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Greek Gods and Goddess: Phoroneus

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Phoroneus depending on the source consulted is linked in marriage to as many as eight different wives, although not all of them appear to have provided him with children. Phoroneus (setter of prices) himself was recorded to be the son of Inachus (strong and lean) the river god, and son of Oceanus and Tethys, either by the Oceanid Melia or Argia.

Explanation of titles and meanings

(River gods are not by themselves fertile as they lack salt, but when mated with a daughter of the sea an Oceanid, the problem is immediately solved. The meaning behind the title Inachus, strong and lean, may be due to the fact that the river now known as the Panitsa often runs dry in the summer, indeed it is recorded that in a dispute between Poseidon and Hera over Argolis, Poseidon refused to be judged by the gods of Olympus, saying they had already prejudged the matter. So, Zeus called upon the river gods Inachus, Cephissus (is a tributary of the Inachus), and Asterion to decide the matter and they found in Hera’ favour. Poseidon was outraged but he was forbidden to cause a flood as he had done in a previous dispute, so he cursed the rivers so that they would dry up in the summer.


Meaning a setter, or bringer of prices, or fire bringer, comes about as his name stems from Fearinus, the dawn of the growing year, the Spring festival, the spirit of the Alder tree presides over the 4th month of the sacred year when the Spring fire festival took place and thus as Alder trees tend to grow near or on the banks of rivers, thus they are seen as sons of the river god, in this case, Phoroneus son of the river god Inachus. Thus, we could rightly say that the success or failure of that month, determines the price of goods, especially food crops. Hence Phoroneus was the mythical founder of the market town called Phoronicum, later renamed Argos. Phoroneus was also pretended to be the first to use fire after Prometheus had stolen it from the gods and given it to mankind.


However, his mother Melia was a nymph of the Ash tree, which presided over the 3rd month of the sacred year, and is said to court, entice the flash, that being lightning, and the fires started by lightning strikes on trees was in fact deemed, mankind’s first source of fire. Thus, we might sensible conceive that the idea that man, in the form of Prometheus, deed indeed steal, or at least make use of the power revealed to them by the gods of thunder and lightning.

The Sacred Year

The sacred or set year, does not conform to the year of the moveable zodiac, it begins in Aquarius, the fact that the myth around Phoroneus connects him to the 4th month (our April) and Melia to the 3rd (our March) tells us several things, firstly it relates to the Egyptian set year, and indeed, they must have adopted it from them. The ancient Egyptians and the author of the first five books of the Old Testament, have the complete cycle of the zodiac, starting in the Age of Aquarius, where they also sight that it will end. This set zodiac has little to do with the moveable zodiac, which the Egyptians and the author Moses also recognised and understood. It is well enough for me to say at this point, that March, Aries as it is, was considered the most dangerous time as far as lightning storms were concerned, and it was the 3rd month of the sacred static calendar, and April was considered the 4th month, and was highly important in terms of the agricultural year, even in England we say, April showers bring May flowers. The Greek wind god Zephyrus was the personification of the West wind, known for its gentleness, was said to aid the bearing, setting- fertilisation of fruit flowers, and hold dominion over plants and flowers in general. He is reported to have had several wives, including, Iris goddess of rainbows. Chloris (see file) with whom he fathered Karpos (fruit). So let us return to the story of Phoroneus and see what it reveals.

The wives of Phoroneus

The possible wives of Phoroneus, include, Cinna, or Cerdo, Laodice or Teledice, or Perimede, or Peitho, or Europe, or even Niobe? Of Cinna I can find nothing, apart that Lucius Cornelius Cinna was the father of Cornelia the wife of Julius Caesar.


Along with the likes of Phorcis, and Choere were sow goddess’ who were said to tread in the corn seed, and make it sprout, and were connected to the moon, but as Phorcys, (is the male spelling of Phorcis) is connected with the devouring and mutilation of dead corpses, Cerdo may have connections to the mythical witches that could change their form at will, and were said to disfigure the dead, by changing themselves into the likes of weasels, and vixen, flies, mice and other rodents, who smelling dead bodies, were attracted to nibble or bit off certain parts. There is no mention of any offspring from this supposed union of Phoroneus, so, at this point the said union seems doubtful.

