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Daughters of Danaus

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Daughters of Danaus

The Danaides (1903), a Pre-Raphaelite interpretation by John William Waterhouse

In Greek mythology, the Daughters of Danaus (; Greek: Δαναΐδες), also Danaids, Danaides or Danaïdes, were the fifty daughters of Danaus. They were to marry the fifty sons of Danaus's twin brother Aegyptus, a mythical king of Egypt. In the most common version of the myth, all but one of them killed their husbands on their wedding night, and are condemned to spend eternity carrying water in a sieve or perforated device. In the classical tradition, they come to represent the futility of a repetitive task that can never be completed (see also Sisyphus).


Danaus did not want his daughters to go ahead with the marriages and he fled with them in the first boat to Argos, which is located in Greece near the ancient city of Mycenae.

The Danaides kill their husbands, miniature by Robinet Testard.

Danaus agreed to the marriage of his daughters only after Aegyptus came to Argos with his fifty sons in order to protect the local population, the Argives, from any battles. The daughters were ordered by their father to kill their husbands on the first night of their weddings and this they all did with the exception of one, Hypermnestra, who spared her husband Lynceus because he respected her desire to remain a virgin. Danaus was angered that his daughter refused to do as he ordered and took her to the Argives courts. Lynceus killed Danaus as revenge for the death of his brothers and he and Hypermnestra started the Danaid Dynasty of rulers in Argos.

The other forty-nine daughters remarried by choosing their mates in footraces. Some accounts tell that their punishment was in Tartarus being forced to carry a jug to fill a bathtub (pithos) without a bottom (or with a leak) to wash their sins off. Because the water was always leaking they would forever try to fill the tub. Probably this myth is connected with a ceremony having to do with the worship of waters, and the Danaides were water-nymphs. The rivers at Argolis were empty during summer and they overflowed during winter, therefore the name Danaus and Danaides is probably connected with the Proto-Indo-European root *danu:"river".

The Danaids and their husbands


The list in the Bibliotheca[1] preserves not only the names of brides and grooms, but also those of their mothers. A lot was cast among the sons of Aegyptus to decide which of the Danaids each should marry.

  • The daughters of Elephantis were given to the sons of Queen Argyphia
  • Daughters of Europe to (the rest of the) sons of Argyphia
    • Automate to Busiris
    • Amymone to Enceladus
    • Agave to Lycus
    • Scaea to Daiphron
  • Daughters of Atlanteia or of Phoebe, the Hamadryads, to sons of an Arabian woman
    • Hippodamia to Istrus
    • Rhodia to Chalcodon
    • Cleopatra to Agenor
    • Asteria to Chaetus
    • Hippodamia (different one) to Diocorystes
    • Glauce to Alces
    • Hippomedusa to Alcmenor
    • Gorge to Hippothous
    • Iphimedusa to Euchenor
    • Rhode to Hippolytus
  • Daughters of an Ethiopian woman to sons of a Phoenician woman
    • Pirene to Agaptolemus
    • Cercete to Dorios
    • Phartis to Eurydamas
    • Mnestra to Aegius
    • Evippe to Argius
    • Anaxibia to Archelaus
    • Nelo to Menemachus
  • Daughters of Memphis to sons of Tyria (without casting a lot, since they were namesakes)
    • Clite to Clitus
    • Sthenele to Sthenelus
    • Chrysippe to Chrysippus
  • Daughters of Polyxo to sons of Caliadne (both mothers were Naiads)
    • Autonoe to Eurylochus
    • Theano to Phantes
    • Electra to Peristhenes
    • Cleopatra (different one) to Hermus
    • Eurydice to Dryas
    • Glaucippe to Potamon
    • Antheleia to Cisseus
    • Cleodore to Lixus
    • Evippe (different one) to Imbrus
    • Erato to Bromius
    • Stygne to Polyctor
    • Bryce to Chthonius
  • Daughters of Pieria to sons of Gorgo
    • Actaea to Periphas
    • Podarce to Oeneus
    • Dioxippe to Aegyptus
    • Adite to Menalces
    • Ocypete to Lampus
    • Pylarge to Idmon
  • Daughters of Herse to sons of Hephaestine
    • Hippodice to Idas
    • Adiante to Daiphron (different one)
  • Daughters of Crino to (the rest of the) sons of Hephaestine
    • Callidice to Pandion
    • Oeme to Arbelus
    • Celaeno to Hyperbius
    • Hyperippe to Hippocorystes


Hyginus' list[2] is partially corrupt and some of the names (marked with *) are poorly readable. Nevertheless, it is evident that this catalogue has almost nothing in common with that of Pseudo-Apollodorus.

  • Midea killed Antimachus
  • Philomela, Panthius
  • Scylla, Proteus
  • Amphicomone, Plexippus
  • Evippe, Agenor
  • *Demoditas, Chrysippus
  • Hyale, Perius
  • Trite, Enceladus
  • Damone, Amyntor
  • Hippothoe, Obrimus
  • Myrmidone, *Mineus
  • Eurydice, Canthus
  • Cleo, Asterius
  • Arcadia, Xanthus
  • Cleopatra, Metalces
  • Phila, Philinus
  • Hipparete, Protheon
  • Chrysothemis, Asterides
  • Pyrante, Athamas
  • ?, Armoasbus
  • Glaucippe, *Niauius
  • Demophile, Pamphilus
  • Autodice, Clytus
  • Polyxena, Aegyptus
  • Hecabe, Dryas
  • Acamantis, *Ecnomius
  • *Arsalte, Ephialtes
  • *Monuste, Eurysthenes
  • Amymone, *Midanus
  • Helice, *Evidea
  • Oeme, Polydector
  • Polybe, *Itonomus
  • Helicta, Cassus
  • Electra, Hyperantus
  • Eubule, Demarchus
  • *Daplidice, *Pugno
  • Hero, Andromachus
  • *Europome, Athletes
  • Pyrantis, Plexippus
  • Critomedia, Antipaphus
  • Pirene, Dolichus
  • Eupheme, Hyperbius
  • Themistagora, *Podasimus
  • Celaeno, Aristonoos
  • Itea, Antiochus
  • Erato, Eudaemon
  • Danaïs, Pelops
  • Cleopatra, Hermus
  • Hypermnestra saved Lynceus.

Other Danaids

Several minor female characters, mentioned in various accounts unrelated to the main myth of Danaus and the Danaides, are also referred to as daughters of Danaus. These include:

Modern literature

The Daughters of Danaus is also the title of an 1894 novel by Mona Caird, also dealing with imposed marriage although in this case it is a single marriage instead of fifty, and in 19th-century Great Britain.

Le chatiment des Danaides is an essay by French-Canadian author Henri Paul Jacques applying Freudian concept of psychoanalysis to the study of the punishment imposed on the Danaids after they committed their crimes.

In Monday Begins on Saturday, it is mentioned that the Danaids had their case reviewed in modern times, and, due to mitigating circumstances (the marriage being forced) had their punishment changed to laying down and then immediately demolishing asphalt.

See also


  1. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke, 2. 1. 5
  2. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 170
  3. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium, s. v. Olenos
  4. ^ Scholia on Homer, Iliad, 2. 499
  5. ^ a b Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 752
  6. ^ Tzetzes on Lycophron, 157
  7. ^ Clement of Alexandria, Recognitions, 10. 21
  8. ^ Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 230
  9. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4. 30. 2
  10. ^ Callimachus, Hymn 5 to Athena, 47-48
  11. ^ Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses, 32
  12. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3. 22. 9
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