her, in her fright, a wanderer
through the whole earth. You, O Nile, didst remain, as the utmost boundary of her long
This is Argus Panoptes, severally called the son of Agenor, Arestor, Inachus or Argus. He is also said to be
autochthonous. Not to be confused with Argus, the son of Zeus and Niobe.
Phoroneus was the son of Inachus. Some sources have Io the sister of Phoroneus, some have her five generations
later. The more distant connection seems to fit better with the lineage for Argus.
The Latin name for Hermes. See the Homeric Hymn to Hermes.
Divine Riddles - 80
wanderings. Soon as she arrived there, she fell upon her knees, placed on the edge of the
bank, and raising herself up, with her neck thrown back, [730] and casting to Heaven those
looks which then alone she could, by her groans, and her tears, and her mournful lowing,
she seemed to be complaining of Jupiter, and to be begging an end of her sorrows.
[734] He, embracing the neck of his wife with his arms, entreats her, at length, to put
an end to her punishment; and he says, “Lay aside your fears for the future; she shall never
more be the occasion of any trouble to you;” and then he bids the Stygian waters to hear
this oath. As soon as the goddess is pacified, Io receives her former shape, and she becomes
what she was before; the hairs flee from off of her body, her horns decrease, and the orb of
her eye becomes less; [740] the opening of her jaw is contracted; her shoulders and her
hands return, and her hoof, vanishing, is disposed of into five nails; nothing of the cow
remains to her, but the whiteness of her appearance; and the Nymph, contented with the
service of two feet, is raised erect on them; [745] and yet she is afraid to speak, lest she
should low like a cow, and timorously tries again the words so long interrupted. Now, as a
goddess, she is worshipped by the linen-wearing crowds. 1
[747] To her, at length, Epaphus is believed to have been born from the seed of great
Jove, and throughout the cities he possesses temples joined to those of his parent.
Danaus and Egyptus were the sons of Belus, son of Libya and Poseidon. Libya was the
daughter of Epaphus, the son of Io and Zeus. Danaus had fifty daughters and Egyptus fifty sons.
When Egyptus, then king of Egypt, decreed that his sons should marry their cousins, Danaus and
his daughters fled, emmigrating to Argos, the homeland of Io.
Aeschylus’ Suppliant Women tells the story of their arrival in Argos.
The two following plays are now lost, but they told the story of how the sons of Egyptus
besieged Argos and, to end the war, Danaus agreed that his daughters would marry the sons of
Egyptus. On the wedding day, however, Danaus gave each of his daughters a dagger and ordered
them to murder their husbands that night.
The only one who refused was Hypermnestra, who spared her husband Lyncaeus.
Pausanias ii.19.3 – 5.
[2.19.3] The most famous building in the city of Argos is the sanctuary of Apollo Lycius.
The modern image was made by the Athenian Attalus, but the original temple and wooden
image were the offering of Danaus. I am of opinion that in those days all images, especially
Egyptian images, were made of wood. The reason why Danaus founded a sanctuary of Apollo
Lycius was this. On coming to Argos he claimed the kingdom against Gelanor, the son of
Sthenelas. Many plausible arguments were brought forward by both parties, and those of
Sthenelas were considered as fair as those of his opponent; so the people, who were sitting
in judgment, put off, they say, the decision to the following day. [2.19.4] At dawn a wolf fell
upon a herd of oxen that was pasturing before the wall, and attacked and fought with the
bull that was the leader of the herd. It occurred to the Argives that Gelanor was like the bull
and Danaus like the wolf, for as the wolf will not live with men, so Danaus up to that time
had not lived with them. It was because the wolf overcame the bull that Danaus won the
The people of Egypt. The Egyptian goddess Isis was thought by the Greeks to be Io.
Divine Riddles - 81
kingdom. Accordingly, believing that Apollo had brought the wolf on the herd, he founded
a sanctuary of Apollo Lycius. [2.19.5] Here is dedicated the throne of Danaus,
When Danaus died he was succeeded by Lynceus.
Acrisius and Proetus
Lynceus, the son of Egyptus, and Hypermnestra, the daughter of Danaus, had a son Abas.
Abas married Aglaia and they had two sons, Acrisius and Proetus.
Pausanias 2.16.2
[2.16.2] …the sons of Abas, the son of Lynceus, divided the kingdom between
themselves; Acrisius remained where he was at Argos, and Proetus took over the Heraeum,
Mideia, Tiryns, and the Argive coast region. Traces of the residence of Proetus in Tiryns
remain to the present day.
Danae and Zeus
Danae was the daughter of Acrisius. Arcrisius consulted the Oracle at Delphi asking about
children and was told that his daughter would bear a son who would kill him.
Apollodorus ii.4.1
When Acrisius inquired of the oracle how he should get male children, the god said
that his daughter would give birth to a son who would kill him. Fearing that, Acrisius built
a bronze chamber underground and there imprisoned Danae. However, she was seduced, as
some say, by Proetus, whence arose the quarrel between them; but some say that Zeus had
intercourse with her in the shape of a stream of gold which poured through the roof into
Danae's lap. When Acrisius afterwards learned that she had got a child Perseus, he would
not believe that she had been seduced by Zeus, and putting his daughter with the child in a
chest, he cast it into the sea. The chest was washed ashore on Seriphus, and Dictys took up
the boy and reared him.
Apollodorus ii.4. 2 – 3.
[2] Polydectes, brother of Dictys, was then king of Seriphus and fell in love with Danae,
but could not get access to her, because Perseus was grown to man's estate. So he called
together his friends, including Perseus, under the pretext of collecting contributions towards
a wedding gift for Hippodamia, daughter of Oenomaus. Now Perseus having declared that
he would not stick even at the Gorgon's head, Polydectes required the others to furnish
horses, and not getting horses from Perseus ordered him to bring the Gorgon's head. 1
The translation seems vague and confusing but that is the fault of the original Greek, not the translator. The passage
seems to suggest that Perseus, as the only adult relative of his mother, Danae, was her guardian and refused to allow
Polydectes to court her. Polydectes then pretended to be amassing a bride price for Hippodamia and ordered his
clients, Perseus included, to contribute. When Perseus proved unwilling, Polydectes ordered Perseus to find Medusa
and bring to him her head.
Divine Riddles - 82
So under the guidance of Hermes and Athena he made his way to the daughters of
Phorcus: Enyo, Pephredo, and Dino; for Phorcus had them by Ceto, and they were sisters
of the Gorgons, and old women from their birth. The three had but one eye and one tooth,
and these they passed to each other in turn. Perseus got possession of the eye and the tooth,
and when they asked them back, he said he would give them up if they would show him the
way to the nymphs. Now these nymphs had winged sandals and a shoulder-bag. They had
also the cap of Hades.
When the Phorcides had shown him the way, he gave them back the tooth and the eye,
and coming to the nymphs got what he wanted. So he slung the purse about him, fitted the
sandals to his ankles, and put the cap on his head. Wearing it, he saw whom he pleased, but
was not seen by others. And having received also from Hermes an adamantine sickle he flew
to the ocean and caught the Gorgons asleep. They were Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa. Now
Medusa alone was mortal; for that reason Perseus was sent to fetch her head. But the
Gorgons had heads twined about with the scales of dragons, and great tusks like swine's,
and brazen hands, and golden wings, by which they flew; and they turned to stone such as
beheld them. So Perseus stood over them as they slept, and while Athena guided his hand
and he looked with averted gaze on a brazen shield, in which he beheld the image of the
Gorgon, he beheaded her. When her head was cut off, there sprang from the Gorgon the
winged horse Pegasus and Chrysaor, the father of Geryon; these she had by Poseidon. [3] So
Perseus put the head of Medusa in the shoulder bag and went back again; but the Gorgons
started up from their slumber and pursued Perseus: but they could not see him on account
of the cap, for he was hidden by it.
Arriving in Ethiopia, of which Cepheus was king, he found the king's daughter
Andromeda set out to be the prey of a sea monster. For Cassiopeia, the wife of Cepheus,
vied with the Nereids in beauty and boasted to be better than them all; hence the Nereids
were angry, and Poseidon, sharing their wrath, sent a flood and a monster to invade the
land. But Ammon 1 having predicted deliverance from the calamity if Cassiopeia's daughter
Andromeda were exposed as a prey to the monster, Cepheus was compelled by the
Ethiopians to do it, and he bound his daughter to a rock.
When Perseus beheld her, he loved her and promised Cepheus that he would kill the
monster, if he would give him the rescued damsel for his wife. These terms having been
sworn to, Perseus withstood and slew the monster and released Andromeda. However,
Phineus, who was a brother of Cepheus, and to whom Andromeda had been first betrothed,
plotted against him; but Perseus discovered the plot, and by showing the Gorgon turned
him and his fellow conspirators at once into stone. And having come to Seriphus he found
that his mother and Dictys had taken refuge at the altars on account of the violence of
Polydectes; so he entered the palace, where Polydectes had gathered his friends, and with
averted face he showed the Gorgon's head; and all who beheld it were turned to stone, each
in the attitude which he happened to have struck. Having appointed Dictys king of Seriphus,
he gave back the sandals and the shoulder-bag and the cap to Hermes, but the Gorgon's head
he gave to Athena. Hermes restored the aforesaid things to the nymphs and Athena inserted
the Gorgon's head in the middle of her shield. But it is alleged by some that Medusa was
The Egyptian Ammon is equivalent to the Greek Zeus.
Divine Riddles - 83
beheaded for Athena's sake; and they say that the Gorgon was fain to match herself with the
goddess even in beauty.
Perseus then returned to Greece with his mother Danae and his wife Andromeda:
Pausanias ii.16.2 – 3
Afterwards Acrisius, learning that Perseus himself was not only alive but accomplishing
great achievements, retired to Larisa on the Peneus. And Perseus, wishing at all costs to see
the father of his mother and to greet him with fair words and deeds, visited him at Larisa.
Being in the prime of life and proud of his inventing the discus, he gave displays before all,
and Acrisius, as luck would have it, stepped unnoticed into the path of the discus. [2.16.3]
So the prediction of the god to Acrisius found its fulfillment, nor was his fate prevented by
his precautions against his daughter and grandson. Perseus, ashamed because of the gossip
about the homicide, on his return to Argos induced Megapenthes, the son of Proetus, to
make an exchange of kingdoms; taking over himself that of Megapenthes, he founded
Mycenae. For on its site the cap (myces) fell from his scabbard, and he regarded this as a
sign to found a city. I have also heard the following account. He was thirsty, and the thought
occurred to him to pick up a mushroom (myces) from the ground. Drinking with joy water
that flowed from it, he gave to the place the name of Mycenae.
Perseus and Andromeda had several children including the sons Electryon and Alcaeus.
Electryon became king of Mycenae and he married Anaxo, the daughter of his brother
Alcaeus. They had a daughter Alcmene and she married Amphitryon, the son of Alcaeus, her own
uncle. By Amphitryon Alcmene had Iphicles, but she was raped by Zeus and bore Heracles.
To Heracles, Homeric Hymn #25.
[1-8] I will sing of Heracles, the son of Zeus and much the mightiest of men on earth.
Alcmena bore him in Thebes, the city of lovely dances, when the dark-clouded Son of
Cronus had lain with her. Once he used to wander over unmeasured tracts of land and sea
at the bidding of King Eurystheus, and himself did many deeds of violence and endured
many; but now he lives happily in the glorious home of snowy Olympus, and has neat-ankled
Hebe for his wife.
[9] Hail, lord, son of Zeus! Give me success and prosperity.
Diodorus iv.9.1 - 2
[1] Perseus (they say) was the son of Zeus by Danae, the daughter of Acrisius, and that
Perseus begat Electryon of Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus, and that Electryon begat
Alcmene of Eurydice the daughter of Pelops, and that Zeus (deceiving Alcmene) lay with
her, and begat Heracles. [2] By this genealogy Heracles descended from the chiefest of the
gods, both immediately by his mother, and more remotely by his great grandfather Perseus.
His virtue and valour were not only evident from his acts, but might be concluded and
foreseen by what happened before be was bom: for when Zeus lay with Alcmene, he
lengthened the night threefold so that, spending so much time in procreating this child was
a sign how extraordinary strong he was likely to be. [3] They say that Zeus lay not with her
out of any amorous pang of love, as with other women, but merely for procreation sake, and
Divine Riddles - 84
therefore, willing that his embraces at this time should be lawful, he forbore all violence;
and knowing that the woman's chastity was such, that no arguments would prevail with her,
he deceived her by taking upon him the shape of Amphitryon.
The Birth of Heracles, Iliad xix. 90 – 133.
All things are in the hand of heaven, and Folly, eldest of Zeus's daughters, shuts men's
eyes to their destruction. She walks delicately, not on the solid earth, but hovers over the
heads of men to make them stumble or to ensnare them.
[95] "Time was when she fooled Zeus himself, who they say is greatest whether of gods
or men; for Hera, woman though she was, beguiled him on the day when Alcmena was to
bring forth mighty Heracles in the fair city of Thebes. He told it out among the gods saying,
'Hear me all gods and goddesses, that I may speak even as I am minded; this day shall
Eileithia, helper of women who are in labour, bring a man child into the world who shall
be lord over all that dwell about him who are of my blood and lineage.' Then said Hera all
crafty and full of guile, 'You will play false, and will not hold to your word. Swear me, O
Olympian, swear me a great oath, that he who shall this day fall between the feet of a woman,
shall be lord over all that dwell about him who are of your blood and lineage.'
[112] "Thus she spoke, and Zeus suspected her not, but swore the great oath, to his
much ruing thereafter. For Hera darted down from the high summit of Olympus, and went
in haste to Achaean Argos where she knew that the noble wife of Sthenelus son of Perseus
then was. She being with child and in her seventh month, Hera brought the child to birth
though there was a month still wanting, but she stayed the offspring of Alcmena, and kept
back Eileithea. [120] Then she went to tell Zeus the son of Cronus, and said, 'Father Zeus,
lord of the lightning- I have a word for your ear. There is a fine child born this day,
Eurystheus, son to Sthenelus the son of Perseus; he is of your lineage; it is well, therefore,
that he should reign over the Argives.'
[125] "On this Zeus was stung to the very quick, and in his rage he caught Folly by the
hair, and swore a great oath that never should she again invade starry heaven and Olympus,
for she was the bane of all. Then he whirled her round with a twist of his hand, and flung
her down from heaven so that she fell on to the fields of mortal men; and he was ever angry
with her when he saw his son groaning under the cruel labours that Eurystheus laid upon
The Labours of Heracles
Although amongst the most famous of the ancient myths, there are few primary sources that
refer to the Twelve Labours of Heracles in quite that way. Homer and Hesiod both mention
Heracles and refer to certain specific feats he performed, but they each seem unaware of any
tradition of twelve, or ten, labours. Two ancient sources offer us details of the Twelve Labour
tradition, Apollodorus and Diodorus, both of whom, coincidentally, included the stories in works
called Bibliotheka (Library).
There are many differences and discrepancies between the two accounts including
Apollodorus’ claim that Heracles was only expected to perform ten labours but, since he cheated
on two, two more were added. Diodorus says that the charge was, from the beginning, twelve.
Divine Riddles - 85
While the descriptions of the labours themselves are standardized, the order is not. Below is
Diodorus’ version.
Diodorus iv.9.1 – 11.2
[1] Perseus (they say) was the son of Zeus by Danae, the daughter of Acrisius, and that
Perseus begat Electryon of Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus, and that Electryon begat
Alcmene of Eurydice the daughter of Pelops, and that Zeus (deceiving Alcmene) lay with
her, and begat Heracles. [2] By this genealogy Heracles descended from the chiefest of the
gods, both immediately by his mother, and more remotely by his great grandfather Perseus.
His virtue and valour were not only evident from his acts, but might be concluded and
foreseen by what happened before he was born: for when Zeus lay with Alcmene, he
lengthened the night threefold so that, spending so much time in procreating this child was
a sign how extraordinary strong he was likely to be. [3] They say that Zeus lay not with her
out of any amorous pang of love, as with other women, but merely for procreation sake, and
therefore, willing that his embraces at this time should be lawful, he forbore all violence;
and knowing that the woman's chastity was such, that no arguments would prevail with her,
he deceived her by taking upon him the shape of Amphitryon. [4] And when the time of her
delivery drew near, then Zeus, full of thoughts concerning the birth of Heracles, in the
presence of all the gods, declared that he would make him who would be born that day the
king of the descendants of Perseus. Whereupon Hera, enraged with jealousy, with the
assistance of Eileitheia, her daughter, gave a check to the delivery of Alcmene, and brought
forth Eurystheus before his full term. [5] But though Zeus was thus outwitted by Hera, yet,
that he might perform his promise, he took care to preserve the honour and reputation of
Heracles; and therefore it is reported, that he prevailed with Hera to consent that Eurystheus
being made king according to his promise, Heracles, (who should be subject to him),
performing twelve labours, (such as Eurystheus should impose upon him), should be taken
into the society of the immortal gods. [6] Alcmene being delivered, out of fear of Juno's
jealousy, exposed the child in a place which is now, from him, called Heracles' Field. About
which time Athena, together with Hera, walking abroad, found the infant, and, much
admiring his beauty, Athena persuaded Hera to suckle it: the child drawing the breast with
more violence than at his age was usual, Hera, not able to endure the pain, cast away the
infant whom Minerva took up and brought home to his mother to be nursed by her. [7] The
accident here seems very strange and remarkable, for the mother, who owed a natural
affection to her own child, exposed him to destruction; but she who hated him, as a stepmother, (unknowingly) preserved her natural enemy.
[10.1] Afterwards Juno sent two serpents to devour the child: but he took them with
both his hands by their throats, and strangled them. Upon which account the Argives
(coming to understand what was done) called him Heracles, 1 because Juno was the occasion
of his glory and fame, for he was before called Alcides. Others are named by their parents,
but he gained his name by his valour.
[2] In after times it happened that Amphitryon, being banished from Tiryns, settled
himself in Thebes; here Heracles was educated, here he was instructed and greatly improved
in all laudable exercises, insomuch that he excelled all others in strength of body, and also
The name Heracles in Greek is made up of Hera and Kleos, meaning ‘the glory of Hera.’
Divine Riddles - 86
in the excellent endowments of his mind. Being now grown up to man's estate, he first freed
Thebes from tyrannical slavery, and thereby made a grateful return to the country where he
was bred. [3] The Thebans at that time were under the tyranny of Erginus, king of the
Minyans, who every year exacted tribute from them, not without scorn and contempt.
Heracles, undaunted by the power of the overlords accomplished a feat worthy of fame:
For when those who were sent from the Minyans to effect the tribute acted insolently
towards the people, he cut off their ears and cast them out of the city; [4] whereupon Erginus
demanded the delivery of the malefactor, and Creon, the prince of Thebes, (dreading the
power of Erginus) resolved to deliver him up. But Heracles stirred up the young men of the
city to arm themselves, in order to recover the liberty of their country, and to that end
gathered all the arms that were in the temples, formerly dedicated to the gods by their
ancestors, of the spoils of their enemies, for none of the citizens had any arms of their own
because the Minyans had disarmed the city so that the Thebans had not the least thought
of a revolt.
[5] Intelligence being brought that Erginus with an army approached the city, Heracles
set upon him in a narrow pass (where Erginus’ superior numbers were of little use) and
killed Erginus and cut almost his whole army to pieces. He then suddenly attacked the city
of the Orchomenians entering unexpectedly, and burnt the palace of the Minyae, and razed
the city to the ground.
[6] The fame of this notable exploit was quickly heard over all Greece, since such a
sudden and unexpected achievement was the subject of every man's admiration, and Creon
the king (taken with the valour of the young man) gave him his daughter Megara as his wife,
and committed to him the care and charge of the city as if Heracles had been his own son.
But Eurystheus, king of Argos, jealous of Heracles's growing greatness, sent for him to
perform the labours he was to impose upon him. [7] When Heracles refused, Zeus
commanded him to obey king Eurystheus. So Heracles went to Delphi, and inquired of the
oracle concerning this matter, who answered him that it was the will of the gods, that he
should perform twelve labours at the command of Eurystheus, and that when he had
finished them he should receive the reward of immortality. 1
[11.1] Hereupon Heracles became exceedingly sad and melancholy; for he judged it very
much below him to be at the beck of his inferior, and to disobey his father Zeus a second
time he concluded was both unprofitable and impossible. While he was in this perplexity,
Hera struck him with madness, amplified by his pre-existing condition, and in his state of
madness he attacked Iolaus who only saved himself by fleeing. Further angered, Heracles fell
upon his own children by Megara, who were next in his way, and struck them through with
his arrows, as if they had been his enemies.
[2] As soon as the madness left him, and understood what he had done, he almost sunk
under the weight of his misery, (being pitied by everybody), and shut himself up in his own
house a long time from the converse and society of men.
Labour One: the Nemean Lion, Diodorus iv.11.2 - 4
At length, time moderating his grief, resolving to undertake all the difficulties that were
enjoined him, he went to Eurystheus, [3] who in the first place commanded him to kill the
Apollodorus (ii.4.12) says that the charge was ten labours, but that two were discounted for cheating.
Divine Riddles - 87
lion in the forest of Nemea, which was of a monstrous size, not to be pierced or wounded
by sword, spear, or stones, and therefore not to be dealt with by mere force and strength of
hand. His walks were commonly between Mycenae and Nemea, near the mountain (from
what happened to it) called Treton. For at the foot of this hill there was a den, in which this
monster used to lurk. [4] Heracles here meeting with him, laid hold of him, whereupon the
beast beginning to fly to his den, he resolutely pursued him, having before stopped up one
of the mouths of the den, and having trapped the lion, he wrapped his arms about its neck
and strangled it. Then he clothed himself with the lion’s skin, which was big enough to
cover his whole body, and ever after it was a protection in all conflicts.
Labour Two: The Lernean Hydra, Diodorus iv.11.5
[5] His second task was to kill the hydra of Lerna. This monster had A hundred necks
rising out of one body, and upon every neck the head of a snake, and when one of these was
cut off, two others grew up in its place and therefore this monster was accounted invincible,
and not without good reason, for, from the part that was lost, arose another of the same
nature to take its place. Against this difficulty he invented a stratagem; he commanded Iolaus
to sear the part that was cut off with a firebrand that thereby the blood might be stopped,
by this method the beast was killed, and he dipped the points of his arrows in the monster’s
blood so that wherever they struck, the wound would be incurable. 1
Labour Three: The Erymanthian Boar, Diodorus iv.12.1
[12.1] The third command was that he should bring to him alive the Erymanthean boar,
which lived on Mt. Lampeia, in Arcadia. 2 This turned out to be his most difficult task: for
he that fought with this beast had to be so precise as diligently to watch the exact time and
fittest opportunity in the management of the conflict; for if he should let the boar loose
while he was in his full strength, the champion was in danger of being torn to pieces by the
tusks; and if he wounded him too seriously, he might kill him and his labour would be lost
and his victory imperfect. [2] But Heracles so prudently managed the combat that he brought
the boar alive to Eurystheus, who was so terrified to see Heracles arriving at the city gates
with the boar on his shoulders, that Eurystheus hid himself in a bronze vessel.
Labour Four: The Cerynitian Hind, Diodorus iv.13.1
[13.1] Afterwards Heracles received a further command, that he shall capture the swift
hind 3 that had golden horns, and bring him to the king. This he performed more by art and
subtlety, than strength of body, for some say he took her in a net, others by tracing her to
the pleet where she rested, and there laying hold of her when she was asleep; but others say
that he ran her down, and so gained her by swiftness of foot. However it was, it is certain
he performed this labour not by force or any hazard, but by art and skill.
This was, according to Apollodorus (ii.5.2) the first labour that was discounted by Eurystheus because Heracles had
the help of Iolaus.
Apollodorus (ii.5.3) has the Cerynitian Hind (a deer) as the third labour and the boar as the fourth.
A hind is a deer.
Divine Riddles - 88
Labour Five: The Stymphalian Birds, Diodorus iv.13.2
[13.2] Being next commanded to drive away the birds that were about the Stymphalian
lake, by art and contrivance he easily performed this: This lake was occupied by an
innumerable number of birds which destroyed and ate up all the fruits in the neighborhood
and they were so numerous that no force could prevail to get rid of them. Since there was
need of art and contrivance in this matter, he invented a bronze pan and, by the mighty
sound it made when it was struck, Heracles frightened the birds, and by the continual noise
drove them at length quite far away, so that the lake was never infested with them afterwards.
Labour Six: The Stable of Augeas, Diodorus iv.13.3
[13.3] This labour being now at an end, Eurystheus, commanded him to cleanse Augias's
stable without any assistance. In this stable there were vast heaps of dung which had been
accumulating for many years. Heracles, therefore, to avoid the ignominy of this contempt
cast upon him, scorned to carry out the muck and dung upon his shoulders, but in one day's
time, without any disgrace to himself, cleansed the stable by turning the course of the river
Peneus through it; in which thing the ingenuity of Heracles is admirable, who so executed
the proud command of his master as to avoid everything that was base and unbecoming and
which would compromise his immortal honour.
Labour Seven: The Cretan Bull, Diodorus iv.13.4
[4] Next was imposed upon him the bringing the bull out of Crete with which (they say)
Pasiphae fell in love. 1 To this end therefore, he sailed to the island and, with the assistance
of king Minos, transported the beast (for which he had made so long a voyage) to the
Peloponnese. 2
The Olympic Games, Diodorus iv.14.1 – 3
Having performed this labour Heracles instituted the Olympic games, and for that
purpose chose out a place he judged most convenient for the reception of such a pompous
assembly, which were the fields all along the banks of the river Alpheus. Here he ordered
the solemnity of these games to the honour of his father Zeus, and appointed to the victors
a crown for a reward, recalling the general good and benefit of mankind he had done without
taking any monetary reward. [2] In every contest he was victor, without any opposition; for,
by reason of his remarkable strength and valour, none dared contend with him, although
the contests were of a contrary and different nature one from another: for it is difficult for
a champion in boxing or in the Pancration to also be victorious in the Stadion and equally
difficult for those that are usually victors in light contests to prevail against them that are
eminent in heavy contests. Heracles, however, prevailed in all these disciplines, carrying
away the prize from the chiefest among them. It is natural, therefore, that the Olympic
Games be honoured above all other such events, having been instituted by such a noble
The wife of King Minos. In this myth, Poseidon sent Minos a magnificent bull with orders that it be sacrificed. The
king’s wife fell in love with the bull so Minos set it free and sacrificed another in its place. Pasiphae visited the bull
in the fields and having joined with it, she gave birth to the Minotaur.
Apollodorus (ii.5.7) says that Minos refused to help Heracles.
Divine Riddles - 89
[3] And here we are not to omit giving an account of the rewards given to him by the
gods for his virtue; for, when he retired himself from wars and betook himself to his ease
and quietness, and to follow sports, panegyrics, and festivals, every one of the gods presented
him with their several gifts: Athena gave him an embroidered hood, Hephaestus a club and
a breast-plate; and between these two was a contest who should excel in their several arts,
while the one wrought and bestowed what was for pleasure and ornament in time of peace,
and the other what was for defence in time of war. Poseidon presented him with horses.
Hermes with a sword, Apollo a bow, and taught him the art of archery. And Demeter, to
expiate the slaughter of the centaurs, instituted in honour of Heracles some small mysteries.
Labour Eight: The Mares of Diomedes, Diodorus iv.15.3 – 4
[3] Afterwards he was enjoined to bring away the mares of Diomedes king of Thrace,
which were kept in stalls of brass, and (by reason of their strength and fierceness) tied up in
iron chains. Their provender was not from the product of the earth, but they were fed with
the flesh of miserable strangers that came thither, cut in small pieces for that purpose.
Heracles, to gain possession of them, laid their own master Diomedes before them, who,
satiating their hunger by his flesh who bad wickedly taught them to feed upon flesh, thereby
became tame and manageable. [4] Eurystheus, when they were brought to him, dedicated
them to Hera, and their breed continued to the time of Alexander the Great. 1 When he had
performed this labour, he sailed with Jason to Colchis, to bring away the golden fleece by
force of arms. But of this we shall speak when we come to the expedition of the Argonauts.
Labour Nine: The Belt of Ares (Hippolyte), Diodorus iv.16.1 – 4
[1] Then he was commanded to strip Hippolyte the Amazon of her belt. Hereupon,
resolving upon a war against the Amazons, he sailed into Pontus, from him called Euxinus,
and arriving at the mouth of the river Thermedon he encamped near the city Themiscyra,
the seat-royal of the Amazons; and first he demanded the belt to be delivered to him, which
being refused, he joined battle with them.
[2] The choice and most noble of the Amazons were drawn up against Heracles, the rest
of the army opposed the other ordinary troops, so that there was a very sharp engagement.
The first that fought hand to hand with him was Aella, so called from her swiftness; but she
found her enemy swifter than herself: the second was Philippis, who upon the first onset
received a mortal wound, and fell down dead. Then Prothoe entered the list, who, they say,
seven times baffled her enemy in single combat; but she being at length slain, he killed the
fourth, called Eribea. She was so confident in her strength and feats of arms that she used
to boast she needed none to second her; but, meeting with one stronger than herself, she
presently experienced the vanity of her boasting. [3] After these Celaino, Eurybea, and
Phoebe, companions with Diana in hunting, (who never used to miss their mark, yet now
could none of them hit one), in defending one another, were all killed together upon the
spot. Then he overcame Deaneira, Asteria, Marpe, Tecmessa, and Alcippe. The last
mentioned had vowed perpetual virginity, and kept their oaths, but could not preserve their
lives. Melanippe also, the general of the Amazons, (who was famous and highly admired
everywhere for her valour), then lost her command. [4] The chief of the Amazons being thus
Apollodorus (ii.5.8) says that the mares were set free and were killed by beasts on Mt. Olympus.
Divine Riddles - 90
cut off, he forced the rest to fly, and killing most of them in the pursuit, wholly destroyed
and rooted up that nation. Of the prisoners he gave Antiope to Theseus, but Melanippe he
discharged, having first taken from her belt.
Labour Ten: The oxen of Geryon, Diodorus iv.17.1 – 18.2
[1] After this, a tenth labour was imposed upon him by Eurystheus and that was to drive
away the oxen of Geryon that pastured in Iberia near to the ocean. Heracles, perceiving he
could not perform, this task without much trouble and great preparation, set forth a brave
fleet, add manned it with such a number of seamen and soldiers as such an expedition justly
required: [2] for it was noised abroad through the whole world that Chrysaor (so called from
his riches) king of Iberia, had three sons, strong bodied men, and famous for their sagacity
in martial affairs, and that each of them had great armies of valiant men constantly at hand
attending upon them, which was the reason Eurystheus imposed this task upon him,
conceiving this expedition was greater than he was ever able to perform: [3] but Heracles
undertook this with as much confidence as he bad done those before, and commanded
forces to be raised in Crete, whence he resolved to set forth, this island being the most
convenient port from whence to make any expedition into any part of the world. Before he
set sail, mighty honours were conferred upon him by the inhabitants; in grateful return for
which favours he freed the island from wild beasts, so that no hurtful creatures, such as
bears, wolves, serpents, and such like, remained there ever after. He did these things in
reverence to the island, because it was reported that Zeus was bred and born there.
[18.2] … Heracles having passed through a great part of Africa arrived at the ocean near
Gades, 1 where he erected two pillars, one on each side of the strait upon the continent. 2
Thence (with his fleet sailing along with him) he passed over into Iberia, where he found
the sons of Chrysaor with three mighty armies. These at a distance he challenged to a single
combat and having at length slain the three generals, he gained Iberia, and drove away those
remarkable herds of cattle.
Labour Eleven: Cerberus, Diodorus iv.25.1; 26.1
[25.1] …Having finished his tenth labour, Eurystheus imposed another task upon him,
and that was, that he should bring Cerberus out of Hades. Preparing himself, therefore, to
perform this, to be better enabled thereunto, he went to Athens to be initiated into the
mysterious rites of Eleusium, where Museus the son of Orpheus was then high priest.
[26.1] Having now done with this digression relating to Orpheus, 3 we return to Heracles:
[1] when he entered the land of Hades, the mythographers say, Persephone kindly received
him as her brother, and gave him liberty to loose Theseus and Perithous from their chains;
and at length, contrary to the expectations of all men, brought up the dog tied in his chain,
and presented him to open view.
Diodorus’ account of the capture of Cerberus is oddly brief. A better account is given by
Apollodorus who lists this as the twelfth:
Cadiz, Spain.
The Strait of Gibraltar is still often called The Pillars of Hercules. On the European side the pillar is the Rock of
Gibraltar, on the African side Jebel Mus.a
Diodorus iv.25.2 – 4 is a digression on Orpheus, see below.
Divine Riddles - 91
Apollodorus ii.5.12
2.5.12] A twelfth labour imposed on Hercules was to bring Cerberus from Hades. Now
this Cerberus had three heads of dogs, the tail of a dragon, and on his back the heads of all
sorts of snakes. When Hercules was about to depart to fetch him, he went to Eumolpus at
Eleusis, wishing to be initiated. However it was not then lawful for foreigners to be initiated:
since he proposed to be initiated as the adoptive son of Pylius. But not being able to see the
mysteries because he had not been cleansed of the slaughter of the centaurs, he was cleansed
by Eumolpus and then initiated. And having come to Taenarum in Laconia, where is the
mouth of the descent to Hades, he descended through it. But when the souls saw him, they
fled, save Meleager and the Gorgon Medusa. And Hercules drew his sword against the
Gorgon, as if she were alive, but he learned from Hermes that she was an empty phantom.
And being come near to the gates of Hades he found Theseus and Pirithous, him who wooed
Persephone in wedlock and was therefore bound fast. And when they beheld Hercules, they
stretched out their hands as if they should be raised from the dead by his might. And
Theseus, indeed, he took by the hand and raised up, but when he would have brought up
Pirithous, the earth quaked and he let go. And he rolled away also the stone of Ascalaphus.
And wishing to provide the souls with blood, he slaughtered one of the kine of Hades. But
Menoetes, son of Ceuthonymus, who tended the king, challenged Hercules to wrestle, and,
being seized round the middle, had his ribs broken; howbeit, he was let off at the request of
Persephone. When Hercules asked Pluto for Cerberus, Pluto ordered him to take the animal
provided he mastered him without the use of the weapons which he carried. Hercules found
him at the gates of Acheron, and, cased in his cuirass and covered by the lion's skin, he flung
his arms round the head of the brute, and though the dragon in its tail bit him, he never
relaxed his grip and pressure till it yielded. So he carried it off and ascended through
Troezen. But Demeter turned Ascalaphus into a short-eared owl, and Hercules, after showing
Cerberus to Eurystheus, carried him back to Hades.
Labour Twelve: The Apple of Hesperides, Diodorus iv.26.2 – 4
[2] The last labour enjoined him was to fetch away the golden apples of the Hesperides,
to which purpose he passed over a second time into Africa. 1 The mythographers vary in their
writings concerning this; for some affirm that there were really golden apples in some of the
gardens of the Hesperides, guarded continually by a terrible dragon. Others say, that there
are sheep of exquisite beauty in the Hesperides, and that from thence they are poetically
called golden apples as Venus, from her beauty, is called golden Venus. [3] Others will have
it, that the fleeces upon the sheep's backs are of that colour, that they glitter like gold, and
thence have been so called. And by the dragon they understand the shepherd of the flocks,
who, being a man of a strong body and stout heart, preserved the flocks and killed the thieves
that attempted to steal them. But let everyone judge of this matter as he thinks best himself:
[4] for Heracles killed the keeper, and brought away the apples or sheep (whichever they
were) to Eurystheus, trusting now, that since all his tasks were performed, (according to the
oracle of Apollo), he would be rewarded with immortality.
The Gardens of the Hesperides are in Cyrenaica, now the area around Benghazi in modern Libya.
Divine Riddles - 92
For the Thebaid, the Saga of the city of Thebes, we return to the Pelasgian origin myth and to
the descendants of Io in Egypt. Io bore Epaphus, the son of Zeus, and he married Memphis, the
daughter of Nile. To them were born Lysianassa and Libya and by Poseidon Libya bore Belus and
Agenor migrated to the Levant, into the area now called Lebanon, and married Telephassa.
Their sons were Cadmus, Phoenix, Cylix, Thasus and Phineus. Their daughter was Europa.
One day, while Europa was playing with her friends on the shore near Tyre, Zeus noticed her:
Ovid, Metamorphoses ii. 846 – 75
[846] Majesty and love do not agree, nor can they dwell in the same house. 1 The father
and the ruler of the gods, whose right hand is armed with the three-forked flames, who
shakes the world with his nod, laying aside the dignity of empire, [850] assumes the
appearance of a bull; and mixing with the oxen, he lows, and, in all his beauty, walks about
upon the shooting grass. For his color is that of snow, which neither the soles of hard feet
have trodden upon, nor the watery South wind melted. His neck swells with muscles;
dewlaps hang from between his shoulders. [855] His horns are small indeed, but such as you
might maintain were made with the hand, and more transparent than a bright gem. There
is nothing threatening in his forehead; nor is his eye formidable; his countenance expresses
[858] The daughter of Agenor is surprised that he is so beautiful, and that he threatens
no attack; but although so gentle, she is at first afraid to touch him. By and by she approaches
him, and holds out flowers to his white mouth. The lover rejoices, and till his hoped-for
pleasure comes, he gives kisses to her hands; scarcely, oh scarcely, does he defer the rest.
And now he plays with her, and skips upon the green grass; [865] and now he lays his snowwhite side upon the yellow sand. And, her fear now removed by degrees, at one moment he
gives his breast to be patted by the hand of the virgin; at another, his horns to be wreathed
with new-made garlands. The virgin of royal birth even ventured to sit down upon the back
of the bull, not knowing upon whom she was pressing. [870 Then the God, by degrees
moving from the land, and from the dry shore, places the fictitious hoofs of his feet in the
waves near the brink. Then he goes still further, and carries his prize over the expanse of the
midst of the ocean. She is frightened and, borne off, looks back on the shore she has left;
and with her right hand she grasps his horn, [875] while the other is placed on his back; her
waving garments are ruffled by the breeze.
Zeus carried Europa across the sea to Crete and there he raped her. Europa bore
Rhadamanthus, Sarpedon and Minos. Minos would become king of Crete, but that sets up another
Saga, to which we will return below.
Agenor, the king of Tyre, sent his sons, all but Phoecix, in search of Europa: 2
A wonderful line:
Non bene convenient nec in una sede morantur
Maiestas et amor:
The obvious metaphor is, here, the correct one: This is the story of Phoenician colonization of Europe.
Divine Riddles - 93
Ovid, Metamorphoses, iii. 1 – 10
[1] And now the God, having laid aside the shape of the deceiving Bull, had revealed
himself, and reached the Dictaean land; when her father, ignorant of her fate, commands
Cadmus to seek her thus ravished, and adds exile as the punishment, if he does not find
her; [5] being both affectionate and unnatural in the self-same act. The son of Agenor,
having wandered over the whole world, as an exile flies from his country and the wrath of
his father, for who is there that can discover the intrigues of Jupiter? A suppliant, he consults
the oracle of Phoebus, and inquires in what land he must dwell. [10] “A heifer,” Phoebus
says, “will meet you in the lonely fields, one that has never borne the yoke, and free from
the crooked plough. Under her guidance, go on your way; and where she shall lie down on
the grass, there cause a city to be built, and call it the Boeotian city.” 1
Scarcely had Cadmus well got down from the Castalian cave, 2 [15] when he saw a heifer,
without a keeper, slowly going along, bearing no mark of servitude upon her neck. He
follows, and pursues her steps with leisurely pace, and silently adores Phoebus, the adviser
of his way. And now he had passed the fords of the Cephisus, and the fields of Panope, [20]
when the cow stood still and raising her forehead, expansive with lofty horns, towards
heaven, she made the air reverberate with her lowings. And so, looking back on her
companions that followed behind, she lay down, and reposed her side upon the tender grass.
