Sons of Aloeus
THE ALOADAI (Aloadae) were two giants who attempted to storm the home of the gods by piling three mountains--Olympos, Ossa and Pelion--one on top of the other.
Ares tried to stop them but was defeated and imprisoned for thirteen months in a bronze urn. Artemis later raced between them in the guise of a deer. They both cast their spears but missed and instead struck each other dead.
Curiously the pair were also attributed with introducing the cult of the Mousai (Muses) to Mount Helikon in Boiotia.
The Aloadai giants were depicted in ancient art as a pair of youthful hunters with caps and hunting spears. They were sometimes confounded with or included in lists of the Gigantes who waged war on the gods.
The name Aloadai, was derived from the Greek verb aloaô meaning "to crush" or "thresh." Individually they were named "nightmare" (Greek ephialtês) and "doom" (from oitos) or "horned-owl" (Greek ôtos).
FAMILY OF THE ALOADAE
[1.1] POSEIDON & IPHIMEDEIA (Homer Odyssey 11.305, Hesiod Catalogues Frag 6, Apollodorus 1.53, Hyginus Fabulae 28)
[1.2] ALOEUS & IPHIMEDEIA (Homer Iliad 5.385, Hesiod Catalogues Frag 6, Pausanias 9.22.6, Diodorus Siculus 5.51.1, Hyginus Fabulae 28)
[1.3] IPHIMEDEIA (Pindar Pythian 4 ep4)
[1.1] OTOS, EPHIALTES (Homer Odyssey 11.305, Pindar Pythian 4 ep4, Apollodorus 1.53, Pausanias 9.29.1, Diodorus Siculus 5.51.1, Hyginus Fabulae 28, Nonnus Dionysiaca 20.35)
ALOEIDAE, ALOI′ADAE, or ALO′ADAE (Alôeidai, Alôïaoai or Alôadai), are patronymic forms from Aloeus, but are used to designate the two sons of his wife Iphimedeia by Poseidon: viz. Otus and Ephialtes. The Aloeidae are renowned in the earliest stories of Greece for their extraordinary strength and daring spirit. When they were nine years old, each of their bodies measured nine cubits in breadth and twenty-seven in height. At this early age, they threatened the Olympian gods with war, and attempted to pile mount Ossa upon Olympus, and Pelion upon Ossa. They would have accomplished their object, says Homer, had they been allowed to grow up to the age of manhood; but Apollo destroyed them before their beards began to appear. (Od. xi. 305, &c.) In the Iliad (v. 385, &c.; comp. Philostr. de Vit. Soph. ii. 1. § 1) the poet relates another feat of their early age. They put the god Ares in chains, and kept him imprisoned for thirteen months; so that he would have perished, had not Hermes been informed of it by Eriboea, and secretly liberated the prisoner. The same stories are related by Apollodorus (i. 7. § 4), who however does not make them perish in the attempt upon Olympus. According to him, they actually piled the mountains upon one another, and threatened to change land into sea and sea into land. They are further said to have grown every year one cubit in breadth and three in height. As another proof of their daring, it is related, that Ephialtes sued for the hand of Hera, and Otus for that of Artemis. But this led to their destruction in the island of Naxos, Comp. Pind. Pyth. iv. 156, &c.) Here Artemis appeared to them in the form of a stag, and ran between the two brothers, who, both aiming at the animal at the same time, shot each other dead. Hyginus (Fab. 28) relates their death in a similar manner, but makes Apollo send the fatal stag. (Comp. Callim. Hymn. in Dian. 264; Apollon. Rhod. i. 484, with the Schol.) As a punishment for their presumption, they were, in Hades, tied to a pillar with serpents, with their faces turned away from each other, and were perpetually tormented by the shrieks of an owl. (Munck, ad Hygin. l. c.; Virg. Aen. vi. 582.) Diodorus (v. 50, &c.), who does not mention the Homeric stories, contrives to give to his account an appearance of history. According to him, the Aloeidae are Thessalian heroes who were sent out by their father Aloeus to fetch back their mother Iphimedeia and her daughter Pancratis, who had been carried off by Thracians. After having overtaken and defeated the Thracians in the island of Strongyle (Naxos), they settled there as rulers over the Thracians. But soon after, they killed each other in a dispute which had arisen between them, and the Naxians worshipped them as heroes. The foundation of the town of Aloïum in Thessaly was ascribed to them. (Steph. Byz. s. v.) In all these traditions the Aloeidae are represented as only remarkable for their gigantic physical strength; but there is another story which places them in a different light. Pausanias (ix. 29. § 1) relates, that they were believed to have been the first of all men who worshipped the Muses on mount Helicon, and to have consecrated this mountain to them; but they worshipped only three Muses--Melete, Mneme, and Aoide, and founded the town of Ascra in Boeotia. Sepulchral monuments of the Aloeidae were seen in the time of Pausanias (ix. 22. § 5) near the Boeotian town of Anthedon. Later times fabled of their bones being seen in Thessaly. (Philostr. i. 3.)
