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three pairs of lovers with space



Hyakinthos was a mythological Spartan boy loved by the god Apollo (often called Phoibos), but unintentionally killed by him with a discus, whereupon a flower named after him sprung from his blood.[1] Many ancient writers explain that the discus had been deliberately diverted by Zephyros, the god of the west wind, who was Apollo’s unsuccessful rival for the boy’s love.

Hyakinthos is sometimes called son of Oibalos, a king of Sparta (Lakedaimon), but this seems intended as a loose reference to his belonging to Oibalos’s family, for both the earliest sources and those that provide a detailed genealogy make him the youngest and most beautiful of the sons of Amyklas, King of Sparta, Oibalos’s grandfather. Hyakinthos’s brother had great-granddaughters[2] who were girls when the Trojan War broke out, believed in classical times to have been in 1194 BC, so Hyakinthos was imagined to have died roughly a century before that.

Presented here are all the ancient sources on both Hyakinthos himself and the annual festival that Spartans in the historical age held in his honour.



Hesiod, Catalogue of Women 120

This earliest attestation of the myth of Hyakinthos from the late 8th century BC was found in fragment 4 of Oxyrhynchus papyrus 1359 found in Egypt and comes from the Catalogue of Women of the Boiotian epic poet Hesiodos.

The translation is by Glenn W. Most in the Loeb Classical Library vol. DIII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2018) p. 205, with amendment of his romanisations of Greek names in favour of more literal transliterations of the Greek.

[Lapi]thes’ daught[er][3]
of the earthly
[possessing] beauty [from the gods]
beautiful-haired D[iom]ede;
she bore Hyakinthos, excellent and strong,
[…] whom once unshorn Phoibos himself
killed unintentionally with a pitiless discus

Zephyros and Hyakinthos, Attic, ca. 485 BC (Boston Museum of Fine Arts)
Λαπί]θαο θύγατ[ρα
θεῶν ἄπ]ο κάλλος ἔ[χουσαν
ἐυπλ]οκαμον Δ[ιομ]ήδ[ην·
ἣ δ᾽ Ὑάκινθον ἔτικτεν ἀμύ]μονά τε κρατερόν τε
]α, τόν ῥά ποτ᾽ αὐτὸς
Φοῖβος ἀκερσεκόμης ἀέκων κτάνε νηλέ]ϊ δίσκωι
Hyakinthos represented on an Etruscan scarab, drops of his blood falling, the discus that killed him by his foot

 Herodotos, The Histories IX 7 i

The Greek historian Herodotos, sometimes called “the Father of History” wrote his Histories around 440 BC. Here he is explaining why the “Lakedaimonians” (Spartans) had failed to come to the aid of the Athenians, as promised, when the latter’s territory was threatened with imminent Persian invasion in 480 BC.

The translation is by A.D. Godley in the Loeb Classical Library volume CXX (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1925),with amendment of his romanisations of Greek names in favour of more literal transliterations of the Greek.

For the Lakedaimonians were at this time holiday-making, keeping the festival of Hyakinthos, and their chiefest care was to give the god his due; moreover, the wall that they were building on the Isthmus was by now even getting its battlements.  

Οἱ γὰρ δὴ Λακεδαιμόνιοι ὅρταζόν τε τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον καί σφι ἦν Ὑακίνθια, περὶ πλείστου δ᾿ ἦγον τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ πορσύνειν· ἅμα δὲ τὸ τεῖχός σφι, τὸ ἐν τῷ Ἰσθμῷ ἐτείχεον, καὶ ἤδη ἐπάλξις ἐλάμβανε.



Euripides, Helen 1465-1475

Helen, a play by the tragedian Euripides, was first produced in Athens in 412 BC. In this version of her story, Helen was whisked away by the gods to Egypt, rather than eloping to Troy. In the following extract, the Chorus anticipates her joyful return to her home in Sparta.

The translation is from Euripides. The Complete Greek Drama, edited by Whitney J. Oates and Eugene O'Neill, Vol. 2. Helen, translated by E. P. Coleridge (New York, 1938), amended only to undo their latinisation of Phoibos’s name.

Perhaps you may find the daughters
of Leukippos[4] beside the swell of the river or before
the temple of Pallas,
when at last you join in the dances
or the revels of Hyakinthos in night-long joy
—Hyakinthos, whom Phoibos
killed with the round discus,
contesting for the farthest throw
—a day of the sacrifice of oxen in the Lakonian land;
the son of Zeus[5] declared that his race would be honored;
ἦ που κόρας ἂν ποταμοῦ
παρ᾿ οἶδμα Λευκιππίδας ἢ πρὸ ναοῦ
Παλλάδος ἂν λάβοι,
χρόνῳ ξυνελθοῦσα χοροῖς
ἢ κώμοις Ὑακίνθου
νύχιον ἐς εὐφροσύναν,
ὃν ἐξαμιλλασάμενος
τροχὸν ἀτέρμονα δίσκου
ἔκανε Φοῖβος, εἶτα Λακαί-
νᾳ γᾷ βούθυτον ἁμέραν
ὁ Διὸς εἶπε σέβειν γόνος·


Apollo and Hyakinthos in a 1325 edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses (Bibliothèque municipale, Rouen)


Xenophon, Agesilaos II 12 & VIII 8

The Athenian soldier and philosopher Xenophon wrote a biography of the Spartan King Agesilaos II, whom he had known well and fought under. It was written between Agesilaos’s death in 360/1 BC and Xenophon’s own death in 354.

The translation is by E.C. Marchant in the Loeb Classical Library volume CLXXXIII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1925), with amendment of his romanisations of Greek names in favour of more literal transliterations of the Greek.


II 12

Describing Agesilaos’s deeds in 391 BC:

Having thus unbarred the gates of Peloponnese, he returned home for the festival of Hyakinthos[6] and joined in singing the paean in honour of the god,[7] taking the place assigned to him by the choirmaster. καὶ ἀναπετάσας τῆς Πελοποννήσου τὰς πύλας οὕτως οἴκαδε ἀπελθὼν εἰς τὰ Ὑακίνθια, ὅπου ἐτάχθη ὑπὸ τοῦ χοροποιοῦ, τὸν παιᾶνα τῷ θεῷ συνεπετέλει. 

VIII 7-8

Addressing anyone who doubts the simplicity of Agesilaos’s life:

Let him try to picture the scene within; note how he entertained on days of sacrifice, hear how his daughter used to go down to Amyklai[8] in a public car. And so, thanks to this nice adjustment of his expenditure to his income, he was never compelled to commit an act of injustice for the sake of money.
Apollo and Hyakinthos, a drawing by Jacopo Caraglio, ca. 1527
πειράσθω δὲ θεάσασθαι τὴν ἔνδον κατασκευήν, ἐννοησάτω δέ, ὡς ἐθοίναζεν ἐν ταῖς θυσίαις, ἀκουσάτω δέ, ὡς ἐπὶ πολιτικοῦ καννάθρου κατῄει εἰς Ἀμύκλας ἡ θυγάτηρ αὐτοῦ. τοιγαροῦν οὕτως ἐφαρμόσας τὰς δαπάνας ταῖς προσόδοις οὐδὲν ἠναγκάζετο χρημάτων ἕνεκα ἄδικον πράττειν.
Apollo Teaching Hyacinth to Play the Lyre by Louis de Boullogne, 1688


Palaiphatos, On Incredible Tales LXVI

Palaiphatos was a writer in Attic around the 330s BC. His only known work, On Incredible Tales, recounts some Greek myths and then in most cases gives them a mundane rationalisation.  The translation is this website’s from the  Greek text edited by N. Festa in Palaephati Περὶ ἀπίστων (The On Incredible Tales of Palaiphatos, Leipzig, 1902) pp. 67-8.

The story of Hyakinthos

Hyakinthos was a beautiful boy of Amyklai. Apollo had his sights on him, but also Zephyros. Both were charmed by his beauty, and each one tried to seduce him with his own qualities. Apollo launched arrows, and Zephyros blew: from the first songs and pleasure, from the second fear and agitation. The boy preferred the god and Zephyros, out of jealousy, prepared himself for war. Later, the boy was training in the gymnasium: this was for Zephyros the opportunity to avenge himself: a disc was used for the murder of Hyakinthos, launched by Apollo, deflected by Zephyros. The boy died, but the earth could not bring herself to leave his misfortune without memory: there where he died was born a flower which took his name. They say that the beginning of his name is written on the leaves.



Theokritos, Idylls X 28-29

Theokritos a native of Sicily, was the creator of Greek bucolic poetry in first half of the 3rd century BC. The following lines occur in a love poem addressed by “Boukaios” to a girl.  They are included here on the understanding that a poet referring to the hyakinthos flower will usually have borne in mind the boy from whom it was generally thought to have sprung.

The translation is by J. M. Edmonds in in the Loeb Classical Library volume XV (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1912).

Of flowers the violet’s dark, and dark the lettered flag-flower[9]  tall,
But when there’s nosegays making they choose them first of all.

καὶ τὸ ἴον μέλαν ἐστί, καὶ ἁ γραπτὰ ὑάκινθος·
ἀλλ’ ἔμπας ἐν τοῖς στεφάνοις τὰ πρᾶτα λέγονται.

Apollo & Hyacinth by Domenichino, 1603/4

Polybios, The Histories VIII 30 i

Polybios’s Histories was a detailed account written in the middle of the 2nd century BC of the period 264 to 146 BC describing the rise of Rome to dominance in the Mediterranean. Here he is describing events in the Greek city of Taranto in southern Italy in 212 BC.

The translation is by W. R. Paton in the Loeb Classical Library volume CXXXVIII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2011) p. 569.

The agreement between the young Tarentines and Hannibal was as follows: Hannibal on approaching the city on its eastern side, which lies toward the interior, was to advance toward the Temenid gate and light a fire on the tomb, called by some that of Hyacinthus, by others that of Apollo Hyacinthus. Τὰ δὲ συγκείμενα τοῖς νεανίσκοις ἦν πρὸς τοὺς Καρχηδονίους· τὸν μὲν Ἀννίβαν ἔδει συνάψαντα τῇ πόλει κατὰ τὴν ἀπὸ τῆς μεσογαίου, πρὸς ἕω δὲ κειμένην πλευράν, ὡς ἐπὶ τὰς Τημενίδας προσαγορευομένας πύλας, ἀνάψαι πῦρ ἐπὶ τοῦ τάφου, τοῦ παρὰ μέν τισιν Ὑακίνθου προσαγορευομένου, παρὰ δέ τισιν Ἀπόλλωνος Ὑακίνθου, 



Nikandros of Kolophon, Theriaka 901-6

Nikandros’s Theriaka is a hexameter poem of the 2nd century BC about the bites of venomous animals and their remedies. Though his account of Hyakinthos’s demise is merely a brief digression occasioned by mention of a plant, it contains unique details such as the setting of the accident near a river and the precise spot where the boy was hit.

