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For other uses, see Iphis (disambiguation).

Iphis (Ἶφις) (English /ˈfɪs/ EYE-fiss or /ˈɪfɪs/ IF-fiss, Ancient Greek: [íi.pʰis]) was a name attributed to eight individuals in Greek mythology.

Female bearers[edit]

The feminine name Iphis (Ἶφις Îphis, gen. Ἴφιδος Ī́phidos) refers to the following personages.

Daughter of Ligdus[edit]

Isis changing the sex of Iphis. Engraving by Bauer.

According to the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses, Iphis (or Iphys) was the daughter of Telethusa and Ligdus in Crete. Ligdus and Telethusa were a poor couple who could not afford a dowry if their unborn child was born a girl. Ligdus was forced to come to the conclusion that they had to kill his wife's child if it wasn't a boy. Telethusa despaired, but was visited in the middle of the night by the Egyptian goddess Isis, attended by Anubis, Bubastis and Apis, who advised her to accept whatever was going to happen after the child's birth, guaranteeing assistance to the woman. When Telethusa gave birth to a girl, she concealed her daughter's sex from her husband and raised her daughter as a boy. Ligdus named the daughter, who he believed was a son, Iphis after his own father (the child's grandfather), and Telethusa was glad to have her named that as the gender-neutral name would fit in any case. As Iphis reached the age of adolescence, Ligdus, still unaware of the truth, arranged for his "son" to marry the beautiful Ianthe, daughter of Telestes. Unaware of the truth and taking her suitor for a man like everyone else did, Ianthe fell in love with Iphis. Iphis fell deeply in love with Ianthe, and prayed to Juno for assistance, as she wished to marry Ianthe, but knew it would be impossible as Iphis was actually a woman. One day before the wedding, the deeply concerned Telethusa brought Iphis to the temple of Isis and prayed to the goddess to help her daughter. Isis responded by transforming Iphis into a man. The male Iphis married Ianthe and the two lived happily ever after, their marriage being presided over by Juno, Venus, and Hymenaios, the god of marriage.[1]

The story of Iphis is similar to that of Leucippus from Phaestus, Crete, and could be a variant thereof.

Isis and Telethusa (work by Picart).

The 17th-century publisher Humphrey Moseley once claimed to possess a manuscript of a play based on the Iphis and Ianthe story, by William Shakespeare. Scholars have treated the claim with intense skepticism; the play has not survived.[citation needed]

Mistress of Patroclus[edit]

As recounted in Homer's Iliad, Iphis was the mistress of Patroclus, Achilles' companion-in-arms. A native of Scyros, she had been enslaved by Achilles when the latter conquered her home island, and given by him to Patroclus.[2] Pausanias describes a painting of Iphis, Diomede and Briseis admiring Helen's beauty as the latter has been brought back to the Greek camp from the sacked Troy.[3]

Other characters[edit]

Male bearers[edit]

The masculine name Iphis (Ἶφις Îphis, gen. Ἴφιος Ī́phios) refers to the following personages.

Cypriot shepherd[edit]

In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Iphis was a Cypriot shepherd who loved a woman named Anaxarete. Anaxarete scorned him and Iphis killed himself in despair. Because Anaxarete was still unmoved, Aphrodite changed her to stone.[8]

King of Argos[edit]

Iphis, son of Alector, was one of the kings in Argos. Polynices came to him for advice on how to get Amphiaraus to join the Seven Against Thebes. He advised him to give Eriphyle the necklace of Harmonia. He was the father of Eteoclus and Evadne, wife of Capaneus.[9] He left his kingdom to his grandson Sthenelus, the son of his son-in-law Capaneus.[10]

Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Argos Succeeded by

Other characters[edit]

Modern literature[edit]

Ali Smith's 2007 novel Girl Meets Boy is based on Ovid's story of Iphis and Ianthe, and is part of the Canongate Myth Series.


  1. ^ Ovid. Metamorphoses, 9. 666-797.
  2. ^ Homer, The Iliad, 9. 667
  3. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10. 25. 4
  4. ^ Apollodorus, The Library, 2.7.8
  5. ^ Hellanicus in scholia on Plato, Symposium, 208 (p. 376)
  6. ^ Tzetzes on Lycophron, 323 - 324
  7. ^ Etymologicum Magnum s. v. Amphis
  8. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 14, 802.
  9. ^ Apollodorus, The Library, 3.6.2; 3.6.3; 3.7.1
  10. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece. 2.18.5 [1]
  11. ^ Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 4. 223 & 228
  12. ^ Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica, 1. 41; 7.407 [2]
  13. ^ Statius, Thebaid, 8.447 [3]
  14. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses, 9. 709