OTUS (Ôtos), a son of Poseidon and Iplimedeia, was one of the Aloeidae. (Hom. Il. v. 385, Od. xi. 305; Pind. Pyth. iv. 89; Apollod. i. 7. § 4.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
NAMES OF THE ALOADAE
Horned owl (ôtos), Doom (oitos)
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Homer, The Iliad 5. 385 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Many of us who have our homes on Olympos endure things from men, when ourselves we inflict hard pain on each other. Ares had to endure it when strong Ephialtes and Otos, sons of Aloeus, chained him in bonds that were too strong for him, and three months and ten he lay chained in the brazen cauldron; had not Eeriboia (Eriboea), their stepmother, the surpassingly lovely, brought word to Hermes, who stole Ares away out of it, as he was growing faint and the hard bondage was breaking him."
Homer, Odyssey 11. 305 (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Odysseus recalls the shades of the dead he saw in the underworld :] I saw Aloeus' wife; she was Iphimedeia, whose boast it was to have lain beside Poseidon. She bore him two sons, though their life was short--Otos the peer of the gods and far-famed Ephialtes; these were the tallest men, and the handsomest, that ever the fertile earth has fostered, save only incomparable Orion; at nine years of age their breadth was nine cubits, their height nine fathoms. They threatened the Deathless Ones themselves--to embroil Olympos in all the fury and din of war. And so indeed they might have done had they reached the full measure of their years, but the god that Zeus begot and lovely-haired Leto bore [Apollon] destroyed them both before the first down could show underneath their brows and overspread and adorn their cheeks."
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Frag 6 (from Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius 1.142) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Aloiadai (Aloadae). Hesiod said they were sons of Aloeos (Aloeus)--called so after him--and of Iphimedeia, but in reality, sons of Poseidon and Iphimedeia, and that Alos a city of Aitolia (Aetolia) was founded by their father."
Pindar, Pythian Ode 4 ep 4 (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric poet C5th B.C.) :
"Iphimedeia's sons [the Aloadai (Aloedae)], they say, in gleaming Naxos died, Otos and you Lord Ephialtes the daring."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 53 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Aloeus married Triops' daughter Iphimedeia, who, however, was in love with Poseidon. She would go down to the sea, gather the waves in her hands, and pour the water on her vagina. Poseidon mated with her and fathered two sons, Otos and Ephialtes, who were known as Aloadai (Aloadae). Each year these lads grew two feet in width and six feet in length. When they were nine years old and measured eighteen feet across by fifty four feet tall, they decided to fight the gods. So they set Mount Ossa on top of Mount Olympos, and then placed Mount Pelion on top of Ossa, threatening by means of these mountains to climb up to the sky; and they also said that they would dam up the sea with mountains and make it dry, and make the dry land a sea. Ephialtes paid amorous attention to Hera, as did Otos to Artemis. And they also bound up Ares. But Hermes secretly snatched Ares away, and Artemis finished off the Aloadai in Naxos by means of a trick: in the likeness of a deer she darted between them, and in their desire to hit the animal they speared each other."
Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"Neither let any woo the Maiden [Artemis]; for not Otos [one of the Aloadai], nor Orion wooed her to their own good."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 1. 516 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Aloeus' giant sons who in the old time made that haughty vaunt of piling on Olympos' brow the height of Ossa steeply-towering, and the crest of sky-encountering Pelion, so to rear a mountain-stair for their rebellious rage to scale the highest heaven."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 22. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Here [at Anthedon in Boiotia (Boeotia)] are the graves of [the Aloadai (Aloadae)] the children of Iphimedeia and Aloeus, who died at the hands of Apollon: Homer and Pindar have written the same about them, that they met their destiny in Naxos, which lies beyond Paros. They have monuments at Anthedon."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 29. 1 :
"They say that Ephialtes and Otos were the first men to sacrifice to the Mousai (Muses) on Helikon (Helicon) and to declare this mountain sacred to the Mousai : and the founded Askre (Ascra) too. Hegesinous wrote about this in his Atthis: ‘Askre and Poseidon who shakes the earth lay together: the season circled and she bore his son--Oioklos (Oeoclus); with the sons of Aloeus he built the foundations of Askre under the streaming feet of Helikon . . . The sons of Aloeus held that the Mousai were three in number, and gave them the names Melete (Practice), Mneme (Memory), and Aoide (Song).’"
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 85. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"He [Homer] had spoken before of the Aloadai (Aloadae), that at nine years of age they were nine cubits in breadth and an equal number of fathoms in height, he adds: ‘These were the tallest men that ever earth, giver of grain, did rear, and goodliest by far, save for Orion, famed abroad.’"
