Web Theoi
ERINYES 6
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Names Translation
Ερινυς
Ερινυες
Erinys
Erinyes
Furia, Dira
Furiae, Dirae
Murky, Dark, Misty
Ones (eêroeis)
OTHER ERINYES PAGES
Erinyes 1 Introduction
Erinyes 2 Curses
Erinyes 3 Curses: Oidipous
Erinyes 4 Curses Orestes
Erinyes 5 Curses, Divine Wrath

THE ERINYES were the three goddess avengers of the crimes of murder, unfilial conduct, impiety and perjury. This page describes their role as bringers of signs of ill-omen, their birds and animals, as well as cult, titles and epithets.


ERINYES MESSENGERS OF ILL-OMEN

The Erinyes were sometimes thought responsible for signs of ill-omen: in particular the fifth day of the month, but also the untimely appearance of a cursed screech-owl, an ill-omened bird associated with the gods of the underworld, or signs of divine ill-will surrounding a sacrificial offering.

I) ILL-OMENED FIFTH DAY OF THE MONTH

Hesiod, Works and Days 802 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"Avoid fifth days: they are unkindly and terrible. On a fifth day, they say, the Erinyes assisted at the birth of Horkos (Oath) whom Eris (Strife) bare to trouble the forsworn."

Virgil, Georgics 1. 276 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"Luna (the Moon) herself has ordained various days in various grades as lucky for work. Shun the fifth; then pale Orcus [Horkos] and the Eumenides [Erinyes] were born."

II) ILL-OMENED SOLAR ECLIPSE

A solar eclipse was regarded as a sign of ill-omen.

Pindar, Paean 9 (trans. Sandys) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"O star supreme [the Sun], reft from us in the daytime [in a solar eclipse]! Why hast thou perplexed the power of man and the way of wisdom, by rushing forth on a darksome track? Art thou bringing on us some new and strange disaster? Yet, by Zeus, I implore thee, thou swift driver divine of steeds! Do thou, O queen [the Erinys?]! Change this world-wide portent into some painless blessing for Thebes.
Is it because, in thine [Helios and/or the Erinys?] anger at the presumptuous sons of mortals, thou art unwilling utterly to blot out the pure light of life? But art thou bringing a sign of some war, or wasting of produce, or an unspeakable violent snow-storm, or fatal faction, or again, some overflowing of the sea on the plain, or frost to blind the earth, or heat of the south-wind streaming with raging rain? Or wilt thou, by deluging the land, cause the race of men to begin anew? I in no wise lament whate’er I shall suffer with all the rest."

Statius, Thebaid 1. 97 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Dies (Day) [here Helios the Sun] felt her presence [an Erinys summoned forth from Haides], Nox (Night) interposed her pitchy cloud [in a solar eclipse] and startled his [the Sun's] shining steeds [an omen for the doomed campaign of the Seven Against Thebes]."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38. 19 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"For as the darkness blotted out and covered the light of shining day [in a solar eclipse], and then Helios (the Sun) rose again in his fireshining chariot and dispersed the gross darkness, so you [Dionysos] also shall shake from your eyes far far away the darksome sightless gloom of the Tartarian Erinyes, and blaze again on the battlefield like Hyperion (the Sun). So great a marvel ancient [the eclipse] eternal Khronos (Time) our foster-father has brought."

III) ILL-OMENED SCREECH-OWL

Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 428 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"When they [the Tereus and Prokne] were married [a couple doomed to destroy their family with slaughter] . . . The Eumenides [Erinyes] held the [wedding] torches, torches seized from mourners' hands; the Eumenides made their bed. An unclean screech-owl like a nightmare sat above their chamber one the palace roof. That bird [or omen] haunted the couple’s union, that bird [or omen] haunted their parenthood."

