In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Adrasteia (//; Ancient Greek: Ἀδράστεια, Ionic Greek: Ἀδρήστεια), also spelled Adrastia, Adrastea, Adrestea, Adastreia or Adrasta), originally a Phrygian mountain goddess, probably associated with Cybele, was later a Cretan nymph, and daughter of Melisseus, who was charged by Rhea with nurturing the infant Zeus in secret, to protect him from his father Cronus. By at least the fifth century BC, she became identified with Nemesis, the goddess of divine retribution.
Adrasteia was the goddess of "inevitable fate", representing "pressing necessity", and the inescapability of punishment. She had a cult at Cyzicus (with nearby temple), and on the Phrygian Mount Ida. Adrasteia was also the object of public worship in Athens from at least as early as 429 BC. Her name appears in the "Accounts of the Treasurers of the Other Gods", associated with the Thracian goddess Bendis, with whom she seems to have shared a treasury or accounts, indicating that in Athens her cult was supported by public funds.
Adrasteia was also worshipped, together with Nemesis, at Kos. The 2nd-century geographer Pausanias, reports seeing a statue of Adrasteia in a temple of Apollo, Artemis, and Leto at Cirrha, near Delphi.
Adrasteia came to be associated with the birth of Zeus. In this context she was said to be a nymph of Cretan Mount Ida. The Titaness Rhea gave her son, the infant Zeus, to the Curetes and the nymphs Adrasteia and Ida, daughters of Melisseus, to nurse, and they fed Zeus on the milk of the goat Amalthea. Adrasteia gave Zeus a wondrous toy ball to play with, later used by Aphrodite to bribe her son Eros.
Associations with other goddesses
Adrasteia seems to have originally been a Phrygian mountain goddess, probably associated with Cybele, the mountain mother goddess of Anatolia. Priapus, Cyzicus, and the Troad, where Adrasteia's cult was established, were also areas where Cybele was especially worshipped. The two earliest mentions of Adrasteia both suggest an association with Cybele. Adrasteia's description, in a fragment from the lost epic poem Phoronis as a Phrygian mountain goddess served by the Idaean Dactyls, is hardly distinguishable from Cybele herself, while Aeschylus locates Adrasteia in the "Berecynthan land", also the home of the "Mother of the Gods" (i.e. Cybele).
Although apparently of independent origin, Adrasteia also came to be associated with Nemesis, the goddess of divine retribution. Nemeisis and Adrasteia were worshipped together at Kos. In the fifth century BC the two goddesses were often identified, with Adrasteia becoming merely an epithet of Nemesis. The explicit identification of the two goddesses is first found in the writings of the late fifth-century BC poet and grammarian Antimachus of Colophon.
Adrasteia, like Nemesis, was also associated with Artemis. The land of the Berecyntians, where a fragment of Aeschylus' lost play Niobe locates the cult of Adrasteia, was also the home of Ephesian Artemis. According to the second-century-BC Greek grammarian Demetrius of Scepsis, a certain Adrastus established Adrasteia as another name for Artemis. As noted above Pausanias saw a statue of Adrasteia in a temple of Artemis near Delphi.
Adrasteia was also sometimes associated with other goddesses, including the Titan Rhea (who was herself associated with Mother goddess Cybele), Ananke (Necessity), the personification of inevitability, and the Egyptian mother goddess Isis.
The name Adrasteia can be understood as meaning "Inescapable". Several ancient writers, regarding 'Adrasteia' as an epithet for the goddess Nemesis, derived the epithet from the name 'Adrastus'. Adrasteia was the name of a city and a plain in the Troad, a name known to Homer; and according to Strabo, the city and plain were said to have been named after a certain "King Adrastus", of Hellespontine Phrygia, who was said to have built the first temple of Nemesis. Strabo tells us that according to Antimachus, Adrastus "was the first to build an altar to [Nemesis] beside the stream of the Aesepus River", and that according to the fourth-century BC historian Callisthenes (FGrHist 124 F 28), "Adrasteia was named after King Adrastus, who was the first to found a temple of Nemesis". Other ancient writers derived the epithet from the Greek διδράσκω ("run away"), interpreting the epithet to mean the goddess "whom none can escape", connecting the epithet with the fate of the mythical Argive King Adrastus, leader of the doomed Seven against Thebes.
