Though the original etymology and meaning are "uncertain", the name Ogyges may be related with the Greek Okeanos (Ὠκεανός, ocean) the Titan who personified the great world ocean/river, believed to surround the earth disc. The Greek word Ogygios (Ὠγύγιος), meaning Ogygian, came to mean "primeval, primal," or "from earliest ages" and also "gigantic".
Ogyges is also known as king of the Ectenes or Hectenes who according to Pausanias were the first inhabitants of Boeotia, where the city of Thebes would later be founded. As such, he became the first ruler of Thebes, which was, in that early time, named Ogygia (Ὠγυγία) after him. Subsequently, poets referred to the Thebans as Ogygidae (Ὠγυγίδαι). Pausanias, writing from his travels in Boeotia in the 2nd century CE, said: "The first to occupy the land of Thebes are said to have been the Ectenes, whose king was Ogygus, an aboriginal. From his name is derived Ogygian, which is an epithet of Thebes used by most of the poets."
But there are a number of competing stories about him in Greek mythology. According to the scholiast of Lycophron and according to Aeschylus, it was the Egyptian Thebes that was the site of his kingdom. Stephanus Byzantius, writing in the 6th century, says Ogyges was the first king of Lycia. In yet another version of the story, the Boeotian tradition is combined with that of another part of Greece: Ogyges was king of the Ectenes, who were the first people to occupy Boeotia, but he and his people later settled the area then known as Acte (Akte). The land was subsequently called Ogygia in his honor but later known as Mount Athos. Sextus Julius Africanus, writing after 221 CE, adds that Ogyges founded Eleusis.
Stories of his descent also differ widely. Besides Ogyges being one of the aborigines of Boeotia, there are tales that regard him as the son of Poseidon, Boeotus, or even Cadmus. Theophilus, in the 2nd century (Apologia ad Autolycum), says he was one of the Titans.
He was the husband of Thebe, from whom the land of Thebes in Greece is said to derive its name. His children are listed variously as two sons: Eleusinus (for whom the city Eleusis was named) and Cadmus (noted above as his father in other traditions); and three daughters: Aulis, Alalcomenia, and Thelvinia.
The deluge of Ogyges
The area outside of Attica including Boeotia was called by some ancient sources Graïke, the region where is mentioned the first worldwide flood in Greek mythology, the deluge of Ogyges. The Ogygian deluge occurred during his reign and derives its name from him, though some sources regard it as a local flood, such as an inundation of Lake Copais, a large lake once in the center of Boeotia. Other sources see it as a flood associated with Attica. This latter view was accepted by Africanus, who says "that great and first flood occurred in Attica, when Phoroneus was king of Argos, as Acusilaus relates."
When this deluge has been considered global, a similarity is noticed with Noah's flood in the Bible. Various dates have been assigned to the event, including 9500 BCE (Plato), 2136 BCE (Varro), and 1793 BCE (Africanus).
Ogyges survived the deluge but many people perished. After his death, due to the flood's devastation, Attica was without kings for 189 years, until the time of Cecrops (Cecrops Diphyes). Africanus says, "But after Ogyges, on account of the great destruction caused by the flood, what is now called Attica remained without a king one hundred and eighty-nine years until the time of Cecrops. For Philochorus asserts that that Actaeon who comes after Ogyges, and the fictitious names, never even existed."
It seems the deluge of Deucalion of Greek-mythology is the Greek version of the older legend. Deucalion and Pyrrha were the only survivals after the great deluge. His son Hellen who became ruler of Phthia in southern Thessaly was the patriarch of Hellenes.
- Hammond and Scullard, "OGYGUS" p. 748; Pausanias, 9.5.1.
- Hammond and Scullard, "OGYGUS" p. 748.
- Fontenrose, p. 236.
- Liddell & Scott, "Ὠγύγιος".
- Entry "Ogyges" in Oskar Seyffert, A Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, Revised and edited by Henry Nettleship and J.E. Sandys, New York: Meridian Books, 1956.
- Entry "Ogyges" in E. H. Blakeney, Smith's Smaller Classical Dictionary, Everyman's Library, London: J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1937.
- Pausanias, 9.5.1.
- Africanus, Chronography, quoted in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, 10.10.
- Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. Book I. Chapter 10. Verse 4. Retrieved from: http://sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-1.htm
- See Timaeus (22), Critias (111-112), and The Laws Book III.
- Gaster, Theodor H. Myth, Legend, and Custom in the Old Testament, Harper & Row, New York, 1969.
- Fontenrose, Joseph, Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and Its Origins, University of California Press, 1959. ISBN 9780520040915.
- Hammond, N.G.L. and Howard Hayes Scullard (editors), The Oxford Classical Dictionary, second edition, Oxford University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-19-869117-3.
- Harding, Phillip, The Story of Athens: The Fragments of the Local Chronicles of Attika, Routledge, 2007. ISBN 9781134304479.
- Liddell, Henry George, Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie, Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940.
- 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, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1918. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Ogygus"