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Amanda's Gods and Myths of the Ancient Civilizations
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Roman Myths

A small selection of myths

Myths of the Founding of Rome

The Romans did not develop a myth about the creation of the world itself, but they did attach great importance to the founding of Rome. Two distinct myths developed about the city’s beginnings: the story of the twins Romulus and Remus, and the tale of Aeneas.

The myth of Romulus and Remus is best known from its account in the work of Livy, a Roman historian of the 1st century bc. The twins were the sons of the god Mars and a mortal woman named Rhea Silvia. When they were infants, Romulus and Remus’s great uncle set them adrift on the Tiber River to die. The great uncle had stolen royal power from the twins’ grandfather and did not want the boys to survive to challenge his right to power. But a she-wolf found Romulus and Remus and cared for them until a shepherd discovered them. The shepherd and his wife took the boys in and raised them as their own children. Years later, after restoring their grandfather to his throne, Romulus and Remus decided to found a city of their own. However, the two quarreled, and in the ensuing brawl Remus died. In some versions of the story Romulus killed him, in other versions Romulus’s followers did so. After his brother’s death, Romulus named the new city Rome and became its first king. According to Varro, the date that Romulus founded Rome

The other legend of Rome’s founding traced the origins of the city to Aeneas, the son of the goddess Venus and the Trojan prince Anchises. Aeneas came from the city of Troy in Asia Minor, which according to tradition was conquered by Greek forces during the Trojan War. The war was fought in the late 13th or early 12th century bc, and it forms the setting for the epic poem the Iliad by the Greek poet Homer. Although Aeneas’s role in the Iliad is small, Roman legend holds that after the war he led a group of Trojan survivors who left Troy and eventually arrived at Carthage, where the queen, Dido, fell in love with Aeneas. But he left her and traveled to Italy, where he founded Rome.

Scholars believe that the legend of Aeneas gained acceptance during the 3rd century bc, when Rome was developing as a nation and its citizens sought to enhance the city’s prestige by establishing a connection to the famous figures of Greek mythology. It was difficult, therefore, for later writers to reconcile the 400-year interval between the story of Aeneas, which took place in the 12th century bc, and the account of Romulus and Remus, which occurred in the 8th century bc. The poet Virgil resolved the problem in his epic the Aeneid, which describes Aeneas marrying Lavinia, daughter of the king of Latium, a kingdom that occupied the future territory of Rome. Through this marriage, Aeneas became the originator of a line of kings and a direct ancestor of Romulus and the Romans.

Most of the other early stories of Rome have to do with the traditional Seven Kings, who were the first seven rulers of Rome. One of the best-known stories about the reign of Romulus is the so-called Rape of the Sabines. According to this story, to ensure the future of Rome, Romulus and his band of followers needed wives who would bear children to ensure the future of the new city. They invited their neighbors, the Sabine people, to a festival and then kidnapped the daughters of the Sabines. A war broke out between the two communities, and peace was restored only when the Sabine women declared their preference for their Roman husbands. The Sabines then joined the Romans in a single community.

The second Roman king was Numa Pompilius, whom the Romans credited with inventing their religious institutions. Artworks depict Numa as a priestly figure with a long white beard. Legend tells that the fourth king, Ancus Martius (whose name means “warlike”), conquered many neighboring towns and greatly increased Roman territory. The sixth king, Servius Tullius, developed the first census, or counting of the population and their property. According to tradition, Servius Tullius also built the first city wall.

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Antigone was daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta. She accompanied her father during his exile until he died in Colonus. With the death of her two brothers, Antigone and her sister, Ismene, mourned for both of their brothers.

After the war, Creon, who had either become king of Thebes or regent for Eteocles' son Laodamas, who was too young to rule the kingdom. Creon gave Eteocles a hero's funeral, while he decreed that Polyneices and the other Argives leaders, not to be given any burial, for attacking Thebes. The bodies were to be left to the dogs and vultures.

Antigone pleaded with her uncle and regent, Creon, to allow her brother's body to be buried; she was refused. Creon, who lost his second son in the war, adamantly decreed again that anyone burying Polyneices or the other Argive leaders, that person would be put to death.

Ismene was afraid to help Antigone bury their brother. Knowing she would face a possible death sentence, Antigone secretly buried her brother, but was caught by Creon's men. Ismene, who was afraid to help Antigone, now also claimed responsibility for burying Polyneices. She said this, because she could not bear to lose the last member of her family, she wanted to die with her sister. Antigone, however, persuaded Ismene to live. Creon had Antigone entombed alive.

Creon's third son, Haemon, who was betrothed to Antigone, went to Antigone's tomb and killed himself. Eurydice, Creon's wife, who heard the news of her son's death, couldn't bear her grief of losing her last child; she cursed her husband, before she hanged herself. Creon's stubbornness and pride resulted in the death of not only his niece, but also caused tragedy to fall upon his own family.

