The myth of Aedon in Greek Mythology

The myth of Aedon recalls the myth of Procne and her husband Tereus, their son Ity, her sister Philomela and her father Pandion. Procni and Philomela were finally transformed into a nightingale and a swallow, while Tireas into a tern.

Aedon, in the myth recorded by Boius in the Ornithogonia and saved by Antoninus Liberalis, was the daughter of Pandareus who lived in the area of Ephesus, on a hill next to the city. He had been gifted by Demetra with the ability not to have a stomach ache, no matter how much he ate. He married the daughter to Polytechnos, a carpenter by profession, from Colophon in Lydia.

For a long time the couple honored the gods, rejoiced in their symbiosis and love and had an only son, Itty. But once they boasted that they loved each other more than even Hera and Zeus. Their arrogance was smitten by the goddess of the family, Hera; she sent Eris who sowed discord among them as to the work each did, who did it the fastest.

Polytechnos was finishing a double chariot and Aedon a weaving and they agreed that whoever finished faster, he would get a maid from the other. Aedon finished first, without realizing or suspecting that she owed her first place to the intervention of a god, and indeed of Hera. Polytechnos, resenting Aedon’s victory, went to Pandareus and pretended to be sent by Aedon, to lead her sister Helidona to her. The girls’ father, suspecting nothing wrong, confided in him, but he dishonored her in a fight, dressed her in other clothes, cut her hair, and threatened to kill her if she ever told anything of what had happened to Aedon.

When they arrived at their home in Colophon, Polytechnos handed Helidona over to Aedon, without her recognizing the girl’s battered and shorn face as her sister. The woman got the maid she wanted, and even tortured her at work. Until one day, Helidona, at the fountain where she had gone to get water holding a pitcher, was lamenting and monologuing about her pain, and Aedon heard her.

After recognition and reconciliation, the two sisters conspired against Polytechnos. They cut his son, and Aedon’s son, Helidona’s nephew, Ity, into pieces, and put his flesh in a cauldron to boil. And Aedon ordered a neighbor of theirs to tell Polytechnos to dine, while she, with her sister, went to their father, Pandareus, and revealed to him what calamity had befallen her.

Polytechnos, as soon as he learned that he had eaten the flesh of his child, pursued them to their father, but the servants of Pandareus caught him, bound him with an unsolvable bond for the damage he caused to the house of Pandareus, and punished him in the following way: They smeared his body with honey and threw him into the stables, where there were many flies. The honey attracted them and they tormented him by falling on him; but the memory of the old love made Aedon feel sorry for him and she tried to drive the flies away from him. Her parents and brother realized her act and tried to kill her. But Zeus, out of pity for Pandareus, that no greater evil should befall his house, transformed them all into birds, sea-birds, or other birds.

Pandareus became an osprey, Aedon’s mother an osprey and they immediately wanted to perish in the sea, but Zeus prevented them and caused these birds to appear as good omens to sailors. Polytechnos was transformed into a pelican, the bird with the strong nose, because Hephaestus had given him a pelican when he was a carpenter; this bird, when it appeared to a carpenter, was also a good omen. Aedon’s brother became a falcon, (Fig. 135) a good omen for travelers at sea as well as on land, and even more so when he appeared together with an osprey or kingfisher, i.e. with those who in their human form were his father and mother. Aedon stayed by the rivers and the rocks to mourn her son (Fig. 136), Ity, while Helidona became a roommate of the people by Artemis’s decision, because, when she violently lost her virginity, she cried out loud to Artemis for help.