APHRODITE WRATH 2
APHRODITE was the Olympian goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation.
This page describes the wrath of the goddess incited by those who offered her personal slight, who scorned love, or made hybristic boasts. The most famous of the these stories include the hubristic boasts of the mother of Myrrha and the adultery of the wife of Diomedes.
The story of Aphrodite's vendetta against the maiden Psykhe can be found on another page.
(2) WRATH PERSONAL VENDETTA
DIOMEDES A king or lord of Argos (southern Greece) whose wife betrayed him and with her lover drove him from his homeland upon returning from the Trojan War. A punishment inflicted by Aphrodite in revenge for wounding her during the Trojan War.
EOS The goddess of the dawn was cursed by Aphrodite with an unquenchable desire for young men as punishment for lying with the goddess's lover Ares.
ERYMANTHOS (Erymanthus) A son of Apollon who was punished by Aphrodite for witnessing (and perhaps spreading gossip of) her dalliance with Adonis.
HELIOS (Helius) The god of the sun was cursed by Aphrodite to fall in love the Persian princess Leukothea and unwittingly bring about her demise as punishment for revealing the goddess' extramarital affair with Ares to Hephaistos.
HERAKLES (Heracles) The greatest of the Greek heroes incurred Aphrodite's wrath when he seduced her mortal lover Adonis. The goddess retaliated by instructing the dying kentauros Nessos to have Deianeira (the wife of Herakles) soak a robe in his poisoned blood, and present it to Herakles as a love-charm should he ever prove unfaithful. She did so, and the poisoned robe brought about the hero's death.
KALLIOPE (Calliope) One of the Mousai (Muses) who was appointed by Zeus to decide the fate of Adonis. When she declared that he must divide his time between Persephone and Aphrodite, the goddess, inflamed, caused the Thrakian Bakkantes to slay Kalliope's son Orpheus (some say also to punish him for scorning women and only consorting in love with boys).
KLEIO (Clio) One of the nine Mousai (Muses), goddesses of music and song, who was cursed by Aphrodite to fall in love with a mortal man, Pieros, as punishment for criticising the goddess' love of Adonis.
NERITES A young sea-god who was loved by Aphrodite during the time she spent in the sea. When he refused to accompany her to Olympos she transformed him into a shellfish.
PAN The god of shepherds was once called upon to judge a beauty contest between Aphrodite and a prideful youth named Akhilleus. When Pan awarded the prize to Akhilleus, she cursed him with his doomed love for the Nymphe Ekho.
PSYKHE (Psyche) A princess (of an unnamed Greek town) who was so beautiful men that came to worship her in place of Aphrodite, abandoning the shrines of the goddess. Aphrodite was wrath and demanded Eros make her fall in love with a monster. Instead the god fell in love with her himself and took her to live in her palace. When she betrayed her lover's trust, she sought Aphrodite's help, and the goddess imposed upon her many cruel labours. [see PSYKHE page]
(3) WRATH GODDESS OF LOVE
ANAXARETE A lady of the island of Salamis (southern Greece) who scorned a suitor and proved totally heartless at the news of his suicide. Aphrodite was not impressed and turned the cold woman to stone.
GLAUKOS (Glaucus) A king of Korinthos (southern Greece) who deliberately prevented the mares of his herds from mating. Aphrodite drove the mares into a frenzy and they tore the king to pieces.
HIPPOLYTOS (Hippolytus) A prince of Troizenos (southern Greece) who scorned love. The goddess punished him by having his stepmother Phaidra fall in love with him, a curse which ultimately led to the boy's death through the curses of his father Theseus.
NARKISSOS (Narcissus) A handsome youth of Phokis (central Greece) who callously spurned all those who sought his love. As punishment for his arrogance, Aphrodite made him fall in love with his own reflection. The boy pined away in unfulfilled yearning and was transformed (by the goddess) into a daffodil (the narcissus flower).
ORPHEUS A celebrated bard of Thrake (north of Greece) who earned the wrath of Aphrodite, either because of the judgement of his mother Kalliope in the contest between the goddess and Persephone for Adonis, or because he scorned the love of women for boys.
