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Hellen (bottom, centre-right), being presented with the twins Aeolus and Boeotus by a shepherd, in a depiction of the story of Melanippe from Euripides' lost play Melanippe Wise, on an Apulian volute krater, dating from the late fourth century BC.[1]

In Greek mythology, Hellen (/ˈhɛlɪn/; Ancient Greek: Ἕλλην) is the eponymous progenitor of the Hellenes. He is the child of Deucalion (or Zeus) and Pyrrha, and the father of three sons, Dorus, Xuthus, and Aeolus, by whom he is the ancestor of the Greek peoples.


The Catalogue of Women (sixth century BC?)[2] is a fragmentary poem attributed to Hesiod;[3] the work is structured around a large genealogy of mortals, Hellen's family being described in Book 1 of the poem. According to a scholion on Apollonius of Rhodes' Argonautica, Hellen, in the poem, is called the son of Pyrrha, by either Deucalion, or alternatively, by Prometheus (who is called the father of Deucalion in the same passage).[4] The latter parentage, however, it seems was not a part of the Catalogue, but rather a mistake on the part of the scholion.[5] A scholion on the Odyssey similarly calls Hellen a son of Deucalion and Pyrrha, giving his siblings as Amphictyon, Protogeneia, and Melanthea (Melantho). The scholion, however, also states that "some say that Hellen was the son of Zeus by birth but was said to be the son of Deucalion",[6] leading M. L. West to consider Hellen's real father in the Catalogue to in fact be Zeus, and Deucalion only, in West's words, his "nominal father".[7]

Plutarch, in his Moralia, quotes a passage from the Catalogue in which Hellen is the father of three sons, Dorus, Xuthus, and Aeolus.[8] He does not, however, give the source of the passage;[9] it is instead the Byzantine poet John Tzetzes who attributes it to the Catalogue.[10] Though no mother is specified in the passage, West suggests that she was one "Othryis", the nymph of Mount Othrys, based upon the mothers given by Apollodorus and a scholion on Plato's Symposium (see below).[11]

A scholion on Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War attributes to Hecataeus (c. 550 BC – c. 476 BC) a very different genealogy of Hellen, in which he is not the son of Deucalion but rather the grandson, being the son of one "Pronous", himself the son of Deucalion, alongside "Orestheus" and "Marathonius".[12] According to a scholion on Plato's Symposium citing Hellanicus (fl. late fifth century BC), Hellen "was born to Deukalion and Pyrrha, or according to some, to Zeus and Pyrrha", and was the father, by "Othreis", of Dorus, Xuthus, Aeolus, and in addition a daughter, named Xenopatra.[13]

Conon (before 444 BC – after 394 BC), in his Narrations (as recounted by Photius) similarly considers Hellen the son of Deucalion (though "some" says is the son of Zeus), and the father of Dorus, Xuthus, Aeolus.[14] A scholion on Pindar, in contrast, makes Deucalion the brother of Hellen (rather than the father), and them both sons of Prometheus.[15]

Vitruvius (c. 80–70 BC – after c. 15 BC), in his De Architectura, calls Dorus the son of Hellen by the "nymph Phthia",[16] while Dionysius of Halicarnassus (c. 60 BC – after 7 BC) apparently considered Amphictyon to be Hellen's son (usually Hellen's brother).[17]

Hyginus (c. 64 BC – AD 17), in his Fabulae, at one point calls Hellen the son of Zeus by Pyrrha,[18] while later, he is listed among the sons of Poseidon, where he is called his son by Antiope (the son of Aeolus, who is usually Hellen's descendant), and the brother of Boeotus.[19]

According to the mythographer Apollodorus (first or second century AD), Hellen's parents are Deucalion and Pyrrha, and his siblings Amphictyon and Protogeneia, or according to "some", his parents are Zeus and Pyrrha.[20] Apollodorus, similarly to the Catalogue and other sources, calls him the father of Dorus, Xuthus and Aeolus; however, he specifies the nymph Orseis (rather than Othreis) as their mother.[21]

According to the Byzantine chronicler John Malalas (c. 491 – 578), Hellen was the son of "Picus Zeus",[22] and the father (rather than son) of Deucalion.[23] According to Stephanus of Byzantium (fl. 6th century AD), the historian Archinus had Hellen as the father of one "Neonus", father of "Dotus", the latter of which gave his name to Dotium in Thessaly.[24]

Progenitor and eponym of the Hellenes[edit]

