Hermione (mythology)

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Hermione coin.png
Hermione was the daughter of Menelaus and Helen in Greek mythology
Pronunciation /hɜːrˈməˌn/[1]
Gender Female
Word/name Greek
Meaning Messenger, derived from Hermes
The Meeting of Orestes and Hermione

In Greek mythology, Hermione (Greek: Ἑρμιόνη[2]) was the only child of King Menelaus of Sparta and his wife, Helen of Troy.[3] Prior to the Trojan War, Hermione was betrothed by Tyndareus, her grandfather,[4] to Orestes. However, during the Trojan War, Menelaus promised her to Neoptolemus, also known as Pyrrhus, son of Achilles.[5]

Ancient poets disagree over whether Menelaus was involved in both betrothals. Euripides has Orestes say:

″Because, in fact, you were rightfully mine, from a long time ago. Your father has promised you to me before he left for Troy but then, the liar that he is, when he got to Troy, he offered you to Neoptolemos, your present husband, if he, in return captured the city″.

— Andromache 969, translation by George Theodoridis

Ovid, on the contrary, says that Menelaus did not even know of the promise made by Tyndareus:

(Hermione) "Tyndareus gave me to you, he, my ancestor, heavy with experience,
and years: the grandfather decided for the grand-child.
But Menelaus, my father, made a promise of me, unaware of this act.."

— Heroides 8.31., translation by A. S. Kline

According to the Odyssey, it was ten years after the end of the Trojan War that Hermione was married to Neoptolemus: when Telemachus, son of Odysseus, visited Menelaus in Sparta, he found him

"giving a marriage feast to his many kinsfolk for his noble son and daughter within his house. His daughter he was sending to the son of Achilles, breaker of the ranks of men, for in the land of Troy he first had promised and pledged that he would give her, and now the gods were bringing their marriage to pass"."

— Odyssey IV, 3–7, translation by A.T. Murray (Loeb edition)

Shortly after settling into the domestic life, conflict arose between Hermione and Andromache (widow of Hector, prince of Troy and elder brother of Paris), the concubine Neoptolemus had obtained as a prize after the sack of Troy. Hermione blamed Andromache for her inability to become pregnant, claiming that she was casting spells on her to keep her barren, she asked her father to kill Andromache while Neoptolemus was away at war, but when he chose not to go through with the murder, Hermione fled from Epirus with her cousin Orestes.

Hermione and Orestes were married, and she gave birth to his heir Tisamenus, the myths do not mention Hermione after that, though it is said that Orestes later married his half-sister Erigone, daughter of Clytemnestra and Aigisthus, who was Orestes' second cousin.

In art and literature[edit]


  1. ^ "Hermione". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House. Retrieved 2016-01-22. 
  2. ^ Ἑρμιόνη, Georg Autenrieth, A Homeric Dictionary, on Perseus project
  3. ^ Homer, Odyssey 4, 12–14
  4. ^ "wise Tyndareus, a man of sober life and many long years gave me to you" — Ovid, Heroides 8. Hermione's letter to Orestes.
  5. ^ Homer, Odyssey 4, 5–7