Deucalion And Pyrrha Analysis Essay

Metamorphoses Book 1: Deucalion and Pyrrha

Deucalion and Pyrrha were the only survivors of the flood. Their raft grounded at the peak of Mount Parnassus, and they immediately gave thanks to the gods of the mountain and to the prophetess Themis, guardian of the oracle. Because Deucalion and his wafer (wife?) were righteous, Jove made the storms abate. Neptune called the waters back into their banks and Earth was restored.

When the mortals realized that they were the only remaining humans on earth, they were daunted by the prospect of repopulating the earth. Desiring to do the gods' will, Deucalion and his wife went to an oracle to seek guidance from Themis. The couple asked the goddess how to restore mankind to the earth, and the goddess told them: "'Leave / My temple, veil your heads, loosen your robes, / And cast behind you your great mother's bones.'" Book 1 -- Deucalion and Pyrrha, line 376-9 This command baffled Pyrrha because throwing her mother's bones would be disrespectful to her mother's ghost, and so Deucalion decided that Themis meant that Earth is their great mother and her bones are stones. So Deucalion and Pyrhha followed the command, and as the stones landed behind them, they lost their rigid shape and grew into mortal forms. The stones that Deucalion had thrown became men and the stones that Pyrrha threw behind her became women. The warmth of the sun and the moisture of the recently flooded earth combined to sprout new forms of life and to rekindle other life forms that the great flood had destroyed.

In this production of life, the earth even formed a great serpent never seen before. Men called this monstrous snake, Python, and it sprawled across an entire mountainside striking fear into the hearts of mortals everywhere. Apollo, the Archer god, destroyed the enormous snake with a thousand of his arrows, and then to ensure that man would not forget the great feat he had performed, Apollo founded the sacred games known as Pythian.

For other uses, see Deucalion (disambiguation).

Deucalion (; Greek: Δευκαλίων) was the son of Prometheus; ancient sources name his mother as Clymene, Hesione, or Pronoia.[1] He is closely connected with the Flood myth.


According to folk etymology, Deucalion's name comes from δεῦκος, deukos, a variant of γλεῦκος, gleucos, i.e. "sweet new wine, must, sweetness"[2][3] and ἁλιεύς, haliéus, i.e. "sailor, seaman, fisher".[4] His wife Pyrrha's name is derived from the adjective πυρρός, -ά, -όν, pyrrhós, -á, -ón, i.e. "flame-colored, orange".[5]

Deucalion is parallel to Utnapishtim, the survivor of the Sumerian flood that is told in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and to the BiblicalNoah.[6][7]

In ancient Greek mythography[edit]


Of Deucalion's birth, the Argonautica (from the 3rd century BC) states:

"There [in Achaea, i.e. Greece] is a land encircled by lofty mountains, rich in sheep and in pasture, where Prometheus, son of Iapetus, begat goodly Deucalion, who first founded cities and reared temples to the immortal gods, and first ruled over men. This land the neighbours who dwell around callHaemonia [i.e. Thessaly]."

Deucalion and Pyrrha had at least two children, Hellen and Protogenea, and possibly a third, Amphictyon (who is Autochthonous in other traditions).

Their children as apparently named in one of the oldest texts, Catalogue of Women, include daughters Pandora and Thyia, and at least one son, Hellen.[8] Their descendants were said to have dwelt in Thessaly. One corrupt fragment might make Deucalion the son of Prometheus and Pronoea.[9]

Deluge accounts[edit]

The flood in the time of Deucalion was caused by the anger of Zeus, ignited by the hubris of the Pelasgians. So Zeus decided to put an end to the Bronze Age. According to this story, Lycaon, the king of Arcadia, had sacrificed a boy to Zeus, who was appalled by this savage offering. Zeus unleashed a deluge, so that the rivers ran in torrents and the sea flooded the coastal plain, engulfed the foothills with spray, and washed everything clean. Deucalion, with the aid of his father Prometheus, was saved from this deluge by building a chest.[10] Like the Biblical Noah and the Mesopotamian counterpart Utnapishtim, he uses his device to survive the deluge with his wife, Pyrrha.

