Perse (mythology)

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Member of the Oceanids
Personal information
ParentsOceanus and Tethys
SiblingsOceanids, Potamoi
ChildrenCirce, Aeëtes, Pasiphaë, Perses, Aloeus

In Greek mythology, Perse (Ancient Greek: Πέρση, Pérsē) is one of the 3,000 Oceanids, water-nymph daughters of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys.[1][2][3] Her name was also spelled as Persa, Persea[4] or Perseis (Περσηίς, Persēís).[5] Perse married Helios, the god of the sun, and bore him several children, most notably the sorceress-goddess Circe.


Perse was one of the wives of the sun god, Helios.[6][7] According to Homer and Hesiod, with Helios she had Circe and Aeëtes,[8] with later authors also mentioning their children Pasiphaë,[9] Perses,[10] Aloeus,[11] and even Calypso,[11] who is however more commonly the daughter of Atlas. It is not clear why would Perse bear Helios, the source of all light, such dark and mysterious children.[12]

When Aphrodite cursed Helios to fall in love with the mortal princess Leucothoe, he is said to have forgotten even about Perse.[13] She seems to have been linked to witchcraft and knowledge of herbs and potions, much like her daughters Circe and Pasiphaë.[14] She might have also been associated with the witchcraft goddess Hecate, who was also called Perseis (as in "daughter of Perses")[15] and who is said to be Circe's mother in one version.[16][17]

Possible connections[edit]

Perseis' name has been linked to Περσίς (Persís), "female Persian", and πέρθω (pérthō), "destroy" or "slay" or "plunder".

Kerenyi also noted the connection between her and Hecate due to their names, denoting a chthonic aspect of the nymph, as well as that of Persephone, whose name "can be taken to be a longer, perhaps simply a more ceremonious, form of Perse",[18] as did Fowler, who noted that the pairing made sense given Hecate's association with the Moon.[19] It has been suggested that Hecate's "Perseis" epithet denotes lunar connections.[20] However, as Mooney notes, there is no evidence that Perse was ever a moon goddess on her own right.[21]

An inscription of Mycenaean Greek (written in Linear B) was found on a tablet from Pylos, dating back to 1400–1200 BC. John Chadwick reconstructed[n 1] the name of a goddess, *Preswa who could be identified with Perse. Chadwick found speculative the further identification with the first element of Persephone.[23][24]


Perse's family tree

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The actual word in Linear B is 𐀟𐀩𐁚, pe-re-*82 or pe-re-swa; it is found on the PY Tn 316 tablet.[22]


  1. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 356
  2. ^ Kerényi, Carl (1951). The Gods of the Greeks. London: Thames and Hudson. p. 40.
  3. ^ Bane, Theresa (2013). Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers. p. 270. ISBN 978-0-7864-7111-9.
  4. ^ Virgil, Ciris 66
  5. ^ Tzetzes on Lycophron, 798
  6. ^ Hecataeus of Miletus, fr. 35A Fowler
  7. ^ Hard, p. 44
  8. ^ Homer, Odyssey 10.135; Hesiod, Theogony 956
  9. ^ Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 4.591; Apollodorus, 1.9.1; Cicero, De Natura Deorum 48.4
  10. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae Preface
  11. ^ a b Tzetzes ad Lycophron, 174
  12. ^ Bell, s. v. Perse
  13. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.205
  14. ^ Ovid, The Cure for Love Part IV
  15. ^ Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 3.478
  16. ^ Diodorus Siculus, 4.45.1
  17. ^ The Classical Review vol. 9, p. 391
  18. ^ Karl Kerenyi, The Gods of the Greeks, 1951, pp 192-193
  19. ^ Fowler, p. 16, vol. II
  20. ^ The Classical Review vol. 9, pp 391–392
  21. ^ Mooney, p. 58
  22. ^ Raymoure, K.A. "pe-re-*82". Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B. Deaditerranean. "PY 316 Tn (44)". DĀMOS: Database of Mycenaean at Oslo. University of Oslo.
  23. ^ Chadwick, John (1976). The Mycenaean World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 95. ISBN 0-521-29037-6. At Google Books.
  24. ^ Comments about the goddess pe-re-*82 of Pylos tablet Tn 316, tentatively reconstructed as *Preswa
    "It is tempting to see ... the classical Perse ... daughter of Oceanus ... ; whether it may be further identified with the first element of Persephone is only speculative." John Chadwick. Documents in Mycenean Greek. Second Edition


External links[edit]