The Wrath of Heaven
From the modern point of perspective, relationship between mortals and the gods seemed to be very daunting and fraught with dangers. The immortal can be your best friend and your strongest ally. The gods could also be your worse enemy. The deities seemed to be as fickle as any mortal.
Though the gods seemed more powerful than the goddesses, yet incurring the wrath and enmity of the goddesses had caused some of the greatest events in Classical myths. Such events as the Quest of the Golden Fleece, Calydonian Boar Hunt, the Trojan War, and Heracles performing his Twelve Labours; these events and some others are told elsewhere, in separate pages.)
However the wrath and enmity of the goddesses can also have devastating consequences on not only the life of the victim, but also on his or her family, or sometimes the entire kingdom can hang in the balance. The punishment of mortals, inflicted by the goddesses, can sometimes be as cruel and brutal as those inflicted by the gods.
Here you will find Greek and Roman myths, containing how the gods and goddesses punished mortals.
Note that these tales are mostly written, using Greek names for the deities, unless there are no Greek sources; which in this case I will use their Latin name, such as in the story of Arachne, where I used Minerva instead of Athena.
Fact and Figures: Astronomy
|Erysichthon (Ἐρυσίχθων) was the son of Triopas. Erysichthon was the father of Mestra (Μήστρα), a girl who would later marry Autolycus and become the mother of Anticleia.
He was a rich and impious man, who cut down a tree from a sacred grove. By cutting down the tree, he had killed a dryad nymph. The other dryads called upon Demeter to avenge their sister.
Demeter severely punished Erysichthon for sacrilege. Demeter inflicted Erysichthon with insatiable hunger. No matter what Erysichthon ate, he could quell his hunger for more food. Erysichthon sold everything he had, for food, until he had nothing left but his daughter, Mestra.
Mestra had the ability to shift-change, after she was either seduced or raped by Poseidon. Driven by hunger, Erysichthon sold his daughter off in slavery, for a great deal of money to buy more food. Mestra escaped from her master and returned to her father, where Erysichthon can sell her again to another master.
Finally, driven to despair, Erysichthon consumed himself.
|Teiresias (or Tiresias; Τειρεσίας) was the famous blind seer from Thebes. Teiresias was the son of Everes and the nymph Chariclo. On his father’s side, Teiresias was the descendant of Udaeus, one of the original Sparti.
There are a couple of versions of how he became blind and how he gained the second sight or prophetic gifts.
According to one version, Teiresias was born with the gift of foretelling. The gods feared that Teiresias would see too much that the gods wished to keep conceal. So the gods took his eyesight, depriving the seer of physical vision.
According to the poem Bath of Pallas by Callimachus, the young Teiresias happened to see Athena bathing by accident. Athena immediately struck Teiresias blind, without thinking. This upset Chariclo, who happened to be Athena’s favourite companion. To compensate Teiresias’ loss of sight, Athena gave him several gifts.
Athena gave him second sight (gift of prophecy) and, according to Apollodorus, the ability to understand the speech of birds. He was also awarded an unnaturally long life, which spanned over 7 generations (he lived in the time of Cadmus to the time of Epigoni). And after his death, he would still have the ability to retain his memory and his second sight, when he will reside in the Underworld.
According to the more popular version by Hesiod and Ovid, the young Teiresias was out in the country, at the foot of Mount Cithaeron, when he came upon two snakes mating. With his staff, he killed the female snake, which caused him to transform into a young woman. For seven years, he lived his life as a woman. Then he came upon the same snakes and was transformed back into a man.
Zeus and Hera were having an argument over who has the most pleasure in a sexual intercourse, a man or a woman. Zeus teased Hera, by saying that the woman had more pleasure than a man did. Hera had the opposite view.
To prove their point, they went to see Teiresias, who had sex as a man and a woman. Teiresias told them that a woman had more pleasure during intercourse than a man. Comparing to a scale of ten, woman enjoy sex nine out of ten, compare that of man with one out ten.
When she lost the argument, she had also her temper, so she was swift with her punishment. Hera struck Teiresias blind. Zeus taking pity on the young blind man, gave Teiresias the gift of second sight and extended his life, longer than most mortals (seven generations from the time of Cadmus to that of the Epigoni).
During the reign of Pentheus, Cadmus and Teiresias believed that Dionysus, Cadmus’ other grandson, was a god and joined in the Dionysiac revelry. Teiresias warned Pentheus of the consequences opposing the young god. Pentheus ignored his dire warning, resulting in his mother and aunts tearing him apart. (See Pentheus, Children of Cadmus and Dionysus)
Teiresias cleared up the confusion of how Alcmene lost her virginity to Zeus, who was in her husband’s form (Amphitryton) and became pregnant with Heracles.
In the war against Argos, Teiresias told Eteocles and Creon that Thebes could only win the war, if they sacrifice Menoeceus to the war god Ares. Menoeceus was the son of Creon. Creon refused, but Menoeceus heard of seer’s prophecy, sacrificed himself on Ares’ altar, to save Thebes. See Seven Against Thebes.
In Thebes’ second war against Argos, when Thebes fell to the sons of seven Argive leaders, Teiresias died while fleeing from the city. See the Epigoni.
According to another source, Teiresias fled to Colophon, a city in Asia Minor, where he died. According to the Nostoi (the “Returns”) from the Epic Cycle, after the Trojan War, two Lapith leaders, Polypoetes and Leonteus, along with the seer Calchas, migrated to Colophon and buried Teiresias’ body.
