2. The wanderings of Io.
--The idea of Io having wandered about after her metamorphosis appears to have been as ancient as the mythus respecting her, but those wanderings were extended and poetically embellished in proportion as geographical knowledge increased.
The most important passage is in the Prometheus
of Aeschylus, 705, &c., although it is almost impossible to reconcile the poet's description with ancient geography, so far as we know it. From Argos Io first went to Molossis and the neighbourhood of Dodona, and from thence to the sea, which derived from her the name of the Ionian.
After many wanderings through the unknown regions of the north, she arrived in the place where Prometheus was fastened to a rock.
As the Titan prescribes to her the course she has yet to take, it is of importance to ascertain the spot at which he begins to describe her course; but the expressions of Aeschylus are so vague, that it is a hopeless attempt to determine that spot.
According to the extant play, it is somewhere in European Scythia, perhaps to the north of the river Istrus; but in the last play of the Trilogy, as well as in other accounts, the Caucasus is mentioned as the place where the Titan endured his tortures, and it remains again uncertain in what part of the Caucasus we have to conceive the suffering Titan.
It seems to be the most probable supposition, that Aeschylus himself did not form a clear and distinct notion of the wanderings he describes, for how little he cared about geographical accuracy is evident from the fact, that in the Supplices
(548, &c.) he describes the wanderings of Io in a very diffent manner from that adopted in the Prometheus.
If, however, we place Prometheus somewhere in the north of Europe, the course he prescribes may be conceived in the following manner. Io has first to wander towards the east, through unknown countries, to the Scythian nomades (north of Olbia), whom, however, she is to avoid, by travelling through their country along the sea-coast; she is then to have on her left the Chalybes, against whom she must likewise be on her guard. These Chalybes are probably the Cimmerians, who formerly inhabited the Crimea and the adjacent part of Scythia, and afterwards the country about Sinope. From thence she is to arrive on the river Hybristes (the Don or Cuban), which she is to follow up to its sources, in the highest parts of Mount Caucasus, in order there to cross it. Thence she is to proceed southward, where she is to meet the Amazons (who at that time are conceived to live in Colchis, afterwards in Themiscyra, on the river Thermodon), who are to conduct her to the place where the Salmydessian rock endangers all navigation.
This latter point is so clear an allusion to the coast north of the mouth of the Bosporus, that we must suppose that Aeschylus meant to describe Io as crossing the Thracian Bosporus from Asia into Europe. From thence he leads her to the Cimmerian Bos porus, which is to receive its name from her, and across the palus Maeotis.
In this manner she would in part touch upon the same countries which she had traversed before.
After this she is to leave Europe and go to Asia, according to which the poet must here make the Maeotis the boundary between Europe and Asia, whereas elsewhere he makes the Phasis the boundary.
The description of the wanderings of Io is taken up again at verse 788.
She is told that after crossing the water separating the two continents, she is to arrive in the hot countries situated under the rising sun.
At this point in the description there is a gap, and the last passage probably described her further progress through Asia. Io then has again to cross a sea, after which she is to come to the Gorgonaean plains of Cisthenes (which, according to the scholiast, is a town of Aethiopia or Libya), and to meet the Graeae and Gorgones.
The sea here mentioned is probably the so-called Indian Bosporus (Steph. Byz. s. v. Βόσπορος
; Eustath. ad Dionys. Perieg.
143), where the extremities of Asia and Libya, India and Aethiopia, were conceived to be close to each other, and where some writers place the Gorgones. (Schol. ad Pind. Pyth.
The mention, in the verses following, of the griffins and Arimaspae, who are generally assigned to northern regions, creates some difficulty, though the poet may have mentioned them without meaning to place them in the south, but only for the purpose of connecting the misfortunes of Io with the best-known monsters. From the Indian Bosporus, Io is to arrive in the country of the black people, dwelling around the well of the sun, on the river Aethiops, that is, the upper part of the Nile or the Niger.
She is to follow the course of that river, until she comes to the cataracts of the Nile, which river she is again to follow down to the Delta, where delivery awaits her. (Comp. Eurip. Iphig. Taur.
382, &c.; Apollod. 2.1.3
; Hyg. Fab. 145
The mythus of Io is one of the most ancient, and at the same time one of the most difficult to explain.
The ancients believed Io to be the moon, and there is a distinct tradition that the Argives called the moon Io. (Eustath. ad Dionys. Perieg.
92; Suid. and IIesych. s. v. Ἰώ
This opinion has also been adopted by some modern critics, who at the same time see in this mythus a confirmation of the belief in an ancient connection between the religions of Greece and Egypt. (Buttmann, Mytholog.
vol. ii. p. 179, &c.; Welcker, Die Aeschyl. Trilog.
p. 127, &c.; Schwenk, Etymol. Mythol. Andeutungen,
p. 62, &c.; Mytholog. der Griech.
p. 52, &c. ; Klausen, in the Rhein. Museum,
vol. iii. p. 293, &c.; Voelcker, Mythol Geogr. der Griech. u. Röm.
vol. i.) That Io is identical with the moon cannot be doubted (comp. Eurip. Phoen,
1123; Macr. 1.19
), and the various things related of her refer to the phases and phenomena of the moon, and are intimately connected with the worship of Zeus and Hera at Argos. Her connection with Egypt seems to be an invention of later times, and was probably suggested by the resemblance which was found to exist between the Argive Io and the Egyptian Isis.