Daughters of Danaus

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The Danaides (1903), a Pre-Raphaelite interpretation by John William Waterhouse

In Greek mythology, the Daughters of Danaus (/dəˈn.ɪdz/; Greek: Δαναΐδες), also Danaids, Danaides or Danaïdes, were the fifty daughters of Danaus. In the Metamorphoses,[1] Ovid refers to them as the Belides after their grandfather Belus. They were to marry the fifty sons of Danaus's twin brother Aegyptus, a mythical king of Egypt. In the most common version of the myth, all but one of them killed their husbands on their wedding night, and are condemned to spend eternity carrying water in a sieve or perforated device. In the classical tradition, they came to represent the futility of a repetitive task that can never be completed (see also Sisyphus).


The Danaides kill their husbands, miniature by Robinet Testard.

Danaus did not want his daughters to go ahead with the marriages and he fled with them in the first boat to Argos, which is located in Greece near the ancient city of Mycenae.

Danaus agreed to the marriage of his daughters only after Aegyptus came to Argos with his fifty sons in order to protect the local population, the Argives, from any battles. The daughters were ordered by their father to kill their husbands on the first night of their weddings and this they all did with the exception of one, Hypermnestra, who spared her husband Lynceus because he respected her desire to remain a virgin. Danaus was angered that his daughter refused to do as he ordered and took her to the Argives courts. Lynceus killed Danaus as revenge for the death of his brothers and he and Hypermnestra started the Danaid Dynasty of rulers in Argos.

The other forty-nine daughters remarried by choosing their mates in footraces. Some accounts tell that their punishment was in Tartarus being forced to carry a jug to fill a bathtub (pithos) without a bottom (or with a leak) to wash their sins off. Because the water was always leaking they would forever try to fill the tub. Probably this myth is connected with a ceremony having to do with the worship of waters, and the Danaides were water-nymphs.

The Danaids and their husbands[edit]


The list in the Bibliotheca[2] preserves not only the names of brides and grooms, but also those of their mothers. A lot was cast among the sons of Aegyptus to decide which of the Danaids each should marry except for those daughters born to Memphis who were joined by their namesakes, the sons of Tyria. According to Hippostratus, Danaus had all these progeny begotten by a single woman, Europa, the daughter of Nilus.[3]

Danaids Mother Aegyptus' Sons Mother of

Aegyptus' Sons

Danaids Mother Aegyptus' Sons Mother of

Aegyptus' Sons

1 Hypermnestra Elephantis Lynceus Argyphia 26 Chrysippe Memphis Chrysippus Tyria
2 Gorgophone Proteus 27 Autonoe Polyxo (a Naiad) Eurylochus Caliadne (a Naiad)
3 Automate Europe Busiris 28 Theano Phantes
4 Amymone Enceladus 29 Electra Peristhenes
5 Agave Lycus 30 Cleopatra (different one) Hermus
6 Scaea Daiphron 31 Eurydice Dryas
7 Hippodamia Atlanteia or of Phoebe,

the Hamadryads

Istrus Arabian woman 32 Glaucippe Potamon
8 Rhodia Chalcodon 33 Antheleia Cisseus
9 Cleopatra Agenor 34 Cleodore Lixus
10 Asteria Chaetus 35 Evippe (different one) Imbrus
11 Hippodamia (different one) Diocorystes 36 Erato Bromius
12 Glauce Alces 37 Stygne Polyctor
13 Hippomedusa Alcmenor 38 Bryce Chthonius
14 Gorge Hippothous 39 Actaea Pieria Periphas Gorgo
15 Iphimedusa Euchenor 40 Podarce Oeneus
16 Rhode Hippolytus 41 Dioxippe Aegyptus
17 Pirene Ethiopian woman Agaptolemus Phoenician woman 42 Adite Menalces
18 Dorion Cercetes 43 Ocypete Lampus
19 Phartis Eurydamas 44 Pylarge Idmon
20 Mnestra Aegius 45 Hippodice Herse Idas Hephaestine
21 Evippe Argius 46 Adiante Daiphron (different one)
22 Anaxibia Archelaus 47 Callidice Crino Pandion
23 Nelo Menemachus 48 Oeme Arbelus
24 Clite Memphis Clitus Tyria 49 Celaeno Hyperbius
25 Sthenele Sthenelus 50 Hyperippe Hippocorystes


Hyginus' list[4] is partially corrupt and some of the names are nearly illegible. Nevertheless, it is evident that this catalogue has almost nothing in common with that of Pseudo-Apollodorus.

