Jump to content

Melia (consort of Apollo)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Melia (Ancient Greek: Μελία), a daughter of the Titan Oceanus, was the consort of Apollo, and the mother, by Apollo, of the Theban hero and prophet Tenerus. She was also the mother (or sister) of Ismenus, god of the Theban river of the same name. Melia was an important cult figure at Thebes. She was worshipped at the Ismenion, the Temple of Apollo at Thebes, and was associated with a nearby spring.


The late 6th–early 5th century BC Theban poet Pindar tells us that Melia, a daughter of Oceanus, was, by Apollo, the mother of the Theban hero and prophet Tenerus.[1] Elsewhere he refers to her as "Melia of the golden spindle".[2] The 2nd century AD Greek geographer Pausanias provides a more complete account.[3] According to Pausanias, Melia was abducted, and Melia's father Oceanus ordered his son Caanthus to find her. Caanthus found Melia at Thebes being held by Apollo, but unable to get Melia away from Apollo, Caanthus set fire to Apollo's sanctuary, and Apollo shot and killed him. Pausanius says that, in addition to Tenerus, to whom Apollo gave the "art of divination", Melia had another son by Apollo, Ismenus, after whom the Theban river Ismenus was named.[4]

The story of Melia and Caanthus, as recorded by Pausainus, is a close parallel to the more famous story of Europa and Cadmus, the founder and first king of Thebes. Like Melia, Europa is abducted by an Olympian god (in this case Zeus), and her brother Cadmus is sent by their father to bring Europa back home, and like Caanthus, Cadmus is unsuccessful.[5] As noted by Fontenrose, there are other apparent congruences between the Theban Melia and Europa.[6] Like Melia, Europa was also the name of an Oceanid,[7] and Agenor, the usual father of Europa, had, according to the fifth-century BC mythographer Pherecydes, a daughter named Melia who was a wife of Danaus,[8] while, according to the mythographer Apollodrus, one of Danaos' wife's was also named Europa.[9]

There were apparently other versions of this Theban Melia's story.[10] In some traditions perhaps, the Thebans Melia and Ismenus were siblings, rather than mother and son. A scholiast on Pindar says that Ismenus was Melia's brother.[11] According to the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, the first fratricide occurred at Thebes when Melia's brothers, Ismenus and Claaitus (a corruption or variant of Caanthus?) fought over her.[12]

A version of Melia's story perhaps also involved the Theban Amphion.[13] Pherecydes says that Melia was the name of one of the daughters of Amphion and his wife Niobe,[14] while later sources tell us that Ismenus was the name of one of their sons.[15] Like Caanthus, Amphion was shot and killed by Apollo because of an attack on his temple.[16]

The 3rd century BC poet Callimachus appears to make this Theban Melia, rather than a daughter of Oceanus, one of the "earth-born" Meliae, the ash tree nymphs, who, according to Hesiod, were born, along with the Erinyes and the Giants, from Gaia (Earth) and the blood of Uranus (Sky), which dripped on Gaia when Uranus was castrated by his son Cronus.[17]

According to the mythographer Apollodorus, the mother of Phoroneus, and Aegialeus, by her brother, the river god Inachus, was also a daughter of Oceanus named Melia.[18]


Melia was an important object of cult worship at the Ismenion, the major sanctuary of Apollo Ismenios at Thebes.[19] In at least three separate poems, Pindar mentions Melia in connection with the Theban sanctuary. In one he refers to the Ismenion and "the splendid hall of Oceanus’ daughter . . . Melia".[20] In another, Pindar summons the local heroines, the daughters of Cadmus, Semele and Ino Leucothea, along with the mother of Heracles, to "join Melia at the treasury of the golden tripods,"[21] that is in the adyton, the inner inviolate sanctuary of the Ismenion where the votive tripods were dedicated.[22] Also at the Ismenion, Pindar locates the "immortal couch [λέχει] of Melia",[23] the child-bed, where Melia gave birth.[24] A spring near the Ismenion was identified with Melia, perhaps the source of the Ismenus river, and perhaps the same spring as the one mentioned by Pausanias as the spring, above the Ismenion, by which her brother Caanthus was buried.[25]