According to the Fabulae, Hyginus tell of different story to that of Sophocles' play, Antigone. Antigone with the help of Argeia, Polyneices' wife, buried Polyneices, despite Creon's edict. Argeia managed to escape, but Antigone was captured for defying his law. Creon ordered his son, Haemon, to kill his niece, but Haemon was in love with Antigone. They were actually lovers, and she was pregnant.

Haemon disobey his father, and gave Antigone to trusted shepherds to hide her. Haemon returned to his father and claimed that he had killed and buried Antigone.

Years later, the son of Haemon and Antigone, whose name was not given, came to Thebes to take part in the annual games. Creon immediately recognised the youth, because he bore the mark of a Sparti, and he resembled his own son and his niece, Antigone. Creon realised that Haemon had defied his order. Creon ordered his son to kill Antigone in front of him. Haemon was a friend of young Heracles (Hercules), and was still living in Thebes at the time. Heracles unsuccessfully pleaded to spare Antigone, but the king refused.

Haemon obeyed his father, and killed Antigone with his sword. But in front of his father, he took his own life.

Adrastus, the only surviving leader of the Seven, fled to Athens. He sought Theseus' aid, as a suppliant. His request to Theseus was that he wanted to bury the other Argive leaders who fell in the war. Theseus agreed to help.

When the Thebans refused to release the bodies of the enemy leaders, Theseus attacked Thebes until they surrendered them for burial. Theseus did not enslave or imprison the Thebans, nor did he allow his army occupied or loot Thebes. He was only there for one reason only, to bury the fallen Argive leaders.

Adrastus returned to Argos with the other bodies for burial. During the funeral, as they fired the pyres of the fallen leaders, Evadne threw herself on her husband's (Capaneus) pyre.

Related Information
Antigone, Antigona.

Works written by Sophocles:
   Oedipus at Colonus.

Work written by Euripides:
   The Suppliant Women.
   The Phoenician Women.

Seven Against Thebes was written by Aeschylus.

Library, written by Apollodorus.

Fabulae was written by Hyginus.

Related Articles
Oedipus, Antigone, Eteocles, Polyneices, Heracles, Tydeus, Theseus.

Antigone at his Brother's Grave

Antigone at his Brother's Grave
Red Figure, 4th century BC
Musáe du Louvre, Paris

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Legend of Aeneas


Aeneas, the Trojan hero who survived the war at Troy, was a subject of several legends. The official legend of Aeneas was that found in a Latin epic, The Aeneid, written by a Roman poet, Virgil or Vergil. According to this epic, Aeneas settled in Italy, not far from the present site of Rome.

Ovid followed more or less Virgil's epic about Aeneas after the Trojan War. Ovid only give a brief sketch of Aeneas voyage to Italy and the war against the Latins; all this take place in Book 14 of the Metamorphoses.

I will cover this legend, shortly, but in this introduction I would like us to look at the various legend of his survival.

According to classical mythology, Aeneas was the son of Anchises. His mother was the Greek goddess Aphrodite or the Roman goddess Venus. A story of the conception of Aeneas can be found in the Homeric Hymns. One long hymn was dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite.

The House of Troy had actually being divided into two branches: that of Dardania and that of Troy or Ilium. Aeneas actually belonged to the Dardania, a house older than Troy, but Troy became more powerful than Dardania. So in actual fact Aeneas was a Dardanian prince.

In the major epic of the Trojan War, titled The Iliad, which was written by Homer, Aeneas' role was minor. Despite this minor role, Homer says that Aeneas was second only to Hector as a warrior, on the Trojan side. Hector the son of King Priam of Troy and of Hecuba, was commander-in-chief of the Trojans and their allies, while Aeneas served as second-in-command.

In one scene, when Poseidon rescued Aeneas from the Greek champion, Achilles, the sea god saved him and mentioned to him that he was destined not only to survive Troy's fall, but becomes its new king.

Homer doesn't mention Aeneas in his other epic The Odyssey, which was devoted to the homecoming of the Ithacan hero Odysseus.

When Troy was sacked, all authors mentioned that Aeneas survived.

In the fragments of two epic poems collected in the so-called Epic Cycle, they showed two very different outcomes for Aeneas after the war.

According to The Little Iliad, Aeneas was captured, and given to Neoptolemus, son of Achilles as slave, along with Andromache, wife of Hector. He probably lived the rest of his life in Pharsalia.

In the Epic Cycle poem, The Sack of Ilium, Aeneas and his Dardanian followers were alarmed when two large sea serpents killed Laocoon and his son, before the Trojan Horse. Aeneas took this as a bad sign, so he gathered his followers returned to Mount Ida, leaving Troy to its fate.

Neither of these two works mentioned Aeneas carrying his crippled father out of Troy or him sailing off from Troy to find a new home in Italy, which were found in The Aeneid. The mythographer Apollodorus also doesn't mention Italy. He does say however that Aeneas did carrying his father out of Troy, but he also says that the Greeks allowed him to leave the city because of his piety. However, this image of him escaping Troy with his father and son does appear in a 6th century BC vase painting.

