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8010: Cyrene. Marble. Probably about AD 120-150. British Museum, London.

Apollo found Cyrene wrestling alone with a lion and carried her off to that part of Libya where in later times he founded a city and named it, after her, Cyrene.


The extraordinarily beautiful Cyrene was reared near Mount Pelion in Thessaly. Her father (according to some) was Hypseus 1, probably the first king of the LAPITHS. One of her sisters, Astyaguia, became grandmother of Ixion. Her other sister, Themisto 2, married Athamas 1. Others say that she was daughter of the river god Peneus, who is called father of Hypseus 1.


Like Atalanta, Cyrene did not care for

"... pacing back and forth at the loom ..." (Pindar, Pythian Odes 9.19).

nor for any such kind of occupation. Instead she went around brandishing javelins and swords and hunting wild beasts, thus protecting her father's cattle. And during this time, she enjoyed the company but of one single bed-fellow: Sleep. But the god who works from afar, that is, Apollo (for he is like the sun and shoots his arrows from the distance) once observed her wrestling alone and without spears with a lion. Apollo was marvelled at the spirit and strength of the woman. So he went to the wise centaur Chiron to ask him who her father was, and whether it was lawful for him to love her. Now, some may wonder why the god of prophecy, who knows most things, must come to the halls of a centaur, however wise, to learn from him what he could have known by himself. But the "knowing" of the immortals differs from that of mortals; for it embraces many aspects disregarded by men, and excludes others—such as falsehood—that usually pollute the knowledge of men. The matter of knowledge being then a subtler issue among the immortals, Chiron was not so surprised; and he knew that the god knew and yet had to ask.

"You ask me from what race the girl comes, lord Apollo? You who know the appointed end of all things, and all the paths that lead to them? And how many leaves the earth puts forth in spring, and how many grains of sand in the sea and in rivers are dashed by the waves and the gusting winds; and that which will be, and from where it will come, all this you clearly see." (Chiron to Apollo. Pindar, Pythian Odes 9.44).

And so, talking of what they both knew well, Chiron recited for the god what was about to take place:

Apollo carries her off

That Apollo would love her, that he would take her to Libya where the god would make her the ruler of a city. That she would bear a child Aristaeus, whom the HORAE would admire, dropping nectar and ambrosia on his lips and making him immortal. Everything was done without delay, for as they say:

"Accomplishment is swift when the gods are already hurrying ..." (Pindar, Pythian Odes 9.67).

and that very day the god snatched the girl from Mt. Pelion, and carried her in his golden chariot to Libya, a land rich in flocks and fruits, where he loved her. And he made her mistress of the land, to live and flourish in it.


In later times, some say, Apollo founded a city in that land and called Cyrene after the brave girl from Mount Pelion. It is also told that their son Aristaeus was given to NYMPHS, who taught him how to curdle milk, to make bee-hives, and to cultivate olive-trees. And since Aristaeus instructed many others, becoming a benefactor, he received honours similar to those offered to the gods. For as men had honoured Dionysus 2 for the vine, they honoured Aristaeus for the honey and other things they received from him. Others have said that Apollo carried Cyrene off, not when she was wrestling with a lion but while she was tending her sheep along the marsh-meadow of the river Peneus (which flows from the foot of Mt. Pindus in Thessaly). He then placed her among the NYMPHS who dwelt near the Myrtosian height in Libya (also called Myrtussa = "Myrtle-hill"). When Aristaeus was born, the god took him to Hellas to be nurtured in the cave of the wise centaur Chiron, and made Cyrene a nymph and a huntress. For the NYMPHS live a very long life.

The City

It is told that when the ARGONAUTS came to Libya they were driven into the Syrtis, quicksands in Libya, carrying their ship overland to Lake Tritonis. There was no return for ships, once they had come far within Syrtis:

"For on every hand are shoals, on every hand masses of seaweed from the depths; and over them the light foam of the wave washes without noise." (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.1235).

Since there is no outlet from Lake Tritonis to the sea, they could do nothing. Then the ARGONAUTS propitiated the gods with a golden tripod on the shore, and Triton appeared to them in the form of a youth. Triton showed them the way out, and presented the Argonaut Euphemus 1 with a clod of earth. Later Euphemus 1 had a dream. It seemed to him that the clod of earth was being suckled by milk, and that from it a little woman grew. And this woman Euphemus 1 desired and embraced in love, although he pitied her as though she were a maiden whom he fed with his own milk. But then she comforted him, saying that she was daughter of Triton and Libya, and exhorting him to restore her to the sea near Anaphe (one of the Cyclades, north of Crete and east of Thera). She then promised him to return, and prepare a home for his descendants.

