Greek Mythology >> Villians >> Ascalabus (Askalabos)


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ASKALABOS (Ascalabus) was the son of a peasant-woman named Misme who the goddess Demeter visited upon first arriving in Attika during her long search for Persephone. The woman offered her a drink of barley-groats and the goddess hurriedly quaffed it down to relieve her thirst. The boy rudely mocked her as a glutton and in her anger she cast the drink at him transforming him into a spotted gecko (Arentola mauritanica)--ancient Greek askalabôtês.


MISME (Antoninus Liberalis 24)


ASCALABUS (Askalabos), a son of Misme. When Demeter on her wanderings in search of her daughter Persephone came to Misme in Attica, the goddess was received kindly, and being exhausted and thirsty, Misme gave her something to drink. As the goddess emptied the vessel at one draught, Ascalabus laughed at her, and ordered a whole cask to be brought. Demeter indignant at his conduct, sprinkled the few remaining drops from her vessel upon him and thereby changed him into a lizard. (Antonin. Lib. 24; Ov. Met. v. 447, where a similar story is related, though without the name either of Misme or Ascalabus.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 24 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Nikandros (Nicander) [Greek poet C3rd B.C.] tells this tale in the fourth book of his Metamorphoses. Demeter, when she was a wanderer traversing the whole earth in search of her daughter, stopped for a rest in Attika (Attica). Misme took her in when she was parched in the great heat. She gave her a drink of water with pennyroyal and barley groats in it. Because of her thirst Demeter swallowed the drink in one draught. When he saw this, Askalabos (Ascalabus), the son of Misme, burst into laughter and ordered that a deep basin or jar be offered to her.
Demeter in anger poured over him what was left of her drink. He was changed bodily into a multi-coloured gecko (askalabos) which is hated by gods and mankind. He passes his life along ditches. Whoever kills him is cherished by Demeter."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 444 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"She [Demeter] sought her daughter [Persephone] still from sunrise until sunset hour by hour. Weary she was and thirsty, for no spring had wet her lips, until she chanced to see a little cottage thatched with straw, and knocked on its low door; then an old crone came out and looked at her, and when she asked for water brought a sweet barley-flavoured drink, and, while she drank, a saucy bold-faced boy [i.e. Ascalabus] stood by and laughed and called her greedy. She in anger threw the unfinished drink with all the grains of barley in his face. His cheeks came out in spots, and where his arms had been legs grew; a tail was added to his altered limbs and then, to keep his power of mischief small, he shrank till he was tinier than a lizard. The crone, amazed, in tears, bent down to touch the changeling creature, but it fled to find a hiding-hole. It has a name to suit its coloured skin--a starry-spotted newt."





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