- Ino (Greek mythology)
Greek mythologyIno was a mortal queen of Thebes, the second wife of Athamas, the mother of Learchesand Melicertes, daughter of Cadmusand Harmonia and stepmother of Phrixusand Helle. She was one of the three sisters of Semele: Agave, Autonoëand Ino, who was a surrogate for the divine nurses of Dionysus: "Ino was a primordial Dionysian woman, nurse to the god and a divine maenad" (Kerenyi 1976:246).
Maenads were known to tear their own children limb from limb in their madness. In the
back-storyto the heroic tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece, Phrixus and Helle, twin children of Athamas and Nephele, were hated by their stepmother, Ino. Ino hatched a devious plot to get rid of the twins, roasting all the crop seeds of Boeotiaso they would not grow (" Bibliotheke" i.9.1). ["It is possible, however", Kerenyi suggests ("The Gods of the Greeks" p 264) "that originally she did not cause the seed-corn to be roasted, but introduced the practice of roasting corn in general."] The local farmers, frightened of famine, asked a nearby oracle for assistance. Ino bribed the men sent to the oracle to lie and tell the others that the oracle required the sacrifice of Phrixus. Athamas reluctantly agreed. Before he was killed though, Phrixus and Helle were rescued by a flying golden ram sent by Nephele, their natural mother. Helle fell off the ram into the Hellespont(which was named after her, meaning "Sea of Helle") and drowned, but Phrixus survived all the way to Colchis, where King Aeetestook him in and treated him kindly, giving Phrixus his daughter, Chalciope, in marriage. In gratitude, Phrixus gave the king the golden fleeceof the ram, which Aeetes hung in a tree in his kingdom.
Later, Ino raised
Dionysus, her nephew, son of her sister Semele, causing Hera's intense jealousy. In vengeance, Herastruck Athamaswith insanity. Athamas went mad, slew one of his sons, Learchus, thinking he was a ram, and set out in frenzied pursuit of Ino. To escape him Ino threw herself into the sea with her son Melicertes. Both were afterwards worshipped as marine divinities, Ino as Leucothea("the white goddess"), Melicertes as Palaemon. Alternatively, Ino was also stricken with insanity and killed Melicertes by boiling him in a cauldron, then took the cauldron and jumped into the sea with it. A sympathetic Zeusdidn't want Ino to die, and transfigured her and Melicertes as Leucotheaand Palaemon.
The story of Ino,
Athamasand Melicertesis relevant also in the context of two larger themes. Ino, daughter of Cadmusand Harmonia, had an end just as tragic as her siblings: Semeledied while pregnant with Zeus' child, killed by her own pride and lack of trust in her lover; Agave killed her own son, King Pentheuswhile struck with Dionysian madness, and Actaeon, son of Autonoe, the third sibling, was torn apart by his own hunting dogs. Also, the insanity of Ino and Athamas, who hunted his own son Learchosas a stag and slew him, can be explained as a result of their contact with Dionysus, whose presence can cause insanity. None can escape the powers of Dionysus, the god of wine. Euripidestook up the tale in " The Bacchae", explaining their madness in Dionysiac terms, as having initially resisted belief in the god's divinity.
When Athamas returned to his second wife, Ino,
Themisto(his third wife) sought revenge by dressing her children in white clothing and Ino's in black and directing the murder of the children in black. Ino switched their clothes without Themisto knowing and she killed her own children.
Transformed into an immortal goddess, Ino also represents one of the many sources of divine aid to
Odysseusin Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey. Providing him with a veil, she instructs him how he can succeed in his plight to reach land and eventually Ithaca. Homer's epithetassociated with this goddess is "Ino of the slim ankles".
In historical times, a sisterhood of
maenads of Thebes in the service of Dionysus traced their descent in the female line from Ino; we know this because an inscription at Magnesia on the Maeandersummoned three maenads from Thebes, from the house of Ino, to direct the new mysteries of Dionysus at Magnesia (Burkert 1992:44).
*Harvard reference | Surname=Dalby | Given=Andrew | Title=The Story of Bacchus | Publisher=British Museum Press | Place=London | Year=2005 | ISBN=0714122556 (US ISBN 0-89236-742-3) pp. 36-42, 151
*Burkert, Walter, 1992. "The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age " (Cambridge:Harvard University Press).
*Kerenyi, Karl, 1976. "Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life" (Princeton: Bollingen).
*Kerenyi, Karl, 1951. "The Gods of the Greeks" (Thames and Hudson).
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