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Suicidal Females in Greek and Roman Mythology: A Catalogue

Dr. Elise P. Garrison
e-garrison@tamu.edu
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX
October 2000

The following is a catalogue arranged alphabetically of the females of mythology who commit suicide along with a thumbnail sketch of their lives and deaths. For more narrative details please consult R.E. Bell, Women of Classical Mythology. A Biographical Dictionary (Oxford 1991); P. Grimal, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, tr. A.R. Maxwell-Hyslop (Oxford 1996); J. March, Cassell Dictionary of Classical Mythology (Cassell 1998). For convenience the primary sources dealing specifically with the suicides have been gathered and here presented in English in chronological order, and there is a bibliography of these sources with brief biographical notes at the end. This catalogue accompanies Suicide in Classical Mythology: An Essay by the same author.

Aethra

The daughter of Pittheus of Troezen, and the mother of Theseus. Hyginus claims that she killed herself when she learned of Theseus' death.

Agraulos (a.k.a. Aglaurus)

The daughter of Cecrops and Agraulos, and sister of Herse, Pandrosos and Erysichthon. After Erichthonius was born, Athena placed him in a basket and gave him to the daughters of Cecrops with a strict order not to look in the basket. Curiosity got the better of them and when they opened the basket and saw the snaky baby they went mad and jumped to their death from the Acropolis.

Another version makes Agraulos a heroine who threw herself from the Acropolis to comply with an oracle that declared that Athens would be victorious if someone would sacrifice his or her life.

Alcestis

The devoted wife of Admetus, who voluntarily ended her life so that his could continue.

Alcinoe

After abandoning her husband and children for a stranger, she came to her senses and threw herself into the sea.

Alcis and Androcleia

Daughters of Antipoenus of Thebes. An oracle once promised victory to Heracles if the most nobly born person in Thebes would kill himself. Antipoenus, a descendant of the Spartoi, refused, but his daughters did so gladly.

Althaea

The mother of Meleager who controls the length of Meleager's life by means of a semi-burned log. When Meleager kills Althaea's brother, she burns the log and then kills herself.

Amata

The wife of Latinus and mother of Lavinia. In the contest between Turnus and Aeneas for marriage to Lavinia, Amata sided whole-heartedly with Turnus. At Turnus' destruction, she killed herself.

Anticleia

The daughter of Autolycus, wife of Laertes and mother of Odysseus. She died from grief at the imagined fate of her son after his long absence at the Trojan War.

Antigone

The daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta. After her brothers kill each other and Creon, the Regent, forbids burial of Polyneices, Antigone carries out the burial anyway. She is condemned to burial alive, but instead hangs herself.

Antigone (2)

The wife of Peleus who killed herself when Astydameia, spurned by Peleus, wrote to her claiming Peleus was about to wed another.

Arethusa

A woman from Ithaca and mother of Corax. After Corax fell off a cliff during a hunt, Arethusa hanged herself.

Ariadne

The daughter of Minos, who helped Theseus kill the minotaur. She was abandoned by him on his return to Athens and in some versions killed herself.

Arsippe

After being raped by Tmolus (the husband of Omphale), she took sanctuary in the temple of Artemis where she hanged herself.

Aspalis

The daughter of Argaeus who killed herself to avoid losing her virginity before marriage.

Byblis

The daughter of Miletus and Tragasia, and sister of Caunus for whom she conceived an illicit passion. When she tried to persuade him to reciprocate, he left in horror, and she followed him and eventually hanged herself.

Callirrhoe

A Calydonian maiden who rejected the love of a priest of Dionysus. In anger Dionysus sent a plague which could only be ended by the sacrifice of Callirrhoe or a substitute. Inspired by her would-be lover's courage, she cut her own throat.

Callirrhoe (2)

The daughter of Lycus, who fell in love with Diomedes. She helped him escape sacrifice at the hands of her father, but Diomedes then abandoned her. She hanged herself.

Calypso

The famous nymph of the Odyssey. Though her parentage is varied, her immortality would seem to preclude suicide.

Canace

The daughter of Aeolus and Enarete. She had an incestuous relationship with her brother Macareus, from which a child was born. They tried to smuggle it out of the palace but when it cried out, Aeolus threw the baby to the dogs and sent a sword to Canace with which she killed herself.

Cleite

The daughter of Merops and wife of Cyzicus. When Cyzicus was mistakenly killed by the Argonauts, she hanged herself.

Cleopatra (a.k.a. Alcyone)

The daughter of Idas and Marpessa and wife of Meleager who killed herself after Meleager's mother burned the brand that the Fates had told her would keep her son alive as long as it remained intact.

Coronides (Menippe & Metioche)

The daughters of Orion who in compliance with an oracle to rid their homeland of a plague offered themselves and used their weaving tools to kill themselves.

Deianeira

Wife of Heracles who thinking she was sending him a love potion in fact sent him a poisoned robe that led to his immolation and translation to divinity. On seeing what she had mistakenly done, she stabbed herself.

