Web Theoi
TYKHE
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Τυχη Tykhê Tyche, Fortuna Fortune, Chance
Nemesis & Tyche, goddesses of indignation & fortune | Athenian red figure amphora C5th B.C. | Antikensammlung, Berlin
Nemesis & Tyche, Athenian amphora
C5th B.C., Antikensammlung, Berlin

TYKHE was the goddess or spirit of fortune, chance, providence and fate. She was usually honoured in a more favourable light as Eutykhia, goddess of good fortune, luck, success and prosperity.

Tykhe was represented with different attributes. Holding a rudder, she was conceived as the divinity guiding and conducting the affairs of the world, and in this respect she was called one of the Moirai (Fates); with a ball she represented the varying unsteadiness of fortune--unsteady and capable of rolling in any direction; with Ploutos or the horn of Amalthea, she was the symbol of the plentiful gifts of fortune.

Nemesis (Fair Distribution) was cautiously regarded as the downside of Tykhe, one who provided a check on extravagant favours conferred by fortune. The pair were often depicted as companions in Greek vase painting. In the vase (right) Nemesis (Indignation) with her arm around Tykhe (Fortune) points an accusing fingure at Helene, who Aphrodite has persuaded to elope with Paris.

The ancient cults of Tykhe are described on a separate page.

PARENTS
[1] OKEANOS & TETHYS (Hesiod Theogony 360; Homeric Hymn 2.420)
[2] ZEUS (Orphic Hymn 72, Pindar Olympian Ode)
[3] PROMETHEUS (Alcman Frag 3)
OFFSPRING
[1] PLOUTOS (Aesop Fables 130, Pausanias 9.16.2)

ENCYCLOPEDIA

TYCHE (Tuchê). 1. The personification of chance or luck, the Fortuna of the Romans, is called by Pindar (Ol. xii. init.) a daughter of Zeus the Liberator. She was represented with different attributes. With a rudder, she was conceived as the divinity guiding and conducting the affairs of the world, and in this respect she is called one of the Moerae (Paus. vii. 26. § 3; Pind. Fragm. 75, ed. Heyne); with a ball she represents the varying unsteadiness of fortune; with Plutos or the horn of Amalthea, she was the symbol of the plentiful gifts of fortune. (Artemid. ii. 37.) Tyche was worshipped at Pharae in Messenia (Paus. iv. 30. § 2); at Smyrna, where her statue, the work of Bupalus, held with one hand a globe on her head, and in the other carried the horn of Amalthea (iv. 30. § 4); in the arx of Sicyon (ii. 7. § 5); at Aegeira in Achaia, where she was represented with the horn of Amalthea and a winged Eros by her side (vii. 26. § 3; comp. Plut. De Fort. Rom. 4; Arnob. adv. Gent. vi. 25); in Elis (Paus. vi. 25. § 4); at Thebes (ix. 16. § 1); at Lebadeia, together with agathos daimôn (ix. 39. § 4); at Olympia (v. 15. § 4), and Athens. (Aelian, V. H. ix. 39; comp. Fortuna.) 2. A nymph, one of the playmates of Persephone. (Hom. Hymn. in Cer. 421.) 3. One of the daughters of Oceanus. (Hes. Theog. 360.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


PARENTAGE OF TYCHE

Hesiod, Theogony 346 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Tethys bore to Okeanos (Oceanus) the swirling Potamoi (Rivers) . . . She [Tethys] brought forth also a race apart of daughters, who with lord Apollon and the Rivers have the young in their keeping all over the earth, since this right from Zeus is given them. They are Peitho . . . Kalypso, Eudora and Tykhe (Tyche) [in a list of names] . . . Now these are the eldest of the daughters who were born to Tethys and Okeanos, but there are many others beside these."

Pindar, Nemean Ode 12. 1 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Daughter of Zeus Eleutherios (Liberator), Tykhe (Fortune) our saviour goddess."

Alcman, Fragment 64 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (Greek lyric C7th B.C.) :
"Tykhe (Fortune) sister of Eunomia (Right Order) and Peitho (Persuasion) daughter of Prometheus."

Orphic Hymn 72 to Tyche (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Queen Tykhe (Tyche) . . . born of Eubouleos [Zeus the Counsellor] famed."