Hellen was Thessalian.[25] Homer, in the part of the Iliad known as the Catalogue of Ships, mentions the Hellenes (Ἕλληνες) as a small tribe in Thessalic Phthia, among those commanded by Achilles.[26] Similarly, according to a scholion on Apollonius of Rhodes, Hecataeus and "Hesiod" considered Deucalion's descendants to be Thessalian.[27] According to Thucydides, Achaea Phthiotis, as the birthplace of Hellen,[28] was the home of the Hellenes; he says that before Hellen the name "Hellas" (Ἑλλάς) didn't exist, but rather there were various tribes which went under different names, particularly "Pelasgian".[29] It was only when Hellen and his sons "grew strong in Phthiotis" that they allied with various cities in war and these cities, one by one, through their association with Hellen and his sons, came to be called "Hellenes", though it was a long time before the name came to be applied to all.[30]

Melanippe Wise[edit]

Though primarily genealogical in importance,[31] Hellen does feature briefly in Euripides' lost play Melanippe Wise (c. 420 BC). In the play, Melanippe, the daughter of Aeolus (and thus the granddaughter of Hellen),[32] becomes by Poseidon the mother of twins, Aeolus and Boeotus. They are placed in a cowshed, leading Aeolus to think they are the "unnatural offspring of a cow",[33] and Hellen convinces Aeolus to burn the twins.[34] This story is depicted on an Apulian volute krater dating to the late 4th century BC, in which a shepherd shows the twins to Hellen, in the presence of Melanippe, Aeolus, and Aeolus' son Cretheus.[35]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ LIMC 64 Hellen (S) 1; Michael C. Carlos Museum 1994.001.
  2. ^ According to West 1985, p. 136, "the composition of the Catalogue ... may be assigned to sometime between 580 and 520", and "the range may perhaps be narrowed to c. 540–520", while West 1999, p. 380, says it was "certainly in the sixth century, and perhaps between 540 and 520". Fowler 1998, p. 1 n. 4 dates it to "about 580", while Hirschberger, p. 49 gives the period of 630 to 590. Janko, p. 200, figure 4, in contrast, places it roughly around 675 and 690.
  3. ^ For an extensive discussion of the Catalogue, see West 1985.
  4. ^ Gantz, p. 164; West 1985, p. 51; Yasumura, p. 111; Hesiod, Catalogue of Women fr. 3 Most, pp. 44, 45 [= fr. 2 Merkelbach-West, p. 4 = fr. 1 Evelyn-White, pp. 154, 155 = Scholia on Apollonius of Rhodes, 3.1086 (Wendel, p. 248)].
  5. ^ West 1985, p. 51 says that "it seems hard to resist the conclusion that Deukalion, not Prometheus, was his father [in the Catalogue]", and that "Prometheus' name must have been accidentally repeated [by the scholion] from the line before". While, according to Gantz, p. 164 the scholion "has probably garbled something in transmission", and "it seems better to presume miscopying and emend the scholion". See also Caduff, p. 86.
  6. ^ Hesiod, Catalogue of Women fr. 5 Most, pp. 46, 47 [= fr. 4 Merkelbach-West, p. 5 = Scholia on Homer's Odyssey 10.2 (Dindorf, p. 444)].
  7. ^ West 1985, pp. 51, 53, 56, 173, table 1; cf. BNJ, commentary on 239 A6; D'Alessio, p. 222; Gantz, p. 167 with n. 2; Fowler 2013, p. 130.
  8. ^ Hunter, pp. 283–4; Plutarch, Moralia 747F (pp. 292, 293) [= Hesiod, Catalogue of Women fr. 9 Most, pp. 48, 49 = fr. 9 Merkelbach-West, p. 7 = fr. 4 Evelyn-White, pp. 156, 157]; Gantz, p. 167; Hall, p. 85; Asquith, p. 277.
  9. ^ Hunter, p. 283; Cardin and Pontani, p. 257 n. 57.
