Web Theoi
HYADES
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Name Translation
Ὑας
Ὑαδες
Hyas
Hyades
Sucula
Suculae
Rainy Ones
(hyô, hyetos)

THE HYADES were the nymphs of the five stars of the constellation Hyades. They were daughters of the Titan Atlas who bore the starry dome of heaven upon his shoulders. After their brother Hyas was killed by a lion, the tear-soaked sisters were placed amongst the stars as the constellation Hyades. Hyas himself was transformed into the constellation Aquarius. The heliacal setting of their constellation in November marked the start of the rainy season in Greece, hence the star nymphs were known as "the Rainy Ones."

According to Nonnus the Hyades were the same as the Lamides nurses of the god Dionysos. The Hyades were also closely identified with the Nysiades and Nymphai Naxiai, the other reputed nurses of the god. The Hyades were also connected with the Naiades Mysiai, in which their brother Hyas is apparently substituted for a lover, Hylas.

PARENTS
[1.1] ATLAS & PLEIONE (Hyginus Fabulae 192)
[1.2] ATLAS & AITHRA (Musaeus Frag, Hyginus Astronomica 2.21, Ovid Fasti 5.164)
[2.1] HYAS & BOIOTIA (Hyginus Astronomica 2.21)
NAMES

[1.1] PHAISYLE, KORONIS, KLEEIA, PHAIO, EUDORE (Hesiod Astronomy 2)
[1.2] PHAESYLA, KORONIS, AMBROSIA, POLYXO, EUDORA (Hyginus Fabulae 192)
[1.3] AMBROSIA, EUDORA, AESYLE (Eustathius on Homer's Iliad 1156)

ENCYCLOPEDIA

HY′ADES (Huades), that is, the rainy, the name of a class of nymphs, whose number, names, and descent, are described in various ways by the ancients. Their parents were Atlas and Aethra ( Ov. Fast. v. 169, &c.), Atlas and Pleione (Hygin. Fab. 192), or Hyas and Boeotia (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 21 ); and others call their father Oceanus, Melisseus, Cadmilus, or Erechtheus. (Hygin. Fab. 182; Theon. ad Arat. Phaen. 171; Serv. ad Aen. i. 748.) Thales mentioned two, and Euripides three Hyades (Theon, l. c.), and Eustathius (ad Hom. p. 1156) gives the names of three, viz. Ambrosia, Eudora, and Aesyle. Hyginus (Fab. 182), on the other hand, mentions Idothea, Althaea, and Adraste; and Diodorus (v. 52) has Philia, Coronis, and Cleis. Other poets again knew four, and Hesiod (ap. Theon. l. c.) five, viz. Phaesyle, Coronis, Cleeia, Phaeote, and Eudora. (Comp. the five different names in Serv. ad Virg. Georg. i. 138; Hygin. Fab. 182, 192.) But the common number of the Hyades is seven, as they appear in the constellation which bears their name, viz., Ambrosia, Eudora, Pedile, Coronis, Polyxo, Phyto, and Thyone, or Dione. (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 21 ; Hesych. s. v.) Pherecydes, the logographer, who mentioned only six, called them the Dodonaean nymphs, and the nurses appointed by Zeus to bring up Dionysus. In this capacity they are also called the Nysaean nymphs. (Apollod. iii. 4. § 3; Ov. Fast. v. 167, Met. iii 314; Serv. ad Aen. i. 748; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1155.) When Lycurgus threatened the safety of Dionysus and his companions, the Hyades, with the exception of Ambrosia, fled with the infant god to Thetis or to Thebes, where they entrusted him to Ino (or Juno), and Zeus showed them his gratitude for having saved his son, by placing them among the stars. (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 21.) Previous to their being thus honoured, they had been old, but been made young again by Medeia, at the request of Dionysus. (Hygin. Fab. 182; Ov. Met. vii. 295.) As nymphs of Dodona, they were said, in some traditions, to have brought up Zeus. (Schol. ad Hom. Il. xviii. 486.) The story which made them the daughters of Atlas relates that their number was twelve or fifteen. and that at first five of them were placed among the stars as Hyades, and the seven (or ten) others afterwards under the name of Pleiades, to reward them for the sisterly love they had evinced after the death of their brother Hyas, who had been killed in Libya by a wild beast. (Hygin. Fab. 192; Ov. Fast. v. 181 ; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1155.) Their name, Hyades, is derived by the ancients from their father, Hyas, or from Hyes, a mystic surname of Dionysus; and according to others, from their position in the heavens, where they formed a figure resembling the Greek letter U. The Romans, who derived it from hus, a pig, translated the name by Suculae (Cic. de Nat. Deor. ii. 43.); but the most natural derivation is from Wein, to rain, as the constellation of the Hyades, when rising simultaneously with the sun, announced rainy and stormy weather. (Cic. lc.; Ov. Fast. v. 165; Horat. Carm. i. 3. 14; Virg. Aen. iii. 516; Gell. xii.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


Hesiod, Astronomy Fragment 2 (from Scholiast on Aratus 254) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"But Zeus made them [the sisters of Hyas] into the stars which are called Hyades. Hesiod in his Book about Stars tells us their names: ‘Nymphai like the Kharites, Phaisyle and rich-crowned Kleeia and lovely Phaio and long-robed Eudora, whom the tribes of men upon the earth call Hyades.’"

