Rape Marpessa Staatliche Antikensammlungen 2417 n2

Marpessa and Idas, separated of Apollo by Zeus, Attic red-figure psykter, ca. 480 BC, Staatliche Antikensammlungen (Inv. 2417).

In Greek mythology, Marpessa (Ancient Greek: Μάρπησσα, Márpessa, ‘the robbed one’) was an Aetolian princess, and a granddaughter of Ares. According to another myth, she was the daughter of Evenus and Alcippe. She loved Idas and was loved by him in return. She was also loved by the god Apollo.

When Idas asked to marry Marpessa, Evenus refused his request. Idas went to Poseidon and begged for the use of a winged chariot.[1] Poseidon consented to his use of the chariot, and Idas stole Marpessa away and fled. Her father, after chasing the couple for a long time and realizing he could not catch up to them, killed his horses and then drowned himself in a nearby river, which took his name.

Apollo also pursued them in his own chariot, wanting Marpessa for himself. Eventually Zeus intervened and commanded Marpessa to choose between her mortal lover and the god.[2] Marpessa chose Idas, reasoning to Apollo that had she chosen the god, she would have eventually grown old and lost his affections:

"And thou beautiful god, in that far time,
When in thy setting sweet thou gazest down
On this grey head, wilt thou remember then
That once I pleased thee, that I once was young?"[3]

Marpessa is also the name of an Amazon queen.

Ancient references

Idas and Marpessa, A Book of Myths

Illustration of Marpessa by Helen Stratton, from Jeanie Lang's 1915 A Book of Myths.

Marpessa and her story are quoted in several ancient sources, among them:

  • Homer, Iliad 9.556; 8th century BCE;
  • Propertius, Elegies 1.2; 1st century BCE;
  • Plutarch, Parallel Lives 40; 1st-2nd century CE;
  • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library 1.7.8-9, 1.60; 2nd century CE.

Modern use of the name

It is thought that the modern and rare Italian female personal name Marfisa and the variants Marfisia and Marfisio (male version) descend from Marpessa. This is probably supported by the history of the evolution of the name itself.

Marpessa, as a name, was used to describe a 206,000 ton Shell Oil company supertanker (VLCC). In December 1969, it became the world's largest oil tanker to sink up to that date. Marpessa had been on its maiden voyage from Europort, Rotterdam, when an explosion ripped through the hull and it foundered 50 miles off the west coast of Africa.


  1. Jean Lang. A Book of Myths, p. 90-99.
  2. Jean Lang. A Book of Myths, p. 90-99.
  3. Stephen Phillips. Marpessa (poem).

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Marpessa. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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