A son of Dryas, and king of the Edones in Thrace. He is famous for his persecution of Dionysus and his worship on the sacred mountain of Nyseion in Thrace. The god himself leaped into the sea, where he was kindly received by Thetis. Zeus thereupon blinded the impious king, who died soon after, for he was hated by the immortal gods.1 The punishment of Lycurgus was represented in a painting in a temple at Athens.2

The above Homeric story about Lycurgus has been much varied by later poets and mythographers. Some say that Lycurgus expelled Dionysus from his kingdom, and denied his divine power; but being intoxicated with wine, he first attempted to do violence to his own mother, and to destroy all the vines of his country. Dionysus then visited him with madness, in which he killed his wife and son, and cut off one (some say both) of his legs; or, according to others, made away with himself.3

According to Apollodorus,4 Dionysus, on his expeditions, came to the kingdom of Lycurgus, but was expelled; whereupon he punished the king with madness, so that he killed his son Dryas, in the belief that he was cutting down a vine. When this was done, Lycurgus recovered his mind; but his country produced no fruit, and the oracle declared that fertility should not be restored unless Lycurgus were killed. The Edonians therefore tied him, and led him to Mount Pangaeum, where he was torn to pieces by horses.

Diodorus5 gives a sort of rationalistic account of the whole transaction. According to Sophocles,6 Lycurgus was entombed in a rock.7



  1. Homer. Iliad vi, 130 ff.
  2. Pausanias. Description of Greece i, 20.20.
  3. Hyginus. Fabulae, 132, 242; Servius on Virgil's Aeneid iii, 14.
  4. The Library iii, 5.1.
  5. Historical Library i, 20; iii, 65.
  6. Antigone, 955 ff.
  7. Comp. Ovid. Tristia v, 3, 39.


  • 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.