TYCHE COMPANION OF PERSEPHONE

Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 5 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"She [Persephone] was playing with the deep-bosomed daughters of Okeanos (Oceanus) and gathering flowers over a soft meadow, roses and crocuses and beautiful violets, irises also and hyacinths and the narcissus."

Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 415 ff :
"[Persephone relates the story of her abduction to her mother Demeter:] All we were playing in a lovely meadow, Leukippe and Phaino and Elektra and Ianthe, Melita also and Iakhe with Rhodea and Kallirhoe and Melobosis and Tykhe (Tyche) and Okyrhoe, fair as a flower, Khryseis, Ianeira, Akaste and Admete and Rhodope and Plouto and charming Kalypso; Styx too was there and Ourania and lovely Galaxaura with Pallas [Athena] who rouses battles and Artemis delighting in arrows: we were playing and gathering sweet flowers in our hands, soft crocuses mingled with irises and hyacinths, and rose-blooms and lilies, marvellous to see, and the narcissus which the wide earth caused to grow yellow as a crocus."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 30. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Homer is the first whom I know to have mentioned Tykhe (Tyche) in his poems. He did so in the Hymn to Demeter, where he enumerates the daughters of Okeanos (Oceanus), telling how they played with Kore [Persephone] the daughter of Demeter, and making Tykhe one of them."


TYCHE AS THE CONSTELLATION VIRGO

The constellation Virgo was usually the goddess Dike (Justice).

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 25 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“Constellation Virgo . . . Others call her Fortuna [Tykhe, Tyche]."


TYCHE GODESS OF FORTUNE

Pindar, Olympian Ode 12. 1 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Daughter of Zeus Eleutherios (Liberator), Tykhe (Tyche) our saviour goddess, I pray your guardian care for Himera, and prosper her city's strength. For your hand steers the ships of ocean on their flying course, and rules on land the march of savage wars, and the assemblies of wise counsellors."

Pindar, Isthmian Ode 4. 48 ff :
"Yet even for those who strive, Tykhe (Tyche, Fortune) maybe conceals her light, ere yet their steps attain the furthest goal; for her gifts render both of good and ill. And often does the craft of lesser souls outstrip and bring to naught the strength of better men."

Simonides, Fragment 8 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (Greek lyric C6 to C5th B.C.) :
"If the greatest part of virtue is to die nobly, then Tykhe (Fortune) granted it to us above all others; for we strove to crown Greece with freedom."

Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragment 1019 (from Stobaeus, Anthology) :
"Tykhe (Tyche, Fortune), beginning and end for mankind, you sit in Sophia's (Wisdom's) seat and give honour to mortal deeds; from you comes more good than evil, grace shines about your gold wing, and what the scale of your balance gives is the happiest; you see a way out of the impasse in troubles, and you bring bright light in darkness, you most excellent of gods."

Aeschylus, Agamemnon 661 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[The ships of Agamemnon alone escaped the storms sent to destroy the Greek fleet returning from Troy:] Ourselves, however, and our ship, its hull unshattered, some power, divine not human, preserved by stealth or intercession, laying hand upon its helm; and Savior Fortune (tykhê sotêr) chose to sit aboard our craft so that it should neither take in the swelling surf at anchorage nor drive upon a rock-bound coast."

Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 55 ff :
"The awe of majesty [of kings] once unconquered, unvanquished, irresistible in war, that penetrated the ears and heart of the people, is now cast off [with death]. But there is still fear. And Eutykhia (Eutychia, Prosperity)--this, among mortals, is a god and more than a god. But the balance of Dike (Justice) keeps watch: swiftly it descends on those in the light; sometimes pain waits for those who linger on the frontier of twilight; and others are claimed by strengthless night."

Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 963 ff :
"But soon time (khronos) that accomplishes all will pass the portals of our house, and then all pollution will be expelled from the hearth by cleansing rites that drive out calamity. The dice of fortune (tykhai) will turn as they fall and lie with faces all lovely to behold, favorably disposed to whoever stays in our house."

Aeschylus, Doubtul Fragment 254 (from Stobaeus, Anthology 1. 6. 16) :
"Sovereign of all the gods is Tykhe (Fortune), and these other names are given her in vain; for she alone disposeth all things as she wills."

