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The Danaids , John William Waterhouse , 1903

The Danaids ( ancient Greek Δαναΐδες ) are in Greek mythology the fifty daughters of Danaos , king of Libya and ancestor of the Greeks. At his command, all but one of them killed their young husbands on the wedding night, all of them sons of Aegyptus , the so-called Aegyptiads . As a punishment, each of them has to scoop water into a perforated barrel in Tartaros , which is why today an excruciating, senseless labor is called a Danaid work .


The Danaids murder their men. Illustration to the Heroides of Ovid , 1496-1498

Danaos and Aigyptus were twin brothers who fought over the inheritance of their father Belos . In order to settle the dispute over property, Aegyptus proposed a marriage of his fifty sons with the fifty daughters of Danaus. But Danaos rightly feared a ruse and his premonition was confirmed by the oracle , which prophesied his death by his sons-in-law. With Athene's help, he built a double- prowed ship for fifty rowers, the first Pentekontere , with which he fled Libya to Argos in Greece . In the version of the myth handed down by Diodorus, three of his daughters died during a stay on Rhodes ; the cities of Lindos , Ialysus and Kameiros are said to have been named after them by Tlepolemos . After arriving in Greece, Danaos and his 50 daughters were welcomed by King Pelasgos . Danaos laid claim to the throne of Argos, because due to his descent from Io he was like Pelasgos a descendant of the river god Inachus .

When a great drought broke out in the country, Danaos sent his daughters out to change Poseidon , who had dried up the rivers. Amymone , one of the daughters, was attacked by a satyr in this corridor and called Poseidon to help, who saved the Danaide from the attacker and then made her his lover. While fighting the satyr, he had hurled his trident into a rock. According to legend, the three sources of the Lerna River have risen from the place where the weapon got stuck .

Aegyptus sent his sons, the Aegyptiads , to Argos to get Danaos to agree to the wedding after all - still with the secret plan to kill the Danaids and Danaos. When Danaos refused, Aegyptus had the city besieged. Danaos finally had to surrender to his brother , despite the mediation of King Pelasgos of Argos, as there was no more water in the city. But he instructed his daughters to kill the sons of Aegyptus on their wedding night and provided them with hairpins or daggers for this. All but one of the women killed their husbands and brought the heads of the murdered to their father. Only Hypermestra, the eldest, spared her bridegroom, the Lynkeus , because he had respected her virginity , and helped him to escape. She was charged with disobedience because of this, but was acquitted with the assistance of Aphrodite .

After the night of the murder, Danaos held a race among suitors who, in the order of their arrival at the finish, were allowed to marry one of his daughters and received a large dowry .

Although Athena and Hermes the Danaids with the consent of Zeus had cleaned in the waters of Lerna of their murder, the dead judge sentenced her to forever the water from their pitchers into the perforated barrel - according to another tradition, it is a bottomless pit - to pour that would never be full.

The lists of the Danaids

Two different lists with the names of the Danaids have come down to us. One can be found in the so-called library of Apollodorus , the other is contained in the fabulae of Hyginus Mythographus . The list of Hyginus is apparently corrupt and contains only 47 pairs. It is noticeable that there are hardly any correspondences between the two lists.