The Greek text is from Nicander of Colophon’s ‘Theriaka’: A Literary Commentary by Floris Overduin (Leyden, 2015).The translation presented here is from that of A. S. F. Gow & A. F. Scholfield in Nicander: The Poems and Poetical Fragments (Cambridge, 1953) p. 89.

Or cut some KNOT-GRASS from the tangled water-meadows, DEPILATORY, and the seed of the mournful HYACINTH, over whom Phoebus wept, since without willing it, hard by the river[10] of Amyclae he slew with a blow the boy[11] Hyacinthus in the bloom of youth; for the iron mass rebounding from a rock smote upon his temple and crushed the sheath beneath it.
The Death of Hyakinthos by Karel Philip Spierincks, 17th century
Ἤ καὶ πουλύγονον λασίων ὑπάμησον ἰάμνων, ψίλωθρον καρπόν τε πολυθρήνου ὑακίνθου, ὃν Φοῖβος θρήνησεν ἐπεί ῥ’ ἀεκούσιος ἔκτα παῖδα βαλὼν προπάροιθεν Ἀμυκλαίου   ποταμοῖο, πρωθήβην Ὑάκινθον, ἐπεὶ σόλος ἔμπεσε κόρσῃ πέτρου ἀφαλλόμενος νέατον δ’ ἤραξε κάλυμμα.
The flower called after the boy in modern times



Bion, Poems XI

Bion of Smyrna was a Greek poet who flourished around 100 BC. Several of his poems were similar in content to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, hence he was evidently an influence on him and the following passage from a fragment of one of them must refer to Hyakinthos, of whom Ovid wrote similarly.

The translation is by J. M. Edmonds in The Greek Bucolic Poets (Loeb Classical Library vol. XXVIII, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1912), amended only to reject the Latinisation of Phoibos’s name.

. . . When he beheld thy agony Phoibos was dumb. He sought every remedy, he had recourse to cunning arts, he anointed all the wound, anointed it with ambrosia and with nectar; but all remedies are powerless to heal the wounds of Fate . . .  Ἀμφασία τὸν Φοῖβον ἕλεν τόσον ἄλγος ἔχοντα. δίζετο φάρμακα πάντα σοφὰν δ’ ἐπεμαίετο τέχναν, χρῖεν δ’ ἀμβροσίᾳ καὶ νέκταρι, χρῖεν ἅπασαν ὠτειλάν· μοιραῖα δ’ ἀναλθέα τρα ύματα πάντα. 



Anon., Lament for Bion

The poem of which the opening lines are given below was formerly attributed to the 2nd-century BC Syracusan poet Moschos, but since the author says he was made heir to the aforementioned poet Bion’s song, and Moschos was probably several decades older than Bion, he is now thought to be an unknown pupil of Bion. It is included here on the understanding that a poet referring to the hyakinthos flower will usually have borne in mind the boy from whom it was generally thought to have sprung.

The translation is by J. M. Edmonds in The Greek Bucolic Poets (Loeb Classical Library vol. XXVIII, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1912).

Cry me waly upon him, you glades of the woods, and waly, sweet Dorian water; you rivers, weep I pray you for the lovely and delightful Bion. Lament you now, good orchards; gentle groves, make you your moan; be your breathing clusters, ye flowers, dishevelled for grief. Pray roses, now be your redness sorrow, and yours sorrow, windflowers; speak now thy writing, dear flower-de-luce,[12] loud let thy blossoms babble ay; the beautiful musician is dead. Αἴλινά μοι στοναχεῖτε νάπαι καὶ Δώριον ὕδωρ, καὶ ποταμοὶ κλαίοιτε τὸν ἱμερόεντα Βίωνα. νῦν φυτά μοι μύρεσθε καὶ ἄλσεα νῦν γοάοισθε, ἄνθεα νῦν στυγνοῖσιν ἀποπνείοιτε κορύμβοις· νῦν ῥόδα φοινίσσεσθε τὰ πένθιμα, νῦν ἀνεμῶναι, νῦν ὑάκινθε λάλει τὰ σὰ γράμματα καὶ πλέον αἰαῖ λάμβανε τοῖς πετάλοισι· καλὸς τέθνακε μελικτάς. 
Hyakinthos Changed into a Flower by Nicolas-René Jollain, 1769


P. Ovidius Naso, Metamorphoses X lines 162-219

Ovid was a Roman poet.  His most famous work, the Metamorphoses, in fifteen books, finished in AD 8, tells of transformations in Greek and Roman mythology.  His account of Hyakinthos is the longest of his boy-love stories. It is depicted as sung by Orpheus, the mythological musician.

The translation is by Allen Mandelbaum in his The Metamorphoses of Ovid: A New Verse Translation, 1993. The Latin comes from the Loeb Classical Library volume XLIII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1916), pp. 74-79. Contrary to usual practice on this website, it is presented below instead of alongside so as not to upset the lay-out of the translator’s fine verse.

"And you, too, Hyacinthus, would have been
set high within the sky by Phoebus[13], if
your wretched fate had not forestalled his wish.
Yet, in your way, you are eternal now:
whenever spring has banished winter and
the rainy Fish gives way before the Ram,
it's then you rise and flower once again
where earth is green. My father loved you more
than he loved any other; even Delphi,
set at the very center of the earth,
was left without its tutelary god;
for Phoebus went instead to visit you
in unwalled Sparta, on Eurotas' banks,[14]
neglecting both his lyre and his shafts.
Not heeding who he was—his higher tasks—
alongside you, the god did not refuse
to carry nets, to hold the dogs in leash;
he was your comrade on rough mountain peaks;
and lingering beside you, he could feed
his flame of love.


Apollo and Hyakinthos: an engraving after a late 18th century drawing by Andrea Appiani

                              "And now the Titan sun
was at midpoint—between the night to come
and one that had already gone. And Phoebus
and Hyacinthus shed their clothes, anoint
their bodies; gleaming with smooth olive oil,
the two are set to see which one can cast
the discus farther. Phoebus is the first
to lift and poise the broad and heavy disc,
then fling it high; it bursts across the sky
and rends the clouds along its path. Its flight
is long: at last, the hard earth feels its fall,
its weight—a throw that shows what can be done
when strength and skill are joined. The Spartan boy
is reckless: risking all for sport, he runs
to pick the discus up. But the hard ground
sends back the heavy bronze; as it rebounds,
it strikes you in the face, o Hyacinthus!
You and the god are pale: the god lifts up
your sagging form; he tries to warm you, tries
to staunch your cruel wound; and he applies
herbs that might stay your soul as it takes flight.[15]
His arts are useless; nothing now can heal
that wound. As lilies poppies, violets,
if loosened as they hang from yellow stems
in a well-watered garden, fade at once
and, with their withered heads grown heavy, bend;
they cannot stand erect; instead they must
gaze at the ground: just so your dying face
lies slack: too weak for its own weight, your neck
falls back upon your shoulder. 'Sparta's son,
you have been cheated,' Phoebus cries; 'you've lost
the flower of your youth; as I confront
your wound, I witness my own crime—my guilt
my grief! It's my right hand that has inscribed
your end: I am the author of your death.
And yet, what crime is mine? Can play, can sport
be blamed? Can having loved be called a fault?
If I could only pay for what I've done
by dying for or with you—you are one
so worthy! But the law of fate denies
that chance to me. Yet I shall always have
You, Hyacinthus, in my heart, just as
your name shall always be upon my lips.
The lyre my fingers pluck, the songs I chant,
shall celebrate you; and as a new flower,
you'll bear, inscribed upon you, my lament.
And, too, in time to come, the bravest man
shall be identified with you—Ajax'
own letters, on your petals, shall be stamped.'
"As he spoke these true words, the blood that had
been spilled upon the ground and stained the grass
is blood no more; instead—more brilliant than
the purple dye of Tyre—a flower sprang;
though lily-shaped, it was not silver-white;
this flower was purple. Then, not yet content,
Phoebus—for it was he who'd brought about
this wonder that would honor Hyacinthus—
inscribed upon the petals his lament:
with his own hand, he wrote these letters—AI,
AI[16]—signs of sad outcry. And Sparta, too,
is not ashamed to have as its own son
a Hyacinthus; they still honor him
each year, just as their fathers always
did: the Hyacinthia, their festival,[17]
begins with an august processional.

Apollo and Hyakinthos by Stefano Ricci, ca.1810 (Gallery of Modern Art, Florence)

“Te quoque, Amyclide[18], posuisset in aethere Phoebus,
tristia si spatium ponendi fata dedissent.
qua licet, aeternus tamen es, quotiensque repellit
ver hiemem, Piscique Aries succedit aquoso,
tu totiens oreris viridique in caespite flores.
te meus ante omnes genitor dilexit, et orbe
in medio positi caruerunt praeside Delphi,
dum deus Eurotan inmunitamque frequentat
Sparten, nec citharae nec sunt in honore sagittae:
inmemor ipse sui non retia ferre recusat,
non tenuisse canes, non per iuga montis iniqui
ire comes, longaque alit adsuetudine flammas.
iamque fere medius Titan venientis et actae
noctis erat spatioque pari distabat utrimque,
corpora veste levant et suco pinguis olivi
splendescunt latique ineunt certamina disci.
quem prius aerias libratum Phoebus in auras
misit et oppositas disiecit pondere nubes;
reccidit in solidam longo post tempore terram
pondus et exhibuit iunctam cum viribus artem.
protinus inprudens actusque cupidine lusus
tollere Taenarides[19] orbem properabat, at illum
dura repercusso subiecit verbere tellus
in vultus, Hyacinthe, tuos. expalluit aeque
quam puer ipse deus conlapsosque excipit artus,
et modo te refovet, modo tristia vulnera siccat,
nunc animam admotis fugientem sustinet herbis.
nil prosunt artes: erat inmedicabile vulnus.
ut, siquis violas rigidumve papaver in horto
liliaque infringat fulvis horrentia linguis,
marcida demittant subito caput illa vietum
nec se sustineant spectentque cacumine terram:
sic vultus moriens iacet et defecta vigore
ipsa sibi est oneri cervix umeroque recumbit.
‘laberis, Oebalide[20], prima fraudate iuventa,’
Phoebus ait ‘videoque tuum, mea crimina, vulnus.
tu dolor es facinusque meum: mea dextera leto
inscribenda tuo est. ego sum tibi funeris auctor.
quae mea culpa tamen, nisi si lusisse vocari
culpa potest, nisi culpa potest et amasse vocari?
atque utinam tecumque mori vitamque liceret
reddere! quod quoniam fatali lege tenemur,
semper eris mecum memorique haerebis in ore.
te lyra pulsa manu, te carmina nostra sonabunt,
flosque novus scripto gemitus imitabere nostros.
tempus et illud erit, quo se fortissimus heros
addat in hunc florem folioque legatur eodem.’
talia dum vero memorantur Apollinis ore,
ecce cruor, qui fusus humo signaverat herbas,
desinit esse cruor, Tyrioque nitentior ostro
flos oritur formamque capit, quam lilia, si non
purpureus color his, argenteus esset in illis.
non satis hoc Phoebo est (is enim fuit auctor honoris):
ipse suos gemitus foliis inscribit, et AI AI
flos habet inscriptum, funestaque littera ducta est.
nec genuisse pudet Sparten Hyacinthon: honorque
durat in hoc aevi, celebrandaque more priorum
annua praelata redeunt Hyacinthia pompa.”