Teiresias told Odysseus, why Poseidon persecuted him, and told him how to appease the sea god. Teiresias warned the hero, not to eat the Cattle of the sun god Helius on the island of Thrinacia, if he wishes to return home. Teiresias also foretold Odysseus’ death.
See the Odyssey.
Teiresias had a daughter named Manto, who was also a gifted seeress. By the Argive Alcmeon, son of the warrior-seer Amphiaraus, she bored Amphilochus. She had another son, named Mopsus, whose father was either Rhacius or the god Apollo.
|Semele (Σεμέλη) was the beautiful daughter of Cadmus, the king of Thebes, and of Harmonia, the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite. Semele was also the sister of Autonoë, Agave and Ino, as well of a brother, named Polydorus.
Zeus had fallen in love with the young Theban princess, seduced her. Semele fell pregnant.
Unlike most of the woman Zeus had seduced, Semele was under the god’s protection, so Hera, Zeus’ jealous wife and consort, could not directly persecute her. So Hera had resort to cunning to rid of her mortal rival.
Though, Semele was aware of her divine lover was none other than Zeus, she was still a young girl, and was very naive. Hera appeared in the guise of Beroe, Semele’s old nurse from Epidaurus.
Beroe (Hera) told Semele that she did not believe that her lover was Zeus, unless he appeared to her, like he appeared to Hera in his real divine form, when the god and goddess make love in Olympus. This would be proof that Zeus was a god, and not mortal man claiming to be a god.
Semele unsuspecting of conspiracy against her, she went to Zeus and asked for a boon that she would not name. Zeus granted her a boon, by swearing to the most holy oath, by Styx, the river of the Underworld.
Semele asked for Zeus to appear before her as he does to his consort Hera when they embrace. Zeus tried to stop Semele, but it was too late. For the boon would certainly means death for Semele.
Zeus transformed into pure energy, like lightning and the thunderbolt. The fire of Zeus’ divine manifestation burned Semele to ashes. Unable to save Semele, Zeus pulled the unborn baby from Semele’s womb, saving the child.
But this unnatural and premature birth was too early, because the baby was not fully form or ready. So Zeus sewed the baby inside his thigh, until the infant was ready to be born.
Semele’s infant was a son, named Dionysus, which means he was born twice. Dionysus would later become the god of wine.
To hide the infant Dionysus from Hera, Zeus hid his son with Ino (Semele’s sister) and her husband, Athamas, the king of Orchomenus. Later, the god hid Dionysus in a cave with the nymphs of Nysa. They disguised the young Dionysus as a girl, hoping that Hera would not recognise him.
Dionysus did not escape from Hera’s relentless wrath and enmity. Like Heracles, Hera had inflicted madness upon Dionysus, when he reached manhood. See Dionysus in the Minor Greek Deities page about more on the life and adventure of Dionysus.
Everyone, including her own sisters and nephew (Pentheus), thought the god had punished Semele for falsely claiming her lover was Zeus. So when Dionysus returned to Thebes, Pentheus and Semele’s sisters didn’t believe that he was a god, and they were punished for not believing. See Pentheus.
When Dionysus finally joined the other gods and goddesses in Olympus, Dionysus went to Underworld, to fetch his mother. Semele became the goddess, Thyone, when they arrived in Olympus.
|Here is another myth, which would like to tell in full. Here is the tale of the clash between two cousins. One of them was a powerful ruler, and the other was divine. The tragedy of Pentheus (Πενθεύς) was also coincided with rise of Dionysus, the young god of wine. Most of this tale was related from Euripides’ tragedy, called the Bacchae.
Dionysus had previously spent his time, wandering the world in the East (Asia), inflicted with madness by Hera, the queen of Heaven and the wife of Zeus. Hera had always persecuted any offspring of Zeus, by his immortal or mortal lovers. For Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Semele, the daughter of King Cadmus of Thebes, and of Harmonia, daughter of Ares and Aphrodite. Hera had caused Semele’s death, before he was born, but Zeus managed to save his unborn son.
While in Asia, Dionysus had established worship and gained followers known as the Bacchants and the Maenads. His rites involved in drunken revelries and orgies. Dionysus had taught his followers how to cultivate vine and how to make wine. As a god, Dionysus would reward rulers, who allowed him to establish temples in his name, but he would ruthlessly punish those who would not allow his followers to worship him. See Dionysus, Minor Greek Deities.
Dionysus had returned to Greece, intending to establish his centre of worship in Thebes, his home city.
At that time, the god’s grandfather, Cadmus, had decided to abdicate in favour of his grandson, Pentheus, the son of Echion and Agave, Cadmus’ daughter. Pentheus was a young king. When Pentheus heard of his cousin Dionysus, he was not impress. Pentheus did not believe that Dionysus was his cousin, because he thought that the unborn child had died with Semele. The king believed that his aunt Semele had died from boasting that Zeus had made her pregnant. Pentheus decided to suppress the worship of Dionysus, because the king believed that his cousin was mortal. The king also thought that the rites and revelry was nothing but scandalous and pervert.
Only Cadmus and his friend Teiresias, the blind seer, had being the followers of Dionysus. The two old men had tired to restrain the young king of acting recklessly. Teiresias warned Pentheus of the consequences of impiety. Pentheus ridicule the seer and his grandfather for following the Bacchic rites, and the way they were dressed in fawn-skin cloaks and wreaths of ivy on their heads.
Pentheus had already arrested some members of the Bacchants, and he intends to interrogate them. The king wanted to put down the new cult. Pentheus ordered his warriors to arrest a stranger, who appeared to be the leader of the Bacchants.
