Greek Mythology >> Nymphs >> Lampetia & Phaethusa (Lampetie & Phaethousa)


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Shining (lampetaô)

Shining (phaethô)

LAMPETIA and PHAETHOUSA were two nymphs who pastured the sacred herds of the sun-god Helios on the mythical island of Thrinakie (Thrinacia). Lampetia shepherded seven flocks of fifty sheep with a silver crock, while Phaethousa tended seven herds of fifty cattle with a copper staff.

Aeschylus, and later Ovid, uses the names Lampetia and Phaethousa for two of the Heliades, daughters of the sun who were transformed into poplar trees following the death of their brother Phaethon. However these two sets of nymphs were usually quite distinct.



[1.1] HELIOS & NEAIRA (Homer Odyssey 12.128)
[1.2] HELIOS (Apollonius Rhodius 4.965, Nonnus Dionysiaca 27.189)


[1.1] LAMPETIA, PHAETHOUSA (Homer Odyssey 12.128, Apollonius Rhodius 4.965, Nonnus Dionysiaca 27.189)


LAMPE′TIA (Lampetiê), a daughter of Helios by the nymph Neaera. After her birth she and her sister Phaetusa were carried to Sicily, in order there to watch over the herds of their father. Some call Lampetia a sister of Phaeton. (Hom. Od. xii. 132, &c., 374, &c.; Propert. iii. 12, 29; Hygin. Fab. 154; Ov. Met. ii. 349.)

PHAETHU′SA (Phaethousa). A daughter of Helios by Neaera, guarded the flocks of her father in Thrinacia in conjunction with her sister Lampetia. (Hom. Od. xii. 132 Apollon. Rhod. iv. 971.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


Homer, Odyssey 12. 138 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Kirke (Circe) explains to Odysseus the route back home to Ithaka (Ithaca) :] Then you will reach the isle of Thrinakia (Thrinacia). In this there are grazing many cows and many fat flocks of sheep; they are the sun god's--seven herds of cows and as many fine flocks of sheep. In each herd and each flock there are fifty beasts; no births increase them, no deaths diminish them. They are pastured by goddesses, lovely-haired Nymphai (Nymphs) named Phaethousa (Phaethusa) and Lampetie (Lampetia), whose father is the sun-god Hyperion [Helios] and whose mother is bright Neaira; having borne and bred them, she took them away to remote Thrinakia to live there and tend their father's sheep and the herds with curling horns."

Homer, Odyssey 12. 261 ff :
"When we [i.e. Odysseus and his men] had left the rocks behind us, with Skylla (Scylla) and terrible Kharybdis (Charybdis), we came soon enough to the lovely island of Helios (the Sun). Here were the fine broad-browed herds, here were the plentiful fat flocks of Hyperion. While the dark ship was still out at sea, I heard sheep bleating and cows lowing as they entered their quarters for the night; and into my heart came back the blind prophet's [Teiresias'] words and Aian Kirke's (Aean Circe's) also; both of them had enjoined me earnestly to shun this island of the all-gladdening sun-god. Troubled at heart, I spoke to my comrades [and warned them not to harm the sacred animals.] . . .
Then for a whole month the south wind blew without ceasing; there was no wind but south or east . . . When all the food in the ship was gone . . . [then] among my comrades Eurylokhos (Eurylochus) put forth evil counsel : ‘Comrades, in this sad plight of ours, hear what I have to say. Every form of death is loathsome to wretched mortals, but to perish of hunger, to starve to death--that is the most pitiful thing of all. Enough! Let us carry off the best of Helios' cattle and give them in sacrifice to the Deathless Ones whose home is wide heaven. And if ever we should return again to our own land, Ithaka, we will hasten to build a sumptuous temple to Hyperion the sun-god, and there we may place fine offerings in plenty. But if in anger over his long-horned cattle he resolves to wreck our ship and the other gods second him--why, then, I would rather drink the brine and lose life at one gulp than waste away by inches in this forsaken island.’
So spoke Eurylokhos, and the rest of the crew applauded him. They drove off at once the best of Helios' cattle--it was near at hand, not far from the ship, that they were grazing, these handsome beasts with their broad brows and curling horns. The men surrounded them and began their prayer to the gods, and because they had no barley-meal in the ship, they plucked instead the fresh tender leaves of a tall oak. Prayer over, they slaughtered and flayed the cows, cut out the thigh-bones and covered them with a double fold of fat, then laid the raw meat above. They had no wine to make libation over the burning sacrifice, but instead poured water as they set to roasting the inward parts. When the thigh-bones were quite consumed and the entrails tasted, they sliced and spitted the rest.
At that moment the sleep that had soothed me [Odysseus] passed of a sudden from my eyelids, and I took my way to the shore and ship again. Then, as I neared the curving vessel, the rich savour of roasting meat was wafted all about me. I groaned aloud, I cried out to the deathless gods : ‘Oh Father Zeus, oh blessed and ever-living gods, surely it was for my destruction that you lulled me with that fatal slumber, while the comrades that I left behind me devised this deed of unrighteousness.’
But without delay Lampetie of the trailing robe sped off to Hyperion the sun god [Helios] to tell him that we had slain his cattle, and he with his heart inflamed with anger spoke out at once to the Deathless Ones [and demanded the crew of Odysseus be punished for their offence]."