List with Apollodor
Danaide Mother (Danaide) spouse Mother (husband)
1 Hypermestra Elephantis Lynkeus Argyphia
2 Gorgophones Elephantis Proteus Argyphia
3 Automate Europe Busiris Argyphia
4th Amymone Europe Grandchildren Argyphia
5 Agaue Europe Lycus Argyphia
6th Skaia Europe Daiphron Argyphia
7th Hippodameia Atlanteie or Phoibe Istros arab mother
8th Rhodia Atlanteie or Phoibe Chalcodon arab mother
9 Cleopatra Atlanteie or Phoibe Agenor arab mother
10 Asteria Atlanteie or Phoibe Chaitos arab mother
11 Hippodameia Atlanteie or Phoibe Diokorystes arab mother
12 Glauke Atlanteie or Phoibe Alkis arab mother
13 Hippomedusa Atlanteie or Phoibe Alkmenor arab mother
14th Gorge Atlanteie or Phoibe Hippothoos arab mother
15th Iphimedusa Atlanteie or Phoibe Euchenor arab mother
16 Rhode Atlanteie or Phoibe Hippolytus arab mother
17th Peirene Ethiopian mother Agaptolemos Phoenician mother
18th Dorion Ethiopian mother Kerketes Phoenician mother
19th Phartis Ethiopian mother Eurydamas Phoenician mother
20th Mnestra Ethiopian mother Aigios Phoenician mother
21st Euippe Ethiopian mother Argios Phoenician mother
22nd Anaxibia Ethiopian mother Archelaus Phoenician mother
23 Nelo Ethiopian mother Menemachus Phoenician mother
24 Kleite Memphis Clitus Tyrian mother
25th Sthenele Memphis Sthenelos Tyrian mother
26th Chrysippe Memphis Chrysippus Tyrian mother
27 Autonoe Naiad Polyxo Eurylochus Naiad Kaliadne
28 Theano Naiad Polyxo Phantes Naiad Kaliadne
29 Elektra Naiad Polyxo Peristhenes Naiad Kaliadne
30th Cleopatra Naiad Polyxo Hermos Naiad Kaliadne
31 Eurydice Naiad Polyxo Dryas Naiad Kaliadne
32 Glaukippe Naiad Polyxo Potamon Naiad Kaliadne
33 Antheleia Naiad Polyxo Kiss Naiad Kaliadne
34 Kleodore Naiad Polyxo Lixos Naiad Kaliadne
35 Euippe Naiad Polyxo Imbros Naiad Kaliadne
36 Erato Naiad Polyxo Bromios Naiad Kaliadne
37 Stygne Naiad Polyxo Polyctor Naiad Kaliadne
38 Bryke Naiad Polyxo Chthonios Naiad Kaliadne
39 Aktaia Pieria Periphery Gorgon
40 Podarke Pieria Oineus Gorgon
41 Dioxippe Pieria Aegyptus Gorgon
42 Adyte Pieria Menalkes Gorgon
43 Okypete Pieria Lampos Gorgon
44 Pylarge Pieria Idmon Gorgon
45 Hippodike Herse Idas Hephaistine
46 Adiant Herse Daiphron Hephaistine
47 Kallidike Krino Pandion Hephaistine
48 Oime Krino Arbelos Hephaistine
49 Kelaino Krino Hyperbiosis Hephaistine
50 Hyperippe Krino Hippokorystes Hephaistine
List at Hyginus
Danaide spouse
1 Midea Antimachus
2 Philomela Panthius
3 Scylla Proteus
4th Amphicomones Plexippus
5 Evippe Agenor
6th Demoditas Chrysippus
7th Hyal Perius
8th Kick Enceladus
9 Damone Amyntor
10 Hippothoe Obrimus
11 Myrmidons Mineus
12 Eurydice Canthus
13 Cleo Asterius
14th Arcadia Xanthus
15th Cleopatra Metalces
16 Phila Philinus
17th Hipparete Protheon
18th Chrysothemis Asterides
19th Pyrante Athamas
20th ? Armoasbus
21st Glaucippe Niauius
22nd Demophile Pamphilus
23 Autodice Clytus
24 Polyxena Aegyptus
25th Hecabe Dryas
26th Acamantis Ecnomius
27 Arsalte Ephialtes
28 Monsters Eurysthenes
29 Amymone Midamus
30th Helice Evidea
31 Oeme Polydector
32 Polybe Iltonomus
33 Helicta Cassus
34 Electra Hyperantus
35 Owl Demarchus
36 Daplidice Pugno
37 Hero Andromachus
38 Europome Athletes
39 Pyrantis Plexippus
40 Critomedia Antipaphus
41 Pirene Dolichus
42 Eupheme Hyperbius
43 Themistagora Podasimus
44 Celaeno Aristonoos
45 Itea Antiochus
46 Erato Eudaemon
47 Hypermnestra Lynceus


Belos is the Graecized form of the Western Semitic / Canaanite word "Ba'al" ("Lord") or the Eastern Semitic / Babylonian "Bel (um)" (also "Lord"), which simply means a Lord (cf. "Bel bitim") , the head of the house), a certain god or a type of god.