Danaids Aegyptus' Sons Danaids Aegyptus' Sons Danaids Aegyptus' Sons Danaids Aegyptus' Sons Danaids Aegyptus' Sons
1 Midea Antimachus 11 Myrmidone Mineus 21 Glaucippe Niauius 31 Oeme Polydector 41 Pirene Dolichus
2 Philomela Panthius 12 Eurydice Canthus 22 Demophile Pamphilus 32 Polybe Itonomus 42 Eupheme Hyperbius
3 Scylla Proteus 13 Cleo Asterius 23 Autodice Clytus 33 Helicta Cassus 43 Themistagora Podasimus
4 Amphicomone Plexippus 14 Arcadia Xanthus 24 Polyxena Aegyptus 34 Electra Hyperantus 44 Celaeno Aristonoos
5 Evippe Agenor 15 Cleopatra Metalces 25 Hecabe Dryas 35 Eubule Demarchus 45 Itea Antiochus
6 Demoditas Chrysippus 16 Phila Philinus 26 Acamantis Ecnomius 36 Daplidice Pugno 46 Erato Eudaemon
7 Hyale Perius 17 Hipparete Protheon 27 Arsalte Ephialtes 37 Hero Andromachus 47 Danaïs Pelops
8 Trite Enceladus 18 Chrysothemis Asterides 28 Monuste Eurysthenes 38 Europome Athletes 48 Cleopatra Hermus
9 Damone Amyntor 19 Pyrante Athamas 29 Amymone Midanus 39 Pyrantis Plexippus 49 Hypermnestra Lynceus
10 Hippothoe Obrimus 20 ? Armoasbus 30 Helice Evidea 40 Critomedia Antipaphus 50 ? ?


A third list was provided by the English antiquarian, Henry Ellis which was derived from Hyginus. The names of the Danaides was complete but with new entries and some alteration in the spellings.[5] It can be observed that the names Armoaste and Chrysanta was an addition to complete the list while Scaea and Autonomes (Automate) which was obviously borrowed from Apollodorus' accounts replaced the names of Pyrantis and Cleopatra.

Hyginus Ellis Hyginus Ellis Hyginus Ellis Hyginus Ellis Hyginus Ellis
1 Midea Idea 11 Myrmidone Mirmidone 21 Glaucippe 31 Oeme Amaome 41 Pirene Pyrene
2 Philomela 12 Eurydice Euridice 22 Demophile 32 Polybe 42 Eupheme Eupheno
3 Scylla Scillo 13 Cleo Chleo 23 Autodice 33 Helicta Helicte 43 Themistagora
4 Amphicomone Phicomene 14 Arcadia Urania 24 Polyxena 34 Electra 44 Celaeno Paleno
5 Evippe Euippe 15 Cleopatra 25 Hecabe Hecate 35 Eubule 45 Itea
6 Demoditas 16 Phila Phylea 26 Acamantis Achamantis 36 Daplidice Daphildice 46 Erato
7 Hyale 17 Hipparete Hypareta 27 Arsalte 37 Hero 47 Danaïs Danaes
8 Trite 18 Chrysothemis 28 Monuste 38 Europome Europomene 48 Cleopatra + Autonomes
9 Damone 19 Pyrante Herante 29 Amymone Amimone 39 Pyrantis + Scaea 49 Hypermnestra
10 Hippothoe 20 ? + Armoaste 30 Helice 40 Critomedia 50 ? + Chrysanta

Other Danaids[edit]

Several minor female characters, mentioned in various accounts unrelated to the main myth of Danaus and the Danaides, are also referred to as daughters of Danaus. These include:

Modern literature[edit]

The Daughters of Danaus is also the title of an 1894 novel by Mona Caird, also dealing with imposed marriage although in this case it is a single marriage instead of fifty, and in 19th-century Great Britain.

Magda Szabó's 1964 novel, A Danaida (The Danaid), is about a woman who lives selfishly for two-thirds of her life, without realizing that even she can change the course of history.

Le châtiment des Danaïdes is an essay by French-Canadian author Henri Paul Jacques applying Freudian concept of psychoanalysis to the study of the punishment imposed on the Danaids after they committed their crimes.

In Monday Begins on Saturday, it is mentioned that the Danaids had their case reviewed in modern times, and, due to mitigating circumstances (the marriage being forced), had their punishment changed to laying down and then immediately demolishing asphalt.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Book 10, lines 10–63.
  2. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, Book 2.1.5
  3. ^ John Tzetzes. Chiliades, 7.37 p. 370-371 Translated by Vasiliki Dogani
  4. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 170
  5. ^ Raphaell Holinshed, William Harrison, Richard Stanyhurst, John Hooker, Francis Thynne, Abraham Fleming, John Stow. Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Chapter 3. Henry Ellis' Edition. J. Johnson. London. 1807.
  6. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium, s. v. Olenos
  7. ^ Scholia on Homer, Iliad, 2. 499
  8. ^ Robert Graves. The Greek Myths, section 110 s.v. The Children of Pelops
  9. ^ a b Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 752
  10. ^ Tzetzes on Lycophron, 157
  11. ^ Clement of Alexandria, Recognitions, 10. 21
  12. ^ Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 230
  13. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4. 30. 2
  14. ^ Callimachus, Hymn 5 to Athena, 47-48
  15. ^ Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses, 32
  16. ^ Pausanias. Description of Greece, 3.22.11