Notes for

Ovid, Heroides XIV


. . . :  The lines which would be numbered 113-114 are generally considered spurious.

Argos:  A region in Greece (actually, more than one region was called Argos).  The most famous Argos was in the Peloponnesus.  Danaus was the king of Argos, and it was in his kingdom that the wedding took place.

Belus:  Father of Danaus and Aegyptus; grandfather of Lynceus and Hypermnestra.

brothers:  Lynceus had forty-nine brothers, who were married to the forty-nine sisters of Hypermnestra.  All his brothers were killed by their wives on their wedding night.  Hypermnestra alone spared her husband, Lynceus.

cow was made a god:  After Io was returned to her human form, she was worshipped as a goddess in Egypt.  For more details on this episode, see the note on Inachus.

crowd of men:  The bridegrooms, sons of Aegyptus.

Danaus:  King of Argos; father of Hypermnestra and brother of Aegyptus.  Danaus feared a prophecy that his son-in-law would kill him.  When he was forced to agree to allow his fifty daughters to marry the fifty sons of Aegyptus, he ordered his daughters to kill their husbands on their wedding night.  Only Hypermnestra disobeyed, helping her husband, Lynceus, to escape.  Danaus punished Hypermnestra by imprisoning her.  Lynceus later returned, avenged his brothers' deaths by killing Danaus, and reclaimed Hypermnestra as his wife.

father:  Danaus, king of Argos and father of Hypermnestra.  He ordered his daughters (including Hypermnestra) to kill their husbands on their wedding night.

father-in-law:  Aegyptus, king of Egypt and brother of Danaus; father of Lynceus.  His sons are to marry Danaus' daughters.

father's flowing stream:  Io's father, Inachus, was a river god.

human became a cow:  Io, the great-grandmother of Danaus and Aegyptus, was raped by the god Jove, who then turned her into a cow in order to hide her from his jealous wife, Juno.  For more details on this episode, see the note on Inachus.

husband:  Lynceus, whom Danaus ordered Hypermnestra to kill.

Hymen:  God of marriage.  Generally represented as a youthful, handsome man, carrying a marriage torch and blessing a wedding.  It was traditional to invoke his name at a wedding ceremony.

Hypermnestra:  Daughter of Danaus, king of Argos; wife of Lynceus.  Danaus had fifty daughters; his brother, Aegyptus, king of Egypt, had fifty sons.  Aegyptus wanted Danaus' daughters as brides for his sons.  However, Danaus feared a prophecy that said that his son-in-law would kill him, and refused.  Aegyptus and his sons waged war against Danaus, who finally agreed to the marriages.  On the wedding night, Danaus gave each of his daughters a dagger, and ordered them to kill their new husbands.  Hypermnestra was the only daughter who refused to carry out Danaus' order; she spared her husband, Lynceus, and helped him to escape.  When her father discovered her betrayal, he had her imprisoned.  Lynceus later came back and killed Danaus, avenging the deaths of his brothers.  Hypermnestra's sisters are sometimes portrayed as being punished in Hades by having to carry water in sieves through all eternity.

Inachus:  The great-great-grandfather of Danaus and Aegyptus.  Inachus was a river-god and was the father of Io.  Io was a beautiful nymph who attracted the lust of the god Jove.  He raped her, and then turned her into a beautiful white heifer in order to hide his infidelity from his wife, the goddess Juno.  Juno, who was always suspicious of her husband, then persuaded Jove to give her the heifer.  She set the unsleeping guardian, Argus, to watch over the animal.  After Io was freed from Argus, she wandered widely across the world, tormented by Furies sent by Juno.  She eventually came to Egypt, where she was finally returned to her human form and was worshipped as a goddess.  She bore a son, Epaphus, by Jove.  Epaphus was the father of Belus, who was the father of Danaus and Aegyptus.

Jove:  King of the gods and husband of Juno.  Jove was the father of Io and great-great-great-grandfather of Danaus and Aegyptus; for more details on this relationship, see the note on Inachus.

Juno:  Goddess of married life; wife and sister of Jove, the king of the gods.  Juno is presented as very jealous and as being ever-watchful of her husband's infidelities.  She was responsible for the torments of Io (the ancestor of Danaus and Aegyptus) after Io was raped by Jove.  Hypermnestra accuses Juno of having held a grudge against the family ever since.  For more details on this episode, see the note on Inachus.

Lynceus:  Son of Aegyptus, king of Egypt; husband of Hypermnestra.  Aegyptus had fifty sons; his brother, Danaus, king of Argos, had fifty daughters.  Aegyptus wanted Danaus' daughters as brides for his sons.  However, Danaus feared a prophecy that said that his son-in-law would kill him, and refused.  Aegyptus and his sons waged war against Danaus, who finally agreed to the marriages.  On the wedding night, Danaus gave each of his daughters a dagger, and ordered them to kill their new husbands.  Hypermnestra was the only daughter who refused to carry out Danaus' order; she spared her husband, Lynceus, and helped him to escape.  Lynceus later came back and killed Danaus, avenging the deaths of his brothers and reclaiming Hypermnestra as his wife.

Nile:  The principal river of Egypt, which divides into a delta as it approaches the Mediterranean and was said to empty into the sea in seven separate streams.

Pelasgus:  Legendary early ruler of Argos, where Danaus is now king. 

sister:  Juno, Jove's wife, was also his sister.

sisters:  Hypermnestra had forty-nine sisters, who were married to the forty-nine brothers of Lynceus.  All her sisters killed their husbands on their wedding night.  Hypermnestra alone spared her husband, Lynceus.

sons-in-law:  The sons of Aegyptus, who had married the daughters of Danaus and been murdered by them.

streams of your relatives:  Since Io's father (Inachus) was a river-god, the other rivers and streams were her relatives.

uncle:  Danaus, father of Hypermnestra and uncle of Lynceus and his forty-nine brothers.

weapons:  I.e., her horns.

wife of Jove:  Juno.

You follow and flee the same thing:  I..e., she cannot escape from the cow that she has become, since it follows with her as she flees from it.

your sister:  Hypermnestra (she was actually Lynceus' first cousin).

Zephyr:  The west wind, traditionally a mild and gentle breeze.

 

 

 

This page created and maintained by James M. Hunter

Comments and suggestions welcome:  hunter@edgewood.edu

Last updated 06/23/2013