The earliest connections of Aeneas with Italy and Rome were found in the works of two Greek writers Hellanicus of Lesbos and Damastes of Sigeum. They actually say that Aeneas founded Rome.

The earliest Latin works concerning with Aeneas, comes from Marcus Porcius Cato, also known as Cato the Elder or Cato the Censor (234-149 BC), who wrote The Origines. Cato says that Aeneas married Lavionia, daughter of King Latinus of Latium, and founded Alba Longa.

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Cupid and Psyche


Originally, this myth was placed under the Roman Deities, under the article of Cupid (Eros), but I have now moved the article to this page. I have completely revised and rewritten this myth, so it can be told more fully. The only source for this myth about Cupid and Psyche come from one source: Lucius Apuleius in the Golden Ass.

In an unidentified kingdom, the worship of Venus (Aphrodite) was fading away, because the populace thought that the king's youngest daughter, Psyche, was more beautiful than the goddess of love and beauty. The populace began to worship the princess as the goddess.

Though, Psyche didn't ask for this attention, the goddess was jealous over the girl usurping her position. She called upon her son, Cupid (Eros), the god of love, to make sure no one would marry the young princess, and that she would fall in love with a monster.

However, he had instantly fallen in love with Psyche, the moment Cupid saw the mortal princess. Cupid wanted to marry the mortal girl, so he made arrangement that she would have him.

The king, Psyche's father, became concerned that many come to worship her daughter, but no suitors would dare ask for the hand in marriage. Her father went to an oracle in Miletus, but heard that his daughter must be left in the mountain, where an evil being (demon or monster) would take his daughter as his wife.

The king and Psyche's two sisters sorrowfully left Psyche on a high, rocky hill; she bravely waiting for her demonic suitor. She met no one she could see, when Zephyrus, god of the west wind, took her and spirited her off to her new husband's home.

Instead of demon's lair in a dark cave, she was surprise to see that her new home was a palace, larger and more splendid than her father's palace. Her needs were served by invisible servants. Her meals were more delicious than any she had ever tasted.

That first night, her came husband came to her, but she could see him in the darkness. At first, she felt fear, but his presence reassured her. Her husband (Cupid) told her that this home was hers, and that he loved her. However, he warned her that she must look upon him in the light.

After the night of pleasure, her husband left in the morning, but each night, he would visit her again, each time in bed under the cover of darkness. Psyche never seen her invisible husband, nor knew his name.

Psyche had fallen pregnant. Cupid informed her that if she does look upon him before their child is born, then the baby would be mortal. The child would only be immortal if she doesn't see his face until after birth.

On the fourth night, her husband informed her that her sisters were looking for her on the hill where they had last seen her, thinking that she was dead. Her lover told her that she must not ever see her family again. Though, Psyche enjoyed her time with her new husband, and was happy, she began to pine for her home, and she missed her father and her two sisters. She complained bitterly night after night that she was lonely and that she missed her sisters.

Finally, her invisible husband relented, allowing the two sisters to visit her in the palace. The West Wind (Zephyrus) brought Psyche's sisters to her home. When her sisters arrived in the magical palace, they were enviously astonished to see the luxury their younger sister enjoyed, and were truly jealous of Psyche's good fortune.

The two sisters were astonished that heard the reasons why Psyche has neither seen her husband nor know his name. They both secretly wished ill fortune for their youngest sister; they were jealous of her sister's wealth and secretly hashed a plot to discover his identity and ending his sister's marriage. Each was motivated that this unknown god would marry her, if he divorced Psyche.

On their second visit, the two sisters told Psyche that she should try to find the identity of her husband, because it was said that he was a monster or demon. Why else would her husband not want her to see him, her jealous sisters told her. If he was a demon, then Psyche should kill the creature.

Psyche finally having misgiving about her marriage decided to act upon her sisters' advice. While her husband slept in their bed that night, Psyche fetched an oil lamp and a knife; she was determined to see what monstrous husband she had married and slay him in his sleep.

Trembling she held oil lamp in one hand and a knife ready to plunge into her husband's heart, as she approached the bed. But what she saw in the light, was not a horrifying creature from the depth of hell, but a beautiful young man with golden wings. At the sight of her husband, she forgot that she was holding the oil lamp in her hand, and spilled a drop of hot oil on to his shoulder.

Her husband woke in pain, and saw that his wife had betrayed him. The love god left Psyche. Cupid returned to his mother in Olympus. Psyche was distraught that she had lost her husband, who was none other than Cupid the god of love.

Upon hearing that that Psyche's husband was a god and he had deserted their sister, the two selfish sisters returned to the crag, each hoping that he would take her as his wife. Both sisters leaped off hill, believing that Zephyrus would carry them to Cupid's palace. Instead they fell to their death.