Cadmus returned thanks, and imprinted kisses upon the stranger land, [25] and saluted the
unknown mountains and fields. He was now going to offer sacrifice to Jupiter, and
commanded his servants to go and fetch some water for the libation from the running
springs. An ancient grove was standing there, as yet profaned by no axe. There was a cavern
in the middle of it, thick covered with twigs and osiers, [30] forming a low arch by the
junction of the rocks; abounding with plenty of water. Hid in this cavern, there was a dragon
sacred to Mars, adorned with crests and a golden color. His eyes sparkle with fire, and all
his body is puffed out with poison; three tongues, too, are brandished, and his teeth stand
in a triple row.
[35] After the men who came from the Tyrian nation had touched this grove with illfated steps, and the urn let down into the water made a splash; the azure dragon stretched
forth his head from the deep cave, and uttered dreadful hissings. The urns dropped from
their hands; and the blood left their bodies, and a sudden trembling seized their astonished
limbs. [40] He wreathes his scaly orbs in rolling spires, and with a spring becomes twisted
into mighty folds; and rearing himself from below the middle into the light air, he looks
down upon all the grove, and is of as large a size as if you were to look on him entire, [45]
the serpent which separates the two Bears. 3
There is no delay; he seizes the Phoenicians (whether they are resorting to their arms or
to flight, or whether fear itself is preventing either step); some he kills with his sting, some
with his long folds, some breathed upon by the venom of his baneful poison.
Boeotia is said to be named for the Greek word bous, ‘cow,’ after the cow that led Cadmus there. But the etymology
is more likely the archaic form for ‘cow hide.’
The oracular cave at Delphi.
In the night sky, the constellation Draco is between Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
Divine Riddles - 94
[50] The sun, now at its height, had made the shadows but small: the son of Agenor
wonders what has detained his companion and goes to seek his men. His garment was a skin
torn from a lion; his weapon was a lance with shining steel and a javelin; and a courage
superior to any weapon. [55] When he entered the grove, and beheld the lifeless bodies, and
the victorious enemy of immense size upon them, licking the horrid wounds with
bloodstained tongue, he said, “Either I will be the avenger of your death, bodies of my
faithful companions, or I will share in it.” [60] Thus he spoke, and with his right hand he
raised a huge stone, and hurled the vast weight with a tremendous effort. And although high
walls with lofty towers would have been shaken with the shock of it, yet the dragon remained
without a wound; and, being defended by his scales as though with a coat of mail, and the
hardness of his black hide, he repelled the mighty stroke with his skin. [65] But he did not
overcome the javelin as well with the same hardness; which stood fast, fixed in the middle
joint of his yielding spine, and sank with the entire point of steel into his entrails. Fierce
with pain, he turned his head towards his back, and beheld his wounds, and bit the javelin
fixed there. [70] And after he had twisted it on every side with all his might, with difficulty
he wrenched it from his back; yet the steel stuck fast in his bones.
[72] But then, when this newly inflicted wound has increased his wonted fury, his throat
swelled with gorged veins, and white foam flowed around his pestilential jaws. [75] The
Earth, too, scraped with the scales, sounds again, and the livid steam that issues from his
infernal mouth, infects the tainted air. Sometimes he is enrolled in spires making enormous
rings; sometimes he unfolds himself straighter than a long beam. Now with a vast impulse,
like a torrent swelled with rain, he is borne along, [80] and bears down the obstructing
forests with his breast. The son of Agenor gives way a little; and by the spoil of the lion he
sustains the shock, and with his lance extended before him, pushes back his mouth, as it
advances. The dragon rages, and vainly inflicts wounds on the hard steel, and fixes his teeth
upon the point. [85] And now the blood began to flow from his poisonous palate, and had
dyed the green grass with its spray. But the wound was slight; because he recoiled from the
stroke, and drew back his wounded throat, and by shrinking prevented the blow from
sinking deep, and did not suffer it to go very far. [90] At length, the son of Agenor, still
pursuing, pressed the spear lodged in his throat, until an oak stood in his way as he retreated,
and his neck was pierced, together with the trunk. The tree was bent with the weight of the
serpent, and groaned at having its trunk lashed with the extremity of its tail.
[95] While the conqueror was surveying the vast size of his vanquished enemy, a voice
was suddenly heard (nor was it easy to understand whence it was, but heard it was). “Why,
son of Agenor, are you thus contemplating the dragon you have slain? Even you yourself
shall be seen in the form of a dragon.”
He, for a long time in alarm, lost his color together with his presence of mind, [100]
and his hair stood on end with a chill of terror. Lo! Pallas, the favourer of the hero,
descending through the upper region of the air, [105] comes to him, and bids him sow the
dragon’s teeth under the earth turned up, as the seeds of a future people. He obeyed; and
when he had opened a furrow with the pressed plough, he scattered the teeth on the ground
as ordered, the seed of a race of men. Afterwards (it is beyond belief) the turf began to move,
and first appeared a point of a spear out of the furrows, next the coverings of heads nodding
with painted cones; then the shoulders and the breast, and the arms laden with weapons
Divine Riddles - 95
start up, [110] and a crop of men armed with shields grows apace. So, when the curtains are
drawn up in the joyful theaters, figures are wont to rise, and first to show their countenances;
by degrees the rest; and being drawn out in a gradual continuation, the whole appear, and
place their feet on the lowest edge of the stage. [115] Alarmed with this new enemy, Cadmus
is preparing to take arms, when one of the people that the earth had produced cries out,
“Do not take up arms, nor engage yourself in civil war.” And then, engaged hand to hand,
he strikes one of his earth-born brothers with the cruel sword, while he himself falls by a
dart sent from a distance. [120] He, also, who had put him to death, lives no longer than
the other, and breathes forth the air which he has so lately received. In a similar manner,
too, the whole troop becomes maddened, and the brothers so newly sprung up, fall in fight
with each other, by mutual wounds. And now the youths that had the space of so short an
existence allotted them, [125] beat with throbbing breast their blood-stained mother, five
only remaining, of whom Echion was one. He, by the advice of Tritonia, threw his arms
upon the ground, and both asked and gave the assurance of brotherly concord.
The Sidonian stranger had these as associates in his task, [130] when he built the city
that was ordered by the oracle of Phoebus.
The story of Cadmus and the Dragon is, of course, merely a rationalization: Unable to deny
that Cadmus himself is Phoenician, it claims that the people of Thebes are autochthonous,
descendants of the teeth of the dragon.
Harmonia (Hermione)
Although Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus, she and Ares were embroiled in a quite
passionate love affair. See above; The Gods and Goddesses; Hephaestus; The Infidelity of
Aphrodite: Ovid, Metamorphoses v.170 – 191.
Hephaestus was able to put an end to the affair and humiliate the lovers, but he could not
prevent the pregnancy: Aphrodite gave birth to a mortal woman, Harmonia.
Diodorus iv. 2.1 – 2
[1] Cadmus (they say) the son of Agenor, being sent out of Phoenicia by the king his
father, to seek Europa, was commanded to bring her back, or he himself never to return
into Phoenicia. After many long and tedious travels through many countries, not being able
to find the lost lady in any place, despairing of ever returning into his own country, he came
at length into Boeotia, and, by command of the oracle, built Thebes, where he resided, and
married Hermione, 1 the daughter of Aphrodite, by whom he had Semele, Ino, Autonoe,
Agave, [2] and Polydorus.
Diodorus iv. 2. 2 – 4
Semele was so beautiful that Zeus fell in love with her and lay with her; but making his
addresses in a mean and ordinary manner, she looked upon it as if he did it in contempt of
her, and therefore earnestly entreated him to come to his embraces with her in the same
Divine Riddles - 96
manner as he did when he lay with Hera. [3] Whereupon, decking himself in his divine
majesty, he approached to her in thunder and lightning, and so lay with her in light and
splendour: but Semele being great with child, and not able to bear the flashes of lightning
that shot round about her, miscarried, and she herself was consumed by the flame; and then
Zeus took away the infant, and delivered it to Hermes, with orders to convey him to the cave
in Nysa, (which lies between Phoenicia and the river Nile) and there to recommend him to
the care of the nymphs, to be carefully bred up. [4] Hence from Zeus, whom the Greeks call
Dio, and Nysa, he was called Dionysus, as Homer says in his hymns:
There is a certain town, Nysa, atop a thickly wooded mountain
In far off Phoenicia, near the rivers of Egypt 1
Dionysus, Bacchus in Latin, is the god of wine. He is the youngest of the gods in the Greek
Diodorus iv. 2.5 – 5.4
[2.5] Being brought up by the nymphs in Nysa, they say, he found out the use of wine,
and taught the way and manner of planting the vine; and, going almost into all parts of the
world, he civilized many nations and countries, so that he was highly honoured of all. He
found out likewise the manner of making drink of barley, which some call Zythus, for taste
and fragrant smell not much inferior to wine, and this art he especially taught them whose
country was not fit for planting or producing of vines. [6] He led along with him an army,
not only of men, but of women, to execute punishments upon impious and wicked men.
In Boeotia, (in gratitude to his own country) he set free all the cities, and upon the
account of this freedom, built a city, and called it Eleuthera.
[3.1] After he had spent three whole years in an expedition into India, he returned with
many rich spoils into Boeotia, and was the first in triumph mounted upon an Indian
elephant. [2] Therefore the Boeotians, and the rest of the Greeks and Thracians, to keep up
the memory of the Indian expedition, instituted solemn sacrifices every third year to
Dionysus, called Trieterica, at which time they are of opinion this god appears among men;
[3] and therefore every third year, in most towns of Greece, the festivals of Dionysus, called
Bacchanalia, are celebrated by a company of women and young girls, who (according to the
solemn rites) carry javelins decked with flowers, and run about like furies, hallooing and
setting forth the praises of the god. The married women likewise run to these sacrifices, and
fill the air with loud and solemn hymns to Dionysus, as if he were then present amongst
them, in imitation of the Maenads, which heretofore (at is said) went along with Bacchus.
[4] Amongst many others who were impious and wicked, he especially inflicted
punishment upon Pentheus and Lycurgus. But because the invention and use of wine is very
grateful to mankind for its pleasant relish, and its strengthening and enlivening of the body,
it is the custom at supper-time, when pure and unmixed wine is freely offered to all, to raise
a cup to ‘The Good God’; but after supper, when the wine is mixed with water, to raise the
Homeric Hymns 1.1 (to Dionysus) repeated from Book I.15.
Divine Riddles - 97
cup to Zeus the Saviour: for, from pure and unmixed wine many times proceeds madness;
but, tempered and allayed with the water that comes from Zeus the Thunderer, it truly cheers
and refreshes the spirits, and cures men of their madness and intoxication.
[5] Amongst all the gods, (they say) Dionysus and Demeter deserve most to be honoured
by mankind, because they were by their good inventions most benefited: for he found out
the most pleasant drink and she the most strengthening food.
[4.4] In the time of battle he was furnished with warlike weapons, and a coat of mail
covered with a panther's skin; in time of peace, when he celebrated solemn festivals, and
came into the general assemblies, he was clothed with splendid and delicate apparel; and to
prevent the head-ache by drinking of too much wine, he wore a head-band (mitra), and was
called Mitrephorus. This gave occasion to kings afterwards to wear crowns.
[4.6] They attribute to him the carrying of a rod, for the reasons following: when wine
was first found out, it was drank pure, not mixed with water, so that in many meetings and
solemn festivals, many times men drank to that excess, that they grew mad and furious, and
beat one another with clubs and staves, insomuch as some were grevously wounded, and
others were killed; at which Dionysius was much offended, and though he did not altogether
forbid the drinking of unmixed wine, because it was so pleasant and delicious, yet instead
of clubs he ordered the use of wands and small rods.
[5.1] Men have given him many surnames, according to the several acts or circumstances
of his life. For he is called Bacchus, from the Bacchanals, that accompanied him; Lynaeus, 1
from the pressing of grapes at the wine-press; Bromius, 2 or Thunderer, because of the crash
of thunder that was at the time of his birth; and for the same reason he was called Fireborn:
[2] he was sumamed likewise Thriambus because he was the first (of whom ever any mention
was made) that triumphed, when he returned laden with many spoils into his country from
his Indian expedition. Many other names were assigned him, which would be both too
tedious particularly to recite, and likewise foreign to the design of this history.
[3] They held that he had two faces because there were two Dionysus’s; the ancient
Dionysus, who always wore a long beard, because all in ancient times let their beards grow;
and this later Bacchus, who was a spruce young man, as we have before declared. But some
say that a double countenance was assigned him, because of the two special qualities
wherewith drunkards are affected, being either raving mad, or transported with mirth.
They say, likewise, that he carried satyrs along with him, who by their dancing and
skipping in his sports and plays, made the god exceeding merry. [4] To conclude, as the
muses pleased and delighted him with the knowledge of the liberal sciences, so the satyrs,
with their tricks and antics and ridiculous gestures and actions, completed the happiness
and comfort of his life.
It is reported, likewise, he invented plays, and set up theatres and instituted musicschools, and freed all musicians that went along with him in his expeditions from public
taxes; and hence it is, that posterity (after the example of Dionysius) have created societies
of musicians, and decreed that all of that profession should be free. But, that we may keep
From the Greek lenos, a vat in which grapes are pressed in the process of making wine.
From the Greek bromios, loud.
Divine Riddles - 98
within due bounds, we shall here put an end to our discourse concerning Bacchus and his
actions in ancient times.
Cadmus and Harmonia also had a daughter named Autonoe and she married Aristaeus. They
had two sons, Polydorus who became king of Thebes, and Actaeon, who died young:
Ovid, Metamorphoses iii. 131 - 250
[131] And now Thebes was standing; now Cadmus, You might seem happy in your exile.
Both Mars and Venus had become your father-in-law and mother-in-law; add to this, issue
by a wife so illustrious, so many sons and daughters, and grandchildren, dear pledges of
love; these, too, now of a youthful age. [135] But, forsooth, the last day of life must always
be awaited by man, and no one ought to be pronounced happy before his death, and his last
Your grandson, 1 Cadmus, was the first occasion of sorrow to thee, among so much
prosperity, the horns, too, not his own, placed upon his forehead, and you, [140] O dogs,
glutted with the blood of your master. But, if you diligently inquire into his case, you will
find the fault of an accident, and not criminality in him; for what criminality did mistake
[143] There was a mountain stained with the blood of various wild beasts; and now the
day had contracted the meridian shadow of things, [145] and the sun was equally distant
from each extremity of the heavens; when the Hyantian 2 youth thus addressed the partakers
of his toils, as they wandered along the lonely haunts of the wild beasts, with gentle accent:
“Our nets are moistened, my friends, and our spears, too, with the blood of wild beasts; and
the day has yielded sufficient sport; when the next morn, [150] borne upon her rosy chariot,
shall bring back the light, let us seek again our proposed task. Now Phoebus is at the same
distance from both lands, the Eastern and the Western, and is cleaving the fields with his
heat. Cease your present toils, and take away the knotted nets.” The men execute his orders,
and cease their labors.
[155] There was a valley, thick set with pitch-trees and the sharp-pointed cypress; by
name Gargaphie, sacred to the active Diana. In the extreme recess of this, there was a grotto
in a grove, formed by no art; nature, by her ingenuity, had counterfeited art; for she had
formed a natural arch, [160] in the native pumice and the light sand-stones. A limpid
fountain ran murmuring on the right hand with its little stream, having its spreading
channels edged with a border of grass. Here, when wearied with hunting, the goddess of the
woods was wont to bathe her virgin limbs in clear water.
[165] After she had entered there, she handed to one of the Nymphs, her armor-bearer,
her javelin, her quiver, and her unstrung bow. Another Nymph put her arms under her
mantle, when taken off: two removed the sandals from her feet. But Crocale, the daughter
of Ismenus, more skilled than they, [170] gathered her hair, which lay scattered over her
Actaeon, the son of Aristaeus and Autonoe, the daughter of Cadmus.
The indigenous people of Boeotia were the Hyantes.
Divine Riddles - 99
neck, into a knot, although she herself was with her hair loose. Nephele, and Hyale, and
Rhanis, fetch water, Psecas and Phyale do the same, and pour it from their large urns.
[173] And while the Titanian goddess was there bathing in the wonted stream, behold,
the grandson of Cadmus, having deferred the remainder of his sport till next day, [175] came
into the grove, wandering through the unknown wood, with uncertain steps; thus did his
fate direct him.
Soon as he entered the grotto, dropping with its springs, the Nymphs, naked as they
were, on seeing a man, smote their breasts, and filled all the woods with sudden shrieks,
[180] and gathering round Diana, covered her with their bodies. Yet the goddess herself was
higher than they, and was taller than them all by the neck. The color that is wont to be in
clouds, tinted by the rays of the sun when opposite, or that of the ruddy morning, [185] was
on the features of Diana, when seen without her garments. She, although surrounded with
the crowd of her attendants, stood sideways, and turned her face back; and how did she wish
that she had her arrows at hand; and so she took up water, which she did have at hand, and
threw it over the face of the man, [190] and sprinkling his hair with the avenging stream,
she added these words, the presages of his future woe: “Now you may tell, if tell you can,
how I was seen by you without my garments.” Threatening no more, she places on his
sprinkled head the horns of a lively stag; [195] she adds length to his neck, and sharpens the
tops of his ears; and she changes his hands into feet, and his arms into long legs, and covers
his body with a spotted coat of hair; fear, too is added. The Autonoeian hero took to flight,
and wondered that he was so swift in his speed; [200] but when he beheld his own horns in
the wonted stream, he was about to say, “Ah, wretched me!” when no voice followed. He
groaned; that was all his voice, and his tears trickled down a face not his own, but that of a
stag. His former understanding alone remained. What should he do? Should he return
home, and to the royal abode? or should he lie hid in the woods? [205] Fear hinders the one
step, shame the other.
[206] While he was hesitating, the dogs spied him, and first Melampus, and the goodnosed Ichnobates gave the signal, in full cry. Ichnobates, was a Gnossian dog; Melampus was
of Spartan breed. Then the rest rush on, swifter than the rapid winds; [210] Pamphagus,
and Dorcaeus, and Oribasus, all Arcadian dogs; and able Nebrophonus, and with Laelaps,
fierce Theron, and Pterelas, excelling in speed, Agre in her scent, and Hylæus, lately
wounded by a fierce boar, and Nape, begotten by a wolf, [215] and Poemenis, that had
tended cattle, and Harpyia, followed by her two whelps, and the Sicyonian Ladon, having a
slender girth; Dromas,4 too, and Canace, Sticte, and Tigris, and Alce, and Leucon with
snow-white hair, and Asbolus, with black, and the able-bodied Lacon, and Aëllo, good at
running, [220] and Thoüs, and swift Lycisca, with her Cyprian brother, Harpalus, too,
having his black face marked with white down the middle, and Melaneus, and Lachne, with
a wire-haired body, and Labros, and Agriodos, bred of a Dictaean sire, but of a Laconian
dam, [225] and Hylactor, with his shrill note; and others too tedious to recount. 1
[228] This pack, in eagerness for their prey, are borne over rocks and cliffs, and crags
difficult of approach, where the path is steep, and where there is no road. He flies along the
routes by which he has so often pursued; alas, he is now flying from his own servants. Fain
would he have cried, “I am Actaeon, recognize your own master.” Words are wanting to his
As thought Ovid has not been tedious already!
Divine Riddles - 100
wishes; the air resounds with their barking. Melanchaetes was the first to make a wound on
his back, Theridamas the next; Oresitrophus fastened upon his shoulder. These had gone
out later, but their course was shortened by a near cut through the hill. [235] While they
hold their master, the rest of the pack come up, and fasten their teeth in his body. Now
room is wanting for more wounds. He groans, and utters a noise, though not that of a man,
still, such as a stag cannot make; and he fills the well-known mountains with dismal moans,
[240] and suppliant on his bended knees, and like one in entreaty, he turns round his silent
looks as though they were his arms.
[242] But his companions, in their ignorance, urge on the eager pack with their usual
cries, and seek Actaeon with their eyes; and cry out “Actaeon” aloud, as though he were
absent. At his name he turns his head, as they complain that he is not there, and in his
indolence, is not enjoying a sight of the sport afforded them. He wished, indeed, he had
been away, but there he was; and he wished to see, not to feel as well, the cruel feats of his
own dogs. They gather round him on all sides, and burying their jaws in his body, [250] tear
their master in pieces under the form of an imaginary stag. And the rage of the quiverbearing Diana is said not to have been satiated, until his life was ended by many a wound.
The tragedy of Antiope is a story of regency, infant kings, and the attempt by one family to
usurp the throne from the royal family.
Cadmus was succeeded by his grandson, Pentheus, the son of Agave and Echion. Pentheus
was killed by the maenads before he could produce an heir so he was succeeded by Polydorus his
cousin, who was the son of Autonoe and Aristaeus
Polydorus married Nycteis, the daughter of Nycteus, and they had a son Labdacus. Polydorus
died when Labdacus was still a child so a regent had to be appointed, someone to rule in his place
until Labdacus came of age. That regent was his grandfather on his mother’s side, Nycteus.
Antiope was the sister of Nycteis, the second daughter of Nycteus, and she was raped by Zeus.
Pausanias ii. 6.1 – 2
Antiope, the daughter of Nycteus, had a name among the Greeks for beauty, and there
was also a report that her father was not Nycteus but Asopus, the river that separates the
territories of Thebes and Plataea. [2.6.2] This woman Epopeus carried off but I do not know
whether he asked for her hand or adopted a bolder policy from the beginning. The Thebans
came against him in arms, and in the battle Nycteus was wounded. Epopeus also was
wounded, but won the day. Nycteus they carried back ill to Thebes, and when he was about
to die he appointed to be regent of Thebes his brother Lycus for Labdacus, the son of
Polydorus, the son of Cadmus, being still a child, was the ward of Nycteus, who on this
occasion entrusted the office of guardian to Lycus. He also besought him to attack Aegialea
with a larger army and bring vengeance upon Epopeus; Antiope herself, if taken, was to be
Antiope was indeed punished: She was imprisoned by Lycus and his wife, Dirce, and her sons,
Zethus and Amphion, were cast out and raised as shepherds. When the boys grew up and came to
know of their origin, they killed Lycus and Dirce to avenge their mother.
Divine Riddles - 101
By that time Labdacus, king of Thebes, has also died leaving an infant heir, Laius. So Zethus
and Amphion became the regents of Thebes.
Until that time the city was still called Cadmeia, after Cadmus, but Zethus married Thebe and
after he had expanded the city, he renamed it Thebes, after his wife.
Amphion married Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus, and they had six sons and six daughters.
Ovid, Metamorphoses vi. 157 - 217
[157] Manto, the daughter of Tiresias, foreknowing the future, urged by a divine
impulse, had proclaimed through the middle of the streets, “Women, daughters of Ismene 1,
go all of you, [160] and give to Latona 2 and the two children of Latona, the pious
frankincense, together with prayers, and wreathe your hair with laurel; by my mouth does
Latona command this.” Obedience is paid; and all the Theban women adorn their temples
with leaves of laurel, as commanded, and offer frankincense on the sacred fires, and words
of supplication.
[165] Lo, Niobe comes, surrounded with a crowd of attendants, conspicuous for the
gold interwoven in her Phrygian 3 garments, and beautiful, so far as anger will allow; and
tossing her hair, hanging down on both shoulders, with her graceful head, she stands still;
and as she loftily casts around her haughty eyes, she says, [170] “What madness is this? What
have you heard to make you prefer celestial apparitions to those who are seen? Why is Latona
worshipped at the altars, and my divinity is still without its due devotion? 4 Tantalus was my
father, who alone was allowed to approach the tables of the gods above. 5 The sister of the
Pleiades is my mother; 6 the most mighty Atlas is my grandsire, [175] who bears the ethereal
skies upon his neck. Jupiter is my other grandsire; of him, too, I boast as my father-in-law.
The Phrygian nations dread me; the palace of Cadmus is subject to me as its mistress; and
the walls that were formed by the strings of my husband’s lyre, together with their people,
are governed by me and my husband; [180] to whatever part of the house I turn my eyes,
immense wealth is seen. To this is added a face worthy of a goddess. Add to this my seven
daughters, and as many sons, and, at a future day, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. Now
inquire what ground my pride has for its existence; [185] and presume to prefer over me,
Latona the Titaness, the daughter of some obscure Coeus, 7 to whom, when in labour, the
great earth once refused a little spot. 8 Neither by heaven, nor by earth, nor by water, was
your goddess received; she was banished the world, till Delos, pitying the wanderer, said,
[190] “You dost roam a stranger on the land, I in the waves;” and gave her an unstable place
of rest. She was made the mother of two children, that is but the seventh part of my issue.
For the purposes of this myth, Ismene was the mother of Io and Ovid is calling the Theban women ‘daughters’ or
descendants of Ismene, through Io.
Latin name for Leto, the mother of Artemis and Apollo.
Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus, king of Phrygia.
These lines have been re-translated by the editor.
Tantalus, the son of Zeus and Pluto, was king of Phrygia. He was invited to sit at the table of the gods and to share
in the councils of Zeus. But Tantalus revealed the secrets he learned and was punished by the gods.
Dione, the daughter of Atlas.
Coeus was one of the Titans and father of Leto.
When Leto was pregnant, by Zeus, with Apollo and Artemis, Hera was so angry that Gaia, the Earth, was afraid to
allow Leto to settle and give birth.
Divine Riddles - 102
I am fortunate, and who shall deny it? And fortunate I shall remain; who, too, can doubt of
that? Wealth has made me secure; [195] I am too great for Fortune possibly to hurt; and,
though she should take away many things from me, even then much more will she leave me:
my many blessings have now risen superior to apprehensions. Suppose it possible for some
part of this multitude of my children to be taken away from me; still, thus stripped, I shall
not be reduced to two, the number of Latona; an amount, by the number of which, how far,
[200] I pray, is she removed from one that is childless? Go from the sacrifice; hasten away
from the sacrifice, and remove the laurel from your hair!” They remove it, and the sacrifice
they leave unperformed; and what they can do, they adore the divinity in gentle murmurs.
[204] The Goddess was indignant; and on the highest top of Mount Cynthus, she spoke
to her two children in such words as these: “Behold! I, your mother, proud of having borne
you, and who shall yield to no one of the goddesses, except to Juno alone, am called in
question whether I am a goddess and, for all future ages, I am driven from the altars devoted
to me, unless you give me aid. [210] Nor is this my only grief; the daughter of Tantalus has
added abusive language to her shocking deeds, and has dared to postpone you to her own
children, and (what I wish may fall upon her), she has called me childless; and the profane
wretch has discovered a tongue like her father’s.” To this relation Latona was going to add
entreaties, [215] when Phoebus said, “Cease your complaints, ’tis prolonging the delay of
her punishment.” Phoebe 1 said the same; and, by a speedy descent through the air, they
arrived, covered with clouds, at the citadel of Cadmus.
Artemis and Apollo then hunted down and killed every one of the seven sons and seven
daughters of Niobe and Amphion.
This story was very popular in the ancient world, and remains so today, because of the moral:
never think too much of yourself, and certainly never compare yourself to the gods! Hubris is the
one thing the gods despise most in humans.
The story of Oedipus is best told by Sophocles in his tragic trilogy which includes Oedipus
The King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone. Below are abridged versions:
Apollodorus iii.5.7 - 9
After Amphion's death Laius succeeded to the kingdom. And he married a daughter of
Menoeceus; some say that she was Iocasta, and some that she was Epicasta. The oracle had
warned him not to beget a son, for the son that should be begotten would kill his father;
nevertheless, flushed with wine, he had intercourse with his wife. And when the babe was
born he pierced the child's ankles with brooches and gave it to a herdsman to expose. But
the herdsman exposed it on Cithaeron; and the shepherds of Polybus, king of Corinth,
found the infant and brought it to his wife Periboea. She adopted him and passed him off
as her own, and after she had healed his ankles she called him Oedipus, giving him that
name on account of his swollen feet. When the boy grew up and excelled his fellows in
strength, they spitefully twitted him with being supposititious. He inquired of Periboea, but
could learn nothing; so he went to Delphi and inquired about his true parents. The god told
Divine Riddles - 103
him not to go to his native land, because he would murder his father and lie with his mother.
On hearing that, and believing himself to be the son of his nominal parents, he left Corinth,
and riding in a chariot through Phocis he fell in with Laius driving in a chariot in a certain
narrow road. And when Polyphontes, the herald of Laius, ordered him to make way and
killed one of his horses because he disobeyed and delayed, Oedipus in a rage killed both
Polyphontes and Laius, and arrived in Thebes. [8] Laius was buried by Damasistratus, king
of Plataea, and Creon, son of Menoeceus, succeeded to the kingdom.
In his reign a heavy calamity befell Thebes. For Hera sent the Sphinx, whose mother
was Echidna and her father Typhon; and she had the face of a woman, the breast and feet
and tail of a lion, and the wings of a bird. And having learned a riddle from the Muses, she
sat on Mount Phicium, and propounded it to the Thebans. And the riddle was this: What
is that which has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?
Now the Thebans were in possession of an oracle which declared that they should be rid of
the Sphinx whenever they had read her riddle; so they often met and discussed the answer,
and when they could not find it the Sphinx used to snatch away one of them and gobble
him up. When many had perished, and last of all Creon's son Haemon, Creon made
proclamation that to him who should read the riddle he would give both the kingdom and
the wife of Laius. On hearing that, Oedipus found the solution, declaring that the riddle of
the Sphinx referred to man; for as a babe he is four-footed, going on four limbs, as an adult
he is two-footed, and as an old man he gets besides a third support in a staff. So the Sphinx
threw herself from the citadel, and Oedipus both succeeded to the kingdom and unwittingly
married his mother, and begat sons by her, Polynices and Eteocles, and daughters, Ismene
and Antigone. But some say the children were borne to him by Eurygania, daughter of
Hyperphas. [9] When the secret afterwards came to light, Iocasta hanged herself in a noose,
and Oedipus was driven from Thebes, after he had put out his eyes and cursed his sons, who
saw him cast out of the city without lifting a hand to help him. And having come with
Antigone to Colonus in Attica, where is the precinct of the Eumenides, he sat down there
as a suppliant, was kindly received by Theseus, and died not long afterwards.
Seven Against Thebes
The story of the war against Thebes is most famously told by Aeschylus in the play Seven
Against Thebes. That a drama was produced in Athens that showed the Thebans in a poor light is
not surprise, Athens and Thebes were long-time rivals and that grew to outright hatred after the
Thebans supported Xerxes in the Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC.
Pausanias ii.20.5
[2.20.5] A little farther on 1 is a sanctuary of the Seasons. On coming back from here
you see statues of Polynices, the son of Oedipus, and of all the chieftains who with him were
killed in battle at the wall of Thebes. These men Aeschylus has reduced to the number of
seven only, although there were more chiefs than this in the expedition, from Argos, from
Messene, with some even from Arcadia. But the Argives have adopted the number seven
from the drama of Aeschylus, and near to their statues are the statues of those who took
In the City of Argos.
Divine Riddles - 104
Thebes: Aegialeus, son of Adrastus; Promachus, son of Parthenopaeus, son of Talaus;
Polydorus, son of Hippomedon; Thersander; Alcmaeon and Amphilochus, the sons of
Amphiaraus; Diomedes, and Sthenelus. Among their company were also Euryalus, son of
Mecisteus, and Adrastus and Timeas, sons of Polyneices.
Diodorus iv. 65.1 – 9
[1] The sons being grown up to man’s estate, came to the knowledge of the wickedness
committed in their family, and therefore, for the foulness of the deed, confined Oedipus,
so that he should not stir abroad; and his sons took upon them the government, first
agreeing together to rule yearly one after another by turns. Eteocles, the elder brother,
reigned first, but when his year was out, he refused to give way to his brother: [2] Polynices
demanded the government according to the covenant between them, but his brother turned
to him the deaf ear; upon which Polynices fled to Adrastus king of Argos. At this time
Tydeus the son of Oeneus, king of Calydonia, had fled out of Aetolia to Argos, for killing
his nephews Alcathous and Lycopeus.
[3] Adrastus kindly entertained them both, and by command of the oracle, gave his
daughter Argeia in marriage to Polynices, and Deipyle to Tydeus, The young men being both
in great honour and esteem, and highly approved of by the king for their virtuous
qualifications, Adrastus promised to restore them both to their own countries. [4] Resolving
therefore first to restore Polynices, he sent Tydeus on an embassy to Eteoclcs to debate the
matter with him: in his return, it is said, he was set upon by fifty men, employed by Etcocles
to way-lay him; all whom, notwithstanding, he slew, and came safe, beyond all seeming
probability to Argos. Adrastus, being informed of this piece of treachery, prepared all things
necessary for the war and procured Capaneus, 1 Hippomedon, 2 and Parthenopaus, the son
of Atalanta, the daughter of Schoineus, to join with him. [5] Polynices also endeavoured to
persuade Amphiaraus the soothsayer, to go along with them to the war against Thebes; but
he, foreknowing he should fall in that war if he went, refused. Polynices therefore presented
Amphiaraus's wife with a golden chain, (which, as is reported, was bestowed upon Harmonia
by Aphrodite), to persuade her husband to join with them as one of their confederates. [6]
There being some controversy about that time between Adrastus and Amphiaraus
concerning the kingdom, they agreed to refer the whole matter in difference, both as to the
kingdom and the war, to the decisive judgment of Eriphyle the sister of Adrastus, and wife
to Amphiaraus. Hereupon she gave judgment for Adrastus, and that her husband should
join with the rest in the war against Thebes. Amphiaraus, (although he thought he had been
betrayed by his wife), yet prepared to go along with the other captains: but before he went,
commanded his son Alcmaon, that after he was dead, he should kill Eriphyle [7] who
afterwards executed his father's commands, by murdering his mother; but was some time
after so terrified in conscience with the horridness of the fact, that he went stark mad. But
to proceed; Adrastus, Polynices, and Tydeus, together with four other captains, Amphiarius,
Capaneus, Hippomedon, and Parthenopaus, with a great army, marched against Thebes; [8]
where Eteocles and Polynices killed each other. Capaneus, in attempting to scale the walls,
Capaneus of Argos, The son of Hipponous and Laodice.
The son of Aristomachus.
Divine Riddles - 105
was likewise slain. The earth opened and swallowed up Amphiarius and his chariot together,
and so he was never more seen. [9] All the rest of the generals likewise perished in this war
except Adrastus, and a great slaughter there was among the soldiers, whom the Thebans
would not suffer to be carried off the ground; so that Adrastus was forced to leave them
unburied and return to Argos. The bodies of the slain thus lying unhurried at Cadmeia,
none daring to inter them, the Athenians (always commendable above others for their
humanity) took care of this matter, and buried them all.
And these were the misfortunes that befell the seven that fought in the war at Thebes.
The Epigoni
Diodorus iv. 66
[1] And these were the misfortunes that befell the seven that fought in the war at Thebes.
But the children of them that were slain, called Epigoni, to revenge their fathers’ deaths, all
joined together, and resolved to make war upon that city. The oracle of Apollo (upon
inquiry) answered them that they should overcome Thebes if they made Alcmaon the son of
Amphiaraus their general, [2] whereupon Alcmaon being accordingly (with unanimous
consent) created commander-in-chief, consulted the oracle, both concerning the war against
Thebes and the revenge that he was enjoined by his father to exact upon Eriphyle, his
mother. [3] The oracle commanded him to perform both, because she not only received a
chain of gold for what she did, which was the occasion of his father's death, but a rich gown
likewise as a bribe, in order to the ruin of himself. Aphrodite heretofore bestowed this chain
and garment upon Harmonia the wife of Cadmus; but both were given to Eriphyle; the chain
by Polynices and the gown by Thersander, Polynice's son, that she might persuade Alcmaon
to go to the Theban war. Alcmaon raised a great army, not only from Argos but from many
other cities as well and this army he led against Thebes.
[4] The Thebans marched out against them and in a pitched battle were defeated by
Alcmaon and his allies. The Theban army was defeated with such great losses that the
citizens who remained feared they would be unable to defend the city, so they consulted the
soothsayer, Teiresias about what they should do. He advised them to abandon the city as
the only means left for their safety and preservation. [5] The Cadmeans followed his advice,
and in the night the left the city, and fled to a province in Boeotia, called Tilphossus. The
Epigoni afterwards entered and razed the city, and being now lords of all, (among others),
possessed themselves of Daphne, the daughter of Teiresias whom (according to their vow)
they devoted (as the chief of their spoils) to the oracle at Delphi. 1
The daughter of Teiresias is more often called Manto. Diodorus seems to be confusing the legend of Daphne,
daughter of Peneus, with that of Manto, daughter of Teiresias.
Divine Riddles - 106
Hellenic Cycle 1
The Danaid and the Thebaid trace the descent of two distinct clans both claiming origin from
Io. The first clan was usually referred to as the House of Perseus and the second clan as the House
of Cadmus. The third, and principle, clan in the Greek myth tradition was called the House of
Deucalion or of Hellen, Deucalion’s son. All three of these clans eventually intermarry and become
one Hellenic clan but their origin stories make them distinct. Below is the myth cycle that explains
the origins of the Hellenic clan, the House of Deucalion.
Deucalion was the son of Prometheus and he married Pyrrha, the daughter of Epimetheus and
Pandora (See above The Origin of Man; Prometheus)
The Flood
Zeus, perceiving the human race to be evil, proposed to the other gods that he planned to
destroy them all:
Ovid, Metamorphoses i.244 – 312
[244] Some, by their words approve the speech of Jupiter, and give spur to him,
indignantly exclaiming; others, by silent assent fulfil their parts. Yet the entire destruction
of the human race is a cause of grief to them all, and they inquire what is to be the form of
the earth in future, when destitute of mankind, who is to place frankincense on the altars
and whether it is his design to give up the nations for a prey to the wild beasts? [250] The
ruler of the Gods forbids them making these enquiries, to be alarmed (for that the rest
should be his care); and he promises, that from a wondrous source he will raise a generation
unlike the preceding race.
[253] And now he was about to scatter his thunder over all lands; but he was afraid lest,
perchance, the sacred ether might catch fire, from so many flames, and the extended sky
might become inflamed. He remembers, too, that it was in the decrees of Fate, that a time
should come, at which the sea, the earth, and the palace of heaven, seized by the flames,
should be burned, and the laboriously-wrought fabric of the universe should be in danger
of perishing. The weapons forged by the hands of the Cyclops are laid aside; [260] a different
mode of punishment pleases him: to destroy mankind beneath the waves, and to let loose
the rains from the whole tract of Heaven.
[262] At once he shuts the North Wind in the caverns of Aeolis, and all those blasts
which dispel the clouds drawn over the Earth; and then he sends forth the South Wind.
With soaking wings the South Wind flies abroad, [265] having his terrible face covered with
pitchy darkness; his beard is loaded with showers, the water streams down from his hoary
locks, clouds gather upon his forehead, his wings and the folds of his robe drip with wet;
and, as with his broad hand he squeezes the hanging clouds, a crash arises, and thence
showers are poured in torrents from the sky. [270] Iris, the messenger of Juno, clothed in
various colors, collects the waters, and bears a supply upwards to the clouds. The standing
corn is beaten down, and the expectations of the husbandman, now lamented by him, are
ruined, and the labors of a long year prematurely perish.
This is the editor’s own designation.
