Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Λυκαων Lykaôn Lycaon Wolf (lykos)

LYKAON (or Lycaon) was an early king of Arkadia who lived in the time before the Great Deluge. He sought to test the divinity of Zeus by serving the god a slaughtered child--either his son Nyktimos, grandson Arkas, or a Molossian captive. Zeus was furious and overturning the table, destroyed the fifty sons of Lykaon with lightning-bolts, and turned the king into a wolf.

In the chronology of myth Lykaon was a contemporary of Deukalion, king of Thessalia, and Kekrops, king of Athens. His fifty sons founded and gave their names to the towns and villages of Arkadia. Lykaon was succeeded on the throne by his youngest son Nyktimos or grandson Arkas. Some say that Nyktimos was preserved by Gaia (the Earth) when his brothers were struck down by the lightning-bolts of Zeus, others that he was the child sacrificed by Lykaon who was afterwards resurrected by the gods (cf. the story of the sacrifice and resurrection of Pelops).


[1.1] PELASGOS (Hesiod Catalogues Frag 31, Pausanias 8.2.1, Hyginus Fabulae 176, Suidas s.v. Lykaon)
[1.2] PELASGOS & MELIBOIA (Apollodorus 3.8.1)
[1.3] PELASGOS & KYLLENE (Apollodorus 3.8.1, Scholiast on Euripides Orestes 1645)
[1.4] PELASGOS & DEIANEIRA (Greek Papyri III No. 140b)


[1.1] KALLISTO (Hesiod Astronomy Frag 3, Apollodorus 3.100, Pausanias 8.3.6, Callimachus Hymn 1.40, Clement Recognitions 10.21, Hyginus Fabulae 176 & Astronomica 2.1, Ovid Fasti 2.155)
[1.2] KALLISTO (by Nonakris) (Pausanias 8.3.6 & 8.17.6, Ovid Metamorphoses 2.409)
[2.1] KETEUS (Araethus Frag, Hyginus Astronomica 2.1 & 2.6)
[3.1] NYKTIMOS (Clement Exhortations 2)
[3.2] THE LYKAONIDES (names : PALLAS) (Hesiod Catalogues Frag 32)
[3.5] PHIGALOS, MANTINEUS, HERAIEUS, ALIPHEROS, MELAINEUS, THOKNOS, TRIKOLONOS, HYPSOS, THYRAIOS, AKAKOS, HAIMON, TEGEATES (Pausanias 8.5.7 & 8.39.2, 8.8.4, 8.26.1, 8.26.6, 8.26.8, 8.29.5, 8.35.6, 8.35.7, 8.36.10, 8.44.1, 8.45.1 & 8.48.6)


LYCAON (Lykaôn), a son of Pelasgus by Meliboea, the daughter of Oceanus, and king of Arcadia (Apollod. iii. 8. § 1). Others call him a son of Pelasgus by Cyllene (Schol. ad Eurip. Orest. 1642), and Dionysius of Halicarnassus (i. 11, 13) distinguishes between an elder and a younger Lycaon, the former of whom is called a son of Aezeus and father of Deianeira, by whom Pelasgus became the father of the younger Lycaon. The traditions about him place Lycaon in very different lights, for according to some, he was a barbarian who even defied the gods (Ov. Met. i. 198, &c.), while others describe him as the first civiliser of Arcadia, who built the town of Lycosura, and introduced the worship of Zeus Lycaeus. It is added that he sacrificed a child on the altar of Zeus, and that during the sacrifice he was changed by Zeus into a wolf (Paus. viii. 2. § 1; comp. Ov. Met. i. 237). By several wives Lycaon became the father of a large number of sons, some say fifty, and others only twenty-two; but neither their number nor their names are the same in all accounts (Apollod., Dionys. ll. cc.; Paus. viii. 3. § 1; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 313). The sons of Lycaon are said to have been notorious for their insolence and impiety, and Zeus visited them in the disguise of a poor man, with a view to punish them. They invited him to a repast, and on the suggestion of one of them, Maenalus, they mixed in one of the dishes set before him the entrails of a boy whom they had murdered. According to Ovid Zeus was recognised and worshipped by the Arcadian people, but Lycaon, after a vain attempt to kill the god, resolved to try him with the dish of human flesh (Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 481; Eratosth. Catest. 8). However, Zeus pushed away the table which bore the horrible food, and the place where this happened was afterwards called Trapezus. Lycaon and all his sons, with the exception of the youngest (or eldest), Nyctimus, were killed by Zeus with a flash of lightning, or according to others, were changed into wolves (Ov., Tzetz. ll. cc.; Paus. viii. 3. § 1). Some say that the flood of Deucalion occurred in the reign of Nyctimus, as a punishment of the crimes of the Lycaonids. (Apollod. l. c.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 31 (from Strabo 5.221) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"That this tribe (the Pelasgoi) were from Arkadia, Ephoros states on the authority of Hesiod; for he says : `Sons were born to god-like Lykaon whom Pelasgos once begot.'"

Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 32 (from Stephanus of Byzantium) :
"Pallantion. A city of Arkadia, so named after Pallas, one of Lykaon's sons, according to Hesiod."

Hesiod, Astronomica Fragment 3 (from Pseudo-Eratosthenes, Catasterismi 1) :
"Hesiod says she (Kallisto) was the daughter of Lykaon and lived in Arkadia . . . She was seduced by Zeus . . . [But] the goddess [Artemis] was enraged and changed her into a beast. Thus she became a bear and gave birth to a son called Arkas. But while she was in the mountains, she was hunted by some goat-herds and given up with her babe to Lykaon."

Hesiod, Astronomica Fragment 3 (from Comm. Supplem. on Aratus) :
"Of Bootes, also called the Bear-warden. The story goes that he is Arkas the son of Kallisto and Zeus, and he lived in the country about Lykaion. After Zeus had seduced Kallisto, Lykaon, pretending not to know of the matter, entertained Zeus, as Hesiod says, and set before him on the table the babe which he had cut up."

Xenocles the Elder & Astydamas the Younger, Lycaon (lost plays) (Greek tragedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
The lesser known Athenian playwrights Xenokles the Elder and Astydamas the Younger both produced plays entitled Lykaon. Presumably these told the story of the sacrifice of the child.

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 8. 1 - 2 (trans. Frazer) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Pelasgos, who, Akousilaos [Greek writer C6th B.C.] says, was a son of Zeus and Niobe, as we have supposed, but Hesiod declares him to have been a son of the soil. He had a son Lykaon by Meliboia, daughter of Okeanos or, as others say, by a nymphe Kyllene; and Lykaon, reigning over the Arkadians, begat by many wives fifty sons, to wit : Melaineus, Thesprotos, Helix, Nyktimos, Peuketios, Kaukon, Mekisteus, Hopleus, Makareus, Makednos, Horos, Polikhos, Akontes, Euaimon, Ankyor, Arkhebates, Karteron, Aigaion, Pallas, Eumon, Kanethos, Prothoos, Linos, Korethon, Mainalos, Teleboes, Physios, Phassos, Phthios, Lykios, Halipheros, Genetor, Boukolion, Sokleus, Phineus, Eumetes, Harpaleus, Portheus, Platon, Haimon, Kynaithos, Leon, Harpalykos, Heraieus, Titanas, Mantineus, Kleitor, Stymphalos, Orkhomenos, ((lacuna)) . . These exceeded all men in pride and impiety; and Zeus, desirous of putting their impiety to the proof, came to them in the likeness of a day-laborer. They offered him hospitality and having slaughtered a male child of the natives, they mixed his bowels with the sacrifices, and set them before him, at the instigation of the elder brother Mainalos. But Zeus in disgust upset the table at the place which is still called Trapezos, and blasted Lykaon and his sons by thunderbolts, all but Nyktimos, the youngest; for Ge (Earth) was quick enough to lay hold of the right hand of Zeus and so appease his wrath. But when Nyktimos succeeded to the kingdom, there occurred the flood in the age of Deukalion; some said that it was occasioned by the impiety of Lykaon's sons.
But Eumelos [epic poet C8th B.C.] and some others say that Lykaon had also a daughter Kallisto; though Hesiod says she was one of the Nymphai, while Asios [poet C8th-7th B.C.] identifies her father as Nykteus, and Pherekydes [mythographer C5th B.C.] as Keteus."
[N.B. Kallisto was either the daughter or grand-daughter of Lykaon, for Keteus and Nykteus (i.e. Nyktimos) were his sons.]

Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling


MelaineuV Melaineus Melaeneus Of Melaineai (town)
QesprwtoV Thesprôtos Thesprotus --
`Elix Helix Helix Of Helisson (town)
NuktimoV Nyktimos Nyctimus --
PeuketioV Peuketios Peucetius --
Kaukwn Kaukôn Caucon Of Kaukon (town)
MhkisteuV Mêkisteus Mecisteus --
`OpleuV Hopleus Hopleus --
MakareuV Makareus Macareus Of Makaria (town)
MakednoV Makednos Macednus --
`OroV Horos Horus --
PolicoV Polikhos Polichus --
AkonthV Akontês Acontes --
Euaimwn Euaimôn Euaemon --
Ankuwr Ankyôr Ancyor --
ArcebathV Arkhebatês Archebates --
Karterwn Karterôn Carteron --
Aigaiwn Aigaiôn Aegaeon --
PallaV Pallas Pallas Of Pallantion (town)
Eumwn Eumôn Eumon --
KanhqoV Kanêthos Canethus --
ProqooV Prothoos Prothous --
LinoV Linos Linus --
Koreqwn Korethôn Corethon Of Korythenses
MainaloV Mainalos Maenalus Of Mainalos (town)
ThlebohV Têleboês Teleboas --
FusioV Physios Physius Of Physia (town)
FassoV Phassos Phassus --
FqioV Phthios Phthius --
LukioV Lykios Lycius Of Lykoa (town)
`AlifhroV Haliphêros Halipherus Of Alipheros (town)
Genetwr Genetôr Genetor --
Boukoliwn Boukoliôn Bucolion --
SwkleuV Sôkleus Socleus --
FineuV Phineus Phineus --
EumhthV Eumêtês Eumetes --
`ArpaleuV Harpaleus Harpaleus --
PorqeuV Portheus Portheus --
Platwn Platôn Plato --
`Aimwn Haimôn Haemon Of Haimonia (town)
KunaiqoV Kynaithos Cynaethus --
Lewn Leôn Leo --
`ArpalukoV Harpalykos Harpalycus --
`HraieuV Hêraieus Heraeeus Of Heraia (town)
TitanaV Titanas Titanas --
MantineuV Mantineus Mantineus Of Maintineia (town)
Kleitwr Kleitôr Clitor Of Kleitor (town)
StumfaloV Stymphalos Stymphalus Of Stymphalos
OrcomenoV Orkhomenos Orchomenus Of Orkhomenos

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2. 520 ff (trans. Seaton) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"The Parrhasian people [i.e. the Arkadians] who are of the lineage of Lykaon."

Callimachus, Hymn 1 to Zeus 40 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The stream Neda [in Arkadia] . . . its primeval water do the son’s son of the Bear, Lykaon’s daughter, drink." [N.B. "Son's son of the Bear" is Arkas, son of Zeus and Kallisto, the daughter of Lykaon.]

Lycophron, Alexandra 479 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"A landsman, feeding on simple food, one of the sons of the oak [i.e. the Arkadians], the wolf-shaped devourers of the flesh of Nyktimos, a people that were before the moon, and who in the height of winter heated in the ashes of the fire their staple of oaken bread."
[N.B. Nyktimos was a son of Lykaon (the Wolf) whose father slaughtered him as a meal for Zeus. The ancient Arkadians were said to have been born before the moon and to have fed themselves on acorns.]

