Myth and Metamorphosis: The Story of Kêuks and Alkuonê

[For Ovid’s version, see the Metamorphoses 11.410-749; Ancient testimonia attribute a Wedding of Kêuks poem to Hesiod]

Hes. Fr. 10d

“Kêuks, the son of the star the Light-Bringer, married Alkuonê, the daughter of Aiolos. They were both arrogant. Because they loved each other, she called him Zeus and he addressed her as Hera. In rage at this, Zeus changed them both into birds, as Hesiod records in the Catalogue of Women.”

᾿Αλκυόνην τὴν Αἰόλου ἔγημε̣ Κή̣[ϋξ ὁ Φωσφό]ρου τ̣ο̣ῦ ἀστέρος
υἱός. ἄμφω δ’ ἦσα[ν ὑπερή]φ̣α[νοι, ἀλ]λήλων δ’ ἐρασθέντ̣ες ἡ
[μὲν .].α̣.[.]κ̣[.]ρνα[…..] Δία κ̣α[λ]εῖ, <ὁ δὲ> αὐτ̣ὴν ῞Ηραν
προσ̣η̣γ̣ό̣[ρε]υεν· ἐφ’ [ὧι ὀργι]σθεὶ[ς] ὁ Ζεὺς μετεμόρφωσε̣ν̣
ἀ̣μ̣φοτέρους [εἰς ὄρ]νε[α,] ὡς ῾Ησίοδος ἐν Γυναικῶν καταλόγωι.

Apollodorus 1.52

“Kêuks, the son of the Dawn-star, married Alkuonê. These two were destroyed because of their sacrilege. For, he used to call his wife Hera and she called her husband Zeus. Zeus turned them into birds, he made her into a halcyon (kingfisher) and him into a keuks (gannet?)”

᾿Αλκυόνην δὲ Κῆυξ ἔγημεν ῾Εωσφόρου παῖς. οὗτοι δὲ δι’ ὑπερηφάνειαν ἀπώλοντο· ὁ μὲν γὰρ τὴν γυναῖκα ἔλεγεν ῞Ηραν, ἡ δὲ τὸν ἄνδρα Δία, Ζεὺς δὲ αὐτοὺς ἀπωρνέωσε, καὶ τὴν μὲν ἀλκυόνα ἐποίησε τὸν δὲ κήυκα.

Schol. ad Arist. Aves 250

“This is the wife of the king of the Trachinians, Kêuks. They enjoyed the greatest prosperity, but they came to such a point of arrogance, that they did not think it right to be called by their proper names. So he used to call himself Zeus, and she called herself Hera. Once, when he was sailing out to sea, Zeus became enraged and destroyed him and the ship. She wept over the death of her husband with the greatest sorrow along the shore and Zeus turned her into a bird because he pitied her. He turned him into a bird too, the one people call a kêrulos. When she was weeping over her eggs breaking in the sea, Zeus took pity on her and established a number of calm days each year which are called Halcyon days in which she might give birth to and carry out her young.”

ἔστι δὲ ἡ Κήϋκος τοῦ Τραχινίων βασιλέως γυνή. οἳ ὄλβῳ μεγίστῳ ἐπαρθέντες, εἰς τοσοῦτον ἦλθον φρυάγματος, ὡς ἀπαξιοῦν τοῖς ἰδίοις ὀνόμασι καλεῖσθαι. καὶ ὁ μὲν ἐκάλεσεν αὑτὸν Δία, ἡ δὲ ῞Ηραν. καί ποτε ἐν θαλάσσῃ αὐτοῦ πλέοντος ὁ Ζεὺς ὀργισθεὶς αὐτόν τε διέφθειρε καὶ τὴν ναῦν. ἡ δὲ ἄγαν περιπαθῶς ὠδύρετο τὸν τοῦ ἀνδρὸς θάνατον παρὰ τῷ αἰγιαλῷ, ἣν ἐλεήσας ὁ Ζεὺς ἀπωρνέωσε. καὶ ἐκεῖνον δὲ εἰς ὄρνεον μετέβαλεν, ὃν κηρύλον καλοῦσιν. ἐθρήνει δὲ τῶν ᾠῶν αὑτῆς ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ κλωμένων. διὸ κατὰ Διὸς οἶκτον ιδ′ ἡμέρας ἀλκυονίτιδας καλουμένας εὐδιεινὰς ἔχει τοῦ ἔτους, ἐν αἷς τίκτουσα ἐκβάλλει τοὺς νεοττούς.]

