ARISTAIOS - ΑΡΙΣΤΑΙΟΣ


Sketch of a famous statue of Aristaeus made by the author who releases it to the Public Domain.

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There shall she (ed. Kyríni) bear a son, whom glorious Hermes will take from his mother's womb and bear away to the enthroned Hours and to Mother-Earth; and they shall place the babe upon their laps, and drop nectar and ambrosia on his lips, and shall ordain that, as a delight to his friends among men, he shall be called immortal Zeus, and pure Apollo, and, as an ever-present guardian of flocks, Agreus and Nomius, while others shall name him Aristaeus.  [1]

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Aristaios (Aristaeus;Gr. Ἀρισταῖος, ΑΡΙΣΤΑΙΟΣ)
Pronunciation: ah-rees-TAY'-ohs.

Aristaios is the son of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων) and the nymph Kyríni (Cyrene; Gr. Κυρήνη). [2] He is one of the most beneficial of deities in Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion. His name means "most excellent" or "most useful" (from ἄριστος [3]) He is the rustic God of bee-keeping, cheese-making, olive cultivation, and herbal knowledge. He is a protector of shepherds and flocks and is capable of averting drought and plague. Aristaios taught men how to hunt and is therefore known as Thæós Agréfs (Theos Agreus; Gr. Θεός Ἀγρεύς), the Hunter-God. He is also called Nómios (shepherd; Gr. Νόμιος), Nomós (of the pasture; Gr. Νομός), and Alæxitírios (Defender; Gr. Ἀλεξητήριος).


The Life of Aristaios from Diódohros Sikælióhtis

We can gather all the major events in the life of Aristaios from the writings of Diódohros Sikælióhtis (Diodorus of Sicily; Gr. Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης), [4] the details of which are confirmed in the writings of many others:  

Ypsǽohs (Hypseus; Gr. Ὑψέως), the King of the Lapíthai (Lapiths; Gr. Λαπίθαι), was the son of the river-God Píneious (Peneus; Gr. Πήνειους). He had a daughter named Kyríni. She was a beautiful maiden who lived in the vicinity of Mt. Pílio (Pelion; Gr. Πήλιο). One day Apóllohn caught sight of her fighting a lion. [5] Apóllohn instantly fell in love with her; he seduced Kyríni and took her to Livýi (Libya; Gr. Λιβύη), founding there the city which he later named after her.

Kyríni bore to Apóllohn a son. While yet a babe, Apóllohn took him to the Nýmphai (Nymphs; Gr. Νύμφαι). [6] The Nýmphai called the boy by three names: Nómios  (of the shepherds; Gr. Νόμιος), Agréfs (Agreus or "hunter;" Gr. Ἀγρἑύς), and Aristaios. They taught him how to make cheese ("curdle milk" in the text) and cultivate bees and olive trees. Aristaios later taught these useful things to mankind, for which he received homage as befits the Gods. 

Aristaios then went to Viohtía (Gr. Βοιωτία) and married Aftonói (Autonoë; Gr. Αὐτονόη) the daughter of Kádmos (Cadmus; Gr. Κάδμος), by which he had a son, Aktaiohn (Acteon; Gr. Άκταίων), who, as the myth relates, was torn apart by his own dogs because he angered the Goddess Ártæmis (Artemis; Gr. Ἄρτεμις).  

After the loss of his son, Aristaios obtained an oracle from Apóllohn to move to the island of Kǽohs (Ceos or Kea; Gr. Κέως). There was, at this time, a terrible plague through all Greece. When he arrived at Kǽohs, he made sacrifice on behalf of his countrymen, and since this offering occurred during the time of the rising of the Dog-star Seirios (Sirius; Gr. Σείριος), when the periodic Ætisíai (Etesian Winds; Gr. Ετησίαι) blow, the plague was believed by this means to have ended.

Aristaios left Kǽohs and returned to Livýi, but then moved to the island of Sardóh (Sardinia; Gr. Σαρδώ) where he settled, brought the formerly barren land into cultivation, and left two sons, Khármos (Gr. Χάρμος) and Kallíkarpos (Gr. Καλλίκαρπος).

Aristaios traveled to Sikælía (Sicily; Gr. Σικελία) and many places in Greece and elsewhere, teaching people a multitude of helpful things and he became a great boon to mankind. 

At some point, Aristaios went to Thráki (Thrace; Gr. Θρᾴκη) and met Diónysos, (Gr. Διόνυσος) who initiated him into his Mystíria (Mysteries; Gr. Μυστήρια). Aristaios then dwelt for some time near Mt. Aimos (Haemus; Gr. Αἶμος) after which he was never seen again.