The stranger pretending to be a priest or prophet of Dionysus, he allowed himself to be arrested when the other prisoners had escaped. Dionysus warned Pentheus of the danger of angering the god. Pentheus threatened to capture, torture and execute any Bacchants who refused to renounce their loyalty to Dionysus. Pentheus had Dionysus placed in prison, but Dionysus escaped and caused the palace to crumble.
A herdsman arrived and told the king, how he had found the Maenads, band of female Bacchic devotees. Among these women, were Agave, Pentheus’ own mother, and his two aunts, Autonoe and Ino. The herdsman also told how they would attack any man who approached them.
Agave, Autonoe and Ino also did not believe that Dionysus was a god. They had thought their sister Semele, who was pregnant, had died in the fire along with the unborn child (Dionysus). They thought Zeus had punished the child, for claiming the child belonged to Zeus. When Agave and her sister refused to recognise Dionysus, the young god inflicted his three aunts with madness, so that they Bacchic Mysteries like the other maenads.
Pentheus had intended to arrest the women, but Dionysus arrived and warned the king not to attack them, or else faces defeat at the hands of women. Dionysus convinced the king to spy on the Maenads at Cithaeron hills, at night. Dionysus had also convinced his cousin to dress in woman clothing and wearing wig, so that the Maenads would not attack them.
Dionysus guided the king to the hill. Pentheus tried to witness the rites that his mother and aunts were involved in, with the Maenads. To get a clearer look at the Bacchic Mysteries, Pentheus climbed the tree, but Agave spotted him, and in her drunken madness, she thought he was a lion. (According to Ovid, they thought he was wild boar).
Agave and her sister pursued Pentheus, without recognising the young king. His mother struck and wounded him with the thyrsus. While he was down Agave and her sister were in frenzy, as they tore his limbs off his body. No pleas could stop the mad women, before Agave tore her son’s head off.
Cadmus in grief over his grandson’s death brought only the body parts he could find. Agave brought the head back to the palace, hoping to show the wild beast’s head to her father and her son, not realising he was carrying her son’s head.
Cadmus tried to make Agave see what terrible crime she had committed. It was only when her sanity returned that she realised that she and her sisters were punished for recognising Dionysus as a god.
Dionysus appeared to them, banishing Agave and her sisters for their sins.
Even, Cadmus was not spared; the aged king was also exiled along with his wife. Dionysus foretold that Cadmus and Harmonia would be turned into snakes. Only when their lives ended, would the gods make Cadmus and his wife would become immortal.
If you wish to read more about Dionysus, then I suggested that you read Dionysus in Minor Greek Deities.
It could be possible that Pentheus’ mother and aunts’ involvement with Dionysus and the Maenads were Euripides’ invention, because the painting of some vases prior to Euripides showed no hint of Agave, Autonoe and Ino as the king’s murderers; one murderer was named Galene. I have not been able to verify who this Galene is. Also in the paintings didn’t depict Pentheus dress like a woman to spy on the Maenads, instead he was armed for battle. These artworks suggest of different tradition to that of Euripides’ play, but other authors (eg Apollodorus and Ovid) had later followed Euripides’ play.
|Here is a myth that shows how the god would punish the children for their parent’s arrogance and impiety. Apollodorus and Ovid had both written the story of Niobe (Νιόβη) and her children. However, Ovid provided a lot more details.
Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus, the king punished by the Olympians for killing his own son, and trying to serve his son’s flesh to the gods. When Niobe married Amphion, the brother of Zethus and co-ruler of Thebes, it was expected that Niobe would have happier fate. However, the Fates had decreed differently.
Niobe had bore seven sons and seven daughters to Amphion, and her children were known as the Niobids. The number from six to ten and names vary, depending on the authors. So I have decided that I won’t bother with giving you the names of Niobe’s children.
Any mother would be proud of giving birth to so many beautiful children. However, Niobe through pride and arrogance, she became scornful and boastful, particularly against the gods. Her children will pay the ultimate price for her boasting and impiety.
Leto and her children became the object of her scorn. Niobe came to the temple of Leto, claiming that as a mother she had produced six more sons and six more daughters than Leto, while Leto was only a mother of twins. Niobe called upon the Thebans that they should stop worshipping and sacrificing to Leto; instead the Thebans should worship her and her own children. Her sons grew to be handsome and strong, young men, while her daughters were all beautiful.
Leto hearing Niobe’s disdainful boast, called upon her children to avenge the insult and dishonour that the Theban queen had levelled against them. Apollo and Artemis armed themselves with their silver bows and quiverful of deadly arrows, flew to Thebes and punish the reckless queen.
One by one, Apollo killed Niobe’s sons with his arrows. When news reached them of their death, Amphion committed suicide, because he found his grief unbearable.
Niobe was racked with sorrow over their death, yet she refused to yield to the goddess. Niobe defiantly boasted that she outstripped the Titaness.
As Niobe’s daughters stood there mourning over their fallen brothers, they were killed one by one, this time from Artemis’ silent arrows. When only her last daughter remained, Niobe tried to shield her, asking the goddess to spare her last child. The huntress goddess was relentless, dispatching the girl.
Bereft of all her children, Niobe was distraught and inconsolable. Overwhelming grief displaced her pride and arrogance. Niobe was transformed into stone, like a marble statue, but she continued to weep for her children. A whirlwind carried the stone, across the sea, back to country of her birth. Niobe was set on the mountaintop.
One or two of her children may have survived. Possibly Chloris (Meliboea), the wife of Neleus and mother of Nestor, had escaped this fate of her brothers and sisters, since she was living in Pylus, Messenia.
|Lycaon was a king of Arcadia, possibly reigning in the time before the great Deluge. Lycaon was said to have found the city in Arcadia, and named the city after himself, Lycaeum.
Lycaon was a son of Pelasgus, who was either son of Zeus and Niobe (daughter of Phoroneus), according to Apollodorus (from his source, Acousilaus), or that Pelasgus was earth-born, according to Hesiod. Lycaon’s mother was Meliboia, a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, or another nymph named Cyllene. Lycaon had as many as 50 sons, by different women, which Apollodorus had listed the sons’ names, and one daughter, named Callisto.
In the Catalogues of Women, one of his sons was named Pallas, who constructed a city and named it Pallantium.
Lycaon and his sons were infamous for their arrogance and their impiety. According to Apollodorus, Zeus wanted to investigate the tyranncy of Lycaon, so he went to the king disguised as a labourer. Lycaon offered hospitality to the labourer (Zeus), sitting the disguised god in the seat of honour in the banquet table. The eldest son, Mainalos, led his brothers to slaughter a baby, cut opened the baby and served the flesh and entrails to the guest.
Zeus immediately recognised the human flesh, turned over the table, and hurled thunderbolts that killed Lycaon and all except his youngest son, Nyctimus, because the goddess Gaea had intervened. Nyctimus became king of Arcadia, ruling in Lycaeum. Zeus was said to have brought the flood that wiped out of mankind, because of the crimes of Lycaon and his sons.
There are several different variations to the myth of Lycaon.
According to poem, The Astronomy, attributed to Hesiod, the baby was Arcas, the son of his daughter Callisto. After Zeus seducing and impregnating Callisto, and after she gave birth to a son, named Arcas, Lycaon decided to avenge his disgrace upon the god, by entertaining Zeus at his hall, killing his grandson and serving the baby’s flesh to the god. The poem doesn’t mention what punishment the god had inflicted upon wicked king, nor does it mention any involvement of Lycaon’s sons.
Other myths have different fate for Arcas. See the article on Callisto.
|Callisto was the daughter of Lycaon (Λυκάων), the early king of Arcadia. One writer claimed she was the daughter of Nycteus (Νυκεύς), or of Ceteus, but normally it was Lycaon who was named as her father.
Callisto was a companion of Artemis, and wanted to remain a virgin like her goddess. At that time, Callisto was Artemis’ favourite companion and huntress.
However, Zeus saw and fell in love with the goddess. Despite her wish to remain a virgin, Zeus ravished her. Callisto could not fight off the mighty god. It was usually said that Zeus had assumed the form of the goddess Artemis (or sometimes in the form of Apollo, Artemis’ brother), in the hope of hiding his infidelity from his jealous consort, Hera, when he raped the maiden Callisto. So Callisto fell pregnant.
There are many versions of what had happened after Zeus had seduced Callisto. The Roman writer named Ovid had given the fullest and most coherent account.
Callisto was distraught of what had happened to her. At first she tried to avoid her goddess and her companions. Later, she rejoined Artemis, and had managed to hide her condition for almost nine months.
One day, while out hunting, Artemis decided to bathe in the brook at the grove. Artemis invited all her companions to join her in the gentle stream. Reluctantly, Callisto removed her tunic, revealing her pregnancy. Artemis outraged at the sight, ordered the innocent huntress to leave. Callisto fled from her goddess. In the forest, she gave birth to a son, who was named Arcas (Ἀρκάς).
Hera knew that Callisto was carrying Zeus’ unborn child, decided to punish the poor huntress by transforming her into a bear.
Fifteen years later, Arcas had grown to become a great hunter like his mother. Arcas was hunting in the forest with his companions when he had encountered the bear. Callisto immediately recognised her son, but Arcas did not recognise her mother in the form in the bear. At first, Arcas was frightened by the bear, as well as puzzled over the bear’s strange behaviour. When Callisto approached her son with intention of embracing him, Arcas thought the bear was about to attack him. Arcas would have killed his mother with his spear, when it dawned on her that he didn’t recognise her in this form. Callisto fled from her son.
Arcas and his companions immediately set out on the chase for the unfortunate bear. Arcas managed to trap the bear and would have hurled his javelin at his mother, had Zeus not intervened. Zeus deflected the deadly spear. The god send a whirlwind that spirited the mother and son into the heaven, where Zeus placed them in the night sky as the constellations of the “Great Bear” (Arctos in Greek; the modern name is Ursa Major) and the “Bear-warden” (Arctophylax in Greek; the modern name is Boötes (Wagon-driver)).
This had greatly offended Hera, because her husband had given her rival and his offspring such high honour. Hera went to the Titans Oceanus and Tethys, her foster-parents, asking that the constellations shall never bathe in Oceanus’ water. Oceanus agreed. So the constellation of the Great Bear never set with the other stars.
According to Hesiod in The Astronomy, Artemis discovered Callisto while they bathed together, in very much the same way as the tale was told by Ovid. Here, it was Artemis who had turned Callisto into a bear, when she saw the huntress was pregnant. Callisto had given birth to Arcas while still in the form of a bear. A goatherd found the infant, and gave Arcas to Lycaon, Callisto’s father. Like in Ovid’s version, Arcas was out bear hunting, which he had unknowingly pursued his mother. Before he could kill his mother, Zeus rescued her and placed her in the sky as the stars.
