OINONE (or Oenone) was a Naiad nymph of Mount Ida in the Troad. She was the first wife of Paris who abandoned her when Aphrodite awarded him the hand of Helene in marriage. Later during the Trojan War when Paris had been wounded by the poisoned arrow of Philoktetes, he sought her healing skills, but she refused him and he died. Feeling remorse for his death, Oinone then committed suicide.
KEBREN (Apollodorus 3.154, Nicander Frag, Cephalon of Gergitha Frag, Parthenius Love Romances 4)
KORYTHOS (by Paris) (Hellanicus Troica Frag, Cephalon of Gergitha Frag, Parthenius Love Romances 34)
OENO′NE (Oinônê,) a daughter of the rivergod Cebren, and the wife of Paris. (Apollod. iii. 12. § 6; Parthen. Erot. 4; Strab. xiii. p. 596.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
Bacchylides, Fragment 20D (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (C5th B.C.) :
"From high above the comely wife of Paris, Oinone (Oenone), hastened along her final path."
[N.B. "from high above" because she committed suicide by leaping off a cliff.]
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 154 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Alexandros [Paris] married Oinone (Oenone), daughter of the river Kebren (Cebren). Oinone had learned the art of prophecy from Rhea, and forwarned Alexandros not to sail off to Helene. Although she could not convince him, she told him that, in case he were wounded, he should come to her, for she alone could heal him. After he had taken Helene from Sparta, and Troy was under siege, he was shot by Philoktetes, with the bow of Herakles, and he returned to Oinone on Ide, But she, remembering his past treatment of her, would not heal him, so Alexandros was taken back to Troy to where he died. Oinone, meanwhile, with a change of heart, took her drugs to Troy to heal him; when she found him dead she hanged herself."
Lycophron, Alexandra 61 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"And herself [Oinone], the skilled in drugs, seeing the baleful wound incurable of her husband [Paris] wounded by the giant-slaying arrows of his adversary [Philoktetes], shall endure to share his doom, from the topmost towers to the new slain corpse hurtling herself head foremost, and pierced by sorrow for the dead shall breath forth her soul on the quivering body."
Parthenius, Love Romances 4 (trans. Gaselee) (Greek poet C1st B.C.) :
"From the Book of Poets of Nikandros [Greek poet C2nd B.C.] and the Trojan History of Kephalon of Gergitha.
When Alexandros [Paris], Priamos' son, was tending his flocks on Mount Ida, he fell in love with Oinone (Oenone) the daughter of Kebren (Cebren): and the story is that she was possessed by some divinity and foretold the future, and generally obtained great renown for her understanding and wisdom. Alexandros took her away from her father to Ida, where his pasturage was, and lived with her there as his wife, and he was so much in love with her that he would swear to her that he would never desert her, but would rather advance her to the greatest honour. She however said that she could tell that for the moment indeed he was wholly in love with her, but that the time would come when he would cross over to Europe, and would there, by his infatuation for a foreign woman, bring the horrors of war upon his kindred. She also foretold that he must be wounded in the war, and that there would be nobody else, except herself, who would be able to cure him: but he used always to stop her, every time that she made mention of these matters.
Time went on, and Alexandros took Helene to wife: Oinone took his conduct exceedingly ill, and returned to Kebren, the author of her days: then, when the war came on, Alexandros was badly wounded by an arrow from the bow of Philoktetes. He then remembered Oinone's words, how he could be cured by her alone, and he sent a messenger to her to ask her to hasten to him and heal him, and to forget all the past, on the ground that is had all happened through the will of the gods. She returned him a haughty answer, telling him he had better go to Helene and ask her; but all the same she started off as fast as she might to the place where she had been told he was lying sick. However, the messenger reached Alexandros first, and told him Oinone's reply, and upon this he gave up all hope and breathed his last: and Oinone, when she arrived and found him lying on the ground already dead, raised a great cry and, after long and bitter mourning, put an end to herself."
Parthenius, Love Romances 34 :
"From the second book of Hellanikos' Troika [historian of Mytilene C5th B.C.], and from Kephalon of Gergitha: Of the union of Oinone (Oenone) and Alexandros [Paris] was born a boy named Korythos (Corythus). He came to Troy to help the Trojans, and there fell in love with Helene. She indeed received him with the greatest warmth--he was of extreme beauty--but his father discovered his aims and killed him. Nikandros [Greek poet C2nd B.C.] however says that he was the son, not of Oinone, but of Helene and Alexandros."
