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Mythology (33)


Capricornus, Capricorn, "The Sea Goat"

In Greek mythology, the constellation was variously associated with the gate through which the souls of the dead passed, with a legendary goat said to have nursed the infant Zeus (and by metaphorical extension, the Sun), and with a myth in which the god Pan (lower half goat, human torso and head with goat horns) tried to escape the monster Typhon by turning into a fish; he managed to morph only his lower half.


Capra or Capella (Aix). The brightest star in the constellation of the Auriga, or Charioteer, and said to have been originally the nymph or goat who nursed the infant Zeus in Crete.


Jupiter V, the innermost satellite of Jupiter. Diameter about 140 km; i = 0°.4, e = 0.0028, period 0.498 days. Discovered by Barnard in 1892. (also called Barnard's satellite)


Adrasteia, a Cretan nymph, daughter of Melisseus, to whom Rhea entrusted the infant Zeus to be reared in the Dictaean grotto. In this office Adrasteia was assisted by her sister Ida and the Curetes (Apollod. i. 1.6; Callimach. hymn. in Jov. 47), whom the scholiast on Callimachus calls her brothers. Apollonius Rhodius (iii. 132, &c.) relates that she gave to the infant Zeus a beautiful globe (sphaira) to play with, and on some Cretan coins Zeus is represented sitting upon a globe.


Metis is the innermost known satellite of Jupiter. It was named after a Titaness who was a consort of Zeus (Jupiter). Metis and Adrastea lie within Jupiter's main ring and may be the source of material for the ring.


We also see Auriga depicted as a warm-hearted herdsman holding a she-goat, with two kids nearby. The she-goat raised Zeus when he was an infant, by giving him her milk. Zeus was hidden in Mt. Ida from his father Cronus. Cronus habitually ate his children, and Zeus was the only survivor.


Cynosura (Kunosoura). A nymph of Ida in Crete, one of the nurses of Zeus, and afterwards changed into a constellation.



   Amalthea, (Amaltheia). A figure in Greek mythology. The name was sometimes applied to a goat which suckled the new-born Zeus in Crete, while bees brought him honey, and which was therefore set among the stars by her nursling; sometimes to a nymph who was supposed to possess a miraculous horn, a symbol of plenty, and whose descent was variously given. According to another legend she is the daughter of the Cretan king Melisseus, and brings up the infant god on the milk of a goat, while her sister Melissa (a bee) offers him honey. The horn of the goat is given to her by Zeus, with the promise that she shall always find in it whatever she wishes. From her the cornucopia passed into the possession of the river-god Achelous, who exchanged it for his own horn, which Heracles had broken off. It is also assigned to Dionysus, to Plutus, and to other gods of earthly felicity.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

  Amalthea was a daughter of Haemonius, and she had a bull's horn, which, according to Pherecydes, had the power of supplying meat or drink in abundance, whatever one might wish.
According to some, Amalthea was the goat on whose milk the infant Zeus was fed. From one of its horns flowed ambrosia, and from the other flowed nectar. According to others, Amalthea was only the nymph who owned the goat which suckled the god. Some said that, in gratitude for having been nurtured on the animal's milk, Zeus made a constellation of the goat and bestowed one of its horns on the nymphs who had reared him, at the same time ordaining that the horn should produce whatever they asked for.

A nymph, daughter of Melissus, king of Crete, who fed Jupiter with goat's milk. According to others, Amalthea is the name of the goat itself, one of whose horns, accidentally broken off, was placed among the stars as the Cornu Amaltheae, or Cornu copiae. From this horn nectar and ambrosia are said to have flowed; hence, it was the emblem of plenty.

  Cornu Copiae or as one word, Cornucopiae, later Cornucopi). The horn of fruitfulness and abundance, used as the symbol of plenty. In mythology there are two different tales explaining the origin of this horn. One traces it to the horn of the goat Amalthea, which suckled Zeus. The horn was broken off and filled with fruits and flowers, and was afterwards placed by Zeus, together with the goat, among the stars. Another legend relates that it was the horn of the river-god Achelous, which was wrenched off by Heracles, and which became forthwith a horn of plenty. Later mythologists combined the two tales, and tried to explain how the horn of Amalthea became the horn of Achelous ( Apollod.ii. 7. 5). The origin of this symbol may perhaps be traced in the use of the horns of oxen or goats as drinking-cups; hence the rhuton, or drinking-horn, which is frequently confounded with the horn of abundance. The cornucopia constantly appears in works of art, especially of the Roman period, as the symbol of abundance associated with various deities, as Fortuna, Ceres, etc.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Febr 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Nurse of Zeus


Daughter of the Cretan king Melissus, who, together with her sister Amalthea, fed Jupiter with goats' milk

Melissa. A nymph who was said to have discovered the use of honey, and from whom bees were believed to have received their name (melissai). There can be no doubt, however, that her name really came from meli, 'honey', and was hence given to nymphs. The name was commonly given to priestesses of Demeter, Persephone, Apollo, and Artemis.