Ovidius Naso, Fasti V 223-4

The aforementioned Ovid’s Fasti, a half-missing poetic treatise on the Roman calendar, was apparently nearly finished when he was sent into exile in AD 8, but was still being revised when he died about ten years later. The lines quoted here are part of a speech by Chloris, goddess of flowers, on the metamorphosis of handsome youths into flowers.

The translation is by the anthropologist Sir James Frazer, revised by G. P. Goold for the Loeb Classical Library CCLIII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1931) p. 277.

I was the first to make a flower out of Therapnaean blood,
and on its petals the lament remains inscribed.
The Death of Hyacinthus by Benjamin West, 1771

prima Therapnaeo feci de sanguine florem,
et manet in folio scripta querella suo.

Apollo and Hyakinthos by Jean Broc

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fables CCLXXI 1

The probably-2nd-century AD unknown author of these fables is known as pseudo-Hyginus because they were once attributed to the early 1st-century AD writer in Latin, Caius Julius Hyginus and they are probably notestaken from a lost work by him. The translation is this webite’s.

Youths who were most handsome
[…] Hyakinthos son of Oibalos whom Apollo loved.
Qui ephebi formosissimi fuerunt
[…] Hyacinthus Oebali filius quem Apollo amauit.



Petronius, The Satyricon 83

The Satyricon was a novel written by Petronius (probably the Roman courtier C. Petronius Arbiter) in about AD 65. Here, its narrator, Encolpius, recounts his adventures just after his 16-year-old loved-boy abandons him for a rival. That Hyakinthos is the boy loved by Apollo here is clear only from other sources.

The translation is by W. H. D. Rouse in the Loeb Classical Library volume XV (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1913), pp. 193-5.

I came into a gallery hung with a wonderful collection of various pictures. […]But when I came to the work of Apelles[22] the work which the Greeks call The One-legged, I positively worshipped it. For the outlines of his figures were defined with such subtle accuracy, that you would have declared that he had painted their souls as well. In one the eagle on high was carrying the Shepherd of Ida[23] to heaven, and in another fair Hylas[24] resisted a tormenting Naiad. Apollo passed judgment on his accursed hands, and adorned his unstrung lyre with the newborn flower. I cried out as if I were in a desert, among these faces of mere painted lovers, “So even the gods feel love. ‘Jupiter in his heavenly home’ could find no object for his passion, but came down on earth to sin, yet did no one any harm. The Nymph who ravished Hylas would have restrained her passion had she believed that Hercules would come to dispute her claim. Apollo recalled the ghost of a boy into a flower. All these divinities enjoyed love’s embraces without a rival. In pinacothecam perveni vario genere tabularum mirabilem. […]Iam vero Apellis quam Graeci μονόκνημον appellant, etiam adoravi. Tanti enim subtilitate extremitates imaginum erant ad similitudinem praecisae, ut crederes etiam animorum esse picturam. Hinc aquila ferebat caelo sublimis Idaeum, illinc candidus Hylas repellebat improbam Naida. Damnabat Apollo noxias manus lyramque resolutam modo nato flore honorabat. Inter quos etiam pictorum amantium vultus tanquam in solitudine exclamavi: “Ergo amor etiam deos tangit. Iuppiter in caelo suo non invenit quod diligeret, sed peccaturus in terris nemini tamen iniuriam fecit. Hylan Nympha praedata imperasset amori suo, si venturum ad interdictum Herculem credidisset. Apollo pueri umbram revocavit in florem; [et] omnes [fabulae quoque] sine aemulo habuerunt complexus. 



Clement, Recognitions X 26

This theological romance has only survived in a Latin translation of the original Greek by Tyrannius Rufinus of Aquileia (died 410). It consists of discourses involving the Apostle St. Peter recorded by one Clement. Its date is controversial, but sometime between the 1st century AD (as purported) and the 4th, by when it was being quoted.

The Latin text is from S. Clementis Romani Recognitiones edited by E. G. Gersdorf (Leipzig, 1838) p. 224. The translation is by Thomas Smith in Ante-Nicene Christian Library Volume VIII (Edinburgh, 1885).

The following speech was made by the narrator, Clement:

“Hence there has now been added, that the poets also adorn the falsehoods of error by elegance of words, and by sweetness of speech persuade that mortals have been made immortal; yea more, they say that men are changed into stars, and trees, and animals, and flowers, and birds, and fountains, and rivers. And but that it might seem to be a waste of words, I could even enumerate almost all the stars, and trees, and fountains, and rivers, which they assert to have been made of men; yet, by way of example, I shall mention at least one of each class.

They say that Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus, was turned into a star; Daphne, the daughter of the river Lado, into a tree; Hyacinthus, beloved of Apollo, into a flower; Callisto into the constellation which they call Arctos; Progne and Philomela, with Tereus, into birds; that Thysbe in Cilicia was dissolved into a fountain; and Pyramus, at the same place, into a river. And they assert that almost all the stars, trees, fountains, and rivers, flowers, animals, and birds, were at one time human beings.”

Iam hinc additum est, ut et poetae elegantia verborum commenta erroris ornarent, et suavitate dicendi immortales effectos esse ex mortalibus persuaderent; imo et amplius aliquid, ex hominibus aiunt stellas fieri, et arbores, et animalia, et flores, et aves, fontesque ac fluvios, et ni verbositas videretur, omnes paene stellas, quas ex hominibus effectas adserunt, enumerare vel arbores vel fontes ac fluvios possem; exempli tamen caussa singula saltem ex singulis memorabo.

Andromedam Cephei in stellam dicunt esse conversam, Daphnen Ladonis fluvii filiam in arborem commutatam, Hyacinthum Apollinis dilectum in florem, Callisto in sidus quod arcton vocant, Prognen et Philomelam cum Tereo in aves, Thysben apud Ciliciam in fontem, et Pyramum inibi in fluvium resolutos, omnesque paene ut dixi, vel stellas, vel arbores, fontesque ac fluvios, floresque et animalia, vel aves, aliquando homines fuisse confirmant.


Plutarch, Life of Numa 4 v

Numa Pompilius was the legendary second king of Rome. The Greek biographer and essayist Plutarch wrote a biography of him at the beginning of the second century AD as one of his Parallel Lives.

The translation is by Bernadotte Perrin in the Loeb Classical Library volume XLVI (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1914). His romanisations of Greek names have been amended to more literal transliterations of the Greek.

The following passage is a digression: Plutarch says it is hard to believe “that an immortal god should take carnal pleasure in a mortal body and its beauty,” but fit and proper that he should have “a so-called love which is based upon affection.” …

And therefore it is no mistake when the ancient poets tell their tales of the love Apollo bore Phorbas, Hyakinthos, and Admetos, as well as the Sikyonian Hippolytos also,
The Death of Hyakinthos by Jean Broc, 1801 (Musée Sainte-Croix, Poitiers)
καὶ οὐ πλημμελοῦσιν οἱ τὸν Φόρβαντα καὶ τὸν Ὑάκινθον καὶ τὸν Ἄδμητον ἐρωμένους Ἀπόλλωνος γεγονέναι μυθολογοῦντες, ὥσπερ αὖ καὶ τὸν Σικυώνιον Ἱππόλυτον,
The Death of Hyakinthos by Merry-Joseph Blondel, ca. 1830


Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 3723 lines 4-10

This 2nd century AD papyrus found in an ancient rubbish dump near Oxyrhynchus in Egypt in the 19th century is a fragmentary elegiac catalogue of exemplary loves of gods for boys.

What survives of the Greek text has been published in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, volume LIV, edited with a description and copious notes by M. A. Cole, H. Maehler, P. L. Parsons, with contributions by J. M. Bremer, R. J. D. Carden, London, 1987,  pp. 58-64. No translation has yet been attempted.

So much is missing that scholars have only been able to speculate as to what is said about Hyakinthos, who is mentioned in line 9. Of the preceding lines, the aforesaid editors of the text say:

One can imagine various ways in which these would lead up to his beloved: eg. (i) 'The great god who speaks through the oracle of Delphi ... humbles himself to Hyacinthus'; or (ii) 'The great god no longer speaks through the oracle of Delphi ... but goes off to Sparta and courts Hyakinthos.'



Pausanias, Description of Greece

Pausanias was a Greek geographer who wrote his lengthy Description of Greece in ca. AD 150.

The translation is by W. H. S. Jones in the Loeb Classical Library volume CLXXXVIII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1926). The only changes made here are to replace the then conventional Latinisation of Greek names with literal transliteration.

III 1 iii

On Amyklas, described in what follows as one of the most ancient kings of Lakonia (and the great-great-grandfather of the famous Helen of Troy):

Amyklas, too, son of Lakedaimon, wished to leave some memorial behind him, and built a town in Lakonia. Hyakinthos, the youngest and most beautiful of his sons, died before his father, and his tomb is in Amyklai below the image of Apollo.

Ἀμύκλας δὲ ὁ Λακεδαίμονος, βουλόμενος ὑπολιπέσθαι τι καὶ αὐτὸς ἐς μνήμην, πόλισμα ἔκτισεν ἐν τῇ Λακωνικῇ. γενομένων δέ οἱ παίδων Ὑάκινθον μὲν νεώτατον ὄντα καὶ τὸ εἶδος κάλλιστον κατέλαβεν ἡ πεπρωμένη πρότερον τοῦ πατρός, καὶ Ὑακίνθου μνῆμά ἐστιν ἐν Ἀμύκλαις ὑπὸ τὸ ἄγαλμα τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος.


III 10 i

Describing the deeds of the Spartan King Agesilaos II in 391 BC:

Agesilaos again marched with an army against Corinth, and, as the festival Hyakinthia was at hand, he gave the Amyklaians leave to go back home and perform the traditional rites in honour of Apollo and Hyakinthos.  ἀφίκετο δὲ καὶ αὖθις ἐπὶ Κόρινθον στρατιᾷ· καί—ἐπῄει γὰρ Ὑακίνθια—ἀφίησι τοὺς Ἀμυκλαιεῖς οἴκαδε ἀπελθόντας τὰ καθεστηκότα τῷ τε Ἀπόλλωνι καὶ Ὑακίνθῳ δρᾶσαι. 