Aesop, Fables 84 (from Chambry & Avianus, Fabulae 12) (trans. Gibbs) (Greek fable C6th B.C.) :
"A farmer struggling as he plunged his plough-share into the earth saw a treasure-trove leap forth from the furrow. All in a rush, he immediately abandoned the shameful plow, leading his oxen to better seed. Straightaway he obediently built an altar to the Goddess Ge/Tellus (Earth), who had gladly bestowed on him the wealth contained within her. The Goddess Tykhe/Fortuna (Fortune), feeling slighted that he had not thought her likewise worthy of an offering of incense, admonished the farmer, thinking of the future while he was rejoicing in his new-found affairs: ‘Now you do not offer the gifts that you have found to my shrine, but you prefer to make other gods the sharers of your good fortune. Yet when your gold is stolen and you are stricken with sadness, you will make your complaints to me first of all, weeping over your loss.’"
[N.B. There are two extant versions of this fable, one in Greek and the other Latin. In the latter the names Fortuna and Tellus are used in place of Tykhe and Ge.]

Aesop, Fables 261 (from Chambry & Babrius, Fabulae Aesopeae 49) :
"The Traveler and Tykhe (Tyche, Fortune). A Traveler wearied from a long journey lay down, overcome with fatigue, on the very brink of a deep well. Just as he was about to fall into the water, Lady Tykhe (Fortune) it is said, appeared to him and waking him from his slumber thus addressed him: ‘Good Sir, pray wake up: for if you fall into the well, the blame will be thrown on me, and I shall get an ill name among mortals; for I find that men are sure to impute their calamities to me, however much by their own folly they have really brought them on themselves.’
Everyone is more or less master of his own fate."

Aesop, Fables 535 (from Life of Aesop 94) :
"Zeus once ordered Tykhe (Tyche, Fortune) to show mankind the two ways: one the way of freedom and the other the way of slavery. Prometheus made the way of freedom rough at the beginning, impassable and steep, with no water anywhere to drink, full of brambles, and beset with dangers on all sides at first. Eventually, however, it became a smooth plain, lined with paths and filled with groves of fruit trees and waterways. Thus the distressing experience ended in repose for those who breath the air of freedom. The way of slavery, however, started out as a smooth plain at the beginning, full of flowers, pleasant to look at and quite luxurious, but in the end it became impassable, steep and insurmountable on all sides."
[N.B. In another extant version of this fable Tykhe is replaced by Prometheus.]

Aesop, Fables 469 (from Avianus 12) :
"A farmer had started turning the earth with his plow when he saw a treasure suddenly spring into view from the depths of the furrow. His spirit soared as he abandoned the lowly plow and drove his oxen off to better pastures. He immediately built an altar to the earth goddess Tellus [Gaia, Earth], worshipping her for having happily bestowed on him the wealth that had been buried inside her. While the farmer was rejoicing in his new circumstances, the goddess Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] was indignant that he had not considered her equally worthy of incense and offerings. She thus appeared to the man and gave him this warning about the future: ‘Instead of making an offering of your new-found wealth in my temple, you are sharing it with all the other gods. Yet when your gold is stolen and you are stricken with grief, then you will turn to me first of all in your despair and deprivation!’"

Aesop, Fables 470 (from Babrius 49) :
"A workman had thoughtlessly fallen asleep one night next to a well. While he slept, he seemed to hear the voice of Tykhe (Tyche), the goddess of fortune, as she stood there beside him. ‘Hey you,’ the goddess said, ‘you'd better wake up! I am afraid that if you fall into the well, I will be the one that people blame, giving me a bad reputation. In general, people blame me for everything that happens to them, including the unfortunate events and tumbles for which a person really has only himself to blame.’"

