Literature Study GuidesMythologyPart 6 Chapter 2 Summary

Mythology | Study Guide

Edith Hamilton

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Mythology | Part 6, Chapter 2 : Brief Myths Arranged Alphabetically | Summary

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Summary

Amalthea

Either the goat who nurses baby Zeus or the owner of the goat who nurses Zeus, Amalthea possesses the "Horn of Plenty," or in Latin, "Cornucopia," which is always filled with whatever food or drink anyone wants.

The Amazons

The Amazons are a nation of women warriors who live near the Caucasus Mountains. They appear in the myths of Bellerophon and Theseus, among others, and fight for the Greeks in the Trojan War.

Amymone

Amymone is a Danaïd that Poseidon loves. He rescues her from a Satyr and makes a spring in her honor.

Antiope

Antiope is a Theban princess who bears Zeus two sons. She abandons them, but a herdsman finds and raises them. Later, the sons avenge their mother by killing the Theban ruler and his queen who always mistreated their mother.

Arachne

Arachne declares that her weaving skills are superior to Minerva's, so Minerva challenges Arachne to a contest. When the results are roughly equal in quality, Minerva destroys Arachne's weaving and beats her with her weaving shuttle. Humiliated, Arachne hangs herself. Minerva takes pity on Arachne and changes her into a spider.

Arion

Arion is a poet who wins a music contest but is beset by sailors who want to steal his prize. Arion asks to sing a song before the sailors kill him, then he jumps into the sea at the end of the song. Dolphins carry him to shore.

Aristaeus

Aristaeus is a beekeeper, son of Apollo and a water nymph. When his hive dies, Aristaeus seeks advice from the shape-shifting god, Proteus. Proteus tells him to sacrifice animals to the gods and leave them for nine days. On the ninth day, Aristaeus finds a new swarm of bees inside one of the sacrificed animals.

Biton and Cleobis

Biton and Cleobis are sons of Hera's priestess Cydippe. They yoke themselves to a cart and take their mother on a long journey to see a statue of Hera at Argos. When they arrive, she prays to Hera to reward them with "the best gift in her power." The brothers immediately sink to the ground, dead.

Callisto

Callisto's father, Lycaon, is turned into a wolf for trying to feed Zeus human flesh, but Zeus falls in love with Callisto. They have a son called Arcas, but Hera turns Callisto into a bear shortly after his birth. Zeus places Callisto in the stars as the Great Bear constellation, and Arcas becomes the Lesser Bear.

Chiron

While many Centaurs are wild and violent, Chiron is a Centaur "known everywhere for his goodness and wisdom." He teaches the hero Achilles, the physician Aesculapius, and the hunter Actaeon. Chiron is immortal, but when Hercules accidentally injures him, Zeus allows him to die rather than suffer eternally.

Clytie

Clytie loves the Sun god, but he does not reciprocate. She sits outside, watching him cross the sky every day, then eventually turns into a sunflower, which always turns toward the sun.

Dryope

Dryope and her sister go to pick flowers as gifts for the nymphs. Dryope accidentally picks some lotus blossoms from a tree that is the nymph Lotis. Dryope turns into a tree as punishment, and her last words are a warning to her sister and son to never pick flowers.

Epimenides

Epimenides falls asleep while looking for a lost sheep and sleeps for 57 years. When he wakes, he resumes his search and finds "everything changed." He cures Athens of a plague and asks only for friendship with his home city in Crete in return.

Ericthonius

Ericthonius is half man, half serpent. His father is Hephaestus, but Athena raises him, so he becomes a king of Athens when he grows up.

Hero and Leander

Hero is a priestess of Aphrodite in Sestus, a city across the Hellespont from Leander's town of Abydus. Each night, he swims across the strait to Hero, using a lighthouse as his guide. He drowns when he tries to swim across in a storm that puts out the light. Hero kills herself when she finds his body.

Ibycus and the Cranes

Ibycus is a poet who is attacked and wounded by robbers near Corinth. Before he dies, he asks a flock of cranes passing overhead to avenge him. The cranes fly into the audience at a play and identify the robbers, who are punished.

Leto (Latona)

Zeus loves Leto but he abandons her before their children, the gods Apollo and Artemis, are born. She takes refuge on the island of Delos and brings the island great honor.

Linus

Linus is the son of Apollo and a nymph, "deserted by his mother, brought up by shepherds, and before he [is] full-grown torn to pieces by dogs." His life and death inspire songs sung during fruit harvests.

