Danae - Encyclopedia




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DANAE, in Greek legend, daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos. Her father, having been warned by an oracle that she would bear a son by whom he would be slain, confined Danae in a brazen tower. But Zeus descended to her in a shower of gold, and she gave birth to Perseus, whereupon Acrisius placed her and her infant in a wooden box and threw them into the sea. They were finally driven ashore on the island of Seriphus, where they were picked up by a fisherman named Dictys. His brother Polydectes, who was king of the island, fell in love with Danae and married her. According to another story, her son Perseus, on his return with the head of Medusa, finding his mother persecuted by Polydectes, turned him into stone, and took Danae back with him to Argos. Latin legend represented her as landing on the coast of Latium and marrying Pilumnus or Picumnus, from whom Turnus, king of the Rutulians, was descended. Danae formed the subject of tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Livius Andronicus and Naevius. She is the personification of the earth suffering from drought, on which the fertilizing rain descends from heaven.

Apollodorus ii. 4; Sophocles, Antigone, 944; Horace, Odes, iii. 16; Virgil, Aeneid, vii. 410. See also P. Schwarz, De Fabula Danaeia (1881).

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