POLYPHONTE A princess of the Triballoi tribe of Thrake (north of Greece) who was cursed by Aphrodite to lust after intercourse with a bear as punishment for scorning love.
SEIRENES (Sirens) Three Naiad-nymphs of Aitolia (central Greece) who spurned love and as a result had their loveless bodies transformed to those of birds by a wrathful Aphrodite.
(4) WRATH HYBRISTIC BOASTS
AKHILLEUS (Achilleus) A Libyan boy of extraordinary beauty who challenged Aphrodite to a beauty contest. The goddess was offended by his hubris and transformed him into an ugly shark.
KENKHREIS (Cenchreis) A queen of Kypros (eastern Mediterranean) who boasted that her daughter Myrrha was more beautiful than Aphrodite herself. The goddess cursed the girl to fall in love with and consumate a union with her own father.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
APHRODITE WRATH : EOS
LOCALE : non-specific
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 27 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Eos, whom Aphrodite tormented with constant passion as punishment for sleeping with Ares."
For MORE information on this goddess see EOS
APHRODITE WRATH : HELIUS
LOCALE : non-specific
For the PRELUDE to this story see Aphrodite Loves: Ares
Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 170 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Even Sol [Helios the Sun], whose star-born radiance governs the world, became the thrall of love . . . Sol is thought to have been the first to see Venus' [Aphrodite's] adultery with Mars [Ares]: Sol is the first to see all things. Shocked at the sight he told the goddess' husband [Hephaistos], Junonigena [son of Hera], how he was cuckolded and where. Then Volcanus' [Hephaistos'] heart fell, and from his deft blacksmith's hands fell too the work he held. At once he forged a net, a mesh of thinnest links of bronze, too fine for eye to see [with which he laid a trap for the lovers Aphrodite and Ares] . . . Cythereia [Aphrodite] did not forget. Him [Helios] who revealed and brought to ruin the love she hoped to hide she punished with a love as ruinous. What then availed Hyperion's proud son his beauty's brilliance and his flashing beams? Why, he, whose fires set the world aglow, glowed with new fire, and he who should observe all things gazed only on Leucothoe, and fastened on one girl those eyes he owes to all creation [a love that was doomed]."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 26 ff :
"Circe (never heart more sensitive than hers to love's assault, whether the trait was in herself or Venus [Aphrodite] might perhaps in anger at her father's [Helios the Sun's] gossiping have made her so)."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 148 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When Sol [Helios the sun] reported this [Aphrodite's affair with Ares] to Vulcanus [Hephaistos], he saw them lying there naked, and summoned all the gods who saw . . . To Sol's [Helios'] progeny, however, Venus [Aphrodite], because of his disclosure, was always hostile."
Seneca, Phaedra 124 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Venus [Aphrodite], detesting the offspring of the hated Sol [Helios the Sun], is avenging through us [i.e. Pasiphae, Phaedra] the chains that bound her to her loved Mars [Ares], and loads the whole race of Phoebus [Helios] with shame unspeakable. No daughter of Minos' house hath found love's bondage light; ever 'tis linked with guilt."
APHRODITE WRATH : CALLIOPE & ORPHEUS
LOCALE : Thrake (North of Greece)
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 7 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Some also have said that Venus [Aphrodite] and Proserpina [Persephone] came to Jove [Zeus] for his decision, asking him to which of them he would grant Adonis. Calliope, the judge appointed by Jove, decided that each should posses him half of the year. But Venus [Aphrodite], angry because she had not been granted what she thought was her right, stirred the women in Thrace by love, each to seek Orpheus for herself, so that they tore him limb from limb."
For MORE information on this Muse see KALLIOPE
APHRODITE WRATH : CLIO
LOCALE : Pieria (Northern Greece)
For the PRELUDE to this story see Aphrodite Loves: Adonis
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 16 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Aphrodite, furious with [the Mousa (Muse)] Kleio--who had chided her for loving Adonis--, caused her to fall in love with [a mortal] Magnes' son Pieros. As a result of their union she bore him a son Hyakinthos."
