The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology

By Robin Hard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE

THE HISTORY OF THE DEUKALIONID FAMILY

The two greatest families in Greek heroic mythology were the Inachids, who originated in Argos, and the Deukalionids, who originated in Central Greece and spread to other areas of the Greek mainland and also to the western Peloponnese. After having devoted the preceding chapter to the greatest adventure associated with this second family, Jason’s quest for the golden fleece, we must now go on to trace its full history from the time of its founding. Deukalion, son of Prometheus, the founder of the family, and his wife Pyrrha, who was the daughter of the first woman Pandora, were the central figures in the myth that was devised to account for the origin of the people of Eastern Locris in east-central Greece. After surviving a great primordial flood that inundated much of Greece (or the whole of it or indeed the whole world in accounts from the later tradition), Deukalion and Pyrrha created a new race of people in Locris by tossing stones over their shoulders; and they also produced various children by natural process, including Hellen, the eponym of the Greek people, the Hellenes. Hellen was in his turn the father or grandfather of Aiolos, Doros, Achaios and Ion, the eponyms of the four main divisions of the Greek people, the Aeolians, Dorians, Achaeans and Ionians. None of these were of any significance as heroes of legend (apart from Ion to some limited extent). All the main heroes and heroines of the family were descended from Aiolos alone through his many sons and daughters; the history of the Deukalionids is largely the history of the Aiolids.

Aiolos, who would have lived in Central Greece near the lands of Deukalion, had seven sons and five daughters who scattered to different parts of Greece. As might be imagined from this, the present family is more complicated in its structure and history than the family of the Inachids, in which there were only three main lines located in places of the first importance. Not only did the Deukalionids come to establish ruling lines in a greater variety of places of variable significance, but each of these ruling lines tended to be prominent in mythical history for only a generation or two (in marked contrast to the Inachid lines in Argos and Thebes). Even if some of the forthcoming material is therefore bound to be of relatively limited interest, it will be worthwhile nonetheless to review the history of the family in a full and systematic manner rather than merely pick out a few of the more notable heroes and myths. In doing so, we will follow the practice of the ancient mythographers by considering each of the children of Aiolos and their respective descendants

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