Rock Me, Aristaeus

I’ve been reading about mythology for most of my life, and yet I still occasionally come across a deity I hadn’t heard about before. Most recently, it was Aristaeus, one of many agricultural deities who largely fell out of fashion when living in cities became the norm. Actually, it looks like I had mentioned him in passing before, but I had forgotten. He was originally a demigod folk hero, the son of Apollo and the huntress Cyrene.

The god fell in love with the woman when she was fighting a lion on Mount Pelion, and he took her to Libya where they founded a city called Cyrene. Some sources say he also made her into a nymph, while others indicate she was a nymph all along. Their son Aristaeus wandered throughout Greece, Italy, and northern Africa, teaching people useful skills, some of which he invented.

He was known as the father of cheese-making and beekeeping, and really, how can you go wrong with a god of both cheese and honey? He also taught how to cultivate olives, but I’m not so keen on those. “Aristaeus” literally means “the best,” and it’s believed that there were actually several local gods of that name who were combined into one figure. He introduced mead to Olympus, but it was much less popular than Dionysus’ wine. I wonder if he later sold it to the Aesir with more success. The hero also studied with the centaur Chiron, and saved the island of Ceos (now called Kea) from a drought by building an altar and praying to Zeus. Sounds like a genuinely nice guy, right? Well, mostly, but he apparently had a habit of chasing women. Weren’t there any Greek deities who DIDN’T think rape was okay? Anyway, while he was chasing after Orpheus‘ wife Eurydice, she stepped on a snake and died, which led to Orpheus’ unsuccessful attempt to bring her back to life.

As punishment for this, the nymphs killed off all of Aristaeus’ bees, possibly through the overuse of cell phones. He made it all right again by sacrificing some cattle, however, and he was provided some new swarms to raise. I suppose he was eventually raised to full godhood, although I don’t know that there was a particular story about this.

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2 Responses to Rock Me, Aristaeus

  1. Thanks for the story, I enjoyed reading about him.

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