III 19 iii-v

Describing the sanctuary of Hyakinthos at Amyklai in Lakonia:

The pedestal of the statue is fashioned into the shape of an altar; and they say that Hyakinthos is buried in it, and at the Hyakinthia, before the sacrifice to Apollo, they devote offerings to Hyakinthos as to a hero into this altar through a bronze door, which is on the left of the altar. […]

On the altar are also Demeter, the Maid, Pluto, next to them Fates and Seasons, and with them Aphrodite, Athena and Artemis. They are carrying to heaven Hyakinthos and Polyboia, the sister, they say, of Hyakinthos, who died a maid. Now this statue of Hyakinthos represents him as bearded, but Nikias,[25] son of Nikomedes, has painted him in the very prime of youthful beauty, hinting at the love of Apollo for Hyakinthos of which legend tells.

[…]As for the West Wind, how Apollo unintentionally killed Hyakinthos, and the story of the flower, we must be content with the legends, although perhaps they are not true history.

[iii] τοῦ δὲ ἀγάλματος τὸ βάθρον παρέχεται μὲν βωμοῦ σχῆμα, τεθάφθαι δὲ τὸν Ὑάκινθον λέγουσιν ἐν αὐτῷ, καὶ Ὑακινθίοις πρὸ τῆς τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνοςθυσίας ἐς τοῦτον Ὑακίνθῳ τὸν βωμὸν διὰ θύρας χαλκῆς ἐναγίζουσιν· ἐν ἀριστερᾷ δέ ἐστιν ἡ θύρα τοῦ βωμοῦ. […]

[iv] πεποίηται δὲ ἐπὶ τοῦ βωμοῦ καὶ ἡ Δημήτηρ καὶ Κόρη καὶ Πλούτων, ἐπὶ δὲ αὐτοῖς Μοῖραί τε καὶ Ὧραι, σὺν δέ σφισιν Ἀφροδίτη καὶ Ἀθηνᾶ τε καὶ Ἄρτεμις· κομίζουσι δ᾿ ἐς οὐρανὸν Ὑάκινθον καὶ Πολύβοιαν, Ὑακίνθου καθὰ λέγουσιν ἀδελφὴν ἀποθανοῦσαν ἔτι παρθένον. τοῦτο μὲν οὖν τοῦ Ὑακίνθου τὸ ἄγαλμα ἔχον ἐστὶν ἤδη γένεια, Νικίας δὲ ὁ Νικομήδους περισσῶς δή τι ἔγραψεν αὐτὸν ὡραῖον, τὸν ἐπὶ Ὑακίνθῷ λεγόμενον Ἀπόλλωνος ἔρωτα ὑποσημαίνων.

[v …] περὶ δὲ ἀνέμου Ζεφύρου, καὶ ὡς ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος Ὑάκινθος ἀπέθανεν ἄκοντος, καὶ τὰ ἐς τὸ ἄνθος εἰρημένα τάχα μὲν ἂν ἔχοι καὶ ἄλλως, δοκείτω δὲ ᾗ λέγεται.


IV 19 iv

Describing events during the Second Messenian War (685-668 BC):

Now the Lacedaemonians, as the festival of Hyakinthos was approaching, made a truce of forty days with the men of Eira. They themselves returned home to keep the feast, but some Cretan archers, whom they had summoned as mercenaries from Lyktos and other cities, were patrolling Messenia for them. Λακεδαιμόνιοι δέ—ἐπῄει γὰρ Ὑακίνθια—πρὸς τοὺς ἐν τῇ Εἴρᾳ τεσσαράκοντα ἐποιήσαντο ἡμερῶν σπονδάς· καὶ αὐτοὶ μὲν ἀναχωρήσαντες οἴκαδε ἑώρταζον, Κρῆτες δὲ τοξόται—μετεπέμψαντο γὰρ ἔκ τε Λύκτου καὶ ἑτέρων πόλεων μισθωτούς—οὗτοί σφισιν ἀνὰ τὴν Μεσσηνίαν ἐπλανῶντο. 
Hyakinthos Blessed by François Joseph Bosio, 1817


Lucian, The Dance 45

Loukianos of Samosata was an Assyrian satirist and rhetorician who during a stay of ten years in Athens ca. AD 165-175 wrote in Greek a large number of popular books mostly deploying tongue-in-cheek sarcasm to ridicule religious practices and the increasingly-prevalent superstition of the day.

In Περὶ Ὀρχήσεως (The Dance),  Lucian defends the Roman art of pantomime. The following sentence comes in a list exemplifying “the ancient story”, of which the dancer should have a “prompt recollection”.

The translation is by A. M. Harmon in the Loeb Classical Library volume CCCII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1936), with amendment of his romanisations of Greek names in favour of more literal transliterations of the Greek.

Sparta, too, affords not a few stories of this sort: Hyakinthos, and Apollo’s rival, Zephyros; the lad’s slaying with the discus, the flower that came from the blood, and the word of woe (AI) that is written on it.  Οὐκ ὀλίγα δὲ καὶ ἡ Λακεδαίμων τοιαῦτα παρέχεται, τὸν Ὑάκινθον καὶ τὸν τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος ἀντεραστὴν Ζέφυρον καὶ τὴν ὑπὸ τῷ δίσκῳ τοῦ μειρακίου σφαγὴν καὶ τὸ ἐκ τοῦ αἵματος ἄνθος καὶ τὴν ἐν αὐτῷ αἰάζουσαν ἐπιγραφήν,  



Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead XVIII

The foregoing Lucian’s Νεκρικοὶ Διάλογοι (Dialogues of the Dead) is made up of thirty miniature dialogues set in the Underworld. The following exchange opens a dialogue between the 3rd-century BC Cynic Menippos of Gadara and the messenger god Hermes.

The translation is by M. D. MacLeod in the Loeb Classical Library volume CCCCXXXI (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1961) pp. 21-23, with amendment of his romanisations of Greek names in favour of more literal transliterations of the Greek.


MENIPPOS: Tell me, Hermes, where are the beauties of both sexes? Show me round, as I’m a newcomer.

HERMES: I have no time, Menippos. But just look over there to your right, where you’ll see Hyakinthos, Narkissos, Nireus, Achilles, Tyro, Helen, and Leda, and, in fact, all the beauties of old.


ΜΕΝΙΠΠΟΣ: Ποῦ δαὶ3 οἱ καλοί εἰσιν ἢ αἱ καλαί, Ἑρμῆ; ξενάγησόν με νέηλυν ὄντα.

ΕΡΜΗΣ: Οὐ σχολή μέν, ὦ Μένιππε· πλὴν κατ᾿ ἐκεῖνο ἀπόβλεψον, ἐπὶ τὰ δεξιά, ἔνθα ὁ Ὑάκινθός τέ ἐστιν καὶ Νάρκισσος καὶ Νιρεὺς καὶ Ἀχιλλεὺς καὶ Τυρὼ καὶ Ἑλένη καὶ Λήδα καὶ ὅλως τὰ ἀρχαῖα πάντα κάλλη.



Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods

The foregoing Lucian’s Θεῶν Διάλογοι (Dialogues of the Gods) consists of twenty-five miniature dialogues mocking the Homeric conception of the Greek gods, of which three mention Hyakinthos.

The translation is by M. D. MacLeod in the Loeb Classical Library volume CCCCXXXI (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1961) pp. 265, & 317-321, with amendment of his romanisations of Greek names in favour of more literal transliterations of the Greek. Both of the conventional referencing systems for passages are given here rather than the one adopted by MacLeod.

II (206)

Zeus has just asked Eros why he has caused mortals only ever to fall for Zeus when in disguise.


EROS:  That’s only natural. The sight of your face is too much for mortal women like them.

ZEUS:  How, then, is Apollo so popular with Branchos and Hyakinthos?


ΕΡΩΣ:  Εἰκότως· οὐ γὰρ φέρουσιν, ὦ Ζεῦ, θνηταὶ οὖσαι τὴν σὴν πρόσοψιν

ΖΕΥΣ:  Πῶς οὖν τὸν Ἀπόλλω ὁ Βράγχος καὶ ὁ Ὑάκινθος φιλοῦσιν


XIV (238-240)

[This is the whole of this dialogue:]


HERMES:  Why so down in the mouth, Apollo?

APOLLO:  It’s my bad luck in love, Hermes.

HERMES:  Ah, yes, that could well make a chap sad. But what’s your bad luck? Still sore about Daphne?

APOLLO:  Oh, no; I’m in mourning for my Laconian darling, Oibalos’ son.

HERMES:  Is Hyakinthos dead then?

APOLLO:  He certainly is.

HERMES:  Who did it, Apollo? Who was so insensible to charm as to kill that lovely boy?

APOLLO:  I did it with my own hand.

HERMES:  What! Were you mad, Apollo?

APOLLO:  No, it was an unlucky accident.

HERMES:  How? I’d like to hear how it happened.

APOLLO:  He was learning to throw the quoit, and I was throwing it with him, when Zephyros did it—curse that wind above them all—Zephyros, too, had been in love with him for a long time, but the boy wouldn’t look at him, and he couldn’t stand his contempt. Well, I threw my quoit as usual, and Zephyros blew down from Taygetos, and dashed it down on the boy’s head. Blood poured out where it hit him, and he died on the spot, poor lad. I shot back at Zephyros with my arrows and chased him hard, all the way back to the mountain. The boy I’ve had buried in Amyklai, where he was struck down by the discus, and I’ve made the earth send up from his blood the sweetest and fairest flower of them all, one which bears lettering[26] of mourning for the dead one. Do you think it’s unreasonable of me to have a broken heart?

HERMES:  Yes I do, my good chap. You knew you’d chosen a mortal to love; so you mustn’t be vexed at his death.


ΕΡΜΗΣ:  Τί κατηφὴς εἶ, ὦ Ἄπολλον;

ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝ:  Ὅτι, ὦ Ἑρμῆ, δυστυχῶ ἐν τοῖς ἐρωτικοῖς.

ΕΡΜΗΣ:  Ἄξιον μὲν λύπης τὸ τοιοῦτο· σὺ δὲ τί δυστυχεῖς; ἢ τὸ κατὰ τὴν Δάφνην σε λυπεῖ ἔτι;

ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝ:  Οὐδαμῶς· ἀλλὰ ἐρώμενον πενθῶ τὸν Λάκωνα τὸν Οἰβάλου.

ΕΡΜΗΣ:  Τέθνηκε γάρ, εἰπέ μοι, ὁ Ὑάκινθος;

ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝ:  Καὶ μάλα.

ΕΡΜΗΣ:  Πρὸς τίνος, ὦ Ἄπολλον; ἢ τίς οὕτως ἀνέραστος ἦν ὡς ἀποκτεῖναι τὸ καλὸν ἐκεῖνο μειράκιον;

ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝ:  Αὐτοῦ ἐμοῦ τὸ ἔργον.

ΕΡΜΗΣ:  Οὐκοῦν ἐμάνης, ὦ Ἄπολλον;

ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝ:  Οὔκ, ἀλλὰ δυστύχημά τι ἀκούσιον ἐγένετο.

ΕΡΜΗΣ:  Πῶς; ἐθέλω γὰρ ἀκοῦσαι τὸν τρόπον.

ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝ: Δισκεύειν ἐμάνθανε κἀγὼ συνεδίσκευον αὐτῷ, ὁ δὲ κάκιστα ἀνέμων ἀπολούμενος ὁ Ζέφυρος ἤρα μὲν ἐκ πολλοῦ καὶ αὐτός, ἀμελούμενος δὲ καὶ μὴ φέρων τὴν ὑπεροψίαν ταῦτα εἰργάσατο·1 ἐγὼ μὲν ἀνέρριψα, ὥσπερ εἰώθειμεν, τὸν δίσκον εἰς τὸ ἄνω, ὁ δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ Ταϋγέτου καταπνεύσας ἐπὶ κεφαλὺν τῷ παιδὶ ἐνέσεισε φέρων αὐτόν, ὥστε ἀπὸ τῆς πληγῆς αἷμα ῥυῆναι πολὺ καὶ τὸν παῖδα εὐθὺς ἀποθανεῖν. ἀλλὰ ἐγὼ τὸν μὲν Ζέφυρον αὐτίκα ἠμυνάμην κατατοξεύσας, φεύγοντι ἐπισπόμενος ἄχρι τοῦ ὄρους, τῷ παιδὶ δὲ καὶ τὸν τάφον μὲν ἐχωσάμην ἐν Ἀμύκλαις, ὅπου ὁ δίσκος αὐτὸν κατέβαλε, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος ἄνθος ἀναδοῦναι τὴν γῆν ἐποίησα ἥδιστον, ὦ Ἑρμῆ, καὶ εὐανθέστατον ἀνθῶν ἁπάντων, ἔτι καὶ γράμματα ἔχον ἐπαιάζοντα τῷ νεκρῷ. ἆρά σοι ἀλόγως λελυπῆσθαι δοκῶ;

ΕΡΜΗΣ:  Ναί, ὦ Ἄπολλον· ᾔδεις γὰρ θνητὸν πεποιημένος τὸν ἐρώμενον· ὥστε μὴ ἄχθου ἀποθανόντος.


XV (242)


APOLLO:  I’m generally unlucky in love; at least I lost my two special sweethearts, Daphne and Hyakinthos. Daphne so loathes and shuns me that she’s chosen to turn into a tree rather than share my company, and Hyakinthos was killed by that quoit. All that’s left of them for me is wreaths.

Dying Hyakinthos by Antoine Étex, 1829


ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝ:  Ἐγὼ μὲν καὶ ἄλλως ἀναφρόδιτός εἰμι εἰς τὰ ἐρωτικὰ καὶ δύο γοῦν, οὓς μάλιστα ὑπερηγάπησα, τὴν Δάφνην καὶ τὸν Ὑάκινθον· ἡ μὲν ἀποδιδράσκει με καὶ μισεῖ, ὥστε εἵλετο ξύλον γενέσθαι μᾶλλον ἢ ἐμοὶ ξυνεῖναι, ὁ δὲ ἀπώλετο ὑπὸ τοῦ δίσκου, καὶ νῦν ἀντ᾿ ἐκείνων στεφάνους ἔχω.

Dying Hyakinthos by Antoine Étex, 1829

XVI (244)

Hera and Leto mock each other’s children by Zeus. Amongst other things Hera says about Leto’s son Apollo:


The prophet himself didn’t know he was going to kill his darling with that quoit, and didn’t foretell that Daphne would run away from him, for all his beauty and fine hair.


αὐτὸς γοῦν ὁ μάντις ἠγνόει μὲν ὅτι φονεύσει τὸν ἐρώμενον τῷ δίσκῳ, οὐ προεμαντεύετο δὲ ὡς φεύξεται αὐτὸν ἡ Δάφνη, καὶ ταῦτα οὕτω καλὸν καὶ κομήτην ὄντα·



 Apollodoros, The Library

The Library is a most valuable encyclopaedia of Greek mythology that is attributed to an Apollodoros once thought to have been the 2nd-century BC Athenian historian Apollodoros, but who cannot in fact be him, as he cites sources of the next century and probably in fact wrote at least another century still later.

The translation is by the anthropologist Sir James Frazer in the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1921) vol. CXXI p. 19 and CXXII  p. 11-13, with amendment of his romanisations of Greek names in favour of more literal transliterations of the Greek.

I 3 iii

Kleio fell in love with Pieros, son of Magnes, in consequence of the wrath of Aphrodite, whom she had twitted with her love of Adonis; and having met him she bore him a son Hyakinthos, for whom Thamyris, the son of Philammon and a nymph Argiope, conceived a passion, he being the first to become enamoured of males. But afterwards Apollo loved Hyakinthos and killed him involuntarily by the cast of a quoit.  Κλειὼ δὲ Πιέρου τοῦ Μάγνητος ἠράσθη κατὰ μῆνιν Ἀφροδίτης (ὠνείδισε γὰρ αὐτῇ τὸν τοῦ Ἀδώνιδος ἔρωτα), συνελθοῦσα δὲ ἐγέννησεν ἐξ αὐτοῦ παῖδα Ὑάκινθον, οὗ Θάμυρις ὁ Φιλάμμωνος καὶ Ἀργιόπης νύμφης ἔσχεν ἔρωτα, πρῶτος ἀρξάμενος ἐρᾶν ἀρρένων. ἀλλ᾿ Ὑάκινθον μὲν ὕστερον Ἀπόλλων ἐρώμενον ὄντα δίσκῳ βαλὼν ἄκων ἀπέκτεινε, 


III 10 iii

Taygete had by Zeus a son Lakedaimon, after whom the country of Lakedaimon is called. Lakedaimon and Sparta, daughter of Eurotas (who was a son of Lelex, a son of the soil, by a Naiad nymph Kleochareia), had a son Amyklas and a daughter Eurydike, whom Akrisios married. Amyklas and Diomede, daughter of Lapithos, had sons, Kynortes and Hyakinthos. They say that this Hyakinthos was beloved of Apollo and killed by him involuntarily with the cast of a quoit.  Ταϋγέτη δὲ ἐκ Διὸς [ἐγέννησε] Λακεδαίμονα, ἀφ᾿ οὗ καὶ Λακεδαίμων ἡ χώρα καλεῖται. Λακεδαίμονος δὲ καὶ Σπάρτης τῆς Εὐρώτα, ὃς ἦν ἀπὸ Λέλεγος αὐτόχθονος καὶ νύμφης νηίδος Κλεοχαρείας, Ἀμύκλας καὶ Εὐρυδίκη, ἣν ἔγημεν Ἀκρίσιος. Ἀμύκλα δὲ καὶ Διομήδης τῆς Λαπίθου Κυνόρτης καὶ Ὑάκινθος. τοῦτον εἶναι τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος ἐρώμενον λέγουσιν, ὃν δίσκῳ βαλὼν ἄκων ἀπέκτεινε.



Tit. Flavius Clemens, The Exhortation to the Greeks, II

The author, known in English as Clement of Alexandria, was a Christian convert considered a Church Father, and his book here quoted from, and written in about 190, was an exhortation to the Greeks to adopt Christianity, arguing that the Greek gods were false and poor moral examples, in the following example because they were given over to lust.

The translation is by G. W. Butterworth in the Loeb Classical Library volume XCII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1919) except that his Romanisation of Greek names has been undone in favour of more literal transliteration.

For your gods did not abstain even from boys. One loved Hylas, another Hyacinthus, another Pelops, another Chrysippus, another Ganymedes.[27] These are the gods your wives are to worship! Such they must pray for their own husbands to be, similar models of virtue,—that they may be like the gods by aspiring after equally high ideals!  οὐδὲ γὰρ οὐδὲ παίδων ἀπέσχοντο οἱ παρ᾿ ὑμῖν θεοί, ὁ μέν τις Ὕλα, ὁ δὲ Ὑακίνθου, ὁ δὲ Πέλοπος, ὁ δὲ Χρυσίππου, ὁ δὲ Γανυμήδους ἐρῶντες. τούτους ὑμῶν αἱ γυναῖκες προσκυνούντων τοὺς θεούς, τοιούτους δὲ εὐχέσθων εἶναι τοὺς ἄνδρας τοὺς ἑαυτῶν, οὕτω σώφρονας, ἵν᾿ ὦσιν ὅμοιοι τοῖς θεοῖς τὰ ἴσα ἐζηλωκότες· 


Kyparissos, Apollo and Hyakinthos by Alexander Ivanov, 1831


Athenaios, The Learned Banqueters 139d-f

Athenaios of Naukratis wrote this in the early 3rd century AD. Here he is quoting Didymos the grammarian (ca. 63 BC-ca. AD 10).

The translation is by C. D. Yonge in The Deipnosophists, or the Banquet of The Learned of Athenaeus, London, 1854.

"Polycrates, in his history of Lacedæmonian affairs, relates that the Lacedæmonians celebrate the festival called Hyacinthia for three days, and on account of their lamentation for Hyacinthus, they do not wear crowns at their feasts, nor do they bring bread there, but they distribute cheesecakes, and other things of the same kind. And they sing no paean to the god, nor do they introduce anything of that sort, as they do in other sacred festivals, but they eat their supper in a very orderly manner, and then depart. But on the middle one of the three days there is a very superb spectacle, and a very considerable and important assembly; for boys play upon the harp, girt up in their tunics, and singing to the music of the flute, running over all the strings of the harp at the same time with the plectrum, in an anapæstic rhythm, with a shrill tone, and in that manner they sing a hymn in honour of the god. And others riding on horses and handsomely dressed go through the theatre; and very numerous choruses of young men enter, and they sing some of their native poems. And dancers mingled with them perform an ancient sort of dance to the music of a flute and singing. And virgins also, some in wooden curved chariots, called canathra, beautifully made, and others in crowds of large waggons drawn by horses, make a procession; and the whole city is in a state of agitation and of delight at the spectacle. And they sacrifice great numbers of victims all this day. And the citizens give a banquet to all their friends, and to their own slaves; and no one omits attending the sacred feast, but the whole city is evacuated by the whole body of citizens flocking to the spectacle.  Πολυκράτης, φησί, ἐν τοῖς Λακωνικοῖς ἱστορεῖ ὅτι τὴν μὲν τῶν Ὑακινθίων θυσίαν οἱ Λάκωνες ἐπὶ τρεῖς ἡμέρας συντελοῦσι καὶ διὰ τὸ πένθος τὸ γενόμενον περὶ τὸν Ὑάκινθον οὔτε στεφανοῦνται ἐπὶ τοῖς δείπνοις οὔτε ἄρτον εἰσφέρουσιν, ἀλλὰ πέμματα καὶ τὰ τούτοις ἀκόλουθα διδόασι. καὶ τὸν εἰς τὸν θεὸν παιᾶνα οὐκ ᾄδουσιν οὐδ᾿ ἄλλο τι τοιοῦτον οὐδὲν καθάπερ ἐν ταῖς ἄλλαις θυσίαις ποιοῦσιν, ἀλλὰ μετ᾿ εὐταξίας πολλῆς δειπνήσαντες ἀπέρχονται. τῇ δὲ μέσῃ τῶν τριῶν ἡμερῶν γίνεται θέα ποικίλη καὶ πανήγυρις ἀξιόλογος καὶ μεγάλη· παῖδές τε γὰρ κιθαρίζουσιν ἐν χιτῶσιν ἀνεζωσμένοις καὶ πρὸς αὐλὸν ᾄδοντες πάσας ἅμα τῷ πλήκτρῳ τὰς χορδὰς ἐπιτρέχοντες ἐν ῥυθμῷ μὲν ἀναπαίστῳ, μετ᾿ ὀξέος δὲ τόνου τὸν θεὸν ᾄδουσιν· ἄλλοι δ᾿ ἐφ᾿ ἵππων κεκοσμημένων τὸ θέατρον διεξέρχονται· χοροί τε νεανίσκων παμπληθεῖς εἰσέρχονται καὶ τῶν ἐπιχωρίων τινὰ ποιημάτων ᾄδουσιν, ὀρχησταί τε τούτοις ἀναμεμιγμένοι τὴν κίνησιν ἀρχαϊκὴν ὑπὸ τὸν αὐλὸν καὶ τὴν ᾠδὴν ποιοῦνται. τῶν δὲ παρθένων αἱ μὲν ἐπὶ καννάθρων φέρονται πολυτελῶς κατεσκευασμένων, αἱ δ᾿ ἐφ᾿ ἁμίλλαις ἁρμάτων ἐζευγμένων πομπεύουσιν, ἅπασα δ᾿ ἐν κινήσει καὶ χαρᾷ τῆς θεωρίας ἡ πόλις καθέστηκεν. ἱερεῖά τε παμπληθῆ θύουσι τὴν ἡμέραν ταύτην καὶ δειπνίζουσιν οἱ πολῖται πάντας τοὺς γνωρίμους καὶ τοὺς δούλους τοὺς ἰδίους· οὐδεὶς δ᾿ ἀπολείπει τὴν θυσίαν, ἀλλὰ κενοῦσθαι συμβαίνει τὴν πόλιν πρὸς τὴν θέαν. 