Divine Riddles - 107
[274] Nor is the wrath of Jove satisfied with his own heaven; but Neptune, his azure
brother, aids him with his auxiliary waves. He calls together the rivers, which, soon as they
had entered the abode of their ruler, he says, “I must not now employ a lengthened
exhortation; pour forth all your might, so the occasion requires. Open your abodes, and,
each obstacle removed, give full rein to your streams.” [280] Thus he commanded; they
return, and open the mouths of their fountains, and roll on into the ocean with
unobstructed course. He himself struck the Earth with his trident, on which it shook, and
with a tremor laid open the sources of its waters. [285] The rivers, breaking out, rush through
the open plains, and bear away, together with the standing corn, the groves, flocks, men,
houses, and temples, together with their sacred utensils. If any house remained, and, not
thrown down, was able to resist ruin so vast, yet the waves, rising aloft, covered the roof of
that house, and the towers tottered, overwhelmed beneath the stream.
[291] And now sea and land had no mark of distinction; everything now was ocean; and
to that ocean shores were wanting. One man takes possession of a hill, another sits in a
curved boat, and plies the oars there where he had lately ploughed; another sails over the
standing corn, [295] or the roof of his country-house under water; another catches a fish on
the top of an elm-tree. An anchor (if chance so directs) is fastened in a green meadow, or
the curving keels come in contact with the vineyards, now below them; and where of late
the slender goats had cropped the grass, there unsightly sea-calves are now reposing their
[301] The Nereids wonder at the groves, the cities, and the houses under water; dolphins
get into the woods, and run against the lofty branches, and beat against the tossed oaks. The
wolf swims among the sheep; the wave carries along the tawny lions; [305] the wave carries
along the tigers. Neither does the powers of his lightning-shock avail the wild boar, nor his
swift legs the stag, now borne away. The wandering bird, too, having long sought for land,
where it may be allowed to light, its wings failing, falls down into the sea. The boundless
range of the sea had overwhelmed the hills, [310] and the stranger waves beat against the
heights of the mountains. The greatest part is carried off by the water: those whom the water
spares, long fastings overcome, through scantiness of food.
Deucalion and Pyrrha
Apollodorus, i. 7.2
[2] And Prometheus had a son Deucalion. He reigning in the regions about Phthia,
married Pyrrha, the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora, the first woman fashioned by the
gods. And when Zeus would destroy the men of the Bronze Age, Deucalion by the advice of
Prometheus constructed a chest, and having stored it with provisions he embarked in it with
Pyrrha. But Zeus by pouring heavy rain from heaven flooded the greater part of Greece, so
that all men were destroyed, except a few who fled to the high mountains in the
neighborhood. It was then that the mountains in Thessaly parted, and that all the world
outside the Isthmus and Peloponnese was overwhelmed. But Deucalion, floating in the chest
over the sea for nine days and as many nights, drifted to Parnassus, and there, when the rain
ceased, he landed and sacrificed to Zeus, the god of Escape. And Zeus sent Hermes to him
and allowed him to choose what he would, and he chose to get men. And at the bidding of
Divine Riddles - 108
Zeus he took up stones and threw them over his head, and the stones which Deucalion threw
became men, and the stones which Pyrrha threw became women. Hence people were called
metaphorically people (laos) from laas, “a stone.” And Deucalion had children by Pyrrha,
first Hellen, whose father some say was Zeus, and second Amphictyon, who reigned over
Attica after Cranaus; and third a daughter Protogenia, who became the mother of Aethlius
by Zeus.
Ovid, Metamorphoses i.313 - 415
[313] Phocis separates the Aonian from the Oetean region; a fruitful land while it was
a land; [315] but at that time it had become a part of the sea, and a wide plain of sudden
waters. There a lofty mountain rises towards the stars, with two tops, by name Parnassus,
and advances beyond the clouds with its summit. When here Deucalion (for the sea had
covered all other places), borne in a little ship, with the partner of his couch, first rested;
[320] they adored the Corycian Nymphs, and the deities of the mountain, and the prophetic
Themis, who at that time used to give out oracular responses. No man was there more
upright than he, nor a greater lover of justice, nor was any woman more regardful of the
deities than she.
[324] Soon as Jupiter beholds the world overflowed by liquid waters, and sees that but
one man remains out of so many thousands of late, and sees that but one woman remains
out of so many thousands of late, both guiltless, and both worshippers of the gods, he
disperses the clouds; and the showers being removed by the north wind, he both lays open
the earth to the heavens, and the heavens to the earth. [330] The rage, too, of the sea does
not continue; and his three-forked trident now laid aside, the ruler of the deep assuages the
waters, and calls upon the azure Triton standing above the deep, and having his shoulders
covered with the native purple shells; and he bids him blow his resounding trumpet, and,
the signal being given, to call back the waves and the streams. [335] The hollow-wreathed
trumpet is taken up by him, which grows to a great width from its lowest twist; the trumpet,
which, soon as it receives the air in the middle of the sea, fills with its notes the shores lying
under either sun. Then, too, as soon as it touched the lips of the god dripping with his wet
beard, [340] and being blown, sounded the bidden retreat; it was heard by all the waters
both of earth and sea, and stopped all those waters by which it was heard. Now the sea again
has a shore; their channels receive the full rivers; the rivers subside; the hills are seen to
come forth. [345] The ground rises, places increase in extent as the waters decrease; and
after a length of time, the woods show their naked tops, and retain the mud left upon their
[348] The world was restored; which when Deucalion beheld to be empty, and how the
desolate earth kept a profound silence, he thus addressed Pyrrha, with tears bursting forth:—
“O cousin, O wife, O sole surviving woman; of my own clan; daughter of my father’s brother,
and afterwards bound to me in marriage; whom now dangers themselves unite to me; we
two are the whole people of the earth and all that the rising and setting sun shines upon; 1
The translation of the lines spoken by Deucalion was somewhat obscure and even inaccurate; the editor has retranslated the passage. One of the main issues is patruelis origo (352) and soror (350). Clearly, soror cannot mean
‘sister’ when followed by patruelis. Pyrrha is the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora and, therefore, Deucalion’s
cousin. See 390 below.
Divine Riddles - 109
[355] of all the rest, the sea has taken possession. And even now there is no certain assurance
of our lives; even yet do the clouds terrify my mind. What would now have been your
feelings, if without me you had been rescued from destruction, O you deserving of
compassion, in what manner could you have been able alone to support this terror? With
whom for a consoler, to endure these sorrows? [360] For I, believe me, my wife, if the sea
had only carried you off, should have followed you, and the sea should have carried me off
as well. Oh that I could replace the people that are lost by the arts of my father, and infuse
the soul into the moulded earth! [365] Now the mortal race exists in us two alone. Thus it
has seemed good to the gods, and we remain as mere samples of mankind.”
[367] He thus spoke, and they wept. They resolved to pray to the deities of heaven, and
to seek relief through the sacred oracles. There is no delay; together they repair to the waters
of Cephisus, [370] though not yet clear, yet now cutting their wonted channel. Then, when
they have sprinkled the waters poured on their clothes and their heads, they turn their steps
to the temple of the sacred goddess, the roof of which was defiled with foul moss, and whose
altars were standing without fires. [375] Soon, as they reached the steps of the temple, each
of them fell prostrate on the ground, and, trembling, gave kisses to the cold pavement. And
thus they said: “If the Deities, prevailed upon by just prayers, are to be mollified, if the wrath
of the Gods is to be averted, tell us, O Themis, by what art the loss of our race is to be
repaired, and give thy assistance, O most gentle goddess to our ruined fortunes.”
[381] The Goddess was moved, and gave this response: “Depart from my temple, and
cover your heads, and loosen the garments girt around you, and throw behind your backs
the bones of your great mother.” For a long time they are amazed; [385] and Pyrrha is the
first by her words to break the silence, and then refuses to obey the commands of the goddess
and begs her, with trembling lips, to grant her pardon, and dreads to offend the shades of
her mother by casting her bones. In the meantime they reconsider the words of the response
given, but involved in dark obscurity, and they ponder them among themselves. [390] Upon
that, the son of Prometheus soothes the daughter of Epimetheus with these gentle words,
and says, “Either is my discernment fallacious, or the oracles are just, and advise no sacrilege.
The earth is the great mother; I suspect that the stones in the body of the earth are the bones
meant; these we are ordered to throw behind our backs.” [395] Although she, descended
from Titan, is moved by this interpretation of her husband, still her hope is involved in
doubt; so much do they both distrust the advice of heaven; but what harm will it do to try?
[398] They go down, and they veil their heads, and ungird their garments, and cast
stones, as ordered, behind their footsteps. The stones [400] (who could have believed it, but
that antiquity is a witness of the thing?) began to lay aside their hardness and their stiffness,
and by degrees to become soft; and when softened, to assume a new form. Presently after,
when they were grown larger, a milder nature, too, was conferred on them, [405] so that
some shape of man might be seen in them, yet though but imperfect; and as if from the
marble commenced to be wrought, not sufficiently distinct, and very like to rough statues.
Yet that part of them which was humid with any moisture, and earthy, was turned into
portions adapted for the use of the body. That which is solid, and cannot be bent, is changed
into bones; [410] that which was just now a vein, still remains under the same name. And
in a little time, by the interposition of the gods above, the stones thrown by the hands of
the man, took the shape of a man, and the female race was renewed by the throwing of the
Divine Riddles - 110
woman. Thence are we a hardy generation, and able to endure fatigue, [415] and we give
proofs from what original we are sprung.
Deucalion and Pyrrha had a daughter named Protogeneia, and two sons, Amphictyon and
Hellen. The Greeks, to this day, call themselves the Hellenes, the descendants of Hellen, and the
country is called Hellas.
Herodotus i. 56
…the Lacedemonians and the Athenians had the pre-eminence, the first of the Dorian
and the others of the Ionian race. For these were the most eminent races in ancient times,
the second being a Pelasgian and the first a Hellenic race: and the one never migrated from
its place in any direction, while the other was very exceedingly given to wanderings; for in
the reign of Deucalion this race dwelt in Pthiotis, and in the time of Dorus the son of Hellen
in the land lying below Ossa and Olympos, which is called Histiaiotis; and when it was
driven from Histiaiotis by the sons of Cadmus, it dwelt in Pindos and was called Makednian;
and thence it moved afterwards to Dryopis, and from Dryopis it came finally to
Peloponnesus, and began to be called Dorian.
Thucydides i.3
Before the Trojan war there is no indication of any common action in Hellas, nor
indeed of the universal prevalence of the name; on the contrary, before the time of Hellen,
son of Deucalion, no such appellation existed, but the country went by the names of the
different tribes, in particular of the Pelasgian. It was not till Hellen and his sons grew strong
in Phthiotis, and were invited as allies into the other cities, that one by one they gradually
acquired from the connection the name of Hellenes; though a long time elapsed before that
name could fasten itself upon all. The best proof of this is furnished by Homer. Born long
after the Trojan War, he nowhere calls all of them by that name, nor indeed any of them
except the followers of Achilles from Phthiotis, who were the original Hellenes: in his poems
they are called Danaans, Argives, and Achaeans.
Most of the noble families of ancient Greece traced their lineage to Hellen through his sons,
Dorus, Aeolus and Xuthus. In the Archaic and Classical periods four Greek tribes were discernible
by their regional habitation and dialect; the Dorian, Aeolian and Ionian and Achaean tribes. The
Dorians claimed to be descendants of Dorus, son of Hellen; the Aeolians the descendants of
Aeolus; the Ionians the descendants of Ion, the son of Xuthus, son of Hellen; and the Achaeans
the descendants of Achaeus, son of Xuthus.
Apollodorus i.7.3
[3] Hellen had Dorus, Xuthus, and Aeolus by a nymph Orseis. Those who were called
Greeks he named Hellenes after himself, and divided the country among his sons. Xuthus
received Peloponnese and begat Achaeus and Ion by Creusa, daughter of Erechtheus, and
from Achaeus and Ion the Achaeans and Ionians derive their names. Dorus received the
country over against Peloponnese and called the settlers Dorians after himself. Aeolus
reigned over the regions about Thessaly and named the inhabitants Aeolians.
Divine Riddles - 111
In the excerpts below, we will attempt to trace these families from the generation of Deucalion
to the generation of the Trojan War. We will begin with the family of Aetolus, then of Dorus,
Achaeus and Ion.
Aeolus, the Descendants of:
Aeolus, the son Hellen, married Enarete, the daughter of Deimachus. 1 They had seven sons
and five daughters and through these children most of the royal families of Greece trace their
Athamas, Nephele and Ino
Apollodorus i.9.1
[1] Of the sons of Aeolus, Athamas ruled over Boeotia and begat a son Phrixus and a
daughter Helle by Nephele. And he married a second wife, Ino, by whom he had Learchus
and Melicertes. But lno plotted against the children of Nephele and persuaded the women
to parch the wheat; and having got the wheat they did so without the knowledge of the men.
But the earth, being sown with parched wheat, did not yield its annual crops; so Athamas
sent to Delphi to inquire how he might be delivered from the dearth. Now Ino persuaded
the messengers to say it was foretold that the infertility would cease if Phrixus were sacrificed
to Zeus. When Athamas heard that, he was forced by the inhabitants of the land to bring
Phrixus to the altar. But Nephele caught him and her daughter up and gave them a ram with
a golden fleece, which she had received from Hermes, and borne through the sky by the ram
they crossed land and sea. But when they were over the sea which lies between Sigeum and
the Chersonese, Helle slipped into the deep and was drowned, and the sea was called
Hellespont after her. But Phrixus came to the Colchians, whose king was Aeetes, son of the
Sun and of Perseis, and brother of Circe and Pasiphae, whom Minos married. He received
Phrixus and gave him one of his daughters, Chalciope. And Phrixus sacrificed the ram with
the golden fleece to Zeus the god of Escape, and the fleece he gave to Aeetes, who nailed it
to an oak in a grove of Ares. And Phrixus had children by Chalciope: Argus, Melas, Phrontis,
and Cytisorus.
Ino was the daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia. As the sister of Semele, she is the aunt of the
god Dionysus (See above Theban Cycle). After the death of Semele and the birth of Dionysus
from the thigh of Zeus, Ino cared for the infant Dionysus until he was turned over to the Nymphs.
When Dionysus returned to Thebes to declare his divinity, Ino became one of his most ardent
followers. Hera, angry that Dionysus, the son of her rival, is being cared for, seeks revenge on all
and any humans who assist in her humiliation:
Ovid, Metamorphoses iv. 416 - 524
[416] But then the Divine power of Bacchus is famed throughout all Thebes; and his
aunt is everywhere telling of the great might of the new Divinity; she alone, out of so many
sisters, is free from sorrow, except that which her sisters have occasioned. [420] Juno beholds
Otherwise unattested.
Divine Riddles - 112
her, having her soul elevated with her children, and her alliance with Athamas, and the god
her foster-child. She cannot tolerate this, and says to herself, “Was the child of a concubine
able to transform the Maeonian sailors, 1 and to overwhelm them in the sea, and to give the
entrails of the son to be torn to pieces by his mother, 2 [425] and to cover the three daughters
of Minyas with newly formed wings? 3 Shall Juno be able to do nothing but lament these
griefs unrevenged? And is that sufficient for me? Is this my only power? He himself instructs
me what to do. It is right to be taught even by an enemy. And what madness can do, he
shows enough, and more than enough, by the slaughter of Pentheus. [430] Why should not
Ino, too, be goaded by madness, and submit to an example kindred to those of her sisters?”
[432] There is a shelving path, shaded with dismal yew, which leads through profound
silence to the infernal abodes. Here languid Styx exhales vapors; 4 and the new-made ghosts
descend this way, [435] and phantoms when they have enjoyed funeral rites. Horror and
winter possess these dreary regions far and wide, and the ghosts newly arrived know not
where the way is that leads to the Stygian city, 5 or where is the dismal palace of the black
Pluto. The wide city has a thousand passages, and gates open on every side. [440] And as the
sea receives the rivers for the whole earth, so does that spot receive all the souls; nor is it
too little for any amount of people, nor does it perceive the crowd to increase. The shades
wander about, bloodless, without body and bones; and some throng the place of judgment;
some the abode of the infernal prince. Some pursue various callings, in imitation of their
former life; their own punishment confines others.
[447] Juno, the daughter of Saturn, leaving her celestial habitation, submits to go
thither, so much does she give way to hatred and to anger. Soon as she has entered there,
and the threshold groans, pressed by her sacred body, [450] Cerberus raises his threefold
mouth, and utters triple barkings at the same moment. She summons the Sisters, begotten
of Night, terrible and implacable goddesses. 6 They are sitting before the doors of the prison
shut close with adamant, and are combing black vipers from their hair. [455] Soon as they
recognize her amid the shades of darkness, these deities arise. This place is called “the
accursed.” Tityus is giving his entrails to be mangled, and is stretched over nine acres. By
thee, Tantalus, no waters are reached, and the tree which overhangs thee, starts away. [460]
Sisyphus, you are either catching or you are pushing on the stone destined to fall again.
Ixion is whirled round, and both follows and flies from himself. The granddaughters, too,
of Belus, who dared to plot the destruction of their cousins, are everlastingly taking up the
water which they lose. After the daughter of Saturn has beheld all these with a stern look,
[465] and Ixion before all; again, after him, looking upon Sisyphus, she says, “Why does he
alone, of all the brothers, suffer eternal punishment? And why does a rich palace contain
the proud Athamas, who, with his wife, has ever despised me?” And then she explains the
For the story of Dionysus and the sailors see Homeric Hymn 7, To Dionysus.
A reference to Pentheus, who was torn to pieces by the Maenads, including his mother Agave, and the sisters of
Semele, Ino and Autonoe (Ovid Met. iii.513).
Leucippe, Arsippe and Alcathoe (Alcithoe), who refused to join the other women in the worship of Dionysus and
were turned into bats.
The Styx is a stream in Arcadia, the waters were thought to be poison. It was believed that these waters were also to
gateway to Hades, where the River Styx flowed carrying the dead to the underwold.
The place in Hades where the dead are punished for their sins
These are the Furies, the avenging goddesses. In Greek they are called the Erinnyes.
Divine Riddles - 113
cause of her hatred and of her coming, and what it is she desires. What she desires is, [470]
that the palace of Cadmus shall not stand, and that the Sister Furies shall involve Athamas
in crime. She mingles together promises, commands, and entreaties, and solicits the
goddesses. When Juno has thus spoken, Tisiphone, with her locks dishevelled as they are,
[470] shakes them, and throws back from her face the snakes crawling over it; and thus she
says: “There is no need of a long preamble; whatever you command, consider it done: leave
these hateful realms, and betake yourself to the air of a better heaven.”
[479] Juno returns, overjoyed; and, preparing to enter heaven, Iris, the daughter of
Thaumas, purifies her by sprinkling water. Nor is there any delay; the persecuting Tisiphone
takes a torch reeking with gore, and puts on a cloak red with fluid blood, and is girt with
twisted snakes, and then goes forth from her abode. [485] Mourning attends her as she goes,
and Fright, and Terror, and Madness with quivering features. She now reaches the
threshold; the Aeolian door-posts are said to have shaken, and paleness tints the maple door;
the Sun, too, flies from the place. His wife is terrified at these prodigies; Athamas, too, is
alarmed, and they are both preparing to leave the house. [490] The baneful Erinys stands in
the way, and blocks up the passage; and extending her arms twisted round with folds of
vipers, she shakes her locks; the snakes thus moved, emit a sound. Some lying about her
shoulders, some gliding around her temples, send forth hissings and vomit forth corruption,
and dart forth their tongues. [495] Then she tears away two snakes from the middle of her
hair, which, with pestilential hand, she throws against them. But these creep along the
breasts of Ino and Athamas, and inspire them with direful intent. Nor do they inflict any
wounds upon their limbs; it is the mind that feels the direful stroke. [500] She had brought,
too, with her a monstrous composition of liquid poison, the foam of the mouth of Cerberus,
and the venom of Echidna; and purposeless aberrations, and the forgetfulness of a darkened
understanding, and crime, and tears, and rage, and the love of murder. All these were
blended together; [505] and, mingled with fresh blood she had boiled them in a hollow
vessel of brass, stirred about with a stalk of green hemlock. And while they are trembling,
she throws the maddening poison into the breasts of them both, and moves their inmost
vitals. Then repeatedly waving her torch in the same circle, she swiftly follows up the flames
thus excited with fresh flames. [510] Thus triumphant, and having executed her commands,
she returns to the empty realms of the great Pluto; and she ungirds the snakes which she
had put on.
[512]Immediately the son of Aeolus, filled with rage, cries out, in the midst of his palace,
“Ho! Companions, spread your nets in this wood; for here a lioness was just now beheld by
me with two young ones.” [515] And, in his madness, he follows the footsteps of his wife, as
though of a wild beast; and he snatches Learchus, smiling and stretching forth his little arms
from the bosom of his mother, and three or four times he whirls him round in the air like
a sling, and, frenzied, he dashes in pieces the bones of the infant against the hard stones.
Then, at last, the mother being roused [520] (whether it was grief that caused it, or whether
the power of the poison spread over her), yells aloud, and runs away distracted, with
dishevelled hair; and carrying thee, Melicerta, a little child, in her bare arms, she cries aloud
“Evoë, Bacche.” At the name of Bacchus, Juno smiles, and says, “May your foster-child do
you this service.”
Divine Riddles - 114
Apollodorus i.9.2
[2] But afterwards Athamas was bereft also of the children of Ino through the wrath of
Hera; for he went mad and shot Learchus with an arrow, and Ino cast herself and Melicertes
into the sea. Being banished from Boeotia, Athamas inquired of the god where he should
dwell, and on receiving an oracle that he should dwell in whatever place he should be
entertained by wild beasts, he traversed a great extent of country till he fell in with wolves
that were devouring pieces of sheep; but when they saw him they abandoned their prey and
fled. So Athamas settled in that country and named it Athamantia 1 after himself, and he
married Themisto, daughter of Hypseus, and begat Leucon, Erythrius, Schoeneus, and
The Molurian Rock can be seen on the road between Megara and Corinth:
Pausanias i.44.7
As to the Molurian, it is said that from it Ino flung herself into the sea with Melicertes,
the younger of her children. Learchus, the elder of them, had been killed by his father. One
account is that Athamas did this in a fit of madness; another is that he vented on Ino and
her children unbridled rage when he learned that the famine which befell the Orchomenians
and the supposed death of Phrixus were not accidents from heaven, but that Ino, the stepmother, had intrigued for all these things.[1.44.8] Then it was that she fled to the sea and
cast herself and her son from the Molurian Rock. The son, they say, was landed on the
Corinthian Isthmus by a dolphin, and honors were offered to Melicertes, then renamed
Palaemon, including the celebration of the Isthmian games.
Sisyphus, the son of Aeolus, married Merope, the daughter of Atlas and Pleione. Merope is
the seventh star in the Pleiades constellation, and the least visible because she hides in shame for
having mated with a mortal.
Apollodorus i.9.3
[3] And Sisyphus, son of Aeolus, founded Ephyra, which is now called Corinth, and
married Merope, daughter of Atlas. They had a son Glaucus, who had by Eurymede a son
Bellerophon, who slew the fire-breathing Chimera. But Sisyphus is punished in Hades by
rolling a stone with his hands and head in the effort to heave it over the top; but push it as
he will, it rebounds backwards. This punishment he endures for the sake of Aegina, daughter
of Asopus; for when Zeus had secretly carried her off, Sisyphus is said to have betrayed the
secret to Asopus, who was looking for her.
Pausanias ii.5.1
[5.1] On the summit of the Acrocorinthus is a temple of Aphrodite. 2 The images are
Aphrodite armed, Helius, and Eros with a bow. The spring, which is behind the temple,
they say was the gift of Asopus to Sisyphus. The latter knew, so runs the legend, that Zeus
Even in Classical time no such town existed, but the location was thought to be the plain in Boeotia called
Acrocorinthus is the name of the acropolis in Corinth.
Divine Riddles - 115
had ravished Aegina, the daughter of Asopus, but refused to give information to the seeker
before he had a spring given him on the Acrocorinthus. When Asopus granted this request
Sisyphus turned informer, and on this account he receives--if anyone believes the story-punishment in Hades.
Iliad vi.152 - 195
There is a city in the heart of Argos, pasture land of horses, called Ephyra, where
Sisyphus lived, who was the craftiest of all mankind. He was the son of Aeolus, and had a
son named Glaucus, who was father to Bellerophon, whom heaven endowed with the most
surpassing comeliness and beauty. But Proetus devised his ruin, and being stronger than he,
drove him from the land of the Argives, over which Zeus had made him ruler. For Antea,
wife of Proetus, lusted after him, and would have had him lie with her in secret; but
Bellerophon was an honourable man and would not, so she told lies about him to Proteus.
'Proetus,' said she, 'kill Bellerophon or die, for he would have had converse with me against
my will.' The king was angered, but shrank from killing Bellerophon, so he sent him to Lycia
with lying letters of introduction, written on a folded tablet, and containing much ill against
the bearer. He bade Bellerophon show these letters to his father-in-law, to the end that he
might thus perish; Bellerophon therefore went to Lycia, and the gods convoyed him safely.
[172] "When he reached the river Xanthus, which is in Lycia, the king received him with
all goodwill, feasted him nine days, and killed nine heifers in his honour, but when rosyfingered dawn appeared upon the tenth day, he questioned him and desired to see the letter
from his son-in-law Proetus. When he had received the wicked letter he first commanded
Bellerophon to kill that savage monster, the Chimaera, who was not a human being, but a
goddess, for she had the head of a lion and the tail of a serpent, while her body was that of
a goat, and she breathed forth flames of fire; but Bellerophon slew her, for he was guided
by signs from heaven. He next fought the far-famed Solymi, and this, he said, was the hardest
of all his battles. Thirdly, he killed the Amazons, women who were the peers of men, and as
he was returning thence the king devised yet another plan for his destruction; he picked the
bravest warriors in all Lycia, and placed them in ambuscade, but not a man ever came back,
for Bellerophon killed every one of them. Then the king knew that he must be the valiant
offspring of a god, so he kept him in Lycia, gave him his daughter in marriage, and made
him of equal honour in the kingdom with himself; and the Lycians gave him a piece of land,
the best in all the country, fair with vineyards and tilled fields, to have and to hold.
Salmoneus, son of Aeolus, is the mythical founder of Elis, the area in the North West of the
Peloponnese were Olympia is located, and the Olympic Games are held.
Apollodorus i.9.7
Salmoneus at first dwelt in Thessaly, but afterwards he came to Elis and there founded
a city. And being arrogant and wishful to put himself on an equality with Zeus, he was
punished for his impiety; for he said that he was himself Zeus, and he took away the sacrifices
Divine Riddles - 116
of the god and ordered them to be offered to himself; and by dragging dried hides, with
bronze kettles, at his chariot, he said that he thundered, and by flinging lighted torches at
the sky he said that he made lightning. But Zeus struck him with a thunderbolt, and wiped
out the city he had founded with all its inhabitants.
Pelias and Nelius
Apollodorus i.9.8 - 9
[8] Now Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus and Alcidice, was brought up by Cretheus,
brother of Salmoneus, and conceived a passion for the river Enipeus, and often would she
follow its running waters and utter her plaint to them. But Poseidon in the likeness of
Enipeus lay with her and she secretly gave birth to twin sons, whom she exposed. As the
babes lay forlorn, a mare, belonging to some passing horsekeepers, kicked with its hoof one
of the two infants and left a livid mark on its face. The horse-keeper took up both the
children and reared them; and the one with the livid mark he called Pelias, 1 and the other
Neleus. When they were grown up, they discovered their mother and killed their stepmother
Sidero. For knowing that their mother was ill-used by her, they attacked her, but before they
could catch her she had taken refuge in the precinct of Hera. However, Pelias cut her down
on the very altars, and ever after he continued to treat Hera with disrespect.
[9] But afterwards the brothers fell out, and Neleus, being banished, came to Messene,
and founded Pylos…
[10] But Pelias dwelt in Thessaly and married Anaxibia, daughter of Bias, but according
to some his wife was Phylomache, daughter of Amphion; and he begat a son, Acastus, and
daughters, Pisidice, Pelopia, Hippothoe, and Alcestis.
For the career and demise of Pelias see below; Jason and Medea.
Apollodorus i.9.15
[15] When Admetus 2 reigned over Pherae, Apollo served him as his slave, 3 while
Admetus wooed Alcestis, daughter of Pelias. Now Pelias had promised to give his daughter
to him who should yoke a lion and a boar to a wagon, and Apollo yoked and gave them to
Admetus, who brought them to Pelias and so obtained Alcestis. But in offering a sacrifice
at his marriage, he forgot to sacrifice to Artemis; therefore when he opened the marriage
chamber he found it full of coiled snakes. Apollo bade him appease the goddess and
obtained as a favour of the Fates that, when Admetus should be about to die, he might be
released from death if someone should choose voluntarily to die for him. And when the day
of his death came neither his father nor his mother would die for him, but Alcestis died in
From the Greek pelios, bruised, black-and-blue, which would indeed be the look of someone who had been kicked
in the face by a horse!
The son of Pheres, son of Cretheus.
Apollo was being punished by Zeus for killing the Cyclopes. He had to live for one year as a mortal, and a slave at
Divine Riddles - 117
his stead. But the Maiden 1 sent her up again, or, as some say, Hercules fought with Hades
and brought her up to him.
This story is given much more detailed treatment in the play, Alcestis by Euripides.
A son of Aeolus and Enarete. Deion became king of Phocis.
Apollodorus i.9.4
[4] Deion reigned over Phocis and married Diomede, daughter of Xuthus; and there
were born to him a daughter, Asterodia, and sons, Aenetus, Actor, Phylacus, and Cephalus,
who married Procris, daughter of Erechtheus. But afterwards Dawn fell in love with him
and carried him off.
Actor and Aegina
Actor, the son of Deion, married Aegina, who was then seduced by Zeus and carried to an
Island off the coast of Athens. There she gave birth to Aeacus. He became king of the Island and
renamed it Aegina after his mother.
Aeacus and the Myrmidons
Aeacus married Endeis, the daughter of Chiron, and they had Telamon and Peleus. But he also
had relations with a Nymph who bore another son, Phocus.
According to Ovid, Hera, jealous of Zeus’ affair with Aegina and seeking to destroy their
offspring, sent a plague to the Island that wiped out the population. Aeacus asked Zeus for help:
Ovid, Metamorphoses vii.
[614] “Stupefied by so great an outburst of misery, I said, ‘O Jupiter! if stories do not
falsely say that you did come into the embraces of Aegina, the daughter of Asopus, and you
are not ashamed, great Father, to be the parent of myself; either restore my people to me, or
else bury me, as well, in the sepulchre.’ He gave a signal by lightning, and by propitious
thunders. [620] I accepted the omen, and I said, ‘I pray that these may be happy signs of
your intentions: the omen which you give me, I accept as a pledge.’ By chance there was
close by, an oak sacred to Jupiter, of seed from Dodona, but thinly covered with widespreading boughs. Here we beheld some ants, the gatherers of corn, in a long train, [625]
carrying a heavy burden in their little mouths, and keeping their track in the wrinkled bark.
While I was wondering at their numbers, I said, ‘Do you, most gracious Father, give me
citizens as many in number, and replenish my empty walls.’ The lofty oak trembled, and
made a noise in its boughs, moving without a breeze. [630] My limbs quivered, with
trembling fear, and my hair stood on an end; yet I gave kisses to the earth and to the oak,
nor did I confess that I had any hopes; and yet I did hope, and I cherished my own wishes
in my mind. Night came on, and sleep seized my body wearied with anxiety. [635] In my
dreams the same oak seemed to be present, and to bear as many branches, and as many
animals in its branches, and to be trembling with a similar motion, and to be scattering the
grain-bearing troop on the fields below. These suddenly grew, and seemed greater and
greater, and raised themselves from the ground, and stood with their bodies upright; [640]
Persephone, the wife of Hades and Queen of the Underworld.
Divine Riddles - 118
and laid aside their leanness, and the former number of their feet, and their sable hue, and
assumed in their limbs the human shape.
[643] “Sleep departs. When now awake, I censured the vision, and complained that
there was no help for me from the gods above. But within my palace there was a great
murmur, and I seemed to be hearing the voices of men, to which I had now become
unaccustomed. While I was supposing that these, too, were a part of my dream, Telamon
came in haste, and, opening the door, said, ‘Father, you will see things beyond your hopes
or expectations; do come out.’ I did go out, and I beheld and recognized such men, [650]
each in his turn, as I had seemed to behold in the vision of my sleep. They approached, and
saluted me as their king. I offered up vows to Jupiter, and divided the city and the lands
void of their former tillers, among this new-made people, and I called them Myrmidons, and
did not deprive their name of the marks of their origin. 1
The prowess of Phocus made Telamon and Peleus jealous, so they killed him.
Pausanias ii.29.2
[2.29.2] The Aeginetans dwell in the island over against Epidauria. It is said that in the
beginning there were no men in it; but after Zeus brought to it, when uninhabited, Aegina,
daughter of Asopus, its name was changed from Oenone to Aegina; and when Aeacus, on
growing up, asked Zeus for settlers, the god, they say, raised up the inhabitants out of the
earth. They can mention no king of the island except Aeacus, since we know of none even
of the sons of Aeacus who stayed there; for to Peleus and Telamon befell exile for the murder
of Phocus, while the sons of Phocus made their home about Parnassus, in the land that is
now called Phocis.
Pausanias ii.29.9 – 10
[29.9] Beside the shrine of Aeacus is the grave of Phocus, a barrow surrounded by a
basement, and on it lies a rough stone. When Telamon and Peleus had induced Phocus to
compete at the pentathlon, and it was now the turn of Peleus to hurl the stone, which they
were using for a discus, he intentionally hit Phocus. The act was done to please their mother;
for, while they were both born of the daughter of Sciron, Phocus was not, being, if indeed
the report of the Greeks be true, the son of a sister of Thetis. I believe it was for this reason,
and not only out of friendship for Orestes, that Pylades plotted the murder of Neoptolemus.
[29.10] When this blow of the discus killed Phocus, the sons of Endeis boarded a ship and
fled. Afterwards Telamon sent a herald denying that he had plotted the death of Phocus.
Aeacus, however, refused to allow him to land on the island, and bade him make his defence
standing on board ship, or if he wished, from a mole raised in the sea. So he sailed into the
harbor called Secret, and proceeded to make a mole by night. This was finished, and still
remains at the present day. But Telamon, being condemned as implicated in the murder of
Phocus, sailed away a second time and came to Salamis.
From the Greek myrmex, ‘ant.’
Divine Riddles - 119
Telamon remained on the island of Salamis and became king. His son, Ajax, fought at Troy.
Thetis and Peleus
Peleus, son of Aeacus, fled to Phthiotis and married the Sea Nymph Thetis.
The Cypria Fragments 4 & 5
4. The author of the Cypria says that Thetis, to please Hera, avoided union with Zeus,
at which he was enraged and swore that she would be the wife of a mortal.
5. For at the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, the gods gathered together on Mt. Pelion
to feast…
Ovid, Metamorphoses xi. 221 – 265
[221] To Thetis, aged Proteus once had said, “Oh goddess of the waves, you shall
conceive, and you shall be the mother of a youth who by heroic actions will surpass the
deeds of his own father, and your son shall be superior to his father's power.” So Jupiter,
although the flame of love for Thetis burned his breast, would not embrace the lovely
daughter of the sea, and urged his grandson Peleus, son of Aeacus, to wed the green haired
maid without delay. There is a curved bay of Haemonia, where like an arch, two bending
arms project out in the waves, as if to form a harbor; but the water is not deep—although
enough to hide a shoal of sand. It has a firm shore which will not retain a foot's impression,
nor delay the step—no seaweeds grow in that vicinity.
[229] There is a grove of myrtle near that place thick-hung with berries, blended of twin
shades. A cave within the middle of that grove is found, and whether it was formed by art
or nature is not known, although it seems a work of art. There Thetis often went, quite
naked, seated on her dolphin, which was harnessed. Peleus seized her there when she was
fast asleep: and after he had tried to win her by entreaties, while she long continued to resist
him, he resolved to conquer her by violence, and seized her neck with both arms. She
resorted then to all her usual art, and often changed her shape as it was known, so that he
failed in his attempt. At first she was a bird, but while she seemed a bird he held her fast;
and then she changed herself to a large tree, and Peleus clung with ardor to the tree; her
third disguise was as a spotted tigress, which frightened him so that he lost his hold. Then,
as he poured wine on the heaving sea, he prayed unto the sea green gods and gave them
sacrifice of sheep entrails, and smoke of frankincense. He ceased not, till at last the prophet
of Carpathia, as he rose up from a deep wave, said, “Listen to me, O son of Aeacus, and you
shall have the bride your heart desires: when she at rest lies sleeping in the cool wave, you
must bind her while she is unwary, with strong cords and complicated bonds, and never let
her arts deceive you when she imitates a hundred varied forms, but hold her fast, whatever
she may seem, until she shall at length assume the shape she had at first.” So Proteus
cautioned him, and hid his face beneath the waves as his last words were said.
[258] Now Titan was descending and the pole of his bright chariot as it downward bent
illuminated the Hesperian main; and at that time the lovely Nereid, Thetis, departing from
her ocean wave, entered the cavern for desired repose. Peleus was waiting there.
Immediately, just as he seized upon the virgin's limbs, she changed her shape and persevered
until convinced she could not overcome his hold—for her two arms were forced apart—she
Divine Riddles - 120
groaned and said, “You could not overcome me in this way, but some divinity has given you
the power.” Then she appeared as Thetis: and, when Peleus saw her now deprived of all
deceptions, he embraced her and was father of the great Achilles.
Achilles, the son of Peleus and Thetis, was the greatest warrior of the Greeks at Troy. But his
temper often got the best of him. Achilles and his temper are the subjects of Homer’s Iliad.
The story of the youth of Achilles has been greatly embellished by later writers. Most
famously, it is claimed that Thetis took the baby Achilles to Hades and dipped him in the river
Styx to make his body impervious to mortal weapons; all except for the tendon above his heel by
which the goddess held the baby. This tendon is still called the ‘Achilles Tendon’ and a person’s
greatest vulnerability is still called the ‘Achilles’ Heel.’ The earliest version of this story occurs in
Flavius P. Fulgentius’ Mythologies, a text probably written in the fifth century AD.
Homer nowhere mentions any of this. The ancient traditions are reported by Apollonius of
Rhodes (iv.869) and repeated in Apollodorus:
Apollodorus iii.6
When Thetis had got a babe by Peleus, she wished to make it immortal, and unknown
to Peleus she used to hide it in the fire by night in order to destroy the mortal element which
the child inherited from its father, but by day she anointed him with ambrosia. But Peleus
watched her, and, seeing the child writhing on the fire, he cried out; and Thetis, thus
prevented from accomplishing her purpose, forsook her infant son and departed to the
Nereids. Peleus brought the child to Chiron, who received him and fed him on the inwards
of lions and wild swine and the marrows of bears, and named him Achilles, because he had
not put his lips to the breast; but before that time his name was Ligyron.
The descendants of Aeacus became the royalty of four regions: Aegina, Salamis, Epeirus and
Cyprus, as well as one of the most prominent aristocratic families in Athens:
Pausanias ii.29.4
[29.4] From Peleus sprang the kings in Epeirus; but as for the sons of Telamon, the
family of Ajax is undistinguished, because he was a man who lived a private life; though
Miltiades, who led the Athenians to Marathon, and Cimon, the son of Miltiades, achieved
renown; 1 but the family of Teucer continued to be the royal house in Cyprus down to the
time of Evagoras. Asius the epic poet says that to Phocus were born Panopeus and Crisus.
