IDA and ADRASTEIA were nymphs of Mount Ida in Krete who were entrusted with the care of the infant god Zeus. They hid him away in the secluded Diktaion cave, nursing him with honey and the milk of the she-goat Amaltheia, while the Kouretes masked his cry with their shield-clashing dance. As a reward for their service, Zeus placed the pair in the heavens as the constellations Ursa Major and Minor (the two Bears), along with the goat Amaltheia as Capra. These constellations were also known as Helike (the Circling One), Ursa Major, and Kynosoura (the Dog's Tail), Ursa Minor. The latter because it appeared to be the tail of the adjacent star-group Canis Major.
They were perhaps the same as the Meliai ("Honey" Nymphs) described by Hesiod as being born from the blood of the castrated Ouranos. Amaltheia was sometimes described as the third nymph nurse, though in most accounts she was the milk-supplying goat.
[1.1] KOURETE MELISSEUS (Apollodorus 1.4, Hyginus Fabulae 182, Hyginus Astronomica 2.13)
[1.2] KOURETE KORYBAS (Diodorus Siculus 4.60.3)
[1.3] KOURETE OLENOS (Hyginus Astronomica 2.13)
|[1.1] ADRASTEIA, IDE (Apollodorus 1.4.5)
[1.2] ADRESTEIA (Apollonius Rhodius 3.132)
[1.3] IDE (Diodorus Siculus 4.60.3)
[1.4] ADRASTEIA, IDOTHEA, ALTHAIA (Hyginus Fabulae 182)
[2.1] KYNOSOURA, HELIKE (Aratus Phaenomena 27, Hyginus Asronomica 2.2, Ovid Fasti 4.575)
[2.2] HELIKE, AIX (Hyginus Astronomica 2.13)
[3.1] AMALTHEIA (Ovid Fast 5.111)
ADRASTEIA (Adrasteia). A Cretan nymph, daughter of Melisseus, to whom Rhea entrusted the infant Zeus to be reared in the Dictaean grotto. In this office Adrasteia was assisted by her sister Ida and the Curetes (Apollod. i. 1. § 6; Callimach. hymn. in Jov. 47), whom the scholiast on Callimachus calls her brothers. Apollonius Rhodius (iii. 132, &c.) relates that she gave to the infant Zeus a beautiful globe (sphaira) to play with, and on some Cretan coins Zeus is represented sitting upon a globe. (Spanh. ad Callim. l. c.)
IDE (Idê). 1. A daughter of Melissus and Amaltheia, and sister of Adrasteia, one of the Idaean nymphs, to whom Rhea entrusted the infant Zeus to be educated. (Apollod. i. 1. § 6.) She was represented, with other nymphs, on the altar of Athena Alea at Tegea. (Paus. viii. 47, § 2.)
2. An Idaean nymph, by whom Zeus became the father of the Idaean Dactyls. (Etymol. Magn. p. 465.)
CYNOSU′RA (Kunosoura), an Idaean nymph and one of the nurses of Zeus, who placed her among the stars. (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 2; Arat. Phaen, 35; Serv. ad Virg. Georg. i. 246.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 4 - 5 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Rhea, when she was heavy with Zeus, went off to Krete (Crete) and gave birth to him there in a cave on Mount Dikte. She put him in the care of both the Kouretes and the Nymphai Adrasteia and Ide, daughters of Melisseus (Honey-Man). These Nymphai nursed the baby with the milk of Amaltheia, while the armed Kouretes (Curetes) stood guard over him in the cave, banging their spears against their shields to prevent Kronos (Cronus) from hearing the infant's voice."
