Cepheus, King of Aethiopia

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King of Jaffa
Born unknown
Spouse Cassiopeia
Issue Andromeda

In Greek mythology, Cepheus (/ˈsfiəs, -fjs/; Greek: Κηφεύς Kepheús) is the name of two rulers of Aethiopia, grandfather and grandson.

Cepheus, King of Phoenicia[edit]

Cepheus, son of Agenor[citation needed] is the more well-known Cepheus and the grandson of the other Cepheus. Otherwise, Cepheus' father was identified as Belus[1][2] or Phoenix.[3] If Belus was his father, he had Anchinoe, daughter of Nilus as mother, and Danaus, Aegyptus and Phineus as brothers. He was called Iasid Cepheus, pertaining to his Argive ancestry through King Iasus of Argus, father of Io.[4]


Metamorphoses of Ovide (the king of Greece, Céphée, and the queen, Cassiopé, thank the hero Perseus for having delivered their daughter Andromeda, offered in sacrifice to a marine monster) by Pierre Mignard (1679) at Louvre Museum, Paris

Cepheus is prominently featured in the Perseus legend as the husband of lovely Cassiopeia and father of Princess Andromeda, and whose brother Phineus expected to marry Andromeda. Various sources described his kingdom to be Ethiopia or the city of Joppa (Jaffa) in Phoenicia.

When Cepheus' proud wife Cassiopeia foolishly boasted that Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids, not only the sea-nymphs themselves but also Poseidon was angered. Thus, the sea god sent a flood and a sea monster Cetus to attack the Aethiopian land. Cepheus and Cassiopeia then consulted a wise oracle of Ammon (identified with Zeus), at the oasis of Siwa in the Libyan desert, who declared that the calamity would not be brought to an end until their daughter Andromeda was offered up to the monster. The king chained the princess to a rock by the shore at the insistence of his people to be devoured by Cetus.

Andromeda was saved from this fate when Perseus, flying home with his trophy (i.e. head of Medusa), had passed by the kingdom of Cepheus and noticed that a girl of wonderful beauty was chained to a rock by the seashore. Perseus fell in love with her at first sight and undertook to slay the monster if she would promise to marry him; or, in a slightly different version, he approached her father Cepheus and won an equivalent promise from him. The hero then proceeded to kill the monster with his sword or sickle (or else turned it to stone by showing it the Gorgon’s head). Perseus washed off his blood in the spring near the city of Joppa which later became red water, because of his blood.[5]

Cepheus and Cassiopeia allowed Perseus to become Andromeda's husband after he used Medusa's head to turn Phineus and his men to stone for plotting against him.[6] According to Hyginus, the betrothed of Andromeda was named Agenor.[7] After spending a year or so at the court of his father-in-law, Perseus finally set off for Seriphos with his wife. Since Cepheus had no heir of his own, the departing couple allowed him to adopt their first-born child, Perses, who was destined to give his name to the Persians. Cepheus was later made into the constellation Cepheus.


  1. ^ Herodotus. Histories 7.61 with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920.
  2. ^ Apollodorus, The Library 2.1.3
  3. ^ Hyginus. Astronomica 2.9
  4. ^ Aratus, Phaenomena 189. Translated by Mair, A. W. & G. R. Loeb Classical Library Volume 129. London: William Heinemann, 1921.
  5. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 4.35.9 with an English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A., in 4 Volumes. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1918.
  6. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 1 - 238
  7. ^ Hyginus. Fabulae 64.


Primary sources[edit]

  • Pseudo-Apollodorus, The Library with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921.
  • Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae and Astronomica. Translated and edited by Mary Grant. University of Kansas Publications in Humanistic Studies, no. 34. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1960.
  • Ovid. Metamorphoses. Translated by More, Brookes. Boston, Cornhill Publishing Co. 1922.

Secondary sources[edit]