The Thebans traced their descent from the union of Apollo and Melia, through the heroes Tenerus and Ismenus. According to Larson, while their descent from Apollo—a panhellenic Olympian god—increased their prestige, and connected them to other Greeks, their descent from Melia—a nymph associated with the local landscape—helped to establish their connection with the land that they inhabited.[26]


  1. ^ Larson, pp. 40–41, 142; Pindar, Paean 9 fr. 52k 34–46 (Race 1997b, pp. 292–295; Rutherford, pp. 191–192); also Strabo, 9.2.34, which says that the "Teneric Plain" was named after Tenerus the son of Melia and Apollo.
  2. ^ Pindar, fr. 29 1 (Race 1997b, pp. 232, 233).
  3. ^ Larson, p. 142; Schachter 1967, p. 4; Fontenrose pp. 317–318; Pausanias, 9.10.5, 6, 9.26.1.
  4. ^ Pausanias, 9.10.6; c.f. Pindar, fr. 29 1 (Race 1997b, pp. 232, 233). For the Theban Ismenus river, see Berman, p. 18.
  5. ^ Larson, p. 142, describes the story as "clearly a doublet of the better-known myth" of Cadmus and Europa; Schachter 1967, p. 4, calls Melia's story an "imitation" of the story of Cadmus and Europa; see also Schachter 1981, p. 79; Fontenrose, p. 318. Compare with the story of the Theban Amphion (see below).
  6. ^ Fontenrose, p. 318.
  7. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 357; Andron of Halicarnassus fr. 7 Fowler = FGrHist 10 F 7 (Fowler 2013, p. 13).
  8. ^ Gantz, p. 208; Pherecydes fr. 21 Fowler 2000, p. 289 = FGrHist 3 F 21 = Scholia on Apollonius RhodiusArgonautica 3.1177-87f.
  9. ^ Apollodorus, 2.1.5.
  10. ^ Schachter 1967, p. 4.
  11. ^ Larson, p. 304 n. 57; Fontenrose, p. 319; Scholia on Pindar, Pythian 11.5–6 (Drachmann, pp. 254–255).
  12. ^ Schachter 1967, p. 4; Fontenrose, p. 319; Oxyrhynchus Papyri X 1241.4.5–10 (Grenfell and Hunt, pp. 104: Greek text, 109: translation, 110: commentary).
  13. ^ Schachter 1967, p. 4.
  14. ^ Fowler 2013, p. 367; Schachter 1967, p. 4; Pherecydes fr. 126 Fowler 2000, p. 342 = FGrHist 3 F 126 = Scholia on Euripides, Phoenician Women 159.
  15. ^ Schechter 1967, p. 4; Apollodorus, 3.5.6; Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.221–224; Hyginus, Fabulae 11 (Smith and Trzaskoma, p. 100).
  16. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 9 (Smith and Trzaskoma, p. 99).
  17. ^ Larson, p. 142; Callimachus, Hymn 4—To Delos 79–85 with note i; Hesiod, Theogony 187.
  18. ^ Grimal, s.v. Melia 2, p. 281; Apollodorus, 2.1.1.
  19. ^ Larson, p. 142; Berman, pp. 64, 124; Schachter 1967, p. 5, which calls her an "important component of the cult complex" at the Ismenion; for the Ismenion, and the cult of Melia, see Schachter 1981, pp. 77–88 (Melia: p. 78); Schachter 1967, pp. 3–5.
  20. ^ Pindar, Paean 7 fr. 52g (Race 1997b, pp. 278, 279 ; Rutherford, p. 339).
  21. ^ Larson, p. 142; Rutherford, p. 341; Pindar, Pythian 11.4–6 (Race 1997a, pp. 380, 381); c.f. Herodotus, 1.52.
  22. ^ Schachter 2016, p. 267, which further supposes that Melia would have had a cult image, perhaps made of ash wood; see also Schachter 1981, pp. 82–83; Schachter 1967, p. 5.
  23. ^ Pindar, Paean 9 fr. 52k 35 (Race 1997b, pp. 292–293; Rutherford, p. 191).
  24. ^ Berman, p. 64; Rutherford, pp. 196, 341.
  25. ^ Larson, p. 142; Schachter 1967, p. 5 with note 30; Fontenrose, p. 318; Scholia on Pindar Pythian 11.6 (Drachmann, p. 255), which says the spring had the same name as the "heroine" Melia, daughter of Oceanus; Pausanias, 9.10.5.
  26. ^ Larson, pp. 40–41.


