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Pentheus is torn apart by Agaue and Ino. Red-figure Attic Lekanis , approx. 450–425 BC BC (Louvre, Paris)

Agaue ( Greek  Ἀγαύη , about "the venerable") is in Greek mythology the daughter of Kadmos and Harmonia and so with Ino and Autonoë the sister of Semele , Illyrios and Polydoros .

As the wife of the Echion division , she was the mother of Pentheus . They reviled Semele, who by her lover Zeus the Dionysos had received. After Semele was burned to ashes by the apparition of Zeus, Agaue and her sisters claimed that Semele had been struck down by Zeus with lightning as punishment for the wicked claim that the chief of the gods was her lover. Rather, Semele's pregnancy is the result of a misstep and the son is therefore not of divine descent.

When Dionysus came to Thebes after his triumphal procession through Asia, he struck Agaue, her sisters and all the women of Thebes with a Manadic frenzy. In her madness, Agaue and her sisters tore up their own son Pentheus, who had followed the maenads into the forest mountains of Kithairon . She thought she had killed a lion and proudly carried Pentheus' torn off head on her return to Thebes, until her father opened her eyes to her insane act. This act of revenge by Dionysus is at the center of the tragedy The Bacchae of Euripides . In addition, the figure of the agaue is mentioned several times in the Dionysiaka , a late antique epic by the Nonnos of Panopolis .

In a variant of the story, the only nine-year-old Pentheus overhears his mother and his aunts Ino and Autonoë at the sacrifice of Dionysus. The women go mad through this sacrilege and tear the boy apart, whereby this Sparagmos (" tear ") finds a particularly bloodthirsty description in Theocritus .

After the murder of her son, Agaue is said to go to Illyria and there married the king Lykotherses , whom she finally murdered in order to win his kingdom for her father Kadmos.


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  1. Libraries of Apollodorus 3.4.2
  2. See also Apollodor Library 3.5.2 and Ovid Metamorphoses 3.752
  3. Theokritus poems 26 (Lenai)
  4. Hyginus Fabulae 240 and 254