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 51. 1 :
"Aloeus dispatched his sons Otos and Ephialtes in search of his wife [Iphimedia] and daughter [Pankratis (Pancratis)] [devotees of Dionysos who had been captured by the Thrakian lord Boutes], and they, sailing to Strongyle [the island Naxos], defeated the Thrakians (Thracians) in battle and reduced the city. Some time afterwards Pankratis died, and Otos and Ephialtes essayed to take the island for their dwelling and to rule over the Thrakians, and they changed the name of the island to Dia. But at a later time they quarrelled among themselves, and joining battle they slew many of the other combatants and then destroyed one another, and from that time on these two men have received at the hands of the natives the honours accorded to heroes."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 28 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Otos and Ephialtes, sons of Aloeus and Iphimede, are said to have been of extraordinary size. They each grew nine inches every month, and so when they were nine years old, they tried to climb into heaven. They began this way: they placed Mount Ossa on Pelion (from this Mount Ossa is also called Pelion), and were piling up other mountains. But they were discovered by Apollo and killed. Other writers, however, say that they were invulnerable sons of Neptunus [Poseidon] and Iphimede. When they wished to assault Diana [Artemis], she could not resist their strength, and Apollo sent a deer between them. Driven mad by anger in trying to kill it with javelins, they killed each other. In the Land of the Dead they are said to suffer this punishment: they are bound by serpents to a column, back to back. Between them is a screech-owl [a bird which was believed to drink blood], sitting on the column to which they are bound."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 40 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Constellation Crater (the Bowl) :] Others [say this is] the jar into which Mars [Ares] was thrown by Otus and Ephialtes."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 1. 151 (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Ovid combines the stories of the assault of the Gigantes and of the Aloadai (Aloadae) on Olympos :] Nor were the heights of heaven more secure: Gigantes (Giants), it's said, to win the gods' domain, mountain on mountain reared and reached the stars. Then the Almighty Father (Pater Omnipotens) [Zeus] hurled his bolt and shattered great Olympus and struck down high Pelion piled on Ossa. There they lay, grim broken bodies crushed in huge collapse."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 117 :
"Neptunus [Poseidon] too sired, as [the river] Enipeus, the Aloidae."
[N.B. This is probably an error on Ovid's part. In the usual myth it was Iphimedeia's cousin Tyro who was seduced by Poseidon in the guise of the river Enipeus.]
Virgil, Aeneid 6. 582 ff (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"Here [in the dungeons of Tartaros] have I [the Cumaean Sibyl] seen the twin sons of Aloeus, the gigantic creatures who sought to pull down heaven itself with their own bare hands, and to unseat Jove [Zeus] from his throne."
Virgil, Georgics 1. 276 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"The brethren [Gigantes] who were banded to break down Heaven. Thrice did they essay to pile Ossa on Pelion, and over Ossa to roll leafy Olympus; thrice, with his bolt, the Father [Zeus] dashed apart their up-piled mountains."
Propertius, Elegies 2. 1 (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"Sing of Titanes [i.e. Giants], Ossa piled on Olympos that Pelion might become the path to heaven." [N.B. The "Titanes" are here the Aloadai.]
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7. 73 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"When a mountain in Crete was cleft by an earthquake a body 69 feet in height was found, which some people thought must be that of Orion and others of Otus [one of hte Aloadai]."
Seneca, Hercules Furens 970 (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Now with twin mountains I'll construct a pathway to the realms above; Chiron shall see his own Pelion 'neath Ossa, and Olympus, set as third in order, shall reach clean to heaven--or else I'll hurl it there!"
Statius, Thebaid 6. 719 (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"The Aloidae (Aloedae), when rigid Ossa already trod Olympus under foot, bore icy Pelion also, and hoped to join it to the frightened heaven."
Statius, Thebaid 10. 850 ff :
"The vault [of heaven] beheld the Aloidae (Aloedae) amid the clouds, when impious earth rose high wand was like to look down upon the gods; not yet had mighty Pelion been added and Ossa already touched the affrighted Thunderer [Zeus]."
Statius, Silvae 3. 2. 64 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"Adventurous was the valour [of the Aloadai] that joined frozen Pelion to Ossa's summit, and crushed panting Olympus between two mountains."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 20. 35 (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"You are not like a son of Zeus [like Apollon]. You did not slay with an arrow threatening Otos and hightowering Ephialtes."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 31. 41 :
"Ares . . . was shackled tight inglorious in earthly fetters in a jar, where Ephialtes had hidden him. Nor did heavenly Zeus help him."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 395 :
"[Nemesis, the goddess of rightful indignation, addresses Artemis:] ‘What impious son of Earth persecutes you? . . . If bold Otos again, or boastful Ephialtes, has desired to win your love so far beyond his reach, then slay the pretender to your unwedded virginity.’"
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragments - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Callimachus, Hymns - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th 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, Aeneid - Latin Epic C1st B.C.
- Virgil, Georgics - Latin Bucolic C1st B.C.
- Propertius, Elegies - Latin Elegy C1st B.C.
- Pliny the Elder, Natural History - Latin Encyclopedia C1st A.D.
- Seneca, Hercules Furens - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Silvae - Latin Poetry C1st A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.