Philostratos the Elder, Images I 24

The Εκόνες (Images), generally now thought to have been by the Lemnian sophist Philostratos “the Elder”, though formerly attributed to his father-in-law of the same name, are, at least ostensibly, descriptions of sixty-four pictures in a Neapolitan gallery written in probably the 220s AD to explain them to a boy.

The translation is by Arthur Fairbanks in the Loeb Classical Library volume CCLVI (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1931) pp. 92-7.


Read the hyacinth, for there is writing on it[28] which says it sprang from the earth in honour of a beautiful youth; and it laments him at the beginning of spring, doubtless because it was born from him when he died. Let not the meadow delay you with the flower, for it grows here[29] also, no different from the flower which springs from the earth. The painting tells us that the hair of the youth is “hyacinthine,”[30] and that his blood, taking on life in the earth, has given the flower its own crimson colour. It flows from the head itself where the discus struck it. Terrible was the failure to hit the mark and incredible is the story told of Apollo; but since we are not here to criticize the myths and are not ready to refuse them credence, but are merely spectators of the paintings, let us examine the painting and in the first place the stand set for throwing the discus.

A raised thrower’s stand[31] has been set apart, so small as to suffice for only one person to stand on, and then only when it supports the posterior portions and the right leg of the thrower, causing the anterior portions to bend forward and the left leg to be relieved of weight; for this leg must be straightened and advanced along with the right arm. As for the attitude of the man holding the discus, he must turn his head to the right and bend himself over so far that he can look down at his side, and he must hurl the discus by drawing himself up and putting his whole right side into the throw. Such, no doubt, was the way Apollo threw the discus, for he could not have cast it in any other way; and now that the discus has struck the youth, he lies there on the discus itself—a Laconian youth, straight of leg, not unpractised in running, the muscles of his arm already developed, the fine lines of the bones indicated under the flesh; but Apollo with averted face is still on the thrower’s stand and he gazes down at the ground. You will say he is fixed there, such consternation has fallen upon him. A lout is Zephyrus, who was angry with Apollo and caused the discus to strike the youth, and the scene seems a laughing matter to the wind and he taunts the god from his look-out. You can see him, I think, with his winged temples and his delicate form; and he wears a crown of all kinds of flowers, and will soon weave the hyacinth in among them.

The Death of Hyakinthos by Alexander Kisilev, 1884


Ἀνάγνωθι τὴν ὑάκινθον, γέγραπται γὰρ καί φησιν ἀναφῦναι τῆς γῆς ἐπὶ μειρακίῳ καλῷ καὶ θρηνεῖ αὐτὸ ἅμα τῷ ἦρι γένεσιν οἶμαι παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ λαβοῦσα, ὅτε ἀπέθανε. καὶ μή σε λειμὼν ἀναβάλῃ τοῦτο, καὶ γὰρ ἐνταῦθα ἐκπέφυκεν, ὁποία τῆς γῆς ἀνέσχε. λέγει δὲ ἡ γραφὴ καὶ ὑακινθίνην εἶναι τῷ μειρακίῳ τὴν κόμην καὶ τὸ αἷμα ἔμβιον τῇ γῇ γινόμενον εἰς οἰκεῖόν τι χρῶσαι τὸ ἄνθος. ῥεῖ δὲ ἀπ᾿ αὐτῆς τῆς κεφαλῆς ἐμπεπτωκότος αὐτῇ τοῦ δίσκου. δεινὴ μὲν ἡ διαμαρτία καὶ οὐδὲ πιστὴ λέγεται κατὰ τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος· ἐπεὶ δὲ οὐ σοφισταὶ τῶν μύθων ἥκομεν οὐδὲ ἀπιστεῖν ἕτοιμοι, θεαταὶ δὲ μόνον τῶν γεγραμμένων, ἐξετάσωμεν τὴν γραφὴν καὶ πρῶτόν γε τὴν βαβῖδα τοῦ δίσκου.

Βαλβὶς διακεχώρισται μικρὰ καὶ ἀποχρῶσα ἑνὶ ἑστῶτι, εἰ μὴ τὸ κατόπιν καὶ τὸ δεξιὸν σκέλος ἀνέχουσα, πρανῆ τὰ ἔμπροσθεν, καὶ κουφίζουσα θάτερον τοῖν σκελοῖν, ὃ χρὴ συναναβάλλεσθαι καὶ συμπορεύεσθαι τῇ δεξιᾷ. τὸ δὲ σχῆμα τοῦ δίσκον ἀνέχοντος· ἐξαλλάξαντα τὴν κεφαλὴν ἐπὶ δεξιὰ χρὴ κυρτοῦσθαι τόσον, ὅσον ὑποβλέψαι τὰ πλευρά, καὶ ῥιπτεῖν οἷον ἀνιμῶντα καὶ προσεμβάλλοντα τοῖς δεξιοῖς πᾶσι. Καὶ ὁ Ἀπόλλων οὕτω πως ἐδίσκευσεν, οὐ γὰρ ἂν ἄλλως ἀφῆκεν, ἐμπεσὼν δὲ ὁ δίσκος ἐς τὸ μειράκιον τὸ μὲν κεῖται καὶ ἐπ᾿αὐτοῦ γε τοῦ δίσκου—Λακωνικὸν μειράκιον καὶ τὴν κνήμην ὀρθὸν καὶ δρόμων οὐκ ἀγύμναστον καὶ βραχίονα ὑπεγεῖρον ἤδη καὶ τὴν ὥραν τῶν ὀστῶν ὑπεκφαῖνον—ἀπέστραπται δὲ Ἀπόλλων ἔτι ἐφεστὼς τῇ βαλβῖδι καὶ κατὰ γῆς βλέπει. πεπηγέναι φήσεις αὐτόν, τοσοῦτον αὐτῷ τῆς ἐκπλήξεως ἐμπέπτωκεν. Ἀμαθής γε ὁ Ζέφυρος νεμεσήσας αὐτῷ καὶ τὸν δίσκον ἐς τὸ μειράκιον παρείς, καὶ γέλως δοκεῖ τῷ ἀνέμῳ ταῦτα καὶ τωθάζει περιωπὴν ἔχων. ὁρᾷς δὲ οἶμαι αὐτὸν ἐν πτηνῷ τῷ κροτάφῳ καὶ ἁβρῷ τῷ εἴδει, καὶ στέφανον φέρει πάντων ἀνθέων, μικρὸν δὲ ὕστερον καὶ τὴν ὑάκινθον αὐτοῖς ἐμπλέξει.

Hyacinthus by Lawrence Macdonald, 1842


Philostratos the Younger, Images XIV

The Εκόνες (Images) of the Greek sophist Philostratos “the Younger”, grandson of are, like those of his grandfather Philostratos “the Elder” descriptions of pictures, and were written in the second half of the third century AD.

The translation is by Arthur Fairbanks in the Loeb Classical Library volume CCLVI (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1931) pp. 353-7, with amendment of his romanisations of Greek names in favour of more literal transliterations of the Greek.


Let us ask the youth, my boy, who he is and what is the reason for Apollo’s presence with him, for he will not be afraid to have us, at least, look at him. Well, he says that he is Hyakinthos, the son of Oibalos; and now that we have learned this we must also know the reason for the god’s presence. The son of Leto for love of the youth promises to give him all he possesses for permission to associate with him; for he will teach him the use of the bow, and music, and understanding of the art of prophecy, and not to be unskilful with the lyre, and to preside over the contest of the palaistra, and he will grant to him that, riding on a chariot drawn by swans, he should visit all the lands dear to Apollo. Here is the god, painted as usual with unshorn locks; he lifts a radiant forehead above eyes that shine like rays of light, and with a sweet smile he encourages Hyakinthos, extending his right hand with the same purpose. The youth keeps his eyes steadfastly on the ground, and they are very thoughtful, for he rejoices at what he hears and tempers with modesty the confidence that is yet to come. He stands there, covering with a purple mantle the left side of his body, which is also drawn back, and he supports his right hand on a spear, the hip being thrown forward and the right side exposed to view, and this bare arm permits us to describe what is visible. He has a slender ankle below the straight lower leg, and above the latter this supple knee-joint; then come thighs not unduly developed and hip-joints which support the rest of the body; his side rounds out a full-lunged chest, his arm swells[32] in a delicate curve,[33] his neck is moderately erect, while the hair is not unkempt nor stiff from grime, but falls over his forehead and blends with the first down of his beard. The discus at his feet . . . about himself, and Eros, who is both radiant and at the same time downcast, and Zephyros, who just shows his savage eye from his place of look-out—by all this the painter suggests the death of the youth, and as Apollo makes his cast, Zephyros, by breathing athwart its course, will cause the discus to strike Hyakinthos.


