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CYLLE´NE (Κυλλήνη).


A lofty mountain in the north-eastern corner of Arcadia, upon the borders of Achaia. It was celebrated as the birthplace of Hermes, and as such is frequently mentioned by both the Greek and Roman poets. (Hom. Hymn. Mere. 2; Verg. A. 8.138.) Hence Cyllenius occurs as a frequent epithet, and even as a name of Hermes or Mercury. (Hom. Hymn. Merc. 304, 318; Verg. A. 4.252; Ov. Met. 1.713, 2.720, et alibi.) In the same way we find the adjectives Cylleneus and Cyllenis applied to the lyre of Mercury, or to anything else belonging to this god. (Hor. Epod. 13.9; Ov. Met. 5.176, 11.304.) There was a temple of Hermes upon the summit of the mountain, which in the time of Pausanias had fallen into ruins. The latter writer derives the name of the mountain from Cyllen, the son of Elatus. (Paus. 8.17.1.)

Cyllene now bears the name of Zyria; its height, as determined by the officers of the French Commission, is 2374 mètres, or 7788 feet above the level of the sea. The ruins of the temple of Hermes are no longer found upon its summit. The ancients regarded it as the highest mountain in Peloponnesus; but in this they were mistaken, as one of the summits of Taygetus rises to the height of 7902 feet. According to Strabo, some made it 15, others 20 stadia in height (viii. p. 388); Apollodorus stated it to be 9 stadia, less 20 feet, in height; a measurement which evidently refers to its height above the level of the surrounding plains, and very nearly coincides with the measurement of the French Commission, who found it to be 1675 mètres above the level of the plain of Pheneos. (Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1951, 16; Steph. B. sub voce Κυλλήνη.) The summit of Cyllene was supposed to be so high above all winds and clouds, that the ashes of the victims sacrificed there to Hermes, remained undisturbed from one year's festival to another. (Geminus, Elem. Astr. 1.14; Olympiodor. ap. Alex. Aphrod. p. 6.)

Cyllene rests upon a broad, almost circular basis, and is separated from the surrounding mountains by deep ravines. Towards the north it sends out a projecting spur, called in ancient times CHELYDOREA (now Mavrióro), because Hermes was said to have found here the tortoise shell, which he converted into a lyre. (Paus. 8.17.5.) On Cyllene white blackbirds were said to have been found. (Paus. 8.17.3; Steph. B. sub voce (Boblaye, Recherches, &c., p. 154; Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. i. pp. 17, 199;)


(Eth.Κυλλήνιος, Eth. Κυλληνεύς), the seaport town of Elis, distant 120 stadia from the latter city. (Paus. 6.26.4; Strab. viii. p.337.) Cyllene was an ancient place. It is mentioned by Homer as one of the towns of the Epeians (Il. 15.518); and if we are to believe Dionysius Periegetes (347), it was the port from which the Pelasgians sailed to Italy. Pausanias, moreover, mentions it as visited at an early period by the merchants of Aegina (8.5.8), and as the port from which the exiled Messenians after the conclusion of the second Messenian war, sailed away to found a colony in Italy or Sicily (4.23.1, seq.).

Cyllene was burnt by the Corcyraeans in B.C. 435, because it had supplied ships to the Corinthians. (Thuc. 1.30.) It is again mentioned in 429, as the naval station of the Peloponnesian fleet, when Phormion commanded an Athenian squadron in the Corinthian gulf. (Thuc. 2.84.) Its name occurs on other occasions, clearly showing that it was the principal port in this part of Peloponnesus. (Thuc. 6.89; Diod. 19.66, 87; Plb. 5.3; Liv. 27.32.) Strabo describes Cyllene as an inconsiderable village, having an ivory statue of Asclepius by Colotes, a contemporary of Pheidias. (Strab. viii. p.337.) This statue is not mentioned by Pausanias, who speaks, however, of temples of Asclepius and Aphrodite (6.26.5).

Cyllene is usually identified with Glaréntza, situated upon one of the capes of the promontory Chelonatas. This is the position assigned to it by Leake, whose authority we have followed elsewhere [CHELONATAS]; but there are strong reasons for doubting the correctness of this opinion. There are no ancient remains at Glaréntza; and although this is at present the only port on this part of the coast, the outline of the latter has been so changed in the course of centuries, that little reliance can be placed upon this argument. Moreover, Cyllene is clearly distinguished from the promontory Chelonatas by the ancient writers. Strabo (viii. p.338) says that the Peneius flows into the sea between the promontories Chelonatas and Cyllene; and that this is not an error in the text, as Leake supposes (Morea, vol. i. p. 7), appears from the order of the names in Ptolemy (3.15. § § 5, 6), where we find the promontory Araxus, Cyllene, the mouths of the Peneius, the promontory Chelonitis. The river Peneius at present flows into the sea to the south of Chelonatas, but its ancient course was probably north of this promontory. [PENEIUS] Accordingly we may perhaps place Cyllene about half way between Araxus and Chelonatas. This position not only agrees with the distance of 120 stadia from Elis mentioned by Strabo and Pausanias, but also with the distances in the Tab. Peuting., which reckons xiv. M. P. from Dyme to Cyllene, and also xiv. M. P. from Cyllene to Elis. Pliny (4.5. s. 6.), likewise separates the promontory Chelonatas from Cyllene. According to the present text of Pliny, the distance between them is v. M. P. (not ii. as in some editions); but instead of v. we ought probably to read xv. It appears from Pliny that the sea between the promontories of Araxus and Chelonatas was called the bay of Cyllene. (Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. ii. pp. 33, 102.)

hide References (19 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (19):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.26.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.17.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.17.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.17.1
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.30
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.84
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.89
    • Homer, Iliad, 15.518
    • Polybius, Histories, 5.3
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 11.304
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.713
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 2.720
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 5.176
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 4.252
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 8.138
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 32
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.66
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.87
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