Classical Texts Library >> Hyginus, Fabulae >> Fables 1-49


GAIUS JULIUS HYGINUS was a Latin writer who flourished in Roman Spain in the C1st AD. Two extant collections of fables were attributed to him: the Fabulae (or Fables) and Astronomica (or Astronomy). The poor quality of these works lead most to believe they are either wrongly attributed to this distinguished scholar or are a later abridgement of his works composed by a C2nd grammarian. In spite of the poor writing style and numerous errors, the works do preserve many myths and alternative versions of myths not found elsewhere.

The Myths of Hyginus, translated and edited by Mary Grant. University of Kansas Publications in Humanistic Studies, no. 34. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1960.

Mary Grant's translation is long out of print and second hand copies of this book are very hard to come by. The work includes an introduction and copious footnotes, neither of which have not been reproduced here. Recent translation of Hyginus' Astronomica can be found in the book titled Star Myths by Condos and a selection of both the Fables and Astronomy are included in the Anthology of Greek Myth by T. G. Palaima (see book list right).


KEY: * = corrupt text . . . = missing text


Excerpts from the Genealogiae of Hyginus, commonly called the Fabulae Preface

From Mist (was born) Chaos; from Chaos and Caligine: Night, Day, Erebus, Aether.
From Night and Erebus: Fate, Old Age, Death, Dissolution, *Continence, Sleep, Dreams, Love – that is, Lysimeles, *Epiphron, Porphyrion, Epaphus, Discord, Wretchedness, Wantonness, Nemesis, Euphrosyne, Friendship, Compassion, Styx; the three Fates, namely, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos; the Hesperides, Aegle, Hesperie, *aerica.
From Aether and Day, Earth, Heaven Sea.
From Aether and Earth: Grief, Deceit, Wrath, Lamentation, Falsehood, Oath, Vengeance, Intemperance, Altercation, Forgetfulness, Sloth, Fear, Pride, Incest, Combat, Ocean, Themis, Tartarus, Pontus; and the Titans, Briareus, Gyges, Steropes, Atlas, Hyperion, and Polus, Saturn, Ops, Moneta, Dione; and three Furies – namely, Alecto, Megaera, Tisiphone.
From Earth and Tartarus, Giants: Enceladus, Coeus, *elentes, *mophius, Astraeus, Pelorus, Pallas, Emphytus, Rhoecus, *ienios, Agrius, *alemone, Ephialtes, Eurytus, *effracorydon, Themoises, Theodamas, Otus, Typhon, Polybo[e}tes, *menephriarus, *abesus, *colophonus, Iapetus.
From Pontus and Sea, the tribes of fishes.
From Ocean and Tethys the Oceanides - namely *yaea Melite, Ianthe, Admete, Stilbo, Pasiphae, Polyxo, Eurynome, Euagoreis, Rhodope, *lyris, Clytie, *teschinoeno, *clitenneste, Metis, Menippe, Argia. Of the same descent Rivers: Strymon, Nilus, Euphrates, Tanais, Indus, Cephisus, Ismenus, Axenus, Achelous, Simois, Inachus, Alpheus, Therodoon, Scamandrus, Tigris, Maeandrus, Orontes.
From Pontos and Earth, Thaumas, *tusciuersus, *cepheus
From Nereus and Doris fifty Nereids: Glauce, Thalia, Cymodoce, Nesaea, Spio, Thoe, Cymothoe[a], Actaea, Limnoria, Melite, Iaera, Amphithoe, Agaue, Doto, Prot[h]o, Pherusa, Dynamene, Dexamene, Amphnome, Callianassa, Doris, Panope, Galat[h]ea, Nemertes, Apseudes, Clymene, Ianira, [Panopea], Ianassa, Maera, Orithyia, Amathia, Drymo, Xantho, Ligea, Phyllodoce, Cydippe, Lycorias, Cleio, Beroe, Ephyre, Opis, Asia, Deiopea, Arethusa, [Clymene], Creneis, Eurydice, Leucothea.
From Phorcus and Ceto: Phorcides Pemphredo, Enyo and Persis (for this last others say Dino).
From Gorgon and Ceto, Sthenno, Eurylae, Medusa
From Polus and Phoebe, Latone, Asterie, *aphirape . . . Perses, Pallas.
From Iapetus and Clymene, Atlas, Epimetheus, Prometheus.
From Hyperion and Aethra, Sol, Luna, Aurora.
From Saturn and Ops, Vesta, Ceres, Iuno, Jupiter, Pluto, Neptune.
From Saturs and Philyra, Chiron, Dolops.
From Astraeus and Aurora, Zephyrus, Boreas, Notus, Favonius.
From Atlas and Pleione, Maia, Calypso, Alcyone, Merope, Electra, Celaeno.
From Pallas the giant and Styx, Scylla, Force, Envy, Power, Victory, Fountains, Lakes.
From Neptune and Amphitrite, Triton.
From Dione and Jove, Venus.
From Jove and Juno, Mars.
From Jove’s head, Minerva.
From Juno without father, Vulcan.
From Jove and Eurynome, Graces.
Again from Jove and Juno, Youth, Liberty.
From Jove and Themis, the Hours.
From Jove and Ceres, Proserpina.
From Jove and Moneta, the Muses.
From Jove and Luna, Pandia.
From Venus and Mars, Harmonia, and Formido.
From Acheloos and Melpomene, the Sirens, Thelxiepe, Molpe and Pisinoe.
From Jove and Clymene, Mnemosyne.
From Jove ant Maia, Mercury.
From Jove and Latona, Apollo and Diana.
From Earth, Python, a divine (prophetic) snake.
From Thaumas and Electra: Iris, Harpies, Celaeno, Ocypete, Podarce.
From Sol and Persa, Circe, Pasiphae, Aeeta, Perses.
From Aeeta and Clytia, Medea.
From Sol and Clymene, Phaethon and the Phaethontides, Merope, Helie, Aetherie, Dioxippe.
From Typhon and Echidna: Gorgon, Cerberus, the dragon which guarded the Golden Fleece at Colchis, Scylla who was woman above but dog-forms below [whom Hercules killed]; Chimaera, Sphinx who was in Boeotia, Hydra serpent which had nine heads which Hercules killed, and the dragon of the Hesperides.
From Neptune and Medusa, the horse Pegasus.
From Chrysaor and Callirhoe,: three-formed Geryon.


