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Kourítæs - (Curetes; Κουρῆτες, ΚΟΥΡΗΤΕΣ. The word is in plural form. Etym. from κόρος and κοῦρος, meaning "boy." Var. of κουρίδιος [1]. Either form, Κουρῆτες or Κούρητες, may be used; see the lexicon entry below.) The literal translation of Kourítæs is "young men."

The Origin and General Characteristics of the Kourítæs

According to Orphic Theogony, the Kourítæs are sons of Rhǽa (Rhea, Ῥέα).

μόνη δὲ ἡ Ῥέα τους Κούρητας ἀπογεννᾶι

"while by herself, Rǽa generates the Kourítæs" [2]

This, of course, means that they are members of the Younger Titánæs, being sons of a Titanís (Τιτανίς, fem. of Τιτάν). They belong to Rǽa but are sons of Earth:

"From Crete came grim warriors to join them, the Idaian Dactyloi, dwellers on a rocky crag, earth-born Corybants, a generation which grew up for Rheia (ed. Rǽa) selfmade out of the ground in the olden time. These had surrounded Zeus a newborn babe in the cavern which fostered his breeding, and danced about him shield in hand, the deceivers, raising wild songs which echoed among the rocks and maddened the air---the noise of the clanging brass resounded in the ears of Cronos high among the clouds, and concealed the infancy of Cronion (ed. Zefs) with drummings." [3]

And Athiná (Athena, Ἀθηνᾶ) becomes their leader.

“Now therefore Socrates celebrates her guardian power, through the name of Pallas; but her perfective power through that of Minerva (Ἀθηνᾶ). She is the cause therefore of orderly and measured motion, which she first imparts to the Curetic order, and afterwards to the other Gods. For Minerva (Ἀθηνᾶ) according to this power is the leader of the Curetes, as Orpheus says, (whence also, as well as those divinities she is adorned with empyrean arms, through which she represses all disorder, preserves the demiurgic series immoveable, and unfolds dancing through rhythmical motion.” [4]

According to the Thæogonía of Isíodos (Hesiod, Ἡσίοδος), the Kourítæs sprung from Yi (Ge or Gaia or Earth, Γῆ) and the blood of Ouranós (Uranus, Οὐρανός).

"Then the son (ed. Krónos) from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and in his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off his own father's members and cast them away to fall behind him. And not vainly did they fall from his hand; for all the bloody drops that gushed forth Earth received, and as the seasons moved round she bare the strong Erinyes and the great Gigantes with gleaming armour and the Nymphs whom they call Meliae all over the boundless earth." [5]

The Yígantæs (Gigantes or Giants, Γίγαντες) are usually associated with the Yigantomakhía (Γιγαντομαχία), the Battle of the Giants with the Olympian Gods, but there are actually many types of Yígantæs, a word which simply means "offspring of Earth." And, if indeed this text refers to the Kourítæs, there is considerable confirmation of what it says, that they were children of Earth.

According to Diódohros Sikælióhtis (Diodorus Siculus, Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης):

"After the Idaean Dactyli, according to accounts we have, there were nine Curetes. Some writers of myths relate that these Gods were born of the Earth, but according to others, they were descended from the Idaean Dactyli." [6]