Ide. An Idaean nymph, by whom Zeus became the father of the Idaean Dactyls. (Etymol. Magn.)


Cynosura (Kunosoura), an Idaean nymph and one of the nurses of Zeus, who placed her among the stars. (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 2; Arat. Phaen, 35; Serv. ad Virg. Georg. i. 246.)


Ide, a daughter of Melissus and Amaltheia, and sister of Adrasteia, one of the Idaean nymphs, to whom Rhea entrusted the infant Zeus to be educated (Apollod. i. 1.6). She was represented, with other nymphs, on the altar of Athena Alea at Tegea. (Paus. viii. 47, 2)


Dactyls or Curetes

   (Kouretes). In Cretan mythology the Curetes were demigods armed with weapons of brass, to whom the new-born child Zeus was committed by his mother Rhea for protection against his father Cronus. They drowned the cries of the child by striking their spears against their shields. They gave their name to the priests of the Cretan goddess Rhea and of the Idaean Zeus, who performed noisy war-dances at the festivals of those deities.
   (Daktuloi). Fabulous beings, to whom the discovery of iron, and of the art of working it by means of fire, was ascribed. Mount Ida, in Phrygia, is said to have been the original seat of the Dactyli, whence they are usually called Idaean (Idaioi) Dactyli. In Phrygia they were connected with the worship of Rhea, or Cybele. They are sometimes confounded or identified with the Curetes, Corybantes, and Cabeiri.
   The name Daktuloi ("Fingers") is variously explained from their number being five or ten, or because they dwelt at the foot (en daktulois) of Mount Ida. The original number seems to have been three--i. e. Kelmis (Kelmis) the Smelter, Damnameneus (Damnameneus) the Hammer, and Acmon (Akmon) the Anvil. This number was afterwards increased to five, then to ten, to fiftytwo, and finally to one hundred.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Dactyli, (Daktuloi), the Dactyls of mount Ida in Phrygia, fabulous beings to whom the discovery of iron and the art of working it by means of fire was ascribed. Their name Dactyls, that is, Fingers, is accounted for in various ways; by their number being five or ten, or by the fact of their serving Rhea just as the fingers serve the hand, or by the story of their having lived at the foot (en daktulois) of mount Ida. (Pollux, ii. 4; Strab. x.; Diod. v. 64.) Most of our authorities describe Phrygia as the original seat of the Dactyls. (Diod. xvii. 7; Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. i. 1126; Strab. l. c.) There they were connected with the worship of Rhea. They are sometimes confounded or identified with the Curetes, Corybantes, Cabeiri, and Telchines; or they are described as the fathers of the Cabeiri and Corybantes. (Strab. x.; Schol. ad Arat. 33; Serv. ad Virg. Georg. iv. 153.) This confusion with the Cabeiri also accounts for Samothrace being in some accounts described as their residence (Diod. v. 64; comp. Arnob. adv. Gent. iii. 41); and Diodorus states, on the authority of Cretan historians, that the Dactyls had been occupied in incantations and other magic pursuits; that thereby they excited great wonder in Samothrace, and that Orpheus was their disciple in these things. Their connexion or identification with the Curetes even led to their being regarded as the same as the Roman Penates. (Arnob. iii. 40.) According to a tradition in Clemens Alexandrinus (Strom. i.) the Dactyls did not discover the iron in the Phrygian Ida, but in the island of Cyprus; and others again transfer them to mount Ida in Crete, although the ancient traditions of the latter island scarcely contain any traces of early working in metal there. (Apollon. Rhod. i. 1129; Plin. H. N. vii. 57.) Their number appears to have originally been three: Celmis (the smelter), Damnameneus (the hammer), and Acmon (the anvil). (Schol. ad Apollon. l. c.). To these others were subsequently added, such as Scythes, the Phrygian, who invented the smelting of iron (Clem. Alex. Strom. i. p. 362), Heracles (Strab. l. c.), and Delas. (Euseb. Praep. Evang. x.) Apollonius Rhodius mentions the hero Titias and Cyllenus as the principal Dactyls, and a local tradition of Elis mentioned, besides Heracles, Paconius, Epimedes, Jasius, and Idas or Acesidas as Dactyls; but these seem to have been beings altogether different from the Idaean Dactyls, for to judge from their names, they must have been healing divinities. (Paus. v. 7.4, 14.5, 8.1, vi. 21.5; Strab. viii.) Their number is also stated to have been five, ten (five male and five female ones), fifty-two, or even one hundred. The tradition which assigns to them the Cretan Ida as their habitation, describes them as the earliest inhabitants of Crete, and as having gone thither with Mygdon (or Minos) from Phrygia, and as having discovered the iron in mount Berecynthus. (Diod. v. 64; Cic. de Nat. Deor. iii. 16.) With regard to the real nature of the Dactyls, they seem to be no more than the mythical representatives of the discoverers of iron and of the art of smelting metals with the aid of fire, for the importance of this art is sufficiently great for the ancients to ascribe its invention to supernatural beings. The original notion of the Dactyls was afterwards extended, and they are said to have discovered various other things which are useful or pleasing to man ; thus they are reported to have introduced music from Phrygia into Greece, to have invented rhythm, especially the dactylic rhythm. (Plut. de Mus. 5 ; Diomedes, p. 474, ed. Putsch; Clem. Alex. Strom. i.) They were in general looked upon as mysterious sorcerers, and are therefore also described as the inventors of the Ephesian incantation formulae; and persons when suddenly frightened used to pronounce the names of the Dactyls as words of magic power. (Plut. de Fac. in Orb. Lun. 30; compare Lobeck, de Idaeis Dactylis; Welcker, Die Aeschyl. Trib., &c.)

