KYKNOS (Cycnus) was a conceited youth who demanded his lover Phylios fetch him first a lion, then a pair of eagles and finally a wild bull as proof of his love. When the lad refused the final task, Kyknos cast himself from a cliff in a fit of grief and was transformed into a swan.
[1.1] APOLLON & THYRIE (Antoninus Liberalis 12)
[1.2] APOLLON & HYRIE (Ovid Metamorphoses 7.371)
CYCNUS (Kyknos), a son of Apollo by Thyria or Hyria, the daughter of Amphinomus. He was a handsome hunter, living in the district between Pleuron and Calydon, and although beloved by many, repulsed all his lovers, and only one, Phyllius, persevered in his love. Cycnus at last imposed upon him three labours, viz. to kill a lion without weapons, to catch alive some monstrous vultures which devoured men, and with his own hand to lead a bull to the altar of Zeus. Phyllius accomplished these tasks, but as, in accordance with a request of Heracles, he refused giving to Phyllius a bull which he had received as a prize, Cycnus was exasperated at the refusal, and leaped into lake Canope, which was henceforth called after him the Cycnean lake. His mother Thyria followed him, and both were metamorphosed by Apollo into swans. (Antonin. Lib. 12.) Ovid (Met. vii. 371, &c.), who relates the same story, makes the Cycnean lake arise from Hyria melting away in tears at the death of her son.
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 12 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Nikandros (Nicander) [Greek poet C2nd B.C.] tells this tale in the third book of his Metamorphoses, as also Areus the Lakonian in his Ode to Kyknos.
Apollon and Thyrie (Thyria), daughter of Amphinomos (Amphinomus), had a son called Kyknos (Cycnus). He was of fine appearance, but graceless and boorish in character. He was extraordinarily devoted to hunting. He lived in the country between Pleuron and Kalydon (Calydon). There were many who became his lovers because of his beauty.
Because of his disdainfulness Kyknos attained understanding with no one. Very soon he came to be thoroughly disliked by his admirers and abandoned by them. Phylios (Phylius) alone stood by him. But Kyknos treated him with immoderate arrogance. At that time there appeared among the Aitolians (Aetolians) a great monster of a lion that savaged the inhabitants and their flocks.
Kyknos ordered Phylios to kill the lion without using a weapon. He promised to do so and made away with the animal by the following trick. Knowing at what hour the lion was going to go prowling, he filled his stomach with a great deal of food and wine. When the beast came up, Phylios sicked up the food. The lion, hungry, availed himself of this food and was spiked down by the wine. Phylios, throwing his arm round the lion, blocked the maw with the clothing he wore. Having killed the beast, he put it on his shoulders and carried it to Kyknos. He gained wide renown for his achievement.
Kyknos then demanded an even stranger feat. There had appeared in this land some vultures, monstrous and enormous. They killed many people. Kyknos ordered him to catch them alive and to bring them to him, by whatever method.
Phylios was wondering how he was to achieve this task when, by divine intervention, an eagle that had snatched up a hare let is fall half-dead before it could take it to its eyrie. Phylios tore open the hare, besmeared himself with the blood and lay on the ground. The birds swooped on him as a cadaver. Phylios caught hold of two birds by their legs and, getting a good hold, carried them off to Kyknos.
Kyknos then imposed on him an even more difficult feat. He ordered him to carry a bull away from its heard, using only his hands, and to haul it off all the way to the altar of Zeus. Phylios, not knowing how he was to accomplish the task, prayed to [the god] Herakles (Heracles) to assist him in this. In answer to this prayer there came into view two bulls, both in rut for a cow; they butted with their horns hurling each other to the ground. When he saw the bulls sprawling helplessly, Phylios caught one by the leg and dragged it off to the altar. Herakles desired him to pay no more attention to the orders of that youth.
Kyknos felt fearsomely and unexpectedly disgraced. In his depression he flung himself into the lake called Konope (Conope) and was seen no more. After his death, his mother, Thyrie, threw herself into the same lake. By the will of Apollon they both became lake birds. After their disappearance, the lake's name changed and became Swan Lake. Many swans appear there at ploughing time. The tomb of Phylios stands nearby."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 7. 371 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"She saw Lake Hyrie (Hyria) and the idyllic vale renowned when Cycnus suddenly became a swan. At that boy's bidding Phyllius had brought birds and a savage lion that he'd tamed; ordered o tame a bull, he tamed that too, and, angry that his love was spurned so long, refused the boy the bull, that last best gift. Pouting, he cried ‘You'll wish you'd given it!’ and leapt from a high headland. Everyone thought he had fallen : he was made a swan and floated in the air on sowy wings. But Hyrie, his mother, unaware that he was saved, in tears dissolved away and made the lake that keeps her name today."
- Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.