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Ogyges, Ogygus or Ogygos (Greek: Ὠγύγης or Ὤγυγος) is a primeval mythological ruler in ancient Greece, generally of Boeotia,[1] but an alternative tradition makes him the first king of Attica.

Etymology

The name Ogyges might be related to Greek Okeanos (Ωκεανός), the great river that surrounded the earth disc. The Greek word Ogygios (Ωγύγιος), meaning Ogygian, later came to be synonymous with "primeval," "primal," or "from earliest ages."[2] (Compare to Γιγας)

The deluge of Ogyges

The area outside of Attica including Boeotia was called by some ancient sources Graiki,the region where is mentioned the first worldwide flood in Greek mythology,the deluge of Ogyges.The Ogygian deluge, occurred during his reign and derives its name from him,though some sources regard it as a local flood, such as an inundation of Lake Copais, a large lake once in the center of Boeotia.[3] Other sources see it as a flood associated with Attica.[4] This latter view was accepted by Africanus, who says "that great and first flood occurred in Attica, when Phoroneus was king of Argos, as Acusilaus relates.

When this deluge has been considered global, a similarity is noticed with Noah's flood in the Bible. Various dates have been assigned to the event, including 9500 BCE (Plato),[5] 2136 BCE (Varro), and 1796 BCE (Africanus).[6]

Ogyges survived the deluge but many people perished. After his death, due to the flood's devastation, Attica was without kings for 189 years, until the time of Cecrops (Cecrops Diphyes).[7] Africanus says, "But after Ogyges, on account of the great destruction caused by the flood, what is now called Attica remained without a king one hundred and eighty-nine years until the time of Cecrops. For Philochorus asserts that that Actaeon who comes after Ogyges, and the fictitious names, never even existed."

It seems the deluge of Deucalion of Greek-mythology is the Greek version of the older legend. Deucalion and Pyrrha were the only survivals after the great deluge. His son Hellen who became ruler of Phthia in southern Thessaly was the patriarch of Hellenes.

Ancient sources

He is best known as king of the Ectenes or Hectenes who were the autochthones or earliest inhabitants of Boeotia, where the city of Thebes would later be founded.[8] As such, he became the first ruler of Thebes, which was, in that early time, named Ogygia (Ὠγυγία) after him. Subsequently, poets referred to the Thebans as Ogygidae (Ὠγυγίδαι).[9]

Pausanias, writing from his travels in Boeotia in the 2nd century CE, said: "The first to occupy the land of Thebes are said to have been the Ectenes, whose king was Ogygus, an aboriginal. From his name is derived Ogygian, which is an epithet of Thebes used by most of the poets."[10]

But there are a number of competing stories about him in Greek mythology. According to the scholiast of Lycophron, it was the Egyptian Thebes that was the site of his kingdom. Similarly, Aeschylus (in The Persians, I,37), distinguishes between the Greek Thebes and the Ogygian Thebes in Egypt. Stephanus Byzantius, writing in the 6th century, says Ogyges was the first king of Lycia. In yet another version of the story, the Boeotian tradition is combined with that of another part of Greece: Ogyges was king of the Ectenes, who were the first people to occupy Boeotia, but he and his people later settled the area then known as Acte (Akte). The land was subsequently called Ogygia in his honor but later known as Mount Athos. Sextus Julius Africanus, writing after 221 CE, adds that Ogyges founded Eleusis.[11]

Stories of his descent also differ widely. Besides Ogyges being one of the aborigines of Boeotia, there are tales that regard him as the son of Poseidon, Boeotus, or even Cadmus. Pope Theophilus of Alexandria, in the 4th century (ad Autol.), says he was one of the Titans.

He was the husband of Thebe, from whom the land of Thebes in Greece is said to derive its name. His children are listed variously as two sons: Eleusinus (for whom the city Eleusis was named) and Cadmus (noted above as his father in other traditions); and three daughters: Aulis, Alalcomenia, and Thelvinia.

According to Africanus, he lived at the time of the Exodus of the House of Israel from Egypt.[12]

Ogyges is possibly the namesake for the phantom island Ogygia, mentioned in Homer's Odyssey. Another possibility for the island is the Niobid named Ogygia.

Notes

  1. Entry "Ogygus" in N. G. L. Hammond and H. H. Scullard, The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Second Edition, Oxford University Press: 1970.
  2. Entry Ωγύγιος at Henry George Liddel, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon.
  3. Entry "Ogyges" in Oskar Seyffert, A Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, Revised and edited by Henry Nettleship and J.E. Sandys, New York: Meridian Books, 1956.
  4. Entry "Ogyges" in E. H. Blakeney, Smith's Smaller Classical Dictionary, Everyman's Library, London: J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1937.
  5. See Timaeus (22), [Critias]] (111-112), and The Laws Book III.
  6. Africanus, Chronography, quoted in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, 10.10.
  7. Gaster, Theodor H. Myth, Legend, and Custom in the Old Testament, Harper & Row, New York, 1969.
  8. Entry "Ogyges" in Oskar Seyffert, A Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, Revised and edited by Henry Nettleship and J.E. Sandys, New York: Meridian Books, 1956.
  9. Entry "Ogyges" in E. H. Blakeney, Smith's Smaller Classical Dictionary, Everyman's Library, London: J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1937.
  10. Pausanius, Description of Greece, 9.5.1, translated by W. H. S. Jones and H. A. Omerod, Loeb Classical Library, 1918.
  11. Africanus, Chronography, quoted in Eusebius of Caesarea, Praeparatio Evangelica, 10.10.
  12. Africanus, Chronography, op. cit.
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