Human Women in Greek Myths
The mortal heroines, victims, and villainesses of Greek myth
Which Mythic Queen Are You Quiz
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Acacallis is a kind of boring story - but that's okay, because it isn't really a story about a girl, it's a story about a city. You'll see. Acacallis was a princess, the daughter of Minos (the King of Crete) and Pasiphae. Acacallis (also called Acalle), went to visit her mom's family in the House of Carmanor (they were leading citizens in the city of Tarrha, which is in the West of Crete). It so happens that Apollo had come to Tarrha from Aegialae with his sister, Artemis being purified. Apollo saw Acacallis and fell in love with her and seduced her. She was his first love. Minos got pissed off about that, and sent Acacallis away to Libya. In Libya she became the mother of Garamas (though some call him the "first man." Incidentally, Acacallis means "no walls" - like the city of Tarrha (and many other Cretan cities). This story is probably just an "explanation story" of when the Hellenes came from Aegialae and took over the city of Tarrha. The nobility fled to Libya, where they began ruling the peaceful Garamantians. Make sense? I can't seem to track down any sort of picture of her, so here's one of her mom (Pasiphae) instead by Giuliu Romano.
Admeta was the daughter of Eurystheus for whom Heracles performed the ninth labor. He went to the Amazons and stole the Girdle of Hippolyta from their queen and brought it back to Admeta. Admeta's mother's name was Antimache. Symbolically, in the story of Heracles, Admeta is a priestess who eventually succumbs to sleeping with the hero, but only after he's beaten her (in the form of the Hydra, a crab, a wild mare, a cloud, and a hind - read the story, if you don't get it). Ademete is also another name for Athena, who helped Heracles along.
Aedon was turned into the first nightingale, that's the important thing. How she got to be that way is up for debate. There are two stories that suggest how she became so transformed. The first story sets her up as the wife of Zethus and the mother of Itylus. She mistakenly killed her son, and, out of pity, Zeus turned her into the nightingale, who nightly laments the murder of her child. The other story is not so nice. In this story, Aedon is the queen of ancient Thebes who tries to murder Niobe's kids, but ends up killing her own. She is turned into a nightingale for the same reason in this story.
She was the daughter of Adrastus and Amphithea, and wife of Diomedes. Diomedes was a big-time Trojan War hero and a favorite of Athena's. I personally think he was pretty cool, because he seriously injured Ares (who screamed like a baby and ran home to Olympus where all the Gods were disgusted). But yeah, then Diomedes did all sorts of other cool things with his buddy Odysseus and then he came home and found out: OH MY GOD! Aegiale had been cheating on him! (Chances are he had been sleeping around like nobody's business himself, but does anyone pay attention to that? Nooooo.) So that's how we know about Aegiale.
- Aerope was a great adulteress. She was married to a King of Mycene named Atreus, but she was sleeping with a man named Thyestes (who happened to be Atreus' bitter brother), who wanted to be king. She stole Atreus' golden lamb, gave it to Thyestes, and tricked Atreus into giving the throne to whoever had the golden lamb. Atreus was pissed, and there's a whole story about what he did, but it has nothing to do with Aerope, so I won't tell it. She was also called Merope.
- Aethra was the mother of Theseus (and you should definitely know Theseus). She was the daughter of Pittheus (king of Troezen) and the wife of Aegeus (king of Athens). Now despite the fact that she raised and bore Theseus, she is given no more than two words in the telling of the story. She is not even given credit for Theseus' conception, that was the idea of her father.
Agave was the Queen of Thebes and sister of Semele (mother of Dionysus), which made her another one of the daughters of Harmonia and Cadmus. They were an ill-fated lot, on the whole. She was being catty (really, she was, read the Bacchai) and said that Zeus wasn't Dionysus' father, implying instead that her sister Semele was not only a liar but loose. Dionysus wasn't so happy about that and she was punished by becoming a Maenad. When Agave's only son, and heir to Thebes, Pentheus spied on their rituals, Agave and the Maenads ripped him to shreds while Agave cried out, "Victory, victory! The glory is ours; we have done it." They thought that he was a wild boar.
She was the daughter of the half-dragon half-man Cecrops (so made because he was the arbitrator in the fight between Athena and Poseidon over Athens, and Poseidon lost), but artists usually make her pretty normal looking. Her sister was Herse who was Hermes' beloved. Well, Aglauros had a thing for Hermes too, and was jealous of her sister. And so when Hermes came to visit, she stood in his way and said she would not move. He was like, "Fine, don't move then," and he turned her into a stone. There are alternate versions of this myth, but they all involve turning to stone or going insane (that variant involves Athena's not-quite-adopted son Erechthonius).
See the Minyades.
Alcestis was the ultimate sacrificing wife. She was married to Admetus, who was a friend of Apollo's. Apollo arranged it with the Fates that Admetus wouldn't have to die if he could find someone else to take his place. He asked his parents and servants, but no one agreed. Alcestis took the poison willingly and died in his place. But Admetus was wayyyyy depressed when she died, and so Heracles went down to the Underworld and brought Alcestis back.
Alcippe was the daughter of Ares (God of War) and Aglauros. She was raped by a son of Poseidon. Ares immediately killed the rapist, and was brought on trial by the other gods. It was the first murder trial. After the facts were laid out, and they heard what happened to Alcippe, Ares was quickly aquitted. The picture on the left is called "Phryne before the Areopagus" by Jean-Leon Gerome, and it's there because that Areopagus where important laws (like murder, especially) was the one first created by this "case."
- Alcmene was the mother of Heracles. Zeus fell in love with her, and disguised himself as her husband, Amphitryon. They made love, but Zeus was so into it that he made that one night last three days. From this union came the hero Heracles. Her husband was mighty confused when he really did come home.
Althaea was the mother of Meleager (whose story is written here, but since it isn't yet finished, Meleager was the guy who finished off the Calydonian Boar and gave Atalanta the credit). So basically Meleager was cool. But Althaea had issues. And even though she saved her baby's life when he was born, she killed him after he killed her brothers. To fully understand this, you should visit the Myth Pages.
Amymone was one of the Danaides. Her dad, Danaus, sent her to get water one day, and in searching she saw a deer. Now I don't know what you do when you see a deer, I usually slow down my car and watch it cross the road, but not this girl. No, as soon as she saw it, she tried to shoot it. Except, whoops! it wasn't a deer after all, it was a satyr. And the satyr, a little pissed about being shot at, tried to rape her. Or maybe that wasn't why - satyrs, rarely need an excuse. Anyway, Poseidon came along and rescued her, for which she promptly slept with him in thanks, and he, returning the favor (again) showed her where the springs at Lerna were. They lived happily ever after, had a son named Nauplius, and she escaped the fate of her sisters. According to Robert Graves, Amymone could also be the name of the goddess at Lerna, the center of the Danaid water cult. But, Robert Graves also tended to find connections that no other academics agree with, so take that with a grain of salt. The spring they found is still called Amymone today.
Anaraxete was "a cruel virgin who made her lover, Iphis, commit suicide." Here's the story: Anaraxete was a Greek princess who was totally not about Iphis (who was madly in love with her). He was so bummed he hung himself. She was so cold and uncaring during his funeral that Aphrodite turned Anaraxete to stone.
Andromache was the daughter of Eetion (king of Thebes). Her brothers and her father were killed by Achilles in the Trojan War, as was her husband Hector (whose body Achilles desecrated) and her son Astyanax (who was only a tiny baby). Andromache was made a slave of Achilles' son (Neoptolemus). After she had his kid, and he later died, she married Heleneus (one of King Priam of Troy's few surviving kids) and they became the rulers of the Greek region of Epirus. Of course, that doesn't really get to the character of the woman. Personality wise, she was amazing. Very much an archetype of womanhood, wifehood, etc. in the Iliad, and it's DEFINITELY worth reading at least her part before Hector leaves for battle.
Andromeda was the perfect damsel in distress. She was the daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia pissed off the Nereids by saying that Andromeda was more beautiful than they. Poseidon sent a sea monster down that started devouring everything it could. To end the destruction, they decided to sacrifice Andromeda, and chained her to a rock for the monster to eat. Luckily, Perseus (young hero) swooped down to kill the moster and save the girl at just the right moment. He fell in love with her, of course, and wanted to marry her. But her parents were like, "heeeeeeeeck no." So he pulled out the head of Medusa and turned them to stone. Then they got married and had six sons and a daughter. When she died, Andromeda was hung in the sky as a constellation. That picture on the left is of her chained to the rock in a kinky kind of way.
Antigone's story (or rather the short version) is told in the Myth Pages, but since that version isn't finished yet, I'll write a short version here as well. Antigone was the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta and the sister of Ismene. She was strong in every way imaginable. She openly defied her evil uncle King Creon to bury her brother, Polydices, saying that a immoral law should not be followed. Creon sentenced her to be buried alive. Antigone hung herself soon after she was locked into the cave, just before Haemon came to save her. I wrote a post about Ismene and Antigone in the Sophocles' Antigone in the blog, too, and you should go read it unless you are horribly intimidated by grammar.
