BEROE was an Okeanid Nymph of the city of Beruit in Phoinikia (Phoenicia) (modern Lebanon). She was wooed by the gods Dionysos and Poseidon, and won by the latter as his bride.
She was closely identified with the nymph Amymone.
Beroe was also described as a daughter of Aphrodite and Adonis, perhaps reflecting a local myth which made her the daughters of the Phoenician gods Ashtarte and Adon.
| ADONIS & APHRODITE (Nonnus Dionysiaca 41.155)
 NO PARENTS, emerged at the beginning of time (Nonnus Dionysiaca 41.51)
OKEANOS & TETHYS (Nonnus Dionysiaca 41.51)
THE BIRTH & CHILDHOOD OF BEROE
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 155 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"There is a younger legend, that her [Beroe's] mother was Kythereia [Aphrodite] herself, the pilot of human life, who bore her all white to Assyrian Adonis. Now she had completed the nine circles of Selene's (the Moon's) course carrying her burden: but Hermes was there in time on speedy foot, holding a Latin tabled which was herald of the future. He came to help the labour of Beroe [a city famous for its law-courts], and Themis [Law-goddess] was her Eileithyia [Birth-goddess]--she made a way through the narrow opening of the swollen womb for the child, and unfolded the wrapping, and lightened the sharp pang of the ripening birth, with Solon's laws in hand. Kypris [Aphrodite] under the oppression of her travail leaned back heavily against the ministering goddess, and in her throes brought forth the wise child upon the Attic book, as the Lakonian women bring forth their sons upon the round leather shield. She brought forth her newborn child from her motherly womb with Hermes the Judge to help as man-midwife. So she brought the baby into the light. The girl was bathed by the four Aetai (Winds), which ride through all cities to fill the whole earth with the precepts of Beroe. Okeanos, first messenger of the laws for the newborn child, sent his flood for the childbed round the loins of the world, pouring his girdle of water in an everflowing belt. Aion (Time), his coeval, with his aged hands swaddled about the newborn girl’s body the robes of Dike (Justice), prophet of things to come; because he would put off the rope-like slough of his feeble old scales, and grow young again bathed in the waves of Law. The four Horai (Seasons) struck up a tune together, when Aphrodite brought forth her wonderful daughter.
The beasts were wild with joy when they learnt of the Paphian's child safely born . . .
With calm face ever-smiling Aphrodite rang out her unfailing laugh, when she saw the birthday games of the happy beasts. She turned her round eyes delighted in all directions; only the boars she would not watch in their pleasures, for being a prophet she knew, that in the shape of a wild boar, Ares with jagged tusk and spitting deadly poison was destined toe weave fate for Adonis [father of Beroe] in jealous madness.
Virgin Astraia [lady of Justice] . . .received Beroe from her mother into the embrace of her arms, laughing, still a babe, and fed her with wise breast as she babbled words of law. With her virgin milk, she let streams of statutes gush into the baby's lips, and dropt into the girl's mouth the sweet produce of the Attic bee; she pressed the bee’s riddled travail of many cells, and mixed the voiceful comb in a sapient cup. If the girl thirsting asked for a drink, she gave the speaking Pythian water kept for Apollon, or the stream of Ilissos, which is inspired by the Attic Mousa (Muse) when the Pierian breezes of Phoibos beat on the bank. She took the golden Cornstalk [the star Spica which Astraia holds in her hand] from the stars, and entwined it in a cluster to put round the girl's neck like a necklace. The dancing maidens of Orkhomenos [the Kharites, Graces], handmaids of the Paphian, drew from the horsehoof fountain of imagination [Hippokrene], dear to the nine Mousai, delicate water to wash her.
Beroe grew up, and coursed with the Archeress [Artemis], carrying the nets of ther hunter sire [Adonis]. She had the very likeness of her Paphian mother, and her shining feet . . . Zeus perceiving another unwedded maiden of Assyria, was fluttered again and wished to change his form: certainly he would have carried the burden of love in bull’s form again [as he did with Europa] . . . had not the Bull of Olympos, Europa's bridegroom, bellowed from out the stars with jealous throat, to think that he might set up there a new star of seafaring armours and make the image of a rival bull in the sky. So he left Beroe, who was destined for a watery bridal, as his brother’s bedellow, for he wished not to quarrel with the Earthshaker [Poseidon] about a mortal wife.