Thus concludes the account of Diódohros Sikælióhtis. 


Other Authors on Aristaios


Apollóhnios Ródios

Apollóhnios Ródios (Apollonius Rhodius; Gr. Ἀπολλώνιος Ῥόδιος) says in the Argonaftiká (Argonautica; Gr. Ἀργοναυτικά), that Aristaios, when he grew and became a man, was taught the medicinal arts and prophecy by the Mousai (Muses; Gr. Μοῦσαι). [7]


Pafsanias
 
Pafsanías (Pausanias; Gr. Παυσανίας) refers to Aristaios as an example of a mortal who was transformed into a God: 

"Nay, in those days men were changed to Gods, who down to the present day have honors paid to them--Aristaeus, Britomartis of Crete, Heracles the son of Alcmena, Amphiaraus the son of Oicles, and besides these Polydeuces and Castor." [8]

Vakkhylídis

In a fragment from the poet Vakkhylídis (Bacchylides; Gr. Βακχυλίδης), the author states that there are four Gods known as Aristaios, one the son of Kheirohn (Cheiron; Gr. 
Χείρων), another the son of Kheirohn's son Kárystos (Caristus; Gr. Κάρυστος), and yet another, the son of Apóllohn and Kyríni. And finally Vakkhylídis talks of an Aristaios who was the son of Yi (Ge or Earth; Gr. Γῆ) and Ouranós (Uranus; Gr. Οὐρανός), which implies that there is a primordial Aristaios, a vernal and rustic prosperity bestowed by the Gods from the very beginning. [9] Vakkhylídis was from Kǽohs where there was great love of this God. Aristaios lived on the island for some time as a king and deity, bestowing great benefits on the inhabitants.


Virgil, Aristaios, Evridíki, and the Bees

Virgil tells the famous story
[10] that Aristaios had fallen in love with Evridíki (Eurydice; Gr. Εὐρυδίκη), the wife of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς), and so distracted her in his pursuit, that he accidentally caused her to be bitten by a snake and die. This was the impetus to cause Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς) to journey to 

Ai

dis (Hades; Gr. Ἅιδης)
 to bring Evridíki back from death. Because of this calamity, Aristaios was punished with the destruction of all of his beloved bees. He was distraught and his wailing upset the Nýmphai (Nymphs; Gr. Νύμφαι), who informed his mother of his pitiful crying. She summoned Aristaios and implored him to find the seer and sea-God Prohtéfs (Proteus; Gr. Πρωτεύς). Following his mother's instructions, Aristaios inquired of the prophet, holding him captive until he submitted. Prohtéfs told him that he (Aristaios) had angered Orphéfs by causing Evridíki's death but that if he made a special sacrifice of four bulls and four heifers (and other details), he would regain his bees. Aristaios did exactly what Prohtéfs told him to do. On an appointed day, he was to return to the bodies of the victims which were now buzzing with numerous bees.  

Painting of Apollo, Kyrene, and baby Aristaeus by Lykeia in the possession of the author. Oil on canvas.


The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.


NOTES ON ARISTAIOS:

[1] Πίνδαρος Pythian Ode 9, line 59;  trans. by Sir J. E. Sandys, 1915; found here in the 1968 Heinemann [London]-Harvard [Cambridge, MA] edition, Loeb LCL 56, entitled The Odes of Pindar, where this quotation may be found on p. 279.

[2] Ἡσίοδος Γυναικῶν Κατάλογος, Frag. 93. Servius on Vergil, Georg. i. 14. Trans. by H.G. Evelyn-White in 1914, but here quoted from the 1936 edition of Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns and Homerica, Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge MA USA) and William Heinemann Ltd. (London England), Loeb Classical Library, where this quotation may be found on pp. 212 & 213:  

"...Aristaeus, that is, the son of Apollo and Cyrene, whom Hesiod calls 'the shepherd Apollo'."

Ἀπολλώνιος Ῥόδιος Ἀργοναυτικά, Book II, starting 506. Trans. by R.C. Seaton in 1912, but here quoted from the 2003 edition of Apollonius Rhodius The Argonautica, Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge MA and London), where this quotation may be found on p.137:  

"Cyrene, the tale goes, once tended sheep along the marsh-meadow of Peneus among men of old time; for dear to her were maidenhood and a couch unstained. But, as she guarded her flock by the river, Apollo carried her off far from Haemonia and placed her among the nymphs of the land, who dwelt in Libya near the Myrtosian height.  And here to Phoebus she bore Aristaeus whom the Haemonians, rich in corn-land, call 'Hunter' and 'Shepherd'."