Psyche blamed herself for not trusting her husband, because she was a naive girl. She had lost Cupid because of her curiosity and disobedience. She was determined to win her husband back. She prayed to Juno and Ceres, but they didn't answer, not did Cupid returned. She was hoping that by serving Cupid's mother as a servant or slave, Cupid would love her once more.

What Psyche didn't realise is that Venus hated her. The goddess had not forgotten that people from far away have abandoned her, and started worshipping Psyche. She was doubly upset that her son had slept with her mortal rival, begetting a child in Psyche. Now that the foolish girl had burned her son, Venus was determined to punish the girl.

Venus set Psyche a series of seemingly impossible tasks. In one task, she had to sort a roomful of different grains by nightfall. In this, a colony of ants helped Psyche sort the various grains in neat piles. Her next task involved gaining wool from a flock of deadly sheep that could kill any man or woman. The reeds advised Psyche that she could gather the wool that clung to bushes, instead of waking the sheep from their afternoon sleep.

Despite Psyche's success, Venus set increasingly her more difficult task. She had to fetch the deadly water from the river Styx that flow out from the precipice of Mount Aroanius. She thought that she would die this time. This time, an eagle of Jupiter (Zeus) came to her aid. Taking jar from Psyche, the eagle flew and filled the jar with the water from Styx.

Angry at her success, Venus demanded that Psyche fetch the make-up box from Proserpina (Persephone), the goddess of the Underworld. No mortal could hope to enter the World of the Dead and return. She wanted to end her life now, since there was no hope of her returning or winning Cupid back. She would have leaped off the high tower, but the building spoke, giving her instruction of how to succeed in this quest and return safely. The tower warned her not to open the box containing Proserpina's ointment.

Psyche entered the Underworld prepared. She crossed the Styx, paying Charon his toll of one obol (coin). She gave sweet honey cakes to the three-headed hound, Cerberus, so that she could pass through the gate of Hades. When she came to Hades' House, Psyche did as she was instructed to, refusing to sit on the chair and only accepting bread and no other food on the table.

Proserpina then filled the box with her cosmetics. She returned the same way she had came, giving more cakes to Cerberus and another coin to Charon. By the time, she had reached the upper world, exiting the cave at Taenarum.

Once again, her curiosity had brought disaster to her. She had forgotten the tower's warning about opening the box. She thought if she applied some small amount of cosmetic, she could possibly win back her husband. The moment she opened the cosmetic box, she had fallen into a deep slumber.

By this time, Cupid shoulder had healed, and he forgot his anger with his wife's curiosity and disobedience, flew off from home, to find Psyche. He was still in love with her.

Cupid found her, and woke her from her unnatural slumber. Psyche was happy that her husband had forgiven her. Cupid sends her off to his mother and completed her last quest, while Cupid went to Olympus and appealed to Jupiter (Zeus), to make his wife immortal. Jupiter agreed.

Cupid and Psyche lived happily ever after, and became the parents of a daughter named Volupta ("Pleasure").

As it can be seen in this tale of Cupid and Psyche, it has all the elements of a fairy tale. The magical palace with invisible servants; how creature of all sorts helped her in her seemingly impossible quests. Talking reeds and tower, giving sagacious advice to the naive girl. And lastly, the happy ending.

It is quite possible that this tale did influence later fairy tales.

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Orpheus and Eurydice

Orpheus was the greatest mortal musician in Greek myths. Orpheus was the son of the Muse Calliope. His father was either the god Apollo or Oeagrus, the king of Thrace.

Even though he may have the son of the Thracian king, Apollo, who was the greatest musician of the gods, taught him how to play the lyre. Like Apollo, Orpheus' favourite instrument was the lyre. Calliope and her sisters taught her son the song. His music and voice were so enchanting that wild animal would become tame and the trees and rocks would follow him.

Orpheus was one of the Argonauts who had accompanied Jason in the quest of the Golden Fleece. His music helped to soothe the wearied his comrades, in their long journey. Orpheus most vital role in the Argonautica was that he saved his comrades from the songs of the Sirens. Such was the powerful of his music and voice that he drowned out the songs of Sirens, allowing their ship to pass the island.

His love was tragically short. Orpheus fell in love with a naiad (water nymph) named Eurydice. Their marriage was short, when a minor pastoral god named Aristaeüs (Aristaeus), lustfully pursued after the nymph. A snake bit Eurydice's ankle when she stepped on the snake. Eurydice died from the venom.

Orpheus mourned over the loss of his wife. The hero was determined to win back his wife from Hades. With his lyre he descended down towards the Underworld. His music made all the spirits to come and listen. Even those condemned to eternal punishment (like Sisyphus and Tantalus) forgot their torments. Orpheus crossed the Styx without paying Charon for toll on the ferry. The three-headed hound Cerberus allowed Orpheus to pass through the gates without challenge. His song even moved Hades, the lord of the dead, who listened to the music with his wife Persephone.

When Hades heard why Orpheus had come to the world of the dead, the sombre god agreed that Orpheus could have his wife back, on the condition that Orpheus should not look back until they reached the earth surface.

