The Daughters of Minyas (page 736 lower)

Chapter 18: Other Myths 

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Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 10

MINYADES: Nicander tells this tale in the fourth book of his Metamorphoses, as does Comma. The daughters of Minyas, son of Orchomenus, were Leucippe, Arsippe and Alcathoe. They turned out to be startlingly diligent. They strongly criticized other women because they abandoned the city to go as Bacchantes in the hills, until Dionysus took on the likeness of a girl and urged the Minyades not to miss out on the rites or mysteries of the god. But they paid no heed to him. At this — not surprisingly — Dionysus was angered and instead of a girl became a bull, then a lion, then a leopard. From the beams of their looms there flowed for him milk and nectar. At these portents terror gripped the maidens. Without delay the three threw lots into a pot and shook it. The lot fell to Leucippe and she vowed to offer as a sacrifice to the god her own son Hippasus whom she tore to pieces with the help of her sisters. Abandoning their paternal home, they went as Bacchantes in the mountains, browsing on ivy, honeysuckle and laurel, until Hermes touched them with his wand and changed them into flying creatures. One of them became a bat, another an owl and the third an eagle owl. And all three continuously avoided the light of the sun.  Greek Text

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.1-42

Alcithoe, daughter of King Minyas,
consents not to the orgies of the God;
denies that Bacchus is the son of Jove,
and her two sisters join her in that crime.

‘Twas festal-day when matrons and their maids,
keeping it sacred, had forbade all toil.—
And having draped their bosoms with wild skins,
they loosed their long hair for the sacred wreaths,
and took the leafy thyrsus in their hands;—
for so the priest commanded them. Austere
the wrath of Bacchus if his power be scorned.

Mothers and youthful brides obeyed the priest;
and putting by their wickers and their webs,
dropt their unfinished toils to offer up
frankincense to the God; invoking him
with many names:—“O Bacchus! O Twice-born!
O Fire-begot! Thou only child Twice-mothered!
God of all those who plant the luscious grape!
Liber!” All these names and many more,
for ages known—throughout the lands of Greece.

“Thy youth is not consumed by wasting time;
and lo, thou art an ever-youthful boy,
most beautiful of all the Gods of Heaven,
smooth as a virgin when thy horns are hid.—
The distant east to tawny India‘s clime,
where rolls remotest Ganges to the sea,
was conquered by thy might.—O Most-revered!
Thou didst destroy the doubting Pentheus,
and hurled the sailors’ bodies in the deep,
and smote Lycurgus, wielder of the ax.

“And thou dost guide thy lynxes, double-yoked,
with showy harness.—Satyrs follow thee;
and Bacchanals, and old Silenus, drunk,
unsteady on his staff; jolting so rough
on his small back-bent ass; and all the way
resounds a youthful clamour; and the screams
of women! and the noise of tambourines!
And the hollow cymbals! and the boxwood flutes,—
fitted with measured holes.—Thou art implored
by all Ismenian women to appear
peaceful and mild; and they perform thy rites.”

Only the daughters of King Minyas
are carding wool within their fastened doors,
or twisting with their thumbs the fleecy yarn,
or working at the web. So they corrupt
the sacred festival with needless toil,
keeping their hand-maids busy at the work.

And one of them, while drawing out the thread
with nimble thumb, anon began to speak;
“While others loiter and frequent these rites
fantastic, we the wards of Pallas, much
to be preferred, by speaking novel thoughts
may lighten labour. Let us each in turn,
relate to an attentive audience,
a novel tale; and so the hours may glide.”
it pleased her sisters, and they ordered her
to tell the story that she loved the most.  Latin Text

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.389-415

Now though the daughters of King Minyas
have made an end of telling tales, they make
no end of labour; for they so despise
the deity, and desecrate his feast.

While busily engaged, with sudden beat
they hear resounding tambourines; and pipes
and crooked horns and tinkling brass renew,
unseen, the note; saffron and myrrh dissolve
in dulcet odours; and, beyond belief,
the woven webs, dependent on the loom,
take tints of green, put forth new ivy leaves,
or change to grape-vines verdant. There the thread
is twisted into tendrils, there the warp
is fashioned into many-moving leaves—
the purple lends its splendour to the grape.

And now the day is past; it is the hour
when night ambiguous merges into day,
which dubious owns nor light nor dun obscure;
and suddenly the house begins to shake,
and torches oil-dipped seem to flare around,
and fires a-glow to shine in every room,
and phantoms, feigned of savage beasts, to howl.—

Full of affright amid the smoking halls
the sisters vainly hide, and wheresoever
they deem security from flaming fires,
fearfully flit. And while they seek to hide,
a membrane stretches over every limb,
and light wings open from their slender arms.

In the weird darkness they are unaware
what measure wrought to change their wonted shape.
No plumous vans avail to lift their flight,
yet fair they balance on membraneous wing.
Whenever they would speak a tiny voice,
diminutive, apportioned to their size,
in squeaking note complains. Adread the light,
their haunts avoid by day the leafy woods,
for sombre attics, where secure they rest
till forth the dun obscure their wings may stretch
at hour of Vesper;—this accords their name.  Latin Text

Aelianus, Varia Historia 3.42

Greek Text



Edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, March 2022.

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