Cyrene (mythology)

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Cyrene and Cattle - Edward Calvert.jpg
Cyrene and Cattle by Edward Calvert, 1830s or 1840s
OffspringAristaeus, Autuchus and Idmon
ParentsChlidanope and Peneus or Hypseus

In Greek mythology, Cyrene (/sˈrn/) or Kyrene (Ancient Greek: Κῡρήνη, "Sovereign Queen"), was a Thessalian princess, and later, the queen and ruler of the North African city of Cyrene.

According to the myth, the city was founded and named after her by Apollo.[1]


As recorded in Pindar's ninth Pythian ode, Cyrene 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.[2] According to Apollonius Rhodius, she also had a sister called Larissa.[3]

By the god Apollo she bore Aristaeus and Idmon. Aristaeus became the god of animal husbandry, bee-keeping and cheese making. Idmon became a famed seer, who was later killed by a boar. Apollonius Rhodius states that the couple also had another son called Autuchus.[4]


Cyrene was a fierce huntress, called by Nonnus a "deer-chasing second Artemis, the girl lionkiller."[5] 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.[6]

When a lion attacked her father's sheep, Cyrene wrestled with the lion. Apollo, who was present, admired her bravery and skills. He fell in love with her, but wonders if it would be right to make her his bride. But after consulting and getting an approval by Chiron, he carried her away to North Africa in his golden car.[7] Aphrodite was present to welcome them both.

And Aphrodite of the silver feet welcomed this guest from Delos, laying the touch of her light hand upon his god-built car, and o'er the sweet bliss of their bridal she spread love's shy and winsome modesty, plighting in joint wedlock the god and maiden daughter of wide-ruling Hypseus.[8]

In North Africa, Apollo founded the city Cyrene in the region of Cyrenaica, both named after his new love. He made Cyrene the ruler of the city. Together, she and Apollo had two sons: Aristaeus, the demigod who invented beekeeping, and Idmon, the Argonaut seer.[9] Another son, Autuchus is also mentioned by Apollonuis of Rhodes.

According to the poet Acestor, when Eurypylus was still ruling Libya, a monstrous lion was created, which was a great terror to the citizens. So Apollo sent Cyrene to kill the beast. After she succeeded, she was made the ruler of the city Cyrene.[10]

After she gave birth to their sons, Apollo transformed her into a nymph, so that she could have a long life and keep hunting as much as she desired.[11] Aristaeus was entrusted to Chiron, and Idmon was brought up and educated by Apollo.

Other stories say that Cyrene was not wrestling with a lion but instead tending her sheep along the marsh-meadow of the river Pineios.

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. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 81. 1
  2. ^ Hyginus Fabulae 161, Virgil Georgics 4.320
  3. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica
  4. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica
  5. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 300 ff
  6. ^ Pindar, Pythian Ode 9. 6 ff
  7. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 300 ff
  8. ^ Pindar, Pythian Ode 9. 6 ff
  9. ^ "Cyrene". Greek Myth Index. 2007. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  10. ^ The Argonautics of Apollonius Rhodius Translated: With Notes and Observations
  11. ^ "Cyrene". Greek Mythology Link. Retrieved December 19, 2017.