  10. ^ Cardin and Pontani, p. 257 with nn. 54–7; Tzetzes on Lycophron, 286 (Cardin and Pontani, p. 257 n. 54; Scheer, p. 121) [= Scholia on Lycophron's Alexandra, 286 (Cardin and Pontani, p. 257 n. 54; Leone, p. 58) = Hesiod, Catalogue of Women fr. 9 Most, pp. 48, 49]. Tzetzes takes the passage from a scholion on Lycophron's Alexandra, and quotes it several times in different works: once in his own commentary on Lycophron's Alexandra, and twice in his Exegesis of the Iliad (Papathomopoulos, pp. 94–5, 430). The scholion only attributes the passage to "Hesiod", whereas Tzetzes specifies the work.
  11. ^ West 1985, p. 57.
  12. ^ Fowler 2013, p. 142, p. 144, figure 4.3; Gantz, p. 167; BNJ, commentary on 1 F13; Scholia on Thucydides, 1.3.2 (Hude, p. 5) [= FGrHist 1 F13 = Hecataeus fr. 13 Fowler, p. 128].
  13. ^ BNJ 4 F125 [= Scholia on Plato's Symposium 208d (Cufalo, pp. 108–10) = FGrHist 4 F125 = Hellanicus fr. 125 Fowler, pp. 200–1]. Cf. Eustathius on Homer's Iliad, 277.17 (Fowler 2013, p. 142); see Fowler 2013, p. 142; Fowler 1998, p. 12 n. 29.
  14. ^ Conon, Narrations 27 (Trzaskoma, Smith and Brunet, p. 86) [= Photius, Bibliotheca 186 (Harry, pp. 20–1)].
  15. ^ West 1985, p. 57; Scholia on Pindar's Olympian 9.68b (Drachmann, p. 283); Smith, s.v. Hellen.
  16. ^ Vitruvius, De Architectura 4.1.3 (pp. 202–5).
  17. ^ Fowler 2013, p. 142; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, 4.25.3; Smith, s.v. Amphictyon; Cary, n. 54 to 4.25.3: "The Greek words can mean either "the son of Hellen" or "the Greek"; but the latter does not seem to be a very natural way of describing him".
  18. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 155; cf. De Astronomica 2.18.4.
  19. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 157.
  20. ^ Apollodorus, 1.7.2 [= Scholia on Homer, Iliad 13.307].
  21. ^ Apollodorus, 1.7.3. West 1985, p. 57, says that both Othreis and Orseis are "probably" corruptions of Othryis, a nymph of Mount Othrys.
  22. ^ John Malalas, Chronographia 2.45 (p. 27); cf. 4.4 (p. 33), where he is called the son of "Picus".
  23. ^ John Malalas, Chronographia 4.4 (p. 33).
  24. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium, s.v. Dotion (II pp. 118, 119) [= FGrHist 604 F3]; BNJ, commentary on 604 F3.
  25. ^ Fowler 1998, p. 11; Fowler 2013, p. 128.
  26. ^ Homer, Iliad 2.681–4; Fowler 1998, p. 10; March, s.v. Hellen, p. 369. Cf. Herodotus, 1.56.2–3.
  27. ^ Fowler 1998, p. 11; Scholia on Apollonius of Rhodes, 4.265 (Wendel, p. 276) [= FGrHist 1 F14] [= Hesiod, Catalogue of Women fr. 6 Most, pp. 46, 47 = fr. 6 Merkelbach-West, p. 6 = fr. 5 Evelyn-White, pp. 156, 157].
  28. ^ Cf. Solinus, Polyhistor 8.1.
  29. ^ BNJ, commentary on 1 F3; Thucydides, 1.3.2.
  30. ^ Bury, p. 226; Thucydides, 1.3.2. Thucydides uses the mention of the Hellenes in the Iliad to support his argument here, as there they refer only to the group in Phthia (who Thucydides calls the "original Hellenes").
  31. ^ Gantz, p. 167: "The immediate offspring of Deukalion and Pyrrha, including indeed several generations, are primarily eponymous ancestors or intermediate place-holders rather than actors in any real narratives".
  32. ^ Gantz, p. 734; Euripides fr. 481 Collard and Cropp, pp. 578, 579 [= fr. 481 Nauck, p. 511 = Melanippe Wise 1–2 (Page pp. 118, 119)]; Melanippe Wise test. 1 Collard and Cropp, pp. 572, 573; cf. Euripides fr. 929b Collard and Cropp, pp. 522, 523 [= fr. 14 Nauck, p. 366].
  33. ^ Collard and Cropp, pp. 568–9.
  34. ^ Gantz, p. 734.
  35. ^ LIMC 64 Hellen (S) 1, image 1 of 1; Michael C. Carlos Museum 1994.001; Bing, p. 13; Oakley, p. 619, figure 18. For an extensive discussion of the vase, see Bing, pp. 13–6; see also Gantz, pp. 734–5; Collard and Cropp, p. 570. The only iconographic representation of Hellen, Bing, p. 14 describes him here as a "hooded, grizzled old man" and Gantz, p. 735 as "grim".
  36. ^ Grimal, p. 531; Hard, p. 702.