Marpessa

Idas, a hero of the Calydonian Hunt, fights Apollo for Marpessa's love. Zeus allows her to choose between them, and she picks Idas because she believes he will be more faithful than a god.

Marsyas

Marsyas is a Satyr who plays the flute so well that he challenges Apollo to a contest. Apollo wins and punishes Marsyas by skinning him.

Melampus

Melampus raises two pet snakes when his servants kill the parent snakes. They help him understand the language of animals, which allows him to become a famous soothsayer.

Merope

Merope marries Hercules's son Cresphontes, but he is killed in a rebellion. Cresphontes's successor, Polyphontes, takes Merope as his wife, but with the help of her son, they avenge Cresphontes and restore the son to the throne.

The Myrmidons

Hera changes the inhabitants of the island of Aegina into ants in a fit of jealousy over Zeus's affair with the island's namesake. Zeus's son with Aegina begs him to have mercy on the people of his island and turn the ants into men again. Zeus complies and creates the Myrmidons who later follow Achilles to the Trojan War.

Nisus and Scylla

Nisus is a king of Megara whose purple lock of hair makes him invulnerable. When Minos of Crete attacks Nisus's city, his daughter Scylla falls in love with Minos. She cuts her father's lock of hair and offers it to Minos, who is horrified by her actions. When Scylla tries to follow Minos back to Crete, an eagle pulls her from the water. The gods turn Nisus into an eagle to save him, and Scylla also becomes a bird.

Orion

Orion is a hunter who loves the daughter of Oenopion, king of Chios. Oenopion keeps delaying the marriage, and he becomes angry with Orion for insulting his daughter during a drunken rant. He blinds Orion while Orion sleeps. Orion regains his sight and goes to serve Artemis on Crete, but she eventually kills him. He is placed in the stars after he dies.

The Pleiades

The Pleiades are seven daughters of Atlas, pursued by Orion but never caught. Zeus places them among the stars.

Rhoecus

Rhoecus props up a falling oak and earns the love of a dryad. She sends him a messenger in the form of a bee, but Rhoecus drives it away without thinking. The dryad blinds him for hurting the bee and forgetting her promise to contact him.

Salmoneus

Salmoneus pretends to be Zeus, riding through Zeus's festival on a chariot, demanding worship. Zeus strikes the chariot with a thunderbolt, killing Salmoneus.

Sisyphus

Sisyphus is a king of Corinth who sees an eagle carrying a woman to an island. When the river-god Asopus comes looking for his daughter Aegina, Sisyphus tells Asopus what he saw. Asopus rightly suspects Zeus has his daughter, and Zeus punishes Sisyphus by condemning him to forever roll a boulder uphill as it rolls back toward him in Hades.

Tithonus

Tithonus marries Aurora, goddess of the dawn. She asks Zeus to make her husband immortal, which Zeus does, but he doesn't stop Tithonus from aging. Eventually, Tithonus becomes a withered husk of a man, unable to die. Aurora puts him in a room and closes the door. Their son Memnon is honored in Thebes.

Tyro

Tyro is Salmoneus's daughter who bears Poseidon twin sons, Pelias and Neleus. She abandons them to keep them secret, but her husband, Cretheus, finds out about the affair with Poseidon and casts her aside. When Cretheus dies, the twins come looking for their mother and find her living in torment at the hands of Cretheus's second wife. Years later, Pelias sends Jason on the Quest of the Golden Fleece.

Analysis

Amalthea

Amalthea shows how the gods have the capacity to provide for their own needs—or the needs of mortals—when they need to provide.

The Amazons

Other women in the myths are often punished or dubiously rewarded for resisting marriage, but the Amazons are glorified, perhaps because they have cultivated the strength and skill to make themselves equal to men.

Amymone

Amymone provides an example of Poseidon's merciful nature, a departure from his role as a vengeful god of the sea. Love has a positive effect on him.

Antiope

Antiope's story underlines the impossible situation that affairs with the gods leave for women. Like Creüsa in Part 5, Chapter 3, Antiope abandons her sons because she fears her family's reaction to her pregnancy. The story also underlines the sons' obligation to defend their parents' honor.

Arachne

Arachne reveals the danger of provoking the gods by competing with them, even in words. Her story also shows how the gods can be merciful, especially after they have gone too far in punishment.

Arion

Arion's story highlights the power and importance of music in Greek culture; in his case, music is literally lifesaving.

Aristaeus

Aristaeus's story shows how the gods reward those who follow their teachings, show proper respect, and demonstrate this respect. The story also provides an explanation of the insects that tend to gather inside the remains of dead animals.

