Acantha (Greek: Ἀκάνθα, English translation: "thorny") is often claimed to be a minor character in Greek mythology whose metamorphosis was the origin of the Acanthus plant. The tale goes that Acantha was a nymph loved by the god Apollo. Acantha however rebutted Apollo’s advances and scratched his face when he tried to rape her. As a result Apollo transformed her into the Acanthus, a plant with spiny leaves.
The story has, over the years, been retold in books, encyclopedias, and journals. It is notable however that Acantha is not mentioned in any classical source. Indeed the myth doesn't seems to appear until 1788 in John Lemprière's book Bibliotheca Classica. In the first edition Lemprière provides no reference for the story. In the updated seventh edition three references are given however, on inspection, none actually contain the myth. As such the tale appears to be a comparatively modern invention as opposed to a myth genuinely embraced by the Ancient Greeks.
- Coulter and Turner, Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities, pg.62
- Peter Parley, Tales about the mythology of Greece and Rome, pg.347
- David Gledhill, The Names of Plants, pg.33
- Charles Mackay, A Weekly Journal of Fact and Fiction, Volumes 1-13, pg.353
- John Lemprière, Bibliotheca Classica (First Edition), Acanthus
- John Lemprière, Bibliotheca Classica (Seventh Edition), pg.xxix