THE EUBOIAN KORYBANTES (or Corybantes) were seven rustic daimones (spirits) appointed by Zeus to guard the infant the infant Dionysos on the island of Euboia, with his nurse the Nymphe Mystis (or Makris). They were the sons of local rustic god named Sokos, a distinctly Euboian figure. The list of names given by Nonnus are those of the Kretan Kouretes. However the figure of Melisseus (the "honey-man") appears to be connected with the Euboian Aristaios the foster father of Dionysos on the island in some accounts.
|SOKOS & KOMBE (Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13.135)
|The names given by Nonnus are those of the Kretan Kouretes
|ABANTES (First Men of Euboia) (Dionysiaca 13.135)
Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 19 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Some call the Kouretes (Curetes) ‘Kretes’ (Cretes), and say that the Kretes were the first people to don brazen armour in Euboia, and that on this account they were also called ‘Khalkidians’ (Chalcidians)." [N.B. Khalkidians means both ‘of Khalkis,’ the chief city of Euboia, and also ‘men of brass.’]
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 135 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[The goddess Rheia summoned the rustic divinities to the army of Dionysos for a campaign against the Indians:]
The Euboian battalions were ruled by shield-bearing Korybantes (Corybantes), guardians of Dionysos in his growing days: who in the Phrygian gulf beside mountain-ranging Rheia surrounded Bakkhos (Bacchuis) still a child with their drumskins. They found him once, a horned baby, covered with a cloak the colour of purple wine, lying among the rocks where Ino had left him in charge of Mystis the mother Korymbos (Corymbus). All these came then from the famous island: Prymneus, and Mimas Waddlefoot, and Akmon (Acmon) the forester, Damneus and Okythoos (Ocythous) the shieldman; and with them came flash-helm Melisseus as comrade to Idaios (Idaeus), whom their father Sokos (Socus) under the insane goad of impiety had once cast out of the brinegirt country along with Kombe (Combe) the mother of seven [Korybantes]. They escaped and passed to Knossian (Cnossian) soil, and again went on their travels from Krete (Crete) to Phrygia, and from Phrygia to Athens; where they remained as foreign settlers and hearthguests until Kekrops destroyed Sokos with avenging blade of justice; then leaving the land of brineflooded Marathon turned their steps homewards to the sacred soil of the Abantes, the earthborn stock of the ancient Kouretes (Curetes), whose life is the tune of pipes, whose life is goodly noise of beaten swords, whose heart is set upon rhythmic circling of the feet and the shield-wise dancing.
To the army came also warrior sons of the Abantes [the men of Euboia] . . . Seven captains armed this host, but all of one temper for war: with blazing altar they propitiated the tenants of the Zodiac path, committing their campaign to the planets of equal number."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 28. 275 ff :
"[During the Indian War of Dionysos:] The dancers of battle, the Diktaian Korybantes (Dictaean Corybantes), joined in the battle.
[The Korybante] Damneus fought and pursued the enemy tribes. On the plain the warcry sounded.
[The Korybante] Prymneus succoured the excited Bakkhai (Bacchae) women, like a fair wind which blows astern and saves the mariner riding with the gales; full welcome he came to the army, as [Dioskouros] Polydeukes brings calm to buffeted ships when he puts to sleep the heavy billows of the galebreeding sea.
[The Korybante] Okythoos with light quick step scared away the warriors. Many he slew with speedy fate, bringing down one with spear in stand-up fight, one with a shot at a distant view, cutting down another with horrid knife; another still running onwards and flying like to the breezes the furious pursuer caught, plying his knees and feet quick as the wind--as good a runner as Iphiklos, who used to skim the untrodden calm touching only the surface with the soles of his feet, and passed over a cornfield without bending the tops of the ears with his travelling footsteps. Okythoos was like him windfoot.
[The Korybante] Mimas was in the thick of the fray, making a dance of battle with woven paces and frightening the host, swinging a capering sword, the dancer-at-arms skipping in dead earnest with knowling leaps; as once the pyrrhic dance raised a noise in the ears of Kronos, and clanged sword on shield on Mount Ida, and rang out a valiant din to deceive the enemy, as he screened the stealthy nurture of growing Zeus. So mailclad Mimas brandished his spear in air in mimicry of the dance-at-arms, as he cut down the heads of his foes, an iron harvest of battle; so he offered the firstfruits of the enemy to witnessing Bakkhos with Indianslaying axe and doublebiting sword; so he poured his libation of blood and gore to Dionysos, instead of the sacrifice of cattle and the wonted drinkoffering of wine.
Beside Okythoos, [the Korybante] Akmon with brilliant helmet moved his restless circling feet in knowing leaps. He fought unshakeable like the hammer-beaten anvil of his name, holding Korybantic shield, which had often held in its hollow baby Zeus asleep among the mountains: yes, a little cave once was the home of Zeus, where the sacred goat [Amaltheia] played the nurse to him with her milky udder for a makeshift, and cleverly let him suck the strange milk, when the noise of shaken shields resounded beaten on the back with tumbling steel to hide the little child with their clanging. Their help allowed Rheia to wrap up that stone of deceit, and gave it to Kronos for a meal in place of Kronides [Zeus].
Sharpsighted [Korybante] Idaios entered the revels of war, that dance of battle turning his intricate steps, incessantly shaken with the mad passion for Indian carnage.
[Korybante] Melisseus also scared all the dusky host with boldness unshaken. True to his name, he imitated the bee up in arms with her terrible sting. Morrheus hurled a hurtling stone against he quick Kourete who faces him, but he missed Melisseus, he missed him--for it is not seemly that a Korybante should be killed with a millstone.
So the dancers of cruel war fought all together as one. Round the car of Deriades they gathered in a ring of shields, beating their armour, and surrounded the tower in rhythmic battle and shieldbearing dance. And the noise mounted through the air to the palace of Zeus, and the fairfooted Horai (Seasons) trembled at the turmoil of both armies."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 29. 215 ff :
"[During the Indian War of Dionysos:] The Diktaian Korybantes (Dictaean Corybantes) joined battle, shaking the plumes of their highcrested helmets, rushing madly into the fray. Their naked swords rang on their beaten shields in emulation, along with resounding leaps; they imitated the rhythm of the dance-at-arms with quick circling movements of their feet, a revel in the battlefield. The Indian nation was ravaged by the steel of those mountaineer herdsmen, the Kouretes (Curetes). Many a man fell headlong into the dust when the heard the bellow of the heavy-thumping oxhides."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 9. 160 ff :
"The goddess [Rhea] took care of him [the baby Dionysos]; and while he was yet a boy, she set him to drive a car drawn by ravening lions. Within that godwelcoming courtyard, the tripping Korybantes (Corybantes) would surround Dionysos with their childcherishing dance, and clash their swords, and strike their shields with rebounding steel in alternate movements, to conceal the growing boyhood of Dionysos; and as the boy listened to the fostering noise of the shields he grew up under the care of the Korybantes [Kouretes] like his father [Zeus]." [N.B. The Korybantes here are a mixture of Euboian and Phrygian demi-gods--Nonnus confaltes the two traditions.]
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.