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For other uses, see Tithonus (disambiguation).
Eos pursues the reluctant Tithonos, who holds a lyre, on an Attic oinochoe of the Achilles Painter, ca. 470 BC–460 BCE (Louvre).

In Greek mythology, Tithonus (/tɪˈθnəs/ or /t-/; Ancient Greek: Τιθωνός, Tithonos) was the lover of Eos, Titan[1] of the dawn. Eos was known in Roman mythology as Aurora. Tithonus was a Trojan by birth, the son of King Laomedon of Troy by a water nymph named Strymo (Στρυμώ). The mythology reflected by the fifth-century vase-painters of Athens envisaged Tithonus as a rhapsode, as attested by the lyre in his hand, on an oinochoe (wine jug) of the Achilles Painter, ca. 470 BC–460 BCE (illustration). Competitive singing, as in the Contest of Homer and Hesiod, is also depicted vividly in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo and mentioned in the two Hymns to Aphrodite.[2]


Eos kidnapped Ganymede and Tithonus, both from the royal house of Troy, to be her lovers.[3]

The mytheme of the goddess's mortal lover is an archaic one; when a role for Zeus was inserted, a bitter new twist appeared:[4] According to the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, when Eos asked Zeus to make Tithonus immortal,[5] she forgot to ask for eternal youth (218-38). Tithonus indeed lived forever

but when loathsome old age pressed full upon him, and he could not move nor lift his limbs, this seemed to her in her heart the best counsel: she laid him in a room and put to the shining doors. There he babbles endlessly, and no more has strength at all, such as once he had in his supple limbs. (Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite)

In later tellings he eventually turned into a cicada, eternally living, but begging for death to overcome him.[6] In the Olympian system, the "queenly" and "golden-throned" Eos can no longer grant immortality to her lover as Selene had done, but must ask it of Zeus, as a boon.

Eos bore Tithonus two sons, Memnon and Emathion. In the Epic Cycle that revolved around the Trojan War Memnon, wearing armor made by Hephaestus, came to help the Trojans. A battle took place in which Memnon killed Antilochus and Achilles killed Memnon, but the God Zeus granted Memnon immortality at the request of Memnon's mother Eos (Dawn), while Achilles was killed by the god Apollo and Paris when he rushed towards the gates of Troy. According to the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, Tithonus, who travelled east from Troy into Assyria and founded Susa, was bribed to send his son Memnon to fight at Troy with a golden grapevine.[7]

Memnon was called "son of Dawn" by Hesiod.[8] According to Quintus Smyrnaeus, Memnon was not from the east, but said himself he was raised by the Hesperides on the coast of Oceanus.[9] This would make Memnon king of the west and son (colony) of the east, as his father Tithonus was a Trojan by birth; from the western Ocean Troy lies towards the Dawn (the east), the true homeland of Memnon's father. His mother Eos was also the mother of the west wind Zephyrus, which according to Homer blows from the ocean to give cool air to humanity.[10] The goddess Dawn and her father Hyperion (the sun) travel from the east to the west to bring light to the whole earth.

One of the poems on Tithonus is the fourth extant complete poem by ancient Greek lyrical poet Sappho.[11]

Eos and Tithonus (as Tinthu or Tinthun) provided a pictorial motif that was inscribed on the backs of Etruscan bronze hand-mirrors, or cast in low relief.[12]


The poem is a dramatic monologue in blank verse from the point of view of Tithonus. Unlike the original myth, it is Tithonus who asks for immortality, and it is Aurora, not Zeus, who grants this imperfect gift. As narrator, Tithonus laments his unnatural longevity, which separates him from the mortal world as well as from the immortal but beautiful Aurora.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In classical Greek, the female titans are Titanides, but titaness is rarely used in modern English.
  2. ^ Homeric Hymn to Apollo 165-173; Homeric Hymns 5 and 9.
  3. ^ Anchises is another mortal from the Trojan house abducted by a goddess (Aphrodite) for erotic purposes. Tithonus is mentioned by Aphrodite as an example to encourage Anchises in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, 218ff.
  4. ^ Homeric Hymn; compare the mytheme in its original, blissful form in the pairing of Selene and Endymion, a myth that was also located in Asia Minor. Peter Walcot, ("The Homeric 'Hymn' to Aphrodite': A Literary Appraisal" Greece & Rome 2nd Series, 38.2 October 1991, pp. 137-155) reads the Tithonus example as a "corrective" to the myth of Ganymede (pp. 149-50): "the example of Ganymedes... promises too much, and might beguile Anchises into expecting too much, even an ageless immortality" (p. 149).
  5. ^ In a variant, Zeus decided he wanted the beautiful youth Ganymede for himself; to repay Eos he promised to fulfill one wish.
  6. ^ Some stories say that Eos turned Tithonus into a grasshopper or cicada.
  7. ^ Diodorus Siculus book 4.75, book 2.22.
  8. ^ Hesiod Theogony 984
  9. ^ Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy, Book 2.495.
  10. ^ Homer, Odyssey, book 4.565.
  11. ^ The poem was published for the first time by Michael Gronewald and Robert W. Daniel in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 147 (2004), 1-8 and 149 (2004), 1-4; in English translation by Martin West in the Times Literary Supplement, 21 or 24 June 2005. The right half of this poem was previously found in fr. 58 L-P. The fully restored version of the poem can be found in M.L. West, “The New Sappho,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 151 (2005), 1-9.
  12. ^ As on one in the Vatican Museums, Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, acc. no. 12241 (illustrated by Marilyn Y. Goldberg, "The 'Eos and Kephalos' from Caere: Its Subject and Date" American Journal of Archaeology 91.4 [October 1987:605-614] p. 608 fig. 2.).
  13. ^ "Victorian Web: Alfred Tennyson's "Tithonus"". Retrieved 2006-09-02. 
  14. ^ http://www.amazon.com/dp/0930982525/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

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