Alpheus (mythology)

Alpheus (mythology)

In Greek mythology Alpheus, or (Greek: Αλφειός, meaning "whitish", also romanized as Alfeiós, Alpheios or Alfiós) is a river (present Alfeios River) and river-god.

Like most river-gods, he is a son of Oceanus and Tethys. [Hesiod, "Theogony" 338] Telegone bore his son, the king Orsilochus [Pausanias, "Description of Greece" 4.30.2] . He was also the grandfather of Diocles, and great grandfather of a pair of soldiers, Crethon and Orsilochus, who were slain by Aeneas during the Trojan War. [Homer, "Iliad" 5.45]

Hunting in the forests of Greece, Alpheus came upon Artemis and began to desire her. She, being a chaste goddess, did not return his feelings. Nonetheless, he attempted to charm her, but was never able to win her over. In one instance, she covered her face and the faces of her nymphs with mud. Being unable to distinguish which was his love, he gave up the chase. [Pausanias, "Description of Greece" 6.22.9]

Again Alpheus falls in love when Arethusa, one of Artemis's nymphs, after she unknowingly came upon him and began to bathe in his waters. However, she fled after she discovered his presence. Like her Goddess, she desired nothing more than to hunt and be free in the forest. After running a great distance nude through the forest, she called upon Artemis who hid her in a cloud. Undaunted, Alpheus continued to search for her. She began to perspire profusely from fear, and soon transformed into a stream. Artemis then broke the ground allowing Arethusa another attempt to flee. [Ovid, "Metamorphoses" 5.72] Her stream traveled under the earth to the island of Ortygia, but Alpheus flowed through the sea to reach her and mingle with her waters. [Pausanias, "Description of Greece" 5.7.3]

Alpheus was also the river which Hercules, in the fifth of his labours, re-routed in order to clean the filth from the Augean Stables in a single day, a task which had been presumed to be impossible.


ee also

*Alfeios River
*Sarasvati River, the invisible or subterranean mystical river of Hinduism

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