Thus Diódohros proposes two origins, that the Kourítæs were either born of Earth or sprung from the race of the Dáktyli (Dactyloi or Dactyls, Δάκτυλοι). But the Dáktyli are only one of several classes of deities found in mythology which the Kourítæs are associated with, and possibly identical to. We are speaking of divine beings such as the Káveiri (Cabeiri, Κάβειροι), the Korývandæs (Corybantes, Κορύβαντες; also spelled Κύρβαντες.), and the Tælkhínæs (Telchines, Τελχῖνες). It is a hopeless endeavor to uncover the individual characteristics of each of these types of divinities, as there is so much conflicting information; one could only do so by taking sides with one author against another. Perhaps the most useful approach is to consider seriously the opinion of the ancient author Strávôn (Strabo, Στράβων), who was very familiar with all the many ideas. His conclusion is that these various races of khthonic (earthy) Daimonæs (Daimons, Δαίμονες), if not identical to the Kourítæs, are at least very close kinsmen, differentiating characteristics being of minor significance. [7] Taken as a group, it can be surmised that they are greatly beneficial deities of the earth, who have given us such things as metalworking, music, the pastoral crafts of bee-keeping and honey cultivation, as well as the skill of the shepherd and the hunter, and, most importantly, they are guardians of the Mystíria (Mysteries, Μυστήρια), in which rituals they become divinely inspired and intoxicated with Vakkhic frenzy, drunk from the wine of Diónysos (Dionysus or Bacchus, Διόνυσος), which is the Aithír (Aether, Αἰθήρ) of his father, Zefs. In such state, the Kourítæs enact a clamorous war-dance, clad in full armor, accompanied with the clash of drums and cymbals while beating on their armor, thus inspiring awe and fear in those who behold their wondrous, youthful activity. Strávohn says that their name comes from their youthfulness, that young men, as the name implies, are a bit like girls, in that they comb and nurture their hair, and that their clothing, despite the armor, is womanly (observe the photo at the top of this page), as it is common in boys and girls in the bloom of their youth, to take special care for their looks; and he points out that men who are soldiers for life, such as the Spartans, while being the fiercest of warriors, were fastidious about their hair and appearance.

The Kourítæs and the Infancy of Zefs and Diónysos

The Kourítæs are rustic Daimonæs who were enlisted by the Goddess Rǽa (Rhea; Gr. Ῥέα) to drown out the voice of the infant Zefs (Ζεύς) from the ears of his father Krónos (Cronus, Κρόνος) by means of their loud dancing and clamoring. In the Hymn to Zefs by the Alexandrian poet Kallímakhos (Callimachus, Καλλίμαχος), it is written:

"But thee, O Zeus, the companions of the Cyrbantes took to their arms, even the Dictaean Meliae, and Adrasteia laid thee to rest in a cradle of gold, and thou didst suck the rich teat of the she-goat Amaltheia, and thereto eat the sweet honey-comb. For suddenly on the hills of Ida, which men call Panacra, appeared the works of the Panacrian bee. And lustily round thee danced the Curetes a war-dance, beating their armour, that Cronus might hear with his ears the din of the shield, but not thine infant noise." [8]

The Dictaean Mælíai (Meliae, Μελίαι) mentioned in the hymn are the same Ash-Nýmphai (Nymphs, Νύμφαι) born of Earth and the blood of Ouranós from the above passage of Isíodos; and the Giants with their gleaming armor, are likely not the Giants of the Yigantomakhía, but rather are the Kourítæs, grouped together as protectors of the infant Zefs.

And, according to Nónnos (Νόννος) like as to his father, the child Diónysos was protected in the same way:

"The Goddess (ed. Rhǽa, Ῥέα) took care of him; and while he was yet a boy, she set him to drive a car drawn by ravening lions. Within that godwelcoming courtyard, the tripping Corybants would surround Dionysos with their childcherishing dance, and clash their swords, and strike their shields with rebounding steel in alternate movements, to conceal the growing boyhood of Dionysos; and as the boy listened to the fostering noise of the shields he grew up under the care of the Corybants like his father." [9]

In this quotation, Nónnos uses the name Korývandæs (Corybants), who are performing the exact same function as the Kourítæs in the hymn to Zefs by Kallímakhos, indicating that they are the same, as confirmed in Orphic Hymn 38 below.

The Kourítæs and the Orphic Hymns

As students of Orphismós, we have guidance as to the understanding of the Kourítæs, two great Orphic Hymns dedicated to them. In the first of these, number 31, they are described as leaping, dancing, and bearing arms, and they are presented as mighty protectors of the Mystíria.

31. Kourítæs 1 (Curetes [1], Κουρῆτες)

A hymn.

