Philomela (gr. Φιλομήλα) is the name of various figures of Greek mythology.

Princess of Athens

The older and better known Philomela was a daughter of Pandion I, King of Athens and Zeuxippe. She was also a sister of Procne. Tereus, Procne's husband, loved Philomela. He raped her, cut her tongue out and held her captive so she could never tell anyone. Philomela wove a tapestry that told her story and gave it to Procne. In revenge, Procne killed her son by Tereus, Itys, and fed him to Tereus unknowingly. Tereus tried to kill the sisters but all three were changed by the Olympic Gods into birds: Tereus was a hoopoe; Philomela was a swallow; Procne was a nightingale whose song is a song of mourning for her son Itys.

The names "Philomela" and "Procne" are sometimes used in literature to refer to a nightingale, though only the latter is mythologically correct.

Apollodorus. Bibliotheke III, xiv, 8; Ovid. Metamorphoses VI, 424-674.

Younger namesake

A younger Philomela is identified by Gaius Julius Hyginus as the wife of Menoetius and mother of Patroclus. The former was one of the Argonauts and the later a participant of the Trojan War.

However one should note that Apollodorus of Athens listed three other wives of Menoetius and possible mothers of Patroclus:

  • Periopis, daughter of Pheres, founder of Pherae.
  • Polymele, daughter of Peleus, King of Phthia and an older half-sister to Achilles.
  • Sthenele, daughter of Acastus and Astydameia.

Daughter of Priam

Philomela, one of the daughters of Priam. (Hygin. Fab. 90.)

Daughter of Actor

Philomela, a daughter of Actor, and the wife of Peleus, by whom she is said to have been the mother of Achilles. (Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. i. 558; comp. PELEUS.)

See also the asteroid 196 Philomela

THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN by Geoffrey Chaucer (c. A.D.1342-1400) , The Legend of Philomela

Philomela, Matthew Arnold

Mythology Images

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