Also according to Apollodorus, it was Zeus who had turned Callisto into a bear, in order to hide his infidelity from his wife Hera. Hera had persuaded Artemis to shoot down Callisto, or Artemis had killed Callisto, because the unfortunate maiden had failed to keep her virginity. Callisto was killed, shortly after she gave birth to Arcas. The nymph Maia raised Zeus’ son; it was Maia who named the son of Callisto as Arcas. Maia was the daughter of Atlas and mother of the messenger god Hermes. Zeus placed Callisto in the heaven as the constellation of the Great Bear.
As for Arcas, his fate was different. His grandfather Lycaon wanted to test the omniscience of the god, when Zeus came to visit the king in Lycaeum. Lycaon murdered Arcas and had tried to serve the boy’s flesh to Zeus. Zeus punished Lycaon by turning king into a wolf. Zeus placed his son Arcas in the sky near his mother (Great Bear), as the constellation called Bear-warden (Boötes). According to Apollodorus, Arcas became king of Arcadia, a region that was named after him. He married Leaneira, the daughter of Amyclas, and had two sons: Elatus and Apheidas.
Ovid’s version of the tale was slightly different about Lycaon to Hesiod. It was not Arcas, whom he killed, but some unnamed hostage of Lycaon (in Apollodorus’ version, it was Lycaon’s equally impious fifty sons who had killed some unknown child). When the impious king served human flesh before Zeus, the god used his thunderbolts to destroy Lycaon’s home (and killed in all of Lycaon’s sons (except the youngest Nyctimus) in Apollodorus’ version). Lycaon fled to the woods nearby, where Zeus changed him into a wolf.
From several different sources (including Ovid’s), it was said that Zeus had brought the great flood to destroy mankind, because of Lycaon’s crime (see Deluge in the Creation page about the flood).
Hyginus give several different versions of who had transformed Callisto. Hyginus give the same detail as from Hesiod and Ovid, of how Artemis found out about Callisto’s pregnancy, while bathing. As I said earlier, Ovid say that Artemis had only banished Callisto from her sight, while Hesiod say that it was Artemis who had transformed Callisto into a bear.
Hyginus then claimed that he had another source that added a slight twist to Hesiod’s version. When they were bathing, Artemis questioned her huntress how she became pregnant. Since Zeus had raped her while he was in the form of Artemis, Callisto blamed the goddess for her condition. Callisto’s reply and accusation angered and humiliated Artemis, so the goddess transformed the girl into a bear. Again it was Zeus who placed mother and son in the heaven as constellations.
In still another version, Hygninus say that it was Hera had turned her into a bear, and Artemis who had unwittingly killed Callisto. When Artemis recognised whom she had killed, it was Artemis who had put her in heaven as stars.
As you can see, there are many variations to this myth about Callisto. The only constant thing about the tale is that Zeus had made her pregnant and she had a son named Arcas, and also she was transformed into a bear and that she later became a constellation. While who had transformed into a bear or a constellation varied from one writer to another.
|The story of Aegina (Αἄγινα) and her son had already being briefly told in the Aegina, Islands (Geographia) and in the Myrmidons, Mythical Creatures. Hera persecuted them because of Zeus’ dalliance with yet another mortal girl.
Asopus was the river god in Sicyon, who had a beautiful daughter named Aegina. Zeus once again fell in love with a mortal maiden, transformed himself into a flame or an eagle, before carrying her off to the island of Oenone. On Oenone, Zeus then ravished the Aegina, before she gave birth to a son, whom she would named Aeacus (Αἄάκός).
Asopus tried to find his daughter, but could not find Aegina, until he came upon Sisyphus, the king of Corinth. Sisyphus told the river-god that he saw her being taken to the island of Oenoe, in return for Asopus using his power to create a spring or well on the hill of Acrocorinth.
Asopus tried to fetch his daughter from the Oenoe, but Zeus drove away the river god with his thunderbolts. In Tartarus (Underworld), Zeus punished Sisyphus, for informing against him, with endless but repetitive and futile toils. Sisyphus had to roll a large boulder uphill, but the boulder would always roll back to the bottom, before he could reach the top of the hill.
See Sisyphus, in the Aeolids page, about more on the life of Sisyphus.
Aegina and her son lived on the island, until Aeacus was old enough to rule. Aeacus changed the island’s name of Oenone to that of Aegina, in honour of his mother.
Aeacus was known throughout Greece as a pious and just king of Aegina. During his childhood, he and his mother was under Zeus’ protection against the power of Hera, Zeus’ jealous wife and consort in Olympus.
However, their people on the island did not have that protection. Hera sent a devastating pestilence that killed the entire population of Aegina, except Aeacus and his mother. Their animals also died in the pestilence. Without people in his kingdom, Aeacus and Aegina would face starvation. Aeacus and Aegina prayed daily for Zeus’ aid.
One day, Aeacus saw worker ants that were unaffected by the pestilence. So Aecus and his mother prayed that Zeus would repopulate the island with people, who were as hardy as the worker ants.
Zeus answered their prayers by transforming the ants into humans, who were also unaffected by the pestilence. These new people were called the Myrmidons.
Aeacus became king of the Myrmidons. The Myrmidons were not only as hardworking as the ants; they were also fierce warriors in the time of war.
Aeacus married Endeïs (Endeis), and became the father of two famous heroes, Peleus and Telamon. However the marriage was far from happy. Aeacus had a lover, named the sea goddess (Nereid), Psamathe, daughter of Nereus and Doris, and sister of the goddess Thetis. Psamathe bore him a son, named Phocus.
