May mean the subterraneous, or the goddess of the earth, that is, the protectress of the fields, whence it is used as a surname of infernal divinities, such as Hecate,1 Nyx,2 and Melinoë,3 but especially of Demeter.4

Although the name, in the case of Demeter, scarcely requires explanation, yet mythology relates two stories to account for it. According to one of them, Clymenus and Chthonia, the children of Phoroneus, founded at Hermione a sanctuary of Demeter, and called her Chthonia from the name of one of the founders.5

According to an Argive legend, Demeter on her wanderings came to Argolis, where she was ill-received by Colontas. Chthonia, his daughter, was dissatisfied with her father's conduct, and, when Colontas and his house were burnt by the goddess, Chthonia was carried off by her to Hermione, where she built a sanctuary to Demeter Chthonia, and instituted the festival of the Chthonia in her honor.6



  1. Apollonius Rhodius. Argonautica iv, 148; Orphic Hymn 35, 9.
  2. Orphic Hymn 2, 8.
  3. Orphic Hymn 70, 1.
  4. Herodotus. Histories ii, 123; Orphic Hymn 39, 12; Artemide, ii, 35; Apollonius Rhodius. Argonautica iv, 987.
  5. Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 35.3.
  6. ibid. ii, 35.3; Dictionary of Antiquities, s.v. Χθόνια.


  • 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.