Πυθώμεθα τοῦ μειρακίου, ὦ παιδίον, τίς τε αὐτὸς εἴη καὶ τίς αἰτία τῆς Ἀπόλλωνος αὐτῷ παρουσίας, θαρσήσει γὰρ ἡμᾶς γοῦν προσβλέψαι. Οὐκοῦν ὁ μὲν Ὑάκινθος εἶναί φησιν ὁ Οἰβάλου, μαθόντας δὲ τοῦτο χρὴ λοιπὸν καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ παρουσίας γινώσκειν· ἐρῶν ὁ τῆς Λητοῦς τοῦ μειρακίου πάντα δώσειν αὐτῷ φησιν, ὅσα ἔχει, τὸ ξυνεῖναί οἱ προσεμένῳ, τοξείαν τε γὰρ καὶ μουσικὴν διδάξειν καὶ μαντικῆς ἐπαίειν καὶ λύρας μὴ ἀπῳδὸν εἶναι καὶ τοῖς ἀμφὶ παλαίστραν ἐπιστήσειν, δώσειν δὲ ὑπὲρ κύκνων αὐτὸν ὀχούμενον περιπολεῖν χωρία, ὅσα Ἀπόλλωνος φίλα. Ταυτὶ μὲν ὁ θεός, γέγραπται δὲ ἀκειρεκόμης μέν, τὸ εἰωθός, φαιδρὰν δὲ ὀφρῦν ὑπὲρ ὀφθαλμῶν ἐγείρων, ὧν ἀκτῖνες οἷον ἐκλάμπουσι, καὶ μειδιάματι ἡδεῖ τὸν Ὑάκινθον θαρσύνων προτείνων μὲν τὴν δεξιὰν ἐπὶ τῇ αὐτῇ αἰτίᾳ. Τὸ μειράκιον δὲ ἐς γῆν μὲν ἀτενὲς ὁρᾷ, πολλὴ δὲ ἡ τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν ἔννοια, γάνυταί τε γὰρ ἐφ᾿ οἷς ἀκούει, καὶ τὸ θάρσος ἔτι μέλλον αἰδοῖ μίγνυσιν. ἔστηκε δὲ τὰ μὲν ἀριστερὰ τοῦ σώματος ἁλιπορφύρῳ χλανίδι καλύπτων, ἃ δὴ καὶ ὑπέσταλται, ἀκοντίῳ δὲ τὴν δεξιὰν ἐπερείδει ἐκκειμένῳ τῷ γλουτῷ καὶ τῇ πλευρᾷ διορωμένῃ, βραχίων τε οὑτοσὶ γυμνὸς δίδωσι ἡμῖν ἐς τὰ ὁρώμενα λέγειν. σφυρὸν μὲν αὐτῷ κοῦφον ἐπ᾿ εὐθείᾳ τῇ κνήμῃ καὶ ἐπιγουνὶς αὕτη ἐλαφρὰ ὑπὲρ κνήμης μηροί τε ἀπέριττοι καὶ ἰσχίον ἀνέχον τὸ λοιπὸν σῶμα πλευρά τε εὔπνουν ἀποτορνεύουσα τὸ στέρνον καὶ βραχίων ξὺν ἁπαλότητι σφριγῶν καὶ αὐχὴν ἀνεστηκὼς τὸ μέτριον ἡ κόμη τε οὐκ ἄγροικος οὐδὲ ἐν αὐχμῷ ἀνεστηκυῖα, ἀλλ᾿ ἐπικρεμαμένη τῷ μετώπῳ, συναπονεύουσα δὲ ταῖς τοῦ ἰούλου ἀρχαῖς. Ὁ δ᾿ ἐν ποσὶ δίσκος ἔχων καὶ σκοπ . . . τι περὶ ἑαυτὸν Ἔρως τε καὶ πάνυ φαιδρὸς ἅμα καὶ κατηφής, καὶ Ζέφυρος ἐκ περιωπῆς ἄγριον ὑποφαίνων τὸ ὀμμα, αἰνίττεται ὁ ζωγράφος τὴν ἀπώλειαν τοῦ μειρακίου, δισκεύοντι δὲ τῷ Ἀπόλλωνι πλάγιος ἐμπνεύσας ἐμβαλεῖ τῷ Ὑακίνθῳ τὸν δίσκον.



Lactantius Placidus, Commentary on Statius' Thebaid IV 223

Lactantius Placidus wrote a commentary on Statius’s poem Thebaid in the late 4th century AD. The translation is this website’s of the Latin text edited by R. D. Sweeney in Lactantii Placidi in Statii Thebaida commentum. Vol. 1: Anonymi in Statii Achilleida commentum. Fulgentii ut fingitur Planciadis super Thebaiden commentariolum (Stuttgart 1997).

(APOLLONIAN ...) AMYKLAI the Laconian city sacred to Apollo, in which the Hyakinthos is held with a contest in honour of the royal boy. Who, when he was occupied with the discus, reverberation killed through the alteration of Zephyros, because he had preferred Apollo to himself. Whose blood was changed into the flower of his name for the perpetual dignity of his memory. As Virgil: “flowers are born inscribed with the names of kings”.

(APOLLINEAE ...) AMYCLAE Laconicae ciuitas sacra Apollini, in qua Hyacinthus in agone celebratur in honorem pueri regis. Qui cum exerceretur disco, repercussus Zephyri uertigine quod sibi Apollinem praetulisset, occisus est. Cuius sanguis in florem nominis sui uersus est ob memoriae perpetuam dignitatem. Vt Vergilius: 'inscripti nomina regum nascuntur f(lores)'.


The Death of Hyakinthos by Leon Grandin, 1891


Claudius Claudianus, Rape of Proserpine II 130-6

Claudian was a Latin poet whose epic Rape of Proserpine, was written in AD 395-97. In the following passage, Proserpine and her nymphs are gathering flowers immediately before her abduction by Pluto, the god of the underworld.

The translation is by M. Platnauer in the Loeb Classical Library CXXXVI, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1922, pp. 327-29.

Thee also, Hyacinthus, they gather, thy flower inscribed with woe, and Narcissus too—once lovely boys, now the pride of flowering spring. Thou, Hyacinthus, wert born at Amyclae, Narcissus was Helicon’s child; thee the errant discus slew; him love of his stream-reflected face beguiled; for thee weeps Delos’ god with sorrow-weighted brow; for him Cephisus with his broken reeds.

te quoque, flebilibus maerens Hyacinthe figuris, Narcissumque metunt, nunc inclita germina veris, praestantes olim pueros: tu natus Amyclis, hunc Helicon genuit; disci te perculit error, hunc fontis decepit amor; te fronte retusa Delius, hunc fracta Cephisus harundine luget.



Maurus Servius Honoratus, Commentaries on the Works of Vergil

Servius was a late 4th to early 5th century grammarian who wrote commentaries on the works of Virgil. They were only ever published in full as In Vergilii carmina comentarii. Servii Grammatici qui feruntur in Vergilii carmina commentarii edited by Georgius Thilo and Hermannus Hagen, 3 volumes, Leipzig, 1881-1902.

Eclogues III 63

Their services, actually welcome, are the laurel and the hyacinth. Thus we know about both Daphne, daughter of the Arkadian river Ladon, beloved by Apollo and transformed into the laurel tree by the compassion of the Mother Earth, and about Hyakinthos, loved both by Boreas [the North Wind] and by Apollo, who, magically made happy by Apollo's love, while he was occupied with the discus, was destroyed, I understand, by the anger of the same Boreas and changed into a flower of his name.
'The Wind-god sent a gust from the south' by W. Crane (Macgregor, The Story of Greece, 1913)
SUA MUNERA ipsi grata, id est laurus et hyacinthus. nam scimus et Daphnen, Ladonis fluminis Arcadiae filiam, dilectam ab Apolline et Terrae miseratione in laurum conversam, et Hyacinthum amatum tam a Borea quam ab Apolline: qui cum magis Apollinis amore laetaretur, dum exercetur disco, ab irato Borea eodem disco est interemptus et mutatus in florem nominis sui.
Apollo Holding Hyacinth in his Arms by Malcolm Lidbury, 2015


Nonnos, Dionysiaka

Nonnos of Panapolis was a Greek epic poet whose main work, the Dionysiaka, a life of Dionysos, was written in the 5th century AD.

The translation is by W. H. D. Rouse in the Loeb Classical Library volume CCCLXIV (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1940). The only changes made here are to replace the then conventional Latinisation of Greek names with literal transliteration.

II 80-84

the West Wind was beaten by the dry leaves of whirling cypresses. Phoibos sang a dirge in lamentable tones for his devastated iris, twining a sorrowful song, and lamented far more bitterly than for his[34] clusters of Amyklaian flowers, when the laurel by his side was struck. καὶ Ζέφυρος δεδόνητο κυλινδομένων κυπαρίσσων αὐχμηροῖς πετάλοισι· φιλοθρήνοισι δὲ μολπαῖς αἴλινα Φοῖβος ἄειδε δαϊζομένων ὑακίνθων, πλέξας πένθιμον ὕμνον, Ἀμυκλαίων δὲ κορύμβων κοπτομένῃ πολὺ μᾶλλον ἐπέστενε γείτονι δάφνῃ· 


III 153-163

On the learned[35] leaves of Apollo’s mournful iris was embroidered many a plant-grown word; and when Zephyros breathed through the flowery garden, Apollo turned a quick eye upon his young darling, his yearning never satisfied; if he saw the plant beaten by the breezes, he remembered the quoit, and trembled for fear the wind, so jealous once about the boy, might hate him even in a leaf: if it is true that Apollo once wept with those eyes that never wept, to see that boy writhing in the dust, and the pattern there on the flower traced its own “alas!” on the iris, and so figured the tears of Phoibos.  πολλὰ δὲ Φοιβείοισι σοφοῖς ποικίλλετο φύλλοις γράμματα δενδρήεντα φιλοκλαύτων ὑακίνθων· καὶ Ζεφύρου πνείοντος ἀεξιφύτου διὰ κήπου ἄστατον ὄμμα τίταινε πόθων ἀκόρητος Ἀπόλλων, καί, φυτὸν ἡβητῆρος ἰδὼν δεδονημένον αὔραις, δίσκου μνῆστιν ἔχων ἐλελίζετο, μή ποτε κούρῳ ζηλήμων φθονέσειε καὶ ἐν πετάλοισιν ἀήτης, εἰ ἐτεόν ποτε κεῖνον ἐπισπαίροντα κονίῃ ὄμμασιν ἀκλαύτοισιν ἰδὼν δάκρυσεν Ἀπόλλων, καὶ τύπος ἀνθεμόεις μορφώσατο δάκρυα Φοίβου αἴλινον αὐτοκέλευστον ἐπιγράψας ὑακίνθῳ. 

