A minor god in Greek mythology, attested mainly by Athenian writers,
Aristaeus (/ærɪˈstiːəs/; Greek: Ἀρισταῖος Aristaios),
was the culture hero credited with the discovery of many useful arts,
including bee-keeping; he was the son of the huntress Cyrene and
Aristeus ("the best") was a cult title in many places: Boeotia,
Arcadia, Ceos, Sicily, Sardinia, Thessaly, and Macedonia; consequently
a set of "travels" was imposed, connecting his epiphanies in order to
account for these widespread manifestations.
Aristaeus was a minor figure at Athens, he was more prominent in
Boeotia, where he was "the pastoral Apollo", and was linked to the
founding myth of Thebes by marriage with Autonoë, daughter of Cadmus,
Aristaeus may appear as a winged youth in painted
Boeotian pottery, similar to representations of the Boreads,
spirits of the North Wind. Besides
Actaeon and Macris, he also was
said to have fathered Charmus and Callicarpus in Sardinia.
1 Pindar's Account
Aristaeus in Ceos
Aristaeus and the bees
5 "Aristaeus'" as a name
6 See also
8 External links
According to Pindar's ninth Pythian Ode and Apollonius' Argonautica
(II.522ff), Cyrene despised spinning and other womanly arts and
instead spent her days hunting, but, in a prophecy he put in the mouth
of the wise centaur Chiron,
Apollo would spirit her to Libya and make
her the foundress of a great city, Cyrene, in a fertile coastal
Aristaeus was born, according to what
Hermes took him to be raised on nectar and ambrosia and to be made
immortal by Gaia.
The Myrtle-nymphs taught him useful arts and mysteries, how to curdle
milk for cheese, how to tame the Goddess's bees and keep them in
hives, and how to tame the wild oleaster in order to make it bear
olives. Thus he became the patron god of cattle, fruit trees, hunting,
husbandry, and bee-keeping. He also taught to humans the dairy skills
(including cheesemaking), as well as the use of nets and traps in
When he was grown, he sailed from Libya to Boeotia, where he was
inducted into further mysteries in the cave of
Chiron the centaur. In
Boeotia, he was married to
Autonoë and became the father of the
ill-fated Actaeon, who inherited the family passion for hunting, to
his ruin, and of Macris, who nursed the child Dionysus.
"Aristaios" ("the best") is an epithet rather than a name
For some men to call
Zeus and holy Apollo.
Agreus and Nomios,  and for others Aristaios (Pindar)
According to Pherecydes,
Aristaeus fathered Hecate, goddess of
witchcraft, crossroads, and the night. Hesiod's
Theogony suggests her
parents were Perses and Asteria.
Aristaeus in Ceos
Aristaeus' presence in Ceos, attested in the fourth and third
centuries BC, was attributed to a Delphic prophecy that counselled
Aristaeus to sail to Ceos, where he would be greatly honored. He found
the islanders suffering from sickness under the stifling and baneful
effects of the Dog-Star
Sirius at its first appearance before the
sun's rising, in early July. In the foundation legend of a
specifically Cean weather-magic ritual,
Aristaeus was credited with
the double sacrifice that countered the deadly effects of the
Dog-Star, a sacrifice at dawn to
Zeus Ikmaios, "Rain-making Zeus" at a
mountaintop altar, following a pre-dawn chthonic sacrifice to
Sirius, the Dog-Star, at its first annual appearance, which
brought the annual relief of the cooling
In a development that offered more immediate causality for the myth,
Aristaeus discerned that the Ceans' troubles arose from murderers
hiding in their midst, the killers of
Icarius in fact. When the
miscreants were found out and executed, and a shrine erected to Zeus
Ikmaios, the great god was propitiated and decreed that henceforth,
Etesian wind should blow and cool all the Aegean for forty days
from the baleful rising of Sirius, but the Ceans continued to
propitiate the Dog-Star, just before its rising, just to be sure.
Aristaeus appears on Cean coins.
Then Aristaeus, on his civilizing mission, visited Arcadia, where the
winged male figure who appears on ivory tablets in the sanctuary of
Ortheia as the consort of the goddess, has been identified as
Aristaeus by L. Marangou.
