A daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia, and the wife of Athamas, who married her in addition to his proper wife Nephele, but according to some, not till after the death of Nephele. After her death and apotheosis, Ino was called Leucothea.

The common story about her is related under Athamas; but there are great variations in the traditions respecting her, which probably arose from the fact of the story having been made great use of by the Greek poets, especially the dramatists, among whose lost tragedies we find the titles of Athamas, Ino, and Phrixus. It here remains for us to mention the principal traditions about the latter period of her life and her apotheosis.

After the supposed death of Ino, and after his flight from Boeotia, Athamas married Themisto; but when he was informed that Ino was still living as a Bacchante in the valleys of Mount Parnassus, he secretly sent for her. Themisto, on hearing this, resolved to kill the children of Ino. With this object in view, she ordered one of her slaves at night to cover her own children with white, and those of Ino with black garments, that she might know the devoted children, and distinguish them from her own. But the slave who received this command was Ino herself in disguise, who changed the garments in such a manner as to lead Themisto to kill her own children. When Themisto discovered the mistake, she hanged herself.1

Other traditions state that Athamas, when Hera visited him and Ino with madness for having brought up Dionysus, killed Learchus, one of his sons by Ino, and when he was on the point of killing also the other, Melicertes, Ino fled with him across the white plain in Megaris, and threw herself with the boy (or, according to Euripides,2 with her two sons) into the sea. Melicertes is stated in some traditions to have previously died in a cauldron filled with boiling water.3

According to Plutarch,4 Ino killed her own son, as she had become mad from jealousy of an Aetolian slave, of the name of Antiphera, and Plutarch recognized an allusion to that story in a ceremony observed at Rome in the temple of Matuta, who was identified with Leucothea; for no female slave was allowed to enter the temple of Matuta at her festival, with the exception of one, who received a box on the ears from the matrons that were present. Hyginus5 states, that Athamas surrendered Ino and her son Melicertes to Phrixus to be killed, because she herself had attempted to kill Phrixus. But when Phrixus was on the point of committing the crime, Dionysus enveloped him in darkness and thus saved Ino. Athamas, who was thrown by Zeus into a state of madness, killed Learchus; and Ino, who leaped into the sea, was raised to the rank of a divinity, by the desire of Dionysus. Others relate that Leucothea placed Dionysus with herself among the gods.6

After her leap into the sea, Leucothea was carried by a dolphin to the coast of Corinth, which was governed by Sisyphus, a brother of Athamas, who instituted the Isthmian games and an annual sacrifice in honor of the two.7 According to a Megarian tradition, the body of Ino was washed on the coast of Megara, where she was found and buried by two virgins; and it is further said that there she received the name of Leucothea.8




  • 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.