For MORE information on this Muse see KLEIO
APHRODITE WRATH : ERYMANTHUS
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 1 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"Erymanthos, son of Apollon, was punished because he had seen Aphrodite after her union with Adonis and Apollon, irritated, changed himself into a wild boar and killed Adonis by striking through his defenses."
For the MYTH of Aphrodite and Adonis see Aphrodite Loves: Adonis
APHRODITE WRATH : NERITES
LOCALE : non-specific
Aelian, On Animals 14. 28 (trans. Schofield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"[The sea-god] Nerites was the most beautiful of men and gods; [and] Aphrodite delighted to be with Nerites in the sea and loved him. And when the fated time arrived, at which, at the bidding of [Zeus] the Father of the gods, Aphrodite also had to be enrolled among the Olympians, I have heard that she ascended and wished to bring her companion and play-fellow. But the story goes that he refused, preferring life with his sisters and parents to Olympos. And then he was permitted to grow wings: this, I imagine, was a gift from Aphrodite. But even this favour he counted as nothing. And so the daughter of Zeus was moved to anger and transformed his shape into a shell, and of her own accord chose in his place for her attendant and servant Eros, who also was young and beautiful, and to him she gave the wings of Nerites."
For MORE information on this godling see NERITES
APHRODITE WRATH : DIOMEDES & ACMON
LOCALE : Argos (Southern Greece) & Apri (Central Italy)
For the PRELUDE to this story see Aphrodite & the Trojan War: Wounded
Homer, Iliad 5. 370 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Bright Aphrodite [wounded at Troy by Diomedes fled back to Olympos and] fell at the knees of her mother, Dione, who gathered her daughter into her arms' fold and stroked her with her hand and called her by name and spoke to her : ‘. . . It was the goddess grey-eyed Athene who drove on this man [Diomedes] against you; poor fool, the heart of Tydeus' son knows nothing of how that man who fights the immortals lives no long time, his children do not gather to his knees to welcome their father when he returns home after the fighting and the bitter warfare. Then, though he be very strong indeed, let the son of Tydeus take care lest someone even better than he might fight with him, lest for a long time Aigialeia, wise child of Adrastos, mourning wake out of sleep her household's beloved companions, longing for the best of the Akhaians, her lord by marriage, she, the strong wife of Diomedes, breaker of horses.’" [N.B. Dione here suggests that Aphrodite use the wife of Diomedes as the agent of her revenge].
Mimnermus, Fragment 22 (from Scholiast on Lycophron) (trans. Gerber, Vol. Greek Elegiac) (Greek elegy C7th B.C.) :
"According to Mimnermos, because Aphrodite had been wounded by Diomedes she caused [his wife] Aigialeia to go to bed with many lovers and to be loved by Kometes, the son of Sthenelos. And when Diomedes arrived in Argos she plotted against him."
Strabo, Geography 7. 1. 9 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"In the sea near by [Apri in Italy] are two islands that are called the Islands of Diomedes, of which one is inhabited, while the other, it is said, is desert; on the latter, according to certain narrators of myths, Diomedes was caused to disappear, and his companions were changed to birds [by Aphrodite according to Ovid, see quote below], and to this day, in fact, remain tame and live a sort of human life, not only in their orderly ways but also in their tameness towards honorable men and in their flight from wicked and knavish men."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 14. 476 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Diomedes tells the tale of his exile:] Argos, my homeland, drove me out [following his return from Troy] - her price now claimed by fostering Venus [Aphrodite] who recalled that wound of long ago. Such tragic toils I endured on ocean's waves, such toils in war on land, that often I counted fortunate those whom shared storms and ruthless Caphereus had drowned, and wished that I were one of them.
My comrades' sufferings had been extreme in war and on the sea. With failing hearts they pleaded for an end to wandering. But Acmon, hot by nature, chafing too at our disasters, cried ‘What's left, you men, that your endurance will refuse to bear? What else, what more can Cytherea [Aphrodite] do--suppose she means to? While we fear things worse, there's room for wounds, but when the worst has happened, fear is underfoot : the sum of suffering finds us serene. Though she herself should hear and hate (as she does hate) all those who serve with Diomedes, yet all of us despise her hate: her mighty power means naught to us.’