Eusthathius. Comm. Ad Il. II.2.8

“The story goes that there was a union of a man and women—the husband was named Kêuks. They came to such a level of arrogance, that he wanted to be called Zeus’ name and she submitted herself to be called Hera. Then they started actually doing this. Zeus, because he was outraged by such hubris, changed the people into birds and increased the punishment by compelling them to give birth to their young during winter and near the sea. This is why they are called Al-kuones, because they give birth [kuein] along the sea [ala]. But when their eggs were breaking and offspring were not being provided, and as a result there was no future generation, a great grief overcame them. Zeus, then, because pity overcame him and changed his mind, pitied the pathetic birds, and assigned a peaceful time of the hear for them and it turned out that the birds could lay eggs and bring their young to life. Once that happened in later years he declared that these days should remain Halcyon days.”

Φέρεται γὰρ λόγος, ὅτι συζυγία τις ἀνδρὸς καὶ γυναικός—Κῆϋξ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ ἐκαλεῖτο. —ἐς τοσοῦτον ἦλθε φυσήματος, ὡς ἐθέλειν τὸν μὲν Διὸς καλεῖσθαι ὀνόματι, τὴν δὲ τῇ τῆς ῞Ηρας κλήσει καλλωπίζεσθαι. καὶ ἐποίουν μὲν αὐτοὶ οὕτω. Ζεὺς δὲ ἀχθεσθεὶς τῆς ὕβρεως μετάγει τοὺς ἀνθρώπους εἰς ὄρνις καὶ τὸ κακὸν προσαύξων ἀναγκάζει χειμῶνός τε νεοττεύειν αὐτοὺς καὶ περὶ αἰγιαλόν. ὅθεν καὶ ἀλκυόνες ἐκλήθησαν διὰ τὸ παρὰ τὴν ἅλα κύειν. ᾿Επεὶ δὲ τὰ ᾠά σφισιν ἐκλύζοντο καὶ ἦν ὁ τόκος ἀτελεσφόρητος καὶ οὐκ εἶχε τὸ γένος διαδοχήν, ἦν αὐτοῖς πολὺ πένθος, καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ πολύ. ὁ Ζεὺς οὖν, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτὸν οἶκτος εἰσέρχεται καὶ ἐπαναστρέφει τοῦ θυμοῦ καὶ κατελεεῖ τοὺς γοεροὺς ὄρνις καὶ ἐπιτάττει τῷ καιρῷ γαλήνην καὶ
γίνεται, καὶ οἱ ὄρνις ἐπωάζουσι καὶ εἰς φῶς ἐκφαίνουσι νεοσσούς. Καὶ τοῦτο
γενόμενον καὶ εἰς ὀπίσω καὶ ἐπὶ πολλοὺς παραμεῖναν ἐνιαυτοὺς τὰς ἀλκυονίδας
ἡμέρας ἔφηνε.

Image result for Ceyx and Alcyone
“Ceyx et Alcyone”, 18th Century Oil Painting

This story was likely part of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women as attested by fr. 10d above. Several Papyri have suggestive remains;

Fr. 71a = P. Oxy. 2999, ed. Parsons

τ̣ὴ̣ν̣ ο̣[
τοὶ κού̣[ρας ἀγάγοντο
τῶν γέ̣[νετ
ἠ’ οἵη Σχ[

Fr. 71a may not look like much, but if compared to fr. 10a 89-98 (=P. Oxy. 2075 fr. 2) it is interesting. Here we have the collocation of Zeus, Alkuonê, Kêuks.

Ζ̣[εὺς δὲ ἰδὼν νεμ]έ̣σ̣ησεν ἀπ’ αἰγλήεντ̣ος̣ ᾿Ολύ̣μ̣π̣[ου,
καὶ τὴν μ̣ὲ̣ν ποί̣[ησε πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε
ἀλκυ̣ό̣ν’, ἥ τ̣[
ἀνθρώπων̣ [
ναίει καί ῥ’ ἁλίοι[
Κήϋξ δ’ οὔτε π̣[
παύεται ἀΐσσω̣[ν
ἵεται ᾿Αλκυόνη[ς
ἀλλὰ Διὸς κρυπ[τὸς πέλεται νόος, οὐδέ τις ἀνδρῶν
φράζ̣ε̣σ̣θαι δύ[ναται