The Aloadae are renowned in the earliest stories of Greece for their extraordinary strength and daring spirit. When they were nine years old, each of their bodies measured nine cubits in breadth and twenty-seven in height. At this early age, they threatened the Olympian gods with war, and attempted to pile Mount Ossa upon Olympus, and Pelion upon Ossa. They would have accomplished their object, says Homer, had they been allowed to grow up to the age of manhood; but Apollo destroyed them before their beards began to appear.1
In the Iliad2 the poet relates another feat of their early age. They put the god Ares in chains, and kept him imprisoned for thirteen months; so that he would have perished, had not Hermes been informed of it by Eriboea, and secretly liberated the prisoner.
The same stories are related by Apollodorus,3 who however does not make them perish in the attempt upon Olympus. According to him, they actually piled the mountains upon one another, and threatened to change land into sea and sea into land. They are further said to have grown every year one cubit in breadth and three in height. As another proof of their daring, it is related, that Ephialtes sued for the hand of Hera, and Otus for that of Artemis. But this led to their destruction in the island of Naxos.4 Here Artemis appeared to them in the form of a stag, and ran between the two brothers, who, both aiming at the animal at the same time, shot each other dead. Hyginus5 relates their death in a similar manner, but makes Apollo send the fatal stag.6
Diodorus,8 who does not mention the Homeric stories, contrives to give to his account an appearance of history. According to him, the Aloadae are Thessalian heroes who were sent out by their father Aloeus to fetch back their mother Iphimedeia and her daughter Pancratis, who had been carried off by Thracians. After having overtaken and defeated the Thracians in the island of Strongyle (Naxos), they settled there as rulers over the Thracians. But soon after, they killed each other in a dispute which had arisen between them, and the Naxians worshiped them as heroes. The foundation of the town of Aloïum in Thessaly was ascribed to them.9
In all these traditions the Aloadae are represented as only remarkable for their gigantic physical strength; but there is another story which places them in a different light. Pausanias10 relates, that they were believed to have been the first of all men who worshiped the Muses on Mount Helicon, and to have consecrated this mountain to them; but they worshiped only three Muses — Melete, Mneme, and Aoede, and founded the town of Ascra in Boeotia.
- Odyssey xii, 305 ff.
- v, 385 ff.; comp. Philostratus. Lives of the Sophists ii, 1.1.
- The Library i, 7.4.
- Comp. Pindar. Pythian Odes iv, 156 ff.
- Fabulae, 28.
- Comp. Callimachus. Hymn to Artemis, 264; Apollonius Rhodius. Argonautica i, 484, with the Scholiast.
- Munck, on Hyginus, l.c.; Virgil. Aeneid vi, 582.
- v, 50 ff.
- Stephanus of Byzantium, s.v.
- Description of Greece ix, 29.1.
- ibid. ix, 22.5.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.