Dido

Queen of Carthage, lover of Aeneas, who stabbed herself upon Aeneas' departure from Carthage.

Erigone

The daughter of Icarius, to whom Dionysus taught viticulture. When Icarius shared his new knowledge with his neighbors they became intoxicated and thinking they had been poisoned, killed and buried Icarius. When Erigone discovered the grave, she hanged herself from a tree.

Erigone (2)

A daughter of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. After Orestes was acquitted of murdering his mother, Erigone (his half-sister) hanged herself.

Eurydice

Wife of Creon, mother of Haemon, who killed herself upon hearing of the suicides of Antigone and Haemon.

Evadne

The daughter of Iphis and wife of Capaneus. She hurled herself onto his burning funeral pyre.

Halia

A lover of Poseidon, whose sons turned out to be malicious. Aphrodite, as a result of an insult to her, caused them to go mad and gang rape their mother. Poseidon struck them down and Halia threw herself into the sea.

Herse

Sister of Agraulos. See above "Agraulos."

Hippodamia

The daughter of Oenomaus and Sterope and wife of Pelops. When Pelops had an affair with a nymph that produced Chrysippus, she reared him with all her own children, though begrudgingly. After Chrysippus was carried off she persuaded Thyestes and Atreus to kill him. After fleeing Pelops' anger she killed herself.

Hyacinthides

The daughters of the Lacedaemonian Hyacinth. Their patriotic self-sacrifice is confused with that of the Erechtheidae.

Hylonome

A very beautiful female centaur, wife of the centaur Cyllarus. At a wedding Cyllarus was killed and Hylonome fell on the spear that killed him.

Iliona

The oldest daughter of Priam and Hecuba, wife of Polymestor. She passed off her own son as her brother and her brother Polydorus, whom she had accepted from Hecuba at his birth, as her son to keep the right of succession in her natal family. In an intrigue with Agamemnon to betray Troy, because of Iliona's ruse, Polymestor ended up killing his own son. After Troy fell her only hope was for Polydorus to succeed to Polymestor's throne. Polydorus received an oracle that was inconsistent with what he believed to be his heritage and when Iliona told him the truth they took revenge on Polymestor. She blinded him and Polydorus killed him. She then killed herself.

Ino

The daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia and second wife of Athamas. Jealousy of his first wife's children caused her to devise a plot to get rid of them. She sabotaged the seed and bribed messengers to the Delphic oracle to say that the only salvation from drought was to sacrifice the children. Nephele, the first wife, saved them in the nick of time. Ino and Athamas were also the foster parents of Dionysus and after Ino disappeared for awhile in Bacchic rites, Athamas married Themisto. After Ino returned and Themisto mistakenly killed her own children instead of Ino's, Athamas went insane and killed Learchus, the son of Ino. She then fled with Melicertes, the other son, and jumped with him into the sea.

Iocaste (a.k.a. Epicaste)

Mother-wife of Oedipus, who according to some hung herself upon learning of her incestuous relationship, but according to others stabbed herself after her sons killed each other.

Iphigenia

The daughter of Agamemnon whom Artemis required to be sacrificed before the troops assembled at Aulis could depart for Troy. In some versions her selfless sacrifice for the good of Greece is emphasized. In most versions, she is rescued by Artemis and transported to Tauris.

Laodameia

Daughter of Acastus, wife of Protesilaus. When her husband's corpse was brought back from Troy, she begged the gods to grant her time to talk with him for a few hours. The request was granted, and when it was time for him to die again, she leapt into the fire and was consumed with him.

Hyginus adds a different spin to the story:

Laodice

A daughter of Priam and Hecuba who, dreading Greek captivity, prayed successfully to be swallowed by the earth.

Leontides (Praxithea, Theope and Eubule)

Daughters of Leo who were sacrificed in accordance with an oracle that promised relief to Athens from famine.

Macaria

The daughter of Heracles and Deianeira, who moved to Athens after she and her brothers were expelled from Trachis. Their uncle Eurystheus immediately declared war on Athens and an oracle predicted victory for Athens only if one of the children of Heracles died voluntarily. Macaria complied.

Maera

The dog of Erigone who led her to her father's grave. After Erigone hanged herself, the dog also committed suicide by jumping into a well.

Marpessa

The daughter of Evenus and Alcippe and wife of Idas. Together they had Alcyone who married Meleager. The Dioscuri killed Idas, Meleager was killed by his mother, and Alcyone committed suicide. Marpessa is also said to have committed suicide.

Neaera

A little-known mythological female, daughter of Autolycus, who killed herself because her son had died.

Nicaea

The daughter of the river-god Sangarius and Cybele. Both Eros and Dionysus, both of whom she spurned loved her. Dionysus at last intoxicated her and from the union came Telete. After the child was born, Nicaea hanged herself.

