Leucothea

Leucothea

In Greek mythology, Leucothea (Greek: Leukothea (Λευκοθέα), English translation: "white goddess") was one of the aspects under which an ancient sea goddess was recognized. Mythic themes agree that she was a transformed nymph.

In the more familiar variant, Ino, the sister of Semele and queen of Athamas, became a goddess after Hera drove her insane as a punishment for caring for the new-born Dionysus. Ino/Leucothea leapt into the sea, with her son Melicertes in her arms. Out of pity, the Hellenes asserted, the Olympian gods turned them both into sea-gods, transforming Melicertes into Palaemon, the patron of the Isthmian games that were held in his honour. See Ino for more details.

In the version sited at Rhodes, a much earlier mythic level can be detected. There, the woman who plunged into the sea and became Leucothea was Halia ("of the sea"; personification of the saltiness of the sea) whose parents were Thalassa and Pontus or Uranus. She was a local nymph and one of the aboriginal Telchines of the island. Halia became Poseidon's wife and bore him Rhodos/Rhode and six sons; the sons were maddened by Aphrodite in retaliation for an impious affront, assaulted their sister and were confined beneath the Earth by Poseidon. Thus the Rhodians traced their mythic descent from Rhode and the titan Helios. (Graves 1955)

In the "Odyssey" Leucothea makes a dramatic appearance as a sea-mew who offers the shipwrecked Odysseus a veil to wind round himself to save his life in the sea. Homer makes her the transfiguration of Ino. In Laconia, she has a sanctuary, where she answers people's questions about dreams. This is her form of the oracle. Leucothea is "The White Goddess" of Robert Graves. The Etruscan Losna may well be comparable.

Other characters

The name is also used by two other characters in Greek mythology.

*A beautiful mortal woman named Leucothoë: a princess, daughter of Orchamus and sister of Clytia, Leucothoë was loved by Apollo, who disguised himself as Leucothoë's mother to gain entrance to her chambers. Clytia, jealous of her sister because she wanted Apollo for herself, told Orchamus the truth, betraying her sister's trust and confidence in her. Enraged, Orchamus ordered Leucothoë, who claimed Apollo had forced her to succumb to his desires, buried alive. Apollo refused to forgive Clytia for betraying his beloved, and a grievous Clytia wilted and slowly died. Apollo changed her into an incense plant, a heliotrope, which follows the sun every day. [Ovid, Metamorposes.]

*Leucothoe, one of the Nereids. [Hyginus, Fabulae.]

References

ources

*Burkert, Walter. "Greek Religion", 1985.
*Graves, Robert. "The Greek Myths", 1955.
*Kerenyi, Karl. "The Gods of the Greeks", 1951.


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