Hyrai is a toponym mentioned in
Homer's catalogue of the ships, where the leading position in the list is given to the contingents from Boeotia, where Hyria and stony Aulis, where the fleet assembled, lead the list. [" Iliad" II.496; E.V. Rieurenders the placename "Hyrie".] The site was assigned to the territory of Tanagraby Strabo, [IX.404. Strabo's passage is considered to have been taken in its entirety from Apollodorus' Commentary ofn the Catalogue of Ships (Carl W. Blegen, "Hyria" "Hesperia Supplements" 8 Commemorative Studies in Honor of Theodore Leslie Shear (1949:39-42,442-443) p. 39).] who is not more precise about its location, which was apparently no longer inhabited in his time. Pausanias does not mention it. Modern identifications of the site near Aulis place it near Megalo Vouno, on a mound of the coastal plain near Drámesi (Paralía), where the surface is strewn with Late Helladic pottery sherds. [ Blegen 1949] and excavation has revealed Early Mycenaean pottery from a tomb. [Mountjoy, P.A. "Orchomenos 5: Mycenaean Pottery from Orchomenos, Eutresisand Other Boeotian Sites" (Munich; Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften) 1983. Drámesi is included.]
There [Ovid does not specify the site, for which Hyreius is an
eponym.] a childless king "Hyreus", who had prayed to the gods for a son. Zeus, Poseidon and Hermes, visitors in disguise responded by urinating on a bull's hide and burying it in the earth which produced a child. He was named Orion—as if "of the urine"— after the unusual event. [ Serviuson "Aeneid" 1.539; Ovid, " Fasti" 5.537ff; Hyginus, "Poetic Astronomy" 2.34, noted in Graves 1960 41.f.3.]
Like some other archaic names of Greek cities, such as "Athenai" or
Mycenae, "Hyrai" is a plural form: its name once had evoked the place of "the sisters of the beehive". According to Hesychius, the Cretan word "hyron" meant 'swarm of bees' or 'beehive' [Kerenyi "Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life" 1976 pp 42-3; G. W. Elderkin, "The Bee of Artemis" "The American Journal of Philology" 60.2 (1939, pp. 203-213) p. 209.] Through his "beehive" birthplace Orion is linked to Potnia, the Minoan-Mycenaean "Mistress" older than Demeter—who was herself sometimes called "the pure Mother Bee". Winged, armed with toxin, creators of the fermentable honey (see mead), seemingly parthenogenetic in their immortal hive, bees functioned as emblems of other embodiments of the Great Mother: Cybele, Rhea the Earth Mother, and the archaic Artemisas honored at Ephesus. Pindarremembered that the Pythian pre-Olympic priestess of Delphiremained "the Delphic bee" long after Apollohad usurped the ancient oracle and shrine. The Homeric Hymnto Apollo acknowledges that Apollo's gift of prophecy first came to him from three bee-maidens.
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