Orpheus was both joyful and anxious if his wife was following him to his surface. His anxiety made him look back too soon, when he reached the surface. Eurydice was just inside of the cavern entrance, when he turned back to look at his wife. Eurydice was instantly returned to Underworld.

Orpheus was barred from entering the Underworld for the second time, while he was still alive. Orpheus had no choice but to return home. According to Apollodorus, who wrote that it was at this time that Orpheus founded the mysteries of Dionysus. This could only mean Orphic Mysteries.

In Thrace, Orpheus would sit on a rock in the meadow, playing mournful tunes over the loss of his wife. The maenads, the women followers of the wine god Dionysus, wanted the musician to play music of revelry. Orpheus continued to play of music of sorrow. The angry women violently tore him to pieces with their bare hands. The alternative ending was that he was tore apart by the maenads when Orpheus rejected their love.

According to myth about Adonis, Aphrodite had stirred the maenads, because she was furious of the decision of Calliope, Orpheus' mother, in the dispute between her and Persephone. See Adonis.

However, the story ended, the Muses mourned over the death of Orpheus. The Muses gathered the pieces of his body and buried in Piera, Macedonia. The constellation of the Kneeler or Engonasin (the constellation is now called Hercules) had probably represented Orpheus kneeling, while the Thracian women attacked him. Most likely the Muses placed his lyre in the sky as the constellation Lyra.

There are many variations on Orpheus' death, including in art work. According to some representation in Greek arts, the maenads didn't kill the bard by rending; the women had used spears, swords and stones to kill him.

The Greek geographer mentioned several possible death of Orpheus. In one unusual account, a thunderbolt had killed Orpheus, because he knew too much about the secrets of the Underworld, which Orpheus revealed in his cultic mysteries. In another he was in Aornos in Thesprotia, and the loss of his wife caused him to commit suicide. Yet, in another version, took place in Dion, a city on Macedonian side of Mount Pieria. The women of Dion murdered him. When the women went to wash their bloody hands in the river Helikon, the stream drained itself underground. The river god Helikon didn't want the women to use his water to purify murderers.

According to the late classical and Hellenistic religion, known as the "Orphic" cult was based on the poems and songs of Orpheus. His poems and songs were supposed to have formed the foundation of the Orphic texts and belief, though these texts are definitely pseudepigraphical.

Unlike the cults of Dionysus, the Orphic cult required individual abstinent from eating meat, drinking wine and from sexual intercourse. The main objective of this cult is for believers to live righteous life so they could enter Elysium. Yet, the text on Orphic cult revealed the importance of the god Dionysus in part of the creation.

According to the Argonautica, Apollonius wrote that Orpheus sang a song about the Creation that was different from the one told by Hesiod in the Theogony and Works and Days.

One of the most ritual practices in the Orphic cult was mimed dismemberment of limbs; just as the Thracian women had torn off the limbs of Orpheus. Though, there have been some reports of actual dismemberment occurring during such rites.

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Cephalus and Procris


Procris was the daughter of King Erechtheus of Athens. Procris was the sister of Cecrops, Butes, Creusa, Oreithyia and other unnamed sisters.

Cephalus was the son of Deion, the king of Phocis, and Diomede, daughter of Xuthus. Cephalus came to Athens and successfully wooed Procris.

According to Apollodorus, Procris was an unfaithful wife. One day, Cephalus discovered Procris in bed with her lover, Pteleon. Procris fled to Crete, where Minos fell in love with her. Minos gave her Laelaps, the magical hound that always catches it prey, and an infallible javelin that never miss its mark. Procris fearing the magic of Pasiphae, the wife of Minos, she returned to Athens.

Cephalus and Procris were reconciled, and Procris knowing that her husband loved to hunt, gave Laelaps and the infallible spear to Cephalus. They had a son named Arcesius, who was the father of Laertes.

In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Cephalus was out hunting a couple months after their marriage. Eos, the goddess of dawn, saw him in the woods, fell in love with him, and spirited him away to her home.

Eos tried to seduce Cephalus, which he rejected the goddess' love. Seeing that she could not win his love, she set him free. However, Eos managed to sow seed of doubt over his wife's faithfulness. Eos transformed him so that no one would recognise him. Cephalus thought to test his wife's love and loyalty to him.

Returning home, Procris was weeping over her husband's absence. Cephalus appeared to him disguised as a stranger. Cephalus foolishly tested her by trying to seduce her and offer her gold. Procris seduce the apparent stranger's advances, yet when she only slightly hesitated, Cephalus revealed his true identity. Enraged, he accused his wife of being unfaithful to him.

Overwhelmed by his accusation, she fled from home and joined Artemis, as one of goddess' companions. According to this version, it was Artemis gave Procris the hound Laelaps and the infallible spear.

Cephalus was still in love with her, and realising of his error in accusing his wife, he went to find Procris and apologise to her. The two were reconciled, Procris returned home with her husband.

