In Greek mythology Stheneboea[pronunciation?] or Stheneboia (Greek: Σθενέβοια; the "strong cow" or "strong through cattle") was the daughter of Iobates, king in Lycia, and consort of Proetus, joint-king in the Argolid with Acrisius, having his seat at Tiryns; she took a fancy to Bellerophon but was repulsed. As in the Biblical account of Potiphar's wife, she testified falsely against Bellerophon, accusing him of advances and even attempted rape to her husband, who sent him on a deadly mission to Iobates. Bellerophon later returned to Tiryns and punished Stheneboea. Some say that Bellerophon took her for a ride on Pegasus and threw her to the ground but others maintain that this was unworthy of a hero so Bellerophon would not have done such a deed. Others assert that Bellerophon married Stheneboea's sister and consequently it was inevitable that the allegations would be exposed as false so this resulted in Stheneboea's suicide since she feared exposure and public denouncement.
Divine judgement was added to this tragic end, since Stheneboea's three daughters were overcome with madness, inflicted by either Hera or Dionysus, and took to ranging over the mountains as maenads, assaulting travellers.
Stheneboea and Potiphar's wife
Alternative names for the consort of Proetus is Antea, Antaea, or Anteia. Robert Graves observes that Anteia's attempted seduction of Bellerophon has several Greek parallels and draws attention to Biadice's love for Phrixus, which "recalls Potiphar's wife's love for Joseph, a companion myth from Canaan" as well as Cretheis and Peleus, Phaedra and Hippolytus or Philonome and Tenes. Graves also notes the parallel in the Egyptian Tale of the Two Brothers, from about the end of the second millennium BC. "Such poisonous triangular relationships," Jeffrey A White has observed in this context, "with negligible variations of detail and conclusion (the common ingredients being a failed seductress, an innocent youth and a deceived father-figure), can be multiplied easily from Greek myth, as from Hebrew. That the Bellerophon-Proetus-Anteia relationship recalls quite vividly the Joseph-Potiphar-Potiphar's wife episode in Gen. 39, is well known."
Stheneboea, "cattle queen"
Stheneboea is one of a number of female figures named for their role as "cattle queens"; they include Phereboia ("bringing in cattle"), and Polyboia ("worth much cattle"). In archaic Greece cattle were a source of wealth and a demonstration of social pre-eminence; they also signified the numinous presence of Hera. Cattle-queens, betokening the command of a large bride-price, are as familiar in Gaelic mythology as they are in Greek myth.
- Iliad vi.160, as "Anteia".
- Graves, The Greek Myths (1955; 1960) sub 70.2 "Athamas".
- Graves 1960:75.1. Graves note "the provenience of the myth is uncertain."
- In J.B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press) 1955:23-25. The two brothers are Anubis and his wife, and Anubis' younger brother Bata, who is rescued from Anubis' misplaced vengeance by the intervention of Re-Herakti.
- Jeffrey A. White, "Bellerophon in the 'Land of Nod': Some Notes on Iliad 6.153-211" The American Journal of Philology 103.2 (Summer 1982:119-127) p. 123
- White notes further triangles from M. Simpson, Gods and Heroes of the Greeks: the Library of Apollodorus (Amherst) 1976, Acastus-Peleus-Astydamia (Bibliotheke 3.13.3); Amyntor-Phoenix-concubine (Bib. 3.13.8); Paneus-Plexippus and Pandion-Idaea (Bib. 3.15.3); Cycnus-Tenes-Philonome (Epitome 3.24; Cretheus and Athamus-Phrixus-Demodice (Hyginus, Astronomia, 2.20); and Theseus-Hippolytus-Phaedra (Epitome 1.18-19).
- Steven H. Lonsdale, "Attitudes towards animals in ancient Greece" Greece & Rome, 2nd Series 26.2 (October 1979), pp. 146-159; John Heath, The Talking Greeks: Speech, Animals, and the Other in Homer, Aeschylus, and Plato, p. 190 and note 67.
- Iliad xxiii.700-05; see also the Greek region of Euboia ("rich in cattle").