4921: Danaid. Statue by H. W. Bissen, 1798-1868. Glyptotek, Copenhagen.
The DANAIDS are the 50 daughters of Danaus 1 who married the sons of Aegyptus 1, and murdered their husbands (except one) on their wedding night.
For having been seduced by Zeus, Io, a native from Argos, was severely
punished by the god's jealous wife Hera, who pursued her all
over the world. Having wandered in many countries, Io came safely to Egypt where she settled, giving birth to Epaphus 1, son of Zeus.
Descendants of Io
When Epaphus 1 grew up, he became king of Egypt, and having married Memphis 2, daughter of the river god Nilus or, as some say, Cassiopea 4, he fathered Libya. Libya consorted with Poseidon, giving birth, among others, to Belus 1. Belus 1, who inherited the kingdom of Egypt, married Anchinoe (another daughter of Nilus), and had by her many children, among whom Danaus 1 and Aegyptus 1. Belus 1 settled Danaus 1 in Libya, and Aegyptus 1 in Arabia. However, when Aegyptus 1 subjugated the country of the Melampods, naming it Egypt after himself, the two brothers quarrelled concerning the kingdom.
Danaus 1 emigrates
Danaus 1 felt threatened by Aegyptus 1 and his 50 sons, and decided that he and his 50 daughters would leave Egypt and emigrate to Argos, the country of
their ancestor Io. In order to accomplish his plan, Danaus 1 built a ship, being the first to build one, as some affirm.
Arrival to Argos
After having touched Rhodes, Danaus 1 arrived to Argos. Some tell that
Gelanor was king of Argos at this time, and that Danaus 1 deposed him. Others affirm that the name of the king of Argos was Pelasgus 1, and that he received Danaus 1 and his daughters as exiles. For granting asylum to these fugitives, Pelasgus 1 was threatened with war by the Egyptians, but he let the Argives vote, and the assembly decided to protect the refugees.
The sons of Aegyptus 1 then demanded to be wedded to the daughters of Danaus 1, and since this offer could not be refused, Danaus 1 consented to the marriage, and allotted his daughters among them. But at the same time, he instructed the girls to kill the bridegrooms on their wedding night.
In this way, the sons of Aegyptus 1 got their brides by lot, while the DANAIDS got, during the wedding feast, the daggers with which they were to murder their husbands, according to their father's plan. So as the bridegrooms slept the girls slew them, except Hypermnestra 1, who spared Lynceus 2, because he had respected her virginity.
Trial and funerals
To punish her disobedience, Hypermnestra 1 was brought to judgment by Danaus 1, who shut her up and kept her under ward. In the meanwhile, the other DANAIDS buried the heads of their husbands in Lerna, paying funeral
honors to their bodies in front of the city. It is
said that Athena and Hermes purified them for
this crime, following the command of Zeus. However, it is also
told that, for this crime, the DANAIDS still suffer
punishment in the Underworld where they
must carry water to fill a leaky jar.
Afterwards, Danaus 1 and his daughter Hypermnestra 1 were reconciled, and he united her to Lynceus 2, while giving his other daughters in marriage to the victors of an athletic contest.
Lynceus 2 and Hypermnestra 1 had a son Abas 2, who in time became king of Argos. Abas 2 is father of Acrisius, father of Danae,
mother of Perseus 1,
the founder of Mycenae.
The name Danaans and Achaeans has been applied
to all Greeks in general, particularly in
connection with the Trojan
War. The Achaeans came originally from
Thessaly, in mainland Greece, and settled in Argos and Lacedaemon (southern Peloponnesus). Having mingled with the Danaans (ruled by Danaus 1 and his descendants) they lived there until the return of the HERACLIDES. The mingling of Achaeans and Danaans is described through the marriages of two sons of Achaeus 1 (from whom the Achaeans derive their name) with two daughters of Danaus 1, Automate and Scaea.
Several generations after the crime of the
DANAIDS, it appeared in the place where they buried
their husbands' heads
(Lerna), a many headed
monster, the Hydra, which Heracles 1 destroyed
while performing one of his LABOURS.