Such was Beroe, flower of the Kharites (Graces). If ever the girl uttered her voice trickling sweeter than honey and honeycomb, winning Peitho (Persuasion) sat ever upon her lips and enchanted the clever wits of men whom nothing else could charm. Her laughing eyes outshone all the company of her young Assyrian agemates as they shot their shafts of love, with brighter graces, like the moon at the full, when showering her cloudless rays and hiding the stars. Her white robes falling down to the girl's feet showed the blush of her rosy limbs. There is no wonder in that, even if she had such fairness beyond her young yearsmates, since bright over her countenance sparkled the beauties of both her parents."
BEROE GODDESS OF BERUIT
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 263 ff :
"Then Kypris [Aphrodite] saw her [daughter Beroe]: pregnant with prophetic intelligence she sent her imagination wandering swiftly round, and driving her mind to wander about the whole earth surveyed the foundations of the brilliant cities of ancient days. She saw how Mykene girt about with a garland of walls by the Kyklopian masons took the name of twinkle-eye Mykene; how Thebes beside the southern Nile took the name of primeval Thebe; and she decided to design a city named after Beroe, being possessed with a passion to make her city as good as theirs. She observed there the long column of Solon’s Laws, that safeguard against wrong, and turned aside her eye to the broad streets of Athens, and envied her sister the just Judge. With hurrying shoe, she whizzed along the vault of heaven to the hall of Allmother Harmonia . . .
[Aphrodite enquires of Harmonia]: ‘Reveal to your questioner, and tell me . . .which of the cities has the organ of sovereign voice? Which has reserved for it the unshaken reins of troublesolving Law? I joined Zeus in wedlock with Hera his sister, after he had felt the pangs of longlasting desire and desired her for three hundred years: in gratitude he bowed his wise head, and promised a worthy reward for the marriage that he would commit the precepts of Justice (Dike) to one of the cities allotted to me. I wish to learn whether the gift is reserved for land of Kypros or Paphos or Korinthos or Sparta . . . or the noblemen’s country of my own daughter Beroe . . . ’
To these words of hers the goddess [Harmonia] replied with an encouraging speech:
‘. . . I have oracles of history on seven tablets, and the tablets bear the names of the seven planets . . . But since you ask me about the directing laws, this prerogative I keep for the eldest of cities. Whether then Arkadia is first or Hera's city [Argos], whether Sardis be the oldest, or even Tarsos celebrated in song be the first city, or some other, I have not been told. The tabled of Kronos will teach you all this, which first arose, which was coeval with Dawn.’
She spoke; and led the way to the glorious oracles of the wall, until she saw the place where Ophion's art had engraved in ruddy vermilion on the tablet of Kronos the oracle to be fulfilled in time about Beroe's country. ‘Beroe came the first, coeval with the universe her agemate, bearing the name of the Nymphe later born, which the colonizing sons of the Ausonians, the consular lights of Rome, shall call Berytos, since here fell a neighbour of Lebanon . . . ’
Now the Phaphian . . . scanned the various deeds of the scattered cities; and on the written tabled which lay in the midst on the circuit of the universe, she found the words of wisdom inscribed in many lines of Grecian verse: ‘When Augustus shall hold the sceptre of the world, Ausonian Zeus will give to divine Rome the lordship, and to Beroe he will grant the reins of law, when armed in her fleet of shielded ships she shall pacify the strife of battlestirring Kleopatra.’"
THE MARRIAGE OF BEROE
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 42. 1 ff :
"Treading on Time's heels hot Eros (Love) swiftly sped, plying his feet into the wind, high in the clouds scoring the air with winged step, and carried his flaming bow; the quiver too, filled with gentle fire, hung down over his shoulder . . . Then near the Assyrian rock he united from fiery arrows on one string, to bring two wooers into like desire for the love of a maid [Beroe], rivals for one bride, the vinegod [Dionysos] and the ruler of the sea [Poseidon] . . .
One came from the deep waters of the sea-neighbouring roadstead, and one left the land of Tyre, and among the mountains of Lebanon the two met in one place . . .