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 192 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Atlas by Pleione or an Oceanid had twelve daughters, and a son, Hyas. The son was killed by a wild boar or a lion, and the sisters, grieving for him, died of this grief. The five of them first put among the stars have their place between the horns of the bull--Phaesyla, Ambrosia, Coronis, Eudora, Polyxo--and are called, from their brother's name, Hyades. In Latin they are called Suculae.
Some say that since they are arranged in the form of the letter Upsilon they are called Hyades; some, they are so called because they bring rain when they rise, for to rain is hyein in Greek.
There are those who think they are among the stars because they were the nurses of Father Liber [Dionysos]."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 21 :
"It [the constellation Taurus] faces towards the East, and the stars which outline the face are called Hyades.
These, Pherecydes the Athenian [mythographer C5th B.C.] says, are the nurses of Liber [Dionysos], seven in number, who earlier were nymphae called Dodonidae. Their names are as follows : Ambrosia, Eudora, Pedile, Coronis, Polyxo, Phyto, and Thyone.
They are said to have been put to flight by Lycurgus and all except Ambrosia took refuge with Thetis, as Asclepiades [Greek poet C3rd B.C.] says.
But according to Pherecydes [mythographer C5th B.C.], they brought Liber [Dionysos] to Thebes and delivered him to Ino, and for this reason Jove [Zeus] expressed his thanks to them by putting them among the constellations."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 21 :
"The Pleiades (Many) were so named, according to Musaeaus, because fifteen daughters were born to Atlas and Aethra, daughter of Oceanus. Five of them are called Hyades, he shows, because their brother was Hyas, a youth dearly beloved by his sisters. When he was killed in a lion hunt, the five we have mentioned, given over to continual lamentation, are said to have perished. Because they grieved exceedingly at his death, they are called Hyades. The remaining ten brooded over the death of their sisters, and brought death on themselves; because so may experienced the same grief, they were called Pleiades. Alexander says they were called Hyades because they were daughters of Hyas and Boeotia, Pleiades, because born of Pleio, daughter of Oceanus, and Atlas."

Ovid, Fasti 5. 164 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"When darkening twilight ushers in the night, the whole flock of Hyades is revealed. Taurus' face gleams with seven rays of fire, which Greek sailors call Hyades from their rain-word. To some they were the nurses of Bacchus [Dionysos], to others granddaughters of Tethys and old Oceanus. Atlas did not shoulder the load of Olympus yet, when lovely, eye-catching Hyas was born. Oceanus' daughter, Aethra, bore him and the Nymphae in timely births, but Hyas was born first. While his beard was fresh, stags trembled in terror before him, and the hare was welcome prey. But when years matured his manhood, he breavely closed with the shaggy lioness and the boar. He sought the lair and brood of the whelped lioness and was bloody prey to the Libyan beast. His mother sobbed for Hyas, his sad sisters sobbed and Atlas, whose neck would haul the world. The sisters surpassed both parents in pious love and won heaven. Their name is from Hyas."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 143 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"The water Neiades . . . whom men call Hyades, offspring of the river Lamos. They [the sons] had played the nurses for the babe that Zeus had so happily brought forth, Bakkhos [Dionysos]."

Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Φαισυλη Phaisylê Phaesyle Shining-
(phainô)
Κορωνις Korônis Coronis Arched, Curved
(korônis)
Κλεεια Kleeia Cleea Famous, Illustrious
(kleennos, kleos)
Φαιω Phaiô Phaeo Shining
(phainô)
Ευδωρη Eudôrê Eudora Well-Gifted
(eu-, dôron)

THE RAINY CONSTELLATION HYADES

Hesiod, Works and Days 609 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"But when the Pleiades and Hyades and strong Orion begin to set [i.e. the end of October], then remember to plough in season."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 192 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Some say they [the Hyades] are so called because they bring rain when they rise, for to rain is hyein in Greek."

Ovid, Fasti 5. 164 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"When darkening twilight ushers in the night, the whole flock of Hyades is revealed. Taurus' face gleams with seven rays of fire, which Greek sailors call Hyades from their rain-word."

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2. 43. 111 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"His [the Constellation Taurus'] head is bespangled with a multitude of stars: ‘The Greeks were wont to call them Hyades,’ from their bringing rain, the Greek for which is hyein, while our nation stupidly names them Suculae (Suckling-pigs), as though the name Hyades were derived from the word for ‘pig’ not for ‘rain’."

Seneca, Medea 311 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Before men first set sail on the sea:] Not yet could any read the sky and use the stars with which the heavens are spangled; not yet could ships avoid the rainy Hyades; not yet did the fires of the Olenian Goat."

Seneca, Medea 767 ff :
"[The witch Medea speaks of her power over the heavens:] At commandment of my voice Phoebus [the sun] has halted in mid-heaven, and the Hyades, moved by my incantations, totter to their fall."

Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 5. 408 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"[Depicted on the walls of the palace of King Aeetes:] There iron Atlas stands in Oceanos, the wave swelling and breaking on his knees; but the god himself [Helios the Sun] on high hurries his shining steeds across the old man's body . . . behind with smaller wheel follows his sister [Selene the Moon] and the crowded Pleiades and the fires whose tresses are wet with dripping rain [the Hyades]."

Statius, Silvae 1. 6. 21 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"With such torrents do stormy Hyades o'erwhelm the earth of Pleiades dissolved in rain." [N.B. The constellations Hyades and Pleiades were regarded as bringers of rain.]


Sources:

  • Hesiod, Astronomy Fragments - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
  • Hesiod, Works & Days - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
  • Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
  • Ovid, Fasti - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
  • Cicero, De Natura Deorum - Latin Rhetoric C1st B.C.
  • Seneca, Medea - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
  • Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
  • Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.

Other references not currently quoted here : Servius on Vergil's Aeneid 748 & Georgics 1.138; Eustathius on Homer's Iliad 1155.