To Panopeus was born Epeus, who made, according to Homer, the wooden horse; and the
grandson of Crisus was Pylades, whose father was Strophius, son of Crisus, while his mother
was Anaxibi, sister of Agamemnon. Such was the pedigree of the Aeacidae (family of Aeacus),
as they are called, but they departed from the beginning to other lands.
Miltiades was the Athenian general who orchestrated the victory over the Persians at Marathon in 490 BC. Cimon,
his son, fought against the Persian invasion of 480 and was the commander of allied Greek forces in the Aegean. He
is credited with the formation of the Delian League. This family traces their origins to Philaeus, the son of Ajax, and
are called the Philaidae.
Divine Riddles - 121
Cephalus was the son of Deion and brother of Actor. He married Procris, the daughter of
Erechtheus, king of Athens. In the following passage, Cephalus is narrating his own story:
Ovid, Metamorphoses vii.694 – 862
[694] “Procris was (if perchance the fame of Oreithyia may have more probably reached
your ears) the sister of Oreithyia, the victim of violence. 1 If you should choose to compare
the face and the manners of the two, she was the more worthy to be carried off. Her father
Erechtheus united her to me; love, too, united her to me. I was pronounced happy, and so
I was. Not thus did it seem good to the gods; or even now, perhaps, I should be so. [700]
The second month was now passing, after the marriage rites, when the saffron-colored
Aurora, dispelling the darkness in the morn, beheld me, as I was planting nets for the horned
deer, from the highest summit of the ever-blooming Hymettus, and carried me off against
my will. By the permission of the goddess, let me relate what is true; [705] Though she is
comely with her rosy face, and though she possesses the confines of light, and possesses the
confines of darkness, though she is nourished with the draughts of nectar, still I loved
Procris; Procris was ever in my thoughts, Procris was ever on my lips. I alleged the sacred
ties of marriage, our late embraces, and our recent union, [710] and the prior engagements
of my forsaken bed. The goddess was provoked, and said, ‘Cease your complaints, ungrateful
man; keep your Procris; but, if my mind is gifted with foresight, you will wish that you had
not had her;” and thus, in anger, she sent me back to her.
[713] “While I was returning, and was revolving the sayings of the goddess within myself,
there began to be apprehensions that my wife had not duly observed the laws of wedlock.
[715] Both her beauty and her age bade me be apprehensive of her infidelity; yet her virtue
forbade me to believe it. But yet, I had been absent; and besides, she, from whom I was just
returning, was an example of such criminality: but we that are in love, apprehend all
mishaps. [720] I then endeavored to discover that, by reason of which I must feel anguish,
and by bribes to make attempts upon her chaste constancy. Aurora encouraged this
apprehension, and changed my shape, as I seemed then to perceive. I entered Athens, the
city of Pallas, unknown to any one, and I went into my own house. The house itself was
without fault, and gave indications of chastity, [725] and was in concern for the carrying off
of its master.
[726] “Having, with difficulty, made my way to the daughter of Erechtheus by means of
a thousand artifices, soon as I beheld her, I was amazed, and was nearly abandoning my
projected trial of her constancy; with difficulty did I restrain myself from telling the truth,
with difficulty from giving her the kisses which I ought. She was in sorrow; [730] but yet no
one could be more beautiful than she, even in her sadness; and she was consuming with
regret for her husband, torn from her. Only think, Phocus, how great was the beauty of her,
whom even sorrow did so much become. Why should I tell how often her chaste manners
repulsed all my attempts? [735] How often she said, ‘I am reserved for but one, wherever he
is; for that one do I reserve my joys.’ For whom, in his senses, would not that trial of her
fidelity have been sufficiently great? Yet I was not content; and I strove to wound myself,
Oreithyia (Orithya) and Procris were two of the four daughters of Erechtheus, king of Athens. Boreas, the North
Wind, fell in love with Oreithyia and when she refused his entreaties he (Ovid Met. Vi.675 – 721).
Divine Riddles - 122
while I was promising to give vast sums for but one night, [740] and forced her at last to
waver, by increasing the reward. On this I cried out, ‘Lo! I, the gallant in disguise, to my
sorrow, and lavish in promises, to my misery, am your real husband; You treacherous
woman! You are caught, and I the witness.’ She said nothing: only, overwhelmed with silent
shame, she fled from the house of treachery, together with her wicked husband; [745] and
from her resentment against me, abhorring the whole race of men, she used to wander on
the mountains, employed in the pursuits of Diana. Then, a more violent flame penetrated
to my bones, thus deserted. [750] I begged forgiveness, and owned myself in fault; and that
I too might have yielded to a similar fault, on presents being made; if presents so large had
been offered. Upon my confessing this, having first revenged her offended modesty, she was
restored to me, and passed the pleasant years in harmony with me. She gave me, besides, as
though in herself she had given me but a small present, a dog as a gift, [755] which when
her own Cynthia 1 had presented to her, she had said, ‘He will excel all dogs in running.’
She gave her, too, a javelin, which, as you see, I am carrying in my hand.
[757] “Do you inquire what was the fortune of the other present? Hear then: You will
be astonished at the novelty of the wondrous fact. [760] The son of Laius had solved the
verses not understood by the wit of others before him; and the mysterious propounder lay
precipitated, forgetful of her riddle. But the genial Themis, indeed, did not leave such things
unrevenged. 2 Immediately another plague was sent forth against Aonian Thebes; and many
of the peasants fed the savage monster, both by the destruction of their cattle, and their own
as well. [765] We, the neighboring youth, came together, and enclosed the extensive fields
with toils. With a light bound it leaped over the nets, and passed over the topmost barriers
of the toils that were set. The couples were taken off the dogs, from which, as they followed,
[770] it fled, and eluded them, no otherwise than as a winged bird. I myself, too, was
requested, with eager demands, for my dog Laelaps; that was the name of my wife’s present.
For some time already had he been struggling to get free from the couples, and strained
them with his neck, as they detained him. Scarce was he well let loose; and yet we could not
now tell where he was; [775] the warm dust had the prints of his feet, but he himself was
snatched from our eyes. A spear does not fly swifter than he did, nor pellets whirled from
the twisted sling, nor the light arrow from the Gortynian bow. The top of a hill, standing in
the middle, looks down upon the plains below. [780] There I climb, and I enjoy the sight of
an unusual chase; wherein the wild beast one while seemed to be caught, at another to elude
his very bite; and it does not fly in a direct course, and straight onward, but deceives his
mouth, as he pursues it, [785] and returns in circles, that its enemy may not have his full
career against it. He keeps close to it, and pursues it, a match for him; and though like as if
he has caught it, still he fails to catch it, and vainly snaps at the air. I was now turning to
the resources of my javelin; while my right hand was poising it, and while I was attempting
to insert my fingers in the thongs of it, I turned away my eyes; and again I had directed
them, recalled to the same spot, when, most wondrous, [790] I beheld two marble statues in
the middle of the plain; you would think the one was flying, the other barking in pursuit.
Cynthia is another name for Dianna – Artemis in Greek.
Themis is the goddess of law and equity and she had sanctuary at Thebes. For both of these reasons she would try to
avenge the wrong of the murder of Laius.
Divine Riddles - 123
Some god undoubtedly, if any god really did attend to them, desired them both to remain
unconquered in this contest of speed.”
[794] Thus far did he speak; and then he was silent. “But,” said Phocus, “what fault is
there in that javelin?” whereupon he thus informed him of the demerits of the javelin. “Let
my joys, Phocus, be the first portion of my sorrowful story. These will I first relate. O son of
Aeacus, I delight to remember the happy time, during which, for the first years after my
marriage, I was completely blessed in my wife, and she was happy in her husband. [800]
A mutual kindness and social love possessed us both. Neither would she have preferred the
bed of Jupiter before my love; nor was there any woman that could have captivated me, not
even if Venus herself had come. Equal flames fired the breasts of us both.
[804] The Sun striking the tops of the mountains with his early rays, I was wont generally
to go with youthful ardor into the woods, to hunt; but I neither suffered my servants, nor
my horses, nor my quick-scented hounds to go with me, nor the knotty nets to attend me;
I was safe with my javelin. But when my right hand was satiated with the slaughter of wild
beasts, I betook myself to the cool spots and the shade, [810] and the breeze which was
breathing forth from the cool valleys. The gentle breeze was sought by me, in the midst of
the heat. For the breeze was I awaiting; that was a refreshment after my toils: ‘Come, breeze,’
I was wont to sing, for I remember it full well, ‘and, most grateful, refresh me, and enter my
breast; and, as you are wont, [800] be willing to assuage the heat with which I am parched.’
Perhaps I may have added (for so my destiny prompted me) many words of endearment, and
I may have been accustomed to say, ‘You are my great delight; you do refresh and cherish
me; you make me to love the woods and lonely haunts, [820] and your breath is ever courted
by my face.’ I was not aware that someone was giving an ear, deceived by these ambiguous
words; and thinking the name of the breeze, so often called upon by me, to be that of a
Nymph, he believed some Nymph was beloved by me.
[825] “The rash informer of an imaginary crime immediately went to Procris, and with
his whispering tongue related what he had heard. Love is a credulous thing. When it was
told her, she fell down fainting, with sudden grief; and coming to, after a long time, she
declared that she was wretched, and born to a cruel destiny; and she complained about my
constancy. Excited by a groundless charge, [830] she dreads that which, indeed, is nothing;
and fears a name without a body; and, in her wretchedness, grieves as though about a real
rival. Yet she is often in doubt, and, in her extreme wretchedness, hopes she may be
deceived, and denies credit to the information; and unless she beholds it herself, will not
pass sentence upon the criminality of her husband. [835] The following light of the morning
had banished the night, when I sallied forth, and sought the woods; and being victorious in
the fields, I said, ‘Come, breeze, and relieve my pain;’ and suddenly I seemed to hear I know
not what groans in the midst of my words; yet I said, ‘Come hither, most delightful breeze.’
[840] Again, the falling leaves making a gentle noise, I thought it was a wild beast, and I
discharged my flying weapon. It was Procris; and receiving the wound in the middle of her
breast, she cried out, ‘Ah, wretched me!’ When the voice of my attached wife was heard,
headlong and distracted, I ran towards that voice. [845] I found her dying, and staining her
scattered vestments with blood, and drawing her own present (ah, wretched me!) from out
of her wound; I lifted up her body, dearer to me than my own, in my guilty arms, and I
bound up her cruel wounds with the garments torn from my bosom; and I endeavored to
Divine Riddles - 124
stanch the blood, and besought her that she would not forsake me, [850] thus criminal, by
her death. She, wanting strength, and now expiring, forced herself to utter these few words:
[851] “‘I suppliantly beg you, by the ties of our marriage, and by the gods above, and my
own gods, and if I have deserved anything well of you, by that as well, and by the cause of
my death, my love even now enduring, [855] while I am perishing, do not allow the Nymph
Aura [breeze] to share with you my marriage ties.’ She thus spoke; and then, at last,
I perceived the mistake of the name, and informed her of it. But what avails informing her?
She sinks; and her little strength flies, together with her blood. [860] And so long as she can
look on anything, she gazes on me, and breathes out upon me, on my face, her unhappy life;
but she seems to die free from care, and with a more contented look.”
The son of Cephalus was Arcisius. Arcisius had a son, Laertes, who sailed with Jason on the
Argo. His son was Odysseus, who is one of the principal characters in the Trojan War Saga and
the subject of Homer’s Odyssey.
Pausanias i.37.6
…For legend says that Cephalus, the son of Deion, having helped Amphitryon to destroy
the Teleboans, was the first to dwell in that island which now is called after him Cephallenia,
and that he resided till that time at Thebes, exiled from Athens because he had killed his
wife Procris.
Cretheus, son of Aeolus, married Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus (his own niece). Their son
Aeson married Polymede (aka Amphinome) and they had a son, Jason.
Jason and the Argonauts
Apollodorus i.9.16 - 26
[16] Aeson, son of Cretheus, had a son Jason by Polymede, daughter of Autolycus. Now
Jason dwelt in Iolcus, of which Pelias was king after Cretheus. But when Pelias consulted
the oracle concerning the kingdom, the god warned him to beware of the man with a single
sandal. At first the king did not understand the oracle, but afterwards he apprehended it.
For when he was offering a sacrifice at the sea to Poseidon, he sent for Jason, among many
others, to participate in it. Now Jason loved husbandry and therefore lived in the country,
but he hastened to the sacrifice, and in crossing the river Anaurus he lost a sandal in the
stream and landed with only one. When Pelias saw him, he remembered the oracle, and
going up to Jason asked him what, supposing he had the power, he would do if he had
received an oracle that he should be murdered by one of the citizens. Jason answered,
whether at haphazard or instigated by the angry Hera in order that Medea should prove a
curse to Pelias, who did not honour Hera, “I would command him,” said he, “to bring the
Golden Fleece.” No sooner did Pelias hear that than he bade him go in quest of the fleece.
Now it was at Colchis in a grove of Ares, hanging on an oak and guarded by a sleepless
dragon. Sent to fetch the fleece, Jason called in the help of Argus, son of Phrixus; and Argus,
by Athena's advice, built a ship of fifty oars named Argo after its builder; and at the prow
Divine Riddles - 125
Athena fitted in a speaking timber from the oak of Dodona. 1 When the ship was built, and
he inquired of the oracle, the god gave him leave to assemble the nobles of Greece and sail
away. And those who assembled were as follows: Tiphys, son of Hagnias, who steered the
ship; Orpheus, son of Oeagrus; Zetes and Calais, sons of Boreas; 2 Castor and Pollux, sons
of Zeus; 3 Telamon and Peleus, sons of Aeacus; Heracles, son of Zeus; Theseus, son of Aegeus;
ldas and Lynceus, sons of Aphareus; Amphiaraus, son of Oicles; Caeneus, son of Coronus;
Palaemon, son of Hephaestus or of Aetolus; Cepheus, son of Aleus; Laertes son of Arcisius; 4
Autolycus, son of Hermes; Atalanta, daughter of Schoeneus; Menoetius, son of Actor; Actor,
son of Hippasus ; Admetus, son of Pheres; Acastus, son of Pelias; Eurytus, son of Hermes;
Meleager, son of Oeneus; Ancaeus, son of Lycurgus; Euphemus, son of Poseidon; Poeas, son
of Thaumacus; Butes, son of Teleon; Phanus and Staphylus, sons of Dionysus; Erginus, son
of Poseidon; Periclymenus, son of Neleus; Augeas, son of the Helios; Iphiclus, son of
Thestius; Argus, son of Phrixus; Euryalus, son of Mecisteus; Peneleus, son of Hippalmus;
Leitus, son of Alector; Iphitus, son of Naubolus; Ascalaphus and lalmenus, sons of Ares;
Asterius, son of Cometes ; Polyphemus, son of Elatus.
[17] These with Jason as admiral put to sea and touched at Lemnos. At that time it
chanced that Lemnos was bereft of men and ruled over by a queen, Hypsipyle, daughter of
Thoas, the reason of which was as follows. The Lemnian women did not honour Aphrodite,
and she visited them with a terrible smell; therefore their spouses took captive women from
the neighbouring country of Thrace and bedded with them. Thus dishonoured, the Lemnian
women murdered their fathers and husbands, but Hypsipyle alone saved her father Thoas
by hiding him. So having put in to Lemnos, at that time ruled by women, the Argonauts
had intercourse with the women, and Hypsipyle bedded with Jason and bore sons, Euneus
and Nebrophonus.
[18] And after Lemnos they landed among the Doliones, of whom Cyzicus was king. He
received them kindly. But having put to sea from there by night and met with contrary
winds, they lost their bearings and landed again among the Doliones. However, the
Doliones, taking them for a Pelasgian army (for they were constantly harassed by the
Pelasgians), joined battle with them at night in mutual ignorance of each other. The
Argonauts slew many and among the rest Cyzicus; but by day, when they knew what they
had done, they mourned and cut off their hair and gave Cyzicus a costly burial and after the
burial they sailed away and touched at Mysia.
[19] There they left Heracles and Polyphemus. For Hylas, son of Thiodamas, a minion
of Heracles, had been sent to draw water and was ravished away by nymphs on account of
his beauty. But Polyphemus heard him cry out, and drawing his sword gave chase in the
belief that he was being carried off by robbers. Falling in with Heracles, he told him; and
while the two were seeking for Hylas, the ship put to sea. So Polyphemus founded a city
Cius in Mysia and reigned as king; but Heracles returned to Argos. However Herodorus says
that Heracles did not sail at all at that time, but served as a slave at the court of Omphale.
The temple of Zeus at Dodona, where the Black Doves landed and where prophesies were heard.
Boreas, the North Wind, raped Oreithyia, the daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens. Zetes and Calais were her
The sons of Leda, wife of Tyndarius of Sparta. Castor and Pollux were the brothers of Clytemnestra and Helen.
Laertes, a descendant of Cephalus, was king of Ithaca and father of Odysseus.
Divine Riddles - 126
But Pherecydes says that he was left behind at Aphetae in Thessaly, the Argo having declared
with human voice that she could not bear his weight. Nevertheless Demaratus has recorded
that Heracles sailed to Colchis; for Dionysius even affirms that he was the leader of the
[20] From Mysia they departed to the land of the Bebryces, which was ruled by King
Amycus, son of Poseidon and a Bithynian nymph. Being a doughty man he compelled the
strangers that landed to box and in that way made an end of them. So going to the Argo as
usual, he challenged the best man of the crew to a boxing match. Pollux undertook to box
against him and killed him with a blow on the elbow. When the Bebryces made a rush at
him, the chiefs snatched up their arms and put them to flight with great slaughter.
[21] Thence they put to sea and came to land at Salmydessus in Thrace, where dwelt
Phineus, a seer who had lost the sight of both eyes. Some say he was a son of Agenor, but
others that he was a son of Poseidon, and he is variously alleged to have been blinded by the
gods for foretelling men the future; or by Boreas and the Argonauts because he blinded his
own sons at the instigation of their stepmother; or by Poseidon, because he revealed to the
children of Phrixus how they could sail from Colchis to Greece. The gods also sent the
Harpies to him. These were winged female creatures, and when a table was laid for Phineus,
they flew down from the sky and snatched up most of the victuals, and what little they left
stank so that nobody could touch it. When the Argonauts would have consulted him about
the voyage, he said that he would advise them about it if they would rid him of the Harpies.
So the Argonauts laid a table of viands beside him, and the Harpies with a shriek suddenly
pounced down and snatched away the food. When Zetes and Calais, the sons of Boreas, saw
that, they drew their swords and, being winged, pursued them through the air. Now it was
fated that the Harpies should perish by the sons of Boreas, and that the sons of Boreas
should die when they could not catch up a fugitive. So the Harpies were pursued and one
of them fell into the river Tigres in Peloponnese, the river that is now called Harpys after
her; some call her Nicothoe, but others Aellopus. But the other, named Ocypete or,
according to others, Ocythoe (but Hesiod calls her Ocypode) 1 fled by the Propontis till she
came to the Echinadian
Islands, which are now called Strophades after her; for when she came to them she
turned (estrapke) and being at the shore fell for very weariness with her pursuer. But
Apollonius in the Argonautica says that the Harpies were pursued to the Strophades Islands
and suffered no harm, having sworn an oath that they would wrong Phineus no more.
[22] Being rid of the Harpies, Phineas revealed to the Argonauts the course of their
voyage, and advised them about the Clashing Rocks in the sea. 2 These were huge cliffs,
which, dashed together by the force of the winds, closed the sea passage. Thick was the mist
that swept over them, and loud the crash, and it was impossible for even the birds to pass
between them. So he told them to let fly a dove between the rocks, and, if they saw it pass
safe through, to thread the narrows with an easy mind, but if they saw it perish, then not to
force a passage. When they heard that, they put to sea, and on nearing the rocks let fly a
dove from the prow, and as she flew the clash of the rocks nipped off the tip of her tail. So,
An error, Hesiod calls her Ocypete (Theogony 267)
Now called the Bosphorus, this is the narrow passage between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. The modern
city of Istanbul occupies both banks.
Divine Riddles - 127
waiting till the rocks had recoiled, with hard rowing and the help of Hera, they passed
through, the extremity of the ship's ornamented poop being shorn away right round. 1
Henceforth the Clashing Rocks stood still; for it was fated that, so soon as a ship had made
the passage, they should come to rest completely.
[23] The Argonauts now arrived among the Mariandynians, and there King Lycus
received them kindly. There, Idmon the seer died of a wound inflicted by a boar; and there
too died Tiphys, and Ancaeus undertook to steer the ship. And having sailed past the
Thermodon 2 and the Caucasus they came to the river Phasis, which is in the Colchian land. 3
When the ship was brought into port, Jason repaired to Aeetes, and setting forth the charge
laid on him by Pelias invited him to give him the fleece. The other promised to give it if
single-handed he would yoke the brazen-footed bulls.
These were two wild bulls that he had, of enormous size, a gift of Hephaestus; they had
brazen feet and puffed fire from their mouths. These creatures Aeetes ordered Jason to yoke
and to sow dragon's teeth; for he had got from Athena half of the dragon's teeth which
Cadmus sowed in Thebes.
While Jason puzzled how he could yoke the bulls, Medea conceived a passion for him:
Now she was a witch, daughter of Aeetes and Idyia, daughter of Ocean. And fearing lest he
might be destroyed by the bulls, she, keeping the thing from her father, promised to help
him to yoke the bulls and to deliver to him the fleece, if he would swear to have her to wife
and would take her with him on the voyage to Greece. When Jason swore to do so, she gave
him a drug with which she bade him anoint his shield, spear, and body when he was about
to yoke the bulls; for she said that, anointed with it, he could for a single day be harmed
neither by fire nor by iron. And she signified to him that, when the teeth were sown, armed
men would spring up from the ground against him; and when he saw a close grouping of
them he was to throw stones into their midst from a distance, and when they fought each
other about that, he was then to kill them. On hearing that, Jason anointed himself with
the drug, and being come to the grove of the temple he sought the bulls, and though they
charged him with a flame of fire, he yoked them. And when he had sown the teeth, there
rose armed men from the ground; and where he saw several together, he pelted them unseen
with stones, and when they fought each other he drew near and slew them.
But though the bulls were yoked, Aeetes did not give the fleece; for he wished to bum
down the Argo and kill the crew. But before he could do so, Medea brought Jason by night
to the fleece, and having lulled to sleep by her drugs the dragon that guarded it, she possessed
herself of the fleece and in Jason’s company came to the Argo. She was attended, too, by her
brother Apsyrtus. And with them the Argonauts put to sea by night.
[24] When Aeetes discovered the daring deeds done by Medea, he started off in pursuit
of the ship; but when she saw him near, Medea murdered her brother and cutting him limb
from limb threw the pieces into the deep. Gathering the child’s limbs, Aeetes fell behind in
the pursuit; wherefore he turned back, and, having buried the rescued limbs of his child, he
The ‘poop’ of a ship is the stern, or back end. It comes from the Latin puppis and French poupe.
The Thermedon River, modern Terme, flows north through Turkey into the Black Sea near the city of Samsun.
In modern Georgia. The ancient Phasis River is now called the Rioni and empties into the Black Sea at the city of
Poti, Georgia.
Divine Riddles - 128
called the place Tomi. 1 But he sent out many of the Colchians to search for the Argo,
threatening that if they did not bring Medea to him, they should suffer the punishment due
to her; so they separated and pursued the search in diverse places.
When the Argonauts were already sailing past the Eridanus River, Zeus sent a furious
storm upon them, and drove them out of their course, because he was angry at the murder
of Apsyrtus. And as they were sailing past the Apsyrtides Islands, 2 the ship spoke, saying that
the wrath of Zeus would not cease unless they journeyed to Ausonia and were purified by
Circe for the murder of Apsyrtus. So when they had sailed past the Ligurian and Celtic
nations and had voyaged through the Sardinian Sea, they skirted Tyrrhenia and came to
Aeaea, where they supplicated Circe and were purified.
[25] And as they sailed past the Sirens, Orpheus restrained the Argonauts by chanting
a counter melody. Butes alone swam off to the Sirens, but Aphrodite carried him away and
settled him in Lilybaeum. 3 After the Sirens, the ship encountered Charybdis and Scylla and
the Wandering Rocks, 4 above which a great flame and smoke were seen rising. But Thetis
with the Nereids steered the ship through them at the summons of Hera. Having passed by
the Island of Thrinacia, where are the kine of the Sun, they came to Corcyra, 5 the island of
the Phaeacians, of which Alcinous was king. But when the Colchians could not find the
ship, some of them settled at the Ceraunian Mountains, and some journeyed to Illyria and
colonized the Apsyrtides Islands. But some came to the Phaeacians, and finding the Argo
there, they demanded of Alcinous that he should give up Medea. He answered, that if she
already knew Jason, he would give her to him, but that if she were still a maid he would send
her away to her father. However, Arete, wife of Alcinous, anticipated matters by marrying
Medea to Jason; hence the Colchians settled down among the Phaeacians and the Argonauts
put to sea with Medea.
[26] Sailing by night they encountered a violent storm, and Apollo, taking his stand on
the Melantian ridges, flashed lightning down, shooting a shaft into the sea. Then they
perceived an island close at hand, and anchoring there they named it Anaphe, because it
had loomed up unexpectedly. So they founded an altar of Radiant Apollo, and having
offered sacrifice they betook them to feasting; and twelve handmaids, whom Arete had given
to Medea, jested merrily with the chiefs; whence it is still customary for the women to jest
at the sacrifice.
Putting to sea from there, they were hindered from touching at Crete by Talos. Some
say that he was a man of the Brazen Race, others that he was given to Minos by Hephaestus;
he was a brazen man, but some say that he was a bull. He had a single vein extending from
his neck to his ankles, and a bronze nail was rammed home at the end of the vein. This
Talos kept guard, running round the island thrice every day; wherefore, when he saw the
Argo standing inshore, he pelted it as usual with stones. His death was brought about by the
Originally a colony of Miletus, Tomi is a small town on the Black Sea coast in modern Romania. They seem to be a
bit off course! According to Apollonius, Apsyrtus pursued Jason and Medea until Jason landed and set an ambush
from which he killed Apsyrtus.
Off course indeed! The Eridanus is a river in Attica, near Athens, and the Apsyrtides Islands are in the N. Adriatic
A town on Sicily.
The Lipari Islands, just to the North West of the point where Sicily and the Italian Peninsula are closest.
Modern Kerkira (Corfu), on the west coast of Greece near the Albanian border.
Divine Riddles - 129
wiles of Medea, whether, as some say, she drove him mad by drugs, or, as others say, she
promised to make him immortal and then drew out the nail, so that all the ichor gushed
out and he died. But some say that Poeas shot him dead in the ankle.
After tarrying a single night there they put in to Aegina to draw water, and a contest
arose among them concerning the drawing of the water. Thence they sailed betwixt Euboea
and Locris and came to Iolcus, having completed the whole voyage in four months.
The voyage of Jason and the Argonauts was re-enacted in 1985 by the explorer and writer,
Tim Severin. His account is available at: http://www.timseverin.net/books_jason_voyage.html.
The account of Jason and Medea in Iolcus is brief and a bit confused in Apollodorus. Both
Ovid and Diodorus offer much more colourful narratives, but one will suffice here:
Jason and Medea
Diodorus iv.50 – 54
[50] The return of the heroes was not yet known; but the common report was
throughout all Thessaly, that Jason and all his companions were destroyed some where or
other about Pontus. Pelias therefore now thinkkng it a fit opportunity to cut off all that
might in any probability seem to affect the kingdom, compelled Jason's father to drink bull's
blood, and murdered his brother Promachus, who was then but a mere child. But when
Amphinome his mother was sought for to be butchered, she acted the part of a manlike and
noble spirit, worthy of remark; for running to the king's palace, she issued the most heavy
curses upon his head, wishing that due vengeance might overtake him for his impiety; and
then immediately stabbed herself, and so like a hero ended her days.
Pelias having thus extinguished Jason's whole family, in a short time after paid for it,
and received the due reward of his wickedness: for Jason in the night, entering a port of
Thessaly not far from the city Iolchos, (yet out of view of the inhabitants), was by one
informed of the sad state and condition of his family, and thereupon all the heroes were in
readiness to assist Jason, and to undergo all hazards for that purpose; but there arose some
difference of opinion amongst them; for some were for surprising the king with a sudden
assault, others were for the raising of forces out of every country, and so to join against him
in a common war: for it was impossible for three and-forty men, to think to overcome so
potent a prince, both as to his riches and the number of his cities. In these different councils
it is said, that Medea promised to kill the king by a stratagem, and deliver up the palace into
their hands, without any hazard to any of them. The heroes wondering at what she said,
asked how she would accomplish it? Who answered, that she had great variety of poisons of
admirable strength and efficacy, some of them found out by her mother Hecate, and others
by her sister Circe; that she had not as yet made use of them for the killing of any man, but
now by the help of them, she would execute due and deserved punishment upon the wicked
wretches; and told the Argonauts her whole design; after what manner she would get to the
king; and promised that from some turret in the palace that looked towards the sea, she
would give a sign to their watch by fire in the night, and by smoke in the day.
[51] Hereupon she provided a hollow image of the goddess Artemis, in which she hid
several sorts of poisons, and anointed her hair with a sort of ointment, which turned it all
grey and hoary, and with the same ointment wrinkled up her face and her whole body, so
Divine Riddles - 130
that she looked like an old withered hag. Then taking the goddess with her, ordered in all
respects so as to excite the common people to a superstitious adoration, she entered the city
when it was light; whereupon the people came running in to her from all quarters as if she
bad been an inspired priestess: and she herself commanded everybody to bear a reverend
regard to the goddess, who was now by the special providence of the gods, come to them
from the Hyperboreans, for the preservation of the king and the whole city. All being now
employed every where in adoring the goddess, and preparing sacrifices in honour of her, the
whole city was possessed with such a fanatical fury of superstition, that Medea slily procured
herself to be brought into the palace; where with her delusions she infatuated both Pelias
and his daughters with such a pang of superstition, that they all believed the goddess was
come to load the king's house with all manner of blessings; for she declared that Artemis,
in a chariot drawn through the air by dragons, had passed over many parts of the world, and
had now at length made choice of the king as the most pious prince to settle her image, and
establish her worship there forever; adding, that she was commanded by the application of
some medicines to give a check to his old age, and restore him to his former youth and
strength, and bestow many other blessings upon him that might make his life comfortable
to himself, and pleasing to the goddess.
The king being amazed at this strange and unusual discourse, she promised him,
forthwith, to give an assurance of the truth of what she said, by an example in her own body.
To this end therefore she ordered one of Pelias’s daughters to bring her some spring-water;
which being done, she shut lierself up in a little room, and bathing her body all over in the
water, she cleansed herself of the ointment, and so being restored to her former vigour, as
soon as she came into the king's presence, all the beholders were amazed: for they conceived
that an old woman was transformed into a youthful and beautiful virgin by the power and
providence of the gods. She forthwith likewise, by her witchcraft, caused the appearance of
the shape of the dragons to appear, by which the goddess was drawn through the air from
the Hyperboreans to continue as a guest with Pelias.
These things done by her, being looked upon to be above the course of nature, the king
highly honoured her, and believed all she said to be true; and it is said that he took his
daughters aside, and ordered them to assist her, and do whatever she commanded, and that
it was fitter his own children should apply medicines to his body than servants, in order to
reap the benefits designed him by the favour of the gods. Pelias therefore having expressly
commanded that his daughters should observe whatever Medea ordered to be done, in
reference to the care of their father's body, were ready in all things to obey her.
[52] About midnight, therefore, when Pelias was fast asleep, she said it was absolutely
necessary that his body should be boiled in a cauldron, and though the young ladies easily
and readily of their own accord, prepared themselves to obey her, yet she applied herself to
another experiment for the gaining further credit to what she said: there was an old ram
bred up in the stall, which she told the young ladies, she would first boil, and then it should
come forth a lamb. Whereupon they agreed, and then it is said, she cut the ram into small
pieces, and boiled them, till to their seeming, by the use of the enchanted drugs, she brought
forth a young tamb out of the kettle, to the admiration and astonishment of the young
women who now thinking they might with great assurance depend upon what she promised,
resolved to observe her in all her commands; And all of them, but Alcestis (who out of a
Divine Riddles - 131
pious and natural affection to her father, would not lay hands upon him) cudgelled him to
Whereupon Medea pretended that vows and firayers were first to be made to the moon,
before his body was dissected, and cast into the cauldron: to which end, she carried the
young ladies with torches and fire-brands to the top of the higliest part of the palace; where
Medea to spin out time, mumbled out a long prayer in the language of Colchis, that the
Argonauts might make the assault in the mean time; who now seeing the fire from the turret,
concluded the king was despatched; and therefore in a body they made hastily to the city;
where presently mounting over the walls, they entered the palace with their drawn swords,
and killed the watch that opposed them. As soon as Pelias's daughters were come down to
boil their father, unexpectedly seeing Jason with the rest of the noble youth his companions,
entered into the midst of the palace, they grievously cried out with exceeding sorrow and
lamentation: having now not their power to revenge themselves upon Medea, nor time to
purge themselves from the horrid fact that by her delusions they had committed, they had
forthwith murdered themselves, if Jason (pitying their miserable condition) had not
prevented them, and comforted them with this consideration, that their present misery was
not occasioned by their own malicious contrivance, but that they were without any fault of
theirs led aside by the deceit of another: he promised them likewise, that their whole family
should be civilly and honourably used.
[53.1] Having therefore called together a general assembly, he excused what was done,
and declared that he had dealt far more gently with the authors of those injuries than they
deserved; and what he had done, was far short of what he and his had suflered. Then he
placed Acastus the eldest son of Pelias upon his father's throne, and carried himself with all
due respect to the king's daughters; [2] and in performance of what he had promised, it is
said, he at length married them to the greatest persons of quality. Alcestis, the eldest, he
married to Admetus the Thessalian, the son of Pheretes; Amphinome to Andraimon, the
brother of Leonteus; and Euadne to Canas the prince of Phocis, the son of Cephalus. And
these were the things afterwards done by Jason. Then arriving with the rest of the heroes in
the Isthmus of Peloponnesus he there sacrificed to Poseidon and dedicated the ship Argo
to that god. [3] Having gained the special fevour of Creon kiug of Corinth, he was made free
of the city and ever after dwelt among the Corinthians.
[Some lines are omitted]
[54.1] It is said that he and Medea, as man and wife, lived together ten years in Corinth,
and of her first begat twins, Thessalus and Alcimena, and then a third called Tisandrus,
much younger than the other two. [2] During all this timey they say Medea was greatly
devoted of her husband, being eminent not only for the excelleney of her beauty but for her
prudence and other virtuous qualifications. But it is said that when she grew old and her
beauty began to decay, Jason fell in love with Glauce, the daughter of Creon, and courted
the young lady to marry her. [3] The father agreed to the match, and appointed a day, but
Jason they say, first applied himself to Medea, in order to persuade her to a voluntary
divorce; telling her that he did not marry this other lady out of any aversion or disgust to
her, [4] but that he might have children to be heirs to the royal family. Hearing this, Medea
flew into a rage and appealed to the gods, the witnesses of his oath and vows, for revenge.
However, it is said, Jason without any further regard to her, married the king's daughter.
Divine Riddles - 132
[5] Medea therefore being commanded to leave the city, having only one day allowed
her by Creon to prepare for her departure, by the art of witchcraft she changed the form of
her countenance, and entered the palace in the night, and by a root found out by Circe, her
sister (which being kindled, was of such a nature, as it could not be extinguished) she set
the palace on fire. And now all being in flame, Jason sprang out from the burning and
escaped, but Glauce and her father Creon hemmed in on every side by the fire, were both
[6] Some historians say that Medea’s sons presented the new bride with poisoned
plasters, which she applying to herself, miserably perished, and her father together with her,
by only touching her body in endeavouring to help her. [7] Medea thus succeeding in her
first attempt, proceeded sill to be further revenged upon Jason; for she was so far transported
with rage and jealousy, yea, with implacable cruelty, that notwithstanding Jason's narrow
escape, and the destruction of the bride, she further enhanced his misery by murdering his
sons he had by her; for she cut all their throats (except one who made his escape) and buried
them in the temple of Hera; and when she had done, at midnight fled with some of her
faithful maid-servants from Corinth to Heracles at Thebes, who undertaking as a surety for
Jason, that he should perform his vows made to her in Colchis, promised to assist her in
taking revenge.
The more common version is that Medea went directly from Corinth to Athens and was
received there by Augeas, the King. We will return to they story of Medea below, in the Athenian
Xuthus, Descendants of
Xuthus, son of Hellen, married Creusa, the daughter of Erechtheus king of Athens. They had
two sons, Achaeus and Ion.
Pausanias vii.1.2 – 3
[1.2] Later on, after the death of Hellen, Xuthus was expelled from Thessaly by the rest
of the sons of Hellen, who charged him with having appropriated some of the ancestral
property. But he fled to Athens, where he was deemed worthy to wed the daughter of
Erechtheus, by whom he had sons, Achaeus and Ion. On the death of Erechtheus Xuthus
was appointed judge to decide which of his sons should succeed him. He decided that
Cecrops, the eldest of them, should be king, and was accordingly banished from the land by
the rest of the sons of Erechtheus.
[1.3] He reached Aegialus, made his home there, and there died.
Achaeus and Ion
Pausanias vii. 1.3 - 4
… Of his sons, Achaeus with the assistance of allies from Aegialus and Athens returned
to Thessaly and recovered the throne of his fathers: Ion, while gathering an army against the
Aegialians and Selinus their king, received a message from Selinus, who offered to give him
in marriage Helice, his only child, as well as to adopt him as his son and successor.
Divine Riddles - 133
[1.4] It so happened that the proposal found favour with Ion, and on the death of
Selinus he became king of the Aegialians. He called the city he founded in Aegialus Helice
after his wife, and called the inhabitants Ionians after himself. This, however, was not a
change of name, but an addition to it, for the folk were named Aegialian Ionians.
[1.5] At that time in the reign of Ion the Eleusinians made war on the Athenians, and
these having invited Ion to be their leader in the war, he met his death in Attica, his tomb
being in the deme of Potamus. The descendants of Ion became rulers of the Ionians, until
they themselves as well as the people were expelled by the Achaeans. The Achaeans at that
time had themselves been expelled from Lacedaemon and Argos by the Dorians.
Protogeneia, Descendants of:
Protogeneia, the daughter of Deucalion and Pyrrha, was raped by Zeus and she had a son,
Aethlius. He led a group of Aeolian settlers to the area now called Elis. Aethlius married his cousin
Calyce, the daughter of Aetolus and Enarete, and they had a son name Endymion.
Pausanias v.1.3 - 5
[v.1.3] The Eleans we know crossed over from Calydon and Aetolia generally. Their
earlier history I found to be as follows. The first to rule in this land, they say, was Aethlius,
who was the son of Zeus and of Protogeneia, the daughter of Deucalion, and the father of
Endymion. The Moon, they say, fell in love with this Endymion and bore him fifty
daughters. Others, with greater probability, say that Endymion married Asterodia, other say
she was Cromia, the daughter of Itonus, the son of Amphictyon, others again say she was
Hyperippe, the daughter of Arcas. But all agree that Endymion had three sons; Paeon,
Epeius and Aetolus; and a daughter, Eurycyda. Endymion decided the succession by having
his sons run a race at Olympia and Epeius won, succeeded to the throne and named his
subjects Epeans.
Of his brothers, they say that Aetolus remained at home, while Paeon, angry at losing
the race, went into exile to the farthest place possible; the region beyond the River Axius
and that region was named, after him, Paeonia.
The version recorded by Apollodorus is only slightly different, but the most striking fact about
the Endymion myth is that there are only a few brief mentions of him in our primary sources, the
excerpt below being the longest, and yet this myth is very well represented in later art.
