MEROPE was one of the seven Pleiades, star-nymph daughters of the Titan Atlas. She married the impious king Sisyphos (Sisyphus) and was ancestress of the Korinthian (Corinthian) and Lykian (Lycian) royal families. Merope was said to have been so ashamed of her husband's crimes that she hid her face amongst the stars of heaven, and so the seventh star of the Pleiades faded away from human sight.
Her name is variously interpreted to mean "with face turned" from meros + ops, "with sparkling face" (mar)mairô + ops, and "bee-eater bird" merops. The first etymology was derived from the fading of the star, the second is a typically starry name--cf. Maira, the dog-star--, while the third reflects the connection of the Pleiades--who were also known as Peleiades or "doves"--with birds.
|[1.1] ATLAS (Hesiod Astronomy Frag 1)
ATLAS & PLEIONE (Apollodorus 3.110, Hyginus Fabulae 192, Hyginus Astronoicay 2.21, Ovid Fasti 4.169 & 5.79)
|[1.1] GLAUKOS (by Sisyphos) (Apollodorus 1.85, Hyginus Astronomica 2.21)
ME′ROPE (Meropê). A daughter of Atlas, one of the Pleiades, and the wife of Sisyphus of Corinth, by whom she became the mother of Glaucus. In the constellation of the Pleiades she is the seventh and the least visible star, because she is ashamed of having had intercourse with a mortal man. (Apollod. i. 9. § 3, iii. 10. 1; Ov. Fast. iv. 175; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1155; Serv. ad Virg. Geory. i. 138; comp. Hom. Il. vi. 154; Schol. ad Pind. Nem. ii. 16.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
Hesiod, Astronomy Fragment 1 (from Scholiast on Pindar's Nemean Odea 2.16) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"The Pleiades whose stars are these:--‘Lovely Teygata, and dark-faced Elektra, and Alkyone, and bright Asterope, and Kelaino, and Maia, and Merope, whom glorious Atlas begot.’"
Aeschylus, Sisyphus the Runaway (lost play) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
Weir Smyth (L.C.L.) quotes Pherecydes, a C5th B.C. mythographer, in his discussion of the plot of this lost play: "Sisyphos drapetês (the Runaway) was satyric; its theme, the escape from Haides of the crafty Korinthian king. According to the fabulous story told by Pherekydes (Frag. 78 in Müller, Fragmenta Historicum Graecorum) . . . Before he died Sisyphos directed his wife Merope to omit his funeral rites, so that Haides, being deprived of his customary offerings, was persuaded by the cunning trickster to let him go back to life in order to complain of his wife’s neglect. But, once in the upper world, he refused to return, and had to be fetched back by Hermes.'"
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 85 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Sisyphos settled Ephyra [i.e. Corinth] and married Merope, the daugher of Atlas. To them was born a son Glaukos (Glaucus)."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 110 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"To Atlas and Okeanos' daughter Pleione were born on Arkadian Kyllene (Cyllene) seven daughters called the Pleiades, whose names are Alkyone, Merope, Kelaino, Elektra, Sterope, Taygete, and Maia. Of these . . . Sisyphos married Merope."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 34. 7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Thersandros, the son of Sisyphos."
[N.B. Presumably his mother was Merope, although it is not explicitly stated here.]
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 192 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Atlas by Pleione or an Oceanitide had twelve daughters . . . Their names are as follows: Electra, Alcyone, Celaeno, Merope . . .
Of these, they say Electra does not appear, because of the death of Dardanus and the loss of Troy. Others think that Merope appears to blush because she had a mortal as husband, though the others had gods. Driven from the band of her sisters because of this, she wears her hair long in grief, and is called a comet, or longodes because she trails out for a long distance, or xiphias because she shows the shape of a sword-point. This star, too, portends grief." [N.B. In Greek longodes means "spear-shaped," not "long," as Hyginus erroneously says.]
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 21 :
"The Pleiades are called seven in number, but only six can be seen. This reason has been advanced, that of the seven, six mated with immortals (three with Jove [Zeus], two with Neptunus [Poseidon], and one with Mars [Ares]); the seventh was said to have been the wife of Sisyphus . . . Merope, wed to Sisyphus, bore Glaucus, who, as many say, was the father of Bellerophon. On account of her other sisters she was placed among the constellations, but because she married a mortal, her star is dim."
Ovid, Fasti 4. 169 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The Pleiades will start relieving their sire's [Atlas'] shoulders. Called seven, they are usually six, wither because six of them entered a god’s embrace . . . the seventh, Merope, wed you, mortal Sisyphus, she regrets it, and hides alone in shame."
- Hesiod, The Astronomy Fragments - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Fragments - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Fasti - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.