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Leucothea by Jean Jules Allasseur (1862), Cour Carrée of the Palais du Louvre.

In Greek mythology, Leucothea (Greek: Leukothea (Λευκοθέα), English translation: "white goddess") was one of the aspects under which an ancient sea goddess was recognized, in this case as a transformed nymph.

In the more familiar variant, Ino, the daughter of Cadmus, sister of Semele, and queen of Athamas, became a goddess after Hera drove her insane as a punishment for caring for the new-born Dionysus. She leapt into the sea with her son Melicertes in her arms, and out of pity, the Olympian gods turned them both into sea-gods, transforming Melicertes into Palaemon, the patron of the Isthmian games, and Ino into Leucothea.

In the version sited at Rhodes, some see a much earlier mythic level. There, the woman who plunged into the sea and became Leucothea was Halia ("of the sea"; personification of the saltiness of the sea) whose parents were Thalassa and Pontus or Uranus. She was a local nymph and one of the aboriginal Telchines of the island. Halia became Poseidon's wife and bore him Rhodos/Rhode and six sons; the sons were maddened by Aphrodite in retaliation for an impious affront, assaulted their sister and were confined beneath the Earth by Poseidon. Thus the Rhodians traced their mythic descent from Rhode and the titan Helios.[1]

In the Odyssey (5:333 ff.) Leucothea makes a dramatic appearance as a sea-mew who tells the shipwrecked Odysseus to discard his cloak and raft and offers him a veil (κρήδεμνον, kredemnon) to wind round himself to save his life and reach land. Homer makes her the transfiguration of Ino. In Laconia, she has a sanctuary, where she answers people's questions about dreams. This is her form of the oracle.


Cultural allusions

Leucothea is mentioned by Robert Graves in his The White Goddess.

In Ezra Pound's Cantos, she is one of the goddess figures who comes to the poet's aid in Section: Rock-Drill (Cantos 85–95). She is introduced in Canto 91 as "Cadmus's daughter":

As the sea-gull Κάδμου θυγάτηρ said to Odysseus
      "get rid of parap[h]ernalia"

She returns in Cantos 93 ("Κάδμου θυγάτηρ") and 95 ("Κάδμου θυγάτηρ/ bringing light per diafana/ λευκὁς Λευκόθοε/ white foam, a sea-gull... 'My bikini is worth yr/ raft'. Said Leucothae... Then Leucothea had pity,/'mortal once/ Who now is a sea-god...'"), and reappears at the beginning of Canto 96, the first of the Thrones section ("Κρήδεμνον.../ κρήδεμνον.../ and the wave concealed her,/ dark mass of great water.").

Other characters

A similar name is used by two other characters in Greek mythology.

  • A beautiful mortal woman named Leucothoë: a princess, daughter of Orchamus and sister of Clytia, Leucothoë was loved by Helios, who disguised himself as Leucothoë's mother to gain entrance to her chambers. Clytia, jealous of her sister because she wanted Helios for herself, told Orchamus the truth, betraying her sister's trust and confidence in her. Enraged, Orchamus ordered Leucothoë, who claimed Helios had forced her to succumb to his desires, buried alive. Helios refused to forgive Clytia for betraying his beloved, and a grievous Clytia wilted and slowly died. Helios changed her into an incense plant, a heliotrope, which follows the sun every day.[2]


  1. ^ Graves 1955.
  2. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses.
  3. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae.


External links



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: incertae sedis
Phylum: Ctenophora
Classis: Tentaculata
Subclassis: Cyclocoela
Ordo: Lobata
Familia: Leucotheidae
Genus: Leucothea
Species: L. grandiformis - L. harmata - L. japonica - L. multicornis - L. ochracea - L. pulchra


Leucothea Mertens, 1833



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