Callimachus, Hymn 1 to Zeus 42 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
[The nymphs of Arkadia carried the infant Zeus from their homeland to Mount Ida, where they handed over the child to his where he was born to his protectors and nurses in Krete:]
"When the Nymphe [Neda], carrying thee, O Father Zeus, toward Knosos (Cnossus) . . . But thee, O Zeus, the companions of Kyrbantes [Kouretes, Curetes] took to their arms, even the Diktaian Meliai (Honey-Nymphs), and Adrasteia laid thee to rest in a cradle of gold, and thou didst suck the rich teat of the she-goat Amaltheia, and there to eat the sweet honey-comb."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 46. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Represented on the altar [of Athene at Tegea in Arkadia] are Rhea and the nymphe Oinoe holding the baby Zeus. On either side are four figures: on one, Glauke, Neda, Theisoa and Anthrakia; on the other Ide, Hagno, Alkinoe and Phrixa." [N.B. Except for Ida, these were the Arkadian nurses of Zeus.]
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3. 132 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"[Aphrodite addresses her son Eros (Love):] ‘Will you be good and do me a favour I am going to ask of you? Then I will give you one of Zeus's lovely toys, the one that his fond nurse Adresteia made for him in the Idaian cave when he was still a child and liked to play. It is a perfect ball; Hephaistos himself could not make you a better toy. It is made of golden hoops laced together all the way round with double stitching; but the seams are hidden by a winding blue band. When you throw it up, it will leave a fiery trail behind it like a meteor in the sky.’"
Aratus, Phaenomena 27 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek astronomical poem C3rd B.C.) :
"Two Bears [the constellations Ursa Major and Minor] wheel together--wherefore they are also called the Wains. Now they ever hold their heads each toward the flank of the other, and are borne along always shoulder-wise, turned alternate on their shoulders. If, indeed, the tale be true, from Krete (Crete) they by the will of mighty Zeus entered up into heaven, for that when in olden days he played as a child in fragrant Dikton (Mount Dicte), near the hill of Ida, they set him in a cave and nurtured him for the space of a year, what time the Diktaioi Kouretes were deceiving Kronos. Now the one men call by name Kynosoura (Cynosura) and the other Helike."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 60. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Ide [of Krete] the daughter of Korybas (the Korybante)."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 79. 7 - 80. 6 :
"They [the Cretans who settled in Sicily] built a temple to the Mothers and accorded these goddesses unusual honours, adorning their temple with many votive offerings. The cult of these goddesses, so men say, they moved from their home in Krete (Crete), since the Kretans also hold these goddesses in special honour.
The account which the myths preserve of the Mothers runs like this: They nurtured Zeus of old without the knowledge of his father Kronos, in return for which Zeus translated them into the heavens and designated them as a constellation which he named the Bears [i.e. Ursa Major and Minor]. And Aratos agrees with this account when he states in his poem on the stars: ‘Turned backwards then upon their shoulders are the two Bears; if true it be that they from Krete into the heavens mounted by the will of mighty Zeus, for that when he was babe in fragrant Dikton near thee Idaian Mount, they set him in a cave and nurtured him a year, the while Kouretes Diktaioi (Dictaean Curetes) practised deceit on Kronos (Cronus).’
There is no reason why we should omit to mention the sanctity of these goddesses and the renown which they enjoy among mankind. They are honoured indeed, not only by the inhabitants of this city [Engyon in Sicily], but certain of the neighbouring peoples also glorify these goddesses with magnificent sacrifices and every other kind of honour. Some cities were indeed commanded by oracles from the Pythian god to honour the goddesses, being assured that in this way the lives of their private citizens would be blessed with good fortune and their cities would flourish. And in the end the renown of the goddesses advanced to such a degree that the inhabitants of this region have continue to honour them with many votive offerings in silver and gold down to the time of the writing of this history. For instance, a temple was built there for them which not only excels in size but also occasions wonder by reason of the expense incurred in its construction; for since the people had no suitable stone in their own territory they brought it from their neighbours, the inhabitants of Argyrion, though the cities were nearly one hundred stades apart and the road by which they had to transport the blocks were rough and altogether hard to traverse. For this reason they constructed wagons with four wheels and transported the stone by the use of one hundred span of oxen. Indeed, because of the vast quantity of the sacred properties of the temple they were so plentifully supplied with means that, by reason of their abundant prosperity, they took no account of the expense; for only a short time before our day the goddesses possessed three thousand head of sacred cattle and vast holdings of land, so that they were the recipients of great revenues."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 70. 1 :
"[Rhea] entrusted the rearing of him [the baby Zeus] to the Kouretes (Curetes) of Mt Ide. The Kouretes bore him off to a certain cave where they gave him over to the Nymphai [Ida and Adrasteia], with the command that they should minister to his every need And the Nymphai nurtured the child on a mixture of honey and milk and gave him upbringing at the udder of the goat which was named Amaltheia."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 182 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Daughters of Oceanus. The daughters of Oceanus are Idothea [Ida], Althaea [i.e. Amaltheia], and Adrasta [Adrasteia], but others say they are daughters of Melisseus, and nurses of Jove [Zeus]."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 13 :
"On his [the constellation Auriga's] left shoulder (the goat) Capra stands, and in his left hand the Kids seem to be placed. They tell this story about him. A certain Olenus, son of Vulcan [Hephaistos], had two daughters, the nymphs Aex and Helice, who were nurses of Jove [Zeus]. Others have said that certain cities were named from them--Olenus in Aulis, Helice in the Peloponneus, and Aex in Haemonia--about which Homer writes in the second book of the Iliad.
