masthead
 

Character glossary

Acheloüs [ak–e–loh'us] or Acheloös, “he who washes away cares”  
A river god who fought unsuccessfully with Heracles for Deïanira, he is the source of the cornucopia, or horn of plenty (Sophocles, Trachiniae 9–22; Apollodorus 2.7.5; Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.1–97; Hyginus, Fabulae 31; Diodorus Siculus 4.35.3–4). He also purified Alcmaeon for the murder of his mother (Apollodorus 3.7.5).

Achilles [a–kil'leez] or Achilleus, “lipless” or “one who grieves” (?)  
He is the son of Peleus and Thetis, raised by the centaur Chiron (Apollodorus 3.13.6). He was hidden by his mother among the daughters of Lycomedes on the island of Scyros so he would not have to fight at Troy, but was found by Odysseus and Diomedes (Apollodorus 3.13.8; Hyginus, Fabulae 96). He became the fiercest fighter for the Greeks at Troy and leader of the Myrmidons. He refused to fight after Briseïs was taken from him by Agamemnon, but reentered the war after Hector killed his friend Patroclus was killed by Hector. Achilles killed Hector in return (Homer, Iliad), but died when Paris hit him in the ankle, his only weak spot, with an arrow (Apollodorus, Epitome 5.3).

Actaeon [ak–tee'on], or Aktaion, “one must lead” or “seashore”  
He is the son of Aristaeus and Autonoë and a member of the ill–fated family line of Cadmus. Taught by the centaur Chiron to be a hunter, he stumbled upon Artemis bathing in a forest cavern (Apollodorus 3.4.4). When Artemis threw water from the spring at him, he was immediately turned into a stag and his hunting dogs tore him apart (Apollodorus 3.4.4; Diodorus Siculus 4.81.3–5; Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.138–252; Hyginus, Fabulae 180, 181).

Admetus [ad–mee'tus] or Admetos, “untamed”  
He was the king of Pherae, in Thessaly. He participated in the Calydonian boar hunt and was one of the Argonauts. Apollo served him for one year as his penalty for killing the Cyclopes (Apollodorus 3.10.4). His wife, Alcestis, died for him, but Heracles wrestled with Thanatos and restored her to Admetus (Euripides, Alcestis; Apollodorus 1.9.14–15; Hyginus, Fabulae 51).

Adonis [a–don'is], “lord”  
He is the son of Cinyras and Myrrha"a handsome young man with whom Aphrodite fell in love (Hyginus, Fabulae 58). When Adonis was mortally wounded by a wild boar, Aphrodite caused an anemone to spring up from his blood and instituted sacred rites to memorialize his death (Apollodorus 3.14.3–4; Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.519–552, 10.708–739).

Adrastus [a–dras'tus] or Adrastos  
He is the son of Talaüs and Lysimache and one of the Seven against Thebes. He instituted the Nemean Games in honor of the infant Opheltes, who died tragically at Nemea. Adrastus survived the disaster at Thebes because Arion, his swift horse, carried him from the rout. He accompanied the Epigoni against Thebes, but died of grief when his son was the only Argive leader to die in the attack (Pindar, Nemean Odes 9.9; Euripides, Suppliants; Apollodorus 3.6.2–8; Hyginus, Fabulae 242).

Aeacus [ee'a–kus] or Aiakos, “bewailing” or “earth–born”  
The son of Aegina and Zeus, he became king of the island of Aegina. Hera, jealous that Zeus had carried on with Aegina, sent a plague to the island, which Zeus then repopulated by turning ants into humans (Apollodorus 3.12.6). Aeacus became the leader of these people, who were known as Myrmidons. He had two sons, Telamon and Peleus. After his death, he became a judge in the Underworld (Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.517–660; Hyginus, Fabulae 52).