Strabo, Geography 13. 1. 33 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Demetrios suspects that the territory of Ilion [Troy] . . . extended inland . . . as far a Kebrenia [i.e. the region around the river Kebren], for he says that the tomb of Alexandros [Paris] is pointed out there, as also that of Oinone (Oenone), who, according to historians, had been the wife of Alexandros before he carried off Helene."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 10. 260 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"[In the Trojan War Paris was shot by Philoktetes with a poison arrow:] His weird (fate) was only by Oinone's (Oenone's) hands to escape death's doom, if so she willed. Now he obeyed the prophecy, and he went--exceeding loth, but grim necessity forced him thence, to face the wife forsaken. Evil-boding fowl shrieked o'er his head, or darted past to left, still as he went. Now, as he looked at them, his heart sank; now hope whispered, ‘Haply vain their bodings are!’ but on their wings were borne visions of doom that blended with his pain.
Into Oinone's presence thus he came. Amazed her thronging handmaids looked on him as at the Nymphe's feet that pale suppliant fell faint with the anguish of his wound, whose pangs stabbed him through brain and heart, yea, quivered through his very bones, for that fierce venom crawled through all his inwards with corrupting fangs; and his life fainted in him agony-thrilled . . . his breast one fire of torturing pain. Then in exceeding feebleness he spake: ‘O reverenced wife, turn not from me in hate for that I left thee widowed long ago! Not of my will I did it: the strong Fates dragged me to Helene--oh that I had died ere I embraced her - in thine arms had died! All, by the Gods I pray, the Lords of Heaven, by all the memories of our wedded love, be merciful! Banish my bitter pain: Lay on my deadly wound those healing salves which only can, by Fate's decree, remove this torment, if thou wilt. Thine heart must speak my sentence, to be saved from death or no. Pity me--oh, make haste to pity me! This venom's might is swiftly bringing death! Heal me, while life yet lingers in my limbs! Remember not those pangs of jealousy, nor leave me by a cruel doom to die low fallen at thy feet! This should offend the Prayers, the Daughters of the Thunderer Zeus, whose anger followeth unrelenting pride with vengeance, and the Erinnys executes their wrath. My queen, I sinned, in folly sinned; yet from the Keres (Deaths) save me--oh, make haste to save!’
So prayed he; but her darkly-brooding heart was steeled, and her words mocked his agony: ‘Thou comest unto me!--thou, who didst leave erewhile a wailing wife in a desolate home!--idst leave her for thy Tyndarid darling! Go, lie laughing in her arms for bliss! She is better than thy true wife--is, rumour saith, immortal! Make haste to kneel to her but not to me! Weep not to me, nor whimper pitiful prayers! Oh that mine heart beat with a tigress' strength, that I might tear thy flesh and lap thy blood for all the pain thy folly brought on me! Vile wretch! where now is Love's Queen glory-crowned? ath Zeus forgotten his daughter's paramour? Have them for thy deliverers! Get thee hence far from my dwelling, curse of Gods and men! Yea, for through thee, thou miscreant, sorrow came on deathless Gods, for sons and sons' sons slain. Hence from my threshold!--to thine Helen go! Agonize day and night beside her bed: there whimper, pierced to the heart with cruel pangs, until she heal thee of thy grievous pain.’
So from her doors she drave that groaning man--ah fool! not knowing her own doom, whose weird was straightway after him to tread the path of death! So Fate had spun her destiny-thread."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 10. 411 ff :
"[At the death of Paris :] One only heart was pierced with grief unfeigned, Oinone (Oenone). Not with them of Troy she wailed, but far away within that desolate home moaning she lay on her lost husband's bed . . . Melted she in tears of anguished pain, and for her own, her husband, agonised, and cried to her heart with miserable moans: ‘Woe for my wickedness! O hateful life! I loved mine hapless husband--dreamed with him to pace to eld's bright threshold hand in hand, and heart in heart! The gods ordained not so. Oh had the black Keres (Death-Demons) snatched me from the earth ere I from Paris turned away in hate! My living love hath left me!--yet will I dare to die with him, for I loathe the light.’
So cried she, weeping, weeping piteously, remembering him whom death had swallowed up, wasting, as melteth wax before the flame yet secretly, being fearful lest her sire should mark it, or her handmaids till the night rose from broad Okeanos, flooding all the earth with darkness bringing men release from toil. Then, while her father and her maidens slept, she slid the bolts back of the outer doors, and rushed forth like a storm-blast. Fast she ran . . . down the long tracks flew Oinone's feet; seeking the awful pyre, to leap thereon. No weariness she knew: as upon wings her feet flew faster ever, onward spurred by fell Ker (Fate), and the Kyprian Queen [Aphrodite]. She feared no shaggy beast that met her in the dark who erst had feared them sorely--rugged rock snd precipice of tangled mountain-slope, dhe trod them all unstumbling; torrent-beds she leapt. White Selene (Moon-goddess) from on high looked on her, and remembered her own love, princely Endymion, and she pitied her in that wild race, and, shining overhead in her full brightness, made the long tracks plain.