Then Eros (Love) came quickly up to the maiden [Beroe] hard by, and struck both divinities with two arrows. He maddened Dionysos to offer his treasures to the bride, life’s merry heart and the ruddy vintage of the grape; he goaded to love the lord of the trident, that he might bring the sea-neighbouring maid a double lovegift, seafaring battle on the water and varied dishes for the table. He set Bakkhos [Dionysos] more in a flame, since wine excites the mind for desire, and wine finds unbridled youth much more obedient to the rein when it is charmed with the prick of unreason; so he shot Bakkhos and drove the whole shaft into his heart, and Bakkhos burnt, as much as he was charmed by the trickling honey of persuasion. Thus he maddened them both; and in the counterfeit shape of a bird circling his tracks in the airy road as swift as the rapid winds, he rose with paddling feet, and cried these taunting words: ‘If Dionysos confounds men with wine, I excite Bakkhos with fire!’
The vinegod turned his eye to look, and scanned the tender body of the longhaired maiden, full of admiration the conduit of desire; his eye led the way and ferried the newborn love. Dionysos wandered in that heartrejoicing wood, secretly fixing his careful gaze on Beroe, and followed the girl’s path a little behind. He could not have anough of his gazing; for the more he beheld the maid standing there, the more he wanted to watch.
He called to Helios (the Sun), reminding the chief of the stars of his love for Klymene, and prayed him to hold back his car and check the stalled horses with the heavenly bit, that he might prolong the sweet light, that he might go slow to his setting and with sparing whip increase the day to shine again. Pressing measured step by step in Beroe's tracks the god passed round her as if noticing nothing; while Earthshaker [Poseidon] stole from Lebanon with lingering feet, and departed with steps slow to obey, turning again and again, his mind shifting like the sea and rippling with billows of ever-murmuring care.
Unsated, in the delicious forests of Lebanon, Dionysos was left along beside the lonely girl. Dionysos was left alone! Tell me, Oreaid Nymphai, what could he wish for more lovely than to see the maiden’s flesh, alone, and free from lovesick Earthshaker? He kissed with a million kisses the place where she set her foot, creeping up secretly, and kissed the dust where the maiden had trod making it bright with her shoes of roses. Bakkhos watched the girl's sweet neck, her ankles as she walked, beauty which nature had given her, the beauty which nature had made: for no ruddy ornament for the skin had Beroe smeared on her round rosy face, no meretricious rouge put a false blush on her cheeks. She consulted no shining mirror of bronze with its reflection a witness to her looks, she laughed at no lifeless form of a mimic face to estimate her beauty, she was not for ever arranging the curls over her brows, and setting in place some stray wandering lock of hair by her eyebrows with cunning touch. But the natural beauties of a face confound the desperate lover with a sharp sting, and the untidy tresses of an unbedizened head are all the more dainty, when they stray unbraided down the sides of a snow-white face.
Sometimes athirst when beaten by the heat of the fiery Dog of heaven [the star Sirios], the girl sought out a neighbouring spring with parched lips; the girl bent down her curving neck and stooped her head, dipping a hand again and again and scooping the water of her own country to her mouth, until she had enough and left the rills.
When she was gone, Dionysos would bend his knee to the lovely spring, and hollow his palms in mimicry of the beloved girl: then he drank water sweeter than selfpoured nectar . . . The god grudging at Poseidon ruler of the waves felt fear and jealousy, since the maiden drank water and not wine. He uttered his voice to the unhearing air, as if the girl were there to hear and obey:
‘Maiden ,accept the nectar--leave this water that maidens love! Avoid the water of the spring, lest Seabluehair steal your maidenhood in the water - for a mad lover and a crafty one he is! You know the love of Thessalian Tyro and her wedding in the waters; then you too take care of the crafty flood, lest the deceiver loose your girdle just as the wedding-thief Enipeus did. O that I also might become a flood, like Earthshaker, and murmuring might embrace my own Tyro of Lebanon, thirsty and careless beside the lovestricken spring!’
So the god spoke; and changing his form for another [that of a hunter] he plunged into the shady thicket where the maiden was, Euios wholly like a hunter . . . with cautious countenance and stolen glances he watched the girl so close to him, lest she should turn and run away; for beauty and the eyes of a girl of his own age have little consolation to a lad who gazes at her for the loves which the Kyprian sends.
