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[2] And Acrisius had a daughter Danae by Eurydice, daughter of Lacedaemon, and Proetus had daughters, Lysippe, Iphinoe, and Iphianassa, by Stheneboea. When these damsels were grown up, they went mad,1 according to Hesiod, because they would not accept the rites of Dionysus, but according to Acusilaus, because they disparaged the wooden image of Hera. In their madness they roamed over the whole Argive land, and afterwards, passing through Arcadia and the Peloponnese, they ran through the desert in the most disorderly fashion. But Melampus, son of Amythaon by Idomene, daughter of Abas, being a seer and the first to devise the cure by means of drugs and purifications, promised to cure the maidens if he should receive the third part of the sovereignty. When Proetus refused to pay so high a fee for the cure, the maidens raved more than ever, and besides that, the other women raved with them; for they also abandoned their houses, destroyed their own children, and flocked to the desert. Not until the evil had reached a very high pitch did Proetus consent to pay the stipulated fee, and Melampus promised to effect a cure whenever his brother Bias should receive just so much land as himself. Fearing that, if the cure were delayed, yet more would be demanded of him, Proetus agreed to let the physician proceed on these terms. So Melampus, taking with him the most stalwart of the young men, chased the women in a bevy from the mountains to Sicyon with shouts and a sort of frenzied dance. In the pursuit Iphinoe, the eldest of the daughters, expired; but the others were lucky enough to be purified and so to recover their wits.2 Proetus gave them in marriage to Melampus and Bias, and afterwards begat a son, Megapenthes.

1 Compare Bacch. 10.40-112, ed. Jebb; Hdt. 9.34; Strab. 8.3.19; Diod. 4.68; Paus. 2.7.8; Paus. 2.18.4; Paus. 5.5.10; Paus. 8.18.7ff.; Scholiast on Pind. N. 9.13 (30); Clement of Alexandria, Strom. vii.4.26, p. 844, ed. Potter; Stephanus Byzantius, s.v. Ἀζανία; Verg. Ecl. 6.48ff.; Ov. Met. 15.325ff.; Pliny, Nat. Hist. xxv.47; Serv. Verg. Ecl. 6.48; Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Theb. iii.453; Vitruvius viii.3.21. Of these writers, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and, in one passage (Paus. 2.18.4), Pausanias, speak of the madness of the Argive women in general, without mentioning the daughters of Proetus in particular. And, according to Diodorus Siculus, with whom Pausanias in the same passage (Paus. 2.18.4) agrees, the king of Argos at the time of the affair was not Proetus but Anaxagoras, son of Megapenthes. As to Megapenthes, see Apollod. 2.4.4. According to Virgil the damsels imagined that they were turned into cows; and Servius and Lactantius Placidus inform us that this notion was infused into their minds by Hera (Juno) to punish them for the airs of superiority which they assumed towards her; indeed, in one place Lactantius Placidus says that the angry goddess turned them into heifers outright. In these legends Mr. A. B. Cook sees reminiscences of priestesses who assumed the attributes and assimilated themselves to the likeness of the cow-goddess Hera. See his Zeus, i.451ff. But it is possible that the tradition describes, with mythical accessories, a real form of madness by which the Argive women, or some portion of them, were temporarily affected. We may compare a somewhat similar form of temporary insanity to which the women of the wild Jakun tribe in the Malay Peninsula are said to be liable. “A curious complaint was made to the Penghulu of Pianggu, in my presence, by a Jakun man from the Anak Endau. He stated that all the women of his settlement were frequently seized by a kind of madness—presumably some form of hysteria— and that they ran off singing into the jungle, each woman by herself, and stopped there for several days and nights, finally returning almost naked, or with their clothes all torn to shreds. He said that the first outbreak of this kind occurred a few years ago, and that they were still frequent, one usually taking place every two or three months. They were started by one of the women, whereupon all the others followed suit.” See Ivor H. N. Evans, “Further Notes on the Aboriginal Tribes of Pahang,” Journal of the Federated Malay States Museums, ix:1, January 1920, p. 27 (Calcutta, 1920).

2 According to Bacch. 10.95ff., ed. Jebb, the father of the damsels vowed to sacrifice twenty red oxen to the Sun, if his daughters were healed: the vow was heard, and on the intercession of Artemis the angry Hera consented to allow the cure.

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