Antiope was a princess of Thebes who bore two sons (Zethus and Amphion) to Zeus. Fearing her father's wrath, she abandoned them on a mountainside, but as Ananke (Fate) would have it, the boys were saved by a kind herdsman. The Lycus, King of Thebes and Antiope's father, and his wife, Dirce were very very cruel to Antiope until one day she ran away into the woods. She came to the cottage where her sons lived and they had a joyful reunion. Then her sons - who were now grown - returned and killed both Lycus and Dirce. There's another Antiope.
Arachne ... she makes a great Halloween character (if I do say so myself). She was a fantastic weaver and young and stupid so she went around saying she was the best at it. And Athena heard and was furious and challenged her to a throw-down. Arachne was all like, "Bring it!" and so the thing began. They were closer in skill than anyone might have imagined, but Arachne made the topic of her tapestry a catalogue of all the disgraceful acts of the gods, and especially Athena's daddy, Zeus. Gracious knows there were plenty of opportunities for her to choose from. Needless to say, the goddess wasn't having it. There are two ends to the story. One has it that after offending the goddess, Arachne went an hung herself and that Athena turned her into a spider out of pity, the other has no pity but still the part about being turned into a spider.
Look it's another Dionysus chick! Ariadne was born the daughter of King Minos and Queen Pasiphae of Crete. Crete was an expansionist nation, but instead of simply taking over Athens, they allowed a tribute of youths (chicks and dudes) for sacrifice to their monstrous son, the Minotaur. Theseus, the son of the King of Athens, was one such sacrifice. He arrives, Ariadne (who wants out in a bad way) is totally into the foreign hottie and makes him promise to take her with him if he escapes, which she helps him to by giving him magic string that helps him get out of the Labyrinth (where the Minotaur lives). So far so good. Theseus does his thing, and off they go. On the way back to Athens they stop at Naxos, where, for one reason or another, they drop off Ariadne. There she and Dionysus have a thing, possibly, though sources differ. Actually, sources on this one differ really dramatically, so I can give you no definitive myth. However, if interested in this sort of thing, you should check out the novel, The King Must Die by Mary Renault. Awesome book.
See the Minyades.
Atalanta was abandoned at birth by her misogynist father, but turned out just fine as the daughter of a bear. Very Artemis-like, with the virginity and the hunting ... At some point she involves herself in the Calydonian boar hunt. She may or may not have been one of the Argonauts. But, like so many myths about women, her story seems to end with marriage. She returns to her dad (more forgiving lady than me, I must say) who wants her to get married, but she's not feelin' it. So they compromise, if a dude can beat her in a footrace, she'll marry him. Only Hippomenes (aka Meilanion) can do it - and only then with the aid of divinely magicked golden apples - but, nonetheless, their marriage seemed a happy one since it only ended when they were caught having sex on sacred ground (Zeus' or Cybele's) and changed into lions. In case you haven't figured it out, this lady's super-cool. Actually, this lady is so rocking, she gets a big ol' space of her own in the Myth Pages. Trust me, it's worth your time.
The daugher of Harmonia and Cadmus, and sister of Agave, Ino, and Semele. She, like all her sisters, has a tragic story too. She was the mother of Actaeon. He was turned into a stag and ripped apart by his hounds for looking at Artemis bathing. Actually, the fuller story is on the Artemis page. That was her tragedy. Not quite as bad as her sisters, but bad enough.
Baubo is sometimes considered a goddess, but I prefer to think of her as human. When Demeter was searching for Persephone, her daughter, she got really really pissed and made the world go into it's first winter. Which scared everyone. But Baubo, when she saw Demeter's sadness, lifted the Goddess's mood by lifting up her dress and flashing her. It made Demeter laugh out loud and winter began to turn to spring. Baubo reached demi-goddess status, and became one of Demeter's priestesses. That picture on the right, you know, the one of the chick holding her dress up? Yeah. That's Baubo.
Baucis was married to Philemon, and the poor, old couple were the only ones who would give shelter to Zeus and Hermes when they were wandering the earth disguised as mortals. They touched Zeus' heart so deeply that he granted their deepest wish: that they could remain together even in death. Zeus transformed them into trees whose branches were intertwined.
- The daughter of Miletus, founder of Milete. She fell in love with her twin brother Caunus, who fled from her. She followed him throughout Asia Minor until she died from exhaustion and grief, and was changed into a constantly flowing spring.
Briseis got caught in the middle of things. She was abducted from Troy during the Trojan War and became, quite literally, booty. Sadly, both Achilles (hero of the Iliad) and Agamemnon (Greek king leading the charge against Troy in the Iliad) wanted her booty, and there was this whole big thing over her, cuz Agamemnon took her from Achilles after he'd stolen her fair and square. In the Iliad, that holy of holies, she may have rank, but not nearly as crucial as Chryseis, the daughter of the priest of Apollo who is returned to the Trojans. Briseis is emphatically NOT returned to the Trojans, whatever Brad Pitt might say (and she doesn't kill Agamemnon, either. That's Clytemnestra's job). Briseis just means "daughter of Briseus," apparently her given name was actually Hippodamia. If you really dig this story, you should read Helen the Face in the Myth Pages.
I think this is one of Greek Mythology's coolest stories. Caenis was a beautiful young maiden who Poseidon abducted and brutally raped. Afterward, he felt a little bad and offered to give her anything she wanted. She asked to be turned into a man so that would NEVER happen again. Poseidon did as she asked and made her invincible to weapons as well. Caeneus (that was her name as a man) could not be killed, but he was buried under a pile of pine trees by a bunch of Centaurs. Caeneus was an invulnerable warrior of Thessaly; he took part in the Calydonian boar hunt and was put out of commission in the battle between the Lapiths and Centaurs. Actually, the story of Caeneus is just one of a few Transgender Myths To Know, keeping in mind, of course, that the concept "transgender" totally anachronistic.
- Callirhoe was married to Alcmaeon, who was murdered by his first wife's dad. She prayed that her sons would grow up in one day so that they could avenge their father. Zeus granted her prayer, and they grew to six feet in one night and killed their father's murderer. Actually, there's about nine other Callirhoes as well, but this first one's all you get for now.
Carya was the daughter of a Laconian king. Her story is very short. She was the beloved of Dionysus, but she died very suddenly at Caryae. Dionysus wasn't too keen on losing his love, but he couldn't bring her back to life, so instead he turned her into a walnut tree. Artemis brought word of her death to the Laconians, which is where the Goddess got the name Artemis Caryatis. Carya means "walnut tree" and she is associated with the Titaness of Wisdom, Metis.
Cassandra was one of those who was in the Trojan War. Ther are two books you should know that relate to her. Number One: The Iliad; Number Two: The Firebrand, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which is actually ABOUT Cassandra and a VERY good fiction book. Anyway, Cassandra was the daughter of Priam. She was a prophetess - but, because of the times, a prophetess of doom. If anyone had bothered to listen to her, they wouldn't have lost the War, but nooooooo. Oh well. Today calling someone a Cassandra means calling them a prophet of doom. She got her power from Apollo, cuz he hada thing for her. But when she accepted his gift but not his love, he cursed her that her prophesies would never convince anyone. Her name meant "She who entagles men."
Cassiopeia boasted that she was more beautiful than the Nereids who complained to Poseidon. Poseidon sent a sea monster and demanded that Andromeda be sacrificed to it. Luckily, Perseus came along and saved Andromeda. Cassiopeia was made a constellation (a woman in supplication to the gods).
- Chione had twin sons by two gods. She bore Autolycus (a master thief) to Hermes and Philammon (a master musician) to Apollo. But when she asked Apollo to say she was more beautiful than Artemis, she messed up, because Artemis heard and shot her. Apollo turned her into a hawk.
One of the main characters in The Iliad, she was the traitorous daughter of Chryses (a priest of Apollo) who was taken captive by Agamemnon. When Agamemnon wouldn't let her go, Apollo sent a plague onto the Greek army. Agamemnon promptly let her go, but demanded Achilles' concubine, Briseis, in her place. This caused very big problems. Read the book.
The daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Contrary to her extreme sister Electra, Chrysothemis was meek and resigned in the adulterous and violent nature of her mother and father.
- Cilissa was the nurse of Orestes who, when Aegisthus (the murderer who wanted to destroy Agamemnon's line) tried to strangle the baby, placed her own son in Orestes cradle. Orestes was saved (though her own child died) and grew up to kill Aegisthus.
Circe was an evil, or perhaps just cruelly quirky, sorceress. She was very powerful and turned all of Odysseus' men into swine (they bearly escaped). She also had the power to purify and cleanse the Argonauts of the murder of Apsyrtus. Her name means "Falcon" and that seems pretty appropriate for her character. Circe was the daughter of Helios (the Sun) and Perse, and was the aunt of Medea. She was wayyyyy dangerous because she was so powerful and so bored. She also had a hand in turning the little nymph Scylla into a monster. But you'll have to check out the story in the Myth Pages to understand that.