[3] Lexicon entry: ἄριστος [], η, ον, best in its kind, and so in all sorts of relations, serving as Sup. of ἀγαθόςI. of persons, 1. best in birth and rank, noblest: hence, like ἀριστεύςa chief2. best in any way, bravest3. morally best4. best, most usefulII. of animals, things, etc.best, finestIII. neut. pl. as Adv., ἄριστα best, most excellently. (L&S p. 241, right column)

[4] Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορική Book 4:81-82.

[5] Πίνδαρος Pythian Ode IX  For Tælæsikrátis (Telesicrates; Gr. Τελεσικράτης) of Kyríni, line 25: 

"Once did Apollo, the far-darting God of the wide quiver, find her without spears, wrestling alone with a monstrous lion..."  

(trans. by Sir J. E. Sandys, 1915; found here in the 1968 Heinemann [London]-Harvard [Cambridge] edition, Loeb 56 of The Odes of Pindar p. 275)

[6] Apollóhnios Ródios (Gr. Ἀπολλώνιος Ῥόδιος) says that Apóllohn gave him, rather, to Kheirohn (Chiron; Gr. Χείρων) the Kǽntavros (Centaur; Gr. Κένταυρος): 

"Her (ed. Kyrini), of his love, the God (ed. Apollohn) made a nymph there, of long life and a huntress, and his son (ed. Aristaios) he brought while still an infant to be nurtured in the cave of Cheiron (ed. Kheirohn)." 

(Ἀργοναυτικά Book II, line 508. Trans. R. C. Seaton, 1912; found here in the 2003 Harvard [Cambridge MA & London, England] publication entitled Apollonius Rhodius: The Argonautica, Loeb LCL 1, where this quotation may be found on p. 137)

[7] Ἀπολλώνιος Ῥόδιος Ἀργοναυτικά Book II, 510:

"And to him (ed. Aristaios) when he grew to manhood the Muses gave a bride, and taught him the arts of healing and of prophecy..." (Ibid. Seaton, p. 137)

[8] Παυσανίας Ελλάδος περιήγησις, Book 8 Αρκαδία, 2.4; trans. W.H.S. Jones, 1933; found here in the 1960 Loeb Classical Library edition, Heineman (London) Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge), where this quotation may be found on p. 353 of vol. 3.

[9] Βακχυλίδης Frag. 44:

"Τινές τέσσαρας Ἀρισταίους γενεαλογοῦσιν, ὡς καί βαχυλίδης· τὸν δὲ Χείρωνος, ἄλλον δὲ Γῆς καί Οὐρανοῦ, καὶ τὸν Κυρήνης."

[10] Virgil Georgics 4.281-558, Ovid, Fasti 1.363.

 

EPITHETS OF ARISTAIOS

Agréfs - (Agreus; Gr. Ἀγρἑύς, ΑΓΡΕΥΣ) Agréfs is an epithet of Aristaios, common to rustic deities, meaning hunter (Pi.P.9.65).

Agreus - See Agréfs.

Cultor Nemorum - (Latin) Cultor nemorum is a title of Aristaios meaning forester or planter of the groves. (Virgil Georgica i.14.) Servius, commenting on this line in Virgil's poem, says: 

Aristaeum invocat, id est, Apollinis et Cyrenes filium, quem Hesiodus dicit Apollinem pastoralem. 

"He invokes Aristaeus, that is, the son of Apollo and Cyrene, whom Hesiod calls ‘the shepherd Apollo.' "

(Ἡσίοδος Γυναικῶν Κατάλογος, Frag. 93. Servius on Vergil, Georg. i. 14. Trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914. We are using the 1936 Loeb Classical Library publication entitled HESIOD, The Homeric Hymns and Homerica, Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge, MA) and William Heinemann (London), where this quotation may be found on pp. 212-213.) 

Nómios - (Nomius; Gr. νόμιος, ΝΟΜΙΟΣ) Nómios is an epithet of pastoral Gods, i.e. of pastures and flocks, such as Apóllohn, Hermes, Aristaios, and Pan.

- Lexicon entry: νόμιοςαον: (νομεύς):— of shepherdsν. θεός the pastoral God, i.e. Pan; of Apollo, as shepherd of Admetus, Call.Ap.47; of Aristaeus; of Hermes; of Dionysus; of the Nymphs, Orph.H. 51.12; but also, God of Law: of Zeus (ed. νόμος being Law). (L&S, edited for simplicity.)


The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kosmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς).


PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.


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