The name Adrasteia (perhaps in connection with the Argive Adrastus) also has geographical associations with Argolis. Pausanias mentions a spring called Adrasteia at Nemea, and Pseudo-Plutarch, mentions a root called Adraseia produced on a mountaintop in Argolis.
The earliest surviving references to Adrasteia appear in a fragment from the epic poem the Phoronis (c. sixth century BC), and in a fragment from the lost play Niobe (c. early 5th century BC), by the tragedian Aeschylus. In both she is a Phrygian mountain goddess associated with Mount Ida.
- ... where the wizards of Ida, Phrygian men, had their mountain homes: Kelmis, great Damnameneus, and haughty Akmon, skilled servants of Adrastea of the mountain, they who first, by the arts of crafty Hephaestus, discovered dark iron in the mountain glens, and brought it to the fire, and promulgated a fine achievement.
Aeschylus' Niobe fragment mentions the "territory of Adrasteia" associating it with the Berecyntians, a Phrygian tribe, and Mount Ida:
- The land I [Tanatalus] sow extends for twelve days’ journey: the country of the Berecyntians, where the territory of Adrasteia and Mount Ida resound with the lowing and bleating of livestock, and all of the Erechthean plain.
Once in the Aeschylean Prometheus Bound, and twice in the Euripidean Rhesus, Adrasteia is invoked as a ward against the consequences of boastful speech (perhaps here being identified with Nemesis as the punisher of boasts). In Prometheus Bound, after Prometheus foretells the fall of Zeus, the chorus warns Prometheus that the wise "bow to Adrasteia", a formulaic expression meaning to apologize for a remark which might offend some divinity. In the Rhesus, the chorus, because of the praise they are about to give Rhesus, invoke the goddess saying:
- May Adrasteia, daughter of Zeus
- shield my words from divine hostility!
- There is a great goddess Nemesis, who has obtained as her portion all these things from the Blessed. Adrestus was the first to build an altar to her beside the stream of the Aesepus River, where she is worshipped under the name of Adresteia.
In a similar vein to the Aeschylean and Euripidean invocations, Plato, in his Republic (c. 375 BC), has Socrates invoke Arasteia (i.e. Nemesis?) as a ward against divine retribution for—not a boast—but rather an eccentric idea:
- I bow myself down before Adrasteia, Glaucon, because of what I am about to say. You see, I really do suppose it a lesser misdemeanor to become the involuntary murderer of someone than to lead people astray about principles of what is fine and good and just.
- And this is a law of [Adrasteia], that the soul which follows after God and obtains a view of any of the truths is free from harm until the next period, and if it can always attain this, is always unharmed;
Both the early 3rd-century BC poet Callimachus, and the mid 3rd-century BC poet Apollonius of Rhodes, name Adrasteia as a nurse of the infant Zeus. According to Callimachus, Adrasteia, along with the ash-tree nymphs, the Meliae, laid Zeus "to rest in a cradle of gold", and fed him with honeycomb, and the milk of the goat Amaltheia. Apollonius of Rhodes, describes a wondrous toy ball which Adrasteia gave the child Zeus, when she was his nurse in the "Idean cave".
According to Apollodorus, Adrasteia and Ida were daughters of Melisseus, who nursed Zeus, feeding him on the milk of Amalthea. Hyginus says that Adrasteia, along with her sisters Ida and Amalthea, were daughters of Oceanus, or that according to "others" they were Zeus's nurses, "the ones that are called Dodonian Nymphys (others call them the Naiads)".
The story of Adrasteia as one of the nurses of Zeus possibly originated as early as a late-fifth-century Orphic theogony (the Eudemian Theogony). Several possible Orphic sources contain accounts of Zeus being nursed by Adrasteia and Ida (here the daughters of Mellissos and Amalthea) and guarded by the Curetes. These have Adrasteia clashing bronze cymbals in front of the cave of Night (Nyx) where the infant Zeus was being concealed, from his father Cronus, so that infant's cries would not be heard. In one she is said to be a "lawgiver" (νομοθετοῦσα) outside the cave's entrance.
- Fries, pp. 246–247; Graf, "Adrastea"; Farnell, pp. 499–500; Tripp, s.v. Adrasteia; Parada, s.v. Adrastia 1; Smith, s.vv. Adrasteia 1 (Cretan nymph), Adrasteia 2 (epithet of Nemesis).