The name Clymene means "Famous Might". There were a couple of Clymenes. One was believed to be the mother of Atalanta. But the one who seems more important to me was the mother of Phaethon, but if you want to learn about her you will have to check out Clymene, the Nymph.
Clytemnestra was the daughter of Leda and Tyndareus, sister of Helen, Castor, and Polydeuces. She married Agamemnon, and had four children (Chrysothemis, Electra, Iphigenia, and Orestes). She never forgave Agamemnon for sacrificing Iphigenia to free the Greek ships so they could go to the Trojan War, and while Agamemnon was gone, she plotted with her lover, Aegisthus, to kill Agamemnon. When Agamemnon returned, Clytemnestra killed him and Cassandra. Later in life, with Electra's encouragement, her son Orestes killed Clytemnestra to avenge Agamemnon's death. This whole thing is explored - along with some really fascinating thoughts on Greek civilization and gender - in Aeschylus' Oresteia and Sophocles' Elektra. What really makes her story awesome is understanding her in the larger context of Greek mythology and gender, and so I've written a bit about Clytemnestra and motherhood in my blog: check it out.
There were two chicks named Comaetho, both with super interesting stories, though I have to warn you, they're both sad. Princess Comaetho was the daughter of the king of the Taphians, and this guy attacked the kingdom and he was super cute. But the king had this lock of blonde hair on his head that made him invincible, and Comaetho, being an idiot, couldn't bear that her crush wouldn't win. So she snuck into her dad's room one night and cut it off and then went and gave it to hottie-conqueror-guy. Next day, guy wins, dad dies, and Comaetho was executed by conqueror guy because traitors suck, and women are untrustworthy (that appears to be the moral of the story anyway). The other one's a little more romantic, though. Priestess Comaetho served Artemis Triclaria in Achaia, but she had this major crush on this guy named Melanippus. They did everything they could to get their parents to let them marry, but the 'rents weren't down (probably because having your daughter leave the service of Artemis, the virgin goddess, for some dude was no good). So, what could they do? Well, they did actually have a few options, but the one they went with involved sleeping together on the temple floor. Artemis got pissed and started killing all these people and didn't stop until the oracle explained that it was Comaetho and Melanippus' fault. So then they were sacrificed and for a long time, the people had to sacrifice the most beautiful girl and boy to appease her. Sad, huh? That's them!
- Her name means "raven" or "crow". She was killed by Apollo for her infidelity. She was the mother of Aesclepius (by Apollo).
There were three Creusas. One is Roman, so I'm not even going to talk about her. One is boring (daughter of King of Athens, raped by Apollo, ho hum), so I'm not going to really talk about her. The last was the daughter of the King of Corinth (Creon). Jason, after her returned home from his mission, fell in love with her. She was alternatively called Glauce. Ain't nothing wrong with that, except that, oh yeah! he was already married to Medea. Now, Medea was no one to be messed with. She was a sorceress, and she had killed families out of love for Jason. When Jason ditched her for Creusa, she went crazy and killed Creusa, Creusa's father, and her own children with Jason.
- Cyone was raped by her father. After the attack she dragged her dad to the nearest temple and sacrificed him on the altar. I feel no pity for her father, only her.
Cyrene is SOOO COOOL! She was the daughter of a shepherd. So, one day Apollo happens along and sees her. What is this dainty shepherdess doing? She's wrestling a lion that was attacking her father's sheep. Apollo was in love. He carried her off and founded the city of Cyrene, making her queen. To Apollo she bore the sons Aristeus and Idmon. Later she bore a child with Ares.
I'm seriously running short on time to write this, but basically, Danae was the daughter of Acrisius (king of Argos) who was locked in a bronze room. Her dad locked her there because an oracle said her son would kill Acrisius, and Acrisius wasn't too thrilled with the idea. But no lock stops Zeus, and so Perseus was born. When Acrisius heard, he threw the two into a casket and set them into the sea (so that if they died he couldn't be accused of murder, it would be Poseidon's fault). But they didn't die, and Danae went on to live happily ever after (eventually) and Perseus became a great hero. That picture on the right is of two men putting Danae, grasping her son all the while, into the casket that will soon be set on the sea. It is a John Waterhouse painting in black and white.
The Danaides were the 50 daughters of Danaus (hence the name "Danaides"). They were fated to marry the 50 sons of Aegyptus, Danaus' twin brother. So anyway, Anius (Danaus' other name) really didn't want his daughters to marry his nephews. And so he fled, with his rather immense family, to Argos - but the "evil" twin followed with his sons, and forced the Danaides into marriage. Danaus wasn't too peachy keen about this, and instructed his daughters to kill all of their husbands on their wedding nights. All complied except Hypermnestra, who fell in spared her suitor (Lynceus) because he didn't rape her (ah, what a world). When they died - which they did as virgins cuz no one else wanted to marry 'em because who wants to marry husband-murderers? so it sucked to be them - all of the Danaides were cursed to fetch water in sieves for all eternity (in the Underworld, of course), except Hypermnestra. This is, of course, only one version of the story. Look to the Myth Pages for the story of the Danaides, coming soon!
- Deianira was the wife of Heracles (Greek name for Hercules). When she was almost abducted by a centaur, as he died he gave her a vial of his blood and said that it was a love potion, in reality it was the deadliest of poisons. Deianira unwittingly smeared this on Heracles' cloak, hoping for his affection (which goes to show you shouldn't be insecure) and Heracles died, and there became a God (this whole posthumous Godhood thing). After his death she committed suicide.
Simply the wife of Achilles.
The name "Dido" means The Wanderer, and as a result of this wandering she became the founder and Queen of Carthage. In the Aenad, by Virgil, she is rejected by Aenas, and commits suicide as a result. This is actually Roman Mythology, but thanks to Caitlin Periou, an exception has been made and her story can be found in the Myth Pages.
Dirce was the second wife of Lycus (after he dropped Antiope). She was a bitch and was tied to the horns of a wild bull by Antiope's sons (Amphion and Zethus) and dragged to death. Lycus was also killed.
One of the three Oenotropae, or daughters of Anius, sister of Spermo and Oeno. Elais could turn anything she touched into oil. She and her sisters were captured by the Greek forces on their way to the Trojan War, but Dionysus turned the sisters into doves so they could escape.
Electra was the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra and the sister of Iphigenia, Chrysothemis and Orestes. When Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon for killing Iphigenia, Electra protected her little brother, Orestes, by sending him away. When he grew up, Electra convinced him to avenge the murder of their father by killing their mother, Clytemnestra. Orestes did, and was haunted by the Erinyes for the rest of his life. The picture on the right is Electra as played by the Greek actress, Lydia Koniordou.
Eleuthera was called, according to P J Criss the "Mother of Greece." But I don't know anything else about her.
Epione was the wife of the famous healer Aesclepius (who was killed for bringing people back to life). She was a healer too, but no one ever remembers that. She was the mother of Hygeia, Goddess of Healing, as well as Acecis, Aegle, Iaso, Janiscus, Machaon, Panacea and Podalirius.
Erigone was the daughter of Icarius, who was one of the first disciples of Dionysus, God of Wine. He threw a party and invited lots of people and then served them wine. The people, thinking they had been poisoned, killed Icarius. Icarius' faithful dog, Maera, led Erigone to Icarius' body. Upon finding him, Erigone was so full of grief she killed herself. Supposedly, she was turned into the constellation Virgo upon dying.
- Europa was one of the many beautiful maidens abducted by Zeus. She was out in the field picking flowers with her friends when a white bull showed up. She climbed on its back and it ran away with her. Later she found out it was really Zeus and she bore him three sons: Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Sarpedon. When she married the King of Crete, he adopted them and they became Kings on their own eventually.
Eurycleia was the loving nurse of Telemachus and Odysseus in The Odyssey. When Odysseus came in disguise as a beggar, she recognized a scar while she was washing his feet. She was overjoyed to have found her master, since she had stayed loyal to him through the whole ordeal.
Eurydice was the Dryad wife of the musician Orpheus. The couple was very much in love and very happy until this dude named Aristaeus fell in love with her too. She was running away from him and stepped on a viper and died. Orpheus wasn't too happy, so he went to the Underworld, and with his beautiful singing, got Persephone and Hades to let Eurydice come back with him. The only thing he had to do was not look back at her until they were out of the Underworld and into the sunshine again. But he couldn't do it and sneaked a peak. As he did he saw Eurydice slide back to world of shades. He tried again, but found he couldn't get back into the Underworld. This story is decent, but when I saw the Brazilian film, "Orpheo Negro" (Black Orpheus) it seriously tore me up. It was so beautiful. It was haunting. See it with English subtitles. Now.
Evadne was the wife of Capaneus, one of the Seven Against Thebes. When he was killed in the Trojan War Evadne through herself on his funeral pyre and burned with him.