Niobe

In a variation on the usual story, Niobe was the daughter of Assaon and wife of Philottus. After arguing with Leto about the beauty of their children, Leto caused her husband to be ripped apart during a hunt. Niobe's father then conceived a passion for his daughter and when Niobe rejected him, he killed the children in a fire, killed himself and Niobe threw herself from a cliff.

Ochne

The daughter of Colonus. She fell in love with Eunostus, son of Elinus. When he rejected her she accused him of trying to seduce her. Her brothers killed him. In remorse Ochne confessed that she had lied and then threw herself from a cliff.

Oenone

First wife of Paris who was hurt deeply when he abandoned her for Helen. Though she had promised to heal him if the need should arrive, she refused after Philoctetes wounded him. Though she relented, she arrived at Troy too late. In her grief she hanged herself or wasted away or threw herself on Paris' funeral pyre.

Otionia & Pandora & Protogeneia (a.k.a. the Erechtheidae)

The daughters of Erechtheus. When an oracle demanded the sacrifice of one of his daughters, Otionia volunteered and her two sisters joined her because of a pact they had made.

Hyginus claims the first sacrificed was Chthonia.

Pelopeia

An unfortunate player in the dysfunctional house of Pelops. She was the daughter of Thyestes, who learned that the only way to avenge himself on Atreus was through an incestuous offspring with his daughter. Later recognizing her father as the rapist she took the sword and killed herself.

Perdix

Sister of Daedalus, mother of Talos. When Talos [a.k.a. Kalos] threatened to outshine his uncle in creativity, Daedalus threw him over the cliff of the Acropolis. Perdix was overcome with grief and hanged herself.

Phaedra

Wife of Theseus who because of Aphrodite's anger at Hippolytus, fell in love with her stepson Hippolytus. When he rejected her she hanged herself.

Phyllis

Phyllis fell in love with Demophon, and the king gave him part of the kingdom when the young man married her. He grew homesick and begged to visit Athens, with a promise to return shortly. He was delayed. When Demophon failed to show up, Phyllis hanged herself and was metamorphosed into a leafless almond tree. (Although most stories tell of her withering away.)

Polydora

According to Pausanias she was the daughter of Meleager and Cleopatra who married Protesilaus and committed suicide.

Polymede (a.k.a. Amphinome or Alcimede)

Daughter of Autolycus, wife of Aeson and mother of Jason and Polymachus. In some versions after Pelias killed Aeson, he sent men to murder Polymede and Polymachus. They killed Polymachus in full sight of his mother who then ran to the hearth of Pelias. She cursed him to his face and then killed herself (authors vary as to methods).
According to Pseudo-Apollodorus, she hanged herself before the son was killed.

According to Diodorus of Sicily, she [here called Amphinome] stabbed herself.

According to Valerius Flaccus, she [here called Alcimede] along with her husband Aeson drank the blood of a sacrificial bull.

Polyxena

A daughter of Priam and Hecuba, and connected in various ways with Achilles. Later traditions say that she and Achilles fell in love, though it was a brief but intense one. When Paris killed Achilles, she is said to have killed herself on her beloved's tomb.

Scylla

Daughter of Nisus, who was invulnerable as long as a certain purple lock of hair grew on his head. Scylla fell in love with the invader Minos and betrayed her father by cutting off the magic lock. Though Minos was successful when he learned about Scylla's treachery he rejected her and she threw herself into the sea.

Side

A young girl who killed herself on her mother's grave rather than submit to her father's incestuous advances.

Sirens

The 3 (or 4) dulcet voiced seductresses whose song lured passersby to their deaths. Odysseus, warned by Circe, was able to resist them and the Sirens in frustration at their failure threw themselves into the sea and drowned.

Sphinx

The female monster that terrorized Thebes until Oedipus solved her riddle, whereupon she threw herself to her death.

Stheneboea

The daughter of Iobates and wife of Proteus. When Bellerophon rejected her amorous advances, she accused him of rape and killed herself.

Themisto

The daughter of the Lapith king Hypseus and Chlidanope, and second (or third) wife of Athamas. Due to jealousy, she attempted to murder the children of Athamas' previous wife Ino, but because of a switch of covers she killed her own children instead and then killed herself.

Thisbe

A beautiful Babylonian maiden loved by Pyramus. Being forbidden to marry they devised a plan to meet secretly one night. Frightened by a lion, Thisbe ran from the appointed meeting place dropping her shawl. The lion nuzzled the garment with her bloody mouth and when Pyramus found it he thought Thisbe had been murdered and stabbed himself in despair. Thisbe returned and finding Pyramus dead stabbed herself.

Xenodoce

A lover of Heracles who pined during his absence to such an extent that she died.

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Bibliography

The primary sources for classical mythology span several centuries and genres. Below are the sources in alphabetic order with a brief sketch of each. Many of the sources are not available in English and they have been listed separately.

Primary sources readily available in English:

Works not so readily available in English (Many of these authors are also available via the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae -- www.tlg.uci.edu)

Return to the Index

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