Virgil, Aeneid 12. 848 ff (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"Two demon fiends there are, called by the name of Furiae [Erinyes], whom darkest Nox (Night) brought forth at one and the same birth with hellish Megaera, breeding all three alike with the twining coils of serpents and giving them wings like the wind. These creatures attend on Juppiter's [Zeus'] throne, at the house of heaven’s stern ruler, ready to stab fear into the hearts of anguished mortals whenever the king of the gods is dealing out pestilences and hideous death, or affrighting guilty cities with war. Juppiter [Zeus] now sent one of these demons hurrying down from heaven, to confront Juturna with a forbidding omen. Off she flew, and swiftly was borne to earth in a whirlwind. Just as an arrow flies through the clouds from a bowstring - a shaft whose tip some Parthian or Cretan archer has doped with a deadly poison, and then shot it; fatal the wound it will give - whirring and unsuspected it flies through the mirk of the clouds; so sped the spawn of Nox (Night) upon her way to the earth. When she could see the Trojan lines and Turnus’ army, she suddenly dwindled and changed into the shape of that small owl which often at night, when no one’s about, perches on tombs or gables, and hoots for hours disquieting through the darkness. Thus transformed, the Furia [Erinys] flittered about the face of Turnus, screeching, and kept on bumping his shield with her wings [as an ill-omen, predicting his death in the coming battle]. The thing was so uncanny that he went numb with fear and his hair stood on end, and the voice died in his throat. But Juturna recognised from afar the creaking wings of the demon. It broke her spirit: she rent her dishevelled hair, scratched at her cheeks and beat her breast in grief for her brother."

IV) ILL-OMENED SACRIFICE

Statius, Thebaid 11. 47 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"The Tyrian chieftain [Eteokles king of Thebes] was offering in vain to Jove [Zeus] the sacrifice that his lightning stroke had won, thinking that the Danaans [the invading army of the Argives] were disarmed. But neither the celestial Sire nor any of the gods were at his altars, but baneful Tisiphone mingling with the affrighted attendants stands near, and to the infernal Thunderer [Haides] turned aside his prayers . . . The murky flame leapt forth [from the sacrificial altar] against his face and cheeks, and seized and burnt the diadem on his locks. Then still unsmitten the angry [sacrificial] bull beflecked the shrine with bloody foam, and dashed wildly through the opposing concourse, bearing the altar upon his frenzied horns [a sign of ill-omen]. The ministers scatter, and the soothsayer strives to console the king."

V) ILL-OMENED MARRIAGE

Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 428 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"When they [the Tereus and Prokne] were married [a couple doomed to destroy their family with slaughter] . . . The Eumenides [Erinyes] held the [wedding] torches, torches seized from mourners’ hands; the Eumenides made their bed. An unclean screech-owl like a nightmare sat above their chamber one the palace roof. That bird [or omen] haunted the couple’s union, that bird [or omen] haunted their parenthood."

Ovid, Heroides 2. 116 ff (trans. Showerman) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Phyllis, forsaken by Demophoon, laments :] To you, on whom mid omens all sinister my maiden innocence was first bestowed, and whose guileful hand ungirdled my chaste zone! Tisiphone was minister at that bridal, with shrieks, and the bird that shuns the haunts of men chanted her mournful note; Allecto was there, with little serpents coiled about her neck, and the lights that waved were torches of the tomb!"

Ovid, Heroides 6. 43 ff :
"[Hypsipyle, forsaken by Jason, laments :] Alas! where is the faith that was promised me? Where the bonds of wedlock, and the marriage torch? . . . Juno [Hera] was there to join us when we were wed, and Hymen, his temples bound with wreaths. And yet neither Juno nor Hymen, but gloomy Erinys, stained with blood, carried before me the unhallowed torch." [N.B. The Erinys is represented carrying the wedding torch in place of Hymen, since the marriage was doomed.]

Ovid, Heroides 7. 93 ff :
"[Dido, forsaken by Aeneas, laments :] That dreadful day was my ruin, when sudden downpour of rain from the deep-blue heaven drove us to shelter in the lofty grot [and there they consumated their union]. I had heard a voice; I thought it a cry of the nymphae--‘twas the Eumenides sounding the signal for my doom!"

Ovid, Heroides 11. 101 ff :
"[Kanake, who has committed incest with her brother, and whose father has sent a sword to end her life, laments :] Take away afar, deluded Hymenaeus, thy wedding-torches, and fly with frightened foot from these nefarious halls! Bring for me the torches ye bear, Erinyes dark, and let my funeral pyre blaze bright from the fires ye give! Wed happily under a better fate, O my sisters."