Aeëtes [ee–ee'teez], “eagle,” “light up,” or “man from Aea (earth)”  
The son of Helios and the Oceanid Perse, he possessed the Golden Fleece that Jason had been sent to obtain. After he gave Jason a list of impossible tasks to perform, Aphrodite caused Medea, the daughter of Aeëtes, to fall in love with Jason; Medea used magic to help Jason complete the tasks. Aeëtes pursued them unsuccessfully when they fled with the Golden Fleece (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2.1140–4.241; Apollodorus 1.9.23; Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.1–158; Hyginus, Fabulae 22; Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 5.177–8.139).

Aegeus [ee'je–us] or Aigeus  
The king of Athens and the father of Theseus, he is generally recognized as a humanization of the god Poseidon. He fathered Theseus in Troezen (Apollodorus 3.15.5–7; Hyginus, Fabulae 37) and, when he thought that Theseus had been unsuccessful against the Minotaur, Aegeus drowned himself in the waters that were later named the Aegean Sea (Apollodorus, Epitome 1.10; Hyginus, Fabulae 43).

Aegisthus [ee–jis'thus] or Aigisthos  
He was the son of his own sister (Pelopia) and Thyestes. He became the lover of Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife, and helped kill Agamemnon when he returned from Troy (Homer, Odyssey 4.528–537, 11.404–420; Apollodorus, Epitome 6.23; Aeschylus, Oresteia; Sophocles, Electra; Seneca, Agamemnon).

Aegyptus [ee–jip'tus] or Aigyptos, and Danaüs [dan'a–us] or Danaos  
They are brothers, sons of Belus, who gave the kingdom of Libya to Danaüs and the kingdom of Arabia to Aegyptus. When the two quarreled, Danaüs fled from Libya to Argos, where he became king. The fifty sons of Aegyptus married the fifty daughters of Danaüs, but forty–nine of the daughters killed their husbands on their wedding night (Apollodorus 2.1.4–5; Hyginus, Fabulae 168).

Aeneas [e–nee'as]  
The son of Venus and Anchises, he was a noble fighter for Troy during the Trojan War. He escaped from Troy as the Greeks were sacking the city and went off in search of a place to establish the new Troy. He settled in Italy, where his descendants founded the city of Rome (Vergil, Aeneid; Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.623–726, 14.72–157, 14.441–622).

Aeolus [ee'o–lus] or Aiolos  
He was god of the winds who lived on a floating island; he had six daughters and six sons who were married to one another. He gave Odysseus a bag of winds to aid him on his journey home from Troy, but when Odysseus’ men opened the bag and released the winds, Aeolus refused to help the Greeks again (Homer, Odyssey 10.1–76).

Aërope [a–er'o–pee]  
She was the daughter of Catreus, king of Crete. Catreus had her and her sister Clymene sold into slavery. She was bought by Atreus and became his wife, but she had an affair with his brother, Thyestes, which began the feud between the two brothers (Apollodorus 3.2.1–2, Epitome 2.10).

Aesacus [ee'sa–kus] or Aisakos
The son of Priam and Arisbe (Priam’s first wife), he learned to interpret dreams from his maternal grandmother, Merops. Some sources say it was he, not Cassandra, who interpreted the dream of Helenus to mean that Paris would be the destruction of Troy if he was not put to death. Some sources say Aesacus married Asterope, daughter of the river god Cebren, and that he was turned into a bird when he mourned her death. Other sources say Aesacus was in love with Cebren’s daughter, Hesperia, that he chased her through the woods, and that Tethys turned him into a diver bird when he threw himself into the sea after Hesperia was killed by a snakebite (Apollodorus 3.12.5; Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.749–795).

Aether [ee'ther], “upper air”  
The offspring of Erebus and Nyx, he is the personification of the bright, upper atmosphere (Hesiod, Theogony 124–125).

Agamemnon [ag–a–mem'non], &;dquo;very determined”  
The son of Atreus and Aërope and brother of Menelaüs, he led the Greek army that sailed to Troy to bring back Helen. He sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to appease Artemis so the Greeks could sail to Troy (Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis; Hyginus, Fabulae 98). He also caused Achilles to withdraw from the war by demanding Briseïs. When he returned to Mycenae after the war with Cassandra, his concubine, he and Cassandra were killed by his wife, Clytemnestra, and Aegisthus, her lover (Aeschylus, Agamemnon; Seneca, Agamemnon; Homer, Odyssey 4.519–537).