Plato, Laws 757b (trans. Bury) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"[Plato describes a lottery which he proposes be used to select the beauracrats of a State:] In the assignment of honors . . . employ the lot to give even results in the distributions . . . It is the judgment of Zeus [i.e. Zeus the god whose will is reflected in the outcome of the lottery], and men it never assists save in small measure, but in so far as it does assist either States or individuals, it produces all things good; for it dispenses more to the greater and less to the smaller, giving due measure to each according to nature; and with regard to honors also, by granting the greater to those that are greater in goodness, and the less to those of the opposite character in respect of goodness and education, it assigns in proportion what is fitting to each . . . for the same reason it is necessary to make use also of the equality of the lot, on account of the discontent of the masses, and in doing so to pray, calling upon god [Zeus] and Tykhe (Tyche) Agathe (Good Fortune) to guide for them the lot aright towards the highest justice."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 30. 4 - 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The people of Pharia [in Messenia] possess also a temple of Tykhe (Tyche) and an ancient image. Homer is the first whom I know to have mentioned Tykhe in his poems. He did so in the Hymn to Demeter, where he enumerates the daughters of Okeanos (Oceanus), telling how they played with Kore [Persephone] the daughter of Demeter, and making Tykhe one of them. The lines are: `We all in a lovely meadow, Leukippe, Phaino, Electre and Ianthe, Melobosis and Tykhe and Okyrhoe with a face like a flower.’
He said nothing further about this goddess being the mightiest of gods in human affairs and displaying greatest strength, as in the Iliad he represented Athena and Enyo as supreme in war, and Artemis feared in childbirth, and Aphrodite heeding the affairs of marriage. But he makes no other mention of Tykhe. Bouplaos a skilful temple-architect and carver of images, who made the statue of Tykhe at Smyrna, was the first whom we know to have represented her with the heavenly sphere upon her head and carrying in one hand the horn of Amaltheia, as the Greeks call it, representing her functions to this extent. The poems of Pindar later contained references to Tykhe, and it is he who called her Supporter of the City."

Orphic Hymn 72 to Tyche (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"To Tykhe (Tyche, Fortune), Fumigation from Frankincense. Approach, queen Tykhe, with propitious mind and rich abundance, to my prayer inclined: placid and gentle, mighty named, imperial Artemis, born of Eubouleos [i.e. Zeus Eubuleus] famed, mankind's unconquered endless praise is thine, sepulchral, widely wandering power divine! In thee our various mortal life is found, and come from thee in copious wealth abound; while others mourn thy hand averse to bless, in all the bitterness of deep distress. Be present, Goddess, to thy votaries kind, and give abundance with benignant mind."

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 2. 29 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Pittakos [ruler of Mytilene ca 600 B.C.] made a ladder for the temples of Mytilene, not to serve any useful purpose but simply as an offering. His intention was to hint that fortune (tykhe) moves up and down, with the lucky as it were climbing up and the unlucky coming down."

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 3. 23 :
"Alexandros' [Alexander the Great's] achievements were splendid . . . Let most of it be put down to Tykhe (Tyche, Fortune) who favoured Alexandros, if one wishes to be cautious. But Alexandros was great because he was not defeated by Tykhe (Fortune) and did not give up in the face of her persistent attentions to him."

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 13. 43 :
"Note that the Athenian general Timotheus was reckoned to be fortunate. People said fortune was responsible, and Timotheus had no part in it. They ridiculed him on the stage, and painters portrayed him asleep, with Tykhe (Fortune) hovering above his head and pulling the cities into her net."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 16. 220 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"And you Tykhe (Tyche, Luck), how many shapes you take, how you make playthings of the children of men! Be gracious, all-subduer!"


Tyche & Nemesis | Greek vase painting
N16.1 TYCHE,
NEMESIS
Eutychia & Nemesis | Greek vase painting
O5.1 EUTYCHIA,
NEMESIS
   

FORTUNA GODDESS OF FORTUNE

Fortuna was the Roman equivalent of the Greek Tykhe. She also resembles Moira and Aisa, the Greek goddesses of fate.

Seneca, Hercules Furens 524 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"O Fortuna [Tyche], jealous of the brave, in allotting thy favours how unjust art thou unto the good!”

Seneca, Medea 159 ff :
"Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] fears the brave, the cowardly overwhelms."

Seneca, Medea 286 ff :
"The estate of thrones, which fickle Fortuna [Tyche] disturbs with changeful lot."

Seneca, Oedipus 6 ff :
"Does any man rejoice in royalty? O deceitful good, how many ills dost hide beneath thy smiling face! As lofty peaks do ever catch the blasts, and as the cliff, which with its jutting rocks cleaves the vast deep, is beaten by the waves of even a quiet sea, so does exalted empire lie exposed to Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune]."

Seneca, Oedipus 81 ff :
"What boots it, husband, to make woe heavier by lamentation? This very thing, methinks, is regal--to face adversity and, the more dubious thy station and the more the greatness of empire totters to its fall, the more firm to stand, brave with unfaltering foot. ‘Tis not a manly thing to turn the back to Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune]."

Seneca, Oedipus 786 ff :
"How heartless Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] assails me on every hand!"

