Cyrene (mythology)

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Cyrene and Cattle - Edward Calvert.jpg
Other names Kyrene

In Greek mythology, Cyrene (/sˈrn/) or Kyrene (Ancient Greek: Κῡρήνη, "Sovereign Queen"), as recorded in Pindar's ninth Pythian ode, was the daughter of Hypseus, king of the Lapiths, although some myths state that her father was actually the river-god Peneus and she was a nymph rather than a mortal.[1]

By the god Apollo she bore Aristaeus and Idmon while with Ares, Cyrene (if indeed this is the same Cyrene) was the mother of Diomedes of Thrace.

According to the myth, the North African city of Cyrene was founded and named after her by Apollo.[2]


Cyrene was a fierce huntress, called by Nonnus a "deer-chasing second Artemis, the girl lionkiller."[3] Pindar describes her in his Pythian Ode:

But she loved not the pacing tread this way and that beside the loom, nor the delights of merry feasts with her companions in the household. But the bronze-tipped javelin and the sword called her to combat and slay the wild beasts of the field; and in truth many a day she gave of peaceful quiet to her father’s cattle.[4]

When a lion attacked her father's sheep, Cyrene wrestled with the lion. Apollo, who was present, immediately fell in love with her and took her to North Africa in his car.[5] There he founded the city of Cyrene in the region of Cyrenaica, both named after her. Together, she and Apollo had two sons: Aristaeus, the demigod who invented beekeeping, and Idmon, the Argonaut seer.[6] Other stories say that Cyrene was not wrestling with a lion but instead tending her sheep along the marsh-meadow of the river Pineios, and that Apollo later transformed her into a nymph to grant her a long life.[7]

Cyrene is also mentioned in the second and third hymns of Callimachus as well as in The Poet and the Women (written by Aristophanes) whence Mnesilochus comments that he "can't see a man there at all - only Cyrene" when setting eyes upon the poet Agathon who emerges from his house to greet Euripides and himself dressed in women's clothing.


  1. ^ Hyginus Fabulae 161, Virgil Georgics 4.320
  2. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 81. 1
  3. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 300 ff
  4. ^ Pindar, Pythian Ode 9. 6 ff
  5. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 300 ff
  6. ^ "Cyrene". Greek Myth Index. 2007. Retrieved December 19, 2017. 
  7. ^ "Cyrene". Greek Mythology Link. Retrieved December 19, 2017.