Ajax the Greater [ay'jaks] or Aias
One of the fiercest Greek warriors at Troy, this son of Telamon contended unsuccessfully with Odysseus for the armor of Achilles. He committed suicide when the armor was awarded to Odysseus (Sophocles, Ajax; Homer, Iliad; Pindar, Isthmian Odes 6.41–54; Apollodorus, Epitome 5.4, 6–7; Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.624–13.398; Hyginus, Fabulae 107).

Ajax the Lesser [ay'jaks] or Aias
 The son of Oileus and leader of the Greeks from Locris in the Trojan War, he desecrated the temple and statue of Athena by raping Cassandra during the sack of Troy (Euripides, Trojan Women 48–97; Apollodorus, Epitome 5.22–23). He was shipwrecked off the island of Tenos; when Ajax boasted that the gods could not keep him from escaping death at sea, Poseidon caused him to drown (Homer, Odyssey 4.499–511; Apollodorus, Epitome 6.6; Vergil, Aeneid 1.39–45).

Alcmaeon [alk–mee'on] or Alkamaion  
The son of Amphiaraüs, who was one of the Seven against Thebes, he avenged the death of his father by leading the Epigoni in a successful attack against Thebes and by killing his mother, who had been bribed to induce Amphiaraüs to join in the earlier, ill–fated expedition to Thebes (Apollodorus 3.6.2). He married the daughter of King Phegeus, but had to leave because he had committed matricide (Hyginus, Fabulae 73). He was purified by the river god Acheloüs and married Callirhoë, daughter of Acheloüs. He was killed by the sons of Phegeus (Apollodorus 3.7.2–7).

Alcyone [al–seye'on–ee] or Alkyone
The daughter of the wind god Aeolus, she found the body of her husband, Ceyx, on the beach after she dreamed he had died at sea. She and her dead husband were turned into kingfishers (Apollodorus 1.7.4; Lucian, Halcyon 1; Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.410–748; Hyginus, Fabulae 65).

Althaea [al–thee'a] or Althaia  
The daughter of Thestius and Eurythemis, she married her uncle Oeneus and became the mother of Gorge, Deïanira, and Meleager. She was told that Meleager would live until a particular log on the fire burned through, so she preserved the log. One day, however, Meleager angered her by killing her brothers, Toxeus and Plexippus, in an argument at the Calydonian boar hunt. She burned the log, Meleager died, and then she killed herself (Homer, Iliad 9.533–599; Apollodorus 1.8.2–3; Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.268–546; Hyginus, Fabulae 171–174).

Amazons, “missing one breast”
They were a race of warlike women. Heracles, Theseus, and Bellerophon made military campaigns against them. They fought on the side of Troy in the Trojan War, where Achilles killed Penthesilea, their leader. Theseus won the Amazon Antiope (or Hippolyta), and their son was Hippolytus (Apollodorus, Epitome 5.1).

Amphiaraüs [am–fi–a–ray'us]  
The son of Oecles and Hypermnestra, he was a prophet who took part in the Calydonian boar hunt. He refused to attack Thebes until his wife Eriphyle, bribed by Polynices, persuaded him to be one of the Seven against Thebes, even though he knew he would be killed. At Thebes, he would have been speared in the back by Periclymenus, but Zeus split the earth open with a thunderbolt. Amphiaraüs fell into the hole along with his chariot and charioteer and vanished (Pindar, Nemean Odes 9.13–27; Euripides, Suppliants; Apollodorus 1.8.2, 3.6.2–8).

Amphitrite [am–fi–treye'tee]  
She was one of the Nereids. Married to Poseidon and mother of Triton, she played the role of jealous and angry wife because of Poseidon’s many affairs (Hesiod, Theogony 243, 252–253; Apollodorus 1.2.2, 1.4.5; Hyginus, Poetica Astronomica 2.17).