So Acmon Pleuronius taunted Venus [Aphrodite], goading her, and rousing up afresh her former rage. His words pleased few; the greater part of us, his friends, reproved him. Trying to reply, his voice, his throat grew thin, his hair became feathers and feathers clothed his new-formed neck and breast and back, and larger plumage spread over his arms. His elbows made a curve of buoyant wings; webbed feet replaced his toes, hard horn his mouth--it finished in a beak. Lycas and Idas, Nycteus and Rhexenor stared open-mouthed, and Abas too, and while they stood and stared they took the selfsame shape. Most of the crew flew up and, flying round, circled the rowers on their flapping wings. Should you enquire their shape, those sudden birds, swans they were not, but likest snowy swans [they were perhaps transformed into sheerwaters or coots]."
APHRODITE WRATH : HERACLES
LOCALE : River Euenos, Dryopia (Southern Greece)
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 2 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"It was Aphrodite who, because of Adonis whom both she and Herakles loved, taught Nessos the kentauros (centaur) the trap with which to snare Herakles."
APHRODITE WRATH : NARCISSUS
LOCALE : Phokis (Central Greece)
Ovid, Metamorphoses 3. 350 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Cephisius [Narkissos] now had reached his sixteenth year and seemed both man and boy; and many a youth and many a girl desired him, but hard pride ruled in that delicate frame, and never a youth and never a girl could touch his haughty heart . . . Narcissus mocked her [the Nymphe Ekho who loved him]; others too, Nymphae of Hill and Water and many a man he mocked; till one scorned youth, with raised hands, prayed, ‘So may he love--and never win his love!’ And Rhamnusia [i.e. Nemesis as an aspect of Aphrodite] approved the righteous prayer.
There was a pool, limpid and silvery, whither no shepherd came nor any herd, nor mountain goat; and never bird nor beast nor falling branch disturbed its shining peace; grass grew around it, by the water fed, and trees to shield it from the warming sun. Here--for the chase and heat had wearied him--the boy lay down, charmed by the quiet pool, and, while he slaked his thirst, another thirst grew; as he drank he saw before his eyes a form, a face, and loved with leaping heart a hope unreal and thought the shape was real. Spellbound he saw himself, and motionless lay like a marble statue staring down. He gazes at his eyes, twin constellation, his hair worthy of Bacchus or Apollo, his face so fine, his ivory neck, his cheeks smooth, and the snowy pallor and the blush; all he admires that all admire in him, himself he longs for, longs unwittingly, praising is praised, desiring is desired, and love he kindles while with love he burns. How often in vain he kissed the cheating pool and in the water sank his arms to clasp the neck he saw, but could not clasp himself! Not knowing what he sees, he adores the sight; that false face fools and fuels his delight . . . No thought of food or rest draws him away; stretched on the grassy shade he gazes down on the false phantom, staring endlessly, his eyes his own undoing . . .
[Realising the image is his own] distraught he turned towards the face again; his tears rippled the pool, and darkly ten the troubled water veiled the fading form . . . Then in his grief he tore his robe and beat his pale cold fists upon his naked breast, and on his breast a blushing redness spread like apples, white in part and party red, or summer grapes whose varying skins assume upon the ripening vine a blushing bloom. And this he saw reflected in the pool, now still again, and could endure no more. But as wax melts before a gentle fire, or morning frosts beneath the rising sun, so, by love wasted, slowly he dissolves by hidden fire consumed. No colour now, blending the white with red, nor strength remains nor will, nor aught that lately seemed so fair . . . On the green grass he drooped his weary head, and those bright eyes that loved their master's beauty closed in death. Then still, received into the Underworld, he gazed upon himself in Styx's pool. His Naiad sisters wailed and sheared their locks in mourning for their brother . . . and then brandished torches, bier and pyre were ready - but no body anywhere; and in its stead they found a flower--behold, white petals clustered round a cup of gold! [a narcissus flower or daffodil]."