Whichever version you have read, the ending was the same. They were happy, until one day, he went hunting. Procris followed her husband and hid in one of thickets. See movement in the thicket, Cephalus hurled the magic spear. Cephalus had killed his wife with the very gift that she gave to him.

Cephalus was grief-stricken. Cephalus was put on trial for Procris' death at Areopagus, and was banished from Athens. Cephalus went to Thebes, where he befriended Amphitryon, the stepfather of Heracles. Cephalus loaned Amphitryon his hound, Laelaps, because Amphitryon was hunting the Teumessus Vixen. Amphitryon gave Cephalus a large island, which he named Cephallenia, which he ruled.

Related Information
The Library was written by Apollodorus.

Metamorphoses was written by Ovid.

Fabulae was written by Hyginus.

Related Articles
Erechtheus, Cecrops, Creusa, Oreithyia, Minos, Eos, Artemis.

Laelaps, Teumessus Vixen.

House of Athens.
Aeolids I.

Reconciliation of Cephalus and Procris
Claude Lorrain
Oil on canvas, 1645
National Gallery, London


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Ceyx and Alcyone


Ceyx was the son of Eosphorus (Lucifer in the Roman myth, meaning "Morning Star"). Ceyx was also the brother of Daedalion. Ceyx told the hero Peleus of the fates of his brother and Chione, the daughter of Daedalion. Ceyx was the king of Trachis, a region in southern Thessaly.

Ceyx was known for his wisdom and hospitality. Heracles had stayed in Trachis as his guest, as well as Peleus, the son of King Aeacus of Aegina.

Heracles left Calydon with a new wife, Deïaneira, and lived with Ceyx, in friendship. Heracles had aided Ceyx in the war against the Dryopes and the Lapiths. However, Ceyx could not protect the children of Heracles (Heraclids) against Eurystheus, the powerful king of Mycenae and Tiryns. Ceyx advised Iolaus and the Heraclids to seek refuge at Athens.

Peleus was exiled from Aegina, for murdering his half brother, Phocus. Phocus was the son of Aeacus and the Nereid Psamathe, sister of Thetis. Ceyx was attending his brother's funeral when Peleus arrived in his court as suppliant.

While as a guest of Ceyx, Peleus' cattle were attack by a giant wolf, sent by Psamathe. Ceyx would have hunted the wolf with Peleus, but Ceyx's wife, Alcyone, pleaded with her husband not to go.

It was his prayer to Thetis (Peleus' future wife) that she persuaded her sister Psamathe to pardon Peleus for the murder. Psamathe transformed the wolf into stone.

Ceyx was married to Alcyone, the daughter of Aeolus and Enarete. (In the story told by Ovid's Metamorphoses, her father, Aeolus of Thessaly was mistakenly for Aeolus, the keeper of winds).

Ceyx wanted to find out how his brother had died, from the oracle at Delphi. Rather then journey by land where he will encounter enemies, he decided to go by sea.

Alcyone felt foreboding over her husband's journey, so she tried to dissuade him from travelling to Delphi by ship. Ceyx refused to let his wife go with him on the voyage, and promised to return within two months. Alcyone was miserable and depressed, weeping over her husband's absence.

Ovid gives a long account of how the storm wrecked Ceyx's ship. The ship sank because of the violent sea. Throughout Ceyx's ordeal, Ceyx's thought was fixed on his wife. Ceyx could not swim to safety, before one last wave pounded and drowned him.

Every day and night, Alcyone prayed to Hera for her husband's safe return. Her prayers were muttered in vain. Before the end of the second month, Hera sent Morpheus to Alcyone.

Morpheus arrived in Alcyone' dream, in the form of her dead husband. Morpheus told Alcyone how her real husband drowned. When she woke, Alcyone was inconsolable. The gods taking pity on Alcyone, so they transformed her and her husband into kingfishers or halcyons.

A less romantic version of the fate of Ceyx and Alcyone were different according to Apollodorus. The gods had transformed Ceyx into a sea swallow and Alcyone into a kingfisher or halcyon, as the sign of wrath and punishment, not of pity. Ceyx and Alcyone had dared to call themselves, Zeus and Hera.

Related Information
Ceyx, Ceux.

Metamorphoses was written by Ovid.

Library was written by Apollodorus.

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Daedalion, Chione, Heracles, Peleus.

Thetis, Morpheus, Zeus, Hera.

Ancient Rome

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Pyramus and Thisbe

Pyramus and Thisbe were lovers in Assyria. Their families were neighbours, but were rivals. Both families refused to allow them to marry. A wall was built to separate the two young lovers.

One day the pair agreed to meet at night at the tomb of King Ninus. Thisbe arrived early, and was frightened away by a young bloody lion. In her haste to flee from the lion, she had dropped her cloak. When Pyramus arrived, he thought the lion had killed Thisbe. In despair, Pyramus killed himself with his sword. A mulberry tree grew from the pool of his blood.

