ARISTAEUS - 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 (Κυρήνη) 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]


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

Aristaios is the son of Apóllôn (Apollô, Ἀπόλλων) and the nymph Kyrínî (Cyrênê, Κυρήνη) [2]. He is one of the most beneficial of deities in Ællînismόs (Hellênismos, 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, Θεός ἀγρεύς), the hunter-God. He is also called nómios (shepherd, νόμιος), nomós (of the pasture, νομός), and alæxitírios (defender, ἀλεξητήριος).


The life of Aristaios from Diódôros Sikælióhtîs

We can gather all the major events in the life of Aristaios from the writings of Diódôros Sikælióhtîs (Diôdorus of Sicily, Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης), [4] the details of which are confirmed in the writings of many others:  

Ypsǽôs (Hypseus, Ὑψέως), the king of the Lapíthai (Lapiths, Λαπίθαι), was the son of the river-God Píneious (Pêneus, Πήνειους). He had a daughter named Kyrínî. She was a beautiful maiden who lived in the vicinity of Mt. Pílio (Pêlion, Πήλιο). One day Apóllôn caught sight of her fighting a lion. [5] Apóllôn instantly fell in love with her, seduced her, and took her to Livýî (Libya, Λιβύη), founding there the city which he later named after her.

Kyrínî bore to Apóllôn a son. While yet a babe, Apóllôn took him to the Nýmphai (Nymphs, Νύμφαι). [6] The Nýmphai called the boy by three names: nómios (of the shepherds, νόμιος), agréfs (agreus or hunter, 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 Viôtía (Boeôtia, Βοιωτία) and married Aftonóî (Autonoë, Αὐτονόη) the daughter of Kádmos (Cadmus, Κάδμος), by which he had a son, Aktaiôn (Actaeôn, Άκταίων), who, as the myth relates, was torn apart by his own dogs because he angered the Goddess Ártæmis (Artemis, Ἄρτεμις).  

After the loss of his son, Aristaios received an oracle from Apóllôn urging him move to the island of Kǽôs (Ceôs, Κέως). There was, at this time, a terrible plague through all Greece. When he arrived at Kǽôs, 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, Σείριος), when the periodic ætisíai (etesian winds, ἐτησίαι) blow, the plague was believed by this means to have ended.

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

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

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

Thus concludes the account of Diódôros Sikælióhtîs.

 

OTHER AUTHORS ON ARISTAIOS

Apollóhnios Ródios

The Ἀργοναυτικὰ Ἀπολλωνίου Ῥοδίου states that Aristaios, when he grew and became a man, was taught the medicinal arts and prophecy by the Mousai (Muses, Μοῦσαι). [7]

 

Pafsanías

Pafsanías (Pausanias, Παυσανίας), the historian, refers to Aristaios as an example of a mortal who was transformed into a God (Ἀνθρωποδαίμων), he as well as the Cretan Goddess Vritómartis (Britomartis, Βριτόμαρτις), Iraklís (Heracles, Ἡρακλῆς), Amphiáraos (Amphiaraus, Ἀμφιάραος), and the Dióskouri (Dioscuri, Διόσκουροι). [8]

 

Vakkhylídîs

In a fragment from the poet Vakkhylídîs (Bacchylidês, Βακχυλίδης), the author states that there are four Gods known as Aristaios, one the son of Kheirôn (Cheirôn, Χείρων), another the son of Kheirôn's son Kárystos (Caristus, Κάρυστος), and yet another, the son of Apóllôn and Kyríni. And finally Vakkhylídîs talks of an Aristaios who was the son of Yi (Ge or Earth, Γῆ) and Ouranós (Uranus, Οὐρανός), which implies that there is a primordial Aristaios, a vernal and rustic prosperity bestowed by the Gods from near the very beginning. [9] Vakkhylídîs was from Kǽôs 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, Evridíkî, and the Bees

Virgil tells the famous story [10] that Aristaios had fallen in love with Evridíkî (Eurydicê, Εὐρυδίκη), the wife of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς). Aristaios pursued her in the wood and so distracted Evridíkî that she did not see a poisonous snake which lay in her path. In her effort to escape, Evridíkî stepped right on the snake, was bitten, and died. This tragic incident was the impetus which caused the despondent Orphéfs to journey to Aidîs (Hadês, Ἅιδης) to beg the God to restore Evridíkî back to life.

Because of his involvement in this calamity, Aristaios was punished with the destruction of all his precious bees. This caused him tremendous misery, and his wailing so upset the Nýmphai that they informed his mother of his pitiful crying, hoping she could do something to alleviate his pain. She summoned Aristaios and implored him to find the seer sea-God Prôtéfs (Prôteus, Πρωτεύς). Following his mother's instructions, Aristaios found the unwilling prophet, captured him and held him tight. Now the sea-God transformed himself into all manner of creatures in an effort to escape. But Aristaios would not give up until Prôtéfs agreed to answer his question. At last realizing that Aristaios would never relent, the sea-God submitted. Prôtéfs told Aristaios that he had angered Orphéfs by causing the death of Evridíkî, but should he make a special sacrifice of four bulls and four heifers, his bees would be restored to him. Aristaios followed Prôtéfs’ instructions precisely. On an appointed day, he was to return to the bodies of the victims, and when he did so, they were now buzzing with numerous bees.

Painting of Apollo, Kyrene, and baby Aristaeus by Lykeia in the possession of the author. If you look closely, you can see beautiful bees hanging in the air. Oil on canvas.

 NOTES ON ARISTAIOS:

[1] Πυθιόνικαι Πινδάρου 9.59;  trans. by Sir J. E. Sandys, 1915.

[2] Γυναικῶν Κατάλογος Ἡσιόδου Frag. 93. Servius on Vergil, Georg. i. 14. Trans. H.G. Evelyn-White, 1914: 

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

Ἀργοναυτικὰ Ἀπολλωνίου Ῥοδίου 2. 506, trans. R.C. Seaton, 1912:  

"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] ἄριστος [], η, ον, best, noblest, bravest, most useful.

[4] Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορικὴ Διοδώρου Σικελιώτου 4.81-82.

[5] Πυθιόνικαι Πινδάρου (for Τελεσικράτης of Kyrínî) 9.25:

"Once did Apollo, the far-darting God of the wide quiver, find her without spears, wrestling alone with a monstrous lion..." (trans. Sir J. E. Sandys, 1915)

[6] Ἀργοναυτικὰ Ἀπολλωνίου Ῥοδίου 2.508 offers a different opinion:

"Her (Κυρήνη), of his love, the God (Ἀπόλλων) made a nymph there, of long life and a huntress, and his on (Ἀρισταῖος) he brought while still an infant to be nurtured in the cave of Cheiron (Χείρων)." (trans. R. C. Seaton, 1912)

[7] Ἀργοναυτικὰ Ἀπολλωνίου Ῥοδίου 2.510:

"And to him (Ἀρισταῖος) 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] Ἑλλάδος Περιήγησις Παυσανίου, Book 8 Ἀρκαδίας 2.4.

[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.


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.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.


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, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic 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, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, 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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