- Farnell, p. 499; Munn, p. 333.
- Graf, s.v. Adrastea ("[Adrasteia] is understood as 'pressing necessity', as the demands of fate (Aesch. PV 936), as iron law (Pl. Phdr. 248cd), but above all as inescapable punishment"); Munn, p. 333 ("Adrasteia ... represents the inescapability of justice, however administered. ... Adrasteia, the "Relentless One," was destiny or doom, the fate in store for all, for better or worse.").
- Graf, "Adrastea"; Hasluck, p. 220; Farnell, p. 499. For Cyzicus see Strabo, 12.8.11, 13.1.13 (which reports "a temple of Adrasteia near Cyzicus"), for Mount Ida, see Aeschylus, Niobe fr. 158 Radt [= Strabo, 12.8.21].
- Parker, pp. 172, 195, 197; Fries, p. 246.
- Parker, p. 195; Graf, "Adrastea"; Inscriptiones Graecae I3 383.142–143; cf. I3 369.67.
- Munn, p. 333 n. 63; Hasluck, p. 220; Graf, "Adrastea"; Farnell, p. 499; Paton and Hicks, pp. 51–52, no. 29.9.
- Munn, p. 333 n. 63; Pausanias, 10.37.8.
- Graf, "Adrastea"; Tripp, s.v. Adrasteia, p. 13; Smith, s.v. Adrasteia 1; Parada, s.v. Adrastia 1.
- Hard, p. 75; Gantz, pp. 2, 42, 743; Apollodorus, 1.1.6–7. Compare with Callimachus, Hymn 1 (to Zeus) 44–48; Hyginus, Fabulae 182 (Smith and Trzaskoma, p. 158); Plutarch, Moralia, Table Talk 3.9.2 (657e); Orphic frr. 105, 151 Kern. Tripp, s.v. Adrasteia, p. 13, suggests that Adrasteia might also have been supposed to have fed Zeus on 'honey as well, to judge from the fact her father's name means "Bee-Man"'.
- Hard, p. 197; Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 3.132–136.
- Fries, p. 247; Euripides, Rhesus 342–343. Fries, on this line, says that "Our poet presumably created an ad hoc genealogy on the analogy of Dike, who fulfils a similar role as divinely authorised watcher over human affairs". Compare with Plutarch, Moralia, On the Delays of the Divine Vengeance 25 (546e), which makes her the daughter of Ananke (Necessity) and Zeus.
- Graf, "Adrastea" ("Goddess related to the mountain mother of Asia Minor, Cybele"); Hasluck, p. 220, ("Adrasteia has since Marquardt's time been generally acknowledged as a form of Cybele"); Farnell, pp. 499–500 ("There is no doubt that [Adrasteia] was a cult-name and probably a local title of Cybele detached at an early period"); Fries, p. 246 ("Originally a Phrygian mountain goddess"). See also Munn's discussion of Adrasteia, pp. 332–336, as one of the "Names of the Mother". However, note Leaf, p. 78, which says that: "It is commonly assumed ... that Adresteia was originally a form of the Great Mother of Asia Minor transported to Greece. The grounds for such an idea are very feeble."
- Golann, p. 44; Farnell, p. 499.
- Golann, p. 44; Farnell, pp. 499–500; Hasluck, p. 221. For the Idaean Dactyls as servants of the "Mother", see Fowler, p. 43; Strabo, 10.3.22 (which says that of the various sources which describe the Idaean Dactyls, "all have assumed that they were ... attendants of the Mother of the gods"); Apollonius of Rhodes, 1.1125–1127; Diodorus Siculus, 17.7.5.
- Munn, pp. 2, 333; Aeschylus, Niobe fr. 158 Radt [= Strabo, 12.8.21]. For the association of the "Mother of the Gods" with the "Berecynthan land", see Pseudo-Plutarch De Fluviis 10.4-5 [= Agatharchides FGrHist 284 F 3].
- Farnell, p. 499; Golann, pp. 43–44; Munn, p. 333; Fries, pp. 246–247, on lines 342–3; Smith, s.v. Adrasteia 2.
- Munn, p. 333 n. 63; Hasluck, p. 220; Graf, "Adrastea"; Farnell, p. 499; Paton and Hicks, pp. 51–52, no. 29.9.
