Hypermnestra was the daughter of Danaus. Danaus was the twin brother of Aegyptus and son of Belus. He had fifty daughters, the Danaides, and Aegyptus had fifty sons. Aegyptus commanded that his sons marry the Danaides and Danaus fled to Argos, ruled by King Pelasgus. When Aegyptus and his sons arrived to take the Danaides, Danaus gave them to spare the Argives the pain of a battle. However, he instructed his daughters to kill their husbands on their wedding night. Forty-nine followed through, but one, Hypermnestra refused because her husband, Lynceus, honored her wish to remain a virgin. Danaus was angry with his disobedient daughter and threw her to the Argive courts. Aphrodite intervened and saved her. Lynceus later killed Danaus as revenge for the death of his brothers. Lynceus and Hypermnestra then began a dynasty of Argive kings (the Danaid Dynasty), beginning with Abas. In some versions of the legend, the Danaides were punished in the underworld by being forced to carry water through a jug with holes, or a sieve, so the water always leaked out. Hypermnestra, however, went straight to Elysium.
Argive genealogy in Greek mythology
In literature and music
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a Legend of Hypermnestra. French composer Charles-Hubert Gervais composed opera Hypermnestre, first performed at the Académie Royale de Musique (the Paris Opera) on 3 November 1716. Ignaz Holzbauer composed a German opera entitled Hypermnestra with a German libretto by Johann Leopold van Ghelen that was performed in Vienna in 1741.
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- William Smith, Mahmoud Saba (1857). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (volume II). Original from the University of Michigan: Walton and Maberly. p. 231.
- A Curious Error?: Geoffrey Chaucer’s Legend of Hypermnestra, The Chaucer Review , Vol 36, Number 1, 2001, accessed 2 May 2013