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Legends and Myths of the Cyclades

June 1, 2020

A cluster of shiny little pearls scattered around the Aegean. The stomping grounds of gods and heroes; homes of mythical kings and queens; lairs of terrible monsters and beasts. Inhabited since the early bronze age, the Cycladic islands are steeped in captivating folktales and fables. Legends and myths of the Cyclades are plenteous and prolific;  attempting to account for the islands’ unique morphology and geography and their, more often than not, turbulent history and evolution. But perhaps most importantly legends and myths of the Cyclades also aim to shed light to the behaviours and traits of the islanders (and humankind overall) without filters, judgement or inhibitions.

At the Yria Boutique Hotel & Spa, we are certainly fascinated by our rich mythological tradition; in fact, the very vehicle that spread the Greek culture, customs and mores in the surrounding regions. At the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, the Cyclades were important trading and religious centres from the onset and their stories pivotal in consolidating their status and power. Read on to embark on an enthralling journey through the legends and myths of the Cyclades.

 

Legends and myths of the Cyclades: Aegean Sea & the Cycladic islands

The Aegean was named after king Aegeas who fell to his death from Cape Sounion, due to a tragic mistake. Legend says that the mighty Athenian ruler had positioned himself at the edge of the promontory waiting for his son’s return from Crete. When he saw the black sails on Theseus ship he thought that he was killed by the Minotaur, the mythical half-man, half-beast. But the young hero was actually victorious: Shunned by his beloved who chose Dionysus instead, Theseus was so devastated that he forgot to replace his ship’s black sails on the way back. Alas, these were to signify grief rather than success. In honour of his father’s untimely demise, the sea was named Aegean.

 

Smack in the middle of the Aegean, forming a circle at the epicentre of which lies the sacred island of Delos, the Cyclades housed some of the world’s most advanced, early civilizations since 9.000 BC. Their name first appears in the writings of Herodotos in the 5th -century BC, and it is derived from the Greek word for “circle”- cyklos. Greek mythology attributes their creation to Poseidon, stipulating that they were initially nymphs who managed to infuriate the god and commander of the seas. Famous for his tempestuous nature he then retaliated by transforming them into islands.

 

Legends and myths of the Cyclades: Paros Island

 

Paros is frequently mentioned in Greek mythology, most often in connection to the Minoans and Minoan Crete, but also in conjunction to the legendary Hercules. According to one version of the story, the island’s name derives from its mythological first inhabitant, Paros of Parassios, which is a region in Arcadia, Peloponnese.

 

The Minoans were to conquer Paros (and the whole of the Cyclades) in the aeons to come. Allegedly King Minos stationed himself in Paros and produced four offspring with the nymph Paria: Eurimedontas, Chrisis, Nifalionas and Philolaos. On his way to accomplishing one of his 12 labours, Hercules, the greatest of the Greek heroes, stopped in Paros. Minos’ sons got into a fight with his companions and managed to kill a couple of them. Understandably infuriated, Hercules then murdered the four siblings and even besieged the capital of the island. To placate him, and to avoid the worst to come, Parians begged him to choose two of their compatriots to take them with him on his mission. Hercules selected Minos’ grandsons, Alkaios and Sthenelos and the dispute was thereafter resolved.

 

According to another legend, Crete’s mighty king was in Paros performing a ritual slaughter in honour of the three Charites, goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, and fertility. During the ceremony, Minos found out that his son Androgeos was slain by the Athenians. He did not terminate the sacrifice but ordered his fleet to besiege Athens. This is what ultimately led to the terrible blood tribute that the Athenians had to pay to Minos: Every nine years they were obliged to send their finest youth to Crete, to feed the Minotaur, until Theseus put an end to all this by vanquishing the beast.

 

But this is just a sample of the legends and myths of the Cyclades. As soon as it is safe to travel again, we invite you to join us in Paros at the Yria Resort in beautiful Parasporos bay. Make yourselves comfortable at your Yria luxury Room, Maisonette, or Suite, or private villa rental, and let us regale you with more captivating tales from the Greek mythology: Though hailing from the very distant past, you’ll find that they are particularly relevant today!

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