I describe her more thoroughly under the name Creusa, as the princess murdered by Medea.
Harpalyce was one scary chica. She was a follower of Artemis, as she was a huntress princess, but she took hunting to a whole other level. She was so into hunting that she began hunting anything that moved (travelers, sheperds, villagers, you know). Now, the inhabitants of her kingdom weren't exactly peachy-keen about this, and so eventually they caught the princess in a net and beat her to death with sticks. Her name comes in two parts: "harpa" means "snatcher" and "lyce" means "wolf." Very appropriate.
- Hecuba was the wife of Priam, King of Troy (let's review the Trojan War in the Myth Pages, if we haven't already done so) and the mother of the hero Hector and the dumbass Paris (some people consider him a hero, too, the reason escapes me). She was a beautiful woman who deeply loved her family and was NOT happy about the Trojan War, but couldn't do much about that. After Troy fell, Hecuba was captured and enslaved by the Achaeans. Hecuba was actually her name in Latin, the Greeks called her Hekabe.
Helen of Troy, or the Face that Sunk a Thousand Ships, was the stunningly beautiful daughter of Zeus and Leda. She came out of the same egg as her mortal sister Clytemnestra (she also had two famous brothers, Castor and Polydeuces), but Helen was the immortal sister. Helen was abducted by Theseus when she was still a child, so Theseus left Helen with his mom (Aethra) but she was rescued by her brothers. Later Helen married Menelaus (brother of Agamemnon, her sister Clytemnestra's husband) and bore him a daughter named Hermione. But then Paris came along (review the story of the Golden Apple in the Myth Pages) and abducted her and started the Trojan War (which of course they blamed on Helen, not Paris or Aphrodite). After the Trojan War ended, Helen and Menelaus were reunited and lived happily ever after. You can read more about this story in Helen the Face. On the right is Evelyn de Morgan's depiction of Helen.
Helle drowned at Hellespont when she fell off the ram with the golden fleece. She was the daughter of Athamas and Nephele.
Hermione was the daughter of Helen of Troy and Menelaus. Her dad arranged for her to marry this cute kid named Orestes (who ended up murdering lots of family members and was haunted by Erinyes for a long time), but when the Trojan War began, he tried to get on the Greeks good side by marrying her off to Neoptolemus (Pyrrhus), the only son of Achilles. The two suitors dueled over Hermione and Neoptolemus was killed. What a suckie way to get married.
Hero was a priestess of Aphrodite who was loved by the hero Leander. Leander was quite athletic, and every night he would swim across the Hellespont by the light of the lighthouse at Sestus (where Hero lived). But one night there was a storm and the light was blown out, Leander couldn't wait though, and paid for it. When Hero saw his corpse, she, too, threw herself into the water and died.
- Hesione was the unfortunate daughter of Laomedon. See, he was dumb, and tried to get away with making the Gods work for him and then not pay them. Apollo sent a plague and Poseidon sent a sea monster (he wasn't the most original of the gods), and an oralcle told Laomedon the only way he could stop them would be to sacrifice his daughter. That would be Hesione. Lucky for her Heracles came along and saved her (he wasn't that heroic - he wouldn't save her until after Laomedon promised him a set of cool horses, which Laomedon didn't pay anyway). But she lived, so everything was happy (except that Heracles killed all her brothers except Priam, which sucked a lot).
Hypermnestra was the only was of the 50 Danaides who didn't kill her husband (Lynceus). Now, the sisters weren't homicidal madwomen, but Danaus (their father) had instructed them to do it, and it was illegal to disobey your father. Hypermnestra (whose name means "special intent" or "excessive wooing") claimed that she couldn't kill Lynceus because she loved and respected him (because he left her virginity in tact. Danaus got pissed and sued Hypermnestra for disobeying him, but she was aquitted. Hypermnestra was the only Danaid to escape the fate of carrying sieves of water through the Underworld in punishment for her sins.
Hypsiple's is a funny, if slightly morbid, story. She was the Queen of Lemnos. Now, the men on Lemnos had gotten into the habit of raiding Thrace and taking wives and concubines from there, and spurning the women of Lesbos. The women got tired of that pretty fast, and killed all of the men. For five years they lived without dudes around, and then the Argonauts landed. There was no bitterness left, and every woman on Lesbos had a child by the Argonauts. Hypsiple had twins by Jason (who never actually got to see these offspring).
Ianthe married Iphis. This is normal, except that, for some reason, Iphis was a woman. But Iphis was changed into a man so that Ianthe could marry her/him. Ianthe was from Crete. I actually really love this story, it's my favorite from Ovid's Metamorphoses.
Ino was the human daughter of Harmonia and Cadmus, sister to Agave, Semele, and Autonoe. Firstly, Ino helped raise Dionysus. That's important, because Hera was EXTREMELY bitter about it. Ino was the second wife of King Athamas of Orchomenus, who married her after tiring of Nephele. Nephele wasn't too happy about that, and complained to Hera, who sent a terrible drought to Orchomenus. When the King sent to the Oracle of Delphi, Ino bribed the messenger to say Phrixes (Nephele's son) should be sacrificed. She wanted her own children in power. The King was about to when a Golden Ram appeared on the sacrifice table. So they stopped sacrificing Phrixes and went after the ram. Eventually, with Helle his sister, they sacrificed the ram. Her first plan foiled, Hera blinded the King who shot one of Ino's sons. Ino ran away with her other son, but the King was after them. They reached a cliff and there was nothing to do but jump of into the river, which they did and both mother and son died. But Zeus took pity because Ino had raised Dionysus and turned Ino into Leucothea and her son into Pelaemon (a sea god). There is another story about Leucothea.
Io was the beautiful princess of Argos who had the misfortune of being loved by Zeus. The two were getting it on when Hera appeared. Zeus, trying to save his and Io's skin, turned Io into a white cow. But Hera wasn't stupid and knew exactly what her wayward husband had done and asked Zeus for the cow. She had her hundred-eyed servant Argus guard Io. Zeus sent Hermes after Io, and the Messager God bored poor Argus to death (literally) and got Io away. Then Hera sent a gadfly after Io who chased her (still in cow form) until she got to Egypt, where Zeus returned her to human form. She is also known as the Egyptian Goddess Isis. There's a pretty sweet story about Io in the Myth Pages. Please check it out!
Poor kid. She was the daughter of Clymenestra and Agamemnon. Unfortunately, because of something that her parents did, Artemis required that Iphigenia be sacrificed. But at the last moment, she was sent miraculously to Taurus (a city) and Artemis put a deer in her place, or at least that's what Euripides says. Other stories say that she was actually killed.
So, Iphis' daddy always wanted a boy. When Telethusa gave birth to a girl, she hid her privates and told her husband it was a boy, because she couldn't bear the thought of leaving her child to die on a mountain somewhere, and besides, Isis (Egyptian goddess) told her to. But this isn't something that can be short term, and Iphis was raised as if she were a boy. She grows, and her father betroths her to Ianthe (above), and Iphis genuinely falls in love with her. But it's problematic that she's a girl, and she can't really accept the idea. Ianthe, meanwhile, has no idea that her fiance has the same chromosomes. Anyway, mama and Iphis pray a lot to Isis, who, at the last moment, makes the sex match the gender. This story is told in the Metamorphoses . This story is just one of a few Transgender Myths To Know, keeping in mind, of course, that the concept "transgender" totally anachronistic.
Ismene was a daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta and Antigone's sister. When Antigone was supposed to be buried alive for burying her brother (against the evil King Creon's decree), Ismene declared she had helped Antigone and demanded to share her fate. Ismene was the shy and quiet sister, but her love and loyalty made her strong. I wrote a post about Ismene and Antigone in the Sophocles' Antigone in the blog, too, and you should go read it unless you are horribly intimidated by grammar.
Jocasta was the wife of Laius, King of Thebes (daughter of Menoeceus, sister of Creon). Now, while married to Laius, an oracle said that their son would kill Laius, so they abandoned their baby son (Oedipus) in the mountains. He survived, returned, and accidentally killed Laius (not knowing he was his son). Jocasta married Oedipus, and they had four children (Antigone, Ismene, Eteocles, and Polynices. When she finally realized she had married and had children with her son (or when Eteocles and Polynices killed each other), she hung herself. She is also called Epicasta or Iocasta. To see more about this story, visit the Myth Pages.
- Laodamia was the wife of Protesilaus, the first Greek killed in the Trojan War. When she begged the gods to let her see her husband again, Hermes came and brought her down to the Underworld for a three hour visit. But when it came time to leave, she couldn't bear it, and killed herself to remain with him.
Larissa was a maiden who shoved her father into a wine barrel to keep from being raped. She shoved him so hard he fell in and drowned.
Leda was the Queen of Sparta. Her husband was Tyndareus, but she wasn't completely faithful to him (no one particularly cared because she was the Queen of Sparta). Zeus fell in love with Leda and seduced her in the form of a swan. So, she had four children, two sets of twins, and each set of twins was born from an egg. The two girls were Helen (daughter of Zeus) and Clytemnestra (daughter of Tyndareus) and they came from one egg. The two boys, also called the Dioscuri, were Polydeuces, also called Pollux (son of Zeus) and Castor (son of Tyndareus).
