Web Theoi
MELISSEUS
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Μελισσευς Melisseus Melisseus Of Bees (melissai)
Of Honey (meli)

MELISSEUS was the rustic Daimon (Spirit) of honey and the art of beekeeping. He was variously described as a Titan, Kourete and Euboian Korybante.

Melisseus was closely identified with the Euboian Aristaios, who was also the reputed discoverer of honey, as well as a Korybantic nurse of the god Dionysos. Melisseus may also be related to the Titan-god Astraios (the starry one), for the amber-coloured (êlektron or soukinos) honey-sap (melissa) which bees were believed to collect from flowers and trees was often described as star-fallen (astron).

PARENTS
[1] OURANOS & GAIA ? (Bacchylides Frag 45)
[2] KARYSTOS ? (Bacchylides Frag 45)
[3] SOKOS & KOMBE (Dionysiaca 13.135)
OFFSPRING
[1] ADRASTEIA, IDA (Apollodorus 1.4, Hyginus Fabulae 182, Hyginus Astronomica 2.13)

ENCYCLOPEDIA

MELISSEUS (Melisseus or Melissos), an ancient king of Crete, who, by Amalthea, became the father of the nymphs Adrastea and Ida, to whom Rhea entrusted the infant Zeus to be brought up. (Apollod. i. 1. § 6; Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 13.) Other accounts call the daughters of this king Melissa and Amalthea. (Lactant. i. 22.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


MELISSEUS THE HONEY-MAN OF CRETE & THE INFANT ZEUS

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 5 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"She [Rhea] put him [the babe Zeus] in the care of both the Kouretes (Curetes) and the Nymphai Adrasteia and Ide, daughters of Melisseus."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 65. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"There were nine Kouretes (Curetes). Some writers of myths relate that these gods were born of the Gaia (Earth), but according to others, they were descended from the Daktyloi Idaioi (Idaean Dactyls). Their home they made in mountainous places which were thickly wooded and full of ravines, and which, in a word, provided a natural shelter and coverage, since it had not yet been discovered how to build houses. And since these Kouretes excelled in wisdom they discovered many things which are of use to men generally; so, for instance, they were the first to gather sheep into flocks, to domesticate the several other kinds of animals which men fatten, and to discover the making of honey [presumably the last was Melisseus]."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 70. 1 :
"When she [Rhea] had given birth to Zeus, concealed him in Ide [Mount Ida], as it is called, and, without the knowledge of Kronos (Cronus), entrusted the rearing of him to the Kouretes (Curetes) of Mount Ide. The Kouretes bore him off to a certain cave where they gave him over to the Nymphai [Ida and Adrasteia], with the command that they should minister to his every need And the Nymphai nurtured the child on a mixture of honey and milk and gave him upbringing at the udder of the goat which was named Amaltheia . . . The god, they say, wishing to preserve an immortal memorial of his close association with the bees, changed the colour of them, making it like copper with the gleam of gold, and since the region lay at a very great altitude, where fierce winds blew about it and heavy snows fell, he made the bees insensible to such things and unaffected by them, since they must range over the most wintry stretches."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 60. 3 :
"Ide [of Krete] the daughter of Korybas (the Korybante)." [N.B. Korybas, "the Corybant," is presumably Melisseus.]

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 182 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The daughters of Oceanus are Idothea, Althaea, and Adrasta, but others say they are daughters of Melisseus, and nurses of Jove [Zeus]."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 13 :
"Parmeniscus [Greek grammarian C2nd B.C.] say that a certain Melisseus was king in Crete, and to his daughters Jove [Zeus] was brought to nurse. Since they did not have milk, they furnished him a she-goat, Amalthea by name, who is said to have reared him."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 28. 275 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Melisseus . . . true to his name, he imitated the bee up in arms with her terrible sting."


MELISSEUS OF THE CARIAN CHERSONNESE

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 60. 2 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Kherronessos (Cherronessus) [a Karian peninsular opposite Rhodes], five Kouretes (Curetes) passed over to it from Krete (Crete), and these were descendants of those [the Kouretes] who had received Zeus from his mother Rhea and had nurtured him in the mountains of Ide (Ida) in Krete, And sailing to the Kherronesos with a notable expedition they expelled the Karians (Carians) who dwelt there, and settling down in the land divided it into five parts, each of them founding a city which he named after himself . . . Triopas, one of the sons of Helios (the Sun) and Rhodos, who was a fugitive because of the murder of his brother Tenages, came to the Kherronesos. And after he had been purified there of the murder by Melisseus the kin, he sailed to Thessalia."


MELISSEUS OF EUBOIA

Bacchylides, Fragment 45 (from Scholiast on Apollonius of Rhodes) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Some authorities give the parentage of four gods called Aristaios (Aristaeus), as Bakkhylides does: one the son of Karystos (Carystos), another the son of Khiron (Chiron), another the son of Ge (Earth) and Ouranos (Heaven), and the son of Kyrene (Cyrene)."
[N.B. In Bacchylides' description above, there appear to be three deities named Aristaios. The first is perhaps the Euboian Titan-God (Astraios), the second and fourth are the Thessalian rustic-god (Aristaios), and the third the Kourete Melisseus. The name Karystos sounds vaguely like Hesiod's Krios, father of the Titan Astraios in the Theogony. The birth from Ouranos and Gaia, is probably a reference to Hesiod's birth of the Kouretes from the blood of Ouranos when it fell upon Gaia.]

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 135 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"All these came then from the famous island [Euboia]: Prymneus, and Mimas Waddlefoot, and Akmon the forester, Damneus and Okythoos (Ocythous) the shielfman; 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 [from Euboia] 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 (Cecrops) 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 . . . with blazing altar they propitiated the tenants of the Zodiac path, committing their campaign to the planets of equal number."


MELISSEUS GUARDIAN OF DIONYSUS

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 135 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"The Euboian battalions were ruled by shield-bearing Korybantes (Corybantes), guardians of Dionysos in his growing days . . . All these came then from the famous island [Euboia]: Prymneus, and Mimas Waddlefoot, and Akmon the forester, Damneus and Okythoos the shieldman; and with them came flash-helm Melisseus as comrade to Idaios."


MELISSEUS & THE INDIAN WAR OF DIONYSUS

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 135 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[The goddess Rheia summoned the rustic divinities to join the army of Dionysos for a war against the Indians:] The Euboian battalions were ruled by shield-bearing Korybantes (Corybantes) . . . All these came then from the famous island: Prymneus, and Mimas Waddlefoot, and Akmon the forester, Damneus and Okythoos the shielfman; and with them came flash-helm Melisseus as comrade to Idaios . . . 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."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 28. 275 ff :
"[During the course of a battle in the Indian War of Dionysos:] Melisseus also scared all the dusky host [of Indians] with boldness unshaken. True to his name, he imitated the bee up in arms with her terrible sting. Morrheus hurled a hurtling stone against the quick Kourete (Curete) who faces him, but he missed Melisseus, he missed him--for it is not seemly that a Korybante (Corybante) should be killed with a millstone."


Sources:

  • Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
  • Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
  • Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.

Other references not currently quoted here: Colluthus 23