He came near to Beroe and would have spoken a word, but fear held him fast [shyness in the presence of the maiden] . . . He spoke, and hardly then, when he burst the chain of shame from his lips - it came from his heart and crept back to his heart again, but the bittersweet fear held it in shamefast silence, and drew back the voice, as it tried to issue into the light. Too late he spoke, and hardly then, when he burst the chain of shame from his lips and undid the procrastinating silence, and asked Beroe in a voice of pretence,
‘Artemis, where are your arrows? Who has stolen your quiver? [he praises her by comparing her to various goddesses] . . . ’
So he spoke, feigning astonishment, and the maiden smiled in her heart; she lifted a proud neck in unsuspicious pleasure, rejoicing in her youthful freshness, because she, a mortal woman, was likened to a goddess in beauty, and did not see the trick of mindconfusing Dionysos. But Bakkhos was yet more affected, because the girl in her childish simplicity knew not desire; he wished she might learn his own overpowering passion, since when the girl knows, there is always hope for the lad that love will come at last, but when women do not notice, man’s desire is only a fruitless anxiety.
Thus day after day, midday and afternoon, morning and evening, the god lingered in the pinewood, waiting for the girl and ever willing to wait; for men can have enough of all things, of sweet sleep and melodious song, and when one turns in the moving dance – but only the man mad for love never has enough of his longing . . .
Dionysos put on a serious look, the trickster! And questioned the maiden about her father Adonis, as a friend of his, as a fellow-hunter among the hills. She stood still, he brought a longing hand near her breast, and stoked her belt as if not thinking what he did: but touching her breast, the lovesick god's right hand grew numb. Once in her childlike way, the girl asked the son of Zeus beside her who he was and who was his father . . . and in the cunning of his mind, he made as if he were a farm-labourer . . .
Eiraphiotes [Dionysos] thought of trick after trick. He took the hunting-net from Beroe’s hands and pretended to admire the clever work, shaking it round and round for some time and asking the girl many questions--‘What god made this gear, what heavenly art? Who made it? Indeed I cannot believe that Hephaistos mad with jealousy made hunting-gear for Adonis!’
So he tried to bewilder the wits of the girl who would not be so charmed. Once it happened that he lay sound asleep on a bed of anemone leaves; and he saw the girl in a dream decked out in bridal array . . .
In company with Beroe’s father [Adonis], the son of Myrrha, he showed his hunting-skill. He cast his thyrsus, and wrapt himself in the dappled skins of the newslain fawns, ever with his eye secretly on Beroe; as he stood, the maiden covered her bright cheeks with her robe, to escape the wandering eye of Dionysos. She made him burn all the more, since the servants of love watch shamefast women more closely, and desire more strongly the covered countenance.
Once he caught sight of the unyoked girl of Adonis alone, and came near, and changed his human form and stood as a god before her. He told her his name and family, the slaughter of the Indians, how he found out for man the vine-dance and the sweet juice of wine to drink; then in loving passion he mingled audacity with a boldness far from modesty, and his flattering voice uttered this ingratiating speech:
‘Maiden, for your love I have even renounced my home in heaven. The caves of your fathers are better than Olympos. I love your country more than the sky; I desire not the sceptre of my father Zeus as much as Beroe for my wife. Your beauty is above ambrosia; indeed, heavenly nectar breathes fragrant from your dress! Maiden, when I hear that your mother is Kypris, my only wonder is that her cestus has left you uncharmed. How is it you alone have Eros (Love for a brother, and yet know not the sting of love . . . Girl, you have the blood of Kypris - then why do you flee from the secrets of Kypris? Do not shame your mother’s race. If you really have in you the blood of Assyrian Adonis the charming, learn the tender rules of your sire whose blessing is upon marriage, obey the cestus girdle born with the Paphian, save yourself from the dangerous wrath of the bridal Erotes (Loves)! Harsh are the Erotes (Loves) when there's need, when they extract from women the penalty for love unfulfilled . . . Beware of the god's horrid anger, lest hot Love should afflict you in heavy wrath. Spare not your girdle, but attend Bakkhos both as comrade and bedfellow. I myself will carry the nets of your father Adonis, I will the bed of my sister Aphrodite.