Apollodorus i. 7.5
Calyce and Aethlius had a son Endymion who led Aeolians from Thessaly and founded
Elis. But some say that he was a son of Zeus. As he was of surpassing beauty, the Moon fell
in love with him, and Zeus allowed him to choose what he would, and he chose to sleep for
ever, remaining deathless and ageless.
Later versions have it that Selene, the Moon, saw Endymion sleeping in a cave and was so
moved by his beauty and so fearful of his mortality that she asked Zeus to allow him to stay as he
was forever. What she meant, of course, is that he should stay young and beautiful, but she wasn’t
Divine Riddles - 134
specific enough in her request. Zeus granted the request, but literally, and Endymion stayed as he
was, sleeping in a cave, forever.
The moral of the story: Be careful what you wish for.
Aetolus, the son of Endymion, is the mythical founder of the Aetolian people:
Pausanias v.1.8
[1.8] Aetolus, who came to the throne after Epeius, was made to flee from Peloponnesus,
because the children of Apis tried and convicted him of unintentional homicide. For Apis,
the son of Jason, from Pallantium in Arcadia, was run over and killed by the chariot of
Aetolus at the games held in honour of Azan. Aetolus, son of Endymion, gave to the dwellers
around the Acheloiis their name, when he fled to this part of the mainland. 1 But the
kingdom of the Epeans fell to Eleius, the son of Eurycyda, daughter of Endymion and,
believe the tale who will, of Poseidon. It was Eleius who gave the inhabitants their present
name of Eleans in place of Epeans.
See The Labours of Heracles, #6.
Pausanias v.1.9 - 11
[1.9] Eleius had a son Augeas. Those who exaggerate his glory give a turn to the name
‘Eleius’ and make Helius to be the father of Augeas. This Augeas had so many cattle and
flocks of goats that most of his land remained untilled because of the dung of the animals.
Now he persuaded Heracles to cleanse for him the land from dung, either in return for a
part of Elis or possibly for some other reward. [10] Heracles accomplished this feat too,
turning aside the stream of the Menius into the dung. But, because Heracles had
accomplished his task by cunning, without toil, Augeas refused to give him his reward, and
banished Phyleus, the elder of his two sons, for objecting that he was wronging a man who
had been his benefactor. He made preparations himself to resist Heracles, should he attack
Elis; more particularly he made friends with the sons of Actor and with Amarynceus. [11]
Amarynceus, besides being a good soldier, had a father, Pyttius, of Thessalian descent, who
came from Thessaly to Elis. To Amarynceus, therefore, Augeas also gave a share in the
government of Elis; Actor and his sons had a share in the kingdom and were natives of the
country. For the father of Actor was Phorbas, son of Lapithus, and his mother was Hyrmina,
daughter of Epeius. Actor named after her the city of Hyrmina, which he founded in Elis.
Aetolus, the son of Endymion and Pronoe had two sons; Pleuron and Calydon. Calydon
founded the city that bears his name.
Agenor, the son of Pleuron, married his cousin Epicaste, the daughter of Calydon. They had
a daughter named Demonice, and she, by the god Ares, had a son, Thestius. Thestius married
Eurythemis. They had several children including a daughter named Leda and another named
The Achelous River flows south from Mt. Pindus into the Ionian Sea just west of the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth.
It separates Acarnania, to the West, from Aetolia, to the East.
Divine Riddles - 135
Hypermnestra. Leda married Tyndarius of Sparta and their story is told below. Agenor and
Epicaste also had a son, Porthaon and he was the father of Oeneus.
Oeneus and Althaea
Althaea was the daughter of Thestius and Eurythemis and she married Oeneus, the ruler of
Iliad ix. 523 – 45
[523] "I have an old story in my mind- a very old one- but you are all friends and I will
tell it. The Curetes and the Aetolians were fighting and killing one another round Calydonthe Aetolians defending the city and the Curetes trying to destroy it. For Artemis of the
golden throne was angry and did them hurt because Oeneus had not offered her his harvest
first-fruits. The other gods had all been feasted with hecatombs, but to the daughter of great
Zeus alone he had made no sacrifice. He had forgotten her, or somehow or other it had
escaped him, and this was a grievous sin. Thereon the archer goddess in her displeasure sent
a prodigious creature against him- a savage wild boar with great white tusks that did much
harm to his orchard lands, uprooting apple-trees in full bloom and throwing them to the
ground. But Meleager son of Oeneus got huntsmen and hounds from many cities and killed
it- for it was so monstrous that not a few were needed, and many a man did it stretch upon
his funeral pyre. On this the goddess set the Curetes and the Aetolians fighting furiously
about the head and skin of the boar.
The son of Oeneus and Althaea and the hero of the Myth of Calydonian Boar.
Iliad ix. 546 - 94
[546] "So long as Meleager was in the field things went badly with the Curetes, and for
all their numbers they could not hold their ground under the city walls; but in the course
of time Meleager was angered as even a wise man will sometimes be. He was incensed with
his mother Althaea, and therefore stayed at home with his wedded wife fair Cleopatra, who
was daughter of Marpessa daughter of Euenus, and of Ides the man then living. He it was
who took his bow and faced Pheobus Apollo himself for fair Marpessa's sake; her father and
mother then named her Alcyone, because her mother had mourned with the plaintive strains
of the halcyon-bird when Phoebus Apollo had carried her off. Meleager, then, stayed at
home with Cleopatra, nursing the anger which he felt by reason of his mother's curses. His
mother, grieving for the death of her brother, prayed the gods, and beat the earth with her
hands, calling upon Hades and on awful Persephone; she went down upon her knees and
her bosom was wet with tears as she prayed that they would kill her son- and Erinys that
walks in darkness and knows no ruth heard her from Erebus.
[569] "Then was heard the din of battle about the gates of Calydon, and the dull thump
of the battering against their walls. Thereon the elders of the Aetolians besought Meleager;
they sent the chiefest of their priests, and begged him to come out and help them, promising
him a great reward. They bade him choose fifty plough-gates, the most fertile in the plain of
Calydon, the one-half vineyard and the other open plough-land. The old warrior Oeneus
implored him, standing at the threshold of his room and beating the doors in supplication.
Divine Riddles - 136
His sisters and his mother herself besought him sore, but he the more refused them; those
of his comrades who were nearest and dearest to him also prayed him, but they could not
move him till the foe was battering at the very doors of his chamber, and the Curetes had
scaled the walls and were setting fire to the city. Then at last his sorrowing wife detailed the
horrors that befall those whose city is taken; she reminded him how the men are slain, and
the city is given over to the flames, while the women and children are carried into captivity;
when he heard all this, his heart was touched, and he donned his armour to go forth. Thus
of his own inward motion he saved the city of the Aetolians; but they now gave him nothing
of those rich rewards that they had offered earlier, and though he saved the city he took
nothing by it.
Another version of the story of Meleager and the Calydonian Boar is given by Apollodorus:
Apollodorus i.8.2
[2] Althaea had also a son Meleager, by Oeneus, though they say that he was begotten
by Ares. It is said that, when he was seven days old, the Fates came and declared that
Meleager should die when the brand burning on the hearth was burnt out. On hearing that,
Althaea snatched up the brand and deposited it in a chest. Meleager grew up to be an
invulnerable and gallant man, but came by his end in the following way. In sacrificing the
first fruits of the annual crops of the country to all the gods Oeneus forgot Artemis alone.
But she in her wrath sent a boar of extraordinary size and strength, which prevented the
land from being sown and destroyed the cattle and the people that fell in with it. To attack
this boar Oeneus called together all the noblest men of Greece, and promised that to him
who should kill the beast he would give the skin as a prize. Now the men who assembled to
hunt the boar were these: Meleager, son of Oeneus; Dryas, son of Ares; these came from
Calydon; ldas and Lynceus, sons of Aphareus, from Messene; Castor and Pollux, sons of
Zeus and Leda, from Lacedaemon; Theseus, son of Aegeus, from Athens; Admetus, son of
Pheres, from Pherae; Ancaeus and Cepheus, sons of Lycurgus, from Arcadia; Jason, son of
Aeson, from Iolcus; Iphicles, son of Amphitryon, from Thebes; Perithous, son of Ixion, from
Larissa; Peleus, son of Aeacus, from Phthia; Telamon, son of Aeacus, from Salamis;
Eurytion, son of Actor, from Phthia; Atalanta, daughter of Schoeneus, from Arcadia;
Amphiaraus, son of Oicles, from Argos. With them came also the sons of Thestius. And
when they were assembled, Oeneus entertained them for nine days; but on the tenth, when
Cepheus and Ancaeus and some others disdained to go hunting with a woman, Meleager
compelled them to follow the chase with her, for he desired to have a child also by Atalanta,
though he had to wife Cleopatra, daughter of Idas and Marpessa. When they surrounded
the boar, Hyleus and Ancaeus were killed by the brute, and Peleus struck down Eurytion
undesignedly with a javelin. But Atalanta was the first to shoot the boar in the back with an
arrow, and Amphiaraus was the next to shoot it in the eye; but Meleager killed it by a stab
in the flank, and on receiving the skin gave it to Atalanta. Nevertheless the sons of Thestius,
thinking scorn that a woman should get the prize in the face of men, took the skin from
her, alleging that it belonged to them by right of birth if Meleager did not choose to take it.
[3] But Meleager in a rage slew the sons of Thestius and gave the skin to Atalanta. However,
from grief at the slaughter of her brothers Althaea kindled the brand, and Meleager
immediately expired.
Divine Riddles - 137
The Lacedaemonian Saga
The Lacedaemonians, more commonly called Spartans, trace their descent from Tygete,
daughter of Atlas and Pleione, and therefore one of the Pleiades. Zeus seduced Taygete and she
bore a son named Lacedaemon. He married Sparta, moved to the region of the Peloponnese called
Laconia, and founded a city named for his wife; Sparta.
Their daughter, Eurydice, married Acrisius, the son of Abas of the Danaid family. She became
the mother of Danae who, raped by Zeus, would bear Perseus.
Pausanias iii.1.1 – 5
[1] According to the tradition of the Laeedaemonians themselves, Lelex, an
authochthon, was the first king in this land, after whom his subjects were named Leleges.
Lelex had a son, Myles, and a younger one Polycaon. Polycaon retired into exile, the place
of this retirement and its reason I will set forth elsewhere. On the death of Myles his son
Eurotas succeeded to the throne. He led down to the sea by means of a trench the stagnant
water on the plain, and when it had flowed away, as what was left formed a river-stream, he
named it Eurotas. [2] Having no male issue, he left the kingdom to Lacedaemon, whose
mother was Taygete, after whom the mountain was named, while according to report his
father was none other than Zeus. Lacedaemon was wedded to Sparta, a daughter of Eurotas.
When he came to the throne, he first changed the names of the land and its inhabitants,
calling them after himself, and next he founded and named after his wife a city, which even
down to our own day has been called Sparta. [3] Amyclas, too, son of Lacedaemon, wished
to leave some memorial behind him, and built a town in Laconia. Hyacinthus, the youngest
and most beautiful of his sons, died before his father, and his tomb is in Amyclae below the
image of Apollo.
On the death of Amyclas the empire came to Argalus, the eldest of his sons, and
afterwards, when Argalus died, to Cynortas. Cynortas had a son Oebalas. [4] He took a wife
from Argos, Gorgophone the daughter of Perseus, and begat a son Tyndareus, with whom
Hippocoon disputed about the kingship, claiming the throne on the ground of being the
elder. 1 With the aid of Icarius 2 and his partisans he far surpassed Tyndareus in power, and
forced him to retire in fear; the Lacedaemonians say that he went to Pellana, but a Messenian
legend about him is that he fled to Aphareus in Messenia, Aphareus being the son of Perieres
and the brother of Tyndareus on his mother's side. The story goes on to say that he settled
at Thalamae in Messenia, and that his children were born to him when he was living there.
[5] Subsequently Tyndareus was brought back by Heracles and recovered his throne. His
sons too became kings, as did Menelaus, the son of Atreus and son-in-law of Tyndareus, and
Orestes the husband of Hermione the daughter of Menelaus.
Oebalus had earlier been married to Bateia, and Hippocoon, their son, challenged the throne.
Icarius was the son of Oebalus and Gorgophone and the brother of Tyndarius.
Divine Riddles - 138
The son of Amylcas, son of Lacedaemon.
Ovid, Metamporphoses x. 162 - 216
[162] You also, Hyacinthus, would have been set in the sky, if Phoebus had been given
time which the cruel fates denied for you. But in a way you are immortal too, though you
have died. Always when warm spring drives winter out, [165] and Aries succeeds to Pisces, 1
you rise and blossom on the green turf. And the love my father had for you was deeper than
he felt for others. Delphi center of the world, had no presiding guardian, while the god
frequented the Eurotas and the land of Sparta, never fortified with walls. [170] His lyre and
his bow no longer fill his eager mind and now without a thought of dignity, he carried nets
and held the dogs in leash, and did not hesitate to go with Hyacinthus on the rough, steep
mountain ridges; and by all of such associations, his love was increased. Now Titan was
about midway, [175] betwixt the coming and the banished night, and stood at equal distance
from those two extremes. 2 Then, when the youth and Phoebus were well stripped, and
gleaming with rich olive oil, they tried a friendly contest with the discus. 3 First Phoebus,
well-poised, sent it awhirl through air, and cleft the clouds beyond with its broad weight;
[180] from which at length it fell down to the earth, a certain evidence of strength and skill.
Heedless of danger Hyacinthus rushed for eager glory of the game, resolved to get the discus.
But it bounded back from off the hard earth, and struck full against your face, O Hyacinthus!
[185] Deadly pale the god's face went—as pallid as the boy's. With care he lifted the sad
huddled form.
The kind god tries to warm you back to life, and next endeavors to attend your wound,
and stay your parting soul with healing herbs. His skill is no advantage, for the wound is
past all art of cure. [190] As if someone, when in a garden, breaks off violets, poppies, or
lilies hung from golden stems, then drooping they must hang their withered heads, and gaze
down towards the earth beneath them; [195] so, the dying boy's face droops, and his bent
neck, a burden to itself, falls back upon his shoulder: “You are fallen in your prime
defrauded of your youth, O Hyacinthus!” Moaned Apollo. “I can see in your sad wound my
own guilt, and you are my cause of grief and self-reproach. My own hand gave you death
unmerited—I only can be charged with your destruction.—[200] What have I done wrong?
Can it be called a fault to play with you? Should loving you be called a fault? And oh, that I
might now give up my life for you! Or die with you! But since our destinies prevent us you
shall always be with me, and you shall dwell upon my care-filled lips. [205] The lyre struck
by my hand, and my true songs will always celebrate you. A new flower you shall arise, with
markings on your petals, close imitation of my constant moans: and there shall come another
to be linked with this new flower, a valiant hero shall be known by the same marks upon its
[209] And while Phoebus, Apollo, sang these words with his truth-telling lips, behold
the blood of Hyacinthus, which had poured out on the ground beside him and there stained
the grass, was changed from blood; and in its place a flower, more beautiful than Tyrian
Pisces is from February 24 to March 25. Aries begins on March 26 and lasts until April 26.
Noon. The reference here is to Helios, the sun. Not properly a Titan, but the son of the Titan Hyperion.
In ancient Greece, contestants in sport would compete naked, their bodies covered in olive oil.
Divine Riddles - 139
dye, 1 sprang up. It almost seemed a lily, were it not that one was purple and the other white.
But Phoebus was not satisfied with this. For it was he who worked the miracle of his sad
words inscribed on flower leaves. [215] These letters AI, AI, are inscribed on them. And
Sparta certainly is proud to honor Hyacinthus as her son; and his loved fame endures; and
every year they celebrate his solemn festival.
Cynortes, the son of Amylcas and brother of Hyacinthus, had a son, Oebalus. He married
Gorgophone, the daughter of Perseus. Before Gorgophone married Oebalus she had been married
to Perieres, the son of Aeolus and Enarete. By Perieres she had a son Leucippus and his daughter
was Arsinoe.
Arsinoe, the daughter of Perieres and Gorgophone, was said by many to be the mother of
Asclepius. Pausanias offers a reasonable argument proving that this story is false (see above,
Danaid, Asclepius).
Tyndareus (Tyndarius)
Oebalus and Gorgophone had a son, Tyndarius. He married Leda, the daughter of Thestius.
Diodorus iv.33.5
[5] Afterwards it happened that Tyndareus was banished from Sparta by Hippocoon,
whose sons likewise, being twenty in number, had killed Oeonus, the son of Licymnius,
Heracles’ special friend. Heracles, understanding what they had done, made war upon them,
and in a great battle routing them, slew multitudes of them, and took Sparta by storm, and
restored Tyndareus, the father of the Dioscuri, to the kingdom upon this condition, that
(inasmuch as he had gained it by conquest) he should keep it, and hereafter deliver it up
entire to his posterity. 2 In this battle there were very few killed on Heracles’ side, amongst
whom were those famous men Iphiclus, and seventeen sons of Cepheus, for of twenty, three
only escaped. On the other side, there fell Hippocoon himself, with ten of his sons and a
great nomber of the Spartans.
Leda was the daughter of Thestius, a descendant of Hellen through Protogeneia. She married
Tyndareus. The stories of her children are various, but all agree that she was the mother of two
sons; Castor and Pollux, and two daughters; Clytemnestra and Helen. All agree, as well, that Helen
was the daughter of Zeus and that Clytemnestra was the daughter of Tyndareus. The confusion
comes with the brothers, twins who are called the Dioscuri. 3 The epithet suggests that they were
both sons of Zeus.
A redish-purple dye that was produced by the Spiny Dye-Murex, a species of snails only found around Tyre, in
Modern Lebanon. Very rare and expensive in the ancient world, this is the origin of ‘Royal Purple.’
That is, Tyndarius should keep the kingdom for his lifetime but when he died he was to turn it over to the sons of
Heracles. Tyndarius did not keep the bargain.
The epithet is a compound of Dios – Kouroi: The ‘sons of Zeus.’
Divine Riddles - 140
The Cypria Fragment 7:
Castor was mortal, and the fate of death was destined for him; but Polydeuces, scion of Ares,
was immortal.
Apollodorus iii.10.6 - 7
[6]… Tyndareus and Leda had daughters; Timandra, whom Echemus married, and
Clytemnestra, whom Agamemnon married; also another daughter Phylonoe, whom Artemis
made immortal. [7] But Zeus in the form of a swan consorted with Leda, and on the same
night Tyndareus cohabited with her; and she bore Pollux and Helen to Zeus, and Castor
and Clytaemnestra toTyndareus. But some say that Helen was a daughter of Nemesis and
Zeus; for that she, flying from the arms of Zeus, changed herself into a goose, but Zeus in
his tum took the likeness of a swan and so enjoyed her; and as the fruit of their loves she
laid an egg, and a certain shepherd found it in the groves and brought and gave it to Leda,
and she put it in a chest and kept it and when Helen was hatched in due time, Leda brought
her up as her own daughter.
Castor and Pollux – The Dioscuri
Apollodorus iii.11.2
[2] Of the sons horn to Leda Castor practised the art of war, and Pollux the art of boxing,
and on account of their manliness they were both called Dioscuri. And wishing to marry the
daughters of Leucippus, they carried them off from Messene and wedded them; and Pollux
had Mnesileus by Phoebe, and Castor had Anogon by Hilaira. And having driven captured
of cattle from Arcadia, in company with Idas and Lynceus, sons of Aphareus, they allowed
Idas to divide the spoil. He cut a cow in four and said that one half of the booty should be
his who ate his share first, and that the rest should be his who ate his share second. And
before they knew where they were, Idas had swallowed bis own share first and likewise his
brother's, and with him had driven off the captured cattle to Messene.
But the Dioscuri marched against Messene, and drove away that cattle and much else
besides. And they lay in wait for ldas and Lynceus. But Lynceus spied Castor and revealed
him to Idas, who killed him. Pollux chased them and slew Lynceus by throwing his spear,
but in pursuing Lynceus he was wounded in the head with a stone thrown by him, and fell
down in a swoon. And Zeus smote ldas with a thunderbolt, but Pollux he carried up to
heaven. Nevertheless, as Pollux refused to accept immortality while his brother Castor was
dead, Zeus permitted them both to be every other day among the gods and among mortals.
Homeric Hymn #33, To the Dioscuri
[1 – 17] Bright-eyed Muses, tell of the Tyndaridae, the Sons of Zeus, glorious children
of neat-ankled Leda, Castor the tamer of horses, and blameless Polydeuces. 1 When Leda had
lain with the dark-clouded Son of Cronus, she bare them beneath the peak of the great hill
Taygetus; children who are delivers of men on earth and of swift-going ships when stormy
aka Pollux.
Divine Riddles - 141
gales rage over the ruthless sea. Then the shipmen call upon the sons of great Zeus with vows
of white lambs, going to the forepart of the prow; but the strong wind and the waves of the
sea lay the ship under water, until suddenly these two are seen darting through the air on
tawny wings. Forthwith they allay the blasts of the cruel winds and still the waves upon the
surface of the white sea: fair signs are they and deliverance from toil. And when the shipmen
see them they are glad and have rest from their pain and labour.
Castor and Pollux are the constellation Gemini, the Twins. The constellation is visible in the
night sky from May 27 to June 26. In the Aegean Sea, this is the time when the winds are seas are
most calm.
Euripides, Helen 1.17 – 20
My own fatherland, Sparta, is not without fame, and my father is Tyndareus; but there
is indeed a story that Zeus flew to my mother Leda, taking the form of a bird, a swan, [20]
which accomplished the deceitful union, fleeing the pursuit of an eagle, if this story is true.
The Cypria Fragment 8 (Athenaeus viii.334B)
And after them [The Dioscuri] she [Leda] bore a third child, Helen, a marvel to men.
Rich-tressed Nemesis once gave her birth when she had been joined in love with Zeus the
king of the gods by harsh violence. For Nemesis tried to escape him and liked not to lie in
love with her father Zeus the son of Cronus; for shame and indignation vexed her heart.
Therefore she fled him over the land and fruitless dark water. But Zeus ever pursued and
longed in his heart to catch her. Now she took the form of a fish and sped over the waves
of the loud-roaring sea, and now over Ocean’s stream and the furthest bounds of Earth, and
now she sped over the furrowed land, always turning into such dread creatures as the dry
land nurtures, that she might escape him.
Euripides, Agamemnon 49 – 70
Leda, the daughter of Thestius, had three children, maidens, [50] Phoebe, Clytemnestra
my wife, and Helen; the foremost of the favored sons of Hellas came to woo Helen; but
terrible threats of spilling his rival's blood were uttered by each of them, if he should fail to
win the girl. [55] Now the matter filled Tyndareus, her father, with perplexity, whether to
give her or not, how he might best succeed. This thought occurred to him: the suitors should
swear to each other and join right hands and pour libations [60] with burnt-sacrifice, binding
themselves by this curse: whoever wins the child of Tyndareus for wife, they will assist that
man, in case a rival takes her from his house and goes his way, robbing her husband of his
rights; and march against that man in armed array and raze his city to the ground, [65]
Hellene no less than barbarian. Now when they had once pledged their word and old
Tyndareus with no small cleverness had beguiled them by his shrewd device, he allowed his
daughter to choose from among her suitors the one towards whom the sweet breezes of
Aphrodite might carry her. [70] Her choice fell on Menelaus; would she had never taken
Divine Riddles - 142
Apollodorus iii.10.7 – 9
And when she grew into a lovely woman, Theseus carried her off and brought her to
Aphidnae. But when Theseus was in Hades, Pollux and Castor marched against Aphidnae,
took the city, got possession of Helen, and led Aethra, the mother of Theseus, away captive.
[8] Now the kings of Greece repaired to Sparta to win the hand of Helen. The wooers
were these: Odysseus, son of Laertes; Diomedes, son of Tydeus; Antilochus, son of Nestor;
Agapenor, son of Ancaeus; Sthenelus, son of Capaneus ; Amphimachus, son of Cteatus;
Thalpius, son of Eurytus; Meges, son of Phyleus; Amphilochus, son of Amphiaraus;
Menestheus, son of Peteos; Schedius and Epistrophus, sons of Iphitus; Polyxenus, son of
Agasthenes; Peneleos, son of Hippalcimus; Leitus, son of Alector; Ajax, son of Oileus;
Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, sons of Ares; Elephenor, son of Chalcodon; Eumelus, son of
Admetus; Polypoetes, son of Peritbous; Leonteus, son of Coronus; Podalirius and Machaon,
sons of Aesculapius; Philoctetes, son of Poeas; Eurypylus, son of Evaemon; Protesilaus, son
of Iphiclus; Menelaus, son of Atreus; Ajax and Teucer sons of Telamon; Patroclus, son of
[9] Seeing the multitude of them, Tyndareus feared that the preference of one might set
the others quarrelling; but Odysseus promised that, if he would help him to win the hand
of Penelope, he would suggest a way by which there would be no quarrel. And when
Tyndareus promised to help him, Odysseus told him to exact an oath from all the suitors
that they would defend the favoured bridegroom against any wrong that might be done him
in respect of his marriage. On hearing that, Tyndareus put the suitors on their oath, and
while he chose Menelaus to be the bridegroom of Helen, he solicited Icarius to bestow
Penelope on Odysseus.
Helen was married to Menelaus, but the marriage was interrupted when Paris, the Prince of
Troy, visited Sparta as an ambassador. Helen and Paris fell in love and the two fled Sparta for
Troy. The most common version of the story has it that Helen was promised to Paris by Aphrodite.
Euripides, Helen 1. 22 - 30
My name is Helen; I will tell the evils I have suffered. For the sake of beauty, three
goddesses came to a deep valley on Mount Ida, to Paris: [25] Hera and Cypris 1, and the
virgin daughter of Zeus, 2 wishing to have the judgment of their loveliness decided. Cypris
offered my beauty, if misfortune is beautiful, for Paris to marry, and so she won. Paris, the
shepherd of Ida, left his ox-stalls [30] and came to Sparta, to have me in marriage.
Divine Riddles - 143
The Pelopidae
The, Pelopidae also called the Atreidae, trace their origins to Tantalus, king of Phrygia, a
country to the East of Troy.
Apollodorus, Epitome 2.1
[1] Tantalus is punished in Hades by having a stone impending over him, by being
perpetually in a lake and seeing at his shoulders on either side trees with fruit growing beside
the lake. The water touches his jaws, but when he would take a draught of it, the water dries
up, and when he would partake of the fruits, the trees with the fruits are lifted by winds as
high as the clouds. Some say that he is thus punished because he blabbed to men the
mysteries of the gods, and because he attempted to share ambrosia with his fellows.
Pelops, the son of Tantalus, mirgrated to Elis where he married Hippodamia.
Apollodorus, Epitome 2.3 - 9
[3] Pelops, after being slaughtered and boiled at the banquet of the gods, was fairer than
ever when he came to life again, and on account of his surpassing beauty he became a minion
of Poseidon, who gave him a winged chariot, such that even when it ran through the sea the
axles were not wet.
[4] Now Oenomaus, the king of Pisa, had a daughter Hippodamia, and whether it was
that he loved her, as some say, or that he was warned by an oracle that he must die by the
man that married her, no man got her to wife, for her father could not persuade her to
cohabit with him, and her suitors were put by him to death. [5] For he had arms and horses
given him by Ares, and he offered as a prize to the suitors the hand of his daughter, and
each suitor was bound to take up Hippodamia on his own chariot and flee as far as the
Isthmus of Corinth, and Oenomaus straightway pursued him, in full armour, and if he
overtook him he slew him; but if the suitor were not overtaken, he was to have Hippodamia
to wife. And in this way he slew many suitors, some say twelve, and he cut off' the heads of
the suitors and nailed them to his house.
[6] So Pelops also came wooing; and when Hippodamia saw his beauty, she conceived a
passion for him, and persuaded Myrtilus, son of Hermes, to help him; for Myrtilus was
charioteer to Oenomaus. [7] Accordingly Myrtilus, being in love with her and wishing to
gratify her, did not insert the linchpins in the boxes of the wheels, and thus caused
Oenomaus to lose the race and to be entangled in the reins and dragged to death; but
according to some, he was killed by Pelops. And in dying he cursed Myrtilus, whose treachery
he had discovered, praying that he might perish by the hand of Pelops.
[8] Pelops, therefore, got Hippodamia; and on his journey, in which he was
accompanied by Myrtilus, he came to a certain place, and withdrew a little to fetch water for
his wife, who was thirsty; and in the meantime Myrtilus tried to rape her. But when Pelops
learned that from her, he threw Myrtilus into the sea, called after him the Myrtoan Sea, at
Cape Geraestus ; and Myrtilus, as he was being thrown, uttered curses against the house of
Divine Riddles - 144
Pelops. [9] When Pelops had reached the Ocean and been cleansed by Hephaestus, he
returned to Pisa in Elis and succeeded to the kingdom of Oenomaus, but not till he had
subjugated what was formerly called Apia and Pelasgiotis, which he called Peloponnesus
after himself.
Atreus and Thyestes
Apollodorus, Epitome 2.10 - 14
[10] The sons of Pelops were Pittheus, Atreus, Thyestes, and others. Now the wife of
Atreus was Aerope, daughter of Catreus, and she loved Thyestes. And Atreus once vowed to
sacrifice to Artemis the finest of his flocks; [11] but when a golden lamb appeared, they say
that he neglected to perform his vow, and having choked the lamb, he deposited it in a box
and kept it there, and Aerope gave it to Thyestes, by whom she had been debauched. For
the Mycenaeans had received an oracle which bade them choose a Pelopid for their king,
and they had sent for Atreus and Thyestes. And when a discussion took place concerning
the kingdom, Thyestes declared to the multitude that the kingdom ought to belong to him
who owned the golden lamb, and when Atreus agreed, Thyestes produced the lamb and was
made king. [12] But Zeus sent Hermes to Atreus and told him to stipulate with Thyestes that
Atreus should be king if the sun should go backward; and when Thyestes agreed, the sun set
in the east; hence the deity having plainly attested the usurpation of Thyestes, Atreus got
the kingdom and banished Thyestes. [13] But afterwards being apprized of the adultery, he
sent a herald to Thyestes with a proposal of accommodation; and when he had lured
Thyestes by a pretence of friendship, he slaughtered the sons, Aglaus, Callileon, and
Orchomenus, whom Thyestes had by a Naiad nymph, though they had sat down as
suppliants on the altar of Zeus. And having cut them limb from limb and boiled them, he
served them up to Thyestes without the extremities; and when Thyestes had eaten heartily
of them, he showed him the extremities, and cast him out of the country. [14] But seeking
by all means to pay Atreus out, Thyestes inquired of the oracle on the subject, and received
an answer that it could be done if he were to beget a son by intercourse with his own
daughter. He did so accordingly, and begot Aegisthus by his daughter. And Aegisthus, when
he was grown to manhood and had learned that he was a son of Thyestes, killed Atreus, and
restored the kingdom to Thyestes.
Pausanias ii.18.1 – 2
Advancing a little way in the Argive territory from this hero-shrine one sees on the right
the grave of Thyestes. On it is a stone ram, because Thyestes obtained the golden lamb after
debauching his brother's wife. But Atreus was not restrained by prudence from retaliating,
but contrived the slaughter of the children of Thyestes and the banquet of which the poets
tell us. [2.18.2] But as to what followed, I cannot say for certain whether Aegisthus began
the sin or whether Agamemnon sinned first in murdering Tantalus, the son of Thyestes. It
is said that Tantalus had received Clytemnestra in marriage from Tyndareus when she was
still a virgin. I myself do not wish to condemn them of having been wicked by nature; but if
the pollution of Pelops and the avenging spirit of Myirtilus dogged their steps so long, it was
after all only consistent that the Pythian priestess said to the Spartan Glaucus, the son of
Divine Riddles - 145
Epicydes, who consulted her about breaking his oath, that the punishment for this also
comes upon the descendants of the sinner.
Agamemnon and Menelaus
Apollodorus, Epitome 2.15-16
[15] But the nurse took Agamemnon and Menelaus to Polyphides, lord of Sicyon, who
again sent them to Oeneus, the Aetolian. Not long afterwards Tyndareus brought them back
again, and they drove away Thyestes to dwell in Cytheria, after that they had taken an oath
of him at the altar of Hera, to which he had fled. And they became the sons-in-law of
Tyndareus by marrying his daughters, Agamemnon getting Clytaemnestra to wife, after he
had slain her spouse Tantalus, the son of Thyestes, together with his newborn babe, while
Menelaus got Helen.
[16] And Agamemnon reigned over the Mycenaeans and married Clytaemnestra,
daughter of Tyndareus, after slaying her former husband Tantalus, son of Thyestes, with his
child. And there were born to Agamemnon a son Orestes, and daughters, Chrysothemis,
Electra, and Iphigenia. And Menelaus married Helen and reigned over Sparta, Tyndareus
having ceded the kingdom to him.
Divine Riddles - 146
The Athenian Saga
Apollodorus iii.14.1 - 2
[1] Cecrops, a son of the soil, with a body compounded of man and serpent, was the
first king of Attica, and the country which was formerly called Acté he named Cecropia after
himself. In his time, they say, the gods resolved to take possession of cities in which each of
them should receive his own peculiar worship. So Poseidon was the first that came to Attica,
and with a blow of his trident on the middle of the Acropolis, he produced a sea which they
now call Erechtheis. After him came Athena, and, having called on Cecrops to witness her
act of taking possession, she planted an olive-tree, which is still shown in the Pandrosium.
But when the two strove for possession of the country, Zeus parted them and appointed
arbiters, not, as some have affirmed, Cecrops and Cranaus, nor yet Erysichthon, but the
twelve gods. And in accordance with their verdict the country was adjudged to Athena,
because Cecrops bore witness that she had been the first to plant the olive. Athena,
therefore, called the city Athens after herself, and Poseidon in hot anger flooded the
Thriasian plain and laid Attica under the sea.
[2] Cecrops married Agraulus, daughter of Actaeus, and had a son Erysichthon, who
departed this life childless; and Cecrops had daughters, Agraulus, Herse, and Pandrosus.
Agraulus had a daughter Alcippe by Ares. In attempting to violate Alcippe, Halirrhothius,
son of Poseidon and a nymph Euryte, was detected and killed by Ares. Impeached by
Poseidon, Ares was tried in the Areopagus before the twelve gods, and was acquitted.
Cranaus, Amphictyon and Erichthonius
Apollodorus iii.14.5 - 6.
[5] When Cecrops died, Cranaus came to the throne. He was a son of the soil, and it
was in his time that the flood in the age of Deucalion is said to have taken place. He married
a Lacedaemonian wife, Pedias, daughter of Mynes, and begat Cranae, Menaechme, and
Atthis; and when Atthis died a maid, Cranaus called the country Atthis.
[6] Cranaus was expelled by Amphictyon, who reigned in his stead; some say that
Amphictyon was a son of Deucalion, others that he was a son of the soil; and when he had
reigned twelve years he was expelled by Erichthonius. Some say that this Erichthonius was
a son of Hephaestus and Atthis, daughter of Cranaus, and some that he was a son of
Hephaestus and Athena, as follows: Athena came to Hephaestus, desirous of fashioning
arms. But he, being forsaken by Aphrodite, fell in love with Athena, and began to pursue
her; but she fled. When he got near her with much ado (for he was lame), he attempted to
embrace her; but she, being a chaste virgin, would not submit to him, and he dropped his
seed on the leg of the goddess. In disgust, she wiped off the seed with wool and threw it on
the ground; and as she fled and the seed fell on the ground, Erichthonius was produced.
Him Athena brought up unknown to the other gods, wishing to make him immortal; and
having put him in a chest, she committed it to Pandrosus, daughter of Cecrops, forbidding
her to open the chest. But the sisters of Pandrosus opened it out of curiosity, and beheld a
Divine Riddles - 147
serpent coiled about the babe; and, as some say, they were destroyed by the serpent, but
according to others they were driven mad by reason of the anger of Athena and threw
themselves down from the acropolis. Having been brought up by Athena herself in the
precinct, Erichthonius expelled Amphictyon and became king of Athens; and he set up the
wooden image of Athena in the acropolis, and instituted the festival of the Panathenaea, and
married Praxithea, a Naiad nymph, by whom he had a son Pandion.
Pandion I
Apollodorus iii.14.7 - 8
[7] Erichthonius died and was buried in the same precinct of Athena. Pandion became
king, in whose time Demeter and Dionysus came to Attica. But Demeter was welcomed by
Celeus at Eleusis, and Dionysus by Icarius, who received from him a branch of a vine and
learned the process of making wine. And wishing to bestow the god's boons on men, Icarius
went to some shepherds, who, having tasted the beverage and quaffed it copiously without
water for the pleasure of it, imagined that they were bewitched and killed him; but by day
they understood how it was and buried him. When his daughter Erigone was searching for
her father, a domestic dog, named Maera, which had attended Icarius, discovered his dead
body to her, and she bewailed her father and hanged herself.
[8] Pandion married Zeuxippe, his mother's sister, and begat two daughters, Procne and
Philomela, and twin sons, Erechtheus and Butes. But war having broken out with Labdacus
on a question of boundaries, he called in the help of Tereus, son of Ares, from Thrace, and
having with his help brought the war to a successful close, he gave Tereus his own daughter
Procne in marriage. Tereus had by her a son Itys, and having fallen in love with Philomela,
he seduced her also saying that Procne was dead, for he concealed her in the country.
Afterwards he married Philomela and bedded with her, and cut out her tongue. But by
weaving characters in robe she revealed thereby to Procne her own sorrows. And having
sought out her sister, Procne killed her son Itys, boiled him, served him up for supper to
the unwitting Tereus, and fled with her sister in haste. When Tereus was aware of what had
happened, he snatched up an axe and pursued them. And being overtaken at Daulia in
Phocis, they prayed the gods to be turned into birds, and Procne became a nightingale, and
Philomela a swallow. And Tereus also was changed into a bird and became a hoopoe.
Apollodorus iii.15.1
[1] When Pandion died, his sons divided their father's inheritance between them, and
Erechtheus got the kingdom and Butes got the priesthood of Athena and Poseidon
Erechtheus. Erechtheus married Praxithea, daughter of Phrasimus by Diogenia, daughter of
Cephisus, and had sons, to wit, Cecrops, Pandorus, and Metion; and daughters, to wit,
Divine Riddles - 148
Procris, Creusa, Chthonia, and Orithyia, who was carried off by Boreas. Chthonia was
married to Butes, Creusa to Xuthus, 1 and Procris to Cephalus, son of Deion.
See above, Cephalus p.122.
Apollodorus iii.15.2-3
[2] While Orithyia was playing by the Ilissus River, Boreas carried her off and had
intercourse with her, and she bore daughters, Cleopatra and Chione, and winged sons, Zetes
and Calais. These sons sailed with Jason and met their end in chasing the Harpies; but
according to Acusilaus, they were killed by Heracles in Tenos. [3] Cleopatra was married to
Phineus, who had by her two sons, Plexippus and Pandion. When he had these sons by
Cleopatra, he married Idaea, daughter of Dardanus. She falsely accused her stepsons to
Phineus of corrupting her virtue, and Phineus, believing her, blinded them both. But when
the Argonauts sailed past with Boreas, they punished him.
Erechtheues was killed in a war against Eleusis and was succeeded by his son, Cecrops II.
Cecrops II was succeeded by his son, Pandion II:
Apollodorus iii.15.5 - 8
This Pandion, reigning after Cecrops, was expelled by the sons of Metion in a sedition,
and going to Pylas at Megara married his daughter Pylia. And at a later time he was even
appointed king of the city; for Pylas slew his father's brother Bias and gave the kingdom to
Pandion, while he himself repaired to Peloponnese with a body of people and founded the
city of Pylus.
