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The Daughters of Pandareus

Pandareus (Pandareos) was a king of Miletus. His eldest daughter, Aedon, was married to Zethus, the brother of Amphion, by whom she was the mother of Itylus. The two other daughters of Pandareos were Merope and Cleodora (according to Pausanias, Cameira and Clytia). They lived perhaps in the third generation before the Trojan War.

About the daughters of The Daughters of Pandareus Homer tells us [OD. XX 66-78] that their parents met an untimely death. He said that Aphrodite took pity upon them and became their guardian. Because of Aphrodite’s generous act Hera gave them beauty and wisdom, Artemis gave the lofty stature, And Athena gave them skill in handiwork. But while Aphrodite was with Zeus trying to get them well- married they were carried off by the Harpies who delived them to the Erinyes to become their servants. Homer also implies that they lost their mortality in the process.

What are we to make of this strange story? One suggestion is that the daughters were punished for the errors of their father. Pandareus, whose name means “thief” became involved with Tantalos. Pandareus stole the dog that had guarded the goat Amaltheia and carried it off to Mount Sipylos. Hephaestus had made the golden dog for Rhea and after it was finished guarding the goat Amaltheia it was placed in the temple of Zeus in Crete. After Pandareus stole it he gave it to Tantalus, son of Zeus and Plouto, to guard. After a time Pandareus went to Mount Sipylos and asked for the Dog. Tantalos swore he had never received it. Pandareus fled to Athens, and thence to Sicily. Zeus punished Pandareus by turning both Pandareus and his wife, Harmothea, into a rock in Sicily. Tantalus, for going back on his oath, he struck down with a thunderbolt and set Mount Sipylos on top of his head.” There seems little doubt that Pandereus did an evil deed but why should his daughters suffer? Even the death of his wife seems unreasonable.

The connection to Tantalus continues the strangeness of the story. The geographer Strabo, quoting earlier sources, states that the wealth of Tantalus was derived from the mines of Phrygia and Mount Sipylus. It was this wealth that allowed Tantalus to entertain the Gods. But why then would he be involved with the theft of a golden dog? Through Tantalus we find that Sipylus is a mountain in Lydia and Tantalus may be a Lydian king. At any rate near Mount Sipylus, archaeological features associated with Tantalus and his house since antiquity are, in fact, Hittite. We know that at the time of the Trojan war the Hittite realm was on the point of collapse. Further we know that the Greek information from that area at that time is very poor. For example, judging from the Greek myths the realm of the Amazons must have abutted that of Tantalus. Pausanius seems to have taken a number of artifacts as of Tantalus when in fact they are Hittite. On Mount Yamanlar some two km east of Akpnar are two monuments mentioned by Pausanias: the tholos tomb of Tantalus and the “throne of Pelops,” in fact a rocky altar. A more famous rock-cut carving mentioned by Pausanias is the Great Mother of the Gods (Cybele to the Greeks), said to have been carved by Broteas, but in fact Hittite.

Antoninus Liberalis calls Pandareus an Ephesian. Pausanius insists he is a Miletian. But his relation to Tantalus suggests he is a Lydian or Phrygian. In this case the myth could relate the fact that the daughters of Pandereos were princesses of Lydia who were carried off by Amazons. This theory would, at least, make more sense than what Homer tells.

Since Tantalus had a divine father (Zeus) and a mortal mother he was destined to be a hero. Yet Tantalus was involved with cannibalism, human sacrifice and parricide. Interestingly enough he might have been located in Phrygia (Strabo {/wiki/Strabo}, xii.8.21). Pandereus was also involved the Tantalus in similar barbaric behavior. Also interesting is that the Amazons and their barbaric behavior were also associated with Phrygia. One has to wonder if the myth of the daughters has something to do with the rule of law over barbarism. Since the daughters finally end up with the Eumenides this seems to fit.

There is a Sumerian myth that has meanings along these lines. “In ancient Sumeria the priests of Enki wore garments in the form of a fish. The fish may refer to a Babylonian legend about Ea, the god’s Akkadian title meaning‘ lord of the house of water,’ which was the sweet water beneath the ground named Abzu by the Sumerians. In remote times, according to this myth, when men lived in a lawless manner like beasts, Ea appeared from the sea. Part man and part fish, the double-headed god instructed men in handicrafts, farming, letters, laws, architecture, and magic. He softened the primitive rudeness. Thus the goddesses may have softened the rudeness of the daughters.

There is also the myth of Aura. An early comment by Nonnus describes Aura as the daughter of the Phrygian goddess Kybele. This and the placement of the myth in Phrygia, strongly suggest that the story was derived from a Phrygian myth surrounding a local huntress-goddess which the Greeks identified with Artemis. As such, the main characters of the story may have been Kybele (in place of Artemis), the daugher of Kybele (for Aura), and Sabazios (for Dionysos and/or the child Iakkhos).

Aura was a virgin-huntress who was excessively proud of her maidenhood. In her hubris she dared to compare her body with that of the goddess Artemis, claiming that the goddess was too womanly in form to be a true virgin. Artemis sought out Nemesis (Retribution) to avenge her dignity, and as punishment, Aura suffered rape at the hands of Dionysos. This crime drove her to madness and in her fury she became a ruthless, slayer of men (like Amazons). When her twin sons were born, Aura swallowed one whole, whilst the second was snatched to safety by Artemis. Zeus then transformed her into a stream (or perhaps her namesake breeze).

Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.30.2 describes a painting by Polygnotus in a building at Delphi near the spring of Cassotis. Part of the painting is described as follows:

“Next Polygnotus has painted the daughters of Pandareos. Homer makes Penelope say in a speech1 that the parents of the maidens died because of the wrath of the gods, that they were reared as orphans by Aphrodite and received gifts from other goddesses: from Hera wisdom and beauty of form, from Artemis high stature, from Athena schooling in the works that befit women.

He goes on to say that Aphrodite ascended into heaven, wishing to secure for the girls a happy marriage, and in her absence they were carried off by the Harpies and given by them to the Furies. This is the story as given by Homer. Polygnotus has painted them as girls crowned with flowers and playing with dice, and gives them the names of Cameiro and Clytie. I must tell you that Pandareos was a Milesian from Miletus in Crete, and implicated in the theft of Tantalus and in the trick of the oath.”


  • Homer, Odyssey 518: “Even as when the daughter of Pandareus, the nightingale of the greenwood, sings sweetly, when spring is newly come, as she sits perched amid the thick leafage of the trees, and with many trilling notes pours forth her rich voice in wailing for her child, dear Itylus, whom she had one day slain with the sword unwittingly, Itylus, the son of king Zethus;” Note: ‘Aedon’ means ‘nightingale’.