APHRODITE WRATH : POLYPHONTE
LOCALE : Thrake (North of Greece)
Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 21 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Polyphonte [of Thrake] scorned the activities of Aphrodite and went to the mountains as a companion and sharer of sports with Artemis. Aphrodite, whose activities Polyphonte failed to honour, made her fall in love with a bear and drove her mad. By daimonic urge she went on heat and coupled with this bear. Artemis seeing her was utterly disgusted with her and turned all beasts against her."
APHRODITE WRATH : ANAXARETE
LOCALE : Salamis (Southern Greece)
Ovid, Metamorphoses 14. 693 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"And you should fear the vengeance of the gods, Idalie [Aphrodite] who hates a stony heart, the wrath, the unforgotten wrath of Rhamnusis [Nemesis]. That you may fear them more I'll tell a tale famous in Cyprus [or Salamis], whence you well may find your will less stubborn and your heart more kind. Iphis, a man of humble origin, had seen the Lady Anaxarete, a high-born girl of ancient Teucer's [King of Salamis'] line; had seen her and was heart and soul in love. And long he fought that folly, but at last, when reason failed, respectful at her door, he told his hapless passion to her nurse and begged her, by her hopes for her dear charge, not to be hard on him. And many a time he coaxed her maids, her many maids, to do a kindly favour, and would often give them notes to take with loving messages. Sometimes he hung a garland at her gate, bedewed with tears, and on her doorstep laid his body down, soft side on the hard stone, and cursed the misery of bolts and bars. But she, more savage than the surging seas when the Kids set, more adamant than iron forged in the fires of Noricus, or rocks, deep-rooted living rocks, despised he man and laughed at him, with haughty words and acts of cruelty, and foiled the lover's hope. The torture of his long-drawn agony was more than he could bear. Before her door these last few final words poor Iphis cried : ‘You triumph, Anaxarete! At last I'll not molest you: you need bear no more. Prepare the glad parade; sing out the Paean (song of victory), and wreathe your brow with bay! You triumph; I die gladly; come, rejoice, you stony heart! . . . Nor will some rumoured tale report my death. I shall myself be present, never doubt, in person for your eyes to see and feast--your cruel eyes!--upon my lifeless corpse. O ye Gods of heaven, if you behold the actions of mankind, remember me (my failing tongue's last prayer) and make my tale be told long ages hence, so may the time you shortened of my life prolong my fame.’
Then to the posts he'd often garlanded he turned his brimming eyes and wasted arms and tied a noose above the door . . . and thrust his head within the noose, and facing towards her to the last, hung there, a tragic burden, choked to death . . . Through the middle of the town she [his mother] leads the weeping funeral, and on the bier the death-pale body for the pyre to burn. It chanced the house of Anaxarete looked on the street through which the sad cortege [of Iphis' funeral] was winding and the sound of wailing reached the heartless girl, whom some avenging god now drove. And moved, despite herself, she thought ‘We'll see this tearful funeral,’ and climbed the attic stair and threw the windows wide. Scarce had she fixed her gaze on Iphis there, laid out upon the bier, when the warm blood fled from her limbs, her face was white, her eyes were stark and stiff. She tried to walk away--her feet stuck fast. She tried to avert her face--that too she could not. Gradually the stone, that all along had lurked in her hard heart, spread and possessed her body, limb by limb. And still at Salamis a statue stands of that proud lady, proof the tale is true, and there's a shrine of Venus Prospiciens [Gazing Aphrodite] too."
APHRODITE WRATH : GLAUCUS
LOCALE : Korinthos (Southern Greece)
Aphrodite caused the mares of Glaukos to tear their master apart when he prevented them from mating.
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 250 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Teams which destroyed their drivers . . . His own mares devoured Glaucus, son of Sisyphus, at the funeral games of Pelias."
Virgil, Georgics 3. 267 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"But surely the madness of mares surpasses all. Venus [Aphrodite] herself inspired their frenzy, when the four Potnian steeds tore with their jaws the limbs of Glaucus. Love leads them over Gargarus and over the roaring Ascanius; they scale mountains, they swim rivers. And, soon as the flame has stolen into their craving marrow . . . then oft, without any wedlock, pregnant with the wind (a wondrous tale!) they flee over rocks and crags and lowly dales . . . Then, and then only, does [i.e. can be obtained] the slimy ‘horse madness,’ which cruel stepdames often gather, mixing herbs and baleful spells."