Phocus was his youngest son, who already surpassed his half-brothers in prowess, and became Aeacus’ favourite. Phocus had three sons: Crisus, Naubolus and Panopeus.
Endeïs was jealous of her husband’s affection for the illegitimate son, persuaded and plotted with her sons to murder Phocus. Peleus and Telamon were also jealous of Phocus’ athletic prowess. Though it was said that they both murder their half-brother, but it was most likely Peleus who had murdered Phocus, since Psamathe cursed or had continuously harassed Peleus. Psamathe would forgive Peleus because the hero would later marry her sister, Thetis.
Aeacus exiled both of his sons. Telamon settled in a nearby island of Salamis, while Peleus wandered to Thessaly. Aeacus was left without an heir, because Phocus’ three sons migrated to the region, east of Aetolia, which they named after their father. (A different version says that the region Phocis was named after another Phocus).
When Aeacus exiled his sons for the murder of his other son, Phocus, Peleus and Telamon, some of the Myrmidons followed Peleus. They migrated and settled in Phthia, in southern Thessaly, where Peleus had married Antigone, daughter of Eurytion or Actor, king of Phthia. (See Peleus about the murder of Phocus and the migration to Phthia).
Aeacus had also helped the gods Apollo and Poseidon in building the walls around Troy. When Aeacus had died, he became a god in the Underworld. His duty, along with Minos and Rhadamanthys, sons of Zeus and Europa, was to act as a judge to the dead.
|Coronis was the daughter of Phlegyas (Φλεγύας), the king of Thessaly. The god Apollo was in love with her.
While she was still pregnant with Apollo’s child, she took a mortal lover, named Ischys (Ἴσχυς). News of her unfaithfulness reached his ears from a white bird called a crow. The crow was the god’s messenger. As Apollo listened to the crow, he was overcome with rage and jealousy. Apollo first punished the tattler, by turning the crow’s white feathers to pitch black. The god later placed the crow in the sky as the constellation Corvus, as a warning that the gods doesn’t like tattler.
Apollo then sought out the lovers, where he killed Ischys. Apollo or his sister Artemis killed the pregnant Coronis. Apollo began to regret killing Coronis as the fire burned on her funeral pyre. Apollo saved the unborn child, a son whom he named Asclepius.
Apollo sends his infant son to Cheiron, where Asclepius was brought up. Asclepius, like his father became a great healer. See Asclepius.
|There are two complete versions of the tragedy of Myrrha or Smyrna, told by the Greek Apollodorus or by Ovid, the Roman poet in his Metamorphoses. Ovid, as usual, is more descriptive than Apollodorus. However, Apollodorus cited several different versions or sources about Adonis’ parents and how he died.
According to Apollodorus, her name was Smyrna (Σμύρνα), daughter of King Cinyras of Cyprus and Metharme, daughter of Pygmalion. Apollodorus also wrote Myrrha’s father was Theias, king of Assyria. Ovid and Hyginus say that her name was Myrrha, and also say that her father was Cinyras, but her mother was Cenchreis.
There is even more confusion over Cinyras’ parents and his ancestors. According to Apollodorus, he was a descendant of Cecrops, king of Athens, through his daughter Herse. Hermes had seduced Herse where she became the mother of Cephalus. After several generations, Sandocos married Pharnace and became the father of Cinyras. But according to Ovid, Pygmalion was not his father-in-law; Pygmalion was in fact his grandfather, and Paphos, son of Pygmalion, was Cinyras’ father.
For the sake of convenience, I will use mostly Ovid, as my source, but also referred to Apollodorus where they differed in detail. I will use the names, Myrrha and Cinyras.
Cinyras (Κινύρας) was said to have founded the city of Paphos, which was sacred to Aphrodite. Cinyras was either the grandson or the son-in-law of Pygmalion. Cinyras had married Cenchreis and became the father of Myrrha (Smyrna).
There are several possibilities of Myrrha’ unnatural desire for her father. She was always in love with her father, or Aphrodite punished her for not honouring her (Apollodorus’ version), or her mother Cenchreis had boasted that her beauty was greater than Aphrodite (Ovid’s version). Whichever one was the case, Myrrha was inflamed incestuous passion for her father. She refused to choose the other suitors, because her father could not marry her. She was driven into despair that Myrrha sought to end her life.
But her nurse interfered when she try to hang herself. The nurse begged her young charge why she wanted to kill herself. When the nurse discovered the truth, she was horrified, but old nurse had promised to help her. The nurse informed the king that a young woman was quite amour with him, and arranged for him to meet her secretly at night.
So for twelve nights, the nurse led wine-intoxicated king to Myrrha’s bed. The king had unwittingly slept with his own daughter, believing that he was sleeping with his mysterious mistress. Myrrha became pregnant from his father’s seed.
But on the twelfth night, he brought a lamp with him, so he could see his mystery lover. When the king discovered that had been duped into sleeping with his daughter, he was absolutely appalled. Cinyras drew his sword, meaning to end his daughter’s life. Myrrha fled in terror out into the woods. Myrrha prayed to the gods to hide her. The gods taking pity on the young woman, so they transformed her into a myrrh tree, which was also called smyrna in Greek.
Myrrha had become pregnant from her incestuous union with her father. Ten months later after her transformation, the tree burst open, revealing a baby boy. Aphrodite finding the baby so beautiful that she decided to take him as her lover, when he was old enough. Aphrodite had named the baby, Adonis (Ἄδωνις).
|In an Achaean town, called Patrae, there was sanctuary to Artemis that practice human sacrifices for generations. It all started at the time, when Comaetho (Κομαιθώ) was a young priestess in temple of Triklarian Artemis.