The Danaids as moon priestesses

According to Robert von Ranke-Graves , the three daughters who died in Rhodes - who are also known as Telchinen - are three manifestations of the moon goddess Danaë . Their names indicate that they were to be equated with the goddesses of fate , the Moiren : Linda, Kameira and Ialysa seem to be abbreviations of linodeousa ("who binds with the linen thread"), katamerizousa ("who hands out") and ialemistria ("the plaintive woman") ) to be. Their voyage across the sea as an escape from the sons of Aegyptus, as well as the fact that they probably rowed the fifty-rowed ship themselves, allude to the "moon star" fleeing the sun.

Moon priestesses usually appeared in a community of fifty virgins - whatever happened, nothing changed. They had the duty to bring rain to the land through their rituals and - more specifically - to maintain wells and springs. The cultures were sprayed with water using sieved or perforated pots. The Danaids' task of scooping water into a perforated barrel in the underworld can therefore also be understood to mean that they fulfill their function as moon priestesses beyond death - forever.

Introduction of arable farming

So the Argolis was plagued by a drought before Danaos appeared there with his daughters. Karl Kerényi mentions from a poem by Strabo Geographus : "Argos was waterless, the daughters of Danaos made Argos rich in water" and he also mentions another version of the legend, according to which the heads were not buried but rather thrown into the water of the Lerna since then has gushed out of just as many heads.

Representation in art


The fact that Hypermestra defied her father's command prompted him to bring her to justice. Aeschylus reports on this in his Danaiden trilogy (→ Die Schutzflehenden ). There Aphrodite appears in defense of the Danaide and instructs those present: “Heaven demands to penetrate the earth with love and the earth longs for love. The sky now soaks her with life-giving water, fertilizes her with its rain. ”This describes Hypermestra's love for Lynkeus in a way that does not endanger her function as a priestess of the moon, but can better explain the cycle of fertilization and reception. In this sense, breaking the fatherly commandment of the hypermestra becomes a condition for rain to fall.


In addition to the opera seria Ipermestra by the librettist Pietro Metastasio , which was set to music by numerous composers, the French tragedy lyrique Les Danaïdes by Antonio Salieri , composed in 1784 , which brings the mass wedding and the monstrous murders back to the center of the action and thus the subject matter of his whole tragedy in turn does justice. The final scene of the opera shows the tormented Danaids in Tartarus as an epilogue , a great tableau vivant that was met with unreserved admiration among contemporaries.


The sculpture by Auguste Rodin , created in 1885, represents an interpretation of the fate of the Danaids. It is exhibited in the Musée Rodin in Paris.



Web links

Commons : Danaides  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Libraries of Apollodor 2,1,4-5; Hyginus Fabulae 168.
  2. ^ Diodorus 5.58
  3. Strabo 14,654.
  4. Libraries of Apollodor 2,1,4; Hyginus Fabulae 169.
  5. a b Library of Apollodorus 2,1,5; Hyginus Fabulae 168
  6. Pindar , Nemeische Oden 10, 6f .; see. also Horace , carmina 3, 11 and Ovid , Heroides 14.
  7. ^ Hyginus, fabulae 170.
  8. ^ Ovid, Metamorphosen 4, 462f. and 10, 43f.
  9. Hyginus Fabulae 170
  10. ^ Samuel Henry Hooke: Origin of Early Semitic Ritual . Jerusalem, 1935, p. 53.