APHRODITE WRATH : ACHILLEUS & PAN
LOCALE : perhaps Mount Tmolos, Lydia (Anatolia)
The Akhilleus of this story was a son of Zeus and Lamia and not the hero of the Trojan War. His sister was the Herophile the Sibylla of Lydian Erythrai, so the story is probably set on Mt Tmolos (where Pan was said to have competed in a musical contest with Apollon).
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 6 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"It is said that there was born also a son of Zeus and the Lamia called Akhilleus (the Lipless One); he was of an irresistable beauty and like others was the object of a competition, he carried it then to the judgement of Pan. Aphrodite was irritated and placed in the heart of Pan the love of Ekho and she made him [Akhilleus] become as ugly and unattractive as he had been beautiful [she transformed him into a shark]."
APHRODITE WRATH : MYRRHA - SMYRNA
LOCALE : Kypros (Eatern Meditteranean) OR Assyria (West Asia)
Myrrha-Smyrna was transformed by Aphrodite into either a myrtle-tree (Greek myrrhina) or myrrh-bush (Greek smyrna). Both plants were held sacred to the goddess.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 184 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Theias, king of the Assyrians, whose daughter was Smyrna. Because of Aphrodite's wrath (for she did not honour Aphrodite), Smyrna developed a lust for her father, and with the help of her nurse slept with him for twelve nights without his knowing it. When he found out he drew his sword and started after her, and as he was about to overtake her, she prayed to the gods to become invisible. The gods took pity on her and changed her into the tree called the Smyrna. Nine months later the tree split open and the baby named Adonis was born."
Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 34 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"On Mount Lebanon Thias son of Belos and Oreithyia, one of the Nymphai, had a daughter Smyrna. Because of her beauty many came from many a city as her suitors. She devised numerous tricks to deceive her parents and to put off the day of decision, because of a dreadful lust for her father, had driven her mad.
At first she hid this fever through shame. But as her passion spurred her on, she told the whole story to her nurse Hippolyte who promised to find her a remedy for this inordinate passion. She went to Thias with the message that a girl of exalted parentage desired to lie with him, but secretly.
Thias, who had no idea what was being devised against him, but secretly welcomed the proposal. In the dark of the night he waited on his bed for the girl. Then the nurse led in Smyrna with her clothes swathed over her. For a long time this disgraceful unlawful activity was carried on undiscovered.
When Smyrna became pregnant, Thias felt an urge to learn who the mother of his child was. He hid a light in his quarters and, when Smyrna came to him, she was revealed as the light was suddenly brought out. Smyrna gave birth prematurely to her child and she raised up her arms and prayed that she might no more be seen among the living, nor among the dead.
Zeus changed her into a tree which was called the smyrna (myrrh) after her name. It is said that each year the tree weeps tears from the wood as its fruit. Thias, father of Smyrna, did away with himself for this unlawful act. By desire of Zeus the child was brought up and called Adonis. Aphrodite fell utterly in love with him because of his beauty."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 24. 7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The rose and the myrtle are sacred to Aphrodite and connected with the story of Adonis [Pausanias presumably here indicates that the myrtle was named after Adonis' mother Myrrha]."
Pseudo-Plutarch, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories 22 (trans. Babbitt) (Greek historian C2nd A.D.) :
"Through the wrath of Aphrodite, Smyrna, the daughter of Kinyras, fell in love with her father, and revealed to her nurse the all-compelling force of her love. The nurse led on her master by a trick; for she declared that a neighbouring maiden was in love with him and was too modest to approach him openly; and Kinyras consorted with her. But on one occasion, wishing to learn the identity of his mistress, he called for a light; but when he saw her, sword in hand he pursued this most wanton woman. But by the foresight of Aphrodite she was changed into the tree that bears her name [the myrrh]. So Theodoros in his Metamorphoses [this is perhaps also the source for Ovid's account]."