Theocritus, Idylls 1. 125 ff (trans. Edmonds) (Greek bucolic C3rd B.C.) :
"Come away from the knoll of Helikè and the howe lift high i ’ the lea, the howe of Lykaon’s child [i.e. Kallisto], the howe that gods in heav’s envye."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 2. 1 - 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Lykaon the son of Pelasgos devised the following plans, which were more clever than those of his father. He founded the city Lykosoura on Mount Lykaios, gave to Zeus the surname Lykaios and founded the Lykaian games. I hold that the Panathenian festival was not founded before the Lykaian. The early name for the former festival was the Athenian, which was changed to the Panathenian in the time of Theseus, because it was then established by the whole Athenian people gathered together in a single city . . .
My view is that Lykaon was contemporary with Kekrops, the king of Athens, but that they were not equally wise in matters of religion. For Kekrops was the first to name Zeus Hypatos (the Supreme god), and refused to sacrifice anything that had life in it, but burnt instead on the altar the national cakes which the Athenians still call pelanoi. But Lykaon brought a human baby to the altar of Zeus Lykaios, and sacrificed it, pouring out its blood upon the altar, and according to the legend immediately after the sacrifice he was changed from a man to a wolf (Lykos).
I for my part believe this story; it has been a legend among the Arkadians from of old, and it has the additional merit of probability. For the men of those days, because of their righteousness and piety, were guests of the gods, eating at the same board; the good were openly honored by the gods, and sinners were openly visited with their wrath . . . So one might believe that Lykaon was turned into a beast . . .
All through the ages, many events that have occurred in the past, and even some that occur to-day, have been generally discredited because of the lies built up on a foundation of fact. It is said, for instance, that ever since the time of Lykaon a man has changed into a wolf at the sacrifice to Zeus Lykaios, but that the change is not for life; if, when he is a wolf, he abstains from human flesh, after nine years he becomes a man again, but if he tastes human flesh he remains a beast for ever . . . Those who like to listen to the miraculous are themselves apt to add to the marvel, and so they ruin truth by mixing it with falsehood."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 3. 1 - 5 :
"In the third generation after Pelasgos the land [of Arkadia] increased in the number both of its cities and of its population. For Nyktimos, who was the eldest son of Lykaon, possessed all the power, while the other sons founded cities on the sites they considered best. Thus Pallantion was founded by Pallas, Oresthasion by Orestheus and Phigalia by Phigalos.
Pallantion is mentioned by Stesikhoros of Himera in his Geryoneis. Phigalia and Oresthasion in course of time changed their names, Oresthasion to Oresteion after Orestes, the son of Agamemnon, Phigalia to Phialia after Phialos, the son of Boukolion. Cities were founded by Trapezeus also, and by Daseatas, Makareus, Helisson, Akakos and Thoknos. The last founded Thoknia, and Akakos Akakesion. It was after this Akakos, according to the Arkadian account, that Homer made a surname for Hermes.
Helisson has given a name to both the town and the river so called, and similarly Makaria, Dasea, and Trapezoeis were named after the sons of Lykaon. Orkhomenos became founder of both the town called Methydrion and of Orkhomenos, styled by Homer 'rich in sheep.' Hypsos and [Melaineus and Thyraios and Haimon] ((lacuna)) . . founded Melaineai and Hypsos, and Thyraion and Haimoniai. The Arkadians are of opinion that both the Thyrea in Argolis and also the Thyrean gulf were named after this Thyraios.
Mainalos founded Mainalos, which was in ancient times the most famous of the cities of Arkadia, Tegeates founded Tegea and Mantineus Mantineia. Kromoi was named after Kromos, Kharisia after Kharisios, its founder, Trikolonoi after Trikolonos, Peraithenses after Peraithos, Asea after Aseates, Lykoa after [Lykon] ((lacuna)) . . and Soumatia after Soumateus. Alipheros also and Heraieus both gave their names to cities.
But Oinotros, the youngest of the sons of Lykaon, asked his brother Nyktimos for money and men and crossed by sea to Italia; the land of Oinotria received its name from Oinotros who was its king. This was the first expedition despatched from Greece to found a colony, and if a man makes the most careful calculation possible he will discover that no foreigners either emigrated to another land before Oinotros.
In addition to all this male issue, Lykaon had a daughter Kallisto. This Kallisto (I repeat the current Greek legend) was loved by Zeus and mated with him."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 5. 7 :
"Holaias [historical son of Kypselos] had a son Boukolion, and he a son Phialos, who robbed Phigalos, the son of Lykaon, the founder of Phigalia, of the honor of giving his name to the city; Phialos changed it to Phialia, after his own name, but the change did not win universal acceptance."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 8. 4 :
"The city of the Mantineans is about twelve stades farther away from this spring. Now there are plain indications that it was in another place that Mantineus the son of Lykaon founded his city, which even to-day is called Ptolis (City) by the Arkadians."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 17. 6 :
"As you go from Pheneus to the west, the left road leads to the city Kleitor, while on the right is the road to Nonakris and the water of the Styx. Of old Nonakris was a town of the Arkadians that was named after the wife of Lykaon. When I visited it, it was in ruins, and most of these were hidden. Not far from the ruins is a high cliff; I know of none other that rises to so great a height. A water trickles down the cliff, called by the Greeks the water of the Styx."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 26. 1 :
"The founder of Heraia was Heraieus the son of Lykaon, and the city lies on the right of the Alpheios, mostly upon a gentle slope, though a part descends right to the Alpheios."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 26. 6 :
"The city of Aliphera has received its name from Alipheros, the son of Lykaon . . . They also set up an altar of Zeus Lekheates (In child-bed), because here he gave birth to Athena. There is a stream they call Tritonis, adopting the story about the river Triton."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 26. 8 :
"On the road from Heraia to Megalopolis is Melaineai. It was founded by Melaineus, the son of Lykaon; in my time it was uninhabited, but there is plenty of water flowing over it."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 29. 5 :
"Crossing the Alpheios again and reach Thoknia, which is named after Thoknos, the son of Lykaon, and to-day is altogether uninhabited. Thoknos was said to have built the city on the hill. The river Aminios, flowing by the hill, falls into the Helisson, and not far away the Helisson falls into the Alpheios."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 35. 5 - 7 :
"There are also roads from Megalopolis leading to the interior of Arkadia; to Methydrion it is one hundred and seventy stades, and thirteen stades from Megalopolis is a place called Skias . . . About ten stades from here are a few memorials of the city Kharisiai, and the journey from Kharisiai to Trikolonoi is another ten stades. Once Trikolonoi also was a city . . . These cities [i.e. Methydrion, Kharisiai and Trikolonoi] had as founders the sons of Lykaon; but Zoitia, some fifteen stades from Trikolonoi, not lying on the straight road but to the left of Trikolonoi, was founded, they say, by Zoiteus, the son of Trikolonos [son of Lykaon]. Paroreus, the younger of the sons of Trikolonos, also founded a city, in this case Paroria, ten stades distant from Zoitia. To-day both towns are without inhabitants . . . There are also other ruins of cities : of Thyraion, fifteen stades from Paroria, and of Hypsos, lying above the plain on a mountain which is also called Hypsos. The district between Thyraion and Hypsos is all mountainous and full of wild beasts. My narrative has already pointed out that Thyraios and Hypsos were sons of Lykaon."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 36. 10 :
"At the foot of this hill used to be a city Akakesion, and even to-day there is on the hill a stone image of Hermes Akakesios, the story of the Arkadians about it being that here the child Hermes was reared, and that Akakos the son of Lykaon became his foster-father."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 39. 2 :
"The story of Phigalos, the son of Lykaon, who was the original founder of the city [of Phigalia], how in course of time the city made a change and called itself after Phialos, the son of Boukolion, and again restored its old name, I have already set forth. Another account, but not worthy of credit, is current, that Phigalos was not a son of Lykaon but an aboriginal. Others have said that Phigalia was one of the Nymphai called Dryades."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 44. 1 :
"I have only to describe the road from Megalopolis to Pallantion and Tegea, which also takes us as far as what is called the Dyke. On this road is a suburb named Ladokeia after Ladokos, the son of Ekhemos, and after it is the site of what was in old times the city of Haimoniai. Its founder was Haimon the son of Lykaon, and the name of the place has remained Haimoniae to this day."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 45. 1 :
"The Tegeans say that in the time of Tegeates, son of Lykaon, only the district got its name from him, and that the inhabitants dwelt in parishes, Gareatai, Phylakenses, Karyatai, Korythenses, Potakhidai, Oiatai, Manthyrenses, Ekheuethenses."
[N.B. Korethon, son of Lykaon, mentioned by Apollodorus is the eponym of Korysthenes.]