Comaetho was a beautiful young virgin priestess, when she fell in love with a handsome youth, named Melanippus (Μελάνιππος). Melanippus did the right thing of asking her parents for her hand in marriage, but her father refused. Melanippus received no help from his own family.
In desperation and longing, the two unhappy pair secretly made love on the shrine of Artemis. The goddess’ own priestess had defiled her shrine. In anger, Artemis caused famine to ruin crops around the countryside of Patrae and pestilence swept through the town.
The people of Patrae sought advice from the oracle of Delphi. The oracle informed them that the goddess was punishing them for desecration of her shrine, by Comaetho and Melanippus. The goddess would only be appeased if they sacrifice the lovers, and must continue to sacrifice to the goddess with one youth and one maiden, each year. They were told the custom would only end, when a strange king arrived on their soil, bearing a new god.
Upon their return, they seized and sacrificed Melanippus and Comaetho on the goddess’ bloody shrine.
For generations, the citizens of Patrae offered one of their young men and women, in the annual human sacrifices to the implacable goddess, waiting desperately for the end of their bloody custom. These youths and maidens were innocent of any sins, but the people feared to stop the sacrifice.
The custom ended generations later. Pausanias relates how it ended with the arrival of Eurypylus (Εὐρύπυλος), one of the Thessalian captains, who had fought in the Trojan War.
Eurypylus was the son of Evaemon. Eurypylus had brought forty ships to Troy, from the cities of Ormenion and Asterion. Eurypylus was remembered in the Iliad, when Patroclus, companion of Achilles, attended to his wound. It was the news of Eurypylus that made Patroclus to fight in Achilles’ place (see the Iliad about Patroclus’ death). Eurypylus was one of the leaders who inside the belly of the Wooden Horse, and he survived the war, but he never returned home.
When the Greeks had sacked Troy, Eurypylus received a beautifully crafted wooden chest, as his spoil. The chest belonged to the Trojan hero, Aeneas. When Aeneas was forced to leave Troy to its fate, he left the chest behind. Cassandra, the Trojan seeress, and the daughter of King Priam, cursed any Greek who opened and looked inside the chest.
Curious to know what was hidden in the chest; Eurypylus opened the lid, and discovered a statuette of the wine god Dionysus. The sight of the statue drove him mad. Eurypylus fled from his men, and wandered aimlessly back to Greece.
When Eurypylus arrived at the Delphi, he consulted the Pythian priestess for the cure of his madness. The oracle told him that must find the people who annually sacrifice one youth and one maiden to the goddess Artemis.
Eurypylus arrived in Patrae, just in time to stop the latest sacrifices. When the king installed the statue of Dionysus in the shrine of Artemis, Eurypylus was cured. The people of Patrae remembered the oracle, also ended their annual human sacrifices.
The people of Patrae welcomed the foreign king, and crowned Eurypylus as their new king. Eurypylus never returned home to Thessaly. He lived and died in Patrae, where he was buried in a tomb, near the shrine of Laphrian Artemis. Eurypylus was worshipped as Patrae’s hero.
|King of the Lapiths in Thessaly. Ixion was the son of Antion, the son of Periphas, and of Perimela, the daughter of Amythaon and sister of the seer Melampus.
When Ixion married Dia, the daughter of Eioneus, but Ixion refused to pay his father-in-law the bride price in full. So Eioneus took the mares from Ixion as a security. Under the guise of paying Eioneus the bride price, Ixion invited him to his kingdom. Ixion had the unsuspecting father-in-law tossed into a fire pit.
It was said that Ixion had committed the first murder of kin. For such deed, no one was willing to purify Ixion. Zeus decided to purify him. Zeus did so in order to seduce Ixion’s wife, Dia. For this reason, some say that Peirithoüs (Peirithous) was the son of Zeus, not the son of Ixion.
Ixion tried to take revenge upon Zeus, by seducing Hera. When Zeus learned of Ixion’s plan, Zeus fashioned a cloud to look like his wife and consort. Most authors say that the cloud or false Hera was named Nephele. When the unsuspecting Ixion boasted of having slept with Hera, Zeus sent him to Tartarus where he was to suffer from eternal punishment. Ixion was chained to a fiery wheel, which revolved around from ceaseless wind.
As for the phantom-like cloud that looked like Hera? Well, it gave birth to a son, named Centaurus. This Centaurus had coupled with the Magnesian mares, which produced offspring of part-men and part-horses. These creatures became known as the Centaurs or Hippocentaurs.
To see the family tree of the Lapiths, see the House of Thessaly (Lapiths).
A different version says that Centaurus was the son of Apollo and Stilbe, the daughter of river god Peneius and a nymph Creusa. Also, Centaurus was the brother of Lapithus or Lapithes.
|In Greek myths, most of the musical instruments were invented by the gods. Pan invented the reed pipe. Hermes had invented the lyre, which he had given to Apollo. As a musician and singer, Apollo was unmatched. The Muses, the nine daughters of Zeus, were gifted with their singing and dancing abilities.
While Athena, the goddess of the crafts, had invented the aulos – a double-reed pipe. When Athena blew on the pipe, her face would puff up, distorting her cool beauty. The goddesses Hera and Aphrodite laughed at Athena’s face, made the war goddess angry, that she threw the instrument away. Athena laid a curse upon anyone who picked up the aulos.