Laodice, Perimede, and Teledice

Of Laodice (justice of the people), although there at least eleven women by that name, none of them appear to have the slightest link to Phoroneus. Perimede, once again we have five, but no evidence that any of them ever associated with Phoroneus, and on Teledice, nothing is said, so we can only suspect that the authors had no idea who his wife was and merely picked the names out of a hat.


Only one source reports her to be the consort of Phoroneus, saying she was the mother of Aegialeus and Apia, but Aegialeus is said to the eldest son of the king of Argos, Adrastus and Amphithea. Apia, which is a form of Apis, at least three sources name Apis as the son of Phoroneus via Teledice, if this is correct then he was yet another king of Argos, who ruled tyrannically and was slain by Theixion and Telcis, but this is questionable as Telcis was a mythical king of Sicyon and son of Europs, thus was said to be a grandson of Aegialeus, and father of Apis, who in turn was the father of Theixion? Not only that it seems it is reported that Aphrodite Pandemos and Peitho had a joint cult sanctuary at Sicyon, and also at Athens, Peitho being goddess of seduction and persuasion, and was linked to the Roman goddess Suadela. In other words, Peitho was not a woman or a nymph.


I can find no mention of Europa with regards to Phoroneus.


Niobe (snowy), it was said that she was a daughter of Tantalus (most wretched, lurching), and either, by Eurynassa (wide ruling queen, a moon goddess), daughter of the river god Pactolus, or Clytia (famous) the daughter of Amphidamantas, or by Dione (divine queen), one of stars of the Pleiades, or, Eurythemista (wide order), daughter of the river god Xanthus (yellow). Niobe had two brothers Broteas and Pelops. It is not absolutely clear whom Niobe married, it may have been Phoroneus, or Amphion, but it is variously reported that she had up to eighteen, but fourteen seems more likely as it was said, she had seven sons and seven daughters. She is most noted for her foolish boasting and chiding of the goddess Leto. It was said the questioned why anyone should worship Leto, who had bore only two children, Artemis and Apollo when she had fourteen, seven boys and seven girls all of beautiful beyond compare. She added further insult to injury, by adding that not only had Leto but two, but that one was an effeminate male (Apollo), and the other a manly woman (Artemis). Artemis, then informed her children of the insults and sent them to take revenge. Artemis and Apollo gathered their arrows and Artemis shoot all but one of her daughters, while Apollo went after the boys killing all but one, it was said Amyclas and probably Meliboea were spared. It was said that Amphion their father killed himself, or was killed by Apollo, while Niobe fled to mount Sipylus and was turned to stone. There is another variation on this story, in which Niobe is said to be the daughter of Assaon, and is wedded to Philottus. Niobe later argues with Leto for the same reasons as previously stated, but this time Leto takes different course for her revenge. Firstly, she has Philottus killed while he is out hunting, and secondly, her own father makes sexual advances to her, but she refuses him, and he then invites all her children to a feast, where he burns them all. Niobe flings herself from a rock and her father disgraced commits suicide.

Explanation of Niobe

What we have here is a myth based on either seven weeks, or seven months. The Egyptians recognised a three-season year in which seven months were allotted to Spring Summer and five months to Winter, a separate season for Autumn was not known to them. And ancient Greeks seemed in the earliest times to follow the same course of reasoning. So, Niobe would have been a title of the moon, as was the Egyptian Isis; one son and one daughter was allotted to each of the seven months. Thus, starting from Aries (2) Taurus (4) Gemini (6) Cancer (8) Leo (10) Virgo (12), the last two would be spared, as Libra was seen as being half in late Summer, and half in the very beginning of Winter. Thus, the last pair of Summer were to become the first pair of Winter. The same idea happens at the end of the year, which is explained in detail in, Heracles the Birth and other myths under the fifty sons of Aegyptus and fifty daughters of Danaus; in which forty-nine of Danaus’ daughters, kill forty-nine of Aegyptus sons, the last pair become the first pair of the new year. The second version-part of the myth relates to the burning of the stubble left after harvesting, or sometimes the burning of entire crops, stocks and all sometimes caused by lightning strikes.


