Greek Mythology >> Bestiary >> Golden-Horned Deer (Elaphoi Khrysokeroi)


Greek Name

Ελαφος Χρυσοκερος
Ελαφοι Χρυσοκεροι


Elaphos Khrysokeros
Elaphoi Khrysokeroi

Latin Spelling



Golden-Horned Deer

Deer-drawn chariot of Artemis | Athenian red figure krater C5th B.C. | Musée du Louvre, Paris
Deer-drawn chariot of Artemis, Athenian red figure krater C5th B.C., Musée du Louvre

THE ELAPHOI KHRYSOKEROI were five golden-horned deer sacred to the goddess Artemis. Four of them were harnessed to her chariot, while the fifth, known as the Kerynitian (Cerynitian) Hind, roamed free. Herakles was sent to fetch the last as one of his twelve labours.



Nowhere stated


Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis 98 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"Thou [Artemis] didst find by the base of the Parrhasian hill deer gambolling--a mighty herd. They always herded by the banks of the black-pebbled Anauros--larger than bulls, and from their horns shone gold. And thou wert suddenly amazed and sadist to thine own heart : ‘This would be a first capture worthy of Artemis.’ Five were there in all; and four thou didst take by speed of foot--without chase of dogs--to draw thy swift car. But one escaped over the river Keladon (Celadon), by devising of Hera, that it might be in the after days a labour for Herakles (Heracles), and the Keryneian (Cerynean) hill received her . . . A golden car didst thou [Artemis] yoke, and golden bridles, goddess, didst thou put on thy deer. And where first did thy horned team begin to carry thee?"

Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis 170 ff :
"For thee [Artemis] the Amnisiades [nymphs] rub down the hinds [of Artemis' chariot] loosed from the yoke, and from the mead of Hera they gather and carry for them to feed on much swift-springing clover, which also the horses of Zeus eat; and golden troughs they fill with water to be for the deer a pleasant draught."

Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 6. 70 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Anxur failed not, nor Sidon with his brother Rhadalus, and Phrixus sets in motion the armies of Acesinus [i.e. Skythian (Scythian) allies of Perses in a war against King Aeetes of Kolkhis (Colchis)] by the ill-omened portent of a prophetic hind. Its effigy, with shining coat and golden horns, is borne upon a lofty staff before the host, grieving nor fated ever to return to fierce Diana's [Artemis'] woodland."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 11. 344 (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Artemis sovran of all creatures drives an antlered car drawn by stags."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 20. 35 ff :
"The Virgin Archeress [Artemis] drives only a weak team of stags, she kills only running hares, she ranges the mountains beside Rheia of the mountains."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 302 ff :
"Once it happened that Artemis queen of the hunt was hunting over the hills, and her skin was beaten by the glow of the scorching heat, in the middle of flowing summer . . . so she got ready her car to cool her hot frame along with Naias Nymphai in a bath in some hill burn. Then Artemis hillranger fastened her prickets [i.e. the golden hinds] under the yokestraps. Maiden Aura mounted the car, took reins and whip and drove the horned team like a tempest. The unveiled daughters of everflowing Okeanos [the Okeanides (Oceanides)] her servants made haste to accompany the Archeress: one moved her swift knees as her queen's forerunner, another tucked up her tunic and ran level not far off, a third laid a hand on the basket of the swiftmoving car and ran alongside . . .
[When they had reached their destination] Aura checked her swinging whip, and holding up the prickets with the golden bridles, brought the radiant car of her mistress to a standstill beside the stream."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 449 ff :
"Artemis the maiden entered her car with its team of four prickets [the deer], left the mountain and drove back to Phrygia."

Thumbnail Artemis Riding Deer Chariot

K6.10 Artemis Riding Deer Chariot

Italian Red Figure Vase Painting C5th B.C.

Thumbnail Artemis Riding Deer Chariot

K6.6 Artemis Riding Deer Chariot

Athenian Red Figure Vase Painting C5th B.C.





A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.