Greek Mythology >> Nymphs >> Naiads >> Dirce (Dirke)


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Of the Dirce (spring)

DIRKE (Dirce) was the Naiad-nymph of the spring of Dirke near Thebes in Boiotia (central Greece). Her waters were sacred to the god Dionysos.

Dirke was originally the wife of King Lykos (Lycus) of Thebes who, as punishment for the mistreatment of her niece Antiope, was tied to a wild bull and torn limb from limb. Dionysos afterwards transformed her into the spring for she had been a devoted follower of the god.

Dirke was probably the same as the nymphe Derketis.


ISMENOS (Callimachus Hymn to Delos, Nonnus Dionysiaca 44.10)


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 5. 5 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Antiope was a daughter of Nykteus (Nycteus), and Zeus had intercourse with her. When she was with child, and her father threatened her, she ran away to Epopeus at Sikyon (Sicyon) and was married to him. In a fit of despondency Nykteus killed himself, after charging Lykos (Lycus) to punish Epopeus and Antiope. Lykos marched against Sikyon, subdued it, slew Epopeus, and led Antiope away captive. On the way she gave birth to two sons at Eleutherai (Eleutherae) in Boiotia (Boeotia). The infants were exposed, but a neatherd found and reared them, and he called the one Zethos (Zethus) and the other Amphion . . .
But Lykos and his wife Dirke (Dirce) imprisoned Antiope and treated her despitefully. Howbeit, one day her bonds were loosed of themselves, and unknown to her keepers she came to her sons cottage, begging that they would take her in. They recognized their mother and slew Lykos, but Dirke they tied to a bull, and flung her dead body into the spring that is called Dirke after her."

Callimachus, Hymn 4 to Delos 75 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"[The rivers and springs flee before the pregnant goddess Leto, fearing the wrath of Hera should they provide her refuge :] Fled, too, Aonia [Boiotia] on the same course, and [the Naiades] Dirke (Dirce) and Strophia, holding the hands of their sire, dark-pebbled Ismenos (Ismenus)."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 25. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"There is a river called Dirke (Dirce) [near Thebes] after the wife of Lykos (Lycus). The story goes that Antiope was ill-treated by this Dirke, and therefore the children of Antiope put Dirke to death."

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 12. 57 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"When Alexandros [Alexander the Great] the son of Philippos led his forces against Thebes the gods sent them signs and portents presaging their imminent fate . . . The spring called Dirke (Dirce), running parallel to the Ismenos (Ismenus) and the walls themselves, which had always previously had clear and pure water, was suddenly and unexpectedly filled with blood."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 7 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Antiopa, daughter of Nycteus . . . was embraced by Jupiter [Zeus]. But Lycus married Dirce. She, suspecting that her husband had secretly lain with Antiopa, ordered her servants to keep her bound in darkness. When her time was approaching, by the will of Jove [Zeus] she escaped from her chains to Mount Cithaeron, and when birth was imminent and she dsought for a place to bear her child, pain compelled her to give birth at the very crossroads. Shepherds reared her sons as their own, and called one Zetos (Zethus) ... and the other Amphion . . . When the sons found out who their mother was, they put Dirce to death by bidning her to an untamed bull; by the kindness of Liber [Dionysos], whose votary she was, on Mount Cithaeron, a spring was formed from her body, which was called Dirce."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 44. 10 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Dirke (Dirce) danced, spouting her whirling waters along with her father Ismenos (Ismenus)."





Other references not currently quoted here: Euripides Bacchae 519, Euripides Heracles 27, Propertius 3.16.13.


A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.