I can find no real evidence to support the idea that Phoroneus really married any woman, or had any real children by them, even Apia-Apis was probably a bull god cult imported from Egypt. Nevertheless, we are treated to a list of his supposed offspring, who are named as, Car, Chthonia, Clymenus, Sparton, Lyrcus and Europs? But I very much suspect that they were not children, but either cities, regions or tribes, or maybe just mythical gods, so let us take a closer look.

The Children of Phoroneus


Car is reported to have been the king of Megara (passingly lovely) and a son of Phoroneus and Cerdo, apparently the Acropolis at Megara was known as Caria after him. The author Herodotus reveals something important to our present enquiry, writing that Car, was a brother of Lydus and Mysus, whose names gave rise to the tribes of the Carians, Lydians, and Mysians. And Pliny the Elder, (who with his son Pliny the younger, possessed great knowledge) credits Car with inventing the Auspicia, that is Augury, the ability to divine, prophesize by the observation of birds, the word Car is also the root of our English word Carrion, dead or rotting flesh, which birds like the crow so love to feed on. Lastly, Car was credited with building temples to Demeter, from which Megara was named, after the goddess under her name, Demeter Megara, Demeter the beautiful one.


Originally, a word signified that which was born within or from the earth, the Greek gods most commonly associated with the word were Persephone and her mother Demeter, Hades, in the Egyptian religion they included, Geb, Seth and Osiris, almost any god with connections to underworld could qualify. The sacrificial rituals conducted for such gods, were usually performed at night. Thus, it would be a very strange name for a child.


Clymenus (notorious) and his sister Chthonia were credited with founding a sanctuary in Demeter’s honour. Demeter was the sister of Hades, and Clymenus was also a title of Hades. There are eleven characters in Greek myth by this name, and after careful consideration of the separate stories, a suspect, the name has to do with revenge and ritual sacrifice; Clymenus, the king of Arcadia committed incest with his daughter Harpalyce (ravenous she-wolf). When he later spurned her, and married her off to Alaster (avenger) she killed the resulting child and cooked and served him to Clymenus, he then hanged himself and she was turned into a bird of prey. Another Clymenus got into a foolish argument with some Thebans and was mortally wounded when Perieres, the charioteer threw a stone at him, he commanded his son Ergines (confiner) to revenge his death, which later did when he led a war against Thebes. Yet another Clymenus killed Hodites (wayfarer) a son of Heracles, when a fight between Phineus (sea eagle) and Perseus broke out.


There is not one jot of obvious information, on Sparton. Therefore, I can only assume, that the name should be Spartan, or more likely Sparta, the wife of the mythical king of Laconia, Lacedaemon, who named Sparta in honour of her. Sparta was recorded as being the daughter of Eurotas (a river god) also a king of Laconia and his wife Clete (invoked; no doubt a spring goddess, as water, not the season). Eurotas himself was reported to be the son of Myles, a mythical king of Laconia, who was the son of Lelex and Cleocharia (a river nymph, thus a Naiad), who had four sons, Myles, Polycaon, Pterelaus, and Cleson. Lelex’ parentage may seem confused, for they are variously quoted as either, Poseidon and Libya, Helios the sun god or he was a chthonic god (that being born from the ground). At this point I feel it is necessary to discuss a few points, because certain situations occurring in this story, occur over and over in a great number of myths.