- West, p. 195 ("In the fifth century Adrastea is equivalent to Nemesis"); Munn, p. 333; Golann, p. 43; Smyth, Prometheus Bound 936, n. 2; Murray, note to Rhesus 342; Smith, s.v. Adrasteia 2.
- Fries, pp. 246–247, on lines 342–3; Golann, p. 43; Hornum, p. 7; Strabo, 13.1.13 [= Antimachus, fr. 131 Matthews = 53 Wyss]. Compare with Aeschylus (?), Prometheus Bound 936; Euripides, Rhesus 342–343, 468–473; Plato, Republic 451a; Demosthenes, 25.37; Menander, Perikeiromene 304; Greek Anthology, 9.405, 12.300; Ammianus Marcellinus, History 14.11.25.
- Munn, p. 333; Graf, "Adrastea"; Farnell, p. 499; For the association of Nemesis with Artemis see, Farnell, pp. 487–493; Hornum, p. 7. According to Farnell, "We need not look further than [Adrasteia's association with Nemesis] for an explanation of the statement in Harpocration that Demetrius of Scepsis identified Adrasteia with Artemis, and for the presence of the statue of the former in the temple of Artemis Lerto and Apollo at Cirrha, the divinities who brought down due 'nemesis' on the Cirrhaeans." While according to Hasluck, p. 220 n. 1, "Demetrius of Scepsis' identification of Adrasteia with Artemis only shows the essential identity of the Asiatic, Artemis and the Mother."
- Munn, p. 333; Callimachus, Hymn 3, to Artemis 3.242–247.
- Munn, p. 333 n. 63; Graf, "Adrastea"; Harpocration, s.v. Ἀδράστειαν.
- Munn, p. 333 n. 63; Pausanias, 10.37.8.
- Apollonius of Rhodes, 1.1114–1127; Strabo, 10.3.12 (Rhea associated with Cybele).
- West, pp. 194–198, which calls this identification a "Hellenistic embellishment" (p. 195).
- Graf, "Adrastea".
- Graf, "Adrastea", which says: "the original—probably non-Greecian—name is understandable as 'Inescapable'"; West, p. 196 n. 63; Smyth, Prometheus Bound 936 n. 2; White, p. 233 n. 11 ("Ineluctable"); Sommerstein 2019b, p. 547 n. 116 ("inescabability"). See also translations of the name as "Necessity" (Smyth, Prometheus Bound 936; Sommerstein 2019b, Prometheus Bound p. 936) and "the Relentless One" (Munn, p. 333).
- Munn, p. 333; Hasluck, p. 220; Smith, s.v. Adrasteia 2; Leaf, p. 78; Homer Iliad 2.828; Strabo, 13.1.13; Suda α 523 Adler, α 524 Adler. Hasluck suggests that "the existence of this ancient temple was probably seized upon eagerly as a link between Cyzicus and the Homeric cycle, though it may have no connection with the city on the Granicus any more than the Adrastus the Archive. The existence of the temple would be held tangible evidence for the legend that King Cyzicus married a lady of Homeric descent instead of a mere Thessalian." In addition, as Hasluck notes (n. 1), the fate of the Argive Adrastus, the famous mythical leader of the disastrous expedition of the Seven against Thebes, would also have suggested an association of the name Adrasteia with Nemesis.
- Munn, p. 333 n. 63; Farnell, p. 499; Antimachus, fr. 131 Matthews = 53 Wyss in Strabo, 13.1.13.
- Munn, p. 333 n. 63; Callisthenes, FGrHist 124 F 28 in Strabo, 13.1.13. Compare with Harpocration s.v. Ἀδράστειαν (per Munn, p. 333 n. 63), which says that Demetrius of Scepsis also associated the name Adrasteia (here an epithet of Artemis) with a certain Adrastus (Ἀδράστου τινός), and that "some" said that "Nemesis got the name Adrasteia from 'a certain King Adrastus [παρὰ Ἀδράστου τινός βασιλέως], or from Adrastus the son of Talaus'", i.e. the Archive Adrastus, leader of the Seven against Thebes.
