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Oknos ( ancient Greek Ὄκνος , the procrastinator ) is a figure in Greek mythology . Oknos is the husband of a rampant and wasteful woman.

As an old man, Oknos is one of the damned of Hades . In Tartaros he has to eternally weave a rope from rushes , the finished end of which, however, is repeatedly eaten by a donkey. Oknos is said to have been a hardworking man in life, whose fortune was quickly brought through by his wife, so his situation in Tartaros is similar to that in life. Pausanias reports of Oknos in his description of the Lesche der Knidier of Polygnotos in Delphi , on which the myth is reproduced.

A parallel narrative is known from ancient Egyptian demotic literature . In Setne's Second Story , Setne sees a man weaving in the underworld, whose work is being eaten by a donkey. He learns from his son Sioriris that it is a man who let his wife steal from him. An Egyptian origin of the legend is already mentioned in Diodorus . A variant of the myth can be found in Apuleius , in which the donkey is loaded with wood that constantly slips off him.

In pictorial representations, Oknos often appears with one or more of the Danaids who are condemned to scoop water into a holey barrel.

To weave the rope of the oknos was an Ionic phrase for arduous work that never ends. However, the idiom was replaced by the Sisyphean work , which means something similar and, like the tantalum torment, comes from Tartaros.

Unlike the other inmates of the Tartarus, Oknos does not mention any crime to which his condition could be attributed. The classical philologist and epigraphist Reinhold Merkelbach assumes that the reason for this was that Oknos neglected the request for initiation into the Mysteries of Eleusis , which, however, is not directly supported by any source. The classical philologist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff sees in Oknos' condition the punishment for “a moral weakness, the lack of courage, the reluctance to decide what he feels as a duty”. According to Wilamowitz, although this weakness of character “sometimes leads to a good thing, namely when it holds back from an evil act”, it is selfish because avoiding obstacles that require “a decision to act” basically does not help anyone. The philosopher Norbert Wokart , on the other hand, rejects this view and assumes that Oknos, unlike the other figures of the myth, exists “only as an image or a pure symbol”. This is a parable of what creates and destroys as well as abstractly to the “fragile balance between the positive and the negative”, since the positive only becomes positive through the contrast to the negative.



  1. Kratinos , fragment 348. In Theodor Kock (ed.): Comicorum Atticorum Fragmenta ; Properz 4,3,21 f.
  2. Pausanias 10:29,1 f.
  3. ^ Friedhelm Hoffmann : Rope weavers in the underworld. In: Journal of Papyrology and Epigraphy . Volume 100, 1994, pp. 339-346 ( digitized version )
  4. Diodorus 1.97.
  5. Apuleius, Metamorphoses 6.18.
  6. Otto Höfer : Oknos . In: Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (Hrsg.): Detailed lexicon of Greek and Roman mythology . Volume 3.1, Leipzig 1902, column 821 ( digitized version ).
  7. a b c Norbert Wokart: Ent-delusions. Philosophical Signatures of the 20th Century, Metzler Library, Vol. 5, Stuttgart 1991, pp. 103–116.
  8. ^ David Castriota: Myth, Ethos, and Actuality. Official Art in Fifth-century BC Athens, Madison 1992, p. 277.
  9. Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff: The Faith of the Hellenes, Vol. 2, Darmstadt 1976, p. 181.
  10. Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff: Aristoteles und Athen, Vol. 1, Berlin 1893, p. 174 (footnote).