Deucalion The Deluge and Deucalion’s Ark
The son of Prometheus was the Greek equivalent to Noah. When Zeus sent a flood to destroy the evil mankind (of the copper age), Prometheus told the righteous Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha, daughter of Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus and Pandora, to save themselves by building an ark.
After sailing for nine days and nights, they landed on Mount Parnassus near Delphi. Deucalion made an offering to Zeus the Saviour, and the god’s response was to send Hermes with a promise to make any wish come true.
Deucalion then asked for the earth to be re-populated, and he was told to throw his mother’s bones behind him. The couple then took stones and threw them over their shoulders, and the stones became the new human race: Deucalion’s stones the men, and Pyrrha’s the women. The new race was dark and short where the previous had been tall and blond.
The couple had a son, Hellen, who in turn became the father of Aeolus, Dorus and Xythos, and grandfather of Ion and Achaios. These names all refer to the different Greek tribes, with Hellen – “Greek” – as the ancestor.
The Deluge and Deucalion’s Ark
From his mountain top kingdom, Zeus looked down upon the earth and was more and more dissatisfied with what had become of mankind. Not only had they acquired skills and knowledge which should be only in the hands of the gods, they had claimed the better part of ritual sacrifice, they had accepted fire which was stolen from the gods and now, with the opening of Pandora’s ‘box’, earth contained evils which tainted mortals even more. As well as all of this, there was the problem of Lycaon, the ruler of Arcadia. Although it was Lycaon who introduced the worship of Zeus he had then offended the gods by sacrificing a mortal boy child. A deed which, with its practice of ancient cannibalism, Zeus found highly repugnant. To show his displeasure Zeus transformed Lycaon into a wolf. However, the sons of Lycaon (which various myths number as between twenty-two and fifty) did not seem to learn a lesson from the fate of their father and behaved in similarly disgusting ways. Zeus, disguised as a poor traveller, went to Arcadia where he was welcomed by the brothers and invited to eat with them. The soup that was served up to him was made of the entrails of sheep and goats but with an extra ingredient, the entrails of one of their brothers, whom they had murdered and added to the soup’s ingredients. In disgust and outrage, Zeus leapt to his feet, overturned the table and changed all the brothers into wolves, just like their father before them.
Returning to Olympus he decided that mortals were beyond saving and the only solution was to wipe the entire human race from the earth. To achieve this he caused the heavens to open and pour forth rain that began as a fine mist and went on to become a deluge which lasted nine days and nights without any cessation. Soon the rivers burst their banks and flooded cities and villages, sweeping them into the ocean to be submerged under the waves. No-one, thought Zeus, would survive such a terrible deluge and the human race would be destroyed.
However, this was not to be. Prometheus, with his gift of foresight, had managed to warn his son, Deucalion. Acting on this warning, Deucalion built an ark, stocked it up with all the necessities for survival and locked himself in with his wife, Pyrrha who was the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora. The arc weathered the storm for nine days and nights and on the tenth day the rains ceased and the ark came to a halt on a mountain peak. (There are many versions of the mountain peak the ark settled upon with Parnassus, Orthrys, Athos and Etna all being suggested). Deucalion and Pyrrha stepped from the ark, the only humans to have survived, and in thanksgiving for their lives offered sacrifices to Zeus and begged him to repopulate the earth with humans. Zeus felt compassion and sent a message to them via Hermes to seek advice from the Oracle at Delphi. At the shrine their prayers were responded to by the appearance of the Titaness Themis who told them to cover their heads and throw the bones of their mother behind them. At first they were confused by this advice but eventually they realised that the earth was their mother and her bones were the many rocks that were scattered about them. They covered their heads, and bending down picked up rock after rock, throwing each one behind them. The rocks thrown by Deucalion were transformed into men and those thrown by Pyrrha were changed to women.
So it came about that the earth was populated once again and the species survived. These men and women are all of our ancestors. For it is they and their children and their children’s children who have multiplied over and over to repeople the world