Crocus (mythology)

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Kingdom of Flora by Nicolas Poussin. Canvas painting, 1631, 181×131 cm

In Classical mythology, Crocus (Ancient Greek: Κρόκος, Krókos) was a mortal youth who was changed by the gods into a saffron flower.[1]


Crocus was unhappy with his love affair with the nymph Smilax, and he was turned by the gods into a plant bearing his name, the crocus (saffron). Smilax is believed to have been given a similar fate and transformed into bindweed.[2][3][4]

In another variation of the myth, Crocus was said to be a companion of Hermes and was accidentally killed by the god in a game of discus when he unexpectedly stood up. As the unfortunate youth's blood dripped on the soil, the saffron flower came to be.[5][6][7] The myth is similar to that of Apollo and Hyacinthus, and may indeed be a variation or modelled after it thereof.[7]

In his translation of Nonnos' Dionysiaca, W.H.D. Rouse describes the tale of Crocus as being from the late Classical period and little-known.[8]

See also[edit]

  • Clytie
  • Hyacinthus, another youth killed in a discus accident and turned into a flower
  • Smilax, Crocus' lover turned into a shrub


  1. ^ William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology Crocus
  2. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.283
  3. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 12.86
  4. ^ "Kingdom Of Flora". Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  5. ^ Galenus, De Compositione Medicamentorum Secundum Locos 9.4
  6. ^ Servius on Virgil's Georgics 4.182
  7. ^ a b Miller & Strauss Clay 2019, p. 133.
  8. ^ In: Nonnos, Dionysiaca. With an English translation by W. H. D. Rouse. Volume I, books I - XV. Cambridge - Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, London, William Heinemann Ltd, 1940, p. 404


External links[edit]