While Pandion was at Megara, he had sons born to him, to wit, Aegeus, Pallas, Nisus,
and Lycus. But some say that Aegeus was a son of Scyrius, but was passed off by Pandion as
his own. [6] After the death of Pandion his sons marched against Athens, expelled the
Metionids, and divided the government in four; but Aegeus had the whole power. The first
wife whom he married was Meta, daughter of Hoples, and the second was Chalciope,
daughter of Rhexenor. As no child was bom to him, he feared his brothers, and went to
Pythia and consulted the oracle concerning the begetting of children. The god answered
"The bulging mouth of the wineskin, 0h best of men,
Loose not until thou hast reached the height of Athens."
Not knowing what to make of the oracle, he set out on his return to Athens. [7] And
journeying by way of Troezen, he lodged with Pittheus, son of Pelops, who, understanding
Xuthus the son of Hellen and grandson of Deucalion.
Divine Riddles - 149
the oracle, made him drunk and caused him to lie with his daughter Aethra. But in the same
night Poseidon also had connexion with her. Now Aegeus charged Aethra that, if she gave
birth to a male child, she should raise him without revealing whose son it was; and he left a
sword and sandals under a certain rock, saying that when the boy could roll away the rock
and take them up, she was then to send him away with them. But he himself came to Athens
and celebrated the games of the Panathenian festival, in which Androgeus, son of Minos,
vanquished all comers. Him Aegeus sent against the bull of Marathon, by which he was
destroyed. But some say that as he journeyed to Thebes to take part in the games in honour
of Laius, he was waylaid and murdered by the jealous competitors. But when the tidings of
his death were brought to Minos, as he was sacrificing to the Graces in Paros, he threw away
the garland from his head and stopped the music of the flute, but nevertheless completed
the sacrifice; hence down to this day they sacrifice to the Graces in Paros without flutes and
[8] But not long afterwards, being master of the sea, Minos attacked Athens with a fleet
and captured Megara, then ruled by king Nisus, son of Pandion, and he slew Megareus, son
of Hippomenes, who had come from Onchestus to the help of Nisus. Now Nisus perished
through his daughter's treachery. For he had a purple hair on the middle of his head, and
an oracle ran that when it was pulled out he should die; and his daughter Scylla fell in love
with Minos and pulled out the hair. But when Minos had made himself master of Megara,
he tied the damsel by the feet to the stern of the ship and drowned her.
When the war lingered on and he could not take Athens, he prayed to Zeus that he
might be avenged on the Athenians. And the city being visited with a famine and a
pestilence, the Athenians at first, in obedience to an ancient oracle, slaughtered the
daughters of Hyacinth, to wit, Antheis, Aegleis, Lytaea, and Orthaea, on the grave of
Geraestus, the Cyclops: Hyacinth, the father of the damsels, had come from Lacedaemon
and dwelt in Athens. But when this was of no avail, they inquired of the oracle how they
could be delivered; and the god answered them that they should give Minos whatever
satisfaction he might choose. So they sent to Minos and left it to him to claim satisfaction.
And Minos ordered them to send seven youths and the same number of damsels without
weapons to be fodder for the Minotaur. Now the Minotaur was confined in a labyrinth, in
which he who entered could not find his way out; for many a winding turn shut off the
secret outward way. The labyrinth was constructed by Daedalus, whose father was
Eupalamus, son of Metion, and whose mother was Alcippe; for he was an excellent architect
and the first inventor of images. He had fled from Athens, because he had thrown down
from the acropolis Talos, the son of his sister Perdix; For Talos was his pupil, and Daedalus
feared that with his talents he might surpass himself, seeing that he had sawed a thin stick
with a jawbone of a snake which he had found. But the corpse was discovered; Daedalus was
tried in the Areopagus, and being condemned fled to Minos. And there Pasiphae having
fallen in love with the bull of Poseidon, Daedalus acted as her accomplice by contriving a
wooden cow, and he constructed the labyrinth, to which the Athenians every year sent seven
youths and as many damsels to be fodder for the Minotaur.
Divine Riddles - 150
Plutarch, Theseus. 3.1 - 4.1
[1] The lineage of Theseus, on the father's side, goes back to Erechtheus and the first
children of the soil; on the mother's side, to Pelops. For Pelops was the strongest of the
kings in Peloponnesus quite as much on account of the number of his children as the
amount of his wealth. He gave many daughters in marriage to men of highest rank, and
scattered many sons among the cities as their rulers. One of these, named Pittheus, the
grandfather of Theseus, founded the little city of Troezen, and had the highest repute as a
man versed in the lore of his times and of the greatest wisdom. [2] Now the wisdom of that
day had some such form and force as that for which Hesiod was famous, especially in the
sententious maxims of his Works and Days. 1 One of these maxims is ascribed to Pittheus,
"Payment pledged to a man who is dear must be ample and certain."
At any rate, this is what Aristotle the philosopher says, 2 and Euripides, when he has
Hippolytus addressed as "nursling of the pure and holy Pittheus," 3 shows what the world
thought of Pittheus.
[3] Now Aegeus, king of Athens, desiring to have children, is said to have received from
the Pythian priestess the celebrated oracle in which she bade him to have intercourse with
no woman until he came to Athens. But Aegeus thought the words of the command
somewhat obscure, and therefore turned aside to Troezen and communicated to Pittheus
the words of the god, which ran as follows:
"Loose not the wine-skin's jutting neck, great chief of the people,
Until you have come once more to the city of Athens."
[4] This dark saying Pittheus apparently understood, and persuaded him, or beguiled
him, to have intercourse with his daughter Aethra. Aegeus did so, and then learning that it
was the daughter of Pittheus with whom he had consorted, and suspecting that she was with
child by him, he left a sword and a pair of sandals hidden under a great rock, which had a
hollow in it just large enough to receive these objects. [5] He told the princess alone about
this, and bade her, if a son should be born to her from him, and if, when he came to man's
estate, he should be able to lift up the rock and take away what had been left under it, to
send that son to him with the tokens, in all secrecy, and concealing his journey as much as
possible from everybody; for he was mightily in fear of the sons of Pallas, 4 who were plotting
against him, and who despised him on account of his childlessness; and they were fifty in
number, these sons of Pallas. Then he went away.
[4.1] When Aethra gave birth to a son, he was at once named Theseus, as some say,
because the tokens for his recognition had been placed in hiding; 5 but others say that it was
afterwards at Athens, when Aegeus acknowledged him as his son.
Line 370
Of uncertain provenance.
Hyppolytus line 11.
Pallas was his brother. See above.
Based on the Greek thesis, a placing, or setting.
Divine Riddles - 151
Apollodorus iii.16.1
[1] Aethra bore to Aegeus a son Theseus, and when he was grown up, he pushed away
the rock and took up the sandals and the sword, and hastened on foot to Athens. And he
cleared the road, which had been beset by evildoers. For first in Epidaurus he slew
Periphetes, son of Hephaestus and Anticlia, who was surnamed the Clubman from the club
which he carried. For being crazy on his legs he carried an iron club, with which he
despatched the passersby. That club Theseus wrested from him and continued to carry
about. [2] Second, he killed Sinis, son of Polypemon and Sylea, daughter of Corinthus. This
Sinis was surnamed the Pine-bender; for inhabiting the Isthmus of Corinth he used to force
the passers-by to keep bending pine-trees; but they were too weak to do so, and being tossed
up by the trees they perished miserably. In that way also Theseus killed Sinis.
The text breaks off at this point, and the remainder of Apollodorus' third book is
represented in two epitomes.
Apollodorus, Epitome. 1.1-11
[1] Third, he slew at Crommyon the sow that was called Phaea after the old woman who
bred it; that sow, some say, was the offspring of Echidna and Typhon. [2] Fourth, he slew
Sciron, the Corinthian, son of Pelops, or, as some say, of Poseidon. He in the Megarian
territory held the rocks called after him Scironian, and compelled passers-by to wash his
feet, and in the act of washing he kicked them into the deep to be the prey of a huge turtle.
[3] But Theseus seized him by the feet and threw him into the sea. Fifth, in Eleusis he slew
Cercyon, son of Branchus and a nymph Argiope. This Cercyon compelled passers-by to
wrestle, and in wrestling killed them. But Theseus lifted him up on high and dashed him to
the ground. [4] Sixth, he slew Damastes, whom some call Polypemon. 1 He had his dwelling
beside the road, and made up two beds, one small and the other big; and offering hospitality
to the passers-by, he laid the short men on the big bed and hammered them, to make them
fit the bed; but the tall men he laid on the little bed and sawed off the portions of the body
that projected beyond it.
So, having cleared the road, Theseus came to Athens. [5] But Medea, being then wedded
to Aegeus, plotted against him and persuaded Aegeus to beware of him as a traitor. And
Aegeus, not knowing his own son, was afraid and sent him against the Marathonian bull.
[6] And when Theseus had killed it, Aegeus presented to him a poison which he had received
the selfsame day from Medea. But just as the draught was about to be administered to him,
he gave his father the sword, and on recognizing it Aegeus dashed the cup from his hands.
And when Theseus was thus made known to his father and informed of the plot, he expelled
[7] And he was numbered among those who were to be sent as the third tribute to the
Minotaur; or, as some affirm, he offered himself voluntarily. And as the ship had a black
sail, Aegeus charged his son, if he returned alive, to spread white sails on the ship.
[8] And when he came to Crete, Ariadne, daughter of Minos, being amorously disposed
to him, offered to help him if he would agree to carry her away to Athens and have her to
wife. Theseus having agreed on oath to do so, she besought Daedalus to disclose the way out
Procrustes, more commonly. See Plutarch Theseus 11.
Divine Riddles - 152
of the labyrinth. [9] And at his suggestion she gave Theseus a clue when he went in; Theseus
fastened it to the door, and, drawing it after him, entered in. And having found the
Minotaur in the last part of the labyrinth, he killed him by smiting him with his fists; and
drawing the clue after him made his way out again. 1 And by night he arrived with Ariadne
and the children at Naxos. There Dionysus fell in love with Ariadne and carried her off; and
having brought her to Lemnos he enjoyed her, and begat Thoas, Staphylus, Oenopion, and
[10] In his grief on account of Ariadne, Theseus forgot to spread white sails on his ship
when he stood for port; and Aegeus, seeing from the acropolis the ship with a black sail,
supposed that Theseus had perished; so he cast himself down and died. [11] But Theseus
succeeded to the sovereignty of Athens, and killed the sons of Pallas, fifty in number;
likewise all who would oppose him were killed by him, and he got the whole government to
Apollodorus Epitome 1. 16 - 17
[16] Theseus joined Hercules in his expedition against the Amazons and carried off Antiope,
or, as some say, Melanippe; but Simonides calls her Hippolyte. Wherefore the Amazons
marched against Athens, and having taken up a position about the Areopagus they were
vanquished by the Athenians under Theseus. [17] And though he had a son, Hippolytus, by
the Amazon, Theseus afterwards received from Deucalion in marriage Phaedra, daughter of
Minos;2 and when her marriage was being celebrated, the Amazon that had before been
married to him appeared in arms with her Amazons, and threatened to kill the assembled
guests. But they hastily closed the doors and killed her. However, some say that she was slain
in battle by Theseus.
Apollodorus Epitome 1.20 - 24
[20] Ixion 3 fell in love with Hera and attempted to force her; and when Hera reported
it, Zeus, wishing to know if the thing were so, made a cloud in the likeness of Hera and laid
it beside him; and when Ixion boasted that he had enjoyed the favours of Hera, Zeus bound
him to a wheel, on which he is whirled by winds through the air; such is the penalty he pays.
And the cloud, impregnated by Ixion, gave birth to Centaurus.
[21] And Theseus allied himself with Perithous, 4 when he engaged in war against the
centaurs. For when Perithous wooed Hippodamia, 5 he feasted the centaurs because they
were her kinsmen. But being unaccustomed to wine, they made themselves drunk by swilling
it greedily, and when the bride was brought in, they attempted to violate her. But Perithous,
fully armed, with Theseus, joined battle with them, and Theseus killed many of them. 6
A clue, originally clew, is a ball of yarn. The word is most often used figuratively - deriving from this myth - referring
to anything that might increase a person's ability to solve a riddle, dilemma or other problem.
Deucalion was the son of Minos and brother of Phaedra.
The king of the Lapiths and father of Perithous
This Perithous is the son of Ixion.
The daughter of Atrax and Bura. But the text should read that the centaurs were the kinsmen of Perithous.
The war between the Lapiths and Centaurs, the Centauromachy, was depicted on the south metope of the Parthenon.
Divine Riddles - 153
[22] Caeneus 1 was formerly a woman, but after Poseidon had intercourse with her, she
asked to become an invulnerable man; wherefore in the battle with the centaurs he thought
scorn of wounds and killed many of the centaurs; but the rest of them surrounded him and
by striking him with fir-trees buried him in the earth.
[23] Having made a compact with Perithous that they would marry daughters of Zeus,
Theseus, with the help of Perithous, carried off Helen from Sparta for himself, when she
was twelve years old, and in the endeavour to win Persephone as a bride for Perithous he
went down to Hades. And the Dioscuri, with the Lacedaemonians and Arcadians, captured
Athens and carried away Helen, and with her Aethra, daughter of Pittheus, into captivity.
But Demophon and Acamas fled. And the Dioscuri also brought back Menestheus from
exile, and gave him the sovereignty of Athens. [24] But when Theseus arrived with Perithous
in Hades, he was beguiled; for, on the pretence that they were about to partake of good
cheer, Hades bade them first he seated on the Chair of Forgetfulness, to which they grew
and were held fast by coils of serpents. Perithous, therefore, remained bound for ever, but
Hercules brought Theseus up and sent him to Athens. Thence he was driven by Menestheus
and went to Lycomedes, who threw him down an abyss and killed him.
Apollodorus Epitome 1. 18-19
[18] And Phaedra, after she had borne two children, Acamas and Demophon, to
Theseus, fell in love with Hippolytus, the son he had by the Amazon, and besought him to
lie with her. However, he fled from her embraces, because he hated all women. 2 But Phaedra,
fearing that he might accuse her to his father, cleft open the doors of her bedchamber, rent
her garments, and falsely charged Hippolytus with an assault. [19] Theseus believed her and
prayed to Poseidon that Hippolytus might perish. So, when Hippolytus was riding in his
chariot and driving beside the sea, Poseidon sent up a bull from the surf, and the horses
were frightened, the chariot dashed in pieces, and Hippolytus, entangled in the reins, was
dragged to death. And when her passion was made public, Phaedra hanged herself.
Daedalus and Icarus
Daedalus was of Athenian descent but his long sojourn on Crete, and his most famous
association with the legend of Minos, requires that his story be told in this context.
Apollodorus Eptiome 1.12 - 15
[12] On being apprised of the flight of Theseus and his company, Minos shut up the
guilty Daedalus in the labyrinth, along with his son Icarus, who had been borne to Daedalus
by Naucrate, a female slave of Minos. But Daedalus constructed wings for himself and his
son, and enjoined his son, when he took to flight, neither to fly high, lest the glue should
The brother of Perithous.
The text is, indeed, ὁ δὲ μισῶν πάσας γυναῖκας, "and because he hated all women…"
Divine Riddles - 154
melt in the sun and the wings should drop off, nor to fly near the sea, lest the pinions should
be detached by the damp. [13] But the infatuated Icarus, disregarding his father's
injunctions, soared ever higher, till, the glue melting, he fell into the sea called after him
Icarian, and perished. But Daedalus made his way safely to Camicus in Sicily. [14] And
Minos pursued Daedalus, and in every country that he searched he carried a spiral shell and
promised to give a great reward to him who should pass a thread through the shell, believing
that by that means he should discover Daedalus. And having come to Camicus in Sicily, to
the court of Cocalus, with whom Daedalus was concealed, he showed the spiral shell.
Cocalus took it, and promised to thread it, and gave it to Daedalus; [15] and Daedalus
fastened a thread to an ant, and, having bored a hole in the spiral shell, allowed the ant to
pass through it. But when Minos found the thread passed through the shell, he perceived
that Daedalus was with Cocalus, and at once demanded his surrender. Cocalus promised to
surrender him, and made an entertainment for Minos; but after his bath Minos was undone
by the daughters of Cocalus; some say, however, that he died through being drenched with
boiling water. 1
Theseus and Helen
Apollodorus, Epitome 1.20-24
[20] Ixion 2 fell in love with Hera and attempted to force her; and when Hera reported
it, Zeus, wishing to know if the thing were so, made a cloud in the likeness of Hera and laid
it beside him; and when Ixion boasted that he had enjoyed the favours of Hera, Zeus bound
him to a wheel, on which he is whirled by winds through the air; such is the penalty he pays.
And the cloud, impregnated by Ixion, gave birth to Centaurus.
[21] And Theseus allied himself with Perithous, 3 when he engaged in war against the
centaurs. For when Perithous wooed Hippodamia, 4 he feasted the centaurs because they
were her kinsmen. But being unaccustomed to wine, they made themselves drunk by swilling
it greedily, and when the bride was brought in, they attempted to violate her. But Perithous,
fully armed, with Theseus, joined battle with them, and Theseus killed many of them. 5
[22] Caeneus 6 was formerly a woman, but after Poseidon had intercourse with her, she
asked to become an invulnerable man; wherefore in the battle with the centaurs he thought
scorn of wounds and killed many of the centaurs; but the rest of them surrounded him and
by striking him with fir-trees buried him in the earth.
[23] Having made a compact with Perithous that they would marry daughters of Zeus,
Theseus, with the help of Perithous, carried off Helen from Sparta for himself, when she
was twelve years old, and in the endeavour to win Persephone as a bride for Perithous he
According to Herodotus (vii.169), some request was made by the Cretans to the Spartans for assistance in avenging
the death of Minos. The Spartans, apparently, refused. So, after the Cretans joined the expedition to Troy, Minos
cursed the island (from his grave?). Idomeneus led 80 ships from Crete to Troy (Iliad ii.645-56).
The king of the Lapiths and father of Perithous
This Perithous is the son of Ixion.
The daughter of Atrax and Bura. But the text should read that the centaurs were the kinsmen of Perithous.
The war between the Lapiths and Centaurs, the Centauromachy, was depicted on the south metope of the Parthenon.
The brother of Perithous.
Divine Riddles - 155
went down to Hades. And the Dioscuri, with the Lacedaemonians and Arcadians, captured
Athens and carried away Helen, and with her Aethra, daughter of Pittheus, into captivity.
But Demophon and Acamas fled. And the Dioscuri also brought back Menestheus from
exile, and gave him the sovereignty of Athens. [24] But when Theseus arrived with Perithous
in Hades, he was beguiled; for, on the pretence that they were about to partake of good
cheer, Hades bade them first he seated on the Chair of Forgetfulness, to which they grew
and were held fast by coils of serpents. Perithous, therefore, remained bound for ever, but
Heracles brought Theseus up and sent him to Athens. Thence he was driven by Menestheus
and went to Lycomedes, who threw him down an abyss and killed him.
Divine Riddles - 156
The Troiad
The Trojan royal family, although ruling an Asian country, were said to have originated in
Greece and to be the descendants of Atlas.
Dardanus and Iasion
Apollodorus iii.12.1 - 2
[1] Electra, daughter of Atlas, had two sons, Iasion and Dardanus, by Zeus. Now Iasion
loved Demeter, and in an attempt to defile the goddess he was killed by a thunderbolt.
Grieved at his brother's death, Dardanus left Samothrace and came to the opposite
mainland. 1 That country was ruled by a king, Teucer, son of the river Scamander and of a
nymph Idaea, and the inhabitants of the country were called Teucrians after Teucer. Being
welcomed by the king, and having received a share of the land and the king's daughter Batia,
he built a city Dardanus, and when Teucer died he called the whole country Dardania; [2]
And he had sons born to him, Ilus and Erichthonius, of whom Ilus died childless, and
Erichthonius succeeded to the kingdom and marrying Astyoche, daughter of Simoeis, begat
Apollodorus iii.12.2
On succeeding to the kingdom, Tros called the country Troy after himself, and marrying
Callirrhoe, daughter of Scamander, he begat a daughter Cleopatra, and sons, llus, Assaracus,
and Ganymede. This Ganymede, for the sake of his beauty, Zeus caught up on an eagle and
appointed him cupbearer of the gods in heaven, and Assaracus had by his wife Hieromneme,
daughter of Simoeis, a son Capys; and Capys had by his wife Themiste, daughter of Ilus, a
son Anchises, whom Aphrodite met in love's dalliance, and to whom she bore Aeneas and
Lyrus, who died childless.
Ganymede, the son of Tros, caught the attention of Zeus.
Ovid, Metamorphoses x.155-61
[155] The king of all the gods once burned with love for Ganymede of Phrygia. He
found a shape more pleasing even than his own. Jove would not take the form of any bird,
except the eagle's, able to sustain the weight of his own thunderbolts. Without delay, Jove
on fictitious eagle wings, stole and flew off with that loved Trojan boy: who even to this day,
[160] against the will of Juno, mingles nectar in the cups of his protector, mighty Jupiter.
See Diodorus vi.75.1, v. 48.2; Iliad xx. 215
Divine Riddles - 157
Apollodorus iii.12.3
[3] But Ilus went to Phrygia, and finding games held there by the king, he was victorious
in wrestling. As a prize he received fifty youths and as many maidens, and the king, in
obedience to an oracle, gave him also a dappled cow and bade him found a city wherever
the animal should lie down; so he followed the cow. And when she was come to what was
called the hill of the Phrygian Até, she lay down; there Ilus built a city and called it Ilium.
And having prayed to Zeus that a sign might be shown to him, he beheld by day the
Palladium, fallen from heaven, lying before his tent. 1 It was three cubits in height, its feet
joined together; in its right hand it held a spear aloft, and in the other hand a distaff and
The story told about the Palladium is as follows: They say that when Athena was born
she was brought up by Triton, who had a daughter Pallas; and that both girls practised the
arts of war, but that once on a time they fell out; and when Pallas was about to strike a blow,
Zeus in fear interposed the aegis, and Pallas, being startled, looked up, and so fell wounded
by Athena. And being exceedingly grieved for her, Athena made a wooden image in her
likeness, and wrapped the aegis, which she had feared, about the breast of it, and set it up
beside Zeus and honoured it. But afterwards Electra, at the time of her violation, took refuge
at the image, and Zeus threw the Palladium along with Ate into the Ilian country; and Ilus
built a temple for it, and honoured it. Such is the legend of the Palladium.
And Ilus married Eurydice, daughter of Adrastus, and begat Laomedon, who married
Strymo, daughter of Scamander; but according to some his wife was Placia, daughter of
Otreus, and according to others she was Leucippe; and he begat five sons, Tithonus, Lampus,
Clytius, Hicetaon, Podarces; and three daughters, Hesione, Cilia, and Astyoche; and by a
nymph Calybe he had a son Bucolion.
Illiad xx. 215 - 240
[215] "In the beginning Dardanus was the son of Zeus, and founded Dardania, for Ilium was
not yet stablished on the plain for men to dwell in, and her people still abode on the spurs
of many-fountained Ida. Dardanus had a son, king Erichthonius, [220] who was wealthiest
of all men living; he had three thousand mares that fed by the water-meadows, they and
their foals with them. Boreas was enamoured of them as they were feeding, and covered
them in the semblance of a dark-maned stallion. [225] Twelve filly foals did they conceive
and bear him, and these, as they sped over the rich plain, would go bounding on over the
ripe ears of corn and not break them; or again when they would disport themselves on the
broad back of Ocean they could gallop on the crest of a breaker. [230] Erichthonius begat
Tros, king of the Trojans, and Tros had three noble sons, Ilus, Assaracus, and Ganymede
who was comeliest of mortal men; [235] wherefore the gods carried him off to be Zeus's
cupbearer, for his beauty's sake, that he might dwell among the immortals. Ilus begat
See Pausanias i.28.9; ii.23.5; Ovid Met. xiii.337-49; Virgil, Aeneid ii.162
Divine Riddles - 158
Laomedon, and Laomedon begat Tithonus, Priam, Lampus, Clytius, and Hiketaon of the
stock of Ares. But Assaracus was father to Capys, and Capys to Anchises, who was my father,
while Hector is son to Priam.
[240] "Such do I declare my blood and lineage
Apollodorus iii.12.5
[5] But after that Ilium was captured by Heracles, as we have related a little before. 1
Podarces, who was called Priam, came to the throne, and he married first Arisbe, daughter
of Merops, by whom he had a son Aesacus, who married Asterope, daughter of Cebren, and
when she died he mourned for her and was turned into a bird. But Priam handed over Arisbe
to Hyrtacus and married a second wife Hecuba, daughter of Dymas, or, as some say, of
Cisseus, or, as others say, of the river Sangarius and Metope. The first son born to her was
Hector; and when a second babe was about to be born Hecuba dreamed she had brought
forth a firebrand, and that the fire spread over the whole city and burned it. When Priam
learned of the dream from Hecuba, he sent for his son Aesacus, for he was an interpreter of
dreams, having been taught by his mother's father Merops. He declared that the child was
begotten to be the ruin of his country and advised that the babe should be exposed. When
the babe was born Priam gave it to a servant to take and expose on Ida. Now the servant was
named Agelaus, and the baby, exposed by him, was nursed for five days by a bear and, when
he found it safe, he took it up, carried it away, brought it up as his own son on his farm,
and named him Paris. When he grew to be a young man, Paris excelled many in beauty and
strength, and was afterwards surnamed Alexander, because he repelled robbers and
defended the flocks. 2 And not long afterwards he discovered his parents.
Paris (Alexander)
The Cypria Fragment 1 (Proclus, Chrestomathia i)
Zeus plans with Themis to bring about the Trojan war. Strife arrives while the gods are
feasting at the marriage of Peleus and starts a dispute between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite
as to which of them is fairest. The three are led by Hermes at the command of Zeus to
Alexander 3 on Mount Ida for his decision, and Alexander, lured by his promised marriage
with Helen, decides in favour of Aphrodite.
Then Alexander builds his ships at Aphrodite's suggestion, and Helenus foretells the
future to him, and Aphrodite orders Aeneas to sail with him, while Cassandra prophesies
as to what will happen afterwards. Alexander next lands in Lacedaemon and is entertained
by the sons of Tyndareus, and afterwards by Menelaus in Sparta, where in the course of a
feast he gives gifts to Helen.
After this, Menelaus sets sail for Crete, ordering Helen to furnish the guests with all
they require until they depart. Meanwhile, Aphrodite brings Helen and Alexander together,
See above, ii.6.4.
The Greek alexo means ‘to defend’ or ‘ward off’, Andros is Greek for ‘man.’
Paris, the prince of Troy, is also called Alexander.
Divine Riddles - 159
and they, after their union, put very great treasures on board and sail away by night. Hera
stirs up a storm against them and they are carried to Sidon, where Alexander takes the city.
From there he sailed to Troy and celebrated his marriage with Helen.
Apollodorus Epitome 3.1 – 5
[1] …Alexander carried off Helen, as some say, because such was the will of Zeus, in
order that his daughter might be famous for having embroiled Europe and Asia; or, as others
have said, that the race of the demigods might be exalted. [2] For one of these reasons Strife
threw an apple as a prize of beauty to be contended for by Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite; 1
and Zeus commanded Hermes to lead them to Alexander on Ida 2 in order to be judged by
him. And they promised to give Alexander gifts. Hera said that if she were preferred to all
women, she would give him the kingdom over all men; and Athena promised victory in war,
and Aphrodite the hand of Helen. And he decided in favour of Aphrodite and sailed away
to Sparta with ships built by Phereclus. [3] For nine days he was entertained by Menelaus;
but on the tenth day, Menelaus having gone on a journey to Crete to perform the obsequies
of his mother's father Catreus, Alexander persuaded Helen to go off with him. And she
abandoned Hermione, then nine years old, and putting most of the property on board, she
set sail with him by night. [4] But Hera sent them a heavy storm which forced them to put
in at Sidon. 3 And fearing lest he should be pursued, Alexander spent much time in
Phoenicia and Cyprus. But when he thought that all chance of pursuit was over, he came to
Troy with Helen. [5] But some say that Hermes, in obedience to the will of Zeus, stole Helen
and carried her to Egypt, and gave her to Proteus, king of the Egyptians, to guard, and that
Alexander repaired to Troy with a phantom of Helen fashioned out of clouds.
Herodotus ii. 113 [1] And the priests told me, when I inquired, that the things concerning Helen
happened thus: Alexander having carried off Helen was sailing away from Sparta to his own
land, and when he had come to the Aegean Sea contrary winds drove him from his course
to the Sea of Egypt; and after that, since the blasts did not cease to blow, he came to Egypt
itself, and in Egypt to that which is now named the Canobic mouth of the Nile and to
Taricheia. 4 [2] Now there was upon the shore, as still there is now, a temple of Heracles, in
which if any man's slave take refuge and have the sacred marks set upon him, giving himself
over to the god, it is not lawful to lay hands upon him; [3] and this custom has continued
still unchanged from the beginning down to my own time. Accordingly the attendants of
Alexander, having heard of the custom which existed about the temple, ran away from him,
and sitting down as suppliants of the god, accused Alexander, because they desired to do
At the wedding of Peleus and Thetis.
A mountain near Troy
In Phoenicia
The Canobic branch of the Nile River is the western most branch. The trading port of Canobus predated Alexandria
- which was built about 15 miles to the west of Canobus - and was the capital of the nome in Pharaonic times.
Tericheia was a fish-salting station.
Divine Riddles - 160
him hurt, telling the whole tale how things were about Helen and about the wrong done to
Menelaus; and this accusation they made not only to the priests but also to the warden of
this river-mouth, whose name was Thonis.
[114.1] Thonis then having heard their tale sent forthwith a message to Proteus at
Memphis, which said as follows: [2] "There has come a stranger, a Teucrian by race, 1 who
has done in Hellas an unholy deed; for he has deceived the wife of his own host, and has
come here bringing with him this woman herself and very much wealth, having been carried
out of his way by winds to your land. Shall we then allow him to sail out unharmed, or shall
we first take away from him that which he brought with him?" [3] In reply to this Proteus
sent back a messenger who said thus: "Seize this man, whosoever he may be, who has done
impiety to his own host, and bring him away into my presence, that I may know what he will
find to say."
[115.1] Hearing this, Thonis seized Alexander and detained his ships, and after that he
brought the man himself up to Memphis and with him Helen and the wealth he had, and
also in addition to them the suppliants. [2] So when all had been conveyed there, Proteus
began to ask Alexander who he was and from whence he was voyaging; and he both
recounted to him his descent and told him the name of his native land, and moreover related
of his voyage, from whence he was sailing. [3] After this Proteus asked him whence he had
taken Helen; and when Alexander went astray in his account and did not speak the truth,
those who had become suppliants convicted him of falsehood, relating in full the whole tale
of the wrong done. [4] At length Proteus declared to them this sentence, saying, "Were it
not that I count it a matter of great moment not to slay any of those strangers who being
driven from their course by winds have come to my land, I should have taken vengeance on
you on behalf of the man of Hellas, seeing that you, most base of men, having received from
him guest-friendship, did work against him a most impious deed. For you did go in to the
wife of your own guest-friend; [5] and even this was not enough for you, but you did stir her
up with desire and have gone away with her like a thief. Moreover not even this by itself was
enough for you, but you have come here with plunder taken from the house of your guestfriend. [6] Now therefore depart, seeing that I have counted it of great importance not to be
a slayer of strangers. This woman indeed and the wealth which you have I will not allow you
to carry away, but I shall keep them safe for the Hellene who was your host, until he come
himself and desire to carry them off to his home; to yourself however and your fellowvoyagers I proclaim that you depart from your anchoring within three days and go from my
land to some other; and if not, that you will be dealt with as enemies."
[116.1] This the priests said was the manner of Helen's coming to Proteus; and I suppose
that Homer also had heard this story, but since it was not so suitable to the composition of
his poem as the other which he followed, he dismissed it finally, making it clear at the same
time that he was acquainted with that story also: [2] And according to the manner in which
he described the wanderings of Alexander in the Iliad (nor did he elsewhere retract that
which he had said) it is clear that when he brought Helen he was carried out of his course,
The Trojans are occasionally called Teucri, descendants of a Pelasgian tribe which emigrated from Thrace to the
Troad. See below v.122; vii.43.
Divine Riddles - 161
wandering to various lands, and that he came among other places to Sidon in Phoenicia. [3]
Of this the poet has made mention in the "Aristeia of Diomedes," 1 and the verses run this:
"There she had robes many-coloured, the works of women of Sidon,
Those whom her son the god-like Alexander
Carried from Sidon, what time the broad sea-path he sailed over
Bringing back Helen home, of a noble father begotten." 2
[4] And in the Odyssey also he has made mention of it in these verses:
"Such had the daughter of Zeus, such drugs of exquisite cunning,
Good, which to her the wife of Thon, Polydamna, had given,
Dwelling in Egypt, the land where the bountiful meadow produces
Drugs more than all lands else, many good being mixed, many evil." 3
[5] And thus too Menelaos says to Telemachos:
"Still the gods stayed me in Egypt, to come back hither desiring,
Stayed me from voyaging home, since sacrifice was due I performed not." 4
[6] In these lines he makes it clear that he knew of the wandering of Alexander to Egypt,
for Syria borders upon Egypt and the Phoenicians, of whom is Sidon, dwell in Syria.
[117.1] By these lines and by this passage it is also most clearly shown that the "Cyprian
Epic" was not written by Homer but by some other man: for in this it is said that on the
third day after leaving Sparta Alexander came to Ilium bringing with him Helen, having had
a "gently-blowing wind and a smooth sea," whereas in the Iliad it says that he wandered from
his course when he brought her.
[118.1] Let us now leave Homer and the "Cyprian" Epic; but this I will say, namely that
I asked the priests whether it is but an idle tale which the Hellenes tell of that which they
say happened about Ilium; and they answered me thus, saying that they had their knowledge
by inquiries from Menelaus himself. [2] After the rape of Helen there came indeed, they
said, to the Teucrian land a large army of Hellenes to help Menelaus; and when the army
had come out of the ships to land and had pitched its camp there, they sent messengers to
Ilium, with whom went also Menelaus himself; and when these entered within the wall they
demanded back Helen and the wealth which Alexander had stolen from Menelaus and had
taken away; and moreover they demanded satisfaction for the wrongs done: and the
Teucrians told the same tale then and afterwards, both with oath and without oath, namely
that in deed and in truth they had not Helen nor the wealth for which demand was made,
but that both were in Egypt; and that they could not justly be compelled to give satisfaction
The Aristeia of Diomedes is, in the current book divisions, only Book V. Either Herodotus has erred here, or the
book divisions in his time were different. See How and Wells.
Iliad vi. 289 - 92.
Odyssey iv.227 - 30
Odyssey iv.351 - 52. The argument here is weak: That Menelaus was in Egypt at some time does not prove that Paris
was also there previously.
Divine Riddles - 162
for that which Proteus the king of Egypt had. The Hellenes however thought that they were
being mocked by them and besieged the city, until at last they took it; and when they had
taken the wall and did not find Helen, but heard the same tale as before, then they believed
the former tale and sent Menelaus himself to Proteus.
[119.1] And Menelaus having come to Egypt and having sailed up to Memphis, told the
truth of these matters, and not only found great entertainment, but also received Helen
unhurt, and all his own wealth besides. Then however, after he had been thus dealt with,
Menelaus showed himself ungrateful to the Egyptians; for when he set forth to sail away,
contrary winds detained him, and as this condition of things lasted long, he devised an
impious deed; for he took two children of natives and made sacrifice of them. After this,
when it was known that he had done so, he became abhorred, and being pursued he escaped
and got away in his ships to Libya; but where he went besides after this, the Egyptians were
not able to tell. Of these things they said that they found out part by inquiries, and the rest,
namely that which happened in their own land, they related from sure and certain
Apollodorus iii.12.5
… Hecuba gave birth to daughters; Creusa, Laodice, Polyxena, and Cassandra. Wishing to
gain Cassandra's favours, Apollo promised to teach her the art of prophecy; she learned the
art but refused her favours; hence Apollo deprived her prophecy of the power to persuade.
Afterwards Hecuba bore sons; Deipbobus, Helenus, Pammon, Polites, Antiphus,
Hipponous, Polydorus, and Troilus; this last she is said to have had by Apollo.
Cassandra is, perhaps, the original ‘Truth Teller’ in Western literature. The Truth Teller is
always a secondary character, usally infirm for one reason or another, or a child, whom the author
uses as a device to reveal truths to the reader or to other characters. Irony can easily be established
through ‘Cassandra’s Dilema’ 1 in which the main characters refuse to believe the Truth Teller
because of the infirmity. The people of Troy thought Cassandra to be mad so, despite the fact that
she always spoke the truth because she could see the future, they never believed a word she said.
Variously called the Cassandra syndrome, complex or curse.
Divine Riddles - 163
The Trojan War
Cypria Fragment 3 (Proclus, Chrestomathia i)
There was a time when the countless tribes of men, though widely dispersed, oppressed
the surface of the deep-bosomed earth, and Zeus saw it and had pity and in his wise heart
resolved to relieve the all-nurturing earth of men by causing the great struggle of the Trojan
War, so that death might lessen the burden on the earth. And so the heroes were slain at
Troy, and the plan of Zeus came to pass.
Lead-up to the War:
Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulus, 49 – 84.
Leda, the daughter of Thestius, had three children, maidens, Phoebe, Clytemnestra my
wife, and Helen; this last it was who had for wooers the foremost of the favoured sons of
Hellas; but terrible threats of spilling his rival's blood were uttered by each of them, should
he fail to win the maid. Now the matter filled Tyndareus, her father, with perplexity; at
length this thought occurred to him; the suitors should swear unto each other and join right
hands thereon and pour libations with burnt sacrifice, binding themselves by this curse,
"Whoever wins the child of Tyndareus for wife, him will we assist, in case a rival takes her
from his house and goes his way, robbing her husband of his rights; and we will march
against that man in armed array and raze his city to the ground, Hellene no less than
[68] Now when they had once pledged their word and old Tyndareus with no small
cleverness had beguiled them by his shrewd device, he allowed his daughter to choose from
among her suitors the one towards whom the breath of love might fondly waft her. Her
choice fell on Menelaus; would she had never taken him!
Anon there came to Lacedaemon from Phrygia's folk the man who, legend says,
adjudged the goddesses' dispute; in robes of gorgeous hue, ablaze with gold, in true barbaric
pomp; and he, finding Menelaus gone from home, carried Helen off with him to his steading
on Ida, a willing paramour. Goaded to frenzy Menelaus flew through Hellas, invoking the
ancient oath exacted by Tyndareus and declaring the duty of helping the injured husband.
Whereat the chivalry of Hellas, brandishing their spears and donning their harness, came
hither to the narrow straits of Aulis with armaments of ships and troops, with many a steed
and many a car, and they chose me to captain them all for the sake of Menelaus, since I was
his brother.
Apollodorus, Epitome 3.6 - 8
[6] When Menelaus was aware of the rape, he came to Agamemnon at Mycenae, and
begged him to muster an army against Troy and to raise levies in Greece. And he, sending a
herald to each of the kings, reminded them of the oaths which they had sworn, and warned
them to look to the safety each of his own wife, saying that the affront had been offered
Divine Riddles - 164
equally to the whole of Greece. And while many were eager to join in the expedition, some
repaired also to Odysseus in Ithaca. [7] But he, not wishing to go to the war, feigned
madness. However, Palamedes, son of Nauplius, proved his madness to be fictitious; and
when Odysseus pretended to rave, Palamedes followed him, and snatching Telemachus from
Penelope's bosom, drew his sword as if he would kill him. And in his fear for the child
Odysseus confessed that his madness was pretended, and he went to the war .