If a male god, or deity, is born to Nereus, Pontus, Oceanus, or Poseidon, (they are all sea-salt water gods) they are ninety-nine percent of the time going to be river god, if they are female, they will be a Nereid, or an Oceanid, all female deities whether born of sea or river can be classified as nymphs, but all female nymphs born to a river god are Naiads, or Danaides, the latter two are generally infertile. But if a river god mates with a nereid, or Oceanid, then he can father children. The reason is simply enough, a fertile womb is salty, whereas rivers, springs, wells and fountains are not. Thus we come back to the question of who fathered Lelex? It cannot logically be the sun Helios, but, rivers as they burst or spring forth from the earth, are also doubtful, as Lelex marries an infertile naiad called Cleocharia, so he has to be a salty son of Poseidon. But could he be the offspring of Poseidon and Libya? On the face of it there is more than one answer, the first being that as all rivers are considered to be the sons of the sea, thus, Lelex could be the ancient name of a river in Libya, however, this should make him infertile, and as he marries an infertile naiad, how could he have produced children? Well there is an answer to what might seem an impossible question to resolve. To the ancient Greeks the title Libya, encompassed all the land at the top of Africa, including Egypt, the whole of Africa beyond the desert was collectively known as Ethopia, and they knew very little about it. And it is the land which we have for so long known as Egypt which holds the key to resolving the problem.


The ancient Egyptians, or at least their country possessed two of the greatest natural wonders of the ancient world, the most obvious was the Nile, which was to them the most fertile river known to mankind. Its annual flood re-fertilized the land, it was considered the earthly twin of the Milky Way, which they believed was the river of sperm, that flowed from the Creator, the Word, and impregnated the entire heavens. The other great natural wonder was the saltiness of its sands, thus, I would suspect that Lelex’s parentage could well have included Poseidon and Libya, as far as the ancient Greeks were concerned Egypt was part of Libya, but it also remains possible that Cleocharia, may have been a daughter of the River god Nilius, the Nile of Egypt?


It came to pass that Io (moon) the daughter of the river god Inachus, was abducted by bandits, her father sent several men to look for including one of his grandsons Lyrcus. But Lyrcus could find no trace of her on land or sea and eventually gave up on the quest. But he was too scared of his father to return empty handed and he fled to Kaunus (L. Caunus) in Caria, where he supposedly married Hilebia the daughter of king Aegialus (or, Aegialeus, who may have been his father’s brother). The years ebbed by, and Lyrcus and Hilebia had no children, in frustration he made his way to the oracle of Didyma, which was connected to the mother goddess, known as Cybele, later to Artemis, where the main rituals concerned water, mother earth, as the multi breasted mother and feeder of all that lived was one of the earliest gods obvious to us from the worldwide distribution, of what appears to be very round, fat, and often multi-breasted and thus was a fertility goddess, this was the very same goddess that the ancient of ancients, whom we call cavemen, visited and prayed to in the deepest caves, in the only way they knew how by drawing of painting pictures. The oracle’s reply, was simply enough, it said the first women he bedded with after leaving the oracle would conceive his child. Delighted Lyrcus left the shrine and headed home, but on the journey home he paused at Bybastus, or Bubastos, where he was welcomed and entertained with much wine by Staphylus (however, it is recorded that Staphylus [cluster of grapes] was the son of Dionysus the god of wine and Araidne [weaver, spinner, spider] and he resided at Naxos, however it is related that he knew what the oracle had revealed to Lyrcus, which either means Dionysus was visiting the shrine himself, for his own reasons and overheard what was said, or, Lyrcus told him, in his intoxicated state.) however we are told that Staphylus, by his wife Chrysothemis, had three daughters, Parthenos (maiden-virgin), Rhoeo (pomegranate), and Hemithea (half divine). One night, Parthenos and Hemithea were commanded to watch over Dionysus store of wine, but they fell asleep; on waking they found a hog that was kept as a family pet had smashed the great jar, fearing the worst when their father found out they hurried to a nearby cliff and jumped off. But Apollo who was besotted by their sister Rhoeo at the time did not want her upset so he rescued them both taking Hemithea to Castabus and Parthenos to Bubastus. Both sisters were welcomed as deities, and rendered divine honours. It is recorded that a Hemithea was originally or after her attempt at suicide called Molpadia (swan song, or song of death). Nevertheless, for some reason Staphylus was anxious for Hemithea to bear him an heir, so after plying Lyrcus with copious amounts of wine, to the point where he had lost all control of his senses he guided him to a bed, and sent Hemithea to join him, but not before Hemithea and her sister Rhoeo had a bitter argument over who should share his bed? The next morning Lyrcus woke up beside Hemithea and realising what had happened, he poured out his wrath on Staphylus, but soon realised all his anger was in vain, thus he took off his belt and gave it to Hemithea, telling her that when the child came of age he should seek him out, and bring the belt as proof of heritage. (we might do well to reflect on the OT. Story of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar.) Lyrcus then returned home, but when told Aegialeus and Hilebia what had happened Aegialeus banished him, although Helibia stood by him, which resulted in a lengthy war. But eventually Lyrcus gained the throne. And when some years later his son Basilus, arrived with the belt, he accepted him as his rightful heir and relinquished the throne to him. Other sources say Aegialeus died childless, and another that he was the father of Europs? I suspect that the name Hilebia, has a connection to trees, or woods, and one of the chief exports of Kaunus was a resin collected from pine trees. I also note that a nymph called Melia, or Meliae, was recorded as being the mother of Phoroneus and Aegialeus by Inachus, but the Meliae were also, connected to trees being considered ash tree nymphs.


