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Ancient Boeotian bell-krater showing Zeus impregnating Danaë in the form of a shower of gold, circa 450–425 BC
ParentsAcrisius and Eurydice
Eros pouring golden rain on Danaë, antique fresco in Pompeii

In Greek mythology, Danaë (/ˈdæn.i/,[1] /ˈdæni./;[2] Ancient Greek: Δανάη, romanizedDanáē; Ancient Greek: [da.ná.ɛː], Modern: [ðaˈna.i]) was an Argive princess and mother of the hero Perseus by Zeus. She was credited with founding the city of Ardea in Latium during the Bronze Age.


Danae was the daughter and only child of King Acrisius of Argos by his wife Queen Eurydice[3] or Aganippe.[4] In some accounts, she had a sister, Evarete, wife of King Oenomaus of Pisa and mother of Hippodamia.[5]


Disappointed by his lack of male heirs, King Acrisius asked the oracle of Delphi if this would change. The oracle announced to him that he would never have a son, but his daughter would, and that he would be killed by his daughter's son. At the time, Danaë was childless and, meaning to keep her so, King Acrisius shut her up in a bronze chamber to be constructed under the court of his palace (other versions say she was imprisoned in a tall brass tower with a single richly adorned chamber, but with no doors or windows, just a small air vent as the source of light and air). She was buried in this tomb, with the intent that she be closed off from all others for the rest of her life. However, Zeus, the king of the gods, desired her, and came to her in the form of golden rain which streamed in through the roof of the subterranean chamber and down into her womb. Soon after, their child Perseus was born.

Unwilling to provoke the wrath of the gods or the Furies by killing his offspring and grandchild, King Acrisius cast Danaë and Perseus into the sea in a wooden chest. The sea was calmed by Poseidon and, at the request of Zeus, the pair survived. They were washed ashore on the island of Seriphos, where they were taken in by the fisherman Dictys—the brother of King Polydectes—who raised Perseus to manhood in the temple of Athena. The King was charmed by Danaë, but she had no interest in him. Consequently, he agreed not to marry her only if her son would bring him the head of the Gorgon Medusa. Using Athena's shield, Hermes's winged sandals and Hades's helmet of invisibility, Perseus was able to evade Medusa's gaze and decapitate her.

Later, after Perseus brought back Medusa's head and rescued Andromeda the princess of Aethiopia, the oracle's prophecy came true. He started for Argos, but learning of the prophecy, instead went to Larissa, where athletic games, Olympics, were being held. By chance, an aging Acrisius was there and Perseus accidentally struck him on the head with his javelin (or discus), fulfilling the prophecy.


Argive genealogy in Greek mythology
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  1. ^ Jones, Daniel; Roach, Peter, James Hartman and Jane Setter, eds. Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary. 17th edition. Cambridge UP, 2006.
  2. ^ Wells, John C. (2000) [1990]. Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (new ed.). Harlow, England: Longman. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-582-36467-7.
  3. ^ Apollodorus, 2.2.2.
  4. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 63; Scholiast on Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 4.1091.
  5. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 84.

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