[8] Having taken a Phrygian prisoner, Odysseus compelled him to write a letter of
treasonable purport ostensibly sent by Priam to Palamedes; and having buried gold in the
quarters of Palamedes, he dropped the letter in the camp. Agamemnon read the letter, found
the gold, and delivered up Palamedes to the allies to be stoned as a traitor.
The Cypria Fragment 1 (Proclus, Chrestomathia i)
Iris next informs Menelaus of what has happened at his home. Menelaus returns and
plans an expedition against Ilium with his brother, and then goes on to Nestor. Nestor in a
digression tells him how Epopeus was utterly destroyed after seducing the daughter of Lycus,
and the story of Oedipus, the madness of Heracles, and the story of Theseus and Ariadne.
Then they travel over Hellas and gather the leaders, detecting Odysseus when he pretends
to be mad, not wishing to join the expedition, by seizing his son Telemachus for punishment
at the suggestion of Palamedes.
All the leaders then meet together at Aulis and sacrifice. The incident of the serpent
and the sparrows takes place before them, and Calchas foretells what is going to befall. After
this, they put out to sea, and reach Teuthrania and sack it, taking it for Ilium. Telephus
comes out to the rescue and kills Thersander and son of Polyneices, and is himself wounded
by Achilles. As they put out from Mysia a storm comes on them and scatters them, and
Achilles first puts in at Scyros and married Deidameia, the daughter of Lycomedes, and then
heals Telephus, who had been led by an oracle to go to Argos, so that he might be their
guide on the voyage to Ilium.
When the expedition had mustered a second time at Aulis, Agamemnon, while at the
chase, shot a stag and boasted that he surpassed even Artemis. At this the goddess was so
angry that she sent stormy winds and prevented them from sailing. Calchas then told them
of the anger of the goddess and bade them sacrifice Iphigeneia to Artemis. This they attempt
to do, sending to fetch Iphigeneia as though for marriage with Achilles.
Artemis, however, snatched her away and transported her to the Tauri, making her
immortal, and putting a stag in place of the girl upon the altar.
This version of the story appears to be errant: A much earlier version is told by Aeschylus:
Aeschylus, Agamemnon
[184] So then the captain of the Achaean ships, the elder of the two, 1 holding no seer
at fault, bending to the adverse blasts of fortune, what time the Achaean folk, on the shore
over against Chalcis [190] in the region where Aulis' tides surge to and fro, were sore
distressed by opposing winds and failing stores; and the breezes that blew from the Strymon,
bringing them grievous leisure, hunger, and tribulation of spirit in a cruel port, driving the
Agamemnon was older than Menelaus
Divine Riddles - 165
men distraught, and sparing nor ship [195] nor cable, by doubling the season of their stay,
began to wither by wasting the flower of Argos; and when the seer, urging Artemis as cause,
proclaimed to the chieftains another remedy, [200] more grievous even than the bitter storm,
so that the sons of Atreus smote the ground with their staves and stifled not their tears. 1
[205] Then the elder king spoke and said: " Hard is my fate to refuse obedience, and
hard, if I must slay my child, the glory of my home, and at the altar-side stain with streams
of a virgin's blood a father's hand. Which of these courses is not fraught with ill? How can I
become a deserter to my fleet and fail my allies in arms? [215] For that they should with
passionate eagerness crave a sacrifice to lull the winds - even a virgin's blood - stands within
their right. May all be for the best."
But when he had donned the yoke of Necessity, with veering of spirit, [220] impious,
unholy, unsanctified, from that hour his purpose shifted to resolve that deed of uttermost
audacity. For mankind is emboldened by wretched delusion, counsellor of ill, primal source
of woe. So then he hardened his heart to sacrifice his daughter [225] that he might prosper
a war waged to avenge a woman, and as an offering for the voyaging of a fleet!
The Cypria Fragment 1 (Proclus, Chrestomathia i) continued
Next they sail as far as Tenedos: and while they are feasting, Philoctetes is bitten by a
snake and is left behind in Lemnos because of the stench of his sore. Here, too, Achilles
quarrels with Agamemnon because he is invited late. Then the Greeks tried to land at Ilium,
but the Trojans prevent them, and Protesilaus is killed by Hector. Achilles then kills Cycnus,
the son of Poseidon, and drives the Trojans back. The Greeks take up their dead and send
envoys to the Trojans demanding the surrender of Helen and the treasure with her. The
Trojans refusing, they first assault the city, and then go out and lay waste the country and
cities round about. After this, Achilles desires to see Helen, and Aphrodite and Thetis
contrive a meeting between them. The Achaeans next desire to return home, but are
restrained by Achilles, who afterwards drives off the cattle of Aeneas, and sacks Lyrnessus
and Pedasus and many of the neighbouring cities, and kills Troilus. Patroclus carries away
Lycaon to Lemnos and sells him as a slave, and out of the spoils Achilles receives Briseis as
a prize, and Agamemnon Chryseis. Then follows the death of Palamedes, the plan of Zeus
to relieve the Trojans by detaching Achilles from the Hellenic confederacy, and a catalogue
of the Trojan allies.
The First Expedition:
Apollodorus Epitome 3.9 - 18
[9] Menelaus went with Odysseus and Talthybius to Cinyras in Cyprus and tried to
persuade him to join the allies. He made a present of breastplates to the absent Agamemnon,
and swore he would send fifty ships, but he sent only one, commanded by the son of
Mygdalion, and the rest he moulded out of earth and launched them in the sea.
Artemis demanded that Agamemnon sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia.
Divine Riddles - 166
[10] The daughters of Anius, the son of Apollo; Elais, Spermo, and Oeno, are called the
Winegrowers: Dionysus granted them the power of producing oil, corn, and wine from the
[11] The armament mustered in Aulis. The men who went to the Trojan Aar were as
follows: 1 Of the Boeotiaos, ten leaders: they brought forty ships. Of the Orchomenians, four:
they brought thirty ships. Of the Phocians, four leaders: they brought forty ships. Of the
Locrians, Ajax, son of Oeleus: he brought forty ships. Of the Euboeans, Elephenor, son of
Chalcodon and Alcyone: he brought forty ships. Of the Athenians, Menestheus: he brought
fifty ships. [12] Of the Salaminians, Telamonian Ajax: he brought twelve ships. Of the
Argives, Diomedes, son of Tydeus, and his company: they brought eighty ships. Of the
Mycenaeans, Agamemnon, son of Atreus and Aerope: a hundred ships. Of the
Lacedaemonians, Menelaus, son of Atreus and Aerope: sixty ships. Of the Pylians, Nestor,
son of Neleus and Chloris: forty ships. Of the Arcadians, Agapenor: seven ships. Of the
Eleans, Amphimachus and his company: forty ships. Of the Dulichians, Meges, son of
Phyleus: forty ships. Of the Cephallenians, Odysseus, son of Laertes and Anticlia: twelve
ships. Of the Aetolians, Thoas, son of Andraemon and Gorge: he brought forty ships. [13]
Of the Cretans, Idomeneus, son of Deucalion: forty ships. Of the Rhodians, Tlepolemus,
son of Heracles and Astyoche: nine ships. Of the Symaeans, Nireus, son of Charopus: three
ships. Of the Coans, Phidippus and Antiphus, the sons of Thessalus: thirty ships. [14] Of
the Myrmidons, Achilles, son of Peleus and Thetis: fifty ships. From Phylace, Protesilaus,
son of Iphiclus: forty ships. Of the Pheraeans, Eumelus, son of Admetus: eleven ships. Of
the Olizonians, Philoctetes, son of Poeas: seven ships. Of the Aeanianians, Guneus, son of
Ocytus: twenty-two ships. Of the Triccaeans, Podalirius: thirty ships. Of the Ormenians,
Eurypylus: forty ships. Of the Gyrtonians, Polypoetes, son of Pirithous: thirty ships. Of the
Magnesians, Prothous, son of Tenthredon: forty ships. The total of ships was one thousand
and thirteen; of leaders, forty-three; of leaderships, thirty.
[15] When the armament was in Aulis, after a sacrifice to Apollo, a serpent darted from
the altar beside the neighbouring plane-tree, in which there was a nest; and having consumed
the eight sparrows in the nest, together with the mother-bird, which made the ninth, it was
turned to stone. Calchas said that this sign was given them by the will of Zeus, and he
inferred from what had happened that Troy was destined to be taken in a period of ten
years. And they made ready to sail against Troy. [16] Agamemnon in person was in command
of the whole army, and Achilles was admiral, being fifteen years old.
[17] But not knowing the course to steer for Troy, they put in to Mysia and ravaged it,
supposing it to be Troy. Now Telephus son of Heracles, was king of the Mysians, and seeing
the country pillaged, he armed the Mysians, chased the Greeks in a crowd to the ships, and
killed many, among them Thersander, son of Polynices, who had made a stand. But when
Achilles rushed at him, Telephus did not abide the onset and was pursued, and in the
pursuit he was entangled in a vine-branch and wounded with a spear in the thigh.
[18] Departing from Mysia, the Greeks put to sea, and a violent storm coming on, they
were separated from each other and landed in their own countries. So the Greeks returned
at that time, and it is said that the war lasted twenty years. 2 For it was in the second year
Other lists can be found in Iliad ii.494 - 759, and Euripides Iphigenia in Aulis 253ff.
See Iliad xxiv.765.
Divine Riddles - 167
after the rape of Helen that the Greeks, having completed their preparations, set out on the
expedition and after their retirement from Mysia to Greece eight years elapsed before they
again returned to Argos and came to Aulis.
The Second Expedition: Iphigenia Sacrificed at Aulis:
Apollodorus Epitome 3.19 - 22
[19] Having again assembled at Aulis after the aforesaid interval of eight years, they were
in great perplexity about the voyage, because they had no leader who could show them the
way to Troy. [20] But Telephus, because his wound was unhealed, and Apollo had told him
that he would be cured when the one who wounded him should turn physician, came from
Mysia to Argos, clad in rags, and begged the help of Achilles, promising to show the course
to steer for Troy. So Achilles healed him by scraping off the rust of his Pelian spear. 1
Accordingly, on being healed, Telephus showed the course to steer, and the accuracy of his
information was confirmed by Calchas by means of his own art of divination.
[21] But when they had put to sea from Argos and arrived for the second time at Aulis,
the fleet was wind-bound, and Calchas said that they could not sail unless the fairest of
Agamemnon's daughters were presented as a sacrifice to Artemis; for the goddess was angry
with Agamemnon, both because, on shooting a deer, he had said, "Artemis herself could not
(do it better)," [22] and because Atreus had not sacrificed to her the golden lamb. On receipt
of this oracle, Agamemnon sent Odysseus and Talthybius to Clytemnestra and asked for
Iphigenia, alleging a promise of his to give her to Achilles to wife in reward for his military
service. So Clytemnestra sent her, and Agamemnon set her beside the altar, and was about
to slaughter her, when Artemis carried her off to the Taurians and appointed her to be her
priestess, substituting a deer for her at the altar; but some say that Artemis made her
Philoctetes on Tenedos:
Apollodorus Epitome 3.23 - 27
[23] After putting to sea from Aulis they touched at Tenedos. It was ruled by Tenes, son
of Cycnus and Proclia, but according to some, he was a son of Apollo. He dwelt there
because he had been banished by his father. [24] For Cycnus had a son Tenes and a daughter
Hemithea by Proclia, daughter of Laomedon, but he afterwards married Philonome,
daughter of Tragasus; and she fell in love with Tenes, and, failing to seduce him, falsely
accused him to Cycnus of attempting to debauch her, and in witness of it she produced a
flute player, by name Eumolpus. [25] Cycnus believed her, and putting him and his sister in
a chest he set them adrift on the sea. The chest was washed up on the island of Leucophrys,
and Tenes landed and settled in the island, and called it Tenedos after himself. But Cycnus
afterwards learning the truth, stoned the flute player to death and buried his wife alive in
the earth.
This spear was given to Peleus by Chiron, Peleus' maternal grandfather.
Divine Riddles - 168
[26] So when the Greeks were standing in for Tenedos, Tenes saw them and tried to
keep them off by throwing stones, but was killed by Achilles with a sword-cut in the breast,
though Thetis had forewarned Achilles not to kill Tenes, because he himself would die by
the hand of Apollo if he slew Tenes. [27] And as they were offering a sacrifice to Apollo, a
water snake approached from the altar and bit Philoctetes; and as the sore did not heal and
festered, the army could not endure the stench, and Odysseus, by the orders of Agamemnon,
put him ashore on the island of Lemnos, with the bow of Hercules which he had in his
possession; and there, by shooting birds with the bow, he subsisted in the wilderness.
The Landing at Troy and the death of Protesilaus:
Apollodorus Epitome 3.28 - 34
[28] Putting to sea from Tenedos they made sail for Troy, and sent Odysseus and
Menelaus to demand the restoration of Helen and the property. But the Trojans, having
summoned an assembly, not only refused to restore Helen, but threatened to kill the envoys.
[29] These were, however, saved by Antenor; 1 but the Greeks, exasperated at the insolence
of the barbarians, stood to arms and made sail against them. Now Thetis charged Achilles
not to be the first to land from the ships, because the first to land would be the first to die.
Being apprized of the hostile approach of the fleet, the barbarians marched in arms to the
sea, and endeavoured by throwing stones to prevent the landing.
[30] Of the Greeks the first to land from his ship was Protesilaus, and having slain not
a few of the barbarians, he fell by the hand of Hector. His wife Laodamia 2 loved him even
after his death, and she made an image of him and consorted with it. The gods had pity on
her, and Hermes brought up Protesilaus from Hades. On seeing him, Laodamia thought it
was him returned from Troy, and she was glad; but when he was carried back to Hades, she
stabbed herself to death. [31]
On the death of Protesilaus, Achilles landed with the Myrmidons, and throwing a stone
at the head of Cycnus, killed him. When the barbarians saw him dead, they fled to the city,
and the Greeks, leaping from their ships, filled the plain with bodies. And having shut up
the Trojans, they besieged them; and they drew up the ships. [32] The barbarians showing
no courage, Achilles waylaid Troilus and slaughtered him in the sanctuary of Thymbraean
Apollo, and coming by night to the city he captured Lycaon. Moreover, taking some of the
chiefs with him, Achilles laid waste the country, and made his way to Ida to steal the cattle
of Aeneas. But Aeneas fled, and Achilles killed the farmhands and Mestor, son of Priam,
and drove away the cattle. [33] He also took Lesbos sand Phocaea, then Colophon, and
Smyrna, and Clazomenae, and Cyme; and afterwards Aegialus and Tenos, the socalled
Hundred Cities; then, in order, Adramytium and Side; then Endium, and Linaeum, and
Colone. He took also Hypoplacian Thebes and Lyrnessus, 3 and further Antandrus, and
many other cities.
See below 5.21, for this kindness Antenor and his family were spared.
She is also called Polydora, the daughter of Meleager (Paus. iv.2.7).
Where he captured Briseis, after killing her husband.
Divine Riddles - 169
[34] A period of nine years having elapsed, allies came to join the Trojans: 1 From the
surrounding cities Aeneas, son of Anchises, and with him Archelochus and Acamas, sons of
Antenor, and Theanus, leaders of the Dardanians; of the Thracians, Acamas, son of Eusorus;
of the Cicones, Euphemus, son of Troezenus; of the Paeonians, Pyraechmes; of the
Paphlagonians, Pylaemenes, son of Bilsates; [35] from Zelia, Pandarus, son of Lycaon; from
Adrastia, Adrastus and Amphius, sons of Merops; from Arisbe, Asius, son of Hyrtacus; from
Larissa, Hippothous, son of Pelasgus; from Mysia, Chromius and Ennomus, sons of
Arsinous; of the Alizones, Odius and Epistrophus, sons of Mecisteus; of the Phrygians,
Phorcys and Ascanius, sons of Aretaon; of the Maeonians, Mesthles and Antiphus, sons of
Talaemenes; of the Carians, Nastes and Amphimachus, sons of Nomion; of the Lycians,
Sarpedon, son of Zeus, and Glaucus, son of Hippolochus.
The Wrath of Achilles
Our narrative now arrives at the point where Homer's Iliad begins, with Briseus, the priest of
Apollo at Lynessus and father of Briseis, petitioning Agamemnon:
Iliad i.1 - 21:
[1] Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon
the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did
it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, [5] for so were the counsels of Zeus fulfilled from the
day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one
[8]And which of the gods was it that set them on to quarrel? It was the son of Zues and
Leto; 2 for he was angry with the king and sent a pestilence upon the host to plague the
people, because the son of Atreus had dishonoured Chryses his priest. Now Chryses had
come to the ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and had brought with him a great
ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo wreathed with a suppliant's
wreath and he besought the Achaeans, but most of all the two sons of Atreus, who were
their chiefs.
[17]"Sons of Atreus," he cried, "and all other Achaeans, may the gods who dwell in
Olympus grant you to sack the city of Priam, and to reach your homes in safety; but free my
daughter, and accept a ransom for her, in reverence to Apollo, son of Zeus."
Iliad i.22 - 52
[22] On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for respecting the priest and
taking the ransom that he offered; but not so Agamemnon, who spoke fiercely to him and
sent him roughly away. "Old man," said he, "let me not find you tarrying about our ships,
nor yet coming hereafter. Your sceptre of the god and your wreath shall profit you nothing.
I will not free her. She shall grow old in my house at Argos far from her own home, busying
For comparison, see Iliad ii.816-77.
Divine Riddles - 170
herself with her loom and visiting my couch; so go, and do not provoke me or it shall be the
worse for you."
[33] The old man feared him and obeyed. Not a word he spoke, but went by the shore
of the sounding sea and prayed apart to Apollo whom lovely Leto had borne. "Hear me," he
cried, "O god of the silver bow, who protects Chryse and holy Cilla and rules Tenedos with
your might, hear me, you of Smintheus. 1 If I have ever decked your temple with garlands, or
burned your thigh-bones in fat of bulls or goats, grant my prayer, and let your arrows avenge
these my tears upon the Danaans."
[43] Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. He came down furious from the
summits of Olympus, with his bow and his quiver upon his shoulder, and the arrows rattled
on his back with the rage that trembled within him. He sat himself down away from the
ships with a face as dark as night, and his silver bow rang death as he shot his arrow in the
midst of them. First he smote their mules and their hounds, but presently he aimed his
shafts at the people themselves, and all day long the pyres of the dead were burning.
Learning the cause of the plague, Achilles urges Agamemnon to return Briseis to her father
but Agamemnon demands compensation for his loss:
Iliad i.121 - 244
[121] And Achilles answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, covetous beyond all mankind,
how shall the Achaeans find you another prize? We have no common store from which to
take one. Those we took from the cities have been awarded; we cannot disallow the awards
that have been made already. Give this girl, therefore, to the god, and if ever Zeus grants us
to sack the city of Troy we will requite you three and fourfold."
[130] Then Agamemnon said, "Achilles, valiant though you be, you shall not thus outwit
me. You shall not overreach and you shall not persuade me. Are you to keep your own prize,
while I sit tamely under my loss and give up the girl at your bidding? Let the Achaeans find
me a prize in fair exchange to my liking, or I will come and take your own, or that of Ajax
or of Odysseus; and he to whomsoever I may come shall rue my coming. But of this we will
take thought hereafter; for the present, let us draw a ship into the sea, and find a crew for
her expressly; let us put a hecatomb on board, and let us send Chryseis also; further, let
some chief man among us be in command, either Ajax, or Idomeneus, or Odysseus, or
yourself, son of Peleus, mighty warrior that you are, that we may offer sacrifice and appease
the the anger of the god."
[148] Achilles scowled at him and answered, "You are steeped in insolence and lust of
gain. With what heart can any of the Achaeans do your bidding, either on foray or in open
fighting? I came not warring here for any ill the Trojans had done me. I have no quarrel
with them. They have not raided my cattle nor my horses, nor cut down my harvests on the
rich plains of Phthia; for between me and them there is a great space, both mountain and
sounding sea. We have followed you, Sir Insolence! for your pleasure, not ours - to gain
satisfaction from the Trojans for your shameless self and for Menelaus. You forget this, and
Smintheus is an epithet for Apollo with Eastern origins. There was a city near Troy called Sminthe where Apollo
was worshiped.
Divine Riddles - 171
threaten to rob me of the prize for which I have toiled, and which the sons of the Achaeans
have given me. Never when the Achaeans sack any rich city of the Trojans do I receive so
good a prize as you do, though it is my hands that do the better part of the fighting. When
the sharing comes, your share is far the largest, and I must go back to my ships, take what I
can get and be thankful, when my labour of fighting is done. Now, therefore, I shall go back
to Phthia; it will be much better for me to return home with my ships, for I will not stay
here dishonoured to gather gold and substance for you."
[172] And Agamemnon answered, "Fly if you will, I shall make you no prayers to stay
you. I have others here who will do me honour, and above all Zeus, the lord of counsel.
There is no king here so hateful to me as you are, for you are ever quarrelsome and ill
affected. What though you be brave? Was it not heaven that made you so? Go home, then,
with your ships and comrades to lord it over the Myrmidons. I care neither for you nor for
your anger; and thus will I do: since Phoebus Apollo is taking Chryseis from me, I shall send
her with my ship and my followers, but I shall come to your tent and take your own prize
Briseis, that you may learn how much stronger I am than you are, and that another may fear
to set himself up as equal or comparable with me."
[188] The son of Peleus was furious, and his heart within his shaggy breast was divided
whether to draw his sword, push the others aside, and kill the son of Atreus, or to restrain
himself and check his anger. While he was thus in two minds, and was drawing his mighty
sword from its scabbard, Athena came down from heaven (for Hera had sent her in the love
she bore to them both), and seized the son of Peleus by his yellow hair, visible to him alone,
for of the others no man could see her. Achilles turned in amaze, and by the fire that flashed
from her eyes at once knew that she was Athena. "Why are you here," said he, "daughter of
aegis-bearing Zeus? To see the pride of Agamemnon, son of Atreus? Let me tell you- and it
shall surely be- he shall pay for this insolence with his life."
[205] And Athena said, "I come from heaven, if you will hear me, to bid you stay your
anger. Hera has sent me, who cares for both of you alike. Cease, then, this brawling, and do
not draw your sword; rail at him if you will, and your railing will not be vain, for I tell youand it shall surely be- that you shall hereafter receive gifts three times as splendid by reason
of this present insult. Hold, therefore, and obey."
[215] "Goddess," answered Achilles, "however angry a man may be, he must do as you
two command him. This will be best, for the gods ever hear the prayers of him who has
obeyed them."
[219] He stayed his hand on the silver hilt of his sword, and thrust it back into the
scabbard as Athena bade him. Then she went back to Olympus among the other gods, and
to the house of aegis-bearing Zeus.
[223] But the son of Peleus again began railing at the son of Atreus, for he was still in a
rage. "Wine-bibber," he cried, "with the face of a dog and the heart of a hind, you never dare
to go out with the host in fight, nor yet with our chosen men in ambuscade. You shun this
as you do death itself. You had rather go round and rob his prizes from any man who
contradicts you. You devour your people, for you are king over a feeble folk; otherwise, son
of Atreus, henceforward you would insult no man. Therefore I say, and swear it with a great
oath- nay, by this my sceptre which shalt sprout neither leaf nor shoot, nor bud anew from
the day on which it left its parent stem upon the mountains- for the axe stripped it of leaf
Divine Riddles - 172
and bark, and now the sons of the Achaeans bear it as judges and guardians of the decrees
of heaven- so surely and solemnly do I swear that hereafter they shall look fondly for Achilles
and shall not find him. In the day of your distress, when your men fall dying by the
murderous hand of Hector, you shall not know how to help them, and shall rend your heart
with rage for the hour when you offered insult to the bravest of the Achaeans."
Nestor intervenes and is barely able to avert violence, but Agamemnon is not moved to
Iliad. i.304 - 44:
[304]When they had quarrelled thus angrily, they rose, and broke up the assembly at
the ships of the Achaeans. The son of Peleus went back to his tents and ships with the son
of Menoetius and his company, while Agamemnon drew a vessel into the water and chose a
crew of twenty oarsmen. He escorted Chryseis on board and sent moreover a hecatomb for
the god. And Odysseus went as captain.
[312] These, then, went on board and sailed their ways over the sea. But the son of
Atreus bade the people purify themselves; so they purified themselves and cast their filth
into the sea. Then they offered hecatombs of bulls and goats without blemish on the seashore, and the smoke with the savour of their sacrifice rose curling up towards heaven.
[318] Thus did they busy themselves throughout the host. But Agamemnon did not
forget the threat that he had made Achilles, and called his trusty messengers and squires
Talthybius and Eurybates. "Go," said he, "to the tent of Achilles, son of Peleus; take Briseis
by the hand and bring her hither; if he will not give her I shall come with others and take
her- which will press him harder."
[326] He charged them straightly further and dismissed them, whereon they went their
way sorrowfully by the seaside, till they came to the tents and ships of the Myrmidons. They
found Achilles sitting by his tent and his ships, and ill-pleased he was when he beheld them.
They stood fearfully and reverently before him, and never a word did they speak, but he
knew them and said, "Welcome, heralds, messengers of gods and men; draw near; my quarrel
is not with you but with Agamemnon who has sent you for the girl Briseis. Therefore,
Patroclus, bring her and give her to them, but let them be witnesses by the blessed gods, by
mortal men, and by the fierceness of Agamemnon's anger, that if ever again there be need
of me to save the people from ruin, they shall seek and they shall not find. Agamemnon is
mad with rage and knows not how to look before and after that the Achaeans may fight by
their ships in safety."
Achilles then prays to his mother, the goddess Thetis, for assistance and she goes to Zeus with
her complaint:
Iliad. i. 493 - 530
[493] Now after twelve days the immortal gods came back in a body to Olympus, and
Zeus led the way. Thetis was not unmindful of the charge her son had laid upon her, so she
rose from under the sea and went through great heaven with early morning to Olympus,
where she found the mighty son of Cronus sitting all alone upon its topmost ridges. She sat
Divine Riddles - 173
herself down before him, and with her left hand seized his knees, while with her right she
caught him under the chin, and besought him, saying[503] "Father Zeus, if I ever did you service in word or deed among the immortals, hear
my prayer, and do honour to my son, whose life is to be cut short so early. King Agamemnon
has dishonoured him by taking his prize and keeping her. Honour him then yourself,
Olympian lord of counsel, and grant victory to the Trojans, till the Achaeans give my son
his due and load him with riches in requital."
[511] Zeus sat for a while silent, and without a word, but Thetis still kept firm hold of
his knees, and besought him a second time. "Incline your head," said she, "and promise me
surely, or else deny me- for you have nothing to fear- that I may learn how greatly you disdain
[517] At this Zeus was much troubled and answered, "I shall have trouble if you set me
quarrelling with Hera, for she will provoke me with her taunting speeches; even now she is
always railing at me before the other gods and accusing me of giving aid to the Trojans. Go
back now, lest she should find out. I will consider the matter, and will bring it about as wish.
See, I incline my head that you believe me. This is the most solemn that I can give to any
god. I never recall my word, or deceive, or fail to do what I say, when I have nodded my
[528] As he spoke the son of Cronus bowed his dark brows, and the ambrosial locks
swayed on his immortal head, till vast Olympus reeled.
Hera is less than pleased:
Iliad i. 531 - 601
[531] When the pair had thus laid their plans, they parted- Zeus to his house, while the
goddess quitted the splendour of Olympus, and plunged into the depths of the sea. The
gods rose from their seats, before the coming of their sire. Not one of them dared to remain
sitting, but all stood up as he came among them. There, then, he took his seat. But Hera,
when she saw him, knew that he and the old merman's daughter, silver-footed Thetis, had
been hatching mischief, so she at once began to upbraid him. "Trickster," she cried, "which
of the gods have you been taking into your counsels now? You are always settling matters in
secret behind my back, and have never yet told me, if you could help it, one word of your
[544] "Hera," replied the sire of gods and men, "you must not expect to be informed of
all my counsels. You are my wife, but you would find it hard to understand them. When it
is proper for you to hear, there is no one, god or man, who will be told sooner, but when I
mean to keep a matter to myself, you must not pry nor ask questions."
[551] "Dread son of Cronus," answered Hera, "what are you talking about? I? Pry and
ask questions? Never. I let you have your own way in everything. Still, I have a strong
misgiving that the old man of the sea’s daughter Thetis has been talking you over, for she
was with you and had hold of your knees this self-same morning. I believe, therefore, that
you have been promising her to give glory to Achilles, and to kill many people at the ships
of the Achaeans."
[560] And Zeus the gatherer of clouds replied: "I can do nothing but you suspect me
and find it out. You will take nothing by it, for I shall only dislike you the more, and it will
Divine Riddles - 174
go harder with you. Granted that it is as you say; I mean to have it so; sit down and hold
your tongue as I bid you for if I once begin to lay my hands about you, though all heaven
were on your side it would profit you nothing."
[568] On this Hera was frightened, so she curbed her stubborn will and sat down in
silence. But the heavenly beings were disquieted throughout the house of Zeus, till the
cunning workman Hephaestus began to try and pacify his mother Hera. "It will be
intolerable," said he, "if you two fall to wrangling and setting heaven in an uproar about a
pack of mortals. If such ill counsels are to prevail, we shall have no pleasure at our banquet.
Let me then advise my mother- and she must herself know that it will be better- to make
friends with my dear father Zeus, lest he again scold her and disturb our feast. If the
Olympian Thunderer wants to hurl us all from our seats, he can do so, for he is far the
strongest, so give him fair words, and he will then soon be in a good humour with us."
[584] As he spoke, he took a double cup of nectar, and placed it in his mother's hand.
"Cheer up, my dear mother," said he, "and make the best of it. I love you dearly, and should
be very sorry to see you get a thrashing; however grieved I might be, I could not help for
there is no standing against Zeus. Once before when I was trying to help you, he caught me
by the foot and flung me from the heavenly threshold. All day long from morn till eve, was
I falling, till at sunset I came to ground in the island of Lemnos, and there I lay, with very
little life left in me, till the Sintians came and tended me."
[595] Hera smiled at this, and as she smiled she took the cup from her son's hands.
Then Hephaestus drew sweet nectar from the mixing-bowl, and served it round among the
gods, going from left to right; and the blessed gods laughed out a loud applause as they saw
him ing bustling about the heavenly mansion.
[600] Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun they feasted, and
every one had his full share, so that all were satisfied. Apollo struck his lyre, and the Muses
lifted up their sweet voices, calling and answering one another. But when the sun's glorious
light had faded, they went home to bed, each in his own abode, which lame Hephaestus
with his consummate skill had fashioned for them. So Zeus, the Olympian Lord of Thunder,
hied him to the bed in which he always slept; and when he had got on to it he went to sleep,
with Hera of the golden throne by his side.
So ends the first book of the Iliad.
The plague ends and the war resumes:
Apollodorus Epitome 4.1 - 5
[1] Achilles did not go forth to the war, because he was angry on account of Briseis, the
daughter of Chryses the priest. Therefore the barbarians took heart of grace and sallied out
of the city. And Alexander fought a single combat with Menelaus; and when Alexander got
the worst of it, Aphrodite carried him off. And Pandarus, by shooting an arrow at Menelaus,
broke the truce.
[2] Diomedes, doing great deeds, wounded Aphrodite when she came to the help of
Aeneas and, encountering Glaucus, he recalled the friendship of their fathers and exchanged
arms. And Hector having challenged the bravest to single combat, many came forward, but
the lot fell on Ajax, and he did doughty deeds; but night coming on, the heralds parted
Divine Riddles - 175
The Greeks made a wall and a ditch to protect the ships and camp and, a battle taking
place in the plain, the Trojans chased the Greeks within the wall. But the Greeks sent
Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax as ambassadors to Achilles, begging him to fight for them, and
promising Briseis and other gifts. [4] And night coming on, they sent Odysseus and
Diomedes as spies; and these killed Dolon, son of Eumelus, and Rhesus, the Thracian (who
had arrived the day before as an ally of the Trojans, and having not yet engaged in the battle
was encamped at some distance from the Trojan force and apart from Hector); they also slew
the twelve men that were sleeping around him, and drove the horses to the ships. [5] But by
day a fierce fight took place; Agamemnon and Diomedes, Odysseus, Eurypylus, and
Machaon were wounded, the Greeks were put to flight, Hector made a breach in the wall
and entered and, Ajax having retreated, he set fire to the ships.
The Deaths of Patroclus and Hector:
Apollodorus Epitome 4.6 - 5.2
[6] But when Achilles saw the ship of Protesilaus burning, he sent out Patroclus with
the Myrmidons, after arming him with his own arms and giving him the horses. Seeing him
the Trojans thought that he was Achilles and turned to flee. And having chased them within
the wall, he killed many, amongst them Sarpedon, son of Zeus, and was himself killed by
Hector, after being first wounded by Euphorbus.
[7] And a fierce fight taking place for the corpse, Ajax with difficulty, by performing
feats of valour, rescued the body. And Achilles laid aside his anger and recovered Briseis.
And a suit of armour having been brought him from Hephaestus, he donned the armour
and went forth to the war, and chased the Trojans in a crowd to the Scamander, and there
killed many, and amongst them Asteropaeus, son of Pelegon, son of the river Axius; and the
river rushed at him in fury. But Hephaestus dried up the streams of the river, after chasing
them with a mighty flame. And Achilles slew Hector in single combat, and fastening his
ankles to his chariot dragged him to the ships. And having buried Patroclus, he celebrated
games in his honour, at which Diomedes was victorious in the chariot race, Epeus in boxing,
and Ajax and Odysseus in wrestling. And after the games Priam came to Achilles and
ransomed the body of Hector, and buried it.
[5.1] Penthesilea, daughter of Otrere and Ares, 1 accidentally killed Hippolyte and was
purified by Priam. In battle she slew many, and amongst them Machaon, and was afterwards
herself killed by Achilles, who fell in love with the Amazon after her death and slew Thersites
for jeering at him. [2] Hippolyte was the mother of Hippolytus; she also goes by the names
of Glauce and Melanippe. For when the marriage of Phaedra was being celebrated, Hippolyte
appeared in arms with her Amazons, and said that she would slay the guests of Theseus. So
a battle took place, and she was killed, whether involuntarily by her ally Penthesilea, or by
Theseus, or because his men, seeing the threatening attitude of the Amazons, hastily closed
the doors and so intercepted and slew her.
Queen of the Amazons.
Divine Riddles - 176
The Death of Achilles and the Trojan Horse:
Apollodorus Epitome 5. 3 - 23.
[3] Memnon, the son of Tithonus and the Dawn, came with a great force of Ethiopians
to Troy against the Greeks, and having slain many of the Greeks, including Antilochus, he
was himself slain by Achilles. Having chased the Trojans also, Achilles was shot with an
arrow in the ankle by Alexander and Apollo at the Scaean gate. [4] A fight taking place for
the corpse, Ajax killed Glaucus, and gave the arms to be conveyed to the ships, but the body
he carried, in a shower of darts, through the midst of the enemy, while Odysseus fought his
assailants. [5] The death of Achilles filled the army with dismay, and they buried him with
Patroclus in the White Isle, 1 mixing the bones of the two together. It is said that after death
Achilles consorts with Medea in the Isle of the Blest, and they held games in his honour, at
which Eumelus won the chariot-race, Diomedes the foot-race, Ajax the discus, and Tencer
the competition in archery. [6] Also his arms were offered as a prize to the bravest, and Ajax
and Odysseus came forward as competitors. The judges were the Trojans or, according to
some, the allies, and Odyssues was preferred. Disordered by chagrin, Ajax planned a
nocturnal attack on the army. And Athena drove him mad, and turned him, sword in hand,
among the cattle, and in his frenzy he slaughtered the cattle with the herdsmen, taking them
for the Achaeans. [7] But afterwards he came to his senses and slew also himself. 2 And
Agamemnon forbade his body to be burnt; and he alone of all who fell at Ilium is buried in
a coffin. His grave is at Rhoeteum.
[8] When the war had already lasted ten years, and the Greeks were despondent, Calchas
prophesied to them that Troy could not be taken unless they had the bow and arrows of
Hercules fighting on their side. On hearing that, Odysseus went with Diomedes to
Philoctetes in Lemnos, 3 and having by craft got possession of the bow and arrows he
persuaded him to sail to Troy. So he went, and after being cured by Podalirius he shot
Alexander. [9] After the death of Alexander, Helenus and Deiphobus quarrelled as to which
of them should marry Helen; and as Deiphobus was preferred, Helenus left Troy and took
up residence on Mt. Ida. I But as Calchas said that Helenus knew the oracles that protected
the city, Odysseus waylaid and captured him and brought him to the camp; [10] and Helenus
was forced to tell how Ilium could be taken: First, if the bones of Pelops were brought to
them; next, if Neoptolemus fought for them; and third, if the Palladium, which had fallen
from heaven, were stolen from Troy, for while it was within the walls the city could not be
[11] On hearing these things the Greeks caused the bones of Pelops to be fetched, and
they sent Odysseus and Phoenix to Lycomedes at Scyros, and these two persuaded him to
let Neoptolemus go. 4 On coming to the camp and receiving his father's arms from Odysseus,
who willingly resigned them, Neoptolemus slew many of the Trojans. [12] Afterwards,
An island 500 stadia from the mouth of the Ister (Danube) called Leuce by Strabo (vii.3.16) and the Isle of the
Blessed in other Greek sources. The island is now called Snake Island.
These events are the subject of Sophocles' Ajax.
See 3.26 above.
See above, iii.13.8. Neoptolemus is the son of Achilles.
Divine Riddles - 177
Eurypylus, son of Telephus, arrived to fight for the Trojans, bringing a great force of
Mysians. He performed great deeds, but was slain by Neoptolemus. [13] And Odysseus went
with Diomedes by night to the city, and there he let Diomedes wait, and after disfiguring
himself and putting on mean attire he entered unknown into the city as a beggar. And being
recognized by Helen, he with her help stole away the Palladium, and after killing many of
the guards, brought it to the ships with the aid of Diomedes.
[14] But afterwards he invented the construction of the Wooden Horse and suggested
it to Epeus, who was an architect. Epeus felled timber on Ida, and constructed the horse
with a hollow interior and an opening in the sides. Into this horse Odysseus persuaded fifty
(or, according to the author of the Little Iliad, three thousand) of the bravest to enter, while
the rest, when night had fallen, were to burn their tents, and, putting to sea, to lie to off
Tenedos, 1 but to sail back to land after the ensuing night. [15] They followed the advice of
Odysseus and introduced the bravest into the horse, after appointing Odysseus their leader
and engraving on the horse an inscription which read: "For their return home, the Greeks
dedicate this thank-offering to Athena." But they themselves burned their tents, and leaving
Sinon, who was to light a beacon as a signal to them, they put to sea by night, and lay to off
[16] And at break of day, when the Trojans beheld the camp of the Greeks deserted and
believed that they had fled, they with great joy dragged the horse, and stationing it beside
the palace of Priam deliberated what they should do. [17] As Cassandra said that there was
an armed force in it, and she was further confirmed by Laocoon, the seer, some were for
burning it, and others for throwing it down a precipice; but as most were in favour of sparing
it as a votive offering sacred to a divinity, they betook themselves to sacrifice and feasting.
