Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Πυρριχος Pyrrhikhos Pyrrhichus War-, Fire-Dance
(pyrrkhikhê, pyrrha)
PYRRHIKHOS (or Pyrrhichus) was the leader of the Kouretes, the shield-clashing daimones (spirits) which guarded the infant god Zeus on Mount Ida in Krete. Pyrrhikhos was worshipped in the Lakonian town of Pyrrhikhos where he was closely identified with the god Seilenos (Silenus).

Pyrrkhikhos was named for the pyrrhikhê, a Greek war dance of clashing spear and shield. According to Aristophanes it was performed beside the funeral pyres (pyrrhos) of great warriors who fell in battle, hence the name "fire-dance".

See Kouretes and Seilenos

Strabo, Geography 20. 3. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The war-dance was a soldiers' dance; and this is plainly indicated both by the ‘Pyrrhic dance,’ and by ‘Pyrrhikhos,’ [i.e. one of the Kouretes] who is said to be the founder of this kind of training for young men, as also by the treatises on military affairs."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 25. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Inland, forty stades from the river [Skyras, in the peninsular of Malea in Lakonia], lies Pyrrhikhos (Pyrrhichus), the name of which is said to be derived from Pyrrhos the son of Akhilleus (Achilles); according to another account Pyrrhikhos was one of the gods called Kouretes (Curetes). Others say that Silenos came from Malea and settled here. That Silenos was brought up in Malea is clear from these words in an ode of Pindar [Greek poet C5th B.C.]: ‘The mighty one, the dancer, whom the mount of Malea nurtured, husband of Nais (of the Spring), Silenos.’ Not that Pindar said his name was Pyrrhikhos; that is a statement of the men of Malea."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 35 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[The goddess Rhea sends Pyrrhikhos to muster an army of rustic divinities for Dionysos:] At once Rheia Allmother sent out her messenger to gather the host, Pyrrhikhos (Pyrrhichus), the dancer before her loverattle timbrel, to proclaim the warfare of Lyaios [Dionysos] under arms. Pyrrhikhos, gathering a varied army for Dionysos, scoured all the settlements of the eternal word; all the races of Europe and the nations of the Asiatic land he brought to rendezvous in the land of the livedainty Lydians."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 23 ff :
"[Rheia summoned the rustic gods and spirits to join the army of Dionysos for his campaign against the Indians:] From Krete (Crete) came grim warriors to join them, the Daktyloi Idaioi (Idaean Dactyls), dwellers on a rocky crag, earthborn Korybantes (Corybantes), a generation which grew up for Rheia selfmade out of the ground in the olden time. These had surrounded Zeus a newborn babe in the cavern which fostered his breeding, and danced about him shield in hand, the deceivers, raising wild songs which echoed among the rocks and maddened the air--the noise of the clanging brass resounded in the ears of Kronos high among the clouds, and concealed the infancy of Kronion [Zeus] with drummings. The chief and leader of the dancing Korybantes [or Kouretes] was Pyrrhikhos (Pyrrhichus) and shake-a-shield Idaios (Idaeus); and with them came Knossian Kyrbas (Cnossian Cyrbas), and armed his motley troops, their namefellow."


  • Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
  • Pausanias, Description Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
  • Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.