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Homeric world (8)
There it was that I saw Odysseus and gave him gifts of entertainment; for the force of the wind had brought him too to Crete, as he was making for the land of Troy, and drove him out of his course past Malea. So he anchored his ships at Amnisus, where is the cave of Eilithyia, in a difficult harbor, and hardly did he escape the storm.
Then straightway he went up to the city and asked for Idomeneus; for he declared that he was his friend, beloved and honored. But it was now the tenth or the eleventh dawn since Idomeneus had gone in his beaked ships to Ilios. So I took him to the house, and gave him entertainment with kindly welcome of the rich store that was in the house, and to the rest of his comrades who followed with him I gathered and gave out of the public store barley meal and flaming wine and bulls for sacrifice, that their hearts might be satisfied. There for twelve days the goodly Achaeans tarried, for the strong North Wind penned them there, and would not suffer them to stand upon their feet on the land, for some angry god had roused it. But on the thirteenth day the wind fell and they put to sea. (Od. 19.185).
Gods & demigods
Eilithyiae, Eileithyia, Ilithyia
They were daughters of Zeus and Hera, who were present during a childbirth (Il. 11.270, 19.119). In the passage of the Odyssey, 19.103, only one Eilethyia, goddess of childbirth, is mentioned, to whom a cave was dedicated at Amnisus in Crete.
Daughter of Hera, daughter of Zeus and Hera, born at Amnisus, mother of Love, identified with Fate, came from Hyperboreans, cares for women in travail, holds a torch, Delians sacrifice to her, Hermionians sacrifice to her daily, the Ilithyias retard Alcmena's delivery, altar of Ilithyia, images, draped images, image seen only by priestesses, temples and sanctuaries, sanctuary of the Ilithyias, Ilithyia called 'Auge on her knees,' 'the spinner deft,' Olympian.
Eileithyia, who they say came from the Hyperboreans to Delos and helped Leto in her labour; and from Delos the name spread to other peoples. The Delians sacrifice to Eileithyia and sing a hymn of Olen. But the Cretans suppose that Eileithyia was born at Auunisus in the Cnossian territory, and that Hera was her mother. Only among the Athenians are the wooden figures of Eileithyia draped to the feet. The women told me that two are Cretan, being offerings of Phaedra, and that the third, which is the oldest, Erysichthon brought from Delos.
This extract is from: Pausanias. Description of Greece (ed. W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., & H.A. Ormerod, 1918). Cited Mar 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.
- Perseus: Pausanias, Description of Greece, Attica
The goddess of birth, daughter of Zeus and Hera, who helped women
in labor. She was also a judge of pregnant women: the ones that had been good
she blessed with an easy birth, the ones that had no she gave a long and painful
Eleutho/Eileithyia was born in a cave near Knossos
on Crete, and was he sister
of Ares, Hestia and Hebe. She was generally considered to be a virgin goddess,
but sometimes it was claimed she was Eros' mother, or the mystical hero Sosipolis.
The goddess and Sosipolis were worshipped in Olympia.
It was this goddess that prolonged the birth of Heracles on Hera's
demand. She was a companion of the Moirae.
This text is cited Sept 2003 from the In2Greece URL below.
Eileithyia (Eileithuia), also called Eleithyia, Eilethyia, or Eleutho. The ancients
derive her name from the verb eleuthein, according to which it would signify the
coming or helping goddess. She was the goddess of birth, who came to the assistance
of women in labour; and when she was kindly disposed, she furthered the birth,
but when she was angry, she protracted the labour and delayed the birth. These
two functions were originally assigned to different Eileithuiai (Hom. Il. xi.
270 xvi. 187, xix. 103; comp. Paus. i. 44. § 3; Hesych. s. v. Eileithuiai). Subsequently,
however, both functions were attributed to one divinity, and even in the later
Homeric poems the Cretan Eileithyia
alone is mentioned (Hom. Hymn. in Apoll. Del. 98, Od. xix. 188). According
to the Iliad the Eileithyiae were daughters of Hera, the goddess of marriage,
whom they obeyed (Hom. Il. xix. 119; comp. Pind. Nem. vii. init.; Ov. Met. ix.
285; Anton. Lib. 29). According to Hesiod (Theog. 922) Zeus was the father of
Eileithyia, and she was the sister of Hebe and Ares (Apollod. i. 3.1). Artemis
and Eileithyia were originally very different divinities, but there were still
some features in their characters which afterwards made them nearly identical.
Artemis was believed to avert evil, and to protect what was young and tender,
and sometimes she even assisted women in labour. Artemis, moreover, was, like
Eileithyia, a maiden divinity; and although the latter was the daughter of the
goddess of marriage and the divine midwife, neither husband, nor lover, nor children
of her are mentioned. She punished want of chastity by increasing the pains at
the birth of a child, and was therefore feared by maidens (Theocrit. xxvii. 28).
Frequent births, too, were displeasing to her. In an ancient hymn attributed to
Olen, which was sung in Delos,
Eileithyia was called the mother of Eros (Paus. i. 18.5. ix. 27.2).
Her worship appears to have been first established among the Dorians
in Crete, where she was believed
to have been born in a cave in the territory of Cnossus.
From thence her worship spread over Delos
and Attica. According to
a Delian tradition, Eileithyia was not born in Crete,
but had come to Delos from
the Hyperboreans, for the purpose of assisting Leto (Herod. iv. 35). She had a
sanctuary at Athens, containing
three carved images of the goddess, which were covered all over down to the toes.
Two were believed to have been presented by Phaedra, and the third to have been
brought by Erysichthon from Delos
(Paus. i. 8.15). Her statues, however, were not thus covered everywhere, as Pausanias
asserts, for at Aegion there
was one in which the head, hands, and feet were uncovered (Paus. vii. 23.5). She
had sanctuaries in various places, such as Sparta
(Paus. iii. 17.1, 14.6), Cleitor
(viii. 21.2), Messene (iv.
31.7), Tegea (viii. 48.5),
Megara (i. 44.3), Hermione
(ii. 35.8), and other places.
The Elionia, who was worshipped at Argos
as the goddess of birth (Plut. Quaest. Rom. 49), was probably the same as Eileithyia.
(Bottiger, Ilithyia oder die Hexe, Weimar, 1799; Muller, Dor. ii. 2.14)
This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited April 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology (ed. William Smith)
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)