Leiriope was the mother of Narcissus (whose myth is actually WRITTEN) and the wife of Cephissus (a river god).
There were actually a bunch of women named Leucippe, one of whom was a Minyad who went insane and had to give up her son to be torn to shreds, but read more about that below. Here I'd rather take the space to tell you amazing story of another Leucippe, the daughter of Thestor. Her life is totally a Gilbert and Sullivan production. When she was a very little girl, her sister Theonoe was kidnapped by pirates and taken away to a far away land (Caria) where she was made to be one of King Icarus' concubines. Their father, despite having three other children, was destroyed by her disappearance and went looking for her. Of course, he didn't have too much of an idea where she was, but luck would have it that he was shipwrecked off the coast of that very Caria. He was also taken captive and made a slave to the king. With her father gone, Leucippe saw that the responsibility to save them had fallen to her. Now, she had two brothers (Theoclymenus and Calchas), but I guess they weren't in the picture, so off she went. 'Course, a young lady all on her own in the great big world doesn't have a lot going for her, so Leucippe went and asked the Delphic Oracle for advice. The oracle told her, logically enough, to dress as a priest of Apollo. So she cut her hair, and followed all the Greek crossdressing guidelines, and, after a while, arrived in Caria. Unlike the rest of her traveling family, she was treated well and not made into a slave (the priest thing might have helped), but she was such a good crossdresser that Theonoe fell for her. In a very Potiphar's wife move, she hits on her sister, who is properly freaked out (even tho she doesn't recognize her long lost sib) and rejects her. Theonoe was pissed and locks up poor Leucippe. But she's not done! She then goes and finds a slave and tells him to kill the priest. Guess who the slave is! That's right, it's dear old Dad. Anyway, Thestor's not happy anyway, and killing an innocent dude is pretty much the last straw. So he goes to do it, but then at the second to last moment turns the sword on himself. Second to last because Leucippe recognizes her father (at least ONE of them isn't terribly nearsighted), and stops him immediately. But now Leucippe's really really pissed and goes off to hunt down and kill the ho who tried to do her like that, with Thestor tagging along behind. So there they all are, Leucippe has the sword high ready to get down to some serious smoting when Theonoe cries out her father's name. Thestor recognizes her, stops Leucippe, and King Icarus, apparently having no problem with losing both slave and concubine, sends them home with gifts. And, apparently, they all live happily ever after. Crazy, huh?
Literally the same story as Iphis', above, except trade Leto for Isis and do a striptease in her honor at least once a year. This story is just one of a few Transgender Myths To Know, keeping in mind, of course, that the concept "transgender" totally anachronistic.
Leucothoe was the daughter of King Orchamus of Persia. She was the mortal lover of Helius. Nothing wrong with that, except that the nymph Clytie had a major thing for Helius, and she wasn't too happy that Helius had the hots for another girl. So when Helius disguised himself as Leucothoe's mom to get in to see her, Clytie spilled the beans to King Orchamus. Orchamus was so angry he buried his daughter alive. Helius mourned and turned Leucothoe into a frankincense bush.
Lyco was a seer. She was the sister of Orphe and Carya. In an Artemis myth, Lyco and Orphe were changed into rocks, and Carya was changed into a walnut tree.
- The female devotees of the wine-god Dionysus, thus also called Bacchae and Bacchantes. Inspired by him to ecstatic frenzy, they accompany him in his wanderings and as his priestesses carry out his orgiastic rites. In their wild frenzy they tear animals apart and devour the raw flesh. They are represented crowned with vine leaves, clothes in fawnskins and carrying the thyrsus, and dancing with the wild abandonment of complete union with primeval nature. On the right is a group of Maenads initiating a new member.
There are plenty of stories about how gods chase nymphs and don't win. But there are fewer stories about human women who hold out against the gods. Marpessa was one of them. She chose a human husand, Idas, over the god Apollo. Here's how her story goes: Marpessa was the daughter of King Evenus who decreed that all her suitors must compete in a chariot race. Win, you get Marpessa; lose, you lose your head. Idas prayed to Poseidon, who gave him a chariot drawn by flying horses, and he won without contest. Then Apollo saw Marpessa and abducted her. Idas came after in the winged chariot and challenged Apollo to a duel. After one exchange of arrows (through which Idas stayed alive, impressively), Zeus interfered and said Marpessa should choose one. She, obviously, chose Idas.
- A sad story, really. She was married to the King of Crete, who had to go off and fight in the Trojan War. Then this guy told her that her hubby was cheating on her, and so she decided to seduce the regent, Leucas, who'd been brought up as an adopted child. But the whole thing went sour when he turned out to suck, and he killed her and her daughter Cleisithyra (by Idomeneus, the King).
She was born as the Princess of Colchis and the niece of Circe, and therefore a powerful sorceress. One of the most interesting women in Greek mythology, in my humble opinion, I cannot hope to do her complete justice here. She fell in love with Jason - maybe with a little help from Hera - while he was on his quest for the Golden Fleece. She helped him to steal the sacred artifact for her beloved and he agreed to abduct her. Whatever her home situation looked like, it couldn't have been good, because to make a clean escape she murdered her brother, Absyrtos, to distract her father. There were a bunch more adventures on the way home, all of which Medea handled for Jason. This included the last leg of the adventure, when they arrived to take the throne from Pelias and she tricked his daughters into boiling him alive. But heroic though her actions might (or might not be) for a man, a woman never gets away that easily. After fleeing to Corinth, and bearing Jason two children, Jason decides to throw her over for some cute young thing named Creusa. Medea simply wasn't having it creatively murdered her competition by making her wedding dress magically spontaneously combust as soon as she put it on. But that wasn't enough. She knew she wasn't getting Jason back, and she felt - worst of all possible things - that he was laughing at her. She wanted him to hurt. Although she could not hurt him as badly as she had been hurt, she knew that the one thing that would destroy him would be to kill his children. That those children were also hers was not irrelevant, but it was not enough to keep her from killing them to get at him. Unlike other women, she does not commit suicide at this point, but escapes to Athens where she marries another king and attempts (unsuccessfully) to kill Theseus. One story says she is granted immortality by Hera because Zeus tried to seduce her, but she successfully rebuffed him.
Megaera was the first wife of Heracles. She bore him three sons. But then, Hera drove Heracles insane, and he killed Megaera and his three sons. In penance he had to perform the 12 Labors.
A born victim - which isn't surprising considering her father, Creon of Thebes, married her to Heracles as his way of saying thanks for some political help. A hero like that needs a damsel in distress hanging near. According to my favorite version, this bad guy tried to take over while Heracles was away on business and, thus tried to kill Heracles' boo. And failed as the hero arrived in the nick of time, of course, but then Hera was pissed, because she liked the bad guy, and made Heracles go insane, whereupon he killed Megara and their children (there were between 3 and 7 of them by Megara). Then he went off to Omphale's to crossdress and be purified.
- Not terribly interesting in her own right, she was the daughter of Deucalion and Pyrrha who was seduced by Poseidon in the form of a dolphin (him, not her). She had his baby and named it Delphus, after whom the city of Delphi was named.
You know Meleager, right? Cool story involving Atlanta? Well, anyway, he was killed by his mom, who through this log that had his life tied up in it on the hearth. The sisters, Eurymede, Melanippe, Phoebe, Eurydice, Menestro, Erato, Antiope, Gorge, Deianeira and Hippodameia, all were really broken up about his death and wouldn't stop crying, so Artemis, trying to help out, turned them into guinea hens, which were henceforth sacred to her. Except for Gorge and Deianeira, who went on to have their own stories. Gorge was raped by her father and had his child, but was eventually happily married. Deianeira went on to hook up with Heracles.
A HAPPY love story, if you can believe it. This girly fell for a guy named Alexis, and he for her. But their parents, wouldn't have it. Alexis couldn't bear being "so close and yet so far" so he moved down the block (actually the stream). Eventually, Meliboea's parents married her off to some other schlemiel, and Meliboea threw herself off the roof of her house. Interestingly, she was unhurt. Which didn't really help her out with the new marriage thing, so she hijacked a nearby boat to try and find her one true love. The boat, like magic, took her right to him, and the two lived happily ever after and dedicated a temple to Aphrodite Automate. Finally a happy ending!
- A name that means "honey bees" and was a title eventually associated with priestesses. Especially priestesses of Delphi and Persephone.
- She was the granddaughter of Dionysus, and the daughter of a wine-making noble, Oinopion, who was one day visited by Orion (giant hunter stud). He fell instantly in love with Merope, and proposed. Even did some AMAZING FEATS to prove himself, but dad wasn't impressed (although Merope appears to have been). Then he got drunk (shocker) and raped her. Dad freaks out and asks Dionysus for help, who puts Orion into a deep sleep, whereupon Dad puts Orion's eyes out. Orion wanders off the island and wanders around for a long time, but eventually comes back for revenge. But by then, Oinopion and family (including Merope) are long gone. The end.