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Oct 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Idaean Dactyls, Curetes : Perseus Project Index

Idean Dactyli discovered iron

Hesiod says, that iron was discovered in Crete, by the Idean Dactyli.
According to Pausanias, the art of forging iron was discovered by Glaucus of Chios. Strabo ascribes it to the Idean Dactyli, and the art of manufacturing utensils of bronze and iron to the Telchines; the former were inhabitants of Crete, the latter of Rhodes.

Metals in Antiquity (iron)

Gods & demigods


Heptaporus, (Heptaporos), a son of Oceanus and Tethys, was the god of a small river near Mount Ida. (Hom. Il. xii. 20; Hes. Theog. 341; Strab. pp.587, 602.)

Historic figures


Nurse of Zeus

Remarkable selections

Judgement of Paris



Father of the nymphs Adrastia and Ida, king of Crete


Aega & Helice

Aega (Aige), according to Hyginus (Poet. Astr. ii. 13) a daughter of Olenus, who was a descendant of Hephaestus. Aega and her sister Helice nursed the infant Zeus in Crete, and the former was afterwards changed by the god into the constellation called Capella. According to other traditions mentioned by Hyginus, Aega was a daughter of Melisseus, king of Crete, and was chosen to suckle the infant Zeus; but as she was found unable to do it, the service was performed by the goat Amalthea. According to others, again, Aega was a daughter of Helios and of such dazzling brightness, that the Titans in their attack upon Olympus became frightened and requested their mother Gaea to conceal her in the earth. She was accordingly confined in a cave in Crete, where she became the nurse of Zeus. In the fight with the Titans Zeus was commanded by an oracle to cover himself with her skin (aegis). He obeyed the command and raised Aega among the stars. Similar, though somewhat different accounts, were given by Euemerus and others (Eratosth. Catast. 13; Antonin. Lib.. 36; Lactant. Instit. i. 22.19). It is clear that in some of these stories Aegia is regarded as a nymph, and in others as a goat, though the two ideas are not kept clearly distinct from each other. Her name is either connected with aix, which signifies a goat, or with aix, a gale of wind; and this circumstance has led some critics to consider the myth about her as made up of two distinct ones, one being of an astronomical nature and derived from the constellation Capella, the rise of which brings storms and tempests (Arat. Phaen. 150), and the other referring to the goat which was believed to have suckled the infant Zeus in Crete.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Sep 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Helice, (Helike). A daughter of Lycaon, was beloved by Zeus, but Hera, out of jealousy, metamorphosed her into a she-bear, whereupon Zeus placed her among the stars, under the name of the Great Northern Bear. (Serv. ad Virg. Georg. i. 138, 246.) When Demeter invoked her, asking for information about her lost daughter, Helice referred her to Helios. (Ov. Fast. iv 580.) Hyginus (Poet. Astr. ii. 2, 13) calls her a daughter of Olenns, and says that she brought up Zeus.



Laius. A Cretan, who, together with Aegolius, Celeus, and Cerberus, entered the sacred cave of bees in Crete, in order to steal honey. They succeeded in their crime, but perceived the cradle of the infant Zeus, and that instant their brazen armour broke to pieces. Zeus thundered, and wanted to kill them by a flash of lightning; but the Moerae and Themis prevented him, as no one was allowed to be killed on that sacred spot, whereupon the thieves were metamorphosed into birds. (Anton. Lib. 19; Plin. H. N. x. 60, 79.)

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Oct 2006 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

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