Amphitryon [am–fi'tri–on]  
He ruled Mycenae while his uncle Electryon was away at war, but was banished for accidentally killing Electryon. His wife, Alcmena, refused to sleep with him until he finished Electryon’s war against the Teleboans and Taphians. He got help from Creon, the king of Thebes, after solving Creon’s problem with a fox by borrowing the hound Laelaps from Cephalus. The night before Amphitryon returned from the battle, Zeus, disguised as Amphitryon, slept with Alcmena and they conceived Heracles; Amphitryon lay with Alcmena the next night and fathered Iphicles (Apollodorus 2.4.5–8; Hyginus, Fabulae 29).

Amycus [am'i–kus] or Amykos  
This son of Poseidon, who was king of the Bebryces, compelled all visitors to compete with him in a boxing match. He had killed all of his opponents before Jason and the Argonauts arrived, at which time Polydeuces, one of the Dioscuri, boxed with and killed Amycus (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2.1–144; Apollodorus 1.9.20; Hyginus, Fabulae 17; Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 4.99–343).

Anchises [an–keye'seez]  
The descendant of Dardanus and Ilus and king of the Dardanians, he mated with Aphrodite and became the father of Aeneas. Anchises vowed not to tell anyone of his affair with Aphrodite. When the Greeks were sacking Troy, Aeneas carried Anchises from the city, but Anchises died in Sicily before the Trojans landed in Italy (Homer, Iliad 5.268–272, 13.428–431; Pausanias 8.12.8–9; Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 5; Vergil, Aeneid 2.647–649, 707–789; Hyginus, Fabulae 94).

Anticlea [an–ti–klee'a or an–ti–kleye'a] or Antikleia  
She was the daughter of Autolycus and the mother of Odysseus. One account says Sisyphus seduced her to avenge the theft of his cattle by Autolycus and that she gave birth to Odysseus shortly after Autolycus married her off to Laërtes. Another account says Laërtes was the father of Odysseus. She died of grief while Odysseus was fighting at Troy (Homer, Odyssey 11.84–89, 11.153–224; Apollodorus, Epitome 3.12, 7.17; Hyginus, Fabulae 201, 243).

Antigone [an–tig'o–nee], “contrary birth”  
This daughter of Oedipus and sister of Polynices and Eteocles buried Polynices despite Creon’s decree that whoever buried him would be killed. Creon confined her to a sealed cave, where she would die—she hanged herself; Haemon, Creon’s son, who was engaged to Antigone, killed himself with his sword; Creon’s wife, Eurydice, then took her own life (Aeschylus, Seven against Thebes; Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone; Euripides, Phoenician Women; Apollodorus 3.5.8–9, 3.7.1; Hyginus, Fabulae 72).

Aphrodite [a–froh–deye'tee], “foam born”(?)
The goddess of beauty, love, and marriage was born from the foam that frothed up in the sea where the genitals of Uranus were cast by Cronus (Hesiod, Theogony 168–200; Apollodorus 1.1.1–4). One account makes her the daughter of Zeus and Dione, a goddess who is virtually unknown (Homer, Iliad 5.370–416; Euripides, Helen 1098; Apollodorus 1.3.1). The islands Cyprus and Cythera were special centers of Aphrodite’s worship. Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus, but she had affairs with Hermes, Poseidon, Ares, and Dionysus, as well as the mortal Anchises (Homer, Odyssey 8.266–366; Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 5).

Apollo [a–pol'loh], “destroy,” or “excite”  
The brother of Artemis and son of Leto and Zeus, he was born on the island of Delos (Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo 30–90; Apollodorus 1.4.1). As one of the twelve Olympians—sun god as well as a god of prophecy, music, poetry, and medicine—he represents reason and intellect. He established the famous oracle of Delphi on Mount Parnassus (Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo; Apollodorus 1.4.1; Hyginus, Fabulae 140). He obtained attendants for his temple by turning himself into a dolphin and commandeering a ship (Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo 388–544). The Romans had no equivalent for Apollo.