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 48. 6 :
"[In the town of Tegea :] There are also here tombs of Tegeates, the son of Lykaon, and of Maira, the wife of Tegeates. They say that Maira was a daughter of Atlas, and Homer makes mention of her."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 21. 10 :
"According to the epic poem called the Great Eoiai . . . [the suitors] killed by Oenomaus [king of Pisa] . . . [included] Trikolonos, who, according to the Arkadians, was the descendant and namesake of Trikolonos, the son of Lykaon."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 25. 1 :
"Io, the daughter of Inakhos, and Kallisto, the daughter of Lykaon, of both of whom exactly the same story is told, to wit, love of Zeus, wrath of Hera, and metamorphosis, Io becoming a cow and Kallisto a bear."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 9. 5 :
"[Amongst the statues dedicated at Delphoi :] Next to this are offerings of the Tegeans from spoils of the Lakedaimonians : an Apollon, a Nike (Victory), the heroes of the country, Kallisto, daughter of Lykaon, Arkas, who gave Arkadia its name, Elatos, Apheidas, and Azan, the sons of Arkas, and also Triphylos."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 31. 10 :
"[Depicted in a painting by Polygnotos at Delphoi :] Higher up than these is Kallisto, daughter of Lykaon, Nomia . . . Kallisto has a bearskin, and her feet are lying on Nomia's knees. I have already mentioned that the Arkadians say that Nomia is a nymphe native to their country." [N.B. Nomia might be the mother of Kallisto.]

Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling


NuktimoV Nyktimos Nyctimus --
PallaV Pallas Pallas Of Pallantion (town)
OresqeuV Orestheus Orestheus Of Oresthasion
FigaloV Phigalos Phigalus Of Phigalia (town)
TrapezeuV Trapezeus Trapezeus Of Trapezoeis (town)
DaseataV Daseatas Daseatas Of Dasea (town)
MakareuV Makareus Macareus Of Makaria (town)
`Elisswn Helissôn Helisson Of Helisson (town)
OrcomenoV Orkhomenos Orchomenus Of Orkhomenos
AkakoV Akakos Acacus Of Akakesion
QoknoV Thoknos Thocnus Of Thoknia (town)
OrcomenoV Orkhomenos Orchomenus Of Orkhomenos
`UpsoV Hypsos Hypsus Of Hypsos (town)
MelaineuV Melaineus Melaeneus Of Melaineai (town)
`Aimwn Haimôn Haemon Of Haimoniai (town)
QuraioV Thyraios Thyraios Of Thyrion (town)
MainaloV Mainalos Maenalus Of Mainalos (town)
TegeathV Tegeatês Tegeates Of Tegea (town)
MantineuV Mantineus Mantineus Of Mantineia (town)
KrwmoV Krômos Cromus Of Kromoi (town)
CarisioV Kharisios Charisius Of Kharisia (town)
TrikolwnoV Trikolônos Tricolonus Of Trikolonoi (town)
PeraiqoV Peraithos Peraethus Of Peraithenses
AseathV Aseatês Aseates Of Asea (town)
Lukwn Lykôn Lycon Of Lycoa (town)
SoumateuV Soumateus Sumateus Of Soumatia (town)
AlifhroV Aliphêros Alipherus Of Aliphera (town)
`HraieuV Hêraieus Heraeeus Of Heraia (town)
OinwtroV Oinôtros Oenotrus Of Oinotria (town)

Anonymous (perhaps Pamprepius of Panopolis), Fragments (trans. Page, Vol. Select Papyri III, No. 140b) (Greek poetry C4th A.D.) :
"I will lift the veil from your remotest ancestry : Khthon (Earth) [i.e. Gaia] teemed of old and bore a son Azeios, who grew to manhood amid the mighty battles of the Titanes. Gigas (the giant) Azeios encountered a Nymphe with lover’s intent, and begot Lykon; and hero Lykon begot a fair maiden Deianeira. Now Pelasgos of old went up the fair couch of Deianeira when she was growing to womanhood; he was the dear son of Zeus Eleutherios (God of Freedom); and from her bed he got Lykaon, shepherd of the land of Arkadia."

Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks 2 (trans. Butterworth) (Greek Christian rhetoric C2nd A.D.) :
"Zeus himself shared a human table among the Aithiopians [Iliad 1.423], and an inhuman and unlawful table when feasting with Lykaon the Arkadian set before him, as a dainty dish, his own child, Nyktimos by name, whom he had slaughtered."

