MINTHE was a Naiad-nymph of Mount Mintha in Elis (southern Greece) loved by the god Haides. When she claimed to be superior to his wife Persephone, the angry goddess transformed her into a mint plant.
The mint was probably used in ancient funerary rites to mask the smell of the dead and so came to be regarded as a sacred plant of Haides.
KOKYTOS (Oppian Halieutica 346)
MINTHA or MENTHA (Minthê), a Cocythian nymph, and beloved by Hades, was metamorphosed by Demeter or Persephone into a plant called after her minthê, or mint, or, according to others, she was changed into dust, from which Hades caused the mint plant to grow forth. In the neighbourhood of Pylos there was a hill called after her, and at its foot there was a temple of Pluto, and a grove of Demeter. (Strab. viii. p. 344; Ov. Met. x. 729 ; Oppian, Hal. iii. 486; Schol. ad Nicand. Alex. 374.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Strabo, Geography 8. 3. 14 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Near Pylos, towards the east, is a mountain named after Minthe, who, according to myth, became the concubine of Haides, was trampled under foot by Kore (Core) [Persephone], and was transformed into garden-mint, the plant which some call hedyosmos. Furthermore, near the mountain is a precinct sacred to Haides."
Oppian, Halieutica 3. 485 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd A.D.) :
"Mint (Mintha), men say, was once a maid beneath the earth, a Nymphe of Kokytos (Cocytus), and she lay in the bed of Aidoneus [Hades]; but when he raped the maid Persephone from the Aitnaian hill [Mount Etna in Sicily], then she complained loudly with overweening words and raved foolishly for jealousy, and Demeter in anger trampled upon her with her feet and destroyed her. For she had said that she was nobler of form and more excellent in beauty than dark-eyed Persephone and she boasted that Aidoneus would return to her and banish the other from his halls : such infatuation leapt upon her tongue. And from the earth spray the weak herb that bears her name."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 728 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Persephone of old was given grace to change a woman's [Mintha's] form to fragrant mint."
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Oppian, Halieutica - Greek Poetry C3rd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.