A satyr named Marsyas, the son of Olympos, found the discarded pipe and began to play. Soon, Marsyas mastered the pipe and became extraordinary talented with this new instrument. Marsyas became so well known as the aulos player that he became prideful and arrogant. Marsyas had dared to challenge Apollo in a music contest.
Apollo answered his challenge, and they agreed that the winner could do anything he liked to the loser. Apollo won the contest not through just the music, but by a trick. Apollo played the lyre while he was upside down. Marsyas failed to play the pipe in the same position.
Apollo punished the satyr for arrogance of challenging the gods. Apollo hanged Marsyas upside down from the pine tree, and flayed the unfortunate satyr alive. Marsyas was left without skin.
The woodland gods and nymphs mourned for Marsyas, their tears caused a spring to flow through the woods of Phrygia, becoming a river called Marsyas.
|Midas was the famous king with the golden touch. Midas was possibly a historical or semi-historical figure, who appeared Herodotus’ History. Midas was said to have died in 718 BC. Midas’ name also appeared in the Assyrian archive, as Mita.
Midas was the son of King Gordius of Phrygia and the mother goddess Cybele. According to Herodotus and Pausanias, Midas founded Ancyra the city in the upper valley of the River Sangarius. According to an epitaph to Homer, it says that Midas was the father of Gorgus.
Midas was the rewarded by Dionysus for entertaining one of his followers as a guest, or rescuing Silenus, companion of Dionysus, from the Thracian king named Lycurgus. Midas asked for “everything that he touches would turn into gold”. The wine god granted this boon.
At first, Midas was so delighted that every object turned into gold, making the Lydian king rich beyond his imagination, but the gift turned out to be a curse. He could not eat anything for his food also turned into gold.
After almost starving himself to death, Midas prayed to Dionysus to take away the golden touch. Dionysus answered his prayer by telling the king to bath in the Patolus River. Midas lost the golden touch, but the sand in the entire riverbed turned into gold.
Instead of punishing his rival (Pan), Apollo turned against the judge – Midas. Apollo punished Midas by turning his ears into the ass’ ears.
Midas was so embarrassed, that he hid his ears in a large cap. Only his barber knew of his deformity. Midas threatened to punish his barber with death, if he ever told anyone about his ears. The barber kept Midas’ secret as long as he could.
One day he could not bear it, so the barber went out into the country, and dug a hole. The barber whispered his secret into the hole, before he refilled the hole with dirt.
A year later, reeds grew around the area where the barber had dug the hole. Anybody who had travelled through this area could hear the voice that says “Midas has ass’ ears”. Shortly after that, everybody in Midas’ kingdom knew about the king’s embarrassing secret.
|Arachne was the greatest spinner and weaver from Maeonia, a region in Asia Minor. Arachne was no princess, but the daughter of a humble dyer from Colophon. Her father was named Idmon.
Her skills in weaving was incredible realistic and the pride in her work; but that same skill would also bring about her own downfall. Many people admire her masterpieces in depicting people, animals and the background that it seemed lifelike.
Lot of people thought she was taught by the goddess Minerva (Athena). These claims made Arachne angry. She boasted that no one taught her the art of weaving, especially the goddess of crafts and weaving.
An old woman came to her, gently told not to boast her own skill, without giving honour to Minerva, for to do so would offend the goddess. Arachne refused to admit the goddess’ skills were superior to her own, and that she feared no goddess. Arachne rebuked the old woman for the warning. Arachne had even to dare challenge the great goddess herself in who was the superior weaver.
With such challenge the friendly, old woman vanished, transformed into coolly beautiful goddess – Minerva.
Even the appearance of the goddess did not cower Arachne. Arachne defiantly refused to back down the challenge against the goddess.
Ovid then went on to describe the goddess and mortal woman working hard and quickly at the loom, to produce magnificent tapestry.
Minerva depicted all twelve gods and goddesses in their majestic glories, as well as other scenes, where the gods punished boastful mortal, who dared them.
Arachne wove her tapestry and satirised the gods and goddesses through their infidelities. Particular Neptune (Poseidon) and Jupiter (Zeus), who seduced many mortal women, including Danae, Alcmene, Leda.
Not only did Arachne show artistic skills, but that the garment was also perfect, as if made by the goddess. Minerva realised that her rival’s work was better than her own work, for Arachne had displayed the crimes the gods had committed through their lust.
In anger and indignation, Minerva tore Arachne’s tapestry to pieces. With the shuttle of the boxwood, the goddess struck her rival on the forehead, four times. Arachne fled in shame that the goddess shamed her, through physical beating. Mortified, Arachne hanged herself.
Either in anger or pity, Minerva turned Arachne into a spider.
|Thamyris was a mythical bard. Thamyris was the son of Philammon and the nymph named Argiope. Thamyris was the first mortal to love a person of the same sex, and the grandson of Apollo and Chione.
Thamyris was said to be the lover of Hyacinthus, before Apollo. Thamyris was possibly the first mortal to love a person of the same sex.
Thamyris was a gifted musician and singer. His instrument was the lyre, and he won a contest as the best singer in the land. In his vanity, he dared to challenge the Muses. The winner of contest could do what they like to the loser. Thamyris lost a contest to the Muses. The Muses punished Thamyris by taking away his sight and his ability to sing. Thamyris was probably also punished in Tartarus.
According to Hyginus, Thamyris was probably placed among the stars as the “Kneeler” (Engonasin is the ancient name of this constellation, though this constellation is now called Hercules), which represented him kneeling as the suppliant. It is also possible that the constellation of the Lyre may have been his lyre.