Biton and Cleobis

Biton and Cleobis show the value of honoring parents and honoring the gods. The story also shows how death is not necessarily something to fear; it can sometimes be a gift if it ends suffering or leads to a comfortable afterlife.

Callisto

Callisto's story primarily provides background for two of the major constellations in the night sky, the Great Bear (known by its Latin name Ursa Major) and the Lesser Bear (also known as Ursa Minor). The Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, not technically constellations on their own, are groups of stars that appear within these two constellations.

Chiron

Chiron proves that individuals within a group do not necessarily conform to the reputation of the entire group. He is an important background figure in myths via his instruction of notable figures, which emphasizes the importance of quality education in classical culture.

Clytie

Clytie's story shows the tragic consequences of pining over an unrequited love, but it also explains why some flowers, such as sunflowers, display the trait of heliotropism, which means they turn toward the sun or the nearest light source. The word heliotropism derives from Helios, the Greek name for the Sun god.

Dryope

Dryope is another mortal who incurs a god's wrath through a simple accident, showing how motives matter little to the gods. Her fate highlights the tenuous and often dangerous relationship between humans and nature.

Epimenides

Epimenides demonstrates the value of modesty in the face of a great action, asking only for friendship and peace in return for doing Athens a great service. The motif of his long sleep is visible in folktales from other cultures as well as in Washington Irving's 1819 short story, "Rip Van Winkle."

Ericthonius

Ericthonius shows how even a half-man, half-serpent creature can rise to greatness if the gods work in his favor.

Hero and Leander

Hero and Leander demonstrate how humans can be driven to dangerous acts by the power of love, and how heartbreak can drive a person to the depths of despair.

Ibycus and the Cranes

Ibycus shows how crimes can be uncovered and wrongdoing avenged through unlikely means; justice will find a way.

Leto (Latona)

Because only Delos will take in Leto when she needs shelter from Hera's wrath, Delos is honored as the birthplace of two of the most honored gods among the Olympians. Hospitality in the myths is always rewarded generously.

Linus

Linus's life and untimely death demonstrate how much the Greeks value youth and beauty, and how they find ways to honor those who lose their youth and beauty too soon.

Marpessa

Marpessa seems to understand instinctively a truth many other women—such as Io, Creüsa, Danaë, and others—learn the hard way. Gods are not good partners for mortal women, and a woman is far better off choosing a mortal husband.

Marsyas

The story of Marsyas is a warning against attempting to compete with a god. Even if he had won the contest, he was likely to have met with a harsh punishment.

Melampus

Melampus's example shows the importance of animals and caring for nature, even in its less appealing forms. Such care can have unexpected benefits.

Merope

Merope's story underscores the value of honoring the line of succession in a monarchy, as well as the imperative for wives to honor their husbands and children to honor and defend their parents, even in death.

The Myrmidons

The Myrmidons show how Hera's desire for revenge is nearly unlimited, but they also show how Zeus, despite his dalliances and his fear of Hera, will eventually do right by his children. The gods can be destructive and restorative in equal measure.

Nisus and Scylla

Scylla's story teaches the importance of honoring one's parents and the dangers of unrequited love. When Scylla's father rescues her after being turned into an eagle, it also demonstrates how no wrong is so great that a parent's love can't overcome it.

Orion

Orion's fate demonstrates the danger of excessive drinking, as it can make a man say and do things that cause irreparable harm. His attempts at redemption do not ultimately save his life, but they do earn him a place in the stars as a prominent and easily recognizable constellation.

The Pleiades

The Pleiades, like so many women who resist the attentions of a man in mythology, are rescued through the transformation of their bodily form.

Rhoecus

Rhoecus's story cautions against carelessness and thoughtlessness in love; it is important to pay attention to details lest a lover believe they are being rejected or scorned.

Salmoneus

Salmoneus acts as a warning, not just against attempting to compete with the gods but against offending them through impersonation.

Sisyphus

Sisyphus shows how innocent bystanders can sometimes get caught up in other people's affairs to their own detriment. Sisyphus receives a punishment disproportional to his offense and gives rise to the English word sisyphean, a term used to describe an impossible and futile task.

Tithonus

Tithonus's story shows the importance of making requests of the gods that are specific and considered. Many mortals wish for immortality when what they really want is eternal youth. Immortality is worse than useless if the aging process continues, as it condemns a person to eternal suffering.

Tyro

Tyro is another victim of a god's attentions, disgraced by an affair she is in no position to refuse because of Poseidon's power. Her sons' actions to defend their mother demonstrate the value of familial loyalty and devotion.

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