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Procris

by Dr Alena Trckova-Flamee Ph.D.
Procris was the daughter of the Athenian king Erechtheus and the wife of the hero Cephalus (Kefalos). The ancient authors give us a romantic story with a tragic ending about this beautiful couple. Their troubles began when the goddess of dawn Eos fell in love with Cephalus and abducted him to the end of the world.

According to one version of this myth, Cephalus wanted to go back to his wife and Eos said she would let him, if he agreed to one condition: he had to return to his wife in the image of another person, to make sure that she would stay faithful to her spouse. So Cephalus visited Procris -- who did not know that he was her husband -- and she did not want to hear any of his proposals. Cephalus then tried to bribe her with golden jewelry and at very moment Procris hesitated, Eos changed Cephalus back into his original form. Procris immediately recognized her husband and she was so ashamed of herself that she ran away. She went to live in the mountains with the nymphs attending the goddess Artemis. After some time Cephalus managed to locate Procris and brought her back home, taking along with her the gifts of Artemis -- a hound which never failed to catch his prey and a magical dart that never missed its mark.

In the other version of this myth Procris received these special gifts of Artemis from King Minos, who seduced Procris in Crete where she went for a while after her husband left her for Eos. But there is also another story telling us that Procris came back to Athens disguised as a beautiful boy, where she joined a hunting expedition of her husband. Cephalus wanted her hound and her magical dart, but Procris did not want to give it for anything else only for his love. Cephalus agreed to make her his wife.

Cephalus was happy to have his wife back and at to have the added bonus of her gifts from Artemis. Artemis, however, was not pleased with this situation because her gifts were going from one hand to the other. She filled Procris' head with jealous thoughts against Eos. When Cephalus was leaving for a hunting trip early in the morning, Procris suspected that he was going to visit Eos. She followed him in secret, but while in the forest she made a noise and Cephalus, assuming it to be a wild animal, shot at it with his magical dart, mortally wounding his own wife. Procris, after explaining her mistake, died happily in his arms. Cephalus had to emigrate from Athens and after many adventures he ended up living on the island of Kefallinia (Kephallenia, Cefalonia), which took its name after him.

The vase-painters of the 5th century BCE depicted a scene with the death of Procris and a sculptural group "The reconciliation of Procris and Cephalus." Apollodoros and Ovid especially were interested in this romantic-tragic theme.

This mythical story about the members of the Athenian king’s family preserved the relation between Athens and Crete and between Athens and the island Kefallinia (now Kefalonia) near the western coast of Greece.


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