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Idaea

by Dr Alena Trckova-Flamee Ph.D.

The name Ida or Idaea (Idaia) appeared in the Greek myths as the name of two nymphs who were living in various places. The first nymph lived on Ida, which is the highest point of Crete (in modern times called Mount Psiloritis 2456m) and the second one was living on Mount Ida (now named Kaz Gagi 1774m) in ancient Phrygia near Troy, in the north-western region of Turkey. Ida, -idi means in the Greek language the wooded mountain, so this word became the name of the mountains as well as the name of these female divinities; the nymphs who were -- according to the myths -- living on Mount Ida.

The Cretan nymph Ida or Ideia was closely linked to the Cretan mythical stories, which were somewhat influenced from Asia Minor. It was said that she was the daughter of Corybas (a priest of the goddess Cybele), who was worshipped as a fertility god and who was the forefather of the Corybantes, the mountain-gods or demons of Asia Minor and who were on Crete associated with the Curetes. It was also said that Ida was the wife of Lycastos, the son of the Cretan king Minos and the nymph Itone and who later became Minos' successor. According to some stories, Ida and Lycastos were the parents of King Minos, perhaps in the following generation. In other myths Ida appeared even among the partners of Zeus, and together they were the parents of Cres, the mythical father of the Cretan tribe.

The Cretan as well as the Phrygian Mount Ida enjoyed great attention in literature as the sites of mythical events, and also the sites of beauty. First of all, the Idaean Cave in Crete, situated below the summit of Mount Ida, was known as one of the birthplaces of Zeus. According to one version of the myths it was right here that the Ida and her sister Adrasteia were taking care of Zeus (after he was born); they became his wet-nurses and guardians. So it is not strange that this place became, over a thousand years, an important cult place from which many offerings came to the light. Hesiod told us about a love-story between Demeter and Jason, which took place on the slopes of this Mount Ida. Ida was described also in the Homeric Hymns as "shadowy mountains" with "the lofty peaks ... where many fountains flow," while a nymph of this mountain (Ida) was connected there with the mother of the beasts.

The second nymph named Ida or Idaea was a female divinity from the Phrygian Mount Ida in Troad. This nymph, called in the ancient literature the Idean Mother, was associated with the Mother Goddess, because she was deeply related to some local mythological events. According to tradition, the nymph Ida with the river-god Scamander (originally the king's son from Crete) became the parents of Teucer (Teucros). They said that he was the first ruler in Troad and that he became the forefather of the kings of Troy and Dardania; two towns located in the foothills of Mount Ida in Phrygia.

According to Homer, Zeus dwelt on Mount Ida near Troy, where a storm gathered the clouds, and where the other gods and goddesses often visited this place. In accordance to this affirmation, the story about Dardanus, the son of Zeus and Electra, perhaps came to light. Dardanus was sailing after the Flood from his home on the island Samothrace to Phrygia, where he married the daughter of the king Teucros and he became the founder of Dardania and of a settlement in the Troad region.

Many other important mythical events were located at Mount Ida. According to one story it happened right here that Zeus -- in the form of an eagle -- took Ganymede (the son of the king of Troy) and abducted him to Mount Olympus. The goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite all came together to Mount Ida to visit Paris, who shepherded there and who had to decide which of the goddesses was the most beautiful. During the Trojan War also some episodes were situated to Mount Ida.

Concluding we can note that these stories about the female divinities -- the nymphs, or the mothers of the mountains, who were identified with the mountains and closely related to the local regions, their inhabitants and to their social structures -- belonged to fundamental myths, which had to describe the beginning of some tribes and their kingdoms. Such stories tried to connect these older local pre-Hellenic beliefs in nature divinities (which were identified with the mountains, the rivers, the trees and the springs) with the Greek Olympian religion and its basic myths.


Article details:

  • Also known as:
    Ida
    Idaia

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