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Thassos Mythology

The Abduction of Europa on the two Euro coin
Pythia, the priestess of Apollo at Delphi
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Thassos Mythology
The Abduction of Europa

   According to Greek mythology, Thassos owns its “discovery” to one of many love adventures of Zeus, the leader of Olympian gods.

   So, there was sometime a king of eastern Phoenicia, called Agenor, who had three sons, Cilix, Phoenix and Cadmus and a beautiful daughter, Europa.

   One beautiful spring day, Zeus fascinated by Europe’s beauty, transformed himself into a bull, abducted beautiful Europa and transferred her to Dictaean cave of Crete, where in the form of handsome eagle coupled with her. So three sons were born: Minos, the famous king of Crete, Radamanthus, the wise lawgiver and Sarpidon, the first king of Lycia.

   While Europa enjoyed Zeus favors, her father, Agenor, called his sons and his grandson or son, Thasos. He ordered them to find their sister and not to return back without her. Phoenix went south, in contrast with Cilix who went north, reaching a fertile land where he made himself king. Since then the region has his name: Cilicia . The third son, Cadmus, after wandering through the Greek islands, continued his quest in the mainland. He visited the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, consulted by the priestess of Apollo, Pythia, but still he did not manage to find Europa. After crossing, Phocis he came to Boeotia, where he built an acropolis that has his name: Cadmeia. Below acropolis he set up a town with wide avenues, that called it Thebes.

   During the quest Thasos reached at some point an island off Thrace. He was enchanted by the wonderful climate and the luxuriant vegetation of the island and as he could not return home without Europe , he gave up and settled here on the island that bears his name since then. Herodotus, the greatest historian of antiquity, is categorical on this matter. He says the island is "now called after that Phoenician Thassos". (Herodotus, Histories, 6.47.1)

   Nevertheless, there are other and maybe more credible resources about the origin of the name of the island. Some ancient poets and writers refer to Thassos as “Aeria” for its cool summer breeze, “Aethria” for its clear sky, “Chrisi” for the gold of its goldmines, or “Seashore of Demetra” for the rich and exquisite fruits. According to a different resource, the etymology of the name “Thassos” relates to the word “Drosos” (=cool), due to the plenty of forests in the island.

   Another myth (which was probably shaped by the inhabitants of Paros island after their establishment in Thassos) refers that Hercules donated the island of Thassos to Sthenelos and Alcaios, the two sons of King Androgeus of Paros.

Religion:    Religious belief of the Thasians, as of all the ancient Greeks, was centered on the twelve gods of Olympus. However, the island’s patron was Heracles, a mystical god who may have had his origins not in the Greek halfgod Heracles (Hercules), but in the Phoenician god Melkarth. Special honors were reserved for the god of the sea Poseidon and the goddess of the hunt Artemis.

   Dionysus, god of wine, together with his Satyrs, Silenoi and Maenads, were worshiped in orgiastic rites. The mysteries of Demeter, brought to Thassos by the Parian priestess Cleobia, were celebrated. There were also special feasts of Pythian Apollo, whose snowy white temple sparkled on the acropolis above the city.

"Thassos owns its “discovery” to one of many love adventures of Zeus..."

Oracle of Apollo at Delphi The Abduction of Europa

Ancient coins with Zeus and Europa
Silenus, a tutor and companion of Dionysus

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