- One really cool lady, Mestra was the daughter of a sinner (aren't we all?). Her daddy, Erysichthon, cut down a tree in a sacred grove of Demeter. Demeter cursed him to have an insatiable hunger, but he still had a method of income. See, Mestra once slept with Poseidon, and he gave her the power to change into whatever she wanted (this is a power that is especially associated with the sea, by the way). So she started pimping herself out to support pops. Literally. I mean, she'd sleep with 'em, and then change into a man and get away. Unfortunately, despite her neato power and efforts, Erysichthon eventually couldn't take it and ate himself. And died, obviously. Don't really know what Mestra did with the rest of her life tho - it was a little hard to keep track of her.
This lady was the queen of Eleusis who received Demeter, in the disguise of an old lady, into her home while she was on her search for her daughter Persephone. Metaneira felt sorry for the old woman and offered her the job of nurse for her son, which Dememter accepted. Everyone in the house tried to cheer the sad woman up, and before she moved on, Demeter decided to try and repay the family. She took the son, Demophon, to a fire every night and held him over it to make him immortal. Sadly, Metaneira walked in one night and screamed which startled the goddess who dropped the baby into the fire and he burned up, whereupon Demeter revealed her true form. She still wanted to repay them, but this time she just gave the older son, Triptolemus, a chariot with winged serpents instead of horses, and told him to travel the world sowing wheat. Metaneira's husband became Demeter's priest, as did all of her children.
- The Minyades were the daughters of Minyas (king guy): Alcathoe, Leucippe, and Arsippe. When Dionysus came to their 'hood, they just chilled in the house doing chores instead of going out to his revivals. Dionysus, not surprisingly, wasn't happy, and didhis common crossdressing act to visit them and try to persuade them to come out and party. But the daughters laughed at her, and so Dionysus did this whole series of quick changes into various animals and made the girls insane and started liking the god. They even wanted to sacrifice something to him, so they drew straws, and Leucippe got the short one, and ended up giving up her son, Hippasus, to get ripped up in the god's name. They roamed the hills until they died, either as women, birds, or bats, and that area celebrates a festival in remembrance of why we should all like Dionysus and not laugh at strangers.
So Misme was an Eleusinian woman (that should tell you which goddess this will deal with) who encountered Demeter while she was wandering and looking for Persephone. She offered the goddess (without knowing she was a goddess) a cup of water with grain and mint, which Demeter, who'd been traveling forever, drained in a single shot. Misme's son, Ascalabus, started making fun of the old woman, which was not the best idea. Demeter, who was in a TERRIBLE mood from the loss of her daughter, sprinkled the drops left in the bottom on the boy's head and turned him into a lizard. Poor Misme was only trying to help ...
Athena loved this girl, and she was clearly an idiot. I think maybe she liked her cuz she was industrious and a hard worker, but then Myrmex had to go and take credit for inventing the plow (CLEARLY an invention of Athena's), so Athena turned her into an ant. Myrmex=ant. Still works hard tho, doesn't she?
See Smyrna. Cool story, you should check it out. The original is even more awesome, you can find it in Ovid's Metamorphoses.
The daughter of Alcinous, king of the Phaeacians and his consort, Arete. When Odysseus shipwrecked on Alcinous' island, Scheria, he was found by Nausicaa. She received him with elegance and great hospitality and brought him to her father's palace. She is one of the most charming figures in the Odyssey. To read about her in the context of the story, you can check out the short version of the Odyssey in the Myth Pages. The picture on the right is a painting of Nausicaa by Frederic Lord Leighton.
The first time I heard her story I didn't pity her at all - which is really harsh. Niobe was the Queen of Thebes, but she wasn't very smart and she was very very proud of her children, so one day she made the mistake of going around and telling everyone that she had 14 kids, and hey! wasn't that better than Leto. After all, Leto only had two. (Which happened to be Artemis and Apollo.) Artemis and Apollo, when they heard, were enraged and flew down to the home of Niobe and Amphion (her husband). Apollo killed all of the seven sons, and Artemis killed all seven daughters (save Chloris, the youngest daugher, but I don't know that part of the story yet). Anyway, Niobe was inconsolable, and she fled to Mt. Siplyon where she sobbed and sobbed. Eventually the Gods turned her into a stone (out of annoyance or pity) but she continued to cry. Her statue cries still today (no joke). This story, in better form, will be appearing on the Myth page.
Nyctimene was gorgeous, like, totally a Miss. Lesbos and Ethiopia. Actually she really was, since her Daddy was king of those places, but the thing is that she was such a hotty that Dad wanted in and seduced her. After the deed was done, Nyctimene felt unbelievably ashamed and went and hid deep in the woods. Happily, Athena eventually took pity on her and changed her into a nocturnal owl.
Oeno was one of the three Oenotropae, or daughters of Anius, sister of Spermo and Elais. Oeno could turn anything she touched into wine. She and her sisters were captured by the Greek forces on their way to the Trojan War, but Dionysus turned the sisters into doves so they could escape.
The name, Oenone, means the "Queen of Wine." She is a tragic character in mythology. She was married to Paris when he abandoned her and went off to marry Helen of Troy. This obviously sucked for Oenone. Later, in the Trojan War, when Paris was mortally wounded, she was the only one who could cure him. In her bitterness she refused. Later, as his condition worsened, she consented and came. But it was too late, and Paris died. In her sorrow, she killed herself.
- The Oenotropae
They were the three daughters of Anius: Oeno, Spermo and Elais. The three girls had the power to turn anything into wine, grain seed, and oil (respectively). Their name came from the Greek oinotropai, which means something like "they who change wine". The sisters were captured by the Greek forces on their way to the Trojan War, but Dionysus turned the sisters into doves so they could escape.
Omphale was the Queen of Libya and when Heracles was atoning for his sins (killing this dude Iphitus - not his wife and sons, that was another penance) Omphale was who he worked for. She bought the "hero" as a slave and put him to work weaving, spinning and carding - but this seems like it was just meant to humiliate him in addition to his role as a sex slave. Whenever he made mistakes (which, not really understanding the weaving process, he probably made plenty of) she beat him with a golden sandal. He was with her at least four years because she had four children by him (Agelaus, Lamius, Maleus, Tyrrheneus). While he was there he played St. Patrick and got rid of all the snakes in Lydia as well as some pesky gnomes (Cercopes). Each of her sons did minorly historical things, but Omphale's relationship to Heracles is by far the most interesting and useful to those of us interested in imagining a complete Ancient Greek world.
- Pamphile was, apparently, a sorceress who could control the moon. I know nothing else about her, nor do I know where this information came from.
We're talking about the daughters of Pandareos, a guy who stole a golden dog from Zeus. They were Cameira and Clytie (other possible names include Cleothera, Cleodora, or Merope), and when their parents were killed in punishment for their crime, the big name goddesses on Olympus stepped up to help out the orphan girls. Hera made them all beautiful and wise, Artemis gave them stature (dignity and possibly a couple extra inches of height), Athena gave them artsy skills, and finally Aphrodite took them off to get married, but then some Harpies swooped down out of the blue and handed them off to the Furies. Kind of bizarre, but that's how it goes!
Pandora is a woman who was made by all of the Gods, and given a box that she was instructed not to open. But, the Gods also installed curiosity in the poor girl, and once she was placed on Earth, what could she do but open the box. All at once all of these nasties flew out and started plaguing mankind. Luckily she closed the box in time to keep Hope in there, who would have perished against such odds. After the great flood brought by Zeus, the nasties laid off a little more. That totally awesome painting of Pandora was made by the fabulous John William Waterhouse, but there are more of her in the Gallery. A somewhat more extended version of this story can be found in the Myth Pages.
Pasiphae was the daughter of Perse and Helius and the wife of King Minos (therefore, she was Queen of Crete). Minos insulted Poseidon this one time, and Poseidon made Pasiphae fall in love with a bull. So Pasiphae, in love with this bull, got this great inventor/builder named Daedalus to build her a wooden cow she could crawl inside, and through it, mate with the bull. Through this, she became the mother of the monster the Minotaur. She was also the mother of Glaucus, Andogeus, Phaedra, and Ariadne by her husband, Minos.
Hyginus tells this woman's story. She was the daughter of this guy named Thyestes, who had a twin brother named Atreus. Atreus and Thyestes really hated each other ever since Thyestes slept with Atreus' wife. Atreus then tricked Thyestes into eating his own children. Thyestes couldn't think of a response worse than that so he went and got advice from an oracle. The oracle basically said that only the son born of Thyestes and his OWN DAUGHTER (Pelopeia) could take revenge on Atreus. So, he disguised himself and raped his daughter one night. No one knew, but she managed to steal his sword without his knowledge. Later, when Atreus married Pelopeia (apparently without realizing she was Thyestes' daughter) they brought Thyestes in (planning to kill him) and Thyestes asked Aegisthus (son of Pelopeia who had been given the sword by her) about the sword. Pelopeia was called in and she figured out what had happened and, after explaining how Aegisthus was conceived, asked to take a look at the sword. Once she had it she stabbed herself and died. Aegisthus ends up being a real jerkoff and you can find more about him in the story of Clytemnestra.