- West, p. 196 n. 63; Hasluck, p. 220, with n. 1, which call this a "false etymology"; Smith, s.v. Adrasteia 2; LSJ, s.v. διδράσκω; Suda α 523 Adler, α 524 Adler. Fries, p. 247, says that "the popular etymology of her name as ἀναπόδραστος ('not to be escaped') ... is not attested before the Hellenistic age, when the early Stoics equated her with Fate".
- Leaf, p. 79.
- Pausanias, 2.15.3.
- Pseudo-Plutarch, De Fluviis 18.13. Compare with Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48.463 which calls Adrasteia "Argive", where Nonnus is probably drawing on the association of Adrasteia with the Archive Adrastus, see Rouse's note a.
- Parker, p. 195; Fries, p. 246.
- Gantz, p. 148; Golann, p. 44; Farnell, pp. 499–500. For a discussion of this fragment see Tsagalis, pp. 413–419
- Phoronis fr. 2 [= Scholiast on Apollonius of Rhodes 1.1126-1131b "Δάκτυλοι Ἰδαῖοι"].
- Munn, p. 333.
- Aeschylus, Niobe fr. 158 Radt [= Strabo, 12.8.21].
- West, p. 195 with n. 61.
- Aeschylus (?), Prometheus Bound 936; Sommerstein, Prometheus Bound 936 and note 116; Smyth, Prometheus Bound 936 and note 2; Munn, p. 333.
- Fries, p. 246, on lines 242–5; Kovacs, p. 391 n. 8; Murray, note to Rhesus 342.
- Euripides, Rhesus 342–343
- Euripides, Rhesus, 468–473.
- Fries, pp. 246–247, on lines 342–3; Golann, p. 43; Hornum, p. 7.
- Strabo, 13.1.13 = Antimachus, fr. 131 Matthews = 53 Wyss.
- Munn, p. 335; Emlyn-Jones and Preddy, p. 451 n. 6.
- Plato, Republic 451a.
- Fries, p. 247; Plato, Phaedrus 248c–d.
- Gantz, p. 42; Hard, p. 75.
- Callimachus, Hymn 1 to Zeus 46–48.
- Hard, p. 197; West, p. 158 (which suggests a possible Orphic source for this story of the ball); Tripp, s.v. Adrasteia; Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 3.132–136.
- Apollodorus, 1.1.6–7.
- Hyginus, Fabulae 182 (Smith and Trzaskoma, pp. 158, 191, endnote to 182).
- Fries, p. 247; West, pp. 72, 122, 131. For the Eudemian Theogony (named after the Peripatetic Eudemus who described it) as the possible (indirect) source for the story of Adrasteia as Zeus' nurse in Callimachus, Apollonius of Rhodes, and Apollodorus, see West, pp. 121–128, 131–132; 158.
- Gantz, pp. 42, 743; Graf, s.v. Adrastea; Fries, p. 247; West, pp. 72, 122; Orphic frr. 105 Kern [= Hermias, On Plato's Phaedrus 248c], 151 Kern [= Proclus, On Plato's Cratylus 396b], 162 Kern [= Proclus, On Plato's Timaeus 41e (Taylor 1820, p. 397)].
- West, pp. 72, 122; Orphic fr. 105b Kern [= Hermias, On Plato's Phaedrus 248c], 152 Kern [= Proclus, Platonic Theology 4.17 (Taylor 1816, pp. 259–260)]. Compare with Callimachus, Hymn 1, to Zeus 51–53; Ovid, Fasti 4.207–210; Hyginus, Fabulae 139; Strabo, 10.3.11; Apollodorus, 1.1.7, which all have the Curetes (or the Corybantes) clashing their weapons, to hide the baby's crying.
- Graf, s.v. Adrastea; Orphic fr. 105b Kern [= Hermias, On Plato's Phaedrus 248c]. West, p. 132, taking note of Adrasteia's original associations with the Phyrigian Mount Ida, sees in the clashing of the bronze cymbals, a probable "reflection of Asiatic practice".
- As noted by White, p. 233 n.11, whether Adrasteia and Necessity (Ananke) are here considered to be distinct, or different names for the same goddess is unclear.
- West, pp. 178, 194–198; Leeming, s.v. Adrasteia, p. 5; Feibleman, p. 52; Damascius, De principiis (On First Principles) 123.31–80 = Hieronymus of Rhodes fr. 61A (White, pp. 232–233) = Orphic fr. 54 Kern.
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