‘What worthy gifts will Earthshaker [Poseidon] bring? Will he choose his salt water for a bridegift, and lay sealskins breathing the filthy stink of the deep, as Poseidon’s coverlets from the sea? Do not accept his sealskins. I will provide you with Bakkhantes to wait upon your bridechamber, and Satyroi for your chamberlains. Accept from me as bridegift my grape-vintage too. If you want a wild spear also as daughter of Adonis, you have my thyrsus for a lance--away with the trident's tooth! Flee, my dear, from the ugly noise of the neversilent sea, flee the madness of Poseidon’s dangerous love! . . .
‘I, distressed for your beauty as I stand here, what have I for you, what gifts shall I offer? The daughter of golden Aphrodite needs no gold. Shall I bring you heaps of treasure from Alybe? Silverarm cares not for silver! Shall I bring you gleaming gifts [amber] from brilliant Eridanos? Your beauty, your blushing whiteness, puts to shame all the wealth of the Heliades; the neck of Beroe is like the gleams of Dawn, it shines like amber, outshines a sparkling jewel; your fair shape makes precious marble cheap. I would not bring you the lampstone blazing like a lamp, for light comes from your eyes. I would not give you roses, shooting up from the flowercups of a rosy cluster, for roses are in your cheeks.’
Such was his address; and the girl pressed the fingers of her two hands into her ears to keep the words away from hearing, lest she might hear another speech concerned with love, and she hated the works of marriage. So she made trouble upon trouble for lovestricken Lyaios . . .
So he was flogged by the maddening cestus of desire; and he kept away from the girl, but full of bittersweet pangs, he sent his mind to wander a-hunting with the girl with ungirt tunic.
Then out from the sea came Poseidon, moving his wet footsteps in search of the girl over the thirsty hills, a foreign land to him, and sprinkling the unwatered earth with watery foot . . . He espied Beroe, and from head to foot he scanned her divine young freshness while she stood. Clear through the filmy robe he noted the shape of the girl with steady eyes, as if in a mirror glancing from side to side he saw the shining skin of her breasts as if naked, and cursed the jealous bodice wrapt about in many folds which hid the bosom, he ran his lovemaddened eye round and round her face, he gazed never satisfied on her whole body. Then mad with passion Earthshaker lord of the brine appealed in his trouble to Kythereia of the brine, and tried with flattering words to make friends with the maiden standing beside the country flock: ‘One woman outshines all the lovely women of Hellas! . . . Beroe has appeared a fourth Kharis (Grace), younger than the three! Maiden, leave the land. That is just, for your mother grew not from the land, she is Aphrodite daughter of the brine. Here is my infinite sea for your bridegift, larger than earth. Hasten to challenge the consort of Zeus . . . Beroe has gotten the empire of the sea . . . I will make Proteus chamberlain of your marriage-consummating bed, and Glaukos shall be your underling--take Nereus too, and Melikertes if you like; and I will call murmuring Okeanos your servant, broad Okeanos girdling the rim of the eternal world. I give you a bridal gift all the Rivers together for your attendants. If you are pleased to have waitingmaids also, I will bring you the daughters of Nereus; and let Ino the nurse of Dionysos be your chambermaid, whether she likes it or not!’
Thus he pleaded, but he maiden was angry and would not listen; so he left her, pouring out his last words into the air--‘Happy son of Myrrha, you have got a fine daughter, and now a double honour is yours alone; you alone are named father of Beroe and bridegroom of the Foamborn.’
Thus Earthshaker was flogged by the blows of the cestus [desire]; but he offered many gifts to Adonis and Kythereia, bridegifts for the love of their daughter. Dionysos burning with the same shaft brought his treasures, all the shining gold that the mines near the Ganges had brought forth in their throes of labour; earnestly but in vain he made his petition to Aphrodite of the sea.
