The Danaides

The myth of Danaides is the story of fifty women who commit a horrible wrongdoing: guided by their father, they all kill their husbands on their wedding night! This great massacre was unbelievable, even for the bloody ancient Greek myths. It was a crime that both people and gods would punish. Indeed, the Danaides were punished for this after their death with a horrible and eternal torment.

The story of Danaides begins with the rivalry between the twin sons of Belus, the king of Egypt. Belus was believed to be a descendant of Io, a princess of Argos who lived most of her life in Egypt. Belus had two sons, Danaus and Aegyptus. When Belus died, he ordered Danaus king of Libya and Aegyptus, king of Arabia. The two brothers had regular rivalries over their kingdoms and where trying one to get the other's land.

The most interesting fact about these brothers is their progeny. The myth says that Danaus had fifty daughters, known as the Danaides, from four different women, while Aegyptus had fifty sons. The intelligent Aegyptus wanted to get his sons married to the Danaides. For Aegyptus, these fifty marriages appeared as an easy route to acquire the properties of Danaus. Danaus soon understood the plan of his brother and was not willing to surrender his beautiful daughters to his nasty nephews. Guided by the gods and not intending to cause a war between them, he decided to give his kingdom to his brother and leave the country in search for another life. Danaus built a ship with fifty oars and fled to Greece with his fifty daughters.

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Arriving in Argos

They first made a stop in Rhodes, where they founded Lindos town and built a temple to goddess Athena Lindia. Then, Danaus and his daughters reached Argos, the birthplace of his great-grand-mother, the Argian princess Io. The minute he stepped off the ship, he went to Gelanoras, the king of the town, and demanded to be given the throne, for he was the rightful heir, as descendent of Io. When the people of Argos were about to choose their king, a wolf entered the city and tore a bull into pieces. The people of Argos took this as a sign and chose Danaus as their king.

The horrible crime

Danaus ruled Argos for many years and was leading a quiet life till one day a foreign ship came. His brother, Aegyptus, had sent his fifty sons to find Danaus and try to take over his new kingdom. Soon the sons of Aegyptus presented themselves to the palace and asked once more to marry the Danaides. The climax of the story starts here. Danaus didn't want that his beautiful and prosperous Argos suffer because of a war. Having no other option, he consented for the wedding and organized a low-profile wedding party. He made a secret plan to get rid of Aegyptus and his sons for good. Before the wedding, he presented each of his daughters a dagger and instructed them to kill their husbands in their wedding night.

All his daughters had to obey their father, because disobeying to your parents was a great wrongdoing in the ancient world. They indeed killed their bridegrooms and buried their heads in Lerma, a region with lakes in southern Argos. Only one of the girls, Hypermnestra, did not commit this horrible crime. She felt pity for her husband, Lynceus, and spared his life. Without doubt, Danaus brought her in front of the Argos court. However, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, intervened and saved her from punishment. Lynceus, the only survivor of the fifty sons of Aegyptus, later killed Danaus to revenge for his brothers. Lynceus and Hypermnestra started a new dynasty of Argive Kings, known as the Danaan Dynasty.

The punishment

The story, however, does not stop here. The forty-nine brides who killed their husband were punished for their crime. The myth says that, when they died, they Danaides were forced to a torment for eternity. They should carry jugs of water and fill a basin. They would be released from this punishment, only if the basin was full of water. However, this torture would never stop because the basin had holes all over it and water would run out.

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