Leda (page 320 with art)

Chapter 11: The Daughters of Thestios

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Katast 25Pseudo-Eratosthenes, Katasterismoi – Mythographi Graeci 3.1, pp. 30-32, ed. A. Olivieri. Leipzig 1897.

Greek Text

♠ Kratinos, Nemesis fr 114 PCG – Poetae Comici Graeci, ed. R. Kassel and C. Austin. Berlin.

♠ Kratinos, Nemesis fr 115 PCG – Poetae Comici Graeci, ed. R. Kassel and C. Austin. Berlin.

Sappho 166 LP – Poetarum Lesbiorum Fragmenta, p. 100, ed. E. Lobel and D. L. Page. Oxford 1955.

She says that Leda once found a well-covered hyacinth-colored egg.  (Transl. E. Bianchelli)

ApB 3.10.7 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

But Zeus in the form of a swan consorted with Leda, and on the same night Tyndareus cohabited with her; and she bore Pollux and Helen to Zeus, and Castor and Clytaemnestra to Tyndareus. But some say that Helen was a daughter of Nemesis and Zeus; for that she, flying from the arms of Zeus, changed herself into a goose, but Zeus in his turn took the likeness of a swan and so enjoyed her; and as the fruit of their loves she laid an egg, and a certain shepherd found it in the groves and brought and gave it to Leda; and she put it in a chest and kept it; and when Helen was hatched in due time, Leda brought her up as her own daughter.  Greek Text

Astr 2.8 – Hyginus, De Astronomia

When Jupiter, moved by desire, had begun to love Nemesis, and couldn’t persuade her to lie with him, he relieved his passion by the following plan. He bade Venus, in the form of an eagle, pursue him; he, changed to a swan, as if in flight from the eagle, took refuge with Nemesis and lighted in her lap. Nemesis did not thrust him away, but holding him in her arms, fell into a deep sleep. While she slept, Jupiter embraced her, and then flew away. Because he was seen by men flying high in the sky, they said he was put in the stars. To make this really true, Jupiter put the swan flying and the eagle pursuing in the sky.

[2]  But Nemesis, as if wedded to the tribe of birds, when her months were ended, bore an egg. Mercury took it away and carried it to Sparta  and threw it in Leda’s lap. From it sprang Helen, who excelled all other girls in beauty. Leda called her her own daughter. Others say that Jove, in the form of a swan, lay with Leda. We shall leave the matter undecided.  Latin Text

Reggio Calabria, Museo Nazionale Archeologico.  Attic red-figure pyxis fragments.  Leda.


Bonn, Akademisches Kunstsammlung 78.  Attic red-fgirue crater by Polion. Tyndareos, Leda, the Dioskouroi.

Beazley Archive

Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 99.539.  Attic stemless cup by the Xenotimos Painter.  Leda and egg.

Boston Museum of Fine Arts on line

Athens, National Museum 19447.  Attic red-figure hydria.  Leda.

Beazley Archive

Paus 1.33.8 – Pausanias, Geography of Greece

Having heard this legend Pheidias has represented Helen as being led to Nemesis by Leda, and he has represented Tyndareus and his children with a man Hippeus by name standing by with a horseGreek Text

Hel 16-21 – Euripides, Helen

My own fatherland, Sparta, is not without fame, and my father is Tyndareus; but there is indeed a story that Zeus flew to my mother Leda, taking the form of a bird, a swan, [20] which accomplished the deceitful union, fleeing the pursuit of an eagle, if this story is true.  Greek Text

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Artistic sources edited by R. Ross Holloway, Elisha Benjamin Andrews Professor Emeritus, Brown University, October 2017.

Literary sources edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, February 2024.

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