The fullest accounts are provided in Ovid's Metamorphoses (8 AD) and in the Library of Pseudo-Apollodorus.[11] Deucalion, who reigned over the region of Phthia, had been forewarned of the flood by his father, Prometheus. Deucalion was to build a chest and provision it carefully (no animals are rescued in this version of the Flood myth), so that when the waters receded after nine days, he and his wife Pyrrha, daughter of Epimetheus, were the one surviving pair of humans. Their chest touched solid ground on Mount Parnassus,[12] or Mount Etna in Sicily,[13] or Mount Athos in Chalkidiki,[14] or Mount Othrys in Thessaly.[15]

Hyginus mentions the opinion of a Hegesianax that Deucalion is to be identified with Aquarius, "because during his reign such quantities of water poured from the sky that the great Flood resulted."

Once the deluge was over and the couple had given thanks to Zeus, Deucalion (said in several of the sources to have been aged 82 at the time) consulted an oracle of Themis about how to repopulate the earth. He was told to cover your head and throw the bones of your mother behind your shoulder. Deucalion and Pyrrha understood that "mother" is Gaia, the mother of all living things, and the "bones" to be rocks. They threw the rocks behind their shoulders and the stones formed people. Pyrrha's became women; Deucalion's became men.

The 2nd-century writer Lucian gave an account of the Greek Deucalion in De Dea Syria that seems to refer more to the Near Eastern flood legends: in his version, Deucalion (whom he also calls Sisythus)[16] took his children, their wives, and pairs of animals with him on the ark, and later built a great temple in Manbij (northern Syria), on the site of the chasm that received all the waters; he further describes how pilgrims brought vessels of sea water to this place twice a year, from as far as Arabia and Mesopotamia, to commemorate this event.[citation needed]

Variant stories[edit]

On the other hand, Dionysius of Halicarnassus stated his parents to be Prometheus and Clymene, daughter of Oceanus and mentions nothing about a flood, but instead names him as commander of those from Parnassus who drove the "sixth generation" of Pelasgians from Thessaly.[17]

One of the earliest Greek historians, Hecataeus of Miletus, was said to have written a book about Deucalion, but it no longer survives. The only extant fragment of his to mention Deucalion does not mention the flood either, but names him as the father of Orestheus, king of Aetolia. The much later geographer Pausanias, following on this tradition, names Deucalion as a king of Ozolian Locris and father of Orestheus.

Plutarch mentions a legend that Deucalion and Pyrrha had settled in Dodona, Epirus; while Strabo asserts that they lived at Cynus, and that her grave is still to be found there, while his may be seen at Athens; he also mentions a pair of Aegean islands named after the couple.[citation needed]

Mosaic accretions[edit]

John Lemprière, in Bibliotheca Classica, notes that as the story was re-told in later versions, it accumulated details from the stories of Noah and Moses: "Thus Apollodorus gives Deucalion a great chest as a means of safety; Plutarch speaks of the pigeons by which he sought to find out whether the waters had retired; and Lucian of the animals of every kind which he had taken with him. &c."[18]

Dating by early scholars[edit]

For some time during the Middle Ages, many European Christian scholars continued to accept Greek mythical history at face value, thus asserting that Deucalion's flood was a regional flood, that occurred a few centuries later than the global one survived by Noah's family. On the basis of the archaeological stele known as the Parian Chronicle, Deucalion's Flood was usually fixed as occurring sometime around c. 1528 BC. Deucalion's flood may be dated in the chronology of Saint Jerome to c. 1460 BC. According to Augustine of Hippo (City of God XVIII,8,10,&11), Deucalion and his father Prometheus were contemporaries of Moses. According to Clement of Alexandria in his Stromata, " the time of Crotopus occurred the burning of Phaethon, and the deluges of Deucalion."[citation needed]


The descendants of Deucalion and Pyrrha are below:

  • Hellen, Amphictyon, Orestheus, Protogeneia, Pandora II and Thyia are their children.
  • Aeolus, Aethlius, Dorus, Graecus, Makednos, Magnes, Xuthus are their grandsons.






























































































































































































Popular culture[edit]