ATTENDANTS OF THE ERINYES

THE HARPYIAI & DAUGHTERS OF PANDAREUS

The Harpyiai were tormenting storm-daimones closely associated with the Erinyes. In the story of Phineus, Zeus sends an Erinys to rob him of his site, and the Erinyes to plague, as punishment for his crimes against the gods.

In another tale, the Harpyiai snatch away the maiden daughters of Pandareos, to serve as handmaidens of the Erinyes.

Homer, Odyssey 20. 61 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The Thuellai (Storm-Winds) bore off the daughters of Pandareus. The gods long before had slain their parents, and the girls were left orphans in their house. But Lady Aphrodite had nurtured them . . . But when Aphrodite went up to high Olympos to entreat Zeus to let these girls attain the moment of happy marriage . . . meanwhile the Harpyiai (storm-spirits) snatched them away and delivered them to the ministrations of the detested Erinyes."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 30. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Aphrodite ascended into heaven, wishing to secure for the girls [the daughters of Pandareus who she raised] a happy marriage, and in her absence they were carried off by the Harpyiai and given by them to the Erinnyes. This is the story as given by Homer."

MANIA, PENTHOS, & OTHER DAIMONES

Various other abstract Daimones were described as attendant on the Erinyes: such as Ara (Curse), Mania (Madness), and Penthos (Grief).

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 5. 520 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"The nightmare-fiend of Mania (Madness) havoc-breathing [after driving Aias or Ajax mad] passed swiftly to the rock-walled river Styx where dwell the winged Erinnyes, they which still visit with torments overweening men."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 451 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[The Erinys] Tisiphone seized a torch steeped in blood, put on a robe all red with dripping gore and wound a snake about her waist, and started from her home; and with her as he went were Luctus (Grief) and Pavor (Dread), Terror (Terror), and Insania (Madness) too with frantic face."

Suidas s.v. Persephone (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"O holy Ara (Curse) and divine Erinnyes (Furies)! You who watch over those dying unjustly."


SACRED PLANTS & ANIMALS OF THE ERINYES

The sacred animal of the Erinyes was the poisonous serpent, a chthonian beast associated with the Underworld, suffering and death. Their sacred bird was the screech owl, a nocturnal bird of ill omen, closely associated with curses and the gods of the dead.

I) SACRED ANIMAL: POISONOUS SERPENT

Poisonous serpents were sacred to the Erinyes, who were described with snakes entwining their hair, arms and waist.

For DESCRIPTIONS of serpent-bedecked Erinyes see:
Physical Descriptions of Erinyes (previous page)

II) SACRED BIRD: SCREECH OWL

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 28 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"In the Land of the Dead they [the Gigantes Aloadai] are said to suffer this punishment: they are bound by serpents to a column, back to back. Between them is a [reputedly blood-drinking] screech-owl, sitting on the column to which they are bound."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 428 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"When they [the doomed Tereus and Prokne] were married . . . The Eumenides [Erinyes] held the [wedding] torches, torches seized from mourners’ hands; the Eumenides made their bed [as an omen of what was to come]. An unclean screech-owl like a nightmare sat above their chamber one the palace roof. That bird [or omen] haunted the couple’s union, that bird [or omen] haunted their parenthood."

Virgil, Aeneid 12. 848 ff (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"She [the Erinys] suddenly dwindled and changed into the shape of that small owl which often at night, when no one’s about, perches on tombs or gables, and hoots for hours disquieting through the darkness. Thus transformed, the Furia [Erinys] flittered about the face of Turnus, screeching, and kept on bumping his shield with her wings. The thing was so uncanny that he went numb with fear and his hair stood on end, and the voice died in his throat. But Juturna recognised from afar the creaking wings of the [ill-omened] demon."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 31. 70 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Megaira cast off the terrible serpent shape, and waited there in the form of an owl."

III) SACRED BIRD: DUSKY TURTLE-DOVE

Aelian, On Animals 10. 33 (trans. Schofield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"White Turtle-doves are often to be seen. These, they say, are sacred to Aphrodite and Demeter, while the other kind [the more common dusky turtle-dove] is sacred to the Moirai (Fates) and the Erinyes."

