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[8]

Pandion married Zeuxippe, his mother's sister,1 and begat two daughters, Procne and Philomela, and twin sons, Erechtheus and Butes. But war having broken out with Labdacus on a question of boundaries, he called in the help of Tereus, son of Ares, from Thrace, and having with his help brought the war to a successful close, he gave Tereus his own daughter Procne in marriage.2 Tereus had by her a son Itys, and having fallen in love with Philomela, he seduced her also saying that Procne was dead, for he concealed her in the country. Afterwards he married Philomela and bedded with her, and cut out her tongue. But by weaving characters in a robe she revealed thereby to Procne her own sorrows. And having sought out her sister, Procne killed her son Itys, boiled him, served him up for supper to the unwitting Tereus, and fled with her sister in haste. When Tereus was aware of what had happened, he snatched up an axe and pursued them. And being overtaken at Daulia in Phocis, they prayed the gods to be turned into birds, and Procne became a nightingale, and Philomela a swallow. And Tereus also was changed into a bird and became a hoopoe.


1 This tradition of marriage with a maternal aunt is remarkable. I do not remember to have met with another instance of such a marriage in Greek legend.

2 For the tragic story of Procne and Philomela, and their transformation into birds, see Zenobius, Cent. iii.14 (who, to a certain extent, agrees verbally with Apollodorus); Conon 31; Ach. Tat. 5.3, 5.5; Tzetzes, Chiliades vii.459ff.; Paus. 1.5.4; Paus. 1.41.8ff.; Paus. 10.4.8ff.; Eustathius on Hom. Od. xix.518, p. 1875; Hyginus, Fab. 45; Ov. Met. 6.426-674; Serv. Verg. Ecl. 6.78; Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Theb. v.120; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. pp. 2, 147 (First Vatican Mythographer 8; Second Vatican Mythographer 217). On this theme Sophocles composed a tragedy Tereus, from which most of the extant versions of the story are believed to be derived. See The Fragments of Sophocles, ed. A. C. Pearson, vol. ii. pp. 221ff. However, the version of Hyginus differs from the rest in a number of particulars. For example, he represents Tereus as transformed into a hawk instead of into a hoopoe; but for this transformation he had the authority of Aesch. Supp. 60ff. Tereus is commonly said to have been a Thracian, and the scene of the tragedy is sometimes laid in Thrace. Ovid, who adopts this account, appears to have associated the murder of Itys with the frenzied rites of the Bacchanals, for he says that the crime was perpetrated at the time when the Thracian women were celebrating the biennial festival (sacra trieterica) of Dionysus, and that the two women disguised themselves as Bacchanals. On the other hand, Thuc. 2.29 definitely affirms that Tereus dwelt in Daulia, a district of Phocis, and that the tragedy took place in that country; at the same time he tells us that the population of the district was then Thracian. In this he is followed by Strab. 9.3.13, Zenobius, Conon, Pausanias, and Nonnus (Dionys. iv.320ff.). Thucydides supports his view by a reference to Greek poets, who called the nightingale the Daulian bird. The Megarians maintained that Tereus reigned at Pagae in Megaris, and they showed his grave in the form of a barrow, at which they sacrificed to him every year, using gravel in the sacrifice instead of barley groats (Paus. 1.41.8ff.). But no one who has seen the grey ruined walls and towers of Daulis, thickly mantled in ivy and holly-oak, on the summit of precipices that overhang a deep romantic glen at the foot of the towering slopes of Parnassus, will willingly consent to divest them of the legendary charm which Greek poetry and history have combined to throw over the lovely scene. It is said that, after being turned into birds, Procne and Tereus continued to utter the same cries which they had emitted at the moment of their transformation; the nightingale still fled warbling plaintively the name of her dead son, Itu! Itu! while the hoopoe still pursued his cruel wife crying, Poo! poo! (ποῦ, ποῦ, “Where? Where?”). The later Roman mythographers somewhat absurdly inverted the transformation of the two sisters, making Procne the swallow and the tongueless Philomela the songstress nightingale.

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