Endymion (mythology)

Endymion (mythology)

In Greek mythology, Endymion (polytonic|Ἐνδυμίων, also spelled Endimion) could have been a handsome Aeolian shepherd or hunter, or, even a king who ruled and was said to reside at Olympia in Elis, but he was also said to reside and was venerated on Mount Latmus in Caria, on the west coast of Asia Minor.

There is confusion over the number of Endymions, as some sources suppose that one was or was related to the prince of Elis and the other was a shepherd or astronomer from Caria. As such, there have been two attributed sites of Endymion's burial: The citizens of Heracleia ad Latmo claimed that Endymion's tomb was on Mount Latmus, while the Eleans declared that it was at Olympia. [John Lemprière's "Classical Dictionary"]

However, the lover of Selene, the moon, is attributed primarily to an Endymion who was a either a shepherd or an astronomer, which profession provides justification for him to spend time beneath the moon.


Pausanias, in describing the legendary genealogy of ancient hosts of the Olympian Games reports that "Endymion, the son of Aethlius, deposed Clymenus, and set his sons a race in Olympia with the kingdom as the prize" (v.1.4); then he adds "As to the death of Endymion, the people of Herakleia near Miletos do not agree with the Eleans; for while the Eleans show a tomb of Endymion, the folk of Herakleia say that he retired to Mount Latmos and give him honour, there being a shrine of Endymion on Latmos." [Pausanias (v.1.5).] Endymion was the son, perhaps with Aethlius or with Zeus himself, of the nymph Calyce. He was born in Thessaly but led a band of Aeolians and founded Elis. [cite web|author=Pausanias|authorlink=Pausanias (geographer)|title=Description of Greece|publisher=Tufts University: The Perseus Digital LIbrary|url=http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0160;query=chapter%3D%23152;layout=;loc=5.7.1 5 Section 8.1-2|accessdate=2008-03-16]

Apollonius of Rhodes ["Argonautica" 4.57ff] is one of the many poets (compare Plato, "Phaedo", sect. 72c) who tell how Selene, the Titan goddess of the moon, [Her Roman equivalent is Luna.] loved the mortal, who was so beautiful that she asked Endymion's father Zeus to grant him eternal youth so he would never leave her. Alternatively, Selene loved so much how Endymion looked when he was asleep in the cave on Mount Latmos, near Miletus, in Caria, [Sappho localises the myth at Mount Latmos.] that she entreated Zeus that he might remain that way. Either way, Zeus blessed him by putting him into an eternal sleep. Every night, Selene visited him where he slept. Selene and Endymion had fifty daughters called the Menae.

According to a passage in "Deipnosophistae", the sophist and dithyrambic poet Licymnius of Chios [Licymnius is known only through a few quoted lines and second-hand through references ( [http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-bio/1893.html William Smith, ed. "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities" 1870] )] tells a different tale, in which Hypnos, the god of sleep, in awe of his beauty, causes him to sleep with his eyes open, so he can fully admire his face.

The "Bibliotheke" claims that Calyce and Aethlius had a son Endymion who led Aeolians from Thessaly and founded Elis. But some say that he was a son of Zeus. As he was of surpassing beauty, the Moon fell in love with him, and Zeus allowed him to choose what he would, and he chose to sleep for ever, remaining deathless and ageless." ["Bibliotheke" 1.7.5.] Endymion also had a son named Aetolus, the King of Elis. Later, he ruled Aetolia, which was named after him. Endymion had another son, Epeius, who won his father's kingdom by beating his brothers in a race. Endymion had by a Naiad nymph or, as some say, by Iphianassa, a son Aetolus, who slew Apis, son of Phoroneus, and fled to the Curetian country. There he killed his hosts, Dorus and Laodocus and Polypoetes, the sons of Phthia and Apollo, and called the country Aetolia after himself." ["Bibliotheke", 1.7.6.]

Pliny the Elder [See Pliny's "Naturalis Historia" Book II.IV.43.] mentions Endymion as the first human to observe the movements of the moon, which (according to Pliny) accounts for Endymion's love.

Propertius (Book 2, el. 25), Cicero's Tusculanae Quaestiones (Book 1), and Theocritus discuss the Endymion myth to some length, but reiterates the above to varying degrees. The myth surrounding Endymion has been expanded and reworked since the classical era by those like John Keats and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.


, and "rejoiced with malicious pleasure as she reflected to herself: 'I'm not the only one then to skulk off to the Latmian cave, nor is it only I that burn with desire for fair Endymion'" she muses. "But now you yourself it would seem, are a victim of a madness like mine." [Richard Hunter, "Apollonius of Rhodes: Jason and the Golden Fleece" (Oxford University Press) 1993:100.] Lempriere's "Classical Dictionary" reinforces Pliny's account of Endymion's attachment to astronomy and cites it as the source of why Endymion was said to have a relationship with the moon as she passed by.

The mytheme of Endymion being not dead but endlessly asleep, which was proverbial (the proverb - "Endymionis somnum dormire") [described in Sir James George Frazer, ed., "Apollodorus, Library and Epitome" [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Apollod.+1.7.5] .] ensured that scenes of Endymion and Selene were popular subjects for sculpted sarcophagi in Late Antiquity, when after-death existence began to be a heightened concern. The Louvre example, found at Saint-Médard d'Eyrans, France, ("illustration, left") is one of this class.

Some believe that he was the personification of sleep, or the sunset (most likely the last one as his name means "to dive in" [Greek en in, and duein dive), which would imply a representation of that sort. Latin writers explained the name from "somnum ei inductum", the "sleep put upon him." [Graves, 1960, 64.b.note 2]

The myth of Endymion was never easily transferred to ever-chaste Artemis, the Olympian associated with the Moon. In the Renaissance, the revived moon goddess was Diana, and the Endymion myth was attached to her.



*Robert Graves. "The Greek Myths" (1955) 1960, 64.a-c.
*Karl Kerenyi. "The Gods of the Greeks". London: Thames & Hudson, 1951 (pp. 196-198).
*Hyginus. "Fabulae", 271.
* Natalia Agapiou. "Endymion au carrefour. La fortune littéraire et artistique du mythe d’Endymion à l’aube de l’ère moderne" (2005).

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