Europs (wide eyed) was supposedly a son of Phoroneus, who was one of the sons of Melia, an Oceanid, by the river god Inachus. However, another source says he was the son of Aegialeus, Phoroneus’ brother. He succeeded Lyrcus as king of Kaunus -Caria, either because he had no offspring, or because was the natural heir to the throne. It is a little confusing, as in the story of Lyrcus, Europs inherits Lyrcus’ crown?


Overall, I suspect that Phoroneus (of Spring, or setter of prices) did indeed, represent the Spring Sun, or the growth of vegetation that came with it, his brother Aegialeus (of the seashore) was the king of Kaunus, at first separate but later joined with Caria, Kaunus was a major seaport, having two main harbours or access points, but over the centuries, first due to the forming of Iztuzu beach, and later to the inner port drying out it gradually lost its importance. I am given to think that Phoroneus had a connection with the flow of the Inachus river, because when Io, the moon was abducted Inachus the river god, who was father of Phoroneus, and Aegialeus sent Lyrcus a son of Phoroneus to find her, but she had vanished, but it was believed that the moon was the source of all water, and when she disappeared the river Inachus, could no longer reach Aegialeus, the seashore. It makes further sense when I cannot help feeling that Lyrcus is just a bastardisation of Lycus, a wolf, who better to send to look for the moon.


In truth the part of this myth from Lyrcus to its end, seems to an explanation of how Kaunos, Caunus, at one point a very wealthy port and trading city, gradually lost its importance, eventually being wholly deserted. As the inconsistent river flow, silting of the harbours and forming of the Iztuzu Beach left the city some 5miles inland.

Argia and Phoroneus

The ancient city of Argos, was reportedly founded by Phoroneus, and as the mainstay of the region was agriculture, it ties in with his title as Setter of prices. In the Argive mythical culture, in connection with Niobe, Phoroneus is said to be the father of three sons, Agenor, Pelasgus and Jasus, after their father’s demise, it was reported that Pelasgus became ruler of area around the Erasmus river, where he built his capital Larissa, he was credited with teaching the people agriculture, whom he learned from Demeter. And Jasus received the area around Elis, and after their deaths their younger brother Agenor invaded their territory and became king of Argos. The parentage of these three is varies greatly, but in reality, it appears to be a myth or part of a myth on how the Peloponnese region was populated. To fully understand this, we must turn our attention to its mythical founder Pelops (muddy face, dark eyes,) see SV book on Pelops.