Through mountain-gorges so she won to where wailed other Nymphai round Alexander's corpse. Roared up about him a great wall of fire . . . Sore weeping stood they round. She raised no wail, the broken-hearted, when she saw him there, but, in her mantle muffling up her face, leapt on the pyre : loud wailed that multitude. There burned she, clasping Paris. All the Nymphai marvelled, beholding her beside her lord flung down, and heart to heart spake whispering: ‘Verily evil-hearted Paris was, who left a leal true wife, and took for bride a wanton, to himself and Troy a curse. Ah fool, who recked not of the broken heart of a most virtuous wife, who more than life loved him who turned from her and loved her not!’
So in their hearts the Nymphai spake: but they twain burned on the pyre, never to hail again the dayspring. Wondering herdmen stood around . . . Oinone and Paris, now one little heap of ashes, then with wine quenched they the embers, and they laid their bones in a wide golden vase, and round them piled the earth-mound; and they set two pillars there that each from other ever turn away; for the old jealousy in the marble lives."
Ovid, Heroides 5. 1 - end (trans. Showerman) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[An epistle from] Oenone to Paris: Will you read my letter though? or does your new wife forbid? Read--this is no letter writ by Mycenaean hand! It is the Pegasis (fountain-nymph) Oenone writes, well-known to the Phrygian forests--wronged, and with complaint to make of you, you my own, if you but allow.
What god has set his will against my prayers? What guilt stands in my way, that I may not remain your own? Softly must we bear whatever suffering is our desert; the penalty that comes without deserving brings us dole.
Not yet so great were you when I was content to wed you--I, the nymph-daughter of a mighty stream. You who are now a son of Priam--let not respect keep back the truth! – were then a slave; I deigned to wed a slave--I, a nymph! Oft among our flocks have we reposed beneath the sheltering trees, where mingled grass and leaves afforded us a couch; oft have we lain upon the straw, or on the deep hay in a lowly hut that kept the hoar-frost off. Who was it pointed out to you the coverts apt for the chase, and the rocky den where the wild beast hid away her cubs? Oft have I gone with you to stretch the hunting-net with its wide mesh; oft have I led the fleet hounds over the long ridge. The beeches still conserve my name carved on them by you, and I am read there OENONE, charactered by your blade; and the more the trunks, the greater grows my name. Grow on, rise high and straight to make my honours known! O poplar, ever live, I pray, that art planted by the marge of the stream and hast in thy seamy bark these verses: ‘If Paris' breath shall fail not, once Oenone he doth spurn, the waters of the Xanthus to their fount shall backward turn.’ O Xanthus, backward haste; turn, waters, and flow again to your fount! Paris has deserted Oenone, and endures it.
That day spoke doom for wretched me, on that day did the awful storm of changed love begin, when Venus [Aphrodite] and Juno [Hera], and unadorned Minerva [Athena], more comely had she borne her arms, appeared before you to be judged. My bosom leaped with amaze as you told me of it, and a chill tremor rushed through my hard bones. I took counsel--for I was no little terrified--with grandams and long-lived sires. 'Twas clear to us all that evil threatened me.
The firs were felled, the timbers hewn; your fleet was ready, and the deep-blue wave received the waxèd crafts. Your tears fell as you left me--this, at least, deny not! We mingled our weeping, each a prey to grief; the elm is not so closely clasped by the clinging vine as was my neck by your embracing arms. Ah, how oft, when you complained that you were kept by the wind, did you comrades smile!--that wind was favouring. How oft, when you had taken your leave of me, did you return to ask another kiss! How your tongue could scarce endure to say ‘Farewell!’
A light breeze stirs the sails that hang idly from the rigid mast, and the water foams white with the churning of the oar. In wretchedness I follow with my eyes the departing sails as far as I may, and the sand is humid with my tears; that you may swiftly come again, I pray the sea-green daughters of Nereus--yes, that you may swiftly come to my undoing! Expected to return in answer to my vows, have you returned for the sake of another? Ah me, 'twas for the sake of a cruel rival that my persuasive prayers were made!
A mass of native rock looks down upon the unmeasured deep--a mountain it really is; it stays the billows of the sea. From here I was the first to spy and know the sails of your bark, and my heart's impulse was to rush through the waves to you. While I delayed, on the highest of the prow I saw the gleam of purple--fear seized upon me; that was not the manner of your garb. The craft comes nearer, borne on a freshening breeze, and touches the shore; with trembling heart I have caught the sight of a woman’s face. And this was not enough--why was I mad enough to stay and see?--in your embrace that shameless woman clung! Then indeed did I rend my bosom and beat my breast, and with the hard nail furrowed my streaming cheeks, and filled holy Ida with wailing cries of lamentation; yonder to the rocks I love I bore my tears. So may Helen's grief be, and so her lamentation, when she is deserted by her love; and what she was first to bring on me may she herself endure!