Apsyrtus [ap–sir'tus] or Apsyrtos, also called Aegialeus  
The son of Aeëtes and Eidyia and brother of Medea, Apollodorus says he accompanied Medea and Jason from Colchis and that Medea cut him up and threw his body parts into the ocean to slow the pursuit of Aeëtes, their father (Apollodorus 1.9.23–24). Apollonius says Apsyrtus pursued Jason and Medea and that Jason killed him in the Danube (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.576–591; Hyginus, Fabulae 23).

Arachne [a–rak'nee], “spider”  
She was a young maiden who challenged Athena to a weaving contest. When Athena could find no fault with Arachne’s tapestry, she tore Arachne’s work to shreds and began hitting the girl with her shuttle. Arachne hanged herself, but Athena turned her into a spider (Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.1–145).

Ares [ar'eez] (Mars), “man,” “male,” “manhood,” or “strife”
This son of Zeus and Hera, and god of war, was not popular with the Greeks, who saw him as a “butcher.” He had a long–term affair with Aphrodite—with whom he produced Eros, Deimos (Panic), Phobus (Fear), and Harmonia—but was trapped in bed with Aphrodite by her husband, Hephaestus (Homer, Odyssey 8.266–366; Homeric Hymn to Ares).

Argonauts [ar'goh–nawtz]  
They were the heroes who accompanied Jason on his quest to obtain the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from Argo, the ship built by Argus for the expedition, and nautes, the Greek word for sailor. They were the most noble and heroic men in all of Greece (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.23–227; Hyginus, Fabulae 14).

Ariadne [a–ri–ad'nee], “very chaste” or “very pleasing”  
This daughter of King Minos of Crete fell in love with Theseus and betrayed her father by giving Theseus a thread to find his way out of the labyrinth (Apollodorus, Epitome 1.7–9; Plutarch, Theseus 19.1; Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.152–173; Hyginus, Fabulae 40–42). She escaped from Crete, but, according to most popular accounts, was left on the island of Naxos, where Dionysus found her and made her his wife (Homer, Odyssey 11.321–325; Apollodorus, Epitome 1.9; Diodorus Siculus 4.61.5; Plutarch, Theseus 20.2–4; Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.174–182; Hyginus, Fabulae 43).

Arion [a–reye'on], “swift” or “the one who flows quickly”  
This swift horse was a child of Poseidon, who had turned himself into a stallion, and Demeter, who had turned herself into a mare. He was the horse of Adrastus, one of the Seven against Thebes, and saved him from death (Homer, Iliad 23.346–347; Pausanias 8.25.7–10).

Artemis [ar'te–mis] (Diana), “fashion,” or “cut”(?)  
She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and twin of Apollo. One of the twelve Olympians, she was born on the island of Delos. As goddess of childbirth, nature, and the hunt, she carried a bow and arrows, which she used to avenge misdeeds, particularly crimes against her mother. She also became a moon goddess and took on the characteristics of Selene and Hecate (Homeric Hymn to Artemis).

Asclepius [as–klee'pi–us] (Aesculapius) or Asklepios, “cut up” or “turn round and round”(?)  
The god of medicine and healing was the son of Apollo and Coronis, but was raised by the centaur Chiron, who taught him medicine (Pindar, Pythian Odes 3.5–7). He could restore the dead to life, for which offense Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt (Pindar, Pythian Odes 3.54–58; Euripides, Alcestis 3–6; Apollodorus 3.10.4; Hyginus, Fabulae 49; Diodorus Siculus 4.71.2–3). The most famous temple of Asclepius was at Epidaurus. His children included Machaon, Podalirius (Diodorus Siculus 4.71.4), Hygeia (health), and Panacea (cure–all).

Asopus [a–soh'pus], “slimy muck” or “never silent”
A river god, he was sometimes called the son of Oceanus and Tethys, sometimes the son of Poseidon and Pero, and sometimes the son of Zeus and Eurynome. He married Metope and became the father of Aegina. He caught Zeus lying with his daughter. Zeus fled, but later blasted Asopus with a thunderbolt. Aegina became the mother of Aeacus (Apollodorus 3.12.6; Pausanias 2.5.1; Diodorus Siculus 4.72.1–5).