Oppian, Halieutica 3. 402 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd A.D.) :
"The tear [myrrh] of the Assyrian daughter of Theias : who, they say, did a deed of ill contrivance for love of her father and came into his bed, through the anger of Aphrodite; but since the doom of the gods rooted her and the tree that bears her name, she wails and mourns her woeful fate, wetted with tears for the sake of her bed."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 58 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Smyrna was the daughter of Cinyras, King of the Assyrians, and Cenchreis. Her mother Cenchreis boasted proudly that her daughter excelled Venus [Aphrodite] in beauty. Venus [Aphrodite], to punish the mother, sent forbidden love to Smyrna so that she loved her own father. The nurse prevented her from hanging herself, and without knowledge of her father, helped her lie iwth him. She conceived, and goaded by shame, in order not to reveal her fault, hid in the woods. Venus [Aphrodite] later pitied her, and changed her into a kind of tree from which myrrh flows; Adonis, born from it, exacted punishment for his mother's sake from Venus."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 298 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Cinyras [King of Kypros], might have been numbered among the fortunate, had he been childless . . . Myrrh, that new tree cost too much! Cupidus [Eros] himself denies his arrows hurt Myrrha [and made her fall in love with her own father Kinyras] and clears his torch of that offence. One of the three dread Sorores (Sisters) [the Erinyes] blasted her with viper's venom and firebrands of Stygia (Hell). To hate one's father is a crime; this love a greater crime than hate.
From everywhere the eager suitors came; the golden youth of all the Orient vied to win her hand. Choose, Myrrha, one among that company so long as one among them shall not be! In truth she fought the love she felt was foul. ‘What are these thoughts?’ she asked herself; ‘My aim, what is it? May the gods, may duty's bond, the sacred rights of parents, stop this crime, if it is crime. Yet surely duty's bond they say does not condemn such love as this . . . Were I not great Cinyras' daughter, I could lie with Cinyras. But now because he's mine, he isn't mine! Propinquity itself does damage; I'd do better not so near. I'd wish to go away and leave afar my native borders, could I flee from crime. But evil fires hold my heart here, to keep beloved Cinyras before my eyes, to touch him, speak with him, and kiss him too, if nothing more's allowed. What more? Can you set more before your eyes, you wicked girl? . . . Come, while yet no sin's committed, banish thoughts of sin, nor ever foul great nature's covenant by that forbidden act! Wish as you may, the facts forbid. He's righteous! Yes, he'll not forget the claim of duty. Oh, to see in him the same mad fire that flames in me!’ . . .
Midnight had come and sleep relaxed the limbs and cares of men, but Myrrha lay awake, a prey to ungoverned passion, and resumed her frenzied longings, sometimes in despair, sometimes resolved to try, at once ashamed and yearning, vainly groping for some plan . . . Myrrha's mind, weakened by wound on wound, wavered uncertainly this way and that, nodding on either side and found no end, no respite for her love except in death. Death it shall be! She rises up resolved to hang herself. Tying her girdle to a beam, ‘Goodbye, dear Cinyras!’ she moans, ‘Goodbye, and understand why I must die,’ and fit's the noose around her death-pale neck. They say some sound, some whisper of her words came to her nurse's ears, her faithful nurse, guarding her Myrrha's room. The old nurse rose, opened the door and saw the means of death. She shrieked and beat her breast and tore her robe, and in the same short moment, seizing the noose, snatched it from Myrrha's neck.
Then she had time at last for tears, and took her in her arms and asked the reason for the rope. The girl was silent, dumb, her gaze fixed on the ground, distraught that her attempt had been found out and death to late. The old nurse pressed her hard . . . and begged her . . . to trust her with the cause of her distress . . . Myrrha raised her head; her gushing tears rained down her nurse's bosom . . . Then ‘Mother,’ came the words, ‘How happy in your husband!’ Nothing more except a groan. An icy shudder ran through the old woman's frame (she understood) . . . Many may words she poured to expel that passion if she could, so terrible. The girl well knew the truth of what she warned; but still her purpose held to die unless she had her heart's desire. ‘Live then,’ the nurse replied, ‘and have your--’ not daring to utter ‘father,’ she stopped short in silence, then she called the gods of heaven to ratify the promise she had given.
