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Acantha (Ancient Greek: Ἀκάνθα, English translation: "thorn" [1] is often claimed to be a minor character in Greek mythology whose metamorphosis was the origin of the Acanthus plant.[2]


The tale goes that Acantha was a nymph loved by the god Apollo. Acantha, however, rebuffed Apollo's advances and scratched his face. As a result, Apollo transformed her into the Acanthus, a plant with spiny leaves.[3]

Origin of the myth[edit]

The story has, over the years, been retold in books,[4][5] encyclopedias,[2][6] and journals.[7] Compilers have, however, often omitted reference to classical sources. For instance the first edition of John Lemprière's Bibliotheca Classica, an early encyclopaedia of mythological figures, provides no reference for the story.[8] In the updated 1839 edition three references are given. These are to Pliny the Elder's Natural History, Pedanius Dioscorides' De Materia Medica and Hesychius of Alexandria's Lexicon.[9] On inspection, however, Pliny makes absolutely no reference to Acantha, Dioscorides refers only to the plant and Hesychius simply explains what the word means.[10][11][12] A number of latter compilers have similarly not cited classical references when retelling the myth.[2][3][4][6]

The myth does not appear in the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae,[13] a volume which includes every Latin word, including proper names.[14] The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, a similarly comprehensive source containing a complete repository of Ancient Greek texts from Homer through to A.D. 200,[15] is also absent the myth.[16] The story is not present in either the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae,[17] a work praised for its breadth and quality,[18][19] or Der Neue Pauly,[20] an encyclopaedia considered an unparalleled masterpiece of classical German scholarship.[21][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ “Acantha Definition and Meaning | Collins English Dictionary.” Collins Dictionaries, 2021,
  2. ^ a b c Coulter, Charles Russell and Turner, Patricia (2000). Encyclopedia Of Ancient Deities. Routledge. pg.62. ISBN 1579582702.
  3. ^ a b Beeton, Samuel Orchart (1871). Beeton's Classical dictionary. Warwick. pg.2. Available at
  4. ^ a b Parley, Peter (1839). Tales about the mythology of Greece and Rome. Oxford University Press. pg.347
  5. ^ Gledhill, David (2008). The Names of Plants. Cambridge University Press. pg.33. ISBN 0521685532.
  6. ^ a b Evslin, Bernard (2012). Gods, Demigods and Demons: An Encyclopedia of Greek Mythology. Open Road Media. Acantha. ISBN 1453272968
  7. ^ Mackay, Charles (1861), A Weekly Journal of Fact and Fiction, Volumes 1-13, pg.353
  8. ^ Lemprière, John (1788). Bibliotheca Classica. T. Cadell. Acantha
  9. ^ Lemprière, John (1839). A Classical Dictionary, Containing a Copious Account of All the Proper Names Mentioned in Ancient Authors. Available at
  10. ^ Pliny the Elder, translation by Bostock, John and Riley, H.T (2009). Natural History. BiblioLife. Book XXIV, Chapter 12. ISBN 1117234630. Available at
  11. ^ Dioscorides, Pedanius (2000). De Materia Medica. Ibidis Press. Book Three, 3.14 & 3.15. ISBN 0-620-23435-0.
  12. ^ Hesychius of Alexandria (1520). Alphabetical Collection of All Words. Available at
  13. ^ Thesaurus Linguae Latinae. Available at
  14. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Available at
  15. ^ Bowen, Alan C. (1988). Ancient Philosophy. Volume 8, Issue 1, page 136.
  16. ^ Thesaurus Linguae Graecae. Available at Archived November 6, 2014, at
  17. ^ Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae. Available a
  18. ^ Hansen, William (2005). Classical Mythology: A Guide to the Mythical World of the Greeks and Romans. pg.14. ISBN 0195300351
  19. ^ Hard, Robin (2008). The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology. pg.691. ISBN 0415478901
  20. ^ Der Neue Pauly. Available at
  21. ^ Bernhard Kytzler: Kathedrale der Gelehrsamkeit. In: Die Zeit. Hamburg 1979,6 (2. Febr.), S. 39. (German)
  22. ^ Wolfgang Schuller: Einführung in die Geschichte des Altertums. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1994, S. 140. (German)