But Parmeniscus [Greek grammarian late C2nd B.C.] say that a certain Melisseus was king in Crete, and to his daughters Jove was brought to nurse. Since they did not have milk, they furnished him a she-goat, Amalthea by name, who is said to have reared him. She often bore twin kids, and at the very time that Jove was brought to her to nurse, had borne a pair. And so because of the kindness of the mother, the kids, too were placed among the constellations. Cleostratus of Tenedos [Greek astronomer C5th-6th B.C.] is said to have first pointed out these kids among the stars."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 2 :
"Ursa Minor ( Lesser Bear). Aglaosthenes [Greek poet C7th B.C.], who wrote the Naxica, says that she is Cynosura [i.e. the dog's tail], one of the nurses of Jove [Zeus] from the number of the Idaean Nymphae. He says, too, that in the city called Histoe, founded by Nicostratus and his friends, both the harbour and the greater part of the land are called Cynosura from her name. She, too, was among the Curetes who were attendants of Jove [Zeus]. Some say that the nymphae Helice and Cynosura were nurses of Jove, and so for gratitude were placed in the sky, both being called Bears. We call them Septentriones."
Ovid, Fasti 5. 111 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Naiad Amalthea, famous on Cretan Ida, hid Jupiter [Zeus], it is said, in the forest. She possessed the lovely mother of two young goats, a glorious sight among Dicte's flocks, with soaring horns curled round her back and an udder suitable for the nurse of Jupiter. She gave the god milk, but snapped her horn on a tree and was severed from half her loveliness. The Nympha picked the horn up, ringed it with fresh herbs, and took it fruit-filled to Jupiter's lips. When he controlled the sky and sat on his father's throne and nothing surpasses unconquered Jove, he made stars of the nurse and the nurse's fruitful horn, which bears even now its mistress' name."
Ovid, Fasti 3. 439 ff :
"[In the shrine of Jove at Rome:] A she-goat stands there, too: the Cretan Nymphae, they say, fed Jove [Zeus] and the goat gave the infant milk."
Ovid, Fasti 4. 575 ff :
"She [Demeter] roams the heaven, too [in search of Persephone], and accosts the Stars free of limpid Oceanus near the chilly pole: ‘Parrhasian Stars [Ursa Major and Minor] you can know everything, since you never sink beneath Oceanus' stream, show this wretched parent her daughter, Persephone.’ She spoke. Helice replies this to her: ‘Night is guiltless. Consult Sol (the Sun) on the virgin's rape. He gazes far and wide on the day's deeds.'"
Virgil, Georgics 4. 149 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"Qualities which Jove [Zeus] himself has given bees, I will unfold--even the reward for which they followed the tuneful sounds and clashing bronzes of the Curetes, and fed the king of heaven within the cave of Dicte."
- Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Callimachus, Hymns - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Aratus, Phaenomena - Greek Astronomy C3rd B.C.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st 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.
- Virgil, Georgics - Latin Bucolic C1st B.C.