Peel-Away-All? (pan, lopos)
PENELOPEIA (Penelope) was an Epimelid-nymph of Mount Kyllene (Cyllene) in Arkadia (southern Greece) who was the mother by Hermes of the goat-legged god Pan. Her father Dryopos "Oak-Face" was probably the craggy, old god of the mountain.
Penelopeia was frequently confounded with Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, and many ancient writers constructed stories to explain how that woman came to abscond to Arkadia and give birth to a goatish god.
The nymph's name was perhaps derived from the Greek words pênê and lopas meaning "needle and thread," or else from pan and lopos "to peel-away-all"--which might suggest the shearing of sheep or the skinning of animals. The latter would certainly be an appropriate name for the mother of a god of hunting and flocks.
Penelopeia was probably identified with the nymphs Sose and Thymbris who are otherwise named as the mother of Pan. As a daughter of Dryopos she was may have been confounded with Dryope, a Dryopian princess seduced by the god Apollon in the guise of a tortoise--a form perhaps more suited to Hermes in his seduction of the Arkadian daughter of Dryopos.
[1.1] DRYOPOS * (Homeric Hymn 19 to Pan)
[1.1] PAN (by Hermes) * (Homeric Hymns 19 to Pan, Herodotus 2.153.1, Apollodorus E7.38, Hyginus Fabulae 224)
[1.2] PAN-NOMIOS (by Hermes) (Nonnus Dionysiaca 14.67)
* N.B. The mother of Pan is not named in the Homeric Hymn. She is simply referred to as the "daughter of Dryopos."
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Homeric Hymn 19 to Pan (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
"Hermes . . . came to Arkadia . . . there where his sacred place is as god of Kyllene (Cyllene). For there, though a god, he used to tend curly-fleeced sheep in the service of a mortal man, because there fell on him and waxed a strong melting desire to wed the rich-tressed daughter of Dryopos (Oak-Face), and there he brought about the merry marriage. And in the house she bare Hermes a dear son who from his birth was marvellous to look upon, with goat's feet and two horns--a noisy, merry-laughing child. But when the nurse saw his uncouth face and full beard, she was afraid and sprang up and fled and left the child. Then luck-bringing Hermes received him and took him in his arms : very glad in his heart was the god." [N.B. The daughter of Dryopos is not named. Presumably she is Penelopeia.]
Herodotus, Histories 2. 153. 1 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"Pan is held to be the youngest of the gods . . . and Pan the son of Penelope, for according to the Greeks Penelope and Hermes were the parents of Pan, was [first worshipped in Greece] about eight hundred years before me [i.e. before Herodotos was born], and thus of a later date than the Trojan war." [N.B. Herethe mother of Pan is conflated with the wife of Odysseus.]
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E7. 39 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Some say that Penelope [wife of Odysseus] was seduced by Antinous [one the suitors], and returned by Odysseus to her father Ikarios (Icarius), and that when she reached Mantineia in Arkadia, she bore Pan, to Hermes." [N.B. The Arkadian nymph is again conflated with the wife of Odysseus with a bridging myth added to explain the discrepancies.]
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 224 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Mortals who were made immortal . . . Pan, son of Mercurius [Hermes] and Penelope."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 67 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Panes, the sons of Hermes, who divided his love between two Nymphai (Nymphs); for one he visited the bed of Sose . . . and begat a son [the Pan] Agreus (Of the Hunt) . . . the other was Nomios (Of the Flocks), whom the pasturing sheep loved well, one practised in the shepherd’s pipe, for whom Hermes sought the bed of Penelopeia the country Nymphe."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 24. 77 ff :
"Hermes . . . held his own child, the son of Penelope, hornstrong hairy Pan."
- The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th - 4th B.C.
- Herodotus, Histories - Greek History C5th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.