Leaping Curetes, who with dancing feet

And circling measures, armed footsteps beat:

Whose bosom's mad, fanatic transports fire,

Who move in rhythm to the founding lyre:

Who traces deaf when lightly leaping tread,

Arm bearers, strong defenders, rulers dread:

Propitious omens, guards of Proserpine, [10]

Preserving rites, mysterious and divine:

Come, and benevolent my words attend,

(In herds rejoicing), and my life defend. [11]

31. Ὕμνος Κουρήτων Ι.

Σκιρτηταὶ Κουρῆτες, ἐνόπλια βήματα θέντες,

ποσσίκροτοι, ῥομβηταί, ὀρέστεροι, εὐαστῆρες,

κρουσιλύραι, παράρυθμοι, ἐπεμβάται ἴχνεσι κούφοι,

ὁπλοφόροι, φύλακες, κοσμήτορες, ἀγλαόφημοι,

μητρὸς ὀρειομανοῦς συνοπάονες, ὀργιοφάνται·

ἔλθοιτ' εὐμενέοντες ἐπ' εὐφήμοισι λόγοισι,

βουκόλωι εὐάντητοι ἀεὶ κεχαρηότι θυμῶι

In the second hymn, number 38, they are said to nurture the earth but also destroy.

38. Kourítæs 2 (Curetes [2], Κουρῆτες)

The Fumigation from Frankincense.

Brass-beating Salians, ministers of Mars,

Who guard his arms the instruments of wars;

Whose blessed frames, heav'n, earth, and sea compose,

And from whose breath all animals arose:

Who dwell in Samothracia's sacred ground,

Defending mortals thro' the sea profound.

Deathless Curetes, by your pow'r alone,

Initial rites to men at first were shewn:

Who shake old Ocean thund'ring to the sky,

And stubborn oaks with branches waving high.

'Tis yours in glittering arms the earth to beat,

With lightly-leaping, rapid, sounding feet;

Then every beast the noise terrific flies,

And the loud tumult wanders thro' the skies:

The dust your feet excites with matchless force,

Flies to the clouds amidst their whirling course;

And ev'ry flower of variegated hue,

Grows in the dancing motion form'd by you.

Immortal dæmons, to your pow'rs consign'd

The talk to nourish, and destroy mankind.

When rushing furious with loud tumult dire,

O'erwhelm'd, they perish in your dreadful ire;

And live replenish'd with the balmy air,

The food of life, committed to your care.

When shook by you, the seas, with wild uproar,

Wide-spreading, and profoundly whirling, roar:

The concave heav'ns, with Echo's voice resound,

When leaves with ruffling noise bestrew the ground.

Curetes, Corybantes, ruling kings,

Whose praise the land of Samothracia sings:

From Jove descended; whose immortal breath

Sustains the soul, and wafts her back from death;

Aerial-form'd, much-fam'd, in heav'n ye shine

Two-fold, in heav'n all-lucid and divine:

Blowing, serene, from whom abundance springs,

Nurses of seasons, fruit-producing kings. [12]

38. Κουρήτων II, θυμίαμα λίβανον.

Χαλκόκροτοι Κουρῆτες, Ἀρήια τεύχε' ἔχοντες,

οὐράνιοι χθόνιοί τε καὶ εἰνάλιοι, πολύολβοι,

ζωιογόνοι πνοιαί, κόσμου σωτῆρες ἀγαυοί,

οἵτε Σαμοθράικην, ἱερὴν χθόνα, ναιετάοντες

κινδύνους θνητῶν ἀπερύκετε ποντοπλανήτων·

ὑμεῖς καὶ τελετὴν πρῶτοι μερόπεσσιν ἔθεσθε,

ἀθάνατοι Κουρῆτες, Ἀρήια τεύχε' ἔχοντες·

νωμᾶτ' Ὠκεανόν, νωμᾶθ' ἅλα δένδρεά θ' αὕτως·

ἐρχόμενοι γαῖαν κοναβίζετε ποσσὶν ἐλαφροῖς,

μαρμαίροντες ὅπλοις· πτήσσουσι δὲ θῆρες ἅπαντες

ὁρμώντων, θόρυβος δὲ βοή τ' εἰς οὐρανὸν ἵκει

εἱλιγμοῖς τε ποδῶν κονίη νεφέλας ἀφικάνει

ἐρχομένων· τότε δή ῥα καὶ ἄνθεα πάντα τέθηλε.