X 250-255

When Bacchos lifted his thyrsus against a maddened bear, or cast his stout fennel javelin-like at a lioness, he looked aside watchfully towards the west; for fear the deathbringing breath of Zephyros might blow again, as it did once before when the bitter blast killed a young man while it turned the hurtling quoit against Hyacinthos. ἀλλ᾿ ὅτε θύρσον ἄειρε καταντία λυσσάδος ἄρκτου ἢ βριαρῷ νάρθηκι κατηκόντιζε λεαίνης, εἰς δύσιν ὄμμα τίταινεν ἐς ἠέρα λοξὰ δοκεύων, μὴ Ζεφύρου πνεύσειε πάλιν θανατηφόρος αὔρη, ὡς πάρος ἡβητῆρα κατέκτανε πικρὸς ἀήτης δίσκον ἀκοντιστῆρα καταστρέψας Ὑακίνθου·


XI 361-365

Here another god, Seilenos, is advising Dionysos, who is heart-broken over the death of his loved-boy Ampelos:

If you need a painhealing medicine for your trouble, court a better boy: fancy can wither fancy. A young Laconian shook Zephyros; but he died, and the amorous Wind found young Cyparissos a consolation for Amyclaian Hyacinthos.[36]  εἰ δὲ τεῆς ἐθέλεις ὀδυνήφατον ἄλκαρ ἀνίης, φέρτερον ἄμφεπε παῖδα· πόθος πόθον οἶδε μαραίνειν. καὶ Ζέφυρον κλονέεσκε Λάκων νέος· ἀλλὰ θανόντος ἡβητὴν Κυπάρισσον ἰδὼν ἐρατεινὸς Ἀήτης εὗρεν Ἀμυκλαίοιο παραιφασίην Ὑακίνθου. 

XXIX 95-99

As Apollo bemoaned Hyakinthos, struck by the quoit which brought him quick death, and reproached the blast of the West Wind’s jealous gale, so Dionysos often tore his hair and lamented for Hymenaios with those unweeping eyes.  καὶ ὡς Ὑάκινθον Ἀπόλλων ἔστενεν ἀνδροφόνῳ βεβολημένον ὀξέι δίσκῳ, μεμφόμενος Ζεφύρου ζηλήμονος ἄσθμα θυέλλης, οὕτω καὶ Διόνυσος ἀνέσπασε πολλάκι χαίτην, ὄμμασιν ἀκλαύτοισιν ἐπικλαύσας Ὑμεναίῳ. 


The Death of Hyakinthos by Antoine Schaub


Kollouthos, Rape of Helen 241-48

Kollouthos was an epic Greek poet of Lykopolis in Egypt who wrote in the second half of the 5th century an account of the Judgement of Paris and Helen, the Spartan king’s wife’s consequent elopement with him. The following is included among the sights which Paris beheld when he arrived in Sparta with a view to abducting Helen.

The translation is by A. W. Mair in the Loeb Classical Library CCXIX, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1928, with amendment of his romanisations of Greek names in favour of more literal transliterations of the Greek.

[…] the shrine of Hyakinthos of Amyklai, whom once while he played as a boy with Apollo the people of Amyklai marked and marvelled whether he too had not been conceived and borne by Leto to Zeus. But Apollo knew not that he was keeping the youth for envious Zephyros. And the earth, doing a pleasure to the weeping king, brought forth a flower to console Apollo, even that flower which bears the name of the splendid youth.  οἶκον Ἀμυκλαίοιο παραγνάμψας Ὑακίνθου, ὅν ποτε κουρίζοντα σὺν Ἀπόλλωνι νοήσας δῆμος Ἀμυκλαίων ἠγάσσατο, μὴ Διὶ Λητὼ κυσαμένη καὶ τοῦτον ἀνήγαγεν· αὐτὰρ Ἀπόλλων οὐκ ἐδάη Ζεφύρῳ ζηλήμονι παῖδα φυλάσσων. γαῖα δὲ δακρύσαντι χαριζομένη βασιλῆι ἄνθος ἀνηέξησε, παραίφασιν Ἀπόλλωνος, ἄνθος ἀριζήλοιο φερώνυμον ἡβητῆρος.



Ioannes Tzetzes, Chiliades, I 241-249, 256-266 & 299-304

The 12th-century Chiliades by the Byzantine scholar Tzetzes is a compendium of miscellanea chiefly valuable for what ir reproduces of books from aniquity that have since been lot.

Lines 300 to 304 of the section on are not represented here as they are an exact quotation of lines 902-906 of Nikandros of Kolophon’s Theriaka already given above on this page. The Greek text can be found on p. 11 of this. The translation is this website’s.

About Hyakinthos

Hyakinthos was a beauty, the brother of Kynortos.
His father was Amyklas and his mother Diomede,
People from the noble fatherland of the Amyklaians of Lakonia.
Apollo and Zephyros fought for the boy’s love.
Once when Apollo threw the quoit with Hyakinthos,
Zephyros blew it vigorously and doomed it.
The beautiful one was struck terrifyingly from the top of the mountain.
From the earth then sprang up a flower of the same name, instead of Hyakinthos.
The earth felt pity for him, just as it did for the beauty of Narkissos.

All later generations of humans, due to the desire for these two [boys],
Named the above-mentioned things after them.
Moreover, it has been said of the rival lovers of Hyakinthos
Who were fighting for him and admiring his beauty,
The sun was happy to turn towards him
And the force of the wind was truly charmed by him.
The sun then threw the quoit with the boy
While the wind turned its direction and blew it.
Thus did Zephyros, on account of envying the Sun,
Deprive Hyakinthos of life and of the shiny bringer of light.
Nikandros wrote about this story in his Theriaka.
In his book Theriaka, Nikandros says about Hyakinthos:
[see above under Nikandros]


Apollo and Hyacinth by Allarica

[1] Due to an old misunderstanding, not apparently the flower now known as a hyacinth, but perhaps the alpine squill (Scilla bifolia). See Alice Lindsell, “Was Theocritus a botanist?” in John E. Raven, Plants and Plant Lore in Ancient Greece, Oxford, 2000.

[2] Iphigeneia and Elektra, daughters of Klytemnestra, daughter of Tyndareos, son of Oibalos, son of an elder brother of Hyakinthos (there are different versions of which brother).

[3] Diomede [Translator’s footnote]

[4] The daughters of Leukippos were the wives of Helen’s twin brothers.

[5] Phoibos (Apollo) was the son of Zeus.

[6] Celebrated annually at Amyklai, early in the summer. [Translator’s note]

[7] Apollo.

[8] For the feast of Hyakinthos. [Translator’s note]

[9] The flower known by the ancients as the hyakinthos, whose leaves had marks resembling the letters ΑI, explained as being “signs of sad outcry” uttered by Apollo in passages quoted on this page from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Lucian’s The Dance 45 and Dialogues of the Gods XIV. However, the 3rd-century BC poet Euphorion of Chalkis, in his scholiast on this passage from Theokritos, gives an alternate explanation for the origin of the hyakinthos flower, that it sprang from the blood of the hero Ajax when he killed himself, and hence resembled the alpha and iota with which his name began. (Euphronios, Poetic Fragments 44, translated by J. L. Lighfoot in the  Loeb Classical Library Vol. DVIII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2010) p. 277.

[10] “No other source mentions Amyclae’s river as the spot where Hyacinthus was accidentally slain. This may be an addition of Nic., perhaps due to his idea that hyacinths usually grow near rivers. This would suit 901, where knot-grass is said to grow in river-side meadows.” (Floris Overduin, Nicander of Colophon’s ‘Theriaka’: A Literary Commentary, p. 516.)

[11] Of the word this is translating, Overduin says in his commentary: “παῖδα: focusing on the fact that the victim was still a boy, emphatically at line-opening, in enjambment to ἔκτα.” (Nicander of Colophon’s ‘Theriaka’: A Literary Commentary, p. 515).

[12] "flower-de-luce" [the translator’s rendition of ὑάκινθε hyakinthe]: the petals of the iris were said to bear the letters AI, "alas." [Translator’s note]

[13] Phoebus was an alternate name of the god Apollo.

[14] The Eurotas was the river which flowed past Sparta (Hyakinthos’s home), well-known for disdaining to have a wall for its defence.

[15] Amongst other things, Apollo was the god of medicine.

[16] AI is Ovid’s Latinisation of the Greek letters alpha and iota, which, combined, resembled the flower the ancients called after Hyakinthos.

[17] The Hyacinthia was an important festival held in Sparta every year for three days, in which his death was mourned for the first day and his rebirth celebrated for the next two.

[18] Meaning Hyakinthos, who was son of the mythological Amyklas King of Sparta, founder of the Spartan settlement of Amyklai four generations before the Trojan War.

[19] Poetic for Laconian, or Spartan. [Loeb editor’s note].

[20] Meaning “descendant of Oibalos”, a Spartan King, hence a name for any Spartan, though hardly justified in Hyakinthos’s case, since Oibalos was actually his nephew.

[21] Purple iris, with marks of AI (αἰαῖ): said to have sprung from the blood of Hyacinthus, slain by Apollo. Therapnaean = Spartan, as Therapne was a town in Laconia and Hyacinthus was the son of the Spartan King Amyclas. See Metamorphoses x. 162–219. [Translator’s note]

[22] Apelles, late fourth century BC, was perhaps the most renowned of Greek painters. [Translator’s note]

[23] Ganymede, who was abducted from Mount Ida by an enamoured Zeus come in the form of an eagle.

[24] Hylas was the loved-boy of Herakles who disappeared, dragged into a pool by an amorous Naiad (fresh-water nymph) when drawing water.

[25] Flourished ca. 320 BC [Translator’s note]

[26] A sort of iris forming the letters of AIAI (alas); cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses 10, 215 and The Dance 45. {Translator’s note; both the writings he cites are quoted on this page]

[27] Herakles loved Hylas, Apollo Hyakinthos, Poseidon Pelops, Laios (actually a king, not a god) Chrysippos and Zeus Ganymede.

[28] Referring to the letters AI AI (“woe, woe”) on the petals of the flowers. [Translator’s footnote]

[29] Referring to the letters AI AI (“woe, woe”) on the petals of the flowers. [Translator’s footnote]

[30] Cf. Homer, Odyssey 6. 231: κόμας, ὑακινθίνῳ ἄνθει ὁμοίας. [Translator’s footnote]

[31] It was a stone slab marked with incised lines which gave a firm footing to the athlete; cf. Ausgrabungen in Olympia, V. 35. The present description closely follows the well-known Discobolus of Myron. [Translator’s footnote]

[32] Compare the description of Hyakinthos by the elder Philostratos, Images, supra, p. 95. [Translator’s footnote]

[33] i.e. robust for all its delicacy; the phrase is from the elder Philostratos, Her. 151, 28 K.

[34] Hyacinthos, the beloved of Apollo, was buried in Amyclai. The plant is really a flag or iris. [Translator’s note]

[35] The iris knew his A B C, since his pattern was read as αἴ αἴ. [Translator’s note]

[36] The “young Laconian” was Hyakinthos and the god Zephyros was “the amorous wind”, so the meaning is that Zephyros found consolation for the death of one loved-boy (Hyakinthos) by loving another (Kyparissos).




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