IV) SACRED TREE: THE YEW

Statius, Thebaid 4. 410 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"For those who died in crime . . . be thou their leader, Tisiphone, go on before with snake thrice brandished and blazing yew-branch."

Statius, Thebaid 8. 10 ff :
"Upon the Stygian shores . . . not yet had the Eumenis [Erinys] met and purified him with branch of yew, not had Proserpine [Persephone ] marked him on the dusky door-post as admitted to the company of the dead."


HYMNS TO THE ERINYES

Orphic Hymn 69 to the Erinyes (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"To the Erinyes (Furies), Fumigation from Aromatics. Vociferous wild Erinyes hear! Ye I invoke, dread powers, whom all revere; nightly, profound, in secret who retire, Tisiophone, Alekto, and Megaira dire: deep in a cavern merged, involved in night, near where Styx flows impervious to sight. To mankind’s impious counsels ever nigh, fateful, and fierce to punish these you fly. Revenge and sorrows dire to you belong, hid in a savage vest, severe and strong. Terrific virgins, who for ever dwell, endued with various forms, in deepest hell; aerial, and unseen by human kind, and swiftly coursing, rapid as the mind. In vain the sun with winged effulgence bright, in vain the moon far darting milder light, wisdom and virtue may attempt in vain, and pleasing art, our transport to obtain; unless with these you readily conspire, and far avert your all-destructive ire. The boundless tribe of mortals you descry, and justly rule with Dike’s (Justice’s) impartial eye. Come, snaky-haired, Moirai (Fates) many-formed, divine, suppress you rage, and to our rites incline."

Orphic Hymn 70 to the Eumenides :
"To the Eumenides (Kindly Ones) [Erinyes], Fumigation from Aromatics. Hear me, illustrious Eumenides, mighty named, terrific powers, for prudent counsel famed; holy and pure, from Zeus Khthonios [Haides] born, and Phersephone, whom lovely locks adorn: whose piercing sight with vision unconfined surveys the deeds of all the impious kind. On fate attendant, punishing the race with wrath severe, of deeds unjust and base. Dark-coloured queens, whose glittering eyes are bright with dreadful, radiant, life-destroying light: eternal rulers, terrible and strong, to whom revenge and tortures dire belong; fateful, and horrid to the human sight, with snaky tresses, wandering in the night: hither approach, and in these rites rejoice, for ye I call with holy suppliant voice."

ENCYCLOPEDIA ERINYES TITLES

MEILI′CHIUS (Meilichios), i. e. the god that can be propitiated, or the gracious, is used as a surname of several divinities. The plural theoi meilichioi is also applied to certain divinities whom mortals used to propitiate with sacrifices at night, that they might avert all evil, as e. g. at Myonia in the country of the Ozolian Locrians. (Paus. x. 38. § 4; comp. Orph. E. 30.)

PATROUS, PATROA (Patrôios, Patrôia) . . . Among the Romans we find the divinities avenging the death of parents, that is, the Furiae or Erinnyes, designated as Patrii Dii. (Cic. in Ferr. ii. 1, 3 ; comp. Liv. xl. 10.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


TITLES & EPITHETS OF THE ERINYES

The Erinyes had a number of euphemistic titles. Like many underworld gods they were preferably invoked with tempering names.

Greek Name Transliteration Latin Names Translation
Ευμενιδες Eumenides Eumenides Well-Disposed, Kind,
Gracious (eumenês)
Σεμναι Semai Semnae Revered, August,
Holy (semnos)
Μειλιχιοι Meilikhioi Milichii Gentle, Soothing,
Mild (meilikhios)
Πραξιδικαι Praxidikai Praxidicae Exacters of Justice
(praxis, dikê)
Ποιναι Poinai Poenae Retributions (poinê)
Μανιαι Maniai Maniae Madnesses (mania)
Αραι Arai Arae Curses (arai)
Δασπληται Dasplêtai Dapletae Horrid, Frightful
(daplêtis)
Αει Παρθενους Aei Parthenous Aee Parthenous Eternal-Virgins
(parthenos)
Τελφουσια Telphousia Telphusia Bring-Forth Dues
(phousa, telos)
Τιλφουσσα Tilphoussa Tilphussa Bring-Forth Dues
(phuô, telos)
Κυνης Εγκοτοι Kynês Enkotoi Cunes Encoti Hounds of Wrath

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 28. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The goddesses which the Athenians call Semnai (August), but Hesiod in the Theogony calls them Erinyes (Furies)."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 11. 4 :
"The goddesses [Erinyes] named by the Athenians Semnai (August), and by the Sikyonians Eumenides (Kindly Ones)."

