HEMITHEA was a princess of the island of Naxos who leapt into the sea, along with her sister Parthenos, to escape the wrath of her father Staphylos. The pair were transformed into goddesses by Apollon who, according to some, was their natural father. Hemithea was worshipped in the town of Kastabos (Castabus) on the Karian Kherronesos (Carian Chersonese) and her sister Parthenos in neighbouring Bubastos.
FAMILY OF HEMITHEA
[1.1] STAPHYLOS (Nicaenetus Lyrcus Frag, Apollonius Rhodius Caunus Frag, Parthenius Love Romances 1)
[1.2] STAPHYLOS & KHRYSOTHEMIS (Diodorus Siculus 5.62.1)
[2.1] KYKNOS (Suidas s.v. Tenedios anthropos)
[1.1] BASILOS (by Lyrkos) (Nicaenetus Lyrcus Frag, Apollonius Rhodius Caunus Frag, Parthenius Love Romances 1)
Divine Song (molpê, dia)
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Parthenius, Love Romances 1 (trans. Gaselee) (Greek poet C1st B.C.) :
"From the Lyrkos (Lyrcus) of Nikainetos (Nicaenetos) and the Kaunos (Caunus) of Apollonios Rhodios [two Alexandrian Greek poets of the C3rd B.C.]:
Lyrkos (Lyrcus) [of Kaunos (Caunus) in Karia (Caria)] and his wife had no children : and accordingly he made a journey to the oracle at Didyma, to ask how he might obtain offspring; and the answer was, that he would beget a child upon the first woman with whom he should have to do after leaving the shrine. At this he was mighty pleased, and began to hasten on his homeward journey back to his wife, sure that the prediction was going to be fulfilled according to his wish; but on his voyage, when he arrived at Bybastus [town in Caria], he was entertained by Staphylos (Staphylus), the son of Dionysos, who received him in the most friendly manner and enticed him to much drinking of wine, and then, when his senses were dulled with drunkenness, united him with his own daughter Hemithea, having had previous intimation of what the sentence of the oracle had been, and desiring to have descendants born to her : but actually a bitter strife arose between Rhoio (Rhoeo) and Hemithea, the two daughters of Staphylos, as to which should have the guest, for a great desire for him had arisen in the breasts of both of them. On the next morning Lyrkos discovered the trap that his host had laid for him, when he saw Hemithea by his side: he was exceedingly angry, and upbraided Staphylos violently for his treacherous conduct; but finally, seeing that there was nothing to be done, he took off his belt and gave it to the girl, bidding her to keep it until their future offspring had come to man's estate, so that he might possess a token by which he might be recognized, if he should ever come to his father at Kaunos (Caunus): and so he sailed away home . . . In after years the son of Lyrkos and Hemithea, whose name was Basilos (Basilus), came, when he was a grown man, to the Kaunian land; and Lyrkos, now an old man, recognized him as his son, and made him ruler over his peoples."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 62. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"In Kastabos (Castabus), on the Kherronesos (Chersonese) [of Caria], there is a temple which is sacred to Hemithea, and there is no reason why we should omit to mention the strange occurrence which befell this goddess. Now many and various accounts have been handed down regarding her, but we shall recount that which has prevailed and is in accord with what the natives relate. To Staphylos (Staphylus) and Khrysothemis (Chrysothemis) were born three daughters, Molpadia [i.e. Hemithea], Rhoio (Rhoeo), and Parthenos by name. Apollon lay with Rhoio and brought her with child; and her father, believing that her seduction was due to a man, was angered, and in his anger he shut up his daughter in a chest and cast her into the sea. But the chest was washed up upon Delos, where she gave birth to a male child and called the babe Anios (Anius) . . .
And the other sisters of the maiden who had been seduced, namely, Molpadia and Parthenos, while watching their father's wine, a drink which had only recently been discovered among men, fell asleep; and while they were asleep some swine which they were keeping entered in and broke the jar which contained the wine and so destroyed the wine. And the maidens, when they learned what had happened, in fear of their father's severity fled to the edge of the sea and hurled themselves down from some lofty rocks. But Apollon, because of his affection for their sister, rescued the maidens and established them in the cities of the Kherronesos (Chersonese).
The one named Parthenos, as the god brought it to pass, enjoyed honours and a sacred precinct in Bubastos of the Kherronesos, while Molpadia, who came to Kastabos, was given the name Hemithea (Half-Goddess), because the god had appeared to men, and she was honoured by all who dwelt in the Kherronesos. And in the sacrifices which she had had in connection with the wine, while anyone who has touched a hog or eaten of its flesh is not permitted to draw near to the sacred precinct.
In later times the temple of Hemithea enjoyed so great a development that not only was it held in special honour by the inhabitants of the place and of neighbouring regions, but even peoples from afar came to it in their devotion and honoured it with costly sacrifices and notable dedications. And most important of all, when the Persians were the dominant power in Asia and were plundering all the temples of the Greeks, the precinct of Hemithea was the sole shrine on which they did not lay hands, and the robbers who were pillaging everything they met left this shrine alone entirely unplundered, and this they did despite the fact that it was unwalled and the pillaging of it would have entailed no danger. And the reason which men advance for its continued development is the benefactions which the goddess confers upon all mankind alike; for she appears in visible shape in their sleep to those who are in suffering and gives them healing, and many who are in the grip of diseases for which no remedy is known are restored to health; furthermore, to women who are suffering in childbirth the goddess gives relief from the agony and perils of travail. Consequently, since many have been saved in these ways from the most ancient times, the sacred precinct is filled with votive offerings, nor are these protected by guards or by a strong wall, but by the habitual reverence of the people."
Suidas s.v. Tenedios anthropos (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"The story goes that] Kyknos (Cycnus) the son of Poseidon made a second marriage after the birth of his children Hemithea and Tennes; and Tennes was accused by his stepmother of trying to seduce her. She persuaded Kyknos to throw the young man into a chest; and after Hemithea had opted to share her brother's hazard he hurled them both into the sea. The chest was carried to a place which was formerly called Leukophrys but subsequently, after him, Tenedos."
[N.B. Both Tennes and Hemithea were afterwards worshipped as gods.]
- Parthenius, Love Romances - Greek Mythography C1st B.C.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Suidas, The Suda - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.