Athamas, son of Aeolus, had by his wife Nebula a son Phrixus and a daughter Helle, and by Themisto, daughter of Hypseus, two son, Sphincius and Orchomenus, and by Ino, daughter of Cadmus, two sons, Learchus and Melicertes. Themisto, robbed of her marriage by Ino, wished to kill Ino’s children. She hid, therefore, in the palace, and when an opportunity presented itself, thinking she was killing the sons of her rival, unwittingly killed her own, deceived by the nurse who had put the wrong garments on them. When Themisto discovered this, she killed herself.

[2] II. INO

Ino, daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia, wishing to kill Phrixus and Helle, Nebula’s children, formed a plan with the women of the entire tribe, and conspired to parch the seed grain to make it unfertile, so that, when the sterility and scarcity of grain resulted, the whole state should perish, some by starvation, others by sickness. With regard to this situation Athamas sent a servant to Delphi, but Ino instructed him to bring back a false reply that the pestilence would end if he sacrificed Phrixus to Jove. When Athamas refused to do this, Phrixus voluntarily and readily promised that he alone would free the state from its distress. Accordingly he was led to the altar, wearing fillets (of sacrifice), but the servant, out of pity for the youth, revealed Ino’s plans to Athamas. The king, thus informed of the crime, gave over his wife Ino and her son Melicertes to be put to death, but Father Liber cast mist around her, and saved Ino his nurse. Later, Athamas, driven mad by Jove, slew his son Learchus. But Ino, with Melicertes her son, threw herself into the sea. Liber would have her called Leucothea, and Melicertes, her son the god Palaemon, butwe call her Mater Matuta, and him Portunus. In his honor every fifth year gymnastic contests are held, which are called Isthmian.


While Phrixus and Helle under madness sent by Liber were wandering in a forest, Nebula their mother is said to have come there bringing a gilded ram, offspring of Neptune and Theophane. She bade her children to mount it, and journey to Colchis to King Aeetes, son of Sol, and there sacrifice the ram to Mars. This they were said to have done, but when they had mounted, and the ram had carried them over the sea, Helle fell from the ram; from this sea was called Hellespont. Phrixus, however, was carried to Colchis, where, as his mother had bidden, he sacrificed the ram, and placed its gilded fleece in the temple of Mars - the very fleece which, guarded by a dragon, it is said Jason, son of Aeson and Alcimede, came to secure. But Aeetes gladly welcomed Phrixus, and gave him his daughter Chalciope in marriage. She later bore him children, but Aeetes feared that they would drive him from his kingdom, because he had been warned by prodigies to beware of death at the hands of a foreigner, a son of Aeolus. Therefore he killed Phrixus. But Phrixus’ sons – Argus, Melas, and Cylindrus – took ship to go to their grandfather Athamas. They were shipwrecked, however, and Jason, on his trip for the fleece, rescued them from the island of Dia, and took them back to their mother Chalciope. By her favour he was recommended to her sister Medea.


When Athamas, king in Thessaly, thought that his wife Ino, by whom he begat two sons, had perished, he married Themisto, the daughter of a nymph, and had twin sons by her. Later he discovered that Ino was on Parnassus, where she had gone for the Bacchic revels. He sent someone to bring her home, and concealed her when she came. Themisto discovered she had been found, but didn’t know her identity. She conceived the desire of killing Ino’s sons, and made Ino herself, whom she believed to be a captive, a confidant in the plan, telling her to cover her children with white garments, but Ino’s with black. Ino covered her own with white, and Themisto’s with dark; then Themisto mistakenly slew her own sons. When she discovered this, she killed herself. Moreover, Athamas, while hunting, in a fit of madness killed his older son Learchus; but Ino with the younger, Melicertes, cast herself intot he sea and was made a goddess.