An Athenian, who lived in the reign of Pandion, and hospitably received Dionysus on his arrival in Attica. The god showed him his gratitude by teaching him the cultivation of the vine, and giving him bags filled with wine. Icarius now rode about in a chariot, and distributed the precious gifts of the god; but some shepherds whom their friends intoxicated with wine, and who thought that they were poisoned by Icarius, slew him, and threw his body into the well Anygrus, or buried it under a tree.
His daughter Erigone (for he was married to Phanothea, the inventor of the hexameter),1 or as some call her Aletis, after a long search, found his grave, to which she was conducted by his faithful dog Maera. From grief she hanged herself on the tree under which he was buried.
Zeus or Dionysus placed her, together with Icarius and his cup, among the stars, making Erigone the Virgin (Virgo), Icarius the Herdsman (Boötes) or Arcturus, and Maera the Dog Star (Sirius). The god then punished the ungrateful Athenians with a plague or a mania, in which all the Athenian maidens hanged themselves as Erigone had done.2
The oracle, when consulted, answered, that Athens should be delivered from the calamity as soon as Erigone should be propitiated, and her and her father's body should be found. The bodies were not discovered, but a festival called αἰώρα (aiōra) or ἀλήτιδες (alētides), was instituted in honor of Erigone, and fruits were offered up as a sacrifice to her and her father. The ἀσκολιασμός (askoliasmos), or dancing on a leather bag filled with air and smeared with oil, at the festivals of Dionysus, was likewise traced to Icarius, who was said to have killed a ram for having injured the vines, to have made a bag of his skin, and then performed a dance.3
Another tradition states that the murderers of Icarius fled to the island of Cos, which was therefore visited by a drought, during which the fields were burned, and epidemics prevailed. Aristaeus prayed to his father, Apollo, for help, and Apollo advised him to propitiate Icarius with many sacrifices, and to beg Zeus to send the winds called Etesiae, which Zeus, in consequence, made blow at the rising of the dog-star for forty days. One of the Attic deme derived its name from Icarius.
- Clement of Alexandria. Stromata i, p. 366.
- Comp. Gellius, xv, 10.
- Hyginus. Poetical Astronomy ii, 4.
- Eustathius on Homer, pp. 389, 1535.
- Hesychius, s.v. Αἰώρα, Ἀλῆτις.
- Hyginus. Fabulae, 130; Poetical Astronomy ii, 4, 25.
- Ovid. Metamorphoses vi, 126; x, 451.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece i, 2.4.
- Pollux, iv, 55.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 14.7.
- Servius on Virgil's Georgics i, 67, 218; ii, 389.
- Sextus Propertius. Elegies ii, 33, 29.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
- Stephanus of Byzantium, s.v. Ἰκαρία.
- Tibullus, iv, 1, 9.
- Welcker. Nachtrag zum Die Aeschylische Trilogie, p. 222 ff.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.