Clement of Alexandria, Recognitions 10. 21 (trans. Smith) :
"I shall now speak of his [Zeus'] adulteries . . . Callisto, the daughter of Lycaon, of whom [was born] Orcas [i.e. Arcas]."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 176 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Jove [Zeus] is said to have come as guest to Lycaon, son of Pelasgus, and to have seduced his daughter Callisto. From them Arcas was born, who named the land from his own name. But the sons of Lycaon wanted to test Jove, to see whether he was a god or not; they mixed human flesh with the other meat, and set it before him at a banquet. When he realized it, in anger he overturned the table, and slew the sons of Lycaon with a thunderolt. At that place Arcas later fortified a town which he called Trapezus. But for Lycaon, their father, Jupiter [Zeus] changed into the form lykon, that is, the form of a wolf."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 177 :
"Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, is said to have been changed into a bear by the wrath of Juno, because she had lain with Jove [Zeus]."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 155 :
"Sons of Jove [Zeus]. Arcas by Callisto, daughter of Lycaon."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 225 :
"Those who first built temples to the gods. Pelasgus, son of Triopas, first made a temple to Olympian Jove [Zeus] in Arcadia . . . Lycaon, son of Pelasgus, built a temple to Mercurius [Hermes] of Cyllene in Arcadia."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 274 :
"Inventors and their Inventions . . . The Arcadians first made offerings to the gods."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 1 :
"[Constellation] the Great Bear. Hesiod says she is named Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, who ruled in Arcadia . . . Taking away her maiden features, she [Artemis] changed her into the form of a bear, called arktos in Greek. In this form she bore Arcas.
But as Amphis, writer of comedies, says . . . Diana changed her into the shape we mentioned above.
[According to Hesiod, Amphis, or both? :] When wandering like a wild beast in the forest, she was caught by certain Aetolians and brought into Arcadia to King Lycaon along with her son as a gift, and there, in ignorance of the law, she is [later] said to have rushed into the temple of Jove Lycaeus . . .
Araethus of Tegea, however, writer of histories, says that she wasn’t Callisto, but Megisto, and wasn’t the daughter of Lycaon, but of Ceteus, and so granddaughter of Lycaon . . .
All this is shown to have taken place on the Arcadian mountain Nonacris."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 4 :
"[Constellation] Bear-Watcher. He is said to be Arcas, the son of Jove [Zeus] and Callisto, whom Lycaon served at a banquet, cut up with other meat, when Jupiter [Zeus] came to him as a guest. For Lycaon wanted to know whether the one who had asked for his hospitality was a god or not. For this deed he was punished by no slight punishment, for Jupiter, quickly overturning the table, burned the house with a thunderbolt, and turned Lycaon himself into a wolf. But the scattered limbs of the boy he put together, and gave him to a certain Aetolian to care for."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 6 :
"[Constellation the Kneeler :] Araethus, as we said before, calls this figure Ceteus, son of Lycaon, and father of Megisto."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 1. 163 ff (trans. Brookes More) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"When, from his throne supreme, [Zeus] the Son of Saturn viewed their [mankind's] deeds, he deeply groaned : and calling to his mind the loathsome feast Lycaon had prepared, a recent deed not common to report, his soul conceived great anger--worthy Jove [Zeus]--and he convened a council . . . [and] indignantly began to speak : `. . . Now must I utterly destroy this mortal race wherever Nereus [i.e. the sea] roars around the world . . . [for] I, your sovereign lord, the Thunder-bolt Controller, am ensnared by fierce Lycaon.'
Ardent in their wrath, the astonished Gods demand revenge overtake this miscreant; he who dared commit such crimes . . . and as indignant clamour ceased, suppressed by regnant majesty, Jove once again broke the deep silence with imperial words : `Dismiss your cares; he paid the penalty however all the crime and punishment now learn from this:--An infamous report of this unholy age had reached my ears, and wishing it were false, I sloped my course from high Olympus, and--although a god--disguised in human form I viewed the world. It would delay us to recount the crimes unnumbered, for reports were less than truth. I traversed Maenalus where fearful dens abound, over Lycaeus, wintry slopes of pine tree groves, across Cyllene steep; and as the twilight warned of night's approach, I stopped in that Arcadian tyrant's realms and entered his inhospitable home:--and when I showed his people that a god had come, the lowly prayed and worshiped me, but this Lycaon mocked their pious vows and scoffing said; "A fair experiment will prove the truth if this be god or man." and he prepared to slay me in the night,--to end my slumbers in the sleep of death. So made he merry with his impious proof; but not content with this he cut the throat of a Molossian hostage sent to him, and partly softened his still quivering limbs in boiling water, partly roasted them on fires that burned beneath. And when this flesh was served to me on tables, I destroyed his dwelling and his worthless Household Gods, with thunder bolts avenging. Terror struck he took to flight, and on the silent plains is howling in his vain attempts to speak; he raves and rages and his greedy jaws, desiring their accustomed slaughter, turn against the sheep--still eager for their blood. His vesture separates in shaggy hair, his arms are changed to legs; and as a wolf he has the same grey locks, the same hard face, the same bright eyes, the same ferocious look. Thus fell one house, but not one house alone deserved to perish; over all the earth ferocious deeds prevail,--all men conspire in evil. Let them therefore feel the weight of dreadful penalties so justly earned, for such hath my unchanging will ordained.'"

Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 496 ff :
"The youth of Arcas, offspring of Lycaon's child [i.e. Kallisto] . . .
[Hera curses when Kallisto is placed amongst the stars : `Let him [Zeus] now divorce his Juno [Hera] and consort with her, and lead Calisto to his couch, and take that wolf, Lycaon, for a father-in-law!"

Ovid, Fasti 2. 172 ff (trans. Frazer) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Kallisto] to whom the goddess [Artemis] spake : `Daughter of Lycaon forsworn, forsake the company of maids and defile not the pure waters.'"

Ovid, Fasti 6. 235 ff :
"On the third morn after the Nones it is said that Phoebe [the moon] chases away Lycaon, and the Bear has none behind her to fear."
[N.B. Here the constellation Arctophylax (the Bear-Watcher) is Lykaon, father of Kallisto the Bear.]

Virgil, Georgics 1. 137 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"The mariner grouped and named the stars, Pleiades and Hyades and Lycaon’s daughter [Kallisto], the radiant Bear."

Statius, Thebaid 7. 404 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) : :
"They heed not the portents that chance, the herald of doom, with ominous presage strews thickly in their path; for birds and beasts give awful warnings . . . The Arcadians say that in the silence of the night Lycaon’s shade barked madly [i.e. the ghost of the wolf]."

