Web Theoi
ALKYONEUS
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Αλκυονευς Alkyoneus Alcyoneus Strong-?
Alcyoneus, the sleeping giant, & Hypnus | Athenian red figure krater C5th B.C. | J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu
Alcyoneus & Hypnus the god of sleep, Athenian
red-figure krater C5th B.C., J. Paul Getty Museum

ALKYONEUS (or Alcyoneus) was the eldest of the Thrakian Gigantes. He was immortal but only within the confines of his homeland of Pallene.

Herakles encountered the giant during his travels, and sneaking up upon him as he was sleeping, disabled him with blows of his club or a volley of arrows. The hero then dragged the wounded giant beyond the confines of Pallene to die.

Alkyoneus' seven mourning daughters were transformed into a flock of kingfishers (Greek alkyones).

The etymology of the giant's name is unclear. Several stories connect Alkyoneus with the kingfisher bird (alkyôn), and his brother Porphyrion with the purple-coot. However, it is more likely that his name is prefixed with the word alk- "the strong," since most of the other Gigantes possess warrior or warlike names.

He may be the same as Eurymedon, the king of the Gigantes mentioned in the Odyssey.

PARENTS
[1.1] GAIA & the blood of OURANOS (Hesiod Theogony 176, Apollodorus 1.34)
[1.2] GAIA (Greek Lyric V Anonymous Frag 985)
OFFSPRING
[1.1] THE ALKYONIDES (Hegesande Memoirs Frag, Suidas s.v. Alkyonides)

ENCYCLOPEDIA

ALCY′ONEUS (Alkuoneus). A giant, who kept possession of the Isthmus of Corinth at the time when Heracles drove away the oxen of Geryon. The giant attacked him, crushed twelve waggons and twenty-four of the men of Heracles with a huge block of stone. Heracles himself warded off the stone with his club and slew Alcyoneus. The block, with which the giant had attempted the life of Heracles, was shewn on the Isthmus down to a very late period. (Pind. Nem. iv. 44, with the Schol.) In another passage (Isth. vi. 45, &c.) Pindar calls Alcyoneus a Thracian shepherd, and places the struggle with him in the Phlegraean plains.

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


Pindar, Nemean Ode 4 str 4 (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric poet C5th B.C.) :
"[Herakles] slew the Meropes and that great man of war, giant of terror, Alkyoneus (Alcyoneus); yet not before with rocks his only weapon, he felled twelve four-horse chariots, and the men who bestrode them twice the number, proud horsemen all."

Pindar, Isthmian Ode 6 str 2 :
"And on that shepherd in stature like a mountain, Alkyoneus (Alcyoneus), meeting with him at Phlegra, Herakles spared not of his strength to loose the sounding music of his bowstring."

Greek Lyric V, Anonymous, Fragment 985 (from Hippolytus, Refutation of all the Heresies) (trans. Campbell) (Greek lyric B.C.) :
"Ge (Earth), say the Greeks, was the first to produce man . . . But it is hard to discover [who] . . . was the first of men to appear . . . [whether it was the earth of] Pellene to Phlegraian Alkyoneus, eldest of the Gigantes (Giants)."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 34 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) : "Herakles first sent an arrow at Alkyoneus (Alcyoneus), who by falling to the earth recovered somewhat. Athene advised Herakles to drag him outside of Pallene, which he did, and Alkyoneus thereupon died."


Alcyoneus & Hypnus | Greek vase painting
L1.2 ALKYONEUS,
HYPNOS
Alcyoneus, Heracles & Hypnus | Greek vase painting
L1.4 ALKYONEUS,
HYPNOS, HERAKLES
Alcyoneus, Heracles & Hermes | Greek vase painting
L1.1 ALKYONEUS,
HERAKLES
Alcyoneus, Hypnus & Heracles | Greek vase painting
L1.3 ALKYONEUS,
HYPNOS, HERAKLES

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 25. 85 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Bakkhos [Dionysos] repaid the stubble of snakehaired Gigantes (Giants), a conquering hero with a tiny manbreaking wand, when he cast the battling ivy against Porphyrion, when he buffetted Enkelados (Enceladus) and drove Alkyoneus (Alcyoneus) with a volley of leaves: then the wands flew in showers, and brought the Gegenees (Earthborn) down in defence of Olympos."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 6 ff :
"[Gaia the Earth] goaded her own sons to battle: ‘My sons, make your attack with hightowering rocks . . . [and I will] bestow Hebe on Porphyrion as a wife, and give Kythereia [Aphrodite] to Khthonios (Chthonius), when I sing Brighteyes [Athene] the bedfellow of Enkelados (Enceladus), and Artemis of Alkyoneus (Alcyoneus) . . .’
With these words she excited all the host of the Gigantes."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 6 ff :
"Bakkhos [Dionysos] held a bunch of giantsbane vine [in the war of the Giants], and ran at Alkyoneus (Alcyoneus) with the mountain upraised in his hands: he wielded no furious lance, no deadly sword, but he struck with this bunch of tendrils . . . Vast Alkyoneus leapt upon Lyaios armed with his Thrakian crags; he lifted over Bakkhos a cloudhigh peak of wintry Haimos (Haemus)--useless against that mark, Dionysos the invulnerable. He there the cliff, but when the rocks touched the fawnskin of Lyaios [Dionysos], they could not tear it, and burst into splinters themselves."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 36. 241 ff :
"Nine cubits high, equal to Alkyoneus."
[N.B. A cubit is about 45cm or 1 1/2 feet, so the giant was approximately 4 meters or 13 1/2 feet tall.]

Suidas s.v. Alkyonides (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Hegesande tells the myth about them [the Alkyonides] in his Memoirs as follows. They were the daughters of the giant Alkyoneus (Alcyoneus): Phosthonia, Anthe, Methone, Alkippa (Alcippa), Pallene, Drimo, Asterie (Asteria). After the death of their father they threw themselves into the sea from Kanastraion (Canastraeum), which is the peak of Pellene, but Amphitrite made them birds, and they were called Alkyones from their father. Windless days with a calm sea are called Alkyonides [i.e. Halcyon-days]."


Sources:

  • Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
  • Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragments - Greek Lyric B.C.
  • Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
  • Suidas - Byzantine Lexicon C10th A.D.