Thisbe returned to the tomb, to find her lover, dead. Inconsolable, Thisbe laid on top of Pyramus before using the same sword on herself. Their parents had them burnt on the same pyre, and placed in a single urn.

The tale of Pyramus and Thisbe was one of the works that inspired William Shakespeare to write the tragedy, called Romeo and Juliet.

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A Libyan Amazon queen. Nothing is known about Myrina, except in the account of Diodorus Siculus' Library of History (1st century BC). Her capital was in the city of Cherronesus, in Libya. According to Diodorus, Myrina lived in the time before Perseus. More information about the Amazons in Libya can be found in the previous section, titled Amazons in Libya.

Myrina led a large army of Amazons with strength of 30,000 foot-soldiers and 3000 cavalry, first in the war against their neighbour, the Atlantians, and then later, against the Gorgons, another race of woman warriors.

The Atlantians surrendered to Myrina, after she had captured one of their cities, called Cernê. The Amazons had razed Cernê, enslaving the women and the children. The Atlantians in the other cities were cowed by the destruction of Cernê and capitulated.

The Amazons and the Atlantians became peaceful neighbour. However, Atlantians lived beside another race of woman warriors, known as the Gorgons, who repeatedly raided their western borders.

Diodorus doesn't portray the Gorgons as monsters who could turn every living creature into stone, just by looking into their faces. No. The Gorgons were like the Amazons in many ways. The Gorgons were warriors, who displayed manly prowess in war.

The Atlantians asked the Amazons for help against the Gorgons. So a deadly battle was fought between two different races of woman warriors. In the end, Myrina and the Amazons emerged victors against the Gorgons. The surviving Gorgons fled back to their land.

The Amazons had captured over 3000 Gorgon warriors as prisoners. Myrina attempt to pursue and destroy the surviving Gorgons in their own land had failed. So she returned home with their captives.

The guards became lax in their duties, so the captive Gorgons managed to arm themselves, killing many Amazons. However, the Amazons managed to put down the rebellion, and killed every last captive. Large pyres were erected and the tombs built for the fallen comrades, which was called the "Amazon Mounds".

Myrina was said to have conquered most of Libya. When she reached Egypt, she befriended Horus, the son of Isis and the king of Egypt (Diodorus sees Horus as a king, not a god). She was said to have slaughter the Arabs and subdued the Syrians. Her Amazon forces entered into Asia Minor (Anatolia). The Cilicians kept their independent and freedom, because they were willing to accept her rule.

Much of Asia Minor came under her rule. She had also captured the island of Lesbos, where she founded the city of Mitylene, which was named after her sister.

Myrina was caught in a storm at sea. She prayed for safety from the Mother of the Gods (Cybele), who guided her ship to a deserted island. Before Myrina left the island, the queen named the island to Samothrace.

Myrina fought her last battle against the Thracians under Mopsus and the Scythians under Sipylus. These two leaders were exiled from their respective homelands. It was not said where this battle was fought, except that it was most likely in one of Myrina's conquered territories. Myrina and great number of her forces were slain in battle. Losing a series of battles to Mopsus, the Amazons finally returned home.

Related Information
Library of History was written by Diodorus Siculus.

Related Articles

Amazons in Libya.

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There seemed to be a number of Amazon queen with the name Hippolyte or Hippolyta. Each one died by different hand. The Hippolyte that I referred to in this article is the Amazon queen, who owned the Girdle of Hippolyte.

Hippolyte was the sister of Antiope or Melanippe.

Eurystheus, the king of Mycenae and Tiryns, send Heracles on a mission to fetch this golden girdle, which became known as the Ninth Labour of Heracles. Heracles went to the Amazon country either alone, with Telamon or Theseus, or with both of them.

Hippolyte had warmly received Heracles, granting him request for the girdle. The Amazon queen and the hero would have become lovers, and this would have been Heracles' easiest task, however, the vengeful goddess, Hera, stirred trouble among Hippolyte's warriors. The goddess spread rumour that Heracles would abduct their queen. They immediately attack Heracles and his companions. Heracles thinking that Hippolyte had betrayed him, killed the queen, took the girdle, and fought his way out of the city.

According to Apollonius, Heracles did not kill Hippolyte. Melanippe, sister of Hippolyte, went out to confront Heracles, but was captured in the ambush. Heracles held Melanippe as hostage. To pay for her sister's ransom, she offered her girdle to Heracles. Had the Argo landed on the Amazon land, Hippolyte and her Amazons would have attack the Argonauts.

In yet another version, where there were no Heracles and the girdle, the author say that Hippolyte was alive and it was she who led the invasion into Attica and Athens. The two sisters fought on different sides and both were killed.

There is one who was normally named Antiope, but was sometimes called Hippolyte, as well as Melanippe or Glauce. This Antiope/Hippolyte became the wife of the Athenian hero Theseus and mother of Hippolytus.

