Myths of the Moons: Jupiter, Big World, Little Moons – Part 2

In part 1, we saw the myths of Amaltheia, the she-goat who tended Zeus, Himalia, whose sons through Zeus were connected with agriculture, Elara, whose giant son Tityos killed her by splitting her womb and was subsequently imprisoned in Tartarus for attempting to assault Leto, the mother of Artemis and Apollo, and finally Pasiphae, who gave birth to the famed Minotaur. This week, we’ll be examining the myths of the following lesser moons: Sinope, Lysithea, Carme, Ananke, Leda, Metis, Adrasteia and Thebe.


Sinope has two varying myths, one concerned with Apollo, which eventually gives rise to the people known as the Syrians, and another dealing with Zeus. Since this is a Jovian related post, I’ll describe the latter.

Zeus, ever lusty, abducted her to the Black Sea, where the city of Sinope can be found. Hoping to win her sexual favors, he promised to grant her any wish she wanted.

Sinope was a smart girl: she told the king of the gods that what she truly desired was to remain a virgin.

Zeus, true to his word, left her unmolested. Thus, in this version of her myth, she remained a virgin all of her life.


Except for a brief listing in the works of the Apostle Peter’s companion Clementine, who listed her as one of Zeus’ conquests, there is very little more on Lysithea.


Carme is a hangover from the transition of Cretan to Mycenaean culture; in her Cretan form, she served as a spirit harvester who assisted the Cretan version of Demeter.

Much more can be said of her daughter, Britomartis, the “sweet virgin”, also known as Dyktanna, who was also uneasily absorbed into the Greek pantheon. Likewise, more can be said Carme’s father and mother, Phoenix and Cassiopeia, with Phoenix being one of Europa’s three brothers who went searching for her. (in other myths, Carme is the daughter of Eubuleus, a child of Demeter, looping back to her agricultural associations).


Ananke is not to be trifled with. Meaning force, constraint, or necessity, she is a primal goddess, present at the very beginning of existence. In the Orphic tradition, she is a serpent, coiled with Cronus around the primal egg of creation, together crushing it open to birth the cosmos.

She makes an appearance in Plato’s Timaeus, and is cited by Sigmund Freud as that which moves Eros (Civilization and its Discontents).

In some contexts, she is considered the mother of the fates (compare with Mnemosyne, memory, typically given that role). In the former tradition, she is the only being that can sway the fates (except possibly Zeus).

Her ties to Jupiter are tenuous; she would appear to be of an older order of cosmological deities, around before the Titans. She is something far more powerful, and potentially, far more dangerous, than the other goddesses of the Greek pantheon.


Leda and the Swan, Gustave Moreau

Once again, Zeus changed his form to seduce a beautiful woman, Leda. Appearing as a swan being chased by an eagle, he flew to her, and she offered him protection. Par for the course, he succeeded in impregnating her without her knowledge or consent.

Later that night, as she lay with her husband, she gave “birth” to two eggs. One of these eggs would produce none other than Helen of Troy. The other egg (which wasn’t from Zeus, but rather her husband) would produce Clytemnestra (Castor and Pollux are also products of these eggs).

Clytemnestra would kill her husband, Agamemnon, upon his return from the Trojan war (a narrative that is chronicled in the Orestea). In turn, Clytemnestra would be murdered by  her son, Orestes, at the urging of her daughter, Electra (hence the so called Electra complex, the female equivalent of the Oedipal complex).


If there were two traits that the Greeks, especially the Athenians, prized, it was the combination of wisdom and cunning. This is clearly illustrated in the character of Odysseus – he has both intellect and street smarts. The same can be said of the Titan Metis. When Zeus went to free his siblings from his father Cronus’ belly, it was through a potion provided by Metis.

Of course,  Zeus would want to sleep with her.

However, as he lay next to her, he remembered a curse: that the children of Metis would one day overpower him. Suddenly terrified, he tricked her into turning into a fly, and promptly swallowed her.

Bad idea.

Metis was already pregnant, and started conceiving a child within Zeus’ body. Then, she started preparing armaments for her baby.

Oh, the hammering, the clanking, the forging: this marked the first divine migraine.

In severe pain, Zeus turned to Hephaestus, the forger for the gods. Whether Hephaestus cut open Zeus’ head, or just gave it a good thud, remains unclear. What is clear is this:

Springing from Zeus’s head came the goddess Athena, fully grown, and fully armored (and the namesake of Athens).

Zeus survived to molest more mortals. As for Athena, the wise warrior (compare her to Aries/Mars, who lusts for war for no apparent reason), we’ll see more of her in posts to come…


A water nymph charged by Rhea with protecting the infant Zeus from his all devouring father, Cronus,  Adrastea, along with her sister Ida, fed the baby with milk from the she-goat, Amaltheia. Beyond that, there is little information.


Thebe could be a daughter of Zeus, or possibly be his consort. Like Sinope, she has a city named after her: the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, which might be the most interesting thing about this mythic character.

Well, this rounds out our discussion of the Jovian satellites. Next time, we visit his daddy, Cronus, or as we’ll call him, Saturn.

Until then, keep looking up, and try to avoid lusty swans and trickster flies.

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