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Δευκαλίων). The son of Prometheus and Clymené, or of Prometheus and Pandora, and sometimes called the father (Thuc.i. 3), sometimes the brother of Hellen, the reputed founder of the Greek nation. His home was Thessaly, from which, according to general tradition, he was driven to Parnassus by a great deluge (Apollod. i.7.2), which, however, according to Aristotle (Meteorol. i. 14) occurred between Dodona and the Acheloüs. The Greek legend respecting this memorable event is as follows: Deucalion was married to Pyrrha, the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora. When Zeus designed to destroy the brazen race of men on account of their impiety, Deucalion, by the advice of his father, made himself an ark (λάρναξ), and, putting provisions into it, entered it with his wife Pyrrha. Zeus then poured rain from heaven and inundated the greater part of Greece, so that all the people, except a few who escaped to the lofty mountains, perished in the waves. At the same time, the mountains of Thessaly were burst through by the flood, and all Greece without the Isthmus, as well as all the Peloponnesus, were overflowed. Deucalion was carried along the sea in his ark for nine days and nights, until he reached Mount Parnassus. By this time the rain had ceased, and, leaving his ark, he sacrificed to Zeus the flight-giver (Φύξιος), who sent Hermes, desiring him to ask what he would. His request was to have the earth replenished with men. By the direction of Zeus, thereupon, he and his wife flung stones behind them, and those which Deucalion cast became men, and those thrown by Pyrrha women; from which circumstance the Greeks derived the name for “people” (λαός) from λᾶας, “a stone” (Apollod. i.7.2).

This narrative restricts the general deluge to Greece proper, perhaps originally to Thessaly; and it most incongruously represents others as having escaped as well as Deucalion; while at the same time, it intimates that he and his wife alone had been preserved in the catastrophe. The circumstance of the ark is thought by some to be borrowed from the Mosaic account, and to have been learned at Alexandria, for we elsewhere find the dove noticed. “The mythologists,” says Plutarch, “inform us that a dove let fly out of the ark was to Deucalion a sign of bad weather if it came in again, of good weather if it flew away” (De Sollert. An.). The sacrifice and the appearance of Hermes likewise strongly remind us of Noah. (See, also, the article Apamea.) The Latin writers take a different view of the deluge. According to them it overspread the whole earth, and all animal life perished except Deucalion and Pyrrha, whom Ovid, who gives a very poetical account of this great catastrophe, conveys in a small boat to the summit of Parnassus; while others make Aetna or Athos the mountain which yielded them a refuge (Ovid, Met. i. 253 foll.; Hyg. Fab. 153; Serv. ad Eclog. vi. 41). According to Ovid they consulted the ancient oracle of Themis respecting the restoration of mankind, and received the following response: “Depart from the fane, veil your heads, loosen your girded vestments, and cast behind you the great bones of your parent” ( Met. i. 381 foll.). They were at first horror-struck at such an act of impiety, but at length Deucalion understood the words of the oracle as referring to the earth, the common mother of all. Rationalizing mythologists make the story an allegory in which Deucalion represents water (as if from δεύω), and Pyrrha, fire (πῦρ). The meaning of the legend will then be, that when the passage through which the Peneus carries off the waters that run into the vale of Thessaly, which is on all sides shut in by lofty mountains, had been closed by some accident, they overflowed the whole of its surface, till the action of subterranean fire opened a way for them. According to this view of the subject, then, the deluge of Deucalion was merely a local one; and it was not until the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, when the Hebrew Scriptures became known to the Greeks, that some features borrowed from the universal deluge of Noah were incorporated into the story of the Thessalian flood. See Harcourt, Doctrine of the Deluge (London, 1838); Sayce, Fresh Light from the Ancient Monuments (London, 1886); Motais, Le Déluge Biblique (Paris, 1887).

hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 1.7.2
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.3
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.253
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.381
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