1111: The Flood. Painting by Johann Heinrich Schönfeld 1609-1684. Hessisches Landesmuseum, Kassel.
When Nyctimus succeeded to the kingdom of Arcadia, there occurred
the Flood in the age of Deucalion 1. Some
said that it was caused by the impiety of Lycaon 2 and his sons. Zeus, by pouring rain from
heaven flooded the greater part of Hellas, so that
all men were destroyed, except a few who fled to
the high mountains. It was then that the mountains
in Thessaly parted, and that all the world outside
the Isthmus and Peloponnesus was overwhelmed.
Besides the Flood in the time of Deucalion 1, there
have been other floods. The island of Atlantis, for example,
was swallowed up by the sea, and vanished with the
third of the floods which preceded the deluge in
the age of Deucalion 1. Severe inundations are also reported to have wiped out severals cities that were founded and ruled by Cecrops 1 in Boeotia, then called Ogygia (Strab.9.2.18).
The Flood in the Age of Deucalion 1
This Flood occurred at the time when Cecrops 1 ruled in Athens, as some
say, but others say that Cranaus (his successor)
was already king when the Flood took place. The
city Cyrbe in Rhodes was completely destroyed by the Flood. Agenor 1, father of Cadmus and Europa, belongs to this time, and so does Danaus 1, father of the DANAIDS. Also Teucer 2, king of the Teucrians, at the very origins of the Trojan lineage, lived about this time.
The crime of Lycaon 2 and his sons
The reason for this Flood might have been the
crime of impious Lycaon 2, who sacrificed a human baby on the altar of Zeus, and was, immediately after, turned into a wolf by the god. Some say that this happened as follows: Zeus, desirous of putting Lycaon 2 to the test, came to him in the likeness of a day-laborer. Then, having slaughtered a male child, Lycaon 2 and his sons
mixed his bowels with the sacrifices, and set them
before him. Zeus in disgust
killed both Lycaon 2 and
his sons, but because of their impiety, Zeus decided to destroy the
men of the Bronze
Age; and for that purpose, he sent the Flood.
Zeus decides to destroy
When Zeus, through that abominable action, had learned the degree of degeneration that the human race had reached, and after assembling the gods, had decided to destroy them, he first thought of hurling his thunderbolts against the world. But remembering that it was fated that there would be a time for the world to be destroyed by fire, he preferred to let the human race to be washed away by the waves, and thus put an end to mankind through water. So he shut the North Wind (Boreas 1) up in the cave of Aeolus 2, and let the wet and rainy South Wind (Notus) loose (see also WINDS), while Iris 1 drew up water
feeding it to the clouds. By way of these moves,
all crops were destroyed, and the work of a whole
year amounted to nothing. Also Poseidon contributed, for he assembled the RIVER GODS, and they,
after receiving permission and instructions, broke
all bounds and overwhelmed the open plains. And so,
what had happened to the crops, had to be
considered as a detail of no significance, compared
to the waves that started to sweep away houses and
shrines until the water covered the highest towers.
Thus in very short time the whole world was turned
into a wide sea without shores. Even the NEREIDS were amazed, for
now they could see the cities of men beneath the
waters. Lions, and tigers, and boars, and all animals
that lived on land were carried away by the waves,
the dolphin being the only one that could be seen
among the trees of the woods. And also the birds
drowned, for they fell into the sea not being able
to stop and rest. And among those who were able to
escape many died of starvation through lack of
Deucalion 1 manages to survive
But Deucalion 1,
who was adviced by his father Prometheus 1 in advance, constructed a chest, and having stored it with provisions, he embarked in it with his wife Pyrrha 1. Floating in the chest over the sea for nine days
and as many nights, they drifted to Parnassus, a
mountain in Phocis, where they landed when the rain
ceased. For now Zeus,
seeing that the world was a stagnant pool, and the
only survivors were Deucalion 1 and Pyrrha 1innocent, pious, and scrupulous of right both of themopened the sky. As the rain stopped falling and the waters calmed, land appeared once more, and the sea recovered its shores. Likewise the rivers came back to their channels, the hill-tops became visible, and as the land rose up the trees showed their tops, and finally the whole world was restored. When the Flood was over, Deucalion 1 and Pyrrha 1, having come to Mount Parnassus, worshipped the CORYCIAN NYMPHSdeities living in the mountainand Themis, the goddess who
then kept the oracles.
Alone in the world
Soon Deucalion 1 realized that this restored world was an empty
world. And however difficult or impossible it is to
live with other men and women, even more difficult
and more impossible is to live without them, in
complete loneliness. And that is why, noticing that
silence filled the lands that had been left
desolate, he burst into tears, and trembled at the
thought of being left completely alone:
"What would be
your feelings now, if you had been rescued all
alone? Who would console your grief? Be assured
that if the sea held you, I would follow you, my
wife, and the sea should hold me also." (Deucalion 1 to Pyrrha 1. Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.358).
But after a while, believing that prayers are
better than tears, and convinced that when no man
can help god might lend a hand, they decided to
appeal to the power of Heaven, asking for aid
A race as hard as its origin
So, after sprinkling drops from the waters of
the river Cephisus on head and clothing, they went
to the shrine of Themis,
and asked her to tell them by what means they could
restore the human race. And the goddess answered:
heads and loosened robes throw behind you as you go
the bones of your great mother." (Themis to Deucalion 1 and Pyrrha 1. Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.381).
Doing as Themis has
told them, they took up stones (for in that way
they understood the oracle), and threw them over
the head, and the stones which Deucalion 1 threw became men, and the stones thrown by Pyrrha 1 became women. From this comes, they say, the hardness of our
race; for this race has been considered to be the
living proof of its own origin. But others have
said that Zeus sent Hermes to Deucalion 1, and
allowed him to choose what he would, and he chose
to get men.
Animal life restored
The earth then is said to have spontaneously
produced anew all other species, restoring animal
life. When the moisture left by the flood united
with the heat from the rays of the sun, new
creatures were conceived by the earth, partly
restoring the ancient shapes, and partly creating
new ones; for, they tell, life grows from the
inharmonius harmony that results from the enmity
between fire and water.
Populating the new world
Deucalion 1 had children by Pyrrha 1 in a more regular way. One of them is Hellen 1, after whom the Hellenes are named.
Another of his sons, Amphictyon, became king of Athens, having expelled Cranaus from the throne. Another son, Orestheus 1, became king of the Locrians.
It is told that there were other survivors in other places: One of them was Megarus, a son of Zeus by a Nymph. He also
escaped the flood in the time of Deucalion 1, climbing
to the top of Mount Gerania; for birds were flying,
and he swam towards the cry of the birds. Another
was Cerambus, who was borne up into the air on
wings by the NYMPHS, and
so escaped the flood undrowned. It is also said
that in Phocis, those inhabitants who were able to
escape the storm were led by the howls of wolves to
safety on the top of Mount Parnassus.