Now Paphia [Aphrodite] was anxious, for she feared both wooers of her muchwooed girl. When she saw equal desire and ardour of love in both, she announced that the rivals must fight for the bride, a war for a wedding, a battle of love. Kypris arrayed her daughter in woman's finery, and placed her upon the fortress of her country, a maiden to be fought for as the dainty prize of contest. Then she addressed both gods in the same words:
‘I could wish had I two daughters, to wed one as is justly due to Earthshaker, and one to Lyaios; but since my child was not twins, and the undefiled laws of marriage do not allow us to join one girl to a pair of husbands together change and change about, let battle be chamberlain for one single bride, for without hard labour there is no marriage with Beroe. Then if you would wed the maid, first fight it out together; let the winner lead away Beroe without brideprice. Both must agree to an oath, since I fear for the girl’s neighbouring city where I am known as Cityholder, that because of Beroe's beauty I may lose Beroe's home. Make treaty before the marriage, that seagod Earthshaker if he lose the victory shall not in his grief lay waste the land with his trident's tooth; and that Dionysos shall not be angry about Amymone's wedding and destroy the vineyards of the city. And you must be friends after the battle: both be rivals in singlehearted affection, and in one contract of goodwill adorn the city of the bride with still more brilliant beauty.’
The wooers agreed to this proposal. Both took a binding oath . . . From heaven came all the dwellers on Olympos, with Zeus, and stayed to watch the combat upon the rocks of Lebanon . . .
For King of Satyroi and Ruler of the Sea, a maiden was the prize. She stood silent, but reluctant to have a foreign wedding with a wooer from the sea; she feared the watery bower of love in the deep waves, and preferred Bakkhos . . .
Heaven unclouded by its own spinning whirl trumpeted the call to war; and Seabluehair armed himself with his Assyrian trident, shaking his maritime pike and pouring a hideous din from a mad throat. Dionysos threatening the sea danced into the fray with vineleaves and thyrsus, seated in the [lion-drawn] chariot of his [foster] mother mountainranging Rheia . . . [Dionysos and his sylvan gods battle Poseidon and his sea gods in a contest for Beroe's hand in marriage] . . .
He [Zeus breaking up the contest] granted the hand of Beroe to Earthshaker [Poseidon], and pacified the rivals' quarrel. For from heaven to check the bridebattle yet undecided came threatening thunderbolts round about Dionysos. The vinegod wounded by the arrow of love still craved the maiden; but Zeus the Father on high stayed him by playing a tune of thunder, and the sound from his father held back the desire for strife. With lingering feet he departed, with heavy pace, turning back for a last gloomy look at the girl; jealous, with shamed ears, he heard the bridal songs of Amymone in the sea. The syrinx sounding from the brine proclaimed that the rites were already half done. Nereus as Amymone's chamberlain showed the bridal bed, shaking the wedding torches, the fire which no water can quench. Phorkys sang a song; with equal spirit Glaukos danced and Melikertes romped about. And Galateia twangled a marriage dance and restlessly twirled in capering step, and she sang the marriage verses."
BEROE THE OLDEST OF CITIES
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 51 ff :
"Here [the city of Beroe which emerged at the very creation of the universe] dwelt a people agemates with the dawn, whom Phusis (Nature) by her own breeding, in some unwedded way, begat without bridal, without wedding, fatherless, motherless, unborn: when the atoms were mingled in fourfold combination, and the seedless ooze shaped a clever offspring by comingling water with fiery heat and air [the four elements--Air, Earth, Water, Fire], and quickened the teeming mud with the breath of life. To these Phusis (Nature) gave perfect shape . . . the golden crop of men [the Golden Race of Mankind] brought forth in the image of the gods, with the roots of their stock in the earth. And these dwelt in the city of Beroe, that primordial seat which Kronos himself builded . . .
O Beroe, root of life, nurse of cities, the boast of princes, the first city seen, twin sister of Aion (Time), coeval with the universe, sea of Hermes, land of Dike (Justice), bower of Euphrosyne (Merryheart), house of Paphia, hall of the Erotes, delectable ground of Bakkhos, home of the Archeress, jewel of the Nereides, house of Zeus, court of Ares, Orkhomenos of the Kharites, star of the Lebanon country, yearsmate of Tethys, running side by side with Okeanos, who begat thee in his bed of many fountains when joined in watery union with Tethys--Beroe the same they named Amymone when her mother brought her forth on her bed in the deep waters!"
- Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th AD
Other references not currently quoted here: Virgil Georgics 4.341