  • Deucalion is the name chosen by Frankenstein's monster in the 2005 book Dean Koontz's Frankenstein by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson.[19]
  • In The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series by James A. Owen, Deucalion is an ancient shipbuilder who taught animals to walk and talk. He has many sons, including Sobek, Hor, and Amun, and built dragonships. He is also called Thoth and Ordo Maas, and is the ancestor of Odysseus, Merlin, and King Arthur.[20]
  • In the anime series Kiddy Grade, Deucalion is the name given to a massive ship that was intended to take the upper class of the galaxy away to a new space where they believed they could escape the growing revolutionary movements rippling through the galactic government.
  • Deucalion (Gideon Emery) is the name of the Season 3 antagonist in MTV's Teen Wolf, written by Jeff Davis. He is the leader of the Alpha werewolf pack, and is intent on pitting Scott McCall (Tyler Posey), and Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin) against each other. He brought his pack to Beacon Hills because of the word of a Kanima. It is later revealed that while blinded (by Gerard) he can see as a wolf. Later on, he returns to Beacon Hills in Season 5 pretending to be an ally of Theo Raeken but secretly a friend and helper of Scott. He betrays Theo and breaks his neck but Gerard shoots him. He escapes but nothing more is known of him.
  • Deucalion is the name of the protagonist of the novel The Lost Continent: The Story of Atlantis, by C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne. He is the only survivor of the fall of the continent Atlantis.
  • In the anime series Aldnoah.Zero, Deucalion is the name of a flying battleship powered by an ancient super-science engine discovered in the ruins of the island of Tanegashima by the series protagonists.

See also[edit]


Primary sources[edit]

  • Hesiod, Catalogue of Women fragments 2–7 and 234 (7th or 6th century BC)
  • Hecataeus of Miletus, frag. 341 (500 BC)
  • Pindar, Olympian Odes 9 (466 BC)
  • Plato, "Timaeus" 22B, "Critias" 112A (4th century BC)
  • Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 3.1086 (3rd century BC)
  • Virgil, Georgics 1.62 (29 BC)
  • Gaius Julius Hyginus, Fabulae 153; Poeticon astronomicon 2.29 (c. 20 BC)
  • Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 1.17.3 (c. 15 BC)
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.318ff.; 7.356 (c. 8 AD)
  • Strabo, Geographica, 9.4 (c. 23 AD)
  • Bibliotheca 1.7.2 (c. 1st century AD?)
  • Plutarch, Life of Pyrrhus, 1 (75 AD)
  • Lucian, De Dea Syria 12, 13, 28, 33 (2nd century AD)
  • Pausanias, Description of Greece 10.38.1 (2nd century AD)
  • Nonnus, Dionysiaca 3.211; 6.367 (c. 500 AD)

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Deucalion.
  • Deucalion from Charles Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1867), with source citations and some variants not given here.
  • Deucalion from Carlos Parada, Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology.
  • Images of Deucalion and Pyrrha in the Warburg Institute Iconographic Database
Deucalin from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum "
Deucalion and Pyrrha casting the bones of their mother
  1. ^The scholia to Odyssey 10.2 names Clymene as the commonly identified mother, along with Hesione (citing Acusilaus, FGrH 2 F 34) and possibly Pronoia.
  2. ^δεῦκος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  3. ^γλεῦκος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  4. ^ἁλιεύς. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  5. ^πυρρός. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  6. ^"Genesis 6 NIV - Wickedness in the World - When human". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  7. ^"Epic of Gilgamesh". Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  8. ^Hes. Catalogue fragments 2, 5 and 7; cf. M.L. West (1985) The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women. Oxford, pp. 50–2, who posits that a third daughter, Protogeneia, who was named at (e.g.) Pausanias, 5.1.3, was also present in the Catalogue.
  9. ^A scholium to Odyssey 10.2 (=Catalogue fr. 4) reports that Hesiod called Deucalion's mother "Pryneie" or "Prynoe", corrupt forms which Dindorf believed to conceal Pronoea's name. The emendation is considered to have "undeniable merit" by A. Casanova (1979) La famiglia di Pandora: analisi filologica dei miti di Pandora e Prometeo nella tradizione esiodea. Florence, p. 145.
  10. ^Pleins, J. David (2010). When the great abyss opened : classic and contemporary readings of Noah's flood ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-19-973363-7. 
  11. ^Apollodorus' library at
  12. ^Pindar, Olympian Odes, 9.43; cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses, I.313–347
  13. ^"Hyginus' Fabulae 153". 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  14. ^Servius' commentary on Virgil's Bucolics, 6:41
  15. ^Hellanicus, FGrH 4 F 117, quoted by the scholia to Pindar, Olympia 9.62b: "Hellanicus says that the chest didn't touch down on Parnassus, but by Othrys in Thessaly.
  16. ^The manuscripts transmit scythea, "Scythian", rather than Sisythus, which is conjectural.
  17. ^Dionysius of Halicarnassensis, The Roman Antiquities of Dionysius Halicarnassensis, Volume 1
  18. ^Lemprière, John. Bibliotheca Classica, page 475.
  19. ^Koontz, Dean and Kevin J. Anderson. Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Book One Prodigal Son. New York: Bantam, 2005.
  20. ^Owen, James A. "Here, There Be Dragons". New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.


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