Atalanta [at–a–lan'ta], “balanced” or “not suffering much”  
She is sometimes called the daughter of Schoeneus (Apollodorus 1.8.2; Diodorus Siculus 4.34.4, 4.65.4; Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.609; Hyginus, Fabulae 185) and sometimes the daughter of Iasus (Apollodorus 3.9.2), or Iasius (Hyginus, Fabulae 99). She participated in the Calydonian boar hunt and refused to marry anyone who could not beat her in a footrace. Melanion (Hippomenes in Theocritus, Ovid, and Hyginus) outraced her by throwing golden apples to the side of the course, which she slowed down to pick up. In their haste to consummate the marriage, they had sex in a place sacred to Zeus and were turned into lions (Theocritus 3.40–42; Apollodorus 1.8.2–3, 3.9.2; Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.560–704; Hyginus, Fabulae 99, 174, 185).

Athamas [a'tha–mas], “rich harvest” or “not crowded”(?)  
As king of Boeotia, he married a cloud named Nephele and became the father of Phrixus and Helle. He was abandoned by Nephele. Ino, his new wife, tricked him into sacrificing Phrixus and Helle, but Nephele saved them by placing them on a flying ram with golden fleece. Helle fell off at the Hellespont, but Phrixus flew on to Colchis, where he sacrificed the ram to Zeus and gave the fleece to Aeëtes (Apollodorus 1.9.1; Hyginus, Fabulae 2, 3)—this was the Golden Fleece that Jason and his Argonauts had to obtain.

Athena [a–thee'–na] or Athene (Minerva), “protectress” (?)  
Born from the head of Zeus, she was goddess of wisdom, war, arts and crafts—a virginal goddess—known as a protector and benefactor of heroes. She was the patron deity of Athens, which was named for her. She beat Poseidon in a contest for this honor by causing an olive tree to grow after Poseidon had created the first horse or caused a spring to gush forth by hitting a rock with his trident (Apollodorus 3.14.1).

Atlas [at'las], “he who bears”
This son of Iapetus and Clymene fought on the side of Cronus against Zeus in the Titanomachy, so Zeus condemned him to hold the sky on his shoulders (Apollodorus 1.2.3; Hyginus, Fabulae 150). He helped Heracles obtain the apples of the Hesperides (Apollodorus 2.5.11). Perseus showed him the head of Medusa and turned him into a stone mountain (Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.627–662).

Atreus [ay'tre–us]  
The son of Pelops and Hippodamia, he carried on a long–term feud with his brother, Thyestes, and served him a banquet of his own sons. Thyestes cursed the family of Atreus. Among the many dire consequences of this curse, Aegisthus, a later–born son of Thyestes, became the lover of Clytemnestra, and they murdered her husband Agamemnon, the son of Atreus (Hesiod, Catalogue of Women 69; Aeschylus, Agamemnon; Apollodorus 2.4.6, Epitome 2.10–15; Seneca, Thyestes).

Atropos [at'ro–pos], “unchangeable” or “inflexible”  
A daughter of Zeus and Themis, she was one of the Fates, who were also called Moirae or Parcae. She is depicted as an old woman, who by cutting the thread of one's life that has been spun and measured out by her two sisters brings one’s life to an end (Hesiod, Theogony 217–222, 901–906, Shield of Heracles 248–269; Apollodorus 1.3.1).

Augeas [aw–jee'as], “bright”  
He was a son of Phorbas or Poseidon or Helios and king of Elis. He had large herds of cattle, but had never cleaned their stables. Heracles cleaned them in one day as his fifth labor, but Augeas refused to give him the cattle he had promised as payment (Apollodorus 2.5.5; Diodorus Siculus 4.13.3; Pausanias 5.1.9–10; Hyginus, Fabulae 30). Later, Heracles returned with an army to defeat Augeas and capture the city (Apollodorus 2.7.2; Diodorus Siculus 4.33.1, 4; Pausanias 5.1.10–5.3.1).



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