Aristaeus settled for a time in the Vale of Tempe. By the time of
Virgil's Georgics, the myth has
Eurydice when she
was bitten by a serpent and died.
Aristaeus and the bees
Soon Aristaeus' bees sickened and began to die. He went to the
fountain Arethusa and was advised to establish altars, sacrifice
cattle, and leave their carcasses. From the carcasses, new swarms of
bees rose (see Bugonia).
A variation of this tale was told in the 2002 novel by Sue Monk Kidd,
The Secret Life of Bees.
"Aristaeus'" as a name
In later times, Aristaios was a familiar Greek name, borne by several
archons of Athens and attested in inscriptions.
Ah-Muzen-Cab -- Mayan god of bees.
Austėja -- Lithuanian—goddess of bees.
Hindu goddess of bees.
Bubilas -- Lithuanian—god of bees.
Melissa -- Ancient Greek/Minoan—goddess of bees.
Mellona -- Roman goddess of bees.
Colel Cab—Mayan goddess of bees.
Fu Xi, an important culture hero from the
Chinese mythology who bears
some strong resemblances to Aristaios as a teacher of mortals
^ His inventions of apicultural apparatus, such as the linen gauze
bee-keeper's mask and the technique of smoking the hive, were
Nonnus in his Dionysiaca, V.214ff.
^ Compare the "travels" of
Hercules in the Western Mediterranean.
^ An expression credited to
Hesiod in Servius' commentary on Virgil's
Georgics, I.14; cf. William J. Slater, Lexicon to
Pindar (Berlin: de
Gruyter) 1969, s.v. ""Nomios". When "pastoral Apollo" appears in lines
Theocritus (Idyll XXV) and
Callimachus (Ode to Apollo, 47) the
expression blurs the effective domaines of the two figures.
^ As on a Boeotian tripod-kothon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
illustrated and discussed in Brian F. Cook, "Aristaios" The
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin New Series, 21.1 (Summer 1962),
pp. 31-36; there
Aristaeus hastens with a mattock and a one-handled
amphora, which Cook interprets as filled with seed-corn.
^ Diodorus Siculus. Bibliotheca Historica, Book 4.82.4
Pindar set into a mythological past a prophecy of the
comparatively recent founding of Cyrene (630 BCE).
Agreus ("hunter") and Nomios ("shepherd") are sometimes given
distinct identities among the Panes, sons of Pan.
^ Theophrastus, Of the winds 14, and other testimony noted in Walter
Burkert, Homo Necans (1972), translated by Peter Bing ((University of
California Press) 1983), p. 109 note 1; Burkert notes that Aristaeus
is already mentioned in a Hesiodic fragment.
^ Apollonius of Rhodes,
^ Burkert 1983:109ff; Burkert notes an analogy to the polarity of
sacrifices to Pelops and
Zeus at Olympia.
^ Hyginus, Poetic Astronomy
^ Charikleia Papageorgiadou-Banis, The Coinage of Kea (Paris) 1997.
^ Marangou, Aristaios" AM 8772), pp77-83, noted by Jane Burr Carter,
"The Masks of Ortheia" American Journal of Archaeology 91.3 (July
1987:355-383) p. 382f.
^ For a detailed presentation of bugonia, see Haralampos V. Harissis,
Anastasios V. Harissis. Apiculture in the Prehistoric Aegean.Minoan
and Mycenaean Symbols Revisited. Appendix: Virgil’s Aristaios: an
ancient beekeeping educational myth. British Archaeological Reports
S1958, 2009 ISBN 978-1-4073-0454-0
^ The Secret Life of Bees, Kidd, p. 206
^ Eugene Vanderpool, "Two Inscriptions Near Athens", Hesperia 14.2,
The American Excavations in the Athenian Agora: Twenty-Sixth Report
(April 1945), pp. 147-149; Susan I. Rotroff, "An Athenian
of the Late Second Century after Christ" Hesperia 44.4 (October 1975),
pp. 402-408; Sterling Dow, "Archons of the Period after Sulla",
Hesperia Supplements 8 Commemorative Studies in Honor of Theodore
Leslie Shear (1949), pp. 116-125, 451, etc.
The dictionary definition of
Aristaeus at Wiktionary
Media related to