According to the common story he was a native of Chemnis, in the Thebaïs in Upper Egypt, and migrated from thence into Greece.2 Belus had given Danaus Libya, while Aegyptus had obtained Arabia. Danaus had reason to think that the sons of his brother were plotting against him, and fear or the advice of an oracle,3 induced him to build a large ship and to embark with his daughters. On his flight he first landed at Rhodes, where he set up an image of Athena Lindia. According to the story in Herodotus, a temple of Athena was built at Lindus by the daughters of Danaus, and according to Strabo4 Tlepolemus built the towns of Lindus, Ialysus and Cameirus, and called them thus after the names of three Danaides. From Rhodes Danaus and his daughters sailed to the Peloponnese, and landed at a place near Lerna, which was afterwards called from this event Apobathmi.5
At Argos a dispute arose between Danaus and Gelanor about the government, and after many discussions the people deferred the decision of the question to the next day. At its dawn a wolf rushed among the cattle and killed one of the oxen. This occurrence was to the Argives an event which seemed to announce to them in what manner the dispute should terminate, and Danaus was accordingly made king of Argos. Out of gratitude he now built a sanctuary of Apollo Lycius, who, as he believed, had sent the wolf.6 Danaus also erected two wooden statues of Zeus and Artemis, and dedicated his shield in the sanctuary of Hera.7 He is further said to have built the acropolis of Argos and to have provided the place with water by digging wells.8
The sons of Aegyptus in the mean time had followed their uncle to Argos; they assured him of their peaceful sentiments and sued for the hands of his daughters. Danaus still mistrusted them and remembered the cause of his flight from his country; however he gave them his daughters and distributed them among his nephews by lot. But all the brides, with the exception of Hypermnestra murdered their husbands by the command of their father.
In later times the Argives were called Danai. Whether Danaus died a natural death, or whether he was killed by Lynceus, his son-in-law, is a point on which the various traditions are not agreed, but he is said to have been buried at Argos, and his tomb in the agora of Argos was shown there as late as the time of Pausanias.9
Statues of Danaus, Hypermnestra and Lynceus were seen at Delphi by Pausanias.10
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 1.4 ff.
- Herodotus. Histories ii, 91.
- Eustathius on Homer, p. 37.
- Geography xiv, p. 654.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 38.4.
- ibid. ii, 19.3. Comp. Servius on Virgil's Aeneid iv, 377, who relates a different story.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 19.6; Hyginus. Fabulae, 170.
- Strabo. Geography i, p. 23, viii, p. 371; Eustathius on Homer, p. 461.
- Description of Greece ii, 20.4; Strabo. Geography viii, p. 371.
- Description of Greece x, 10.2.
- 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.