Statius, Thebaid 11. 126 ff :
"Let no gods countenance such a crime, let it be hid from Jove [Zeus]; enough is it to have seen the deadly feast of Tantalus and the guilty altars of Lycaon."
[N.B. Both Tantalos and Lykaon served Zeus a meal of their sons.]

Suidas s.v. Lykaon (trans. Suda Online) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Lykaon, the son of Pelasgos, king of the Arkadians, justly guarded the instructions of his father. And because he too wanted to keep his subjects from injustice he said that Zeus came to him all the time, in the guise of a mortal guest, to inspect both the just and unjust. And one time, preparing to entertain the god [at dinner] (as he put it), he made a sacifice. Those present at the sacrifice wanted to know whether they really were going to having a god as their guest; and, since Lykaon had fifty sons, as they say, from many wives, they sacrificed one of his children and mixed him in with the meat of the sacrifice, so that they would not fail to learn whether a god was really coming. Then great storms and lightning strikes were sent by the divine, and they say all the child’s murderers perished."


The word lycanthrope (Greek lykanthropos, meaning "wolf-man" or "werewolf") had its origins in the cult of Zeus on Mount Lykaios in Arkadia. It was here, according to Greek myth, that King Lykaon sacrificed an infant to the god and was transformed into a wolf. Local legend went on to recount that an initiate into the secret rites of the Zeus Lykaios would undergo a similar metamorphosis, being transformed into wolf for a period of nine years. If he abstained from human flesh during this period, he would regain his human form.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 2. 1 - 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Lykaon brought a human baby to the altar of Zeus Lykaios, and sacrificed it, pouring out its blood upon the altar, and according to the legend immediately after the sacrifice he was changed from a man to a wolf (lykos) . . .
All through the ages, many events that have occurred in the past, and even some that occur to-day, have been generally discredited because of the lies built up on a foundation of fact. It is said, for instance, that ever since the time of Lykaon a man has changed into a wolf at the sacrifice to Zeus Lykaios, but that the change is not for life; if, when he is a wolf, he abstains from human flesh, after nine years he becomes a man again, but if he tastes human flesh he remains a beast for ever."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 38. 6 - 7 :
"Among the marvels of Mount Lykaios the most wonderful is this. On it is a precinct of Zeus Lykaios, into which people are not allowed to enter. If anyone takes no notice of the rule and enters, he must inevitably live no longer than a year. A legend, moreover, was current that everything alike within the precinct, whether beast or man, cast no shadow. For this reason when a beast takes refuge in the precinct, the hunter will not rush in after it, but remains outside, and though he sees the beast can behold no shadow . . . On the highest point of the mountain [Lykaios] is a mound of earth, forming an altar of Zeus Lykaios, and from it most of the Peloponnesos can be seen. Before the altar on the east stand two pillars, on which there were of old gilded eagles. On this altar they sacrifice in secret to Zeus Lykaios. I was reluctant to pry into the details of the sacrifice; let them be as they are and were from the beginning."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 8. 2 :
"[On the statues of Olympic victors dedicated at Olympia :] As to the boxer, by name Damarkhos, an Arkadian of Parrhasia, I cannot believe (except, of course, his Olympic victory) what romancers say about him, how he changed his shape into that of a wolf at the sacrifice of Zeus Lyakaios (Wolf), and how nine years after he became a man again. Nor do I think that the Arkadians either record this of him, otherwise it would have been recorded as well in the inscription at Olympia."

N.B. Pliny the Elder and several Christian writers of the Roman era--Augustine, Porphyry and Eusebius--also describe the cult.


  • Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragments - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
  • Hesiod, Astronomy Fragments - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
  • Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Callimachus, Hymns - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
  • Theocritus Idylls - Greek Bucolic C3rd B.C.
  • Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
  • Greek Papyri III Anonymous, Fragments - Greek Poetry C4th A.D.
  • Clement, Exhortations - Greek Christian Rhetoric C2nd A.D.
  • Clement, Recognitions - Greek Christian Rhetoric C2nd A.D.
  • Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
  • Ovid, Fasti - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
  • Virgil, Georgics - Latin Bucolic C1st B.C.
  • Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
  • Suidas - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.

Other references not currently quoted here : Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 481; Scholiast on Euripides Orestes 1645; Nonnus, Dionysiaca 18.20; Arnobius, Adversus Nationes iv.24; Eratosthenes, Catasterismi 8; Scholia in Caesaris Germanici Aratea 387; Lactantius Placidus on Statius' Thebaid 9.128; First Vatican Mythographer 17; Plato Republic 8.565d-e; Pliny, Natural History 8.81; Augustine, De civitate Dei 18.17; Porphyry, De abstinentia 1.27; Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelii 4.16.6