  • Apollodorus, Apollodorus, The Library, with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Berman, Daniel W., Myth, Literature, and the Creation of the Topography of Thebes, Cambridge University Press, 2015. ISBN 9781316240700
  • Callimachus, Callimachus and Lycophron with an English translation by A. W. Mair ; Aratus, with an English translation by G. R. Mair, London: W. Heinemann, New York: G. P. Putnam 1921. Internet Archive
  • Drachmann, Anders Bjørn, Scholia vetera in Pindari carmina, Vol. II, Lipsiae, 1910. Internet Archive.
  • Fontenrose, Joseph Eddy, Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and Its Origins, University of California Press, 1959. ISBN 9780520040915.
  • Fowler, R. L. (2000), Early Greek Mythography: Volume 1: Text and Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0198147404.
  • Fowler, R. L. (2013), Early Greek Mythography: Volume 2: Commentary, Oxford University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0198147411.
  • Gantz, Timothy, Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996, Two volumes: ISBN 978-0-8018-5360-9 (Vol. 1), ISBN 978-0-8018-5362-3 (Vol. 2).
  • Grenfell, Bernard P., Arthur S, Hunt, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri Part X, London, Egypt Exploration Fund, 1914. Internet Archive
  • Hard, Robin, The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology: Based on H.J. Rose's "Handbook of Greek Mythology", Psychology Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0-415-18636-0.
  • Herodotus; Histories, A. D. Godley (translator), Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920; ISBN 0674991338. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Hesiod, Theogony, in The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Cambridge, Massachusetts., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Hyginus, Gaius Julius, Fabulae in Apollodorus' Library and Hyginus' Fabulae: Two Handbooks of Greek Mythology, Translated, with Introductions by R. Scott Smith and Stephen M. Trzaskoma, Hackett Publishing Company, 2007. ISBN 978-0-87220-821-6.
  • Larson, Jennifer, "Greek Nymphs : Myth, Cult, Lore", Oxford University Press (US). June 2001. ISBN 978-0-19-512294-7
  • Ovid. Heroides. Amores. Translated by Grant Showerman. Revised by G. P. Goold. Loeb Classical Library No. 41. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977. ISBN 978-0-674-99045-6. Online version at Harvard University Press.
  • Ovid. Metamorphoses, Volume I: Books 1-8. Translated by Frank Justus Miller. Revised by G. P. Goold. Loeb Classical Library No. 42. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1916. Online version at Harvard University Press.
  • Pausanias, Pausanias Description of Greece with an English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A., in 4 Volumes. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1918. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Race, William H. (1997a), Pindar: Olympian Odes. Pythian Odes. Edited and translated by William H. Race. Loeb Classical Library No. 56. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0-674-99564-2. Online version at Harvard University Press.
  • Race, William H. (1997b), Pindar: Nemean Odes. Isthmian Odes. Fragments, Edited and translated by William H. Race. Loeb Classical Library No. 485. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0-674-99534-5. Online version at Harvard University Press.
  • Rutherford, Ian, Pindar's Paeans: A Reading of the Fragments with a Survey of the Genre, Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN 9780198143819.
  • Schachter, Albert (1967), "A Boeotian Cult Type" in Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies (BICS), No. 14, pp. 1-16. JSTOR 43646076
  • Schachter, Albert (1981), "Cults of Boiotia: 1. Acheloos to Hera.", Bulletin Supplement (University of London. Institute of Classical Studies), 38.1. JSTOR 43768566.
  • Schachter, Albert (2016), Boiotia in Antiquity: Selected Papers, Cambridge University Press, 2016. ISBN 9781316432181.
  • Strabo, Geography, translated by Horace Leonard Jones; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. (1924). Online version at the Perseus Digital Library, Books 6–14
  • West, M. L., Greek Epic Fragments: From the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries BC. Edited and translated by Martin L. West. Loeb Classical Library No. 497. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003. Online version at Harvard University Press.