Seneca, Phaedra 978 ff :
"Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] without order rules the affairs of men, scatters her gifts with unseeing hand, fostering the worse; dire lust prevails against pure men, and crime sits regnant in the lofty palace. The rabble rejoice to give government to the vile, paying high honours even where they hate. Warped are the rewards of uprightness sad virtue gains; wretched poverty dogs the pure, and the adulterer, strong in wickedness, reigns supreme."

Seneca, Phaedra 1141 ff :
"On doubtful wings flies the inconstant hour, nor does swift Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] pledge loyalty to any."

Seneca, Troades 258 ff :
"Ungoverned power no one can long retain; controlled, it lasts; and the higher Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] has raised and exalted the might of man, the more does it become him to be modest in prosperity, to tremble at shifting circumstance, and to fear the gods when they are overkind. That greatness can be in a moment overthrown I have learned by conquering. Does Troy make us too arrogant and bold? We Greeks are standing in the place whence she has fallen."

Seneca, Troades 695 ff :
"Pity a mother, calmly and patiently listen to her pious prayers, and the higher the gods have exalted thee, the more gently bear down upon the fallen. What is given to misery is a gift to Fortuna [Tyche] [i.e. the goddess accepts generosity to the miserable as an offering, which she repays in the hour of need]. So may thy chaste wife's couch see thee again; so may Laertes [your father] prolong his years till he welcome thee home once more; so may thy son succeed thee."

Seneca, Troades 734 ff :
"As for Troy's throne, let Fortuna [Tyche] bear that whithersoe'er she will."

Statius, Silvae 3. 3. 85 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"And now from on high a light illumined his loyal home, and Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] towering to her loftiest entered apace."

Statius, Silvae 5. 1. 137 ff :
"What god joined Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] and Invidia [Nemesis or Zelos, Envy] in truceless kinship? Who bade the cruel goddesses engage in unending war? Will the one set her mark upon no house, but the other must straightway fix it with her grim glance, and with savage hand make havoc of its gladness? Happy and prosperous was this abode, no shock assailed it, no thought of sorrow; what cause was there to have fear of Fortuna, treacherous and fickle though she be, while Caesar was favourable? Yet the jealous Fata (Fate) found a way, and barbarous violence entered that blameless home."

Apuleius, The Golden Ass 4. 31 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"The lowest possible specimen of humanity, one who as the victim of Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] has lost status, inheritance and security, a man so disreputable that nowhere in the world can he find an equal in wretchedness."

Apuleias, The Golden Ass 7. 2 ff :
"Learned men of old had good grounds for envisaging and describing Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] as blind and utterly sightless [like Ploutos the god of wealth]. That goddess, I mused, ever bestows her riches on the wicked and the unworthy, never favouring anyone by discerning choice, but on the contrary preferring to lodge with precisely the people to whom she should have given wide berth, if she had eyes to see. Worst of all, she foists on us reputations at odds with and contrary to the truth, so that the evil man boasts in the glory of being honest, while by contrast he transparently innocent man is afflicted with a damaging reputation."

Apuleius, The Golden Ass 6. 19 ff :
"I implore you by your personal Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] and your Genios (Guardian Spirit) [Daimon] to come to the aid of this destitute old man."

Apuleius, The Golden Ass 9. 1 ff :
"But truly, if Fortuna [Tyche] disapproves, nothing can turn out right for any mortal, and neither wise planning nor shrewd remedies can overtun or reshape the pre-ordained arrangements of divine providence."


Sources:

  • Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
  • The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th-4th B.C.
  • Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
  • Greek Lyric III Simonides, Fragments - Greek Lyric C6th-5th B.C.
  • Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragments - Greek Lyric B.C.
  • Aeschylus, Agamemnon - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
  • Aeschylus, Libation Bearers - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
  • Aeschylus, Fragments - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
  • Aesop, Fables - Greek Fables C6th B.C.
  • Plato, Laws - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
  • Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
  • The Orphic Hymns - Greek Hymns C3rd B.C. - C2nd A.D.
  • Aelian, Historical Miscellany - Greek Rhetoric C2nd-3rd A.D.
  • Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Seneca, Hercules Furens - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
  • Seneca, Medea - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
  • Seneca, Oedipus - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
  • Seneca, Phaedra - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
  • Seneca, Troades - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
  • Statius, Silvae - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
  • Apuleius, The Golden Ass - Latin Novel C2nd A.D.
  • Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.