So after consulting with Jason, the admiral of the ARGONAUTS, Euphemus 1 cast the clod into the sea. From it rose the island Calliste (later called Thera, and today called Santorini) where the descendants of Euphemus 1 (and of the crew of the "Argo," that is, the so called Minyan clan) came after being expelled from Lemnos by the Tyrrhenians or by the Pelasgians. But first they sailed away from Lemnos to Sparta in Lacedaemon where they appeared as suppliants, camping at Taygetum. The Lacedaemonians received them because the DIOSCURI had been in the ship's company of the "Argo," and so the Minyans were allowed to mingle with the Lacedaemonians, receiving land and being distributed among the Lacedaemonian tribes. The Minyans married Lacedaemonian women, and gave in marriage to others the women they had brought from Lemnos.

This seems nice, but as time went by the Lacedaemonians found the Minyans insolent, who demanded equal right to the kingship. So they seized them and cast them into prison, having in mind to kill them. But the Spartan wives of the Minyans asked permission to enter the prison and visit their husbands; and when permission was granted, they gave their husbands their own garments, and themselves put on the men's clothing. Thus the Minyans, disguised as women, got out of prison and camped at Taygetum again.

It was then that Theras interceded, promising to lead the Minyans out of the country to the island of Calliste. Eurysthenes 1 and Procles 2 (kings and founders of the Spartan royal houses, counted among the HERACLIDES), in spite of their mutual enmity, combined to help Theras, who was their mother's brother and their guardian as well, to found a colony in Calliste. This is how the Minyans (or some of them since others migrated to other territories) left Lacedaemon with thirty-oared ships.

Now, in Calliste lived the descendants of Membliarus since Cadmus left Membliarus in the island. But when Theras landed, they gave up the kingship to him of their own accord as they considered that the family of Theras went back to Cadmus himself. Theras (son of Autesion 1, son of Tisamenus 1, son of Thersander 1, son of Polynices, son of Oedipus, son of Laius 1, son of Labdacus 1, son of Polydorus 2, son of Cadmus) renamed the island and called it Thera after himself.

The actual colonization of Cyrene proceeded from Thera following several oracles issued at Delphi. The last of them was directly delivered to Battus 2, leader of the colonization and descendant of Euphemus 1. Battus 2 came to Delphi to inquire about his voice (he stammered); and the pythian priestess answered:

"Battus, you have come for a voice; but Lord Phoebus Apollo
Sends you to found a city in Libya ..."
(Herodotus, History 4.155.3).

It is told that Battus 2, after founding the city was cured of his stammering when he saw a lion and could not help crying out in a clear and loud voice. He was son of Polymnestus and Phronime, and had son Arcesilaus 2, who became king of Cyrene






Hypseus 1 & Nymph 7

Peneus & Creusa 3

The first known king of the LAPITHS was Hypseus 1, son of Peneus (one of the RIVER GODS) and Creusa 3, a naiad daughter of Gaia.

a) Apollo

Idmon 2

Coeranus 1

Lysimache 1


"a)", "b)" = different versions.

By either Apollo or by Abas 3 (son of Melampus 1, son of Amythaon 1, son of Cretheus 1, son of Aeolus 1) Cyrene became mother of Idmon 2, Coeranus 1, and Lysimache 1. Aristaeus is called son of Apollo and Cyrene.
Idmon 2 is counted among the ARGONAUTS and among the SEERS.
Coeranus 1 is father of the seer Polyidus 1.
Lysimache 1 is mother of Adrastus 1.
Aristaeus is counted among the SEERS, and among CHIRON'S DISCIPLES (see Chiron).

b) Abas 3

Idmon 2

Coeranus 1

Lysimache 1


Diomedes 1

Diomedes 1 is the king of the Bistonians in Thrace, who owned the man-eating mares that Heracles 1 had to fetch according to one of the LABOURS imposed by Eurystheus.

Genealogical Charts

Names in this chart: Actaeon, Agenor 1, Apollo, Ares, Aristaeus, Autonoe 2, Belus 1, Cadmus, Callicarpus, Charmus, Creusa 3, Cyrene, Diomedes 1, Epaphus 1, Gaia, Hypseus 1, Io, Libya, Macris, Nymph 7, Peneus.

Related sections



Apd.1.9.13, 2.5.8; Arg.2.500ff.; Cal.Ap.92; Cal.Ar.208; Dio.4.81.1-2; Hdt.4.145.2ff.; Hyg.Fab.14, 161; Nonn.29.185; Pau.1.43.5; Pin.Pyth.9.5, 9.25.