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Byblis

Byblis

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In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, Byblis or Bublis (Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

: Βυβλίς) was a daughter of Miletus
Miletus (mythology)
Miletus was a character from Greek mythology.Miletus was son of Apollo and Areia, daughter of Cleochus, of Crete. When Areia gave birth to her son she hid him at a place where the plant milax was growing; Cleochus found the child there and named him Miletus after the plant...

. Her mother was either Tragasia, Cyanee, daughter of the river-god Meander
Meander (mythology)
Meander or Maiandros is a river in Greek mythology, patron deity of the Meander river in Caria, southern Asia Minor . He is one of the sons of Oceanus and Tethys, and is the father of Cyanee, Samia and Kalamos....

, or Eidothea
Eidothea
Eidothea is a genus of two species of rainforest tree in New South Wales and Queensland in eastern Australia, which belongs to the plant family Proteaceae, which also includes more familiar members such as the waratahs, grevilleas, banksias, macadamias and proteas...

, daughter of King Eurytus of Caria
Caria
Caria was a region of western Anatolia extending along the coast from mid-Ionia south to Lycia and east to Phrygia. The Ionian and Dorian Greeks colonized the west of it and joined the Carian population in forming Greek-dominated states there...

. She fell in love with Caunus
Kaunos (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Caunus or Kaunos was a son of Miletus, grandson of Apollo and brother of Byblis.Caunus became the object of his own sister's passionate love. From some accounts it appears that Caunus was the first to develop the affection towards her; others describe Byblis' feelings as...

, her twin brother.

The most elaborate interpretation of her story is that of Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

, and runs as follows. Byblis acknowledged her love for Caunus, and despite her initial efforts to convince herself that her feelings were natural, she realized the inappropriateness of them. Unable to keep her love for Caunus a secret from him any longer, she sent him a long love letter through a servant giving examples of other incestuous relationships between the gods. Disgusted, he ran away. Believing that she could yet make him love her, she was determined to try to woo him once more. When she found out that he had fled, she tore her clothes in sorrow and was driven into madness. She followed him through much of Greece and Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 until she finally died, worn out by her grief and the long journey. As she had been constantly crying, she was changed into a spring.

Parthenius of Nicaea
Parthenius of Nicaea
Parthenius of Nicaea or Myrlea in Bithynia was a Greek grammarian and poet. According to the Suda, he was the son of Heraclides and Eudora, or according to Hermippus of Berytus, his mother's name was Tetha. He was taken prisoner by Cinna in the Mithridatic Wars and carried to Rome in 72 BC. He...

 cites two versions of Byblis' story, one of which is generally the same as that recounted by Ovid, but ends with Byblis hanging herself with her girdle. In the other version, it is Caunus who instigates the incest, but Byblis still seems to return his affection; Caunus then leaves home before he can lose control over his desires, and Byblis, after a long search for him, makes a noose of her garment and hangs herself. The same version is followed by Conon
Conon (mythographer)
For others uses, see CononConon was a Greek grammarian of the age of Augustus, the author of a work entitled , addressed to Archelaus Philopator, king of Cappadocia...

.

Antoninus Liberalis
Antoninus Liberalis
Antoninus Liberalis was an Ancient Greek grammarian who probably flourished between AD 100 and 300.His only surviving work is the Metamorphoses, , a collection of forty-one very briefly summarised tales about mythical metamorphoses effected by offended deities, unique in that they are...

 again portrays Byblis as overcome with unanswered love for her brother; after Caunus leaves, she rejects the proposals of numerous suitors and attempts to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff, but is saved by Hamadryads, who cause her to fall asleep and transform her into a fellow nymph.

All the authors make mention of a spring which was believed to have appeared from Byblis' incessant tears.

The city Byblos
Byblos
Byblos is the Greek name of the Phoenician city Gebal . It is a Mediterranean city in the Mount Lebanon Governorate of present-day Lebanon under the current Arabic name of Jubayl and was also referred to as Gibelet during the Crusades...

 in Phoenicia
Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

was believed to have taken its name from Byblis.

Secondary sources

  • Bell, Robert E. Women of Classical Mythology: A Biogaphical Dictionary Oxford University Press: 1991.