Suidas s.v. Alla d' allachou kala (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Alla d' allachou kala (Different (names) are good in different places): Inasmuch as different men call the Eumenides by different names. So other names are judged good by other people, but we prefer to call them Eumenides (Favoring Ones) by euphemism instead of Erinnyes (Furies)."

Suidas s.v. Daspleta :
"Daspleta (Hellish): She who approaches for evil . . . For the Erinnys (Fury) is hellish (daspleta)."

Suidas s.v. Eumenides :
"Eumenides (Kindly Ones) . . . Aiskhylos in Eumenides, speaking of the trial of Orestes, says that Athena soothed the Erinnyes (Furies) [at Athens] so as to end their hostility to Orestes, and named them Eumenides (Kindly Ones)."

Suidas s.v. Aei parthenous :
"Aei parthenous (Eternal virgins): The Erinnyes. This is legendary. It is necessary to consider them incorruptible and [that they] never stained their powers with bribes from wrong-doers. Sophokles [writes]: 'I invoke as helpmates the eternal virgins, the awesome far-striding Erinnyes."


CULT IN ATTICA (SOUTHERN GREECE)

I) ATHENS Chief City of Attika

Callimachus, Fragment 123 (from Scholiast on Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus 489) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"And evermore to burn for them [the Eumenides] honey-sweet cakes is the duty of the sober priestesses, the Hesykhides (Of the Quiet, Of the Still) [the descendants of the Athenian hero Hesykhos had charge of the worship of the Eumenides ]."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 28. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Hard by [the Areopagos or Hill of Ares, the murder court of Athens] is a sanctuary of the goddesses which the Athenians call Semnai (August), but Hesiod in the Theogony calls them Erinyes (Furies). It was Aiskhylos (Aeschylus) who first represented them with snakes in their hair. But on the images neither of these nor or any of the underworld deities is there anything terrible. There are images of Plouton [Haides], Hermes and Ge (Earth), by which sacrifice those who have received an acquittal on the Areopagos; sacrifices are also offered on other occasions by both citizens and aliens. Within the precincts is a monument to [the hero] Oidipous, whose bones, after diligent inquiry, I found were brought from Thebes."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 25. 2 :
"The disaster that befell Helike is but one of the many proofs that the wrath of [Zeus] Hikesios (the God of Suppliants) is inexorable. The god at Dodona too manifestly advises us to respect suppliants. For about the time of [the historical] Apheidas the Athenians received from Zeus of Dodona the following verses: - `Consider the Areopagos, and the smoking altars of the Eumenides, where the Lakedaimonians are to be thy suppliants, when hard-pressed in war. Kill them not with the sword, and wrong not suppliants. For suppliants are sacred and holy.'
The Greeks were reminded of these words when Peloponnesians [army] arrived at Athens at the time when the Athenian king was [the historical] Kodros, the son of Melanthos. Now the rest of the Peloponnesian army, on learning of the death of Kodros and of the manner of it, departed from Attika, the oracle from Delphoi making them despair of success in the future; but certain Lakedaimonians, who got unnoticed within the walls in the night, perceived at daybreak that their friends had gone, and when the Athenians gathered against them, they took refuge in the Areopagos at the altars of the goddesses called Semnai (the August). On this occasion the Athenians allowed the suppliants to go away unharmed."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 34. 1 :
"Historians of Peloponnesian antiquities say that what Klytaimnestra's Erinyes did to Orestes in Arkadia [drove him to madness, see Megalopolis below] took place before the trial at the Areopagos; that his accuser was not Tyndareus, who no longer lived, but Perilaos, who asked for vengeance for the mother's murder in that he was a cousin of Klytaimnestra."