Penelope was the wife of Odysseus, and a good wife at that. You should already know about her because EVERYONE should know the Odyssey, but I guess it's okay if you don't. One story about her is that while Odysseus was away (yes, he was being kept away by Calypso and some other gods) everyone thought Odysseus was dead, and were trying to get Penelope to remarry. Well now, she didn't think Odysseus was dead, but she wasn't certain. What she WAS certain of, was that she didn't want to remarry. So, to fool everyone, she said she would marry when she finished making a funeral shroud for her aging father-in-law (Laertes). But she tricked everyone because she would weave it all day, and then unravel her weaving all night. When Odysseus was an old man and was unwittingly killed by his stepson, Telegonus, Penelope married Telegonus. You want more? You sure? Well, it just so happens I wrote a nice long series about her and the big name Goddesses, especially Athena. She is fascinating and Homer's treatment of her is not superficial (I don't think). I lurves her. The painting on the left is John Waterhouse's "Penelope and Her Suitors".
- She was the daughter of a robber named Sinis (Sinis used to kill his victims by bending down two trees and tying their arms to one tree and their legs to another, Theseus killed him the same way). So when Theseus killed her dad, he took her as a concubine. She bore him a son named Melanippus.
Pero was the stunningly beautiful daughter of Chloris and Neleus (King of Pylos). Neleus wasn't exactly a nice guy, but when Melampus cured his son of a fatal illness, he agreed to give him 2/3 of his kingdom, and apparently Pero was a part of the deal. Melampus gave 1/3 of the kingdom (and Pero) to his brother, Bias. So that's who Pero ended up with.
She was not a nice person. She was the daughter of King Minos, and the second wife of Theseus. She fell in love with her stepson, Hippolytus, and because he would not have her, killed herself. She made it look like it was because Hippolytus had raped her. Theseus saw this and cursed his son, who died soon afterward.
The story of Philomela and her sister Procne is another tragedy stemming from the unbreakable love the two shared. Their story is written in the Myth Pages, and you should definitely check it out. It's an incredible story, but it is also full of violence and horror, so don't read it unless you are ready to feel slightly sick. Although I will not attempt to tell the story here as well, you should know that after her ordeal, which involved having her tongue cut out, she was turned (through the pity of the gods) into a swallow.
Phyllis was a Thracian princess who had a crush on a boy - well, that's not fair, it wasn't a crush - they were in love. The boy's name was Demophon, and he was a son of Theseus. They were in the middle of their love affair when the Trojan War commenced, and Demophon went off to join the effort. After the war was over, Demophon started home - but his boat sprung a leak so the voyage was delayed. But Phyllis couldn't know that. She waited for him by the shore day after day, but after nine months she died of sorrow in a place named Enneodos. Athena took pity on her and changed her into an almond tree. When Demophon came home, he hugged the tree (feeling her presence, or just being a hippy), and the tree burst into flowering blooms instead of leaves. Every year the Athenians dance in Phyllis' honor. The name "Phyllis" means "leafy." She is associated with Rhea. The painting is called The Tree of Forgiveness, by Edward Burne-Jones.
Phytalis was a priestess of Demeter who was raised to demi-goddess status by the Goddess of the Harvest.
Polymede was the daughter Autolycus (a famous thief) and Neaera and was the mother of Jason. Thing was, she thought that her uncle would kill the baby, so she got some girlfriends together and they cried over him like he was stillborn, then they sent him off to Chiron the centaur. She didn't see him for 20 years, and then he disappeared with the Argonauts at the evil uncle's decree. At the end of her life that uncle of her's came after her and killed her husband and her new baby, but she got away from his soldiers and ran to Pelias' throne (Pelias=her uncle) and cursed him and killed herself. That's like a totally serious curse and pretty impossible to get off you. And, true to form, Pelias died in a very nasty way at the hands of Medea.
- Polyxena means "many strangers", and is a good name for this girl, because that was her downfall. Polyxena was the daughter of King Priam during the Trojan War. Achilles fell in love with her, and Priam offered her hand in marriage if Achilles would make the Greek army talk peace. Achilles agreed, but when he came to the temple of Apollo unarmed to talk, Priam's sons ambushed him and shot him in the heel, killing him. After Troy lost the war, Achilles' ghost returned and demanded to have Polyxena sacrificed to him. Achilles' son, Neoptolemus, dragged Polyxena to the altar and ruthlessly slayed her right there.
The story of Procne and her sister Philomela is another tragedy stemming from the unbreakable love the two shared. Their story is written in the Myth Pages, and you should definitely check it out. It's an incredible story, but it is also full of violence and horror, so don't read it unless you are ready to feel slightly sick.
The story of Procris and Cephalus (her husband) is one of the true tragedies of Greek Mythology. The story is written in the Myth Pages, but summarized, Procris heard her husband calling out to "Aura" and praising her name while he was supposed to be hunting. She got jealous and followed him, but Cephalus thought she was a beast stalking him and shot her. Cephalus heard her cry and ran to her side where Procris begged him not to let Aura into their bedroom. Poor Cephalus realized too late what had happened and explained he had been calling for a breeze (aura is Greek for breeze), and Procris smiled with relief. But even her happiness and Cephalus' love couldn't save her. She died in his arms moments later. There is a whole other part of this story, but it is too long to write here (though VERY cool), so check it out in the Myth Pages
This is a really cool story, but a little long, so I don't want to write it again. See Stheneboea.
Yet another example that Heracles wasn't all sweetness and light: Pyrene was raped by Heracles, and from that violence bore a snake. She was terrified at what she had given birth to, and fled into the mountains where she was devoured by wild animals. The mountains are called the Pyrenees today.
Rhodopis was a favorite of Artemis (obviously, this meant she was a virgin). Aphrodite, apparently just being a competitive bitch, found a nice Ephesian boy who had also vowed chastity and arranged for them to both find each other during a hunt, then Eros shot them with his love-arrows. Boom! They threw down their bows and arrows and found a cave to do the horizontal boar-hunt. Artemis turned the girl into a spring on the spot where she broke her vow of chastity, but it seems like the nice young lad got away scot free. The spring, which I imagine kept her name, became a place for parents to test their daughters' virginity. The girls had to stand in the water with a tablet that said "I'm a virgin" written on it, if it turned out that they were sexually active, the water supposedly rose from knee-height to cover the tablet on their chests. This is definitely the kind of test I approve of.
Rhoeo slept with Apollo and got pregnant. (Of course she got pregnant, gods are super-virile.) When she told her dad everything, despite the fact that he was the son of Ariadne and the god Dionysus, he didn't believe that the baby's daddy was really a god. He put her in a floating chest and cast her into the sea, but she floated over to Delos (Apollo's sacred birthplace) and had the baby there. Apollo gave the baby the gift of prophesy and looked out for Rhoeo. She later married a mortal and lived happily ever after. A different version of the story has Rhoeo and her sister Molpadia competing for the affection of their dad's guest-friend (dad was apparently down with this affair, wanting male heirs). But when her sister got the dude, Rhoeo tracked down Zeus and seduced him! Then, as before, dad got pissed and the story finished the same as the first one.
Sappho is not a possible character of mythology. She was a renowned poet, whose writing was so beautiful that Plato referred to her as the Tenth Muse. Some peg Alcaeus as her lover. Others give the honor to Phaon (a young boatman who didn't return her love), for whom she leapt into the sea in sadness. She had a daughter named Cleis, and taught a group of young women the art of poetry. She was devotedly attached to them and wrote their bridal odes for them when they left her to get married. Looking back on the group, later writers accused Sappho of vice and immorality, and it was from this that the terms for female homosexuality, "lesbianism" and "sapphism", came into being. The painting at left is by Charles August-Mengin.
- Scylla was the daughter of King Nisus of Megara. When Minos attacked Megara, Scylla fell madly in love with him. She knew Minos could not win, because her father had a magical power on his side (coming from a lock of purple hair on his head). She promised to deliver Megara to Minos, and cut the purple lock off her father's head and gave it to him. Minos took the lock, but despised Scylla for betraying her father. Scylla threw herself into the sea in despair. Some stories say that she was changed into a lark and her father into a hawk.
Semele was a Princess. One day Zeus came to her and the two made love. She became pregnant with a son, Dionysus, but jealous Hera ended up getting rid of her before she could have the baby. Zeus saved it and sewed it into his leg from which it was born. She was killed when she made Zeus swear (because of Hera) to show himself in all of his glory. He could not break his oath, so he did, and she was burned to a crisp. Bye-bye human-girl!