δαίμονες ἀθάνατοι, τροφέες καὶ αὖτ' ὀλετῆρες,

ἡνίκ' ἂν ὁρμαίνητε χολούμενοι ἀνθρώποισιν

ὀλλύντες βίοτον καὶ κτήματα ἠδὲ καὶ αὐτοὺς

πιμπλάντες, στοναχεῖ δὲ μέγας πόντος βαθυδίνης,

δένδρη δ' ὑψικάρην' ἐκ ῥιζῶν ἐς χθόνα πίπτει,

ἠχὼ δ' οὐρανία κελαδεῖ ῥοιζήμασι φύλλων.

Κουρῆτες Κορύβαντες, ἀνάκτορες εὐδύνατοί τε

ἐν Σαμοθράικηι ἄνακτες, ὁμοῦ <δὲ> Διόσκοροι αὐτοί,

πνοιαὶ ἀέναοι, ψυχοτρόφοι, ἀεροειδεῖς,

οἵτε καὶ οὐράνιοι δίδυμοι κλήιζεσθ' ἐν Ὀλύμπωι,

εὔπνοοι, εὔδιοι, σωτήριοι ἠδὲ προσηνεῖς,

ὡροτρόφοι, φερέκαρποι ἐπιπνείοιτε ἄνακτες.

Here the Kourítæs are said to dwell not only on Earth, but in the Sky and the Sea, and they are called saviors of the world and protectors of sailors. They are identified with the Korývandæs (Korybantes, Κορύβαντες), dwellers of and masters of Samothráki (Samothrace, Σαμοθράκη), an island in the Aegean Sea. Samothráki was the home of The Sanctuary of the Great Gods, an important temple complex in antiquity visited by many famous personages including King Lýsandros (Lysander, Λύσανδρος) of Sparta and the Emperor Hadrian. The "Great Gods" are khthonic or "earthy" deities, Káveiri (Kabeiroi, Κάβειροι), such as The Great Mother (Phrygian Cybele or Dimítir), Ækátî (Hekate, Ἑκάτη), Kádmos (Cadmus, Κάδμος) and Armonía (Harmony, Ἁρμονία). It was from this shrine that great Mystíria (Mysteries, Μυστήρια) were transmitted, on a par with the Ælefsínia Mystíria (Eleusinian Mysteries, Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια), and in this hymn, the Kourítæs are declared as the origin of sacred ritual, the Mysteries, for mortal beings. The Kouritæs, Immortal Daimonæs (δαίμονες ἀθάνατοι), hold the weapons of Life, for their swords and shields are those of Áris (Ares, Ἄρης), and they are capable of destroying the vicious and raising the virtuous. They are called true sons of Zefs (Διόσκοροι [13]), kings (ἄνακτες) and saviors (σωτήριοι) who have command over nature. Truly, what a glorious hymn!

Epithets of the Kourítæs (under construction)

Aglaóphimos - (aglaophimus; Gr. ἀγλαόφημος, ΑΓΛΑΟΦΗΜΟΣ) Lexicon entry: ἀγλαόφημος, ον, of splendid fame, Orph.H.31.4 (ed. of the Κουρῆτες); Dor. ἀγλαόφᾱμος, pr. n. of Thracian mystic (ed. Orphéfs), Iamb.VP28.146, etc. (L&S p. 11, left column)

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic 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.


[1] This last etymology, var. of κουρίδιος, comes from the Etymological Dictionary of Greek vol. 1 by Robert Beekes, Brill (Leiden - Boston), 2010, p. 764. Beekes defines κουρίδιος thus: " 'of a young lady, untouched', thence 'matrimonial, lawful' " (see p. 752 giving κουρίδιος as an adjective etymologically related to κόρη). Perhaps the relation is that the Kouritæs are eligible for marriage and are, therefore, young.

