A youth distinguished for his beauty, and renowned in ancient story by the perpetual sleep in which he spent his life. Some traditions about Endymion refer us to Elis, and others to Caria, and others again are a combination of the two.

According to the first set of legends, he was a son of Aethlius and Calyce, or of Zeus and Calyce, and succeeded Aethlius in the kingdom of Elis.1 Others again say that he expelled Clymenus from the kingdom of Elis, and introduced into the country Aeolian settlers from Thessaly.2 Conon3 calls him a son of Zeus and Protogeneia, and Hyginus4 a son of Aetolus. He is said to have been married to Asterodia, Chromia, Hyperippe, Neïs, or Iphianassa (2); and Aetolus, Paeon, Epeius, Eurydice, and Naxus are called his children. He was, however, especially beloved by Selene, by whom he had fifty daughters.5 He caused his sons to engage in the race-course at Olympia, and promised to the victor the succession in his kingdom, and Epeius conquered his brothers, and succeeded Endymion as king of Elis. He was believed to be buried at Olympia, which also contained a statue of his in the treasury of the Metapontians.6

According to a tradition, believed at Heracleia in Caria, Endymion had come from Elis to Mount Latmus in Caria, whence he is called the Latmian.7 He is described by the poets either as a king, a shepherd, or a hunter,8 and while he was slumbering in a cave of Mount Latmus, Selene came down to him, kissed, and lay by his side.9 There also he had, in later times, a sanctuary, and his tomb was shown in a cave of Mount Latmus.10

His eternal sleep on Latmus is assigned to different causes in ancient story. Some said that Zeus had granted him a request, and that Endymion begged for immortality, eternal sleep, and everlasting youth;11 others relate that he was received among the gods of Olympus, but as he there fell in love with Hera, Zeus, in his anger, punished him by throwing him into eternal sleep on Mount Latmus.12 Others, lastly, state that Selene, charmed with his surpassing beauty, sent him to sleep, that she might be able to kiss him without being observed by him.13

The stories of the fair sleeper, Endymion, the darling of Selene, are unquestionably poetical fictions, in which sleep is personified. His name and all his attributes confirm this opinion: Endymion signifies a being that gently comes over one; he is called a king, because he has power over all living creatures; a shepherd, because he slumbered in the cool caves of Mount Latmus, that is, "the mount of oblivion." Nothing can be more beautiful, lastly, than the notion, that he is kissed by the soft rays of the moon.14


Endymion is depicted on various murals, such as at the Casa di Sirico at Pompeii, where Artemis is shown as his beloved and not Selene. In sleeping posture he can be found on sarcophagi and reliefs. He was a favorite subject in baroque paintings. There is a beautiful statue of a sleeping Endymion in the British Museum.