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 18 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"If Hecate is a goddess, why are no the Eumenides [Erinyes]? And if they are goddesses, - and they have a temple at Athens, and the Grove of Furina [Erinys] at Rome, if I interpret that name aright, also belongs to them, - then the Furiae [Erinyes] are goddesses, presumably in their capacity of detectors and avengers of crime and wickedness."

Suidas s.v. Eumenides (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Aiskhylos in Eumenides, speaking of the trial of Orestes, says that Athena soothed the Erinnyes (Furies) [at Athens] so as to end their hostility to Orestes, and named them Eumenides (Kindly Ones)."

II) PHYLA & MYRRHINOS Villages in Attika (Southern Greece)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 31. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Phyla and Myrrhinos [in Attika] have altars of . . . [various gods including] Kore Protogone (First born) and the goddesses styled Semnai (August) [the Erinyes]."


CULT IN SIKYONIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)

I) Near TITANE Town in Sikyonia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 11. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[On the road to Titane, Sikyonia] on the other side of the Asopos River, is a grove of holm oaks and a temple of the goddesses named by the Athenians Semnai (August), and by the Sikyonians Eumenides (Kindly Ones). On one day in each year they celebrate a festival to them and offer sheep big with young as a burnt offering, and they are accustomed to use a libation of honey and water, and flowers instead of garlands. They practise similar rites at the altar of the Moirai (Fates); it is in an open space in the grove."

Statius, Thebaid 4. 52 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Elisson [a river of Sikyonia] winding through his curving banks. An awful privilege has that river: it cleanses, so ‘tis said, with its austere waters the Stygian Eumenides [Erinyes]; here are they wont to dip their faces and the horned snakes that gasp from drinking Phlegethon, whether they have ruined Thrakian homes [Tereus and Prokne] or Mycenae’s impious palace [Agamemnon and Klytaimnestra] or Cadmus’ dwelling [Oidipous]; the River itself flees from them as they bathe, and its pools grow livid with countless poisons the River itself flees from them as they bathe, and its pools grow livid with countless poisons."


CULT IN LAKEDAIMONIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)

I) MIGONION Village in Lakedaimonia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 22. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"But when Menelaos had taken Ilion [Troy] and had returned safe home eight years after the sack of Troy, he set up near the sanctuary of Migonitis [of Aphrodite founded by Paris at Migonion, Lakedaimon] an image of Thetis and the goddesses Praxidikai (Exacters of Justice) [Erinyes]."


CULT IN AKHAIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)

I) KERYNEIA Town in Akhaia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 25. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"In Keryneia [in Akhaia] is a sanctuary of the Eumenides (Kindly Ones) [the Erinyes], which they say was established by Orestes. Whosoever enters with the desire to see the sights, if he be guilty of bloodshed, defilement or impiety, is said at once to become insane with fright, and for this reason the right to enter is not given to all and sundry. The images made of wood . . . they are not very large in size, and at the entrance to the sanctuary are statues of women, made of stone and of artistic workmanship. The natives said that the women are portraits of the former priestesses of the Eumenides."


CULT IN ARKADIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)

I) MEGALOPOLIS Chief City of Arkadia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 34. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Near Megalopolis in Arkadia] is a sanctuary of goddesses. They call the goddesses themselves, as well as the district around the sanctuary, Maniai (Madnesses). In my view this is a surname of the Eumenides [Erinyes]; in fact they say that it was here that madness overtook Orestes as punishment for shedding his mother’s blood. Not far from the sanctuary is a mound of earth, of no great size, surmounted by a finger made of stone; the name, indeed, of the mound is the Tomb of the Finger. Here, it is said, Orestes on losing his wits bit off one finger of one of his hands [in his Erinys-driven madness]. Another sanctuary called Ake (Remedies) because in it Orestes was cured of his malady. Near to the place called Ake is another [text missing] a sanctuary called [text missing] because here Orestes cut off his hair on coming to his senses.
Here too it a sanctuary of the Eumenides. The story is that, when these goddesses were about to put Orestes out of his mind, they appeared to him black; but when he had bitten off his finger they seemed again to be white and he recovered his senses at the sight. So he offered a sin-offering to the black goddesses to avert their wrath, while to the white deities he sacrifices a thank-offering. It is customary to sacrifice to the Kharites (Graces) [perhaps rather the Semnai] also along with the Eumenides.
Historians of Peloponnesian antiquities say that what Klytaimnestra's Erinyes did to Orestes in Arkadia took place before the trial at the Areopagos; that his accuser was not Tyndareus, who no longer lived, but Perilaos, who asked for vengeance for the mother's murder in that he was a cousin of Klytaimnestra."

