From the Head (krêthen)
KRETHEIS (Cretheis) was a Naiad-nymph of a spring near the town of Smyrna in Ionia (western Anatolia). She was the legendary mother of the poet Homer by the river-god Meles.
HOMEROS (by Meles) (Eugaeon Frag, Of the Origin of Homer & Hesiod & of their Contest 1, Philostratus Elder 2.8)
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Homerica, Of the Origin of Homer & Hesiod and of their Contest Fragment 1 (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic B.C.) :
"Foremost of the men of Smyrna who say that he [the poet Homer] was the son of Meles, the river of their town, by a Nymphe Kretheis (Cretheis), and that he was at first called Melesigenes (Meles-Born). As to his parents also, there is on all hands great disagreement. Hellanikos (Hellanicus) and Kleanthes (Cleanthes) say his father was Maion (Maeon), but Eugaion says Meles; Kallikles (Callicles) is for Mnesagoras, Demokritos (Democritus) of Troizenos for Daimon (Daemon), a merchant-trader. Some, again, say he was the son of Thamyras, but the Egyptians say of Menemakhos (Menemachus), a priest-scribe, and there are even those who father him on Telemakhos (Telemachus), the son of Odysseus. As for his mother, she is variously called Metis, Kretheis (Cretheis), Themista, and Eugnetho. Others say she was an Ithakan (Ithacan) woman sold as a slave by the Phoinikians (Phoenicians); others, Kalliope (Calliope) the Mousa (Muse); others again Polykaste (Polycaste), the daughter of Nestor."
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 2. 8 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[Ostensibly a description of an ancient Greek painting at Neapolis (Naples) :] Meles. The story of Enipeus and of Tyro's love for the river has been told by Homer, and he tells of Poseidon's deception of her and of the splendid colour of the eave beneath which was their couch--but the story here told is a different one, not from Thessaly but Ionian. Kritheïs (Critheis) loves the river Meles in Ionia, and it takes the form of a young man and is wholly visible to the spectator, for it empties into the sea in the region where it arises. She drinks the water though she is not thirsty, and takes it in her hands, and keeps up a conversation with it as though the murmur of the water were human speech, and sheds tears of love into the water; and the river, since it loves her in return, delights to mingle her tears with its stream. Now a delightful feature of the painting is the figure of Meles lying on a bed of crocus and lotus blossoms and delighting in the hyacinth because of its fresh young bloom, and presenting an appearance delicate and youthful and not at all lacking in cleverness--indeed you would say that the eyes of Meles were contemplating some poetic theme. It is a delightful feature also that he does not pour forth turbulent streams at his source, as boorish rivers are usually painted; nay, he but cuts a passage through the earth with the tips of his fingers and holds his hand beneath the water as it trickles noiselessly by; and to us it is clear that, for Kritheïs, this is no dream, nor ware you writing this love of yours in water; for the river loves you, I know it well, and he is devising a chamber for you both by lifting up a wave beneath which shall be your couch. If you do not believe me, I will tell you the very construction of the chamber; a slight breeze running under a wave causes it to curve over and makes it resonant and also of brilliant hue; for the reflection of the sun lends colour to the uplifted water.
Why do you seize hold of me, my boy? Why do you not let me go on and describe the rest of the painting? If you wish, let us next describe Kritheïs, since you say you are pleased when my tale roams freely over such things. Well, let us speak of her; her figure is delicate and truly Ionian, and modesty is manifest upon it, and the colour we see in her cheeks suffices for them; and her hair is caught up under the ear and adorned with a veil of sea-purple. I think the veil is the gift of some Nereis (Nereid) or Naias (Naiad), for it is reasonable to assume that these goddesses dance together in honour of the river Meles, since it offers them fountains not far from its mouth. Her glance has something so charming and simple about it, that even tears do not cause it to lose its graciousness. Her neck is all the more lovely for not being adorned, since chains and flashing stones and necklaces lend a not unpleasing brilliance to women of moderate beauty and by Zeus they contribute something of beauty to them, but they are not becoming to ugly women or to very beautiful women; for they show up the ugliness of the former and detract from the beauty of the latter. Let us examine the hands; the fingers are delicate, of graceful length, and as white as the fore-arm. And you see the forearm, how it appears yet whiter through the white garment; and the firm breasts gleam under the garment.
Why do the Mousai (Muses) come hither? Why are they present at the source of the Meles? When the Athenians set out to colonize Ionia, the Mousai (Muses) in the form of bees guided their feet; for they rejoiced in Ionia, because the waters of Meles are sweeter than the waters of Kephisos (Cephisus) and Olmeios. Some day, indeed, you will find them dancing there; but now, by decree of the Moirai (Moirae, Fates), the Mousai are spinning the birth of Homer; and Meles through his son [Homer] will grant to the Peneios (Peneus) to be ‘silver-eddied,’ to the Titaresios to be ‘nimble’ and ‘swift,’ and to the Enipeus to be ‘divine,’ and to the Axios to be ‘all-beautiful,’ and he will also grant to the Xanthos to be born from Zeus, and to Okeanos (Oceanus) that all rivers spring from him."
- Homerica, The Contest of Homer & Hesiod - Greek Epic B.C.
- Philostratus the Elder, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.