Your pleasure now is in jades who follow you over the open sea, leaving behind their lawful-wedded lords; but when you were poor and shepherded the flocks, Oenone was your wife, poor though you were, and none else. I am not dazzled by your wealth, nor am I touched by thought of your palace, nor would I be called one of the many wives of Priam’s sons--yet not that Priam would disdain a nymph as wife to his son, or that Hecuba would have to hide her kinship with me; I am worthy of being, and I desire to be, the matron of a puissant lord; my hands are such as the sceptre could well beseem. Nor despise me because once I pressed with you the beechen frond; I am better suited for the purpled marriage-bed.
Remember, too, my love can bring no harm; it will beget you no wars, nor bring avenging ships across the wave. The Tyndarid run-away is now demanded back by an enemy under arms; this is the dower the dame brings proudly to your marriage-chamber. Whether she should be rendered back to the Danai, ask Hector your brother, if you will, or Deiphobus and Polydamas; take counsel with grave Antenor, find out what Priam's self persuades, whose long lives have made them wise. 'Tis but a base beginning, to prize a stolen mistress more than your native land. Your case is one that calls for shame; just are the arms her lord takes up.
Think not, too, if you are wise, that the Laconian will be faithful--she who so quickly turned to your embrace. Just as the younger Atrides cries out at the violation of his marriage-bed, and feels his painful wound from the wife who loves another, you too will cry. By no art may purity once wounded be made whole; 'tis lost, lost once and for all. Is she ardent with love for you? So, too, she loved Menelaus. He, trusting fool that he was, lies now in a deserted bed. Happy Andromache, well wed to a constant mate! I was a wife to whom you should have clung after your brother's pattern; but you--are lighter than leaves what time their juice has failed, and dry they flutter in the shifting breeze; you have less weight than the tip of the spear of grain, burned light and crisp by ever-shining suns.
This, once upon a time--for I call it back to mind--your sister [Kassandra] sang to me, with locks let loose, foreseeing what should come: ‘What art thou doing, Oenone? Why commit seeds to sand? Thou art ploughing the shores with oxen that will accomplish naught. A Greek heifer is one the way, to ruin thee, thy home-land, and thy house! Ho, keep her far! A Greek heifer is coming! While yet ye may, sink in the deep the unclean ship! Alas, how much of Phrygian blood it hath aboard!’
She ceased to speak; her slaves seized on her as she madly ran. And I--my golden locks stood stiffly up. Ah, all too true a prophetess you were to my poor self--she has them, lo, the heifer has my pastures! Let her seem how fair soever of face, none the less she surely is a jade; smitten with a stranger, she left behind her marriage-gods. Theseus--unless I mistake the name--one Theseus, even before, had stolen her away from her father’s land. Is it to be thought she was rendered back a maid, by a young man and eager? Whence have I learned this so well? You ask. I love. You may call it violence and veil the fault in the word; yet she who has been so often stolen has surely lent herself to theft. But Oenone remains chaste, false though her husband prove--and, after your own example, she might have played you false.
Me, the swift Satyri, a wanton rout with nimble foot, used to come in quest of – where I would lie hidden in covert of the wood--and Faunus [Pan], with hornèd head girt round with sharp pine needles, where Ida swells in boundless ridges. Me, the builder of Troy [the god Apollon], well known for keeping faith, loved, and let my hands into the secret of his gifts. Whatever herb potent for aid, whatever root that is used for healing grows in all the world, is mine. Alas, wretched me, that love may not be healed by herbs! Skilled in an art, I am left helpless by the very art I know.
The aid that neither earth, fruitful in the bringing forth of herbs, nor a god himself, can give, you have the power to bestow on me. You can bestow it, and I have merited--have pity on a deserving maid! I come with no Danai, and bear no bloody armour--but I am yours, and I was your mate in childhood’s years, and yours through all time to come I pray to be!"
Ovid, Heroides 16. 97 ff :
"[Paris woos Helene:] ‘And not only have the daughters of princes and chieftains sought me, but even the nymphae have felt for me the cares of love. Whose beauty was I to admire more than Oenone's?--after you, the world contains none more fit than she to be bride to Priam's son.’"
Ovid, Heroides 17. 195 ff :
"[Helene answers the entreaty of Paris:] ‘You, too, faithless one, they say have abandoned your Oenone, beloved for many years.’"
- Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Lycophron, Alexandra - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Parthenius, Love Romances - Greek Mythography C1st B.C.
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
- Ovid, Heroides - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.