[2] Orphic Fragment 150. Trans. by the author.

[3] Διονυσιακὰ Νόννου 14.23-32, trans. W.H. D. Rouse, 1940. Found here in the 1962 Loeb Classical Library edition entitled Nonnos Dionysiaca Vol. 1, Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge, MA USA) and William Heinemann (London), where this quotation may be found on p. 475.

[4] Orphic Fragments 151, 185, 186. The quotation is Orphic Fragment 185. (134) σχόλιον Πρόκλου επὶ Κρατύλου Πλάτωνος 406d p. 112, 14 Pasqu., trans. Thomas Taylor, 1816.

It is also said in Περὶ τῆς κατὰ Πλάτωνα θεολογίας Πρόκλου 1. 1. V 35 init. p. 322, 23:

. . . ὅθεν δὴ καὶ οἱ Κούρητες τὴν ἐπωνυμίαν ἔλαχον τῆς ἀχράντου προεστῶτες καθαρότητος τῶν θεῶν .

". . . Whence also the Curetes are allotted their appellation, as presiding over the undefiled purity of the Gods.”

(trans. Thomas Taylor, 1816)

[5] Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου 176-188, trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914.)

[6] Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορικὴ Διοδώρου Σικελιώτου V.65.1-4, trans. C. H. Oldfather, 1939. We are using the 2000 edition entitled Diodorus of Sicily: The Library of History Vol. 3, Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge, MA USA and London, England UK), LCL 340, where this quotation may be found on page 273.

[7] Γεωγραφικὰ Στράβωνος 10.3.7.

[8] εἰς Δία Καλλιμάχου Hymn 1 to Zefs, 45-54, trans. by A.W. Mair and G.R. Mair, 1921.

[9] Διονυσιακὰ Νόννου 9.160-168, trans. W.H.D. Rouse 1940, we are using the 1962 edition entitled Nonnos Dionysiaca Vol. I, Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge, MA USA) and William Heinemann (London, England UK), where this quotation may be found on p. 315.

[10] Taylor uses the words, "guards of Proserpine," her name not mentioned in the text. This is because he accepts the Neoplatonic understanding of the Kouritæs as explained by Próklos (Proclus, Πρόκλος) in his Περὶ τῆς κατὰ Πλάτωνα θεολογίας Πρόκλου Book V, Chapter 8, and applies it to his translation; indeed, Próklos goes so far as to say that Pærsæphónî (Persephone, Περσεφόνη) is the first Kourítæs. Taylor takes considerable liberty with this line (5 in the Greek), usurping a literal translation for his more mystical interpretation. A more literal translation of this line refers to the entourage of a "mother" (μητρὸς) who is frenzied in the mountains, a mystic frenzy. In his note to the hymn, Taylor says, "The Corybantes, who in the supermundane are the same as the Curetes in the intellectual order, are said by Proclus, in Plat. Theol. VI, 13, 'to be the guards of Proserpine,' " and substitutes her name for μητρὸς.

[11] Orphic Hymn 31 trans. Thomas Taylor, 1792; we are using a facsimile of the original edition, London, England (printed for the author), where this quotation may be found on p. 156. Taylor numbers the hymn as 30.

[12] Orphic Hymn 38 trans. Thomas Taylor, 1792.

[13] Taylor translates line 21 as "from Jove descended," i.e. sons of Zefs, simply using the word Διόσκοροι in a literal sense (Διός, "Zefs" + κόρος, "lad" or "son."). Nonetheless the poem goes on to refer to them as twins (δίδυμοι), which would seem to equate them (in some way) with Kástôr (Castor, Κάστωρ) and Polydéfkis (Polydeuces or Pollux, Πολυδεύκης).

This logo 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 Apóllôn (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 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.

SPELLING: uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself. An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website. For more information, visit these three pages:

Pronunciation of Ancient Greek

Transliteration of Ancient Greek

Pronouncing the Names of the Gods in Hellenismos

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