A third Hippolyte was the sister of Penthesileia. Penthesileia had accidentally killed her while they were out hunting. Penthesileia had to go to King Priam in Troy, to be purified for her sister's death. Eventually, Penthesileia went to join the war at Troy, where she died at the hand of Achilles.


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A huntress and heroine of the Calydonian boar hunt. She was the daughter of Iasus, king of either Tegaea or Maenalus, by Clymene, daughter of Minyas. The Boeotians believed she was daughter of Schoeneus, son of Athamas, and king of Boeotian Orchomenus. Others say that there are two Atalanta with identical histories. Whatever is the truth, it would best to treat it as only one.

Her father wanted a son, so he had the infant exposed in the forest. A bear suckled the infant until Artemis sent hunters rescued her. These old hunters raised her as their own child. As Atalanta grew to adulthood, she enjoyed hunting so much that she wanted to remain unwedded and virgin like the goddess Artemis. She could outshoot anyone with the bow. She was also the most fleet-footed mortal alive with the exception of Euphemus and Iphiclus of Phylace.

When still young, she killed two centaurs, Rhoecus and Hylaeüs (Hyaelus) attempted to rape her. In a couple accounts (eg. in Diodorus Siculus' account), she sailed with the Argonauts, but the usual story was that, Jason and the other crew refused to allow her to participate in the quest. During the funeral games of Pelias, she defeated Peleus in a wrestling match.

Her greatest adventure was when Atalanta joined other heroes in the Calydonian Boar Hunt.

Calydonian Boar Hunt

Oeneus (Oineus), king of Calydon, insulted the goddess Artemis for not sacrificing to her. Artemis sent a giant boar that was ravaging the countryside. The Calydonian Boar was destroying farms and killing people. The king sends news for heroes throughout Greece, that he requests warriors to kill the boar. He offered anyone to first draw blood on the boar, the hide of the boar as prize.

The greatest boar hunt was led by Meleager, his son by Althaea (Althaia), daughter of Thestius. Many heroes, who sailed the Argo with Jason, also joined the hunt. See genealogy of House of Calydon.

Some of the hunters, especially Meleager's uncles, protested of allowing Atalanta to hunt with them. But Meleager, who fell madly in love with Atalanta, allowed her to participate. During the hunt the boar killed several hunters. Peleus accidentally killed Eurytion, his father-in-law, with his spear. Some more were wounded. Nestor barely escaped alive. Atalanta drew first blood with her arrow, while Amphiaraüs drew second blood. Meleager finally killed the boar. Meleager awarded the boar's hide to Atalanta.

This action outraged his uncles, resulting in a deadly quarrel between the young hero and his mother's brothers. Althaea's brothers took the boar hide from Atalanta. In a rage, Meleager killed his uncles.

When Meleager was an infant, his mother Althaea learned that her son would die if the burning stick in the fireplace was totally consumed. Althaea put out the fire and safely hid the stick. But Althaea's grief over brothers' death was so great, that she caused the death of her own son, by burning the stick she had hidden. When Meleager died, Althaea committed suicide.

A different version (Catalogues of Women), says that Apollo had killed Meleager, during the war between the Calydonians and the Curetes.

Some say that Atalanta had a son by Meleager, named Parthenopaeüs (Parthenopaeus), one of the seven champions who fought in the ill-fated war against Thebes.

For a fuller account of the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the life of Meleager, I would suggest that you read Calydonian Boar Hunt, in the House of Calydon.

Suitors of Atalanta

Atalanta's father happily received his daughter, when he learnt of her heroic deeds. He wanted his daughter to marry. Atalanta, who wanted to remain a virgin like the huntress/goddess Artemis, devised a clever way of avoiding marriage.

She agreed to marry the man who could best her in a foot race. If her suitor loses the race, she would sever off his head. Since no mortal, but Euphemus or Iphiclus of Phylace could out-run her, many headless bodies littered the racetrack. Despite this, many young suitors still try to win her hand. Atalanta normally ran in full armour. She would also give each her suitor a head start. If she overtook the unfortunate suitor, she would take off his head with her sword.

But she was never able to remain a virgin. Aphrodite helped one of the suitors, named Hippomenes or Melanion, by giving him three golden apples. During the race, before Atalanta could overtake him, he would throw an apple to one side or another. Each time Atalanta would be distracted enough to take the time to pick up the apple. The last apple was thrown so far off the race track that by the time she picked up the last apple, it became impossible for even her to win the race.

Happily, Atalanta decided to marry her resourceful suitor. Unfortunately, their marriage was short-lived. They had forgotten to thank Aphrodite. So Aphrodite caused Atalanta and her new husband to defile the temple of Cybele, by making love before the altar. The angry goddess turned Atalanta and her new husband into lions, and Cybele had the two lions harnessed to her chariot.

Some say that Atalanta given birth to Parthenopaeüs (Parthenopaeus), by her husband, the hero Meleager or the god of war, Ares.

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Amanda's Gods and Myths of the Ancient Civilizations