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 965 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"Argo ran ahead, and they [the Argonauts] were soon passing Thrinakie (Thrinacia) and the meadows where the cattle of Helios (the Sun) are kept . . . The Argonauts were close inshore, and through the mist the bleating of sheep and lowing of cattle came to their ears. Phaehousa (Phaethusa), the youngest daughter of Helios, was grazing the sheep in the dewy glades with a silver crook in her hand, while Lampetie (Lampetia) looked after the cows and walked behind, swinging a staff of shining copper. They could see these cows feeding on the low ground and water-meadow by the river. Not one of them was dark; they were all milk-white and rejoiced in golden horns."

Propertius, Elegies 3. 12 (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"It hurt him [Odysseus] not that Lampetie's (Lampetia's) cattle had bellowed on Ithacan spits, Lampetie, Phoebus's [Helios the Sun's] daughter, had pastured them for her father."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 27. 189 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Dionysos addresses his troops during the Indian war :] ‘If Phaethon [Helios] should set up fiery war against me to honour his daughter's horned offspring [Deriades the Indian king] . . . I will go to the island of Thrinakie (Thrinacia), where are the sheep and oxen of the fireflashing heavenly Charioteer, and drag Helios' (the Sun's) daughter Lampetie (Lampetia) under the yoke of slavery, to bow the knee like a girl captured by the spear.’"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38. 167 ff :
"So the boy [Phaethon, son of Helios the Sun,], hardly gown up, and still with no down on his lip, sometimes frequented his mother Klymene's (Clymene's) house, sometimes travelled even to the meadows of Thrinakia (Thrinacia), where he would often visit and stay with Lampetie (Lampetia), tending cattle and sheep . . ((lacuna)) There he would long for his father the charioteer divine; made a wooden axle with skilful joinery, fitted on a sort of round wheel for his imitation car, fashioned yoke-straps, took three light withies from the flowering garden and plaited them into a lash, put unheard of bridles on four young rams. Then he made a clever imitation of the morning star round like a wheel, out of a bunch of white flowers, and fixed it in front of his spokeswheeled wagon to show the shape of the star Eosphoros. He set burning torches standing about his hair on every side, and mimicked his father with fictitious rays as he drove round and round the coast of the seagirt isle."


The daughters of Neaira, or Neairides ("New Risings") as they might be named, probably represent the measure of days and nights in the year. The word phaethô was usually associated with the sun while lampetaô "to shine like a lamp" was associated with the moon. Each sister tended 350 animals which were divided into seven herds of fifty--one herd for each of the seven days of the week. Of course the number is 15 days too short, however the ancient Greeks customarily divided the year into twelve lunar months, and added a thirteenth month every couple of years to correct the inevitable slip. The Neairian herds were divided into 50 animals, representing the number of lunar months in a "Great Year," a four year cycle in which solar and lunar calendars were believed to coincide.





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