[18] However, Apollo sent them a sign; for two serpents swam through the sea from the
neighbouring islands and devoured the sons of Laocoon. 2 [19] And when night fell, and all
were plunged in sleep, the Greeks drew near by sea from Tenedos, and Sinon kindled the
beacon on the grave of Achilles to guide them. And Helen, going round the horse, called
the chiefs imitating the voices of each of their wives. But when Anticlus would have
answered, Odysseus held fast his mouth. [20] And when they thought that their foes were
asleep, they opened the horse and came forth with their arms. The first, Echion, son of
Portheus, was killed by leaping from it; but the rest let themselves down by a rope, and
lighted on the walls, and having opened the gates, they admitted their comrades who had
landed from Tenedos. [21] And marching, arms in hand, into the city, they entered the
houses and slew the sleepers. Neoptolemus slew Priam, who had taken refuge at the altar of
Zeus of the Courtyard. But when Glaucus, son of Antenor, fled to his house, Odysseus and
Menelaus recognized and rescued him by their armed intervention. 3 Aeneas took up his
father Anchises and fled, and the Greeks let him alone on account of his piety. [22] But
Menelaus slew Deiphobus and led away Helen to the ships; and Aethra, mother of Theseus,
was also led away by Demophon and Acamas, the sons of Theseus; for they say that they
An island to the south-west only a few hundred meters off the coast.
One of the most famous of ancient sculptures is the Laocoon Group, excavated in Rome in 1506. It is certainly the
same statue described by Pliny the Elder (Nat. Hist. xxxvi.37) as adorning the palace of Titus.
Because these two had been hosted in the house of Antenor while attending at Troy as ambassadors. Antenor then
left the Troad and settled in northern Italy, where his descendants are the Venetians (Livy i.)
Divine Riddles - 178
afterwards went to Troy. And the Locrian Ajax, seeing Cassandra clinging to the wooden
image of Athena, violated her; therefore they say that the image looks to heaven.
[23] And having slain the Trojans, they set fire to the city and divided the spoil among
them. And having sacrificed to all the gods, they threw Astyanax from the battlements and
slaughtered Polyxena on the grave of Achilles. 1 And as special awards Agamemnon got
Cassandra, Neoptolemus got Andromache, and Odysseus got Hecuba. But some say that
Helenus got her, and crossed over with her to the Chersonese; and that there she turned
into a bitch, and he buried her at the place now called the 'Bitch's Tomb.' 2 As for Laodice,
the fairest of the daughters of Priam, she was swallowed up by a chasm in the earth in the
sight of all. When they had laid Troy waste and were about to sail away, they were detained
by Calchas, who said that Athena was angry with them on account of the impiety of Ajax.
And they would have killed Ajax, hut he fled to the altar and they let him alone.
Astyanax, aka Scamandrius, was the son of Hector and Andromache and, therefore, the only heir to the throne of
Ilium. He was killed so that the line of Trojan kings would come to an end. Polyxena was the daughter of Hecuba
and Priam. Achilles was in love with her, and as the Greeks were voyaging home, with Polyxena as a captive, the
ghost of Achilles appeared to them and demanded that they sacrifice the girl to him.
Divine Riddles - 179
The Aftermath of the War:
The Oresteia
In 458 BC Aeschylus produced the Oresteia trilogy which includes Agamemnon, The Libation
Bearers and The Eumenides. The overall theme of the trilogy is vendetta; the first two plays
demonstrating the endless bloodshed, the endless cycle of vengeance, that the vendetta system
propagates, and the third, Eumenides, proposing a solution through the submission of the
individual to the will of the community. But each play within the trilogy has its own theme(s) and
its own political agenda.
In the Agamemnon, the conqueror of Troy returns home only to be murdered by his wife
Clytemnestra. The first half this is a play deals with two themes: The Hybris - Ate - Nemesis cycle;
and Guilt, both earned and inherited. 1 Agamemnon is guilty for the murder/sacrifice of his own
daughter, Iphigenia; and he is also polluted by the curse on his family: Atreus, the father of
Agamemnon, had murdered his own nephews, the sons of his brother/rival, Thyestes.
The play opens with the news reaching Argos that Troy has fallen. The Chorus - a group of
Argive elders - then summarizes the background story and Clytemnestra gives a speech warning
of the dangers of impiety and wishing the Greek forces a safe journey home. The Chorus responds
with an explanation for the victory: It was because of Paris' violation of divine laws that Zeus
allowed the destruction of Troy:
[367] "The stroke of Zeus" they may call it; 'tis his hand that can be traced therein. As
he determines, so he acts. It hath been said by someone that the gods deign not to be
mindful" of mortals who trample underfoot the grace of inviolable sanctities. But that man
knew not the fear of God! Now it stands revealed [375] how ruin is the penalty for reckless
crime when men breathe a spirit of pride above just measure for that their mansions teem
with abundance surpassing their best good. But let there be such portion of wealth as brings
no distress, [380] so that he who has a good share of sound sense may have a sufficiency
therewith. For riches are no bulwark to the man who in wantonness has spurned from his
sight the mighty altar of Righteousness. [385] No, he is driven on by perverse Temptation,
the overmastering child of designing Destruction; and remedy is utterly in vain.
And again:
[763] But old Hubris is like to bring forth in evil men, or soon or late, at the fated hour
of birth, a young Hubris and that spirit irresistible, unconquerable, unholy, even
Recklessness (Até), black Curses unto the household, and like are they to their parents.
Agamemnon enters, riding on a chariot with Cassandra by his side, and Clytemnestra has a
purple tapestry spread over the ground from the palace door to the chariot. But Agamemnon is
[918] … pamper me not after woman's wise, nor, like some barbarian, [920] grovel to
me with wide mouthed acclaim; and draw not down envy upon my path by strewing it with
tapestries. 'Tis the gods we must honour thus; but for a mortal to tread upon broidered
Griffiths, 1991: 50.
Divine Riddles - 180
fineries is, to my judgment, not without ground for dread. [925] I bid thee revere me not as
a god, but as a man. Fame needs no carpeting and broideries to make her loud proclaim; to
think no folly is Heaven's best gift. Only when man's life comes to its end in prosperity dare
we pronounce him happy; [930] and if in all things so I might prosper, I have good courage.
Agamemnon and Clytemnestra go into the palace but Cassandra refuses to leave the chariot.
[1080] Apollo, Apollo! God of the Ways, my destroyer! For thou hast destroyed me, and
utterly, this second time. 1
She is about to prophesy, methinks, touching her own miseries. The gift divine still
abides even in the soul of one enslaved.
Apollo, Apollo God of the Ways, my destroyer! Ah, what way is this that thou hast
brought me! To what a house!
To that of Atreus' sons. If thou dost not perceive this, I'll tell it thee. And thou shalt
not say 'tis untrue.
Nay, nay, rather to a house of Heaven loathed, a house that knows many a horrible
butchery of kin, a human shambles and a floor swimming with blood.
Cassandra then explains her visions to the Chorus: She see that Clytemnestra has taken a lover
and that these two are about to kill Agamemnon. Cassandra also sees that Clytemnestra intends to
kill her.
Resolved to her fate, Cassandra then enters the palace and the screams of Agamemnon can be
heard from within. Finally, Clytemnestra emerges and the bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra
are brought out. Cassandra boasts of the deed and when the Chorus challenges her she replies:
[1412] Would you now condemn me to exile from the land, to the hatred of my people
and the execration of the public voice; though then you had not to urge against him that
lies here. And yet he, reckoning no more than if it had been a beast that perished - though
sheep were plenty in his fleecy folds - he sacrificed his own child, even her I bore with dearest
travail, to charm the blasts of Thrace. Is it not he whom you should have banished from this
land [1420] in requital for his polluting deed? No! When you arraign what I have done, you
are a stern judge. Well, I ''warn you; menace me thus on the understanding that I am
prepared, conditions equal, to let you lord it over me if you shall vanquish me by force. But
if a god shall bring the contrary to pass, [1425] you shall learn discretion though taught the
lesson late.
Apollo gave Cassandra the gift of prophesy, but he also cursed her so that she appeared to be insane.
Divine Riddles - 181
Haughty of spirit you are and overbearing is your speech. Even as your mind is
maddened by your deed of blood, upon your face a stain of blood shows full plain to behold.
Bereft of all honour, forsaken of your friends, [1430] you will hereafter atone for stroke with
Hear this too, this the righteous sanction of my oath: By Justice, exacted for my child,
by Ate and the Erinyes, 1 unto whom I sacrificed that man, hope does not tread for me the
halls of fear, [1435] so long as the fire upon my hearth is kindled by Aegisthus, 2 loyal in
heart to me as in days gone by. For he is no slight shield of confidence to me. Here lies the
man that did me wrong, minion of each Chryseis at Ilium; 3 [1440] and here she lies, his
captive, and auguress, and concubine, his oracular faithful bedfellow, yet equally familiar
with the sailor's benches. The pair has met no undeserved fate. For he lies thus; while she,
who, like a swan, [1445] has sung her last lament in death, lies here, his beloved; but to me
she has brought for my bed an added relish to my luxury.
The play concludes with Aegisthus, nearly coming to blows with the elders of Argos, the
Chorus, but finally asserting the tyranny of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, who would rule Argos
together - in overt opposition to the will of the community.
[1657] Venerable Elders, go to your homes, and yield betimes to destiny before you
come to harm. What we did had to be done. But should this trouble prove enough, we will
accept it, sore smitten as we are by the heavy hand of fate. Such is a woman's counsel, if any
deign to give it heed.
But to think that these men should let their wanton tongues thus blossom into speech
against me and cast about such gibes, putting their fortune to the test! To reject wise counsel
and insult their master!
[1665] It would not be like men of Argos to cringe before a knave.
Ha! I'll visit your with vengeance yet in days to come.
See below, Eumenides.
Pelops and Hippodamia had, amongst others, two sons; Atreus and Thyestes. These two brothers became embroiled
in a competition for the throne of Mycenae during which Atreus killed three of Thyestes sons and, having butchered
the bodies, served the meat to Thyestes at a feast. In revenge, Aegisthus, a surviving son of Thyestes, killed Atreus.
This same Aegisthus has now partnered with the Clytemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, in the current
murders. This is a four generation story of revenge after revenge.
Chryseis was the daughter of Chryses and had been captured and made the slave-girl of Agamemnon. The Iliad
opens with the offer, by Chryses, to ransom his daughter.
Divine Riddles - 182
Not if fate shall guide Orestes to return home.
Of myself I know that exiles feed on hope.
Keep on, grow thee fat, polluting justice, since you can.
[1670] Know that you shall pay me the penalty to requite your folly.
Brag in your bravery like a cock besides his hen.
Care not for their idle yelpings. I and you will be masters of this house and order it
The cycle of vengeance continues: In Libation Bearers Orestes, the son of Agamemnon,
returns to Argos and, with his sister Electra, manages to kill both Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.
Pausanias ii.16.6 – 7.
[2.16.6] In the ruins of Mycenae is a fountain called Persea; there are also underground
chambers of Atreus and his children, in which were stored their treasures. There is the grave
of Atreus, along with the graves of such as returned with Agamemnon from Troy, and were
murdered by Aegisthus after he had given them a banquet. As for the tomb of Cassandra, it
is claimed by the Lacedaemonians who dwell around Amyclae. Agamemnon has his tomb,
and so has Eurymedon the charioteer, while another is shared by Teledamus and Pelops,
twin sons, they say, of Cassandra, [2.16.7] whom while yet babies Aegisthus slew after their
parents. Electra has her tomb, for Orestes married her to Pylades. Hellanicus adds that the
children of Pylades by Electra were Medon and Strophius. Clytemnestra and Aegisthus were
buried at some little distance from the wall. They were thought unworthy of a place within
it, where lay Agamemnon himself and those who were murdered with him.
In the Eumenides we see both the culmination of the overall theme of the trilogy as well as an
overt and timely political statement. 1 The vendetta theme will find resolution at the end of
Eumenides when Athena herself establishes a system of justice to replace and to end the cycle of
vengeance - and she does so by establishing the Areopagus as court of law. This, in 458, four years
For the political message in Eumenides see Meier, 1990: 82 ff.
Divine Riddles - 183
after Pericles and Ephialtes had passed legislation reducing the Areopagus council from a
constitutional and active legislative body to a court of law only.
The play opens with the priestess of Delphi, the Pythia, revealing to the audience that she has
just entered the temple of Apollo at Delphi as seen, therein, Orestes, seeking sanctuary at the altar.
Also inside the temple are the Erinyes, the avenging spirits who pursue the guilty until vengeance
has been fulfilled. But the Erinyes cannot, by divine law, seize Orestes so long as he is touching
the altar.
[39] I was on my way to the inner shrine, enriched with many a wreath, when, on the
centre stone, 1 I beheld a man defiled before Heaven occupying the seat of suppliants. His
hands were dripping gore; he held a sword just drawn and a lofty olive-branch reverently
crowned with a tuft of wool exceeding large, white was the fleece; for as to this I can speak
[46] Before this man there sat asleep on thrones a wondrous throng of women. No!
Women they were surely not, Gorgons I rather call them. Nor yet can I liken them to forms
of Gorgons either. [50] Once before this I saw some pictured creatures carrying off the feast
of Phineus 2 - but these are wingless, sable, and altogether detestable. Their snorting nostrils
blow forth fearsome blasts, and from their eyes oozes a loathly rheum. [55] Their garb, too,
was such as is unfit to bring before the statues of the gods or into the abodes of men.
The tribe which owns this company I have never seen; nor do I know what region boasts
to rear unscathed this brood and not repent its pains.
[60] But for the outcome, let that be now the care of the lord of this house, even Loxias 3
himself, the powerful, for he is a revealer of healing remedies, a reader of portents, and for
others he purifies their homes.
The Pythia exits and the scene shifts to the inner temple where Apollo is speaking to Orestes:
[64] No! I will not abandon you. Your guardian to the end, close by your side, or even
when far removed, I will not show me gentle to your enemies. So now you see these
maddened women overcome; fallen on sleep are these loathsome maidens - beldames, aged
children, [70] with whom neither god nor man nor beast consorts ever. For evil's sake were
they even born, since they inhabit the evil gloom of Tartarus beneath the earth-creatures
loathed of men and of Olympian gods. Nevertheless, you should flee on and grow not faint
of heart.
[75] For as you ever tread the travelled earth, they will chase you even over the wide
continent and beyond the sea and the cities girdled by the sea. And grow not weary before
your course be run by brooding on this your toil; but when you have come to Pallas' burgh, 4
The Omphalos or navel. A white stone, located in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, was believed to be the exact centre
of the earth.
The Harpies, who were sent by the gods to punish Phineus by stealing his food (Apollodorus, i.9.21). The point
being made here is that the Erinyes are even more frightening than the Harpies.
Loxias in an epithet for Apollo.
Pallas Athena's city: Athens.
Divine Riddles - 184
[80] sit you down and clasp in your arms her ancient image. And there, with judges of your
cause and speech of persuasive charm, we shall discover means to release you utterly from
your distress; for it was at my behest that you did take your mother's life.
Apollo charges Hermes to guide Orestes to Athens. Clytemnestra's ghost appears and awakens
the Erinyes who now form the chorus of the play, and who confront Apollo:
[198] Lord Apollo, listen in turn to our reply. You yourself are no mere abettor of this
deed; It is your sole doing, and upon you falls all the guilt.
What do you mean? Explain yourselves!
By your behest you did prompt the stranger to slay his mother.
By my behest I prompted him to exact vengeance for his father. What then?
And thereafter you engaged yourself to give sanctuary to the red-handed murderer.
[205] And I bade him turn for expiation to this house .
And then you revile us who sped him on his way here?
Yes, I do, for it was improper that you approach this my house.
But to us this duty has been assigned.
What is this duty of yours? Proclaim your glorious prerogative!
[210] We chase from their homes those that slay their mothers.
But how then with a woman who kills her husband?
Divine Riddles - 185
That would not be murder of the self-same blood and kin.
The scene now shifts to Athens where Orestes is seen clutching the statue of Athena even as
the Erinyes enter in pursuit. Orestes prays to Athena for assistance and makes an interesting offer
by way of compensation:
[287] So now with pure lips I piously invoke Athena, this country's queen, to come to
my aid. Without effort of her spear, shall she win myself, my land and the Argive folk as
staunch and true allies for evermore.
The First Peloponnesian War began in 461 and a year before that, Argos had joined in an
alliance with Athens. Less than one year after the production of the Oresteia, Argos would send
1000 hoplites to assist the Athenians at the Battle of Tanagra. The Spartans won the battle, but
Athena appears and when she is appraised of the situation she decides the convene a court
[483] I will appoint judges of homicide bound by oath and establish a tribunal, a
tribunal to endure for all time. Do you call your witnesses and adduce your proofs, sworn
to support your cause; and I will return when I have singled out the best of my citizens,
that they may decide this issue in accordance with the truth, having bound themselves by
oath to pronounce no judgment contrary to justice.
The court is convened and Apollo appears to stand as a witness in the trial. After the Furies
examine Orestes they ask for Apollo's testimony:
[614] Unto you, this high tribunal created by Athena, I will speak as justice bids, seer
that I am, I cannot utter untruth. Never yet, on my oracular throne, have I spoken anything
touching man or woman or commonwealth, but what has been commanded by Zeus, the
father of the Olympians. Mark how potent is this plea of justice; [620] and I charge you to
yield obedience to the Father's will; for an oath hath not greater authority than Zeus.
Zeus - according to your testimony - gave you this oracular command: to declare to
Orestes here that he avenge the slaying of his father, but of the honour due his mother take
no account at all?
Apollo and the Furies debate the greater crime; the murder of a husband and king or the murder
of a mother, before Apollo appeals to Athena:
[667] But for my part, 0 Pallas, as in all things else, as I well know how, will I exalt your
city and your people, so with this man; for I have sent him as suppliant to your sanctuary
that he might prove faithful for all time to come, and that your, 0 Goddess, might win him
Divine Riddles - 186
as a new ally, him and his descendants, and it abide everlastingly that the posterity of this
people maintain their plighted bond.
Am I to assume that enough has now been said, [675] and shall I charge the judges now
to cast their honest ballots in accordance with their true judgment?
For our part, every bolt of ours is already shot. But I remain to hear the issue of the
Why should you not? As for you (to Apollo and Orestes), how shall I so dispose as to
escape censure at your hands?
You have heard what you have heard; and as you cast your ballots, [680] let your hearts,
my friends, hold sacred the oath you have sworn.
[681] Hear now my ordinance, you men of Attica, who pronounce judgment at the first
trial ever held for bloodshed. Henceforth, even as now, this court of judges shall abide unto
the people of Aegeus 1 for evermore. [685] And this Hill of Ares, whereon the Amazons had
their seat and pitched their tents, 2 what time they came, embattled, in resentment against
Theseus, and in those days built up this new citadel with lofty towers to rival his, and
sacrificed to Ares; whence the rock takes its name from him, the Hill of Ares. [690] Upon
this hill, I say, Reverence and her kinsman Fear, which both dwell in the hearts of my
citizens, shall withhold them from doing wrong by day and night alike, so be it they do not
themselves pollute the laws with evil influences; [695] stain clear water with mud and you
shall never find sweet drink.
I counsel my citizens to maintain neither anarchy nor tyranny and to hold in reverence,
and never quite banish, Fear from the city. For who among mortal men is righteous that has
no fear of anything? [700] Stand then in just awe of such majesty and you shall possess a
bulwark to safeguard your country and your government, such as none of mankind has either
among the Scythians or in Pelops' realm.
This council I do now establish, [705] inviolable by lust of gain, august, quick to avenge,
a guardian of the land, vigilant in defence of them that sleep. I have thus dwelt at length in
exhortation to my people for time yet to be but you must now rise, take each his ballot, [710]
and decide the cause under the sacred obligation of your oath. I have done.
Athena has just established the Areopagus Council. Since before the time of Solon this council
had nearly sovereign power in Athens (Ath. Pol. 3.6). In 462 BC, just four years before the
A mythical king of Athens.
According to legend, the Amazons invaded Athens and were defeated by Theseus.
Divine Riddles - 187
production of the Oresteia, Ephialtes and Pericles spearheaded constitutional reforms which
stripped the Areopagus council of all powers except that they should remain a court of law (Ath.
Pol. 25.1 - 26.1). The question, then, is whether or not Aeschylus intended to ratify these reforms
in public opinion with the presentation of the Eumenides.
The jury was hung, with equal votes for both sides and Athena, as the final and presiding
magistrate, cast her vote in favour of Orestes, acquitting him of murder. Apollo exits, as does
Orestes, but not before yet another vow that the people of Argos will be indebted to Athens forever
(754 - 777).
Athena then invites the Erinyes to reside in Athens and, accepting, they promise to protect the
people of Athens from internal strife and civil war:
May faction, insatiate of ill, ne'er raise her loud voice within this city - this I pray; and
may the dust not drink the black blood of its people and through passion work ruinous
slaughtering for vengeance to the destruction of the State. Rather may they return joy for
joy in a spirit of common love, and may they hate with one accord; for therein lies the cure
of many an evil in the world.
Orpheus is one of the most enigmatic of the mythical personages. In various traditions,
Orpheus is credited with inventing music, literature and the other arts;
Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica i.23 - 34
First then let us name Orpheus whom once Calliope bore, it is said, wedded to Thracian
Oeagrus, near the Pimpleian height. Men say that he by the music of his songs charmed the
stubborn rocks upon the mountains and the course of rivers. And the wild oak-trees to this
day, tokens of that magic strain, that grow at Zone on the Thracian shore, stand in ordered
ranks close together, the same which under the charm of his lyre he led down from Pieria.
Such then was Orpheus whom Aeson's son welcomed to share his toils, in obedience to the
behest of Cheiron, Orpheus ruler of Bistonian Pieria.
Apollodorus i.3.2
[2] Now Calliope 1 bore to Oeagrus or, nominally, to Apollo, a son Linus, whom
Hercules slew; and another son, Orpheus, who practised minstrelsy and by his songs moved
stones and trees. And when his wife Eurydice died, bitten by a snake, he went down to
Hades, wanting to bring her back to the world of the living, and he persuaded Pluto 2 to let
her go. The goddess promised to do so if, on the way, Orpheus would not turn round until
he should be come to his own house. But he disobeyed and turning round beheld his wife;
so she turned back. Orpheus also invented the mysteries of Dionysus, and having been torn
in pieces by the Maenads, he is buried in Pieria.
Diodorus iv. 25.2 – 4.
[2] And because we have now occasion to mention Orpheus, we conceive it will not be
amiss here to give a short account of him. He was the son of Oeagrus, and by birth a
Thracian, for in the art of music and poetry far excelling all that ever were recorded. For he
composed a poem, for sweetness and smoothness, the subject of all men's admiration and
he grew so eminent in this art, that, by the means of his music, he was said to draw even
wild beasts and trees after him; and being naturally very studious, [3] he attained to an
extraordinary degree of knowledge in the ancient theology. He improved himself, likewise,
very much by travelling into Egypt, so that he was accounted to excel the most accomplished
person among all the Greeks for his knowledge both in divinity and sacred mysteries, in
music, and in poetry. [4] He was one, likewise, in the expedition of the Argonauts, and for
the exceeding love he had to his wife, (with an admirable courage) descended into hell, and
there so entertained Persephone with the sweetness of his music that she gratified him so
far as to suffer him to carry back his wife, who died a little before, along with him. In like
One of the Muses.
A daughter of Ocean and Tethys. She lives in the underworld as an attendant on Persephone.
Divine Riddles - 189
manner, they say, Dionysus hereupon raised his own mother Semele from the shades below,
and, imbuing her with immortality, surnamed her Thyone.
Pausanias ix. 30.4 – 12
There are many untruths believed by the Greeks, one of which is that Orpheus was a
son of the Muse Calliope, and not of the daughter of Pierus, that the beasts followed him
fascinated by his songs, and that he went down alive to Hades to ask for his wife from the
gods below. In my opinion Orpheus excelled his predecessors in the beauty of his verse, and
reached a high degree of power because he was believed to have discovered mysteries,
purification from sins, cures of diseases and means of averting divine wrath.
[30.5] But they say that the women of the Thracians plotted his death, because he had
persuaded their husbands to accompany him in his wanderings, but dared not carry out
their intention through fear of their husbands. Flushed with wine, however, they dared the
deed, and hereafter the custom of their men has been to march to battle drunk. Some say
that Orpheus came to his end by being struck by a thunderbolt, hurled at him by the god
because he revealed sayings in the mysteries to men who had not heard them before.
[30.6] Others have said that his wife died before him, and that for her sake he came to
Aornum in Thesprotis, where of old was an oracle of the dead. He thought, they say, that
the soul of Eurydice followed him, but turning round he lost her, and committed suicide
for grief. The Thracians say that such nightingales as nest on the grave of Orpheus sing more
sweetly and louder than others.
[30.7] The Macedonians who dwell in the district below Mount Pieria and the city of
Dium say that it was here that Orpheus met his end at the hands of the women. Going from
Dium along the road to the mountain, and advancing twenty stades, you come to a pillar on
the right surmounted by a stone urn, which according to the natives contains the bones of
[30.8] There is also a river called Helicon. After a course of seventy-five stades the stream
hereupon disappears under the earth. After a gap of about twenty-two stades the water rises
again, and under the name of Baphyra instead of Helicon flows into the sea as a navigable
river. The people of Dium say that at first this river flowed on land throughout its course.
But, they go on to say, the women who killed Orpheus wished to wash off in it the bloodstains, and thereat the river sank underground, so as not to lend its waters to cleanse
[30.9] In Larisa I heard another story, how that on Olympus is a city Libethra, where
the mountain faces Macedonia, not far from which city is the tomb of Orpheus. The
Libethrians, it is said, received out of Thrace an oracle from Dionysus, stating that when the
sun should see the bones of Orpheus, then the city of Libethra would be destroyed by a
boar. The citizens paid little regard to the oracle, thinking that no other beast was big or
mighty enough to take their city, while a boar was bold rather than powerful.
[30.10] But when it seemed good to the god the following events befell the citizens.
About midday a shepherd was asleep leaning against the grave of Orpheus, and even as he
slept he began to sing poetry of Orpheus in a loud and sweet voice. Those who were
pasturing or tilling nearest to him left their several tasks and gathered together to hear the
shepherd sing in his sleep. And jostling one another and striving who could get nearest the
Divine Riddles - 190
shepherd they overturned the pillar, the urn fell from it and broke, and the sun saw whatever
was left of the bones of Orpheus.
[30.11] Immediately when night came the god sent heavy rain, and the river Sys (Boar),
one of the torrents about Olympus, on this occasion threw down the walls of Libethra,
overturning sanctuaries of gods and houses of men, and drowning the inhabitants and all
the animals in the city. When Libethra was now a city of ruin, the Macedonians in Dium,
according to my friend of Larisa, carried the bones of Orpheus to their own country.
[30.12] Whoever has devoted himself to the study of poetry knows that the hymns of
Orpheus are all very short, and that the total number of them is not great. The Lycomidae
know them and chant them over the ritual of the mysteries. For poetic beauty they may be
said to come next to the hymns of Homer, while they have been even more honored by the
Orpheus is remembered in the night sky by the constellation Vega (Lyra) which is said to be
the Lyre of Orpheus.
Divine Riddles - 191
The Atlantis myth has been much exaggerated in modern times; the only ancient references
to Atlantis are two passages from Plato both of which report, third hand, what Solon learned from
the Egyptian priests. In the Timaeus the sequence is that the priests told Solon, Solon told an
Athenian named Dropides who passed the story to his son, Critias. That Critias then passed the
story to his grandson, also called Critias, and it was this second Critias who tells the story to
Socrates, recorded by Plato in the Timaeus.
Plato, Timaeus 24d - 25d
Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our 1 histories. But one of
them exceeds all the rest [24e] in greatness and valour. For these histories tell of a mighty
power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to
which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those
days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which
are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put
together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of
the opposite continent [25a] which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within
the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real
sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent. 2 Now in this
island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole
island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, [25b] the men
of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt,
and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. 3
This vast power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and
yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone
forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. [25c] She was preeminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest
fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity
of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those
who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within
the pillars. But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; [25d] and in a
single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and
the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason
the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the
way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.
A more detailed description of Atlantis can be had in Plato’s Critias, 113a – 121c, although
the text breaks off mid-story and the remainder is lost to us.
The speaker here is the Egyptian priest.
Judging by this description, Atlantis sat between Europe and N. America.
Tuscany, in Italy.
Divine Riddles - 192
Aesop, Fables 1
Aesop, living in the early 6th century BC, was likely a Thracian slave serving Samian masters
until he was freed. He then served as a clerk in the court of Croesus, king of Lydia until his death
at Delphi. He is credited with writing a collection of gnomoi, wisdom tales, now called Aesop’s
Two Game Cocks
Two game Cocks were fiercely fighting for the mastery of the farmyard. One at last put
the other to flight. The vanquished Cock skulked away and hid himself in a quiet corner,
while the conqueror, flying up to a high wall, flapped his wings and crowed exultingly with
all his might. An Eagle sailing through the air pounced upon him and carried him off in his
talons. The vanquished Cock immediately came out of his corner, and ruled henceforth
with undisputed mastery.
Pride goes before destruction.
Birds of a Feather
A farmer placed nets on his newly-sown plowlands and caught a number of Cranes,
which came to pick up his seed. With them he trapped a Stork that had fractured his leg in
the net and was earnestly beseeching the Farmer to spare his life. "Pray save me, Master," he
said, "and let me go free this once. My broken limb should excite your pity. Besides, I am
no Crane, I am a Stork, a bird of excellent character; and see how I love and slave for my
father and mother. Look too, at my feathers-they are not the least like those of a Crane."
The Farmer laughed aloud and said, "It may be all as you say, I only know this: I have taken
you with these robbers, the Cranes, and you must die in their company.
Birds of a feather flock together.
Pride before a Fall
Two game cocks were fiercely fighting for the mastery of the farmyard. One at last put
the other to fight. The vanquished Cock skulked away and hid himself in a quiet corner,
while the conqueror, flying up to a high wall, flapped his wings and crowed exultingly with
all his might. An Eagle sailing through the air pounced upon him and carried him off in his
talons. The vanquished Cock immediately came out of his corner, and ruled henceforth
with undisputed mastery.
Pride goes before destruction.
Never Cry Wolf
A shepherd boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, brought out the villagers
three or four times by crying out, "Wolf! Wolf!" and when his neighbours came to help him,
laughed at them for their pains. The Wolf, however, did truly come at last. The Shepherdboy, now really alarmed, shouted in an agony of terror: "Pray, do come and help me; the
The fables are not numbered in the Townsend translation and I have not undertaken the task of numbering them.
This one is simply called ‘The Fighting Cocks and the Eagle.’
Divine Riddles - 193
Wolf is killing the sheep"; but no one paid any heed to his cries, nor rendered any assistance.
The Wolf, having no cause of fear, at his leisure lacerated or destroyed the whole flock.
There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth.
Divine Riddles - 194
Ancient Authors
Below are brief descriptions of the ancient authors from whose works this volume has been
assembled. Wherever possible, the original English translation is also given. As far as the editor
of this volume has been able to determine, all of the translations are in the Public Domain.
The first of the three great Athenian playwrights (which include Euripides and Sophocles).
He was born at Eleusis in 525 and died in Gela, Sicily, in 456 BC.
Aeschylus produced over seventy tragedies and won thirteen competitions, but only seven of
his plays are extant:
The Persae (Persians)
Produced in 472 BC, tells the story of the humiliation of Xerxes at the Battle of Salamis.
Seven Against Thebes
Aeschylus presented this play for the City Dionysia in 469/8, but lost to Sophocles. Aeschylus
was so upset at the loss that he left Athens to live in Syracuse, hosted by the tyrant Hiero.
By 459 Aeschylus is back in Athens and with the presentation of Suppliants he defeated his
rival Sophocles and won the City Dionysia.
In 458 BC Aeschylus produced the Oresteia trilogy with includes Agamemnon, The Libation
Bearers and The Eumenides.
Agamemnon’s return home after his victory at Troy.
The murder of Agamemnon by his wife Clytemnestra.
Libation Bearers
The story of Orestes, son of Agamemnon, who fled into exile after the murder of Agamemnon.
Orestes and his sister plot and carry out the revenge killing of Clytemnestra and her new husband,
Orestes, pursued by the Furies, seeks refuge on the Hill of Ares in Athens. There, Athena
presides as judge to determine the guilt of Orestes. The eleven man jury votes six to five to convict,
but Athena casts the final vote to acquit and, because of the tied jury, Orestes is acquitted.
Prometheus Bound
The date of this play is uncertain and even the authorship is now in question.
Prometheus as he is bound to a mountain in punishment for helping mankind.
Aeschylus died in Gela, Sicily, in 456 (Plut. Cimon 8.8). On his grave-stone (which he
commissioned before his death) there is no mention of his success as a playwright, only that he
fought at the Battle Marathon (Paus. i.14.5).
Divine Riddles - 195
His sons, Euporion and Bion, continued to present his plays for years after his death, Bion
winning the Dionysia as late as 431 BC.
All of the translations of Aeschylus herein are from the Edmund Doidge Anderson Morshead
translation (1881), available at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/aesch/index.htm.
A writer of fables who live around 570 BC. Very little is known of his life but he seems to
have been a slave on Samos, serving two successive masters and eventually winning his freedom.
His fables are often referred to by Classical Greek writers but no authoritative manuscripts
survive. The current collection attributed to Aesop is the work of a 14th century monk.
The Fables reproduced here are the George Fyler Townsend translation (1867).
An Athenian grammarian who flourished about 140 BC. He wrote many works but the only
one extant is his Bibliotheke, or Library in three books. It is a collection of the traditions of Greek
mythology beginning with the creation stories and breaking off with Theseus. The work is more
of a catalogue or compendium than a narrative proper but it provides insight into earlier works
now lost to us.
The translation reproduced in this volume is that of James George Fraser (1921) for the Loeb
Classical Library, available at http://www.theoi.com/Text/Apollodorus1.html.
Greek philosopher and founder of the ‘scientific method.’ Aristotle was born in Stageira in
Chalcidice in 384 BC and died 322 BC.
He studied in Athens, under Plato, from 367 until the death of Plato in 347. In 342 Aristotle
moved to Macedon to become the tutor to Alexander, son of King Philip II.
In 335 BC Aristotle returned to Athens and founded his own school, the Lyceum.
Aristotle wrote prolifically and his extant works include: Physics; Politics; Rhetoric; Poetry;
Nicomachian Ethics; Eudamian Ethics and others.
The Constitution of Athens is attributed to Aristotle but may be the work of one of his students.
The Poetics translation used herein is by S.H Butcher (1902)
Diodorus of Sicily
Details of his life are unclear, but Diodorus likely died around 21 BC.
He wrote a ‘universal history,’ Bibliotheca, in 40 books as a history of the world to 46 BC.
He probably wrote his entire work between 60 and 36 BC. He has come under much criticism of
late, not the least for his questionable chronology and seeming willingness to take his sources at
face value with little or no critical evaluation or comparison. More recent scholarship, especially
Peter Green's recent volume, takes a kinder view of his methods.
The translation used herein is that of G. Booth (1814) but with substantial editing.
Divine Riddles - 196
The third of the three great Athenian plawrights (with Aeschylus and Sophocles), Euripides
was born in 480 BC, the year of the Persian invasion of Greece.
His was a wealthy family and Euripides was proxenos for Magnesia.
Euripides won the City Dionysia only five times but that is a reflection of his bold innovations
rather than the quality of his works - the judges at these affairs tended toward conservatism.
Despite the support of his audiences, Euripides faced harsh criticism from the literary elite of
Athens and in 408 he left Athens for the court of King Archelaus of Macedon. Euripides lived and
wrote there until his death in 406.
Euripides wrote over 90 plays and although we know the names of 81 of these, only 19 are
The Daughters of Pelias
Non extant. This was his first procuction and was presented in 455 BC.
Date unknown, but this is likely the earliest of the extant plays.
Set in the Trojan War, this is the story of the arrival of King Rhesus of Thessaly to give
assistance to the Trojans against the Greek invaders.
A satyr play
Produced in 438
Produced in 431
Children of Heracles
Produced between 429 and 427
Produced in 428
Produced between 430 and 424
Produced in 425.
The Suppliants
Produced in 421 BC, this play relates the return of the descendants of Io to Argos. Danaus has
brought his 50 daughters to Argos to escape the sons of Aegyptus and most of the play depicts the
dilemma of King Pelasgus of Argos: Should he accept the suppliants and risk war with Aegyptus,
or should he place the safety of his city first and send Danaus and his daughters away?
Divine Riddles - 197
The Madness of Heracles
Produced between 423 and 420 BC.
419 - 416
Daughters of Troy
Iphigeneia in Tauris
414 - 412
The Phoenician Women
411 to 409
The Bacchanals
Iphigeneia in Aulus
Produced posthumously, in 405
Very little is known about the life of Hesiod but that he was from Boeotia, in central Greece,
and lived about 750 BC.
Two works of Hesiod survive; Theogony and Works and Days both of which were highly
regarded in the ancient world, so much so that many ancients regarded Hesiod and Homer to be
equally responsible for the defining characteristics of Greek identity and religion.
The translations of Theogony and Works and Days in this volume is that of Hugh G. EvelynWhite (1914).
The most famous and influential works of the ancient world are attributed to Homer who, if
an historical person, likely lived around 850 BC. His two principal works are The Iliad and The
Excerpts from the Iliad in this volume are from the Samuel Butler translation (1898).
Divine Riddles - 198
Publius Ovidius (Ovid) Naso was born in March of 43 BC in Sulmo, Italy, about 120km east
of Rome. Ovid studied for the law but was more inclined to poetry and, very early in his legal
career, he left Italy to study in Athens. Although he did serve as a magistrate for some time, his
real vocation was poetry and he is remembered today as one of the greatest of the Latin poets.
His works Amores (Loves), Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love), and Metamorphoses, amongst
others, are still heralded amongst the greatest works of literature.
The translation of Metamorphoses used herein is that of Henry T. Riley (1893).
Wrote a Description of Greece (Hellados Periegesis), a tourist guide, in the late second
century AD.
Pausanias, Description of Greece. 1918. W.H.S. Jones and H.A. Ormerod trans. 4 volumes. The
Loeb Classical Library, Harvard UP. This volume is available electronically at
Plutarch of Chaeronea was a prominent political figure, a priest of Apollo at Delphi and
confidant of emperors. He probably lived from ca. 50 to ca. 120 AD.
A Philosopher and biographer, his interest was less in historical events and chronology than
in the character and personality of the people involved in the events.
His work Parallel Lives of Illustrious Greeks and Romans survives in 19 definite pairs, including
comparisons, 4 likely pairs for which comparisons are lost, and 4 other Lives which likely
belonged to lost collections. Also extant are many philosophical, moral and rhetorical works.
496 - 405 BC.
Sophocles was born at Colonus, a small village just to the north-west of Athens, in 496/5 BC.
The details of his family and his youth are obscure, but it seems probable that his father, Sophilus
(or Sophillus) operated factories or hired out skilled slaves. What is certain is that his family was
not aristocratic but was well-to-do; certain only because Sophocles was afforded the best education
as a youth. He was only fifteen when he and his family fled to Salamis to witness the occupation
of Athens by Xerxes, and after the Battle of Salamis Sophocles was a member of a boys' chorus
which performed at the dedication of the trophy celebrating the victory.
His first victory in the City Dionysia came in 468 with a play now lost. Of his 120 productions
only 7 survive, but we know that he won the City Dionysia 18 times.
According to Tzetzes (Chil. xiii. 638), Stasinus was the author of a work called The Cypria or
Cyprian Epic. It was thought by many to have been the work of Homer. Other candidates are
Stasinus of Cyprus (most likely), Hegesias of Salamis or Cyprias of Halicarnassus. It was likely
written in the sixth century BC and formed part of a collection of mythic poems called The Epic
Cycle. The Cypria survives only in fragments.
Divine Riddles - 199
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