The time of Ceres' [Demeter's] festival had come, in duty kept by mothers every year . . . and for nine nights count love and the touch of men forbidden things. The king's wife Cenchreis was there among the worshippers and joined the sacred rites. So while the king's bed lacked a lawful wife, the old bad-busy nurse found Cinyras well-wined and gave him tidings of a girl who loved him truly (naming a false name), and when he asked her age, ‘The same,’ she said, ‘As Myrrha's.’ So he bade her bring the girl, and she returning home, ‘My darling child, rejoice!’ she said, ‘we've won.’ The ill-starred girl felt no whole-hearted joy. Forebodings filled her soul with sadness; even so joy too was there--her warring thoughts were so confused.
It was the hour when all the world is silent . . . three times a boding stumble warned her back, three times a screech-owl, bird of doom, declared the omen with its deadly threnody. Yet on she went, the darkness of the night dwindling her shame. Her left hand held her nurse, her right groped the blind passage. Now she's reached the room, now found the door and opened it, and now she's led inside. Her shaking knees give way, blood fails her cheeks, and as she goes her senses reel. The nearer to her crime, the more her horror. Would she's never dared! Would she could steal away unrecognised! As she hung back, the old nurse took her hand and led her to the high-raised couch and said ‘She's yours, your Majesty. Take her’; and joined the pair in doom. In that incestuous bed the father took his flesh and blood, and calmed her girlish fears and cheered her bashfulness. Maybe, to suit her age, he called her ‘daughter’ and she him ‘father’--names to seal the crime. Filled with her father Myrrha left the room his wicked seed within her tragic womb, the crime conceived.
The next night saw the deed doubled, and that was not the end. At last, after so many times, eager to know who was the girl who lived him, Cinyras brought in a lamp and saw his crime and her, his daughter. Dumb in agony, he drew his flashing sword that hung there. Myrrha fled. The darkness and the night's blind benison saved her from death. Across the countryside she wandered till she left the palm-fringed lands of Arabae and rich Panchaea's fields. Nine times the crescent of the moon returned and still she roamed, and then she found at last rest for her weariness on Sabaea's soil; she scarce could bear the burden of her womb. And then, not knowing what to wish, afraid of death and tired of life, she framed these words of prayer : ‘If Powers of heaven are open to the cries of penitents, I've well deserved--I'll not refuse--the pain of punishment, but lest I outrage, if I'm left alive, the living, or, if I shall die, the dead, expel me from both realms; some nature give that's different; let me niether die nor live!’
Some Power is open to a penitent; for sure her final prayer found gods to hear. For, as she spoke, around her legs the earth crept up; roots thrusting from her toes spread sideways, firm foundations of a trunk; her bones gained strength; though marrow still remained, blood became sap, her fingers twigs, her arms branches, her skin was hardened into bark. And now the growing tree had tightly swathed her swelling womb, had overlapped her breast, ready to wrap her neck. She would not wait, but sinking down to meet the climbing wood, buried her face and forehead in the bark. Though with her body she had forfeited her former feelings, still she weeps and down the tree the warm drops ooze. Those tears in truth have honour; from the trunk the weeping myrrh keeps on men's lips for aye the name of her."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 522 ff :
"[Adonis son of Myrrha by her father Kinyras] a most lovely infant, then a youth, and now a man more lovely than the boy, was Venus' [Aphrodite's] darling (Venus'!) and avenged his mother's passion [upon the goddess]."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 98 ff :
"Cinyras, bereaved, embraced the temple steps, his daughter's [Myrrha's] limbs, and lying on the marble seemed to weep."
Other references not currently quoted here: Antoninus Liberalis 34, Plutarch PS 22.
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Greek Elegaic Mimnermus, Fragments - Greek Elegaic C7th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Plutarch, Moralia - Greek Historian C1st - 2nd A.D.
- Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - 3rd A.D.
- Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History - Greek Mythography C1st - 2nd A.D.
- Oppian, Halieutica - Greek Poetry C3rd A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Virgil, Georgics - Latin Bucolic C1st B.C.
- Seneca, Phaedra - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Photius, Myriobiblon - Byzantine Greek Scholar C9th A.D.