II) THELPOUSA Town in Arkadia

The Erinys of the goddess Demeter was worshipped at Thelpousa. Demeter was either the Erinys itself or the Erinys personified the wrath of the goddess. She was closely identified with the Erinys Tilphousa of Boiotia.

Lycophron, Alexandra 1035 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"For never will the ally of Dike (Justice), the Hound Telphousia that dwells by the streams of Ladon, allow the murderer to touch with his feet his fatherland, if he has not spent a great year in exile."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 25. 3-7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"From Halos [in Arkadia] it [the river Thelpousa] descends to Thaliades and a sanctuary of Demeter Eleusinia. This sanctuary is on the borders of Thelpousa. In it are images, each no less than seven feet high, of Demeter, her daughter [Kore], and Dionysos, all alike of stone. After the sanctuary of Eleusinia the Ladon flows by the city Thelpousa on the left, situated on a high hill . . . After Thelpousa the Ladon descends to the sanctuary of Demeter in Onkeion. The Thelpousians call the goddess Erinys (Fury), and with them agrees Antimakhos also, who wrote a poem about the expedition of the Argives against Thebes. His verse runs thus:- `There, they say, is the seat of Demeter Erinys.'
Now Onkios was, according to tradition, a son of Apollon, and held sway in Thelpousian territory around the place Onkion; the goddess has the surname Erinys (Fury) for the following reason. When Demeter was wandering in search of her daughter, she was followed, it is said, by Poseidon, who lusted after her. So she turned, the story runs, into a mare, and grazed with the mares of Onkios; realizing that he was outwitted, Poseidon too changed into a stallion and enjoyed Demeter. At first, they say, Demeter was angry at what had happened, but later on she laid aside her wrath and wished to bathe in the Ladon. So the goddess has obtained two surnames, Erinys (Fury) because of her avenging anger, because the Arkadians call being wrathful 'being furious,' and Lousie (Bather) because she bathed in the Ladon [connected with the purification ritual].
The images in the temple are of wood, but their faces, hands and feet are of Parian marble. The image of Erinys (Fury) holds what is called the chest, and in her right hand a torch; her height I conjecture to be nine feet. Lousie (Bather) seemed to be six feet high. Those who think the image [of Lousie] to be Themis and not Demeter Lousie are, I would have them know, mistaken in their opinion. Demeter, they say, had by Poseidon a daughter [Despoine] . . . and a horse called Areion (Of Ares)."

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 8. 239 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"The coursers [immortal horses of Ares] which to roaring Boreas grim-eyed Erinnys bare, coursers that breathed life-blasting flame."
[This parentage of the horses of Ares is clearly connected with the birth of the horse Areion (Of Ares) by the Erinys Demeter of Thelpousa].

III) PHIGALIA Town in Arkadia (Southern Greece)

