previous next


Caeneus was formerly a woman, but after that Poseidon had intercourse with her, she asked to become an invulnerable man; wherefore in the battle with the centaurs he thought scorn of wounds and killed many of the centaurs; but the rest of them surrounded him and by striking him with fir trees buried him in the earth.1

1 As to Caeneus, his change of sex and his invulnerability, see Ap. Rhod., Argon. i.57-64, with the Scholiast on v. 57; Scholiast on Hom. Il. i.264; Plut. Stoic. absurd. 1; Plut. De profectibus in virtute 1; Lucian, Gallus 19; Lucian, De saltatione 57; Apostolius, Cent. iv.19; Palaephatus, De incredib. 11; Ant. Lib. 17; Verg. A. 6.448ff.; Ov. Met. 12.459-532; Hyginus, Fab. 14, pp. 39ff., ed. Bunte; Serv. Verg. A. 6.448; Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Achill. 264; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. pp. 49, 111ff., 189 (First Vatican Mythographer 154; Second Vatican Mythographer 108; Third Vatican Mythographer 6.25). According to Servius and the Vatican Mythographers, after his death Caeneus was changed back into a woman, thus conforming to an observation of Plato or Aristotle that the sex of a person generally changes at each transmigration of his soul into a new body. Curiously enough, the Urabunna and Waramunga tribes of Central Australia agree with Plato or Aristotle on this point. They believe that the souls of the dead transmigrate sooner or later into new bodies, and that at each successive transmigration they change their sex. See Sir. Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen, The Northern Tribes of Central Australia (London, 1904), p. 148. According to Ov. Met. 12.524ff., a bird with yellow wings was seen to rise from the heap of logs under which Caeneus was overwhelmed; and the seer Mopsus explained the bird to be Caeneus transformed into that creature. Another tradition about Caeneus was that he set up his spear in the middle of the marketplace and ordered people to regard it as a god and to swear by it. He himself prayed and sacrificed to none of the gods, but only to his spear. It was this impiety that drew down on him the wrath of Zeus, who instigated the centaurs to overwhelm him. See the Scholiast on Hom. Il. i.264; Scholiast on Ap. Rhod., Argon. i.57. The whole story of the parentage of Caeneus, his impiety, his invulnerability, and the manner of his death, is told by the old prose-writer Acusilaus in a passage quoted by a Greek grammarian, of whose work some fragments, written on papyrus, were discovered some years ago at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. See The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, part xiii. (London, 1919), pp. 133ff. Apollodorus probably derived his account of Caeneus from Acusilaus, whom he often refers to (see Index). The fortunate discovery of this fragment of the ancient writer confirms our confidence in the excellence of the sources used by Apollodorus and in the fidelity with which he followed them. In his complete work he may have narrated the impiety of Caeneus in setting up his spear for worship, though the episode has been omitted in the Epitome.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Sir James George Frazer)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Oxyrhynchus (Egypt) (1)
Egypt (Egypt) (1)
Central Australia (Australia) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: