“Ancient Pandemics in Mythical Athens: the Leokorai and the Hyakinthids”

Ioannis Mitsios


According to the literary tradition, when the city of Athens was threaded by plague and famine, the daughters of the Athenian king Leo and Hyakinthos sacrificed themselves for the salvation of the city. There is no denial that the brave and patriotic act of the daughters of Leo — also known as the Leokorai — and the daughters of Hyakinthos — also known as the Hyakinthids — placed the Athenian heroines as the ideal role models for every Athenian citizen. Demosthenes (60.29) attests that the self-sacrifice of the daughters of Leo, served as the mythological paradigm for the fallen men of the tribe of Leontis. The selection of these heroines to represent their tribe shows the power and extent of this mythological motif as a patriotic theme. Similarly, the brave act of the self-sacrifice of the daughters of Hyakinthos is mentioned by Diodorus (17.15.2), who emphasizes their brave and patriotic act.

In this paper, by employing an interdisciplinary approach taking into consideration the literary, epigraphic and topographic evidence, in close relation to the historical and ideological context of the classical period the phenomenon, context and impact of the voluntary sacrifice of the mythical Athenian heroines during times of pandemics, plagues and famine will be examined. The ultimate aim of the study is to relate the brave sacrificial act of the mythical virgins during the mythical pandemics to the current historical pandemic and the plague of Athens during 430 B.C. and furthermore point on the Gender and Identity parameters of the brave act of women, further extending the research scope to the Anthropological Studies.


Heroines of Attica; Ancient Greek Mythology

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6667/interface.17.2022.165


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