Eurotas evlahos

Eurotas, from the modern monument of Leonidas, Thermopylae.

In Greek mythology, Eurotas (Greek: Εὐρώτας) was a king of Laconia, the son of Myles and grandson of Lelex, eponymous ancestor of the Leleges, the pre-Greek people residing, in the myth, in the Eurotas Valley. He had no male heir, but he did have a daughter, Sparta. Eurotas bequeathed the kingdom to her husband, Lacedaemon, the son of Taygete, after whom Mount Taygetus is named, and Zeus, according to Pausanias.[1] Lacedaemon renamed the state after his wife. "The city is called Sparta to this day."

Pausanias says: "It was Eurotas who channelled away the marsh-water from the plains by cutting through to the sea, and when the land was drained he called the river which was left running there the Eurotas."[1] The "cutting through" is seen by Pausanias' translator and commentator, Peter Levy, S.J., as an explanation of Eurotas (or Vrodamas) Canyon, a ravine north of Skala where the river has cut through the foothills of Taygetus after changing direction to the west of the valley.[2]


The Bibliotheca gives a slight variant of the mythological generation of Eurotas: the latter is the son of Lelex, born from the ground (autochthonos) and Cleocharia, a Naiad (water-nymph).[3]

Pseudo-Plutarch has a somewhat different tale to tell.[4] Taygete is not the mother of Lacedaemon, but is his wife. Their son, Himerus, having offended Venus, thanks to her "deflowered his sister Cleodice" while he was in a drunken state. He drowned himself in the Marathon River, then renamed to the Himerus to commemorate the event.

One logical problem with the story is that, Pseudo-Plutarch asserts in the third paragraph subsequent, Tayegete, having been deflowered by Jupiter, hung herself at the top of Mt. Amyclaeus, thereafter called Tayegetus. She could not therefore be the mother of Himerus and Cleodice. Robert Graves solves the problem with an additional myth of his own; he postulates another Taygete, "Taygete's niece and namesake," who marries Lacedaemon.[5]

Pseudo-Plutarch does not elaborate the relationships of Eurotas to the above mythical characters and events. He fantasizes that mythical Sparta was at war with mythical Athens, and that Eurotas staying to fight in the time of the full moon contravened Lacedaemonian religion. He ignored the thunder and lightning sent by Zeus as a sign. Consequently he lost his entire army and drowned himself in the Himerus, subsequently called the Eurotas after him.

Perceptions of the myth

Malkin identifies the stories of Taygete and Eurotas as "land-myths," not to be taken as "historicizing." He distinguishes between land-myths and territorial myths. Territory implies a "political community," whose presence on and right to the land must be justified. In contrast, the land-myth only accounts for the terrain.[6]

Eurotas in art

River-gods are typically represented in Greek art, such as coin motifs, as figures with the bodies of bulls and the faces of humans. If only the face appears, they might wear horns and have wavy hair or be accompanied by fish. Aelian states that the Eurotas and other rivers are like bulls.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Guide to Greece, 3.1.1-3.
  2. Pausanias; Peter Levy, S.J. (Translator, Contributor) (1971). Pausanias Guide to Greece. Volume 2, Southern Greece. Penguin Books. p. 10 Note 3. 
  3. Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3.10.3.
  4. Pseudo-Plutarch (2008) [1874]. "XVII Eurotas". in William W. Goodwin. De Fluviis. Boston; Medford: Little, Brown, and Company; Perseus Digital Library. 
  5. Graves, Robert (1955, 1960). "125.c". The Greek Myths. 2. London: Penguin Books. 
  6. Malkin (1994). Myth and territory in the Spartan Mediterranean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 6. 
  7. Collignon, Maxime; Harrison, Jane E. (Translator, Contributor) (1899). Manual of Mythology in Relation to Greek Art (New and Cheaper Revised ed.). London: H. Grevel & Co. p. 204.  on Aelian, Variae Historiae, 2.33.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Eurotas. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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