The Demeter Erinys of Thelpousa was also worshipped in Arkadian Phigalia.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 42. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Mount Elaios, is some thirty stades away from Phigalia [in Arkadia], and has a cave sacred to Demeter surnamed Melaina (Black). The Phigalians accept the account of the people of Thelpousa about the mating of Poseidon and Demeter . . . Afterwards, they say, angry with Poseidon and grieved at the rape of Persephone, she put on black apparel [as an Erinys] and shut herself up in this cavern for a long time. But when all the fruits of the earth were perishing, and the human race dying yet more through famine, no god, it seemed, knew where Demeter was in hiding, until Pan, they say, visited Arkadia. Roaming from mountain to mountain as he hunted, he came at last to Mount Elaios and spied Demeter, the state she was in and the clothes she wore. So Zeus learnt this from Pan, and sent the Moirai (Fates) to Demeter, who listened to the Moirai and laid aside her wrath, moderating her grief as well. For these reasons, the Phigalians say, they concluded that this cavern was sacred to Demeter and set up in it a wooden image. The image, they say, was made after this fashion. It was seated on a rock, like to a woman in all respects save the head. She had the head and hair of a horse, and there grew out of her head images of serpents and other beasts [like an Erinys]. Her tunic reached right to her feet; on one of her hands was a dolphin, on the other a dove [the dusky turtle-dove was sacred to the Erinyes]. Now why they had the image made after this fashion is plain to any intelligent man who is learned in traditions.
They say that they named her Melaina (Black) because the goddess had black apparel . . . It was mainly to see this Demeter that I came to Phigalia. I offered no burnt sacrifice to the goddess, that being a custom of the natives. But the rule for sacrifice by private persons, and at the annual sacrifice by the community of Phigalia, is to offer grapes and other cultivated fruits, with honeycombs and raw wool still full of its grease. These they place on the altar built before the cave, afterwards pouring oil over them. They have a priestess who performs the rites, and with her is the youngest of their 'sacrificers,' as they are called, who are citizens, three in number. There is a grove of oaks around the cave, and a cold spring rises from the earth."


CULT IN BOIOTIA (CENTRAL GREECE)

I) MT TILPHOUSIOS & HALIARTOS Mountain & Town in Boiotia

The shrine of the Erinyes at Tilphousa probably also functioned as a chthonian oracle, like those of Amphiaraus and Trophonios in the same region. The famed seer was said to have died upon drinking the waters of the spring, suggesting that his ghost became the oracular spirit of the shrine. The Tilphousian Erinys was closely identified with that of Thelpousa in Arkadia.

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 7. 3 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When they [the Theban refugees] had come by night to the spring called Tilphoussa, Tiresias drank of it and expired."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 33. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Mount Tilphousios [in Boiotia] and the spring called Tilphusa are about fifty stades away from Haliartos. The Greeks declare that the Argives, along with the sons of Polyneikes, after capturing Thebes, were bringing Teiresias and some other of the spoil to the god at Delphoi, when Teiresias, being thirsty, drank by the wayside of the Tilphousa, and forthwith gave up the ghost; his grave is by the spring . . .
At Haliartos [in Boiotia] there is in the open a sanctuary of the goddesses they call Praxidikai (Those who exact punishments) [the Erinyes]. Here they swear, but they do not make the oaths rashly. The sanctuary of the goddesses is near Mt Tilphousios."

For MORE information on the Nymphe Telphousa see TELPHOUSA
(She was probably identified with the Erinys, especially in the story where the purifying god Apollon buries her beneath the rocks of Mt Tilphousios)


CULT IN LOKRIS (CENTRAL GREECE)

I) MYONIA Town in Lokris

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 38. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[Myonia, Lokris] has a grove and an altar of the Meilikhioi (Gracious Gods) [the Erinyes]. The sacrifices to the Meilikhioi are offered at night, and their rule is to consume the meat on the spot before sunrise."


CULT IN LATIUM (CENTRAL ITALY)

I) ROME Chief City of Latium

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 18 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"The Eumenides . . . have a temple at Athens, and the Grove of Furina [Erinys] at Rome, if I interpret that name aright, also belongs to them."


Sources:

  • Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
  • Hesiod, Works & Days - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
  • Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Callimachus, Fragments - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
  • Lycophron, Alexandra - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
  • Theocritus Idylls - Greek Bucolic C3rd B.C.
  • Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
  • Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
  • The Orphic Hymns - Greek Hymns C3rd B.C. - C2nd A.D.
  • Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - C3rd AD
  • Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
  • Ovid, Heroides - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
  • Virgil, Aeneid - Latin Epic C1st B.C.
  • Virgil, Georgics - Latin Bucolic C1st B.C.
  • Cicero, De Natura Deorum - Latin Philosophy C1st B.C.
  • Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
  • Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
  • Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
  • Suidas - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.