Semiramis is really cool because she was realistic. Her birth was a little out there (she was said to be the daughter of the goddess Derceto who abandoned her in a field as a baby after killing her father. Little Semiramis was raised by doves who stole food for her from nearby shepherds). Eventually, probably because of her great beauty, she was married to a king's adviser, Onnes. She gave him lots of great advice and when he took her with him on a battle campaign, and she supplied the battle plan that won the war, even the King recognized her wisdom. So this King (Ninus) offered Onnes, his own daughter, in a "trade." Onnes refused, but when Ninus threatened to blind him, Onnes committed suicide and Ninus married Semiramis anyway. She continued to give great advice until she died, and is credited by some with the "Hanging Gardens." Her name means "raised by doves."
The Sibyls were ten women who had the gift of prophesy. They were each named according to the place they were from, and the most famous was the Cumaean, who Aeneas talked to before heading down to visit Hades. Some count Cassandra as one of them, but she wasn't really. After a long time there was a body of literature that purported to collect all the prophesies of the Sibyls called the Sibylline books. There's a story that the Cumaean Sibyl offered the nine books to the Roman Emperor Tarquinius, and he turned her down cuz her price was too high, so she burned three and offered what was left at the same price. Tarquinius said no again, and she burned three more. Finally, he bought the last three at the jacked up price, and they were a big deal in Rome for a really long time. But wait, I hear you Latin and Roman scholars asking, how could the Cumaean Sibyl live to offer those books to Tarquinius if she also helped out Aeneas? The answer to that is she lived, they say, about a thousand years. But, wait, wasn't she human? Yep, but when she was dedicated to Apollo as a kid, she got a really good deal, and she would have stayed looking young, too, if she'd slept with Apollo - but she turned him down (I'm impressed). She eventually died when she touched the clay of a seal that had earth from the country she wasn't allowed to go back to. Enough about her. On the right is a painting by Edward Burne-Jones of the above described Cumaean Sibyl.
Side is one of those women who life just isn't fair to. She didn't do anything wrong. She said nothing to offend anyone. She was simply the unbelievably beautiful wife of Orion. Why her life was ended so abruptly is just not right. Hera saw her, and was having a bad hair day or something, and threw poor Siden into the Underworld for daring to rival her in beauty. That's it. That is a pretty raw deal. There were other unfortunate women named Side as well, one of whom committed suicide on her mom's grave cuz her dad kept trying to sleep with her. Yuck. A pomegranate tree grew from her blood, and her pops turned into a kite (not the toy, the bird!).
Sidero was the wife of Salmoneus and the cruel stepmother of Tyro. She seriously mistreated Tyro, and so when Tyro's two sons, Pelias and Neleus, grew up, they hunted Sidero down. Sidero ran all the way to the Temple of Hera, but Pelias went in and speared her anyway (gaining the undying hatred of Hera).
Smyrna was also known as Myrrha. There was this King of Cyrus named Cinyras who boasted that his daughter, Smyrna, was more beautiful than Aphrodite. Aphrodite was very pissed, and made Smyrna fall in love with her father. One night, Smyrna got her dad (Cinyras) drunk, and slept with him and got pregnant. When Cinyras realized what he and she had done, he chased her out of the palace at swordpoint. Aphrodite transformed Smyrna into a myrrh tree just as Cinyras caught her and split her in half. From the split came their baby, Adonis (yeah, you should recognize that name), with whom Aphrodite eventually fell in love.
Sparta was the daughter of the river-god Eurotas and his wife Cletas. Eventually she became the mother of Eurydice (whose story I LOVE!).
Spermo was one of the three Oenotropae, or daughters of Anius, sister of Oeno and Elais. Spermo could turn anything she touched into corn, or grain seed. She and her sisters were captured by the Greek forces on their way to the Trojan War, but Dionysus turned the sisters into doves so they could escape.
Stheneboea was the wife of King Proteus (of Argos), who was visted by Bellerophon in his search for purity. She fell in love with Bellerophon, but when he renounced her advances, she got pissed and told Proteus that Bellerophon had raped her. Proteus was really angry, but he couldn't bring himself to kill Bellerophon. It was the beginning of Bellerophon's heroic journey, during which he conquered the Chimaera, the Solymi, and the Amazons. When, in the end, Bellerophon returned again, Stheneboea tried to escape on the back of Pegasus (the flying horse born from Medusa's body that made Bellerophon so cool in the first place). Pegasus wasn't too peachy about that, and dumped Stheneboea into the sea where she died. Stheneboea is also called Anteia.
- She wasn't a very important member of Greek Mythology, but who cares? She was the daughter of Aeolus (the keeper of the four winds) and his wife Enarete. That is her only known claim to fame.
- You know Ajax? (ie, Aias) Well, he was a big Trojan War hero, and (shocker!) he had lots of concubines. Tecmessa was one of many.
If you've heard of "her" it will surprise you to find her on this website, or at least outside of the Men's section. That's because Teiresias was born a man and lived a man and died a man. But (there's always a but), he also lived a couple of serious stints as a woman. Teiresias was the most well known wise man of ancient Greek mythology, advising kings and even goddesses. In fact, it was his ruling of "most beautiful" in favor of the goddess Kale that earned him one stint of femininity, as punishment, from Aphrodite, who wasn't happy about losing. Another time it was Hera who made him a woman after she got mad at him for hitting a pair of mating snakes with a stick. That time (s)he became a priestess of Hera and got married and had babies! Afterwards, when he saw two snakes having sex again, he made the right choice and was turned back. When the goddess asked him which gender enjoyed sex more, he said it was 10 times better for women! This really pissed her off, so she made him blind, but Zeus gave him lifetimes to live and the gift of prophesy. Another version says that both the blindness and the gift of prophesy were given by Athena who he accidentally saw bathing. So! That's the story of the woman!
She is sometimes referred to as the mother of Hecuba, and she was the wife of Cisseus.
Theano was Telecleia's daughter (with Cisseus) and therefore the sister of Hecuba, but instead of marrying a king, she married this Trojan dude named Antenor who was all rah-rah about Greeks during the Trojan War (he shows up a few times in the Iliad, among other places). In addition to marrying a liberal, she was a priestess of Athena, and was way cool. She had a ridiculous number of children - most of whom died in the Trojan War - but because of her husband's work, when Troy lost, the Greeks spared the rest of the kids and Theano. There were some other chicks named Theano, too, but they weren't terribly important, except maybe for the Danaid named Theano who married and subsequantly killed Phantes. Anyone who has this name is cool.
Themisto was the jealous second wife of Athamas. When Athamas returned to his first wife, Ino, Themisto tried to kill Ino's children. One night she dressed Ino's children in black and her own children in white, but Ino switched the clothes, and Themisto killed her own children. This story is incongruent with the other stories of Ino and Athamas, which focus on Ino as the second wife and the jealous first wife as Nephele.
Theonoe was the kidnapped daughter of Thestor wr ho fell in love with her sister, Leucippe, thinking that she was actually a handsome young priest of Apollo. Read how it all turned out in Leucippe's entry.
Theophane was a beautiful maiden who had many many suitors. This, of course, attracted Poseidon, who turned Theophane into a ewe to hide her from the suitors. In this form, he "made love" to her, and from this union was born the ram with the Golden Fleece.
Thisbe was one half of the famous "Pyramus and Thisbe" duo featured in myths starting with Ovid's Metamorphoses on to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and, more recently, the American musical The Fantastiks. Thisbe, you see, was this Babylonian hottie who had a boyfriend living next door. But back then, they were more about virginity and then marriage with someone you'd never spoken to, so both their parents forbid it. On the up side, there was a hole in the wall separating their gardens that they were always talking through. So anyway, one day they arranged to meet at this tomb (now, I don't know what they were expecting meeting at a dead dude's house). So Thisbe got there first, and then this lioness dragged up an ox she was eating and Thisbe totally wigged out and booked out. Of course, she also dropped her scarf, which the lioness nuzzled. To make a long story short, Pyramus came, saw the bloody scarf, assumed Thisbe was dead and killed himself, and then Thisbe killed herself, and the mulberry tree they had met beneath was stained from white to red by their blood. The painting at right is another of John Waterhouse's masterpieces.
Tyro was the beautiful daughter of Salmoneus who was violated by her uncle Sisyphus, who wanted revenge on his brother. Tyro killed the two sons from this union. Later, she married Cretheus (another of her uncles), but she was in love with Enipeus, the patron god of the river. Poseidon really dug Tyro, so he transformed himself to look like Enipeus, and made love to her. Tyro bore two sons, Pelias and Neleus, from that union, and in desperation, tried to expose them on a mountain. Luckily a housekeeper found and raised them. The two grew up and killed Tyro's stepmother (Sidero), because they knew she had been cruel to Tyro. Another one of her uncles was Athamas (check out Ino for more).
Xenodike was the daughter of Minos and Pasiphae and the sister of Phaedra and Ariadne. Her name means "justice to strangers," but beyond that I know nothing about her.
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Last Updated June 28, 2011