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Useful weblinks: Cygnus

The myth and its parallels

  • Ovid gives an account of this tale in his Metamorphoses, Book XII: 64-145.
  • Interestingly, Cygnus is not the only invulnerable hero to appear in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Directly following the tale of Cygnus is a story told by Nestor about a similar hero: Caeneus [Book XII: 146-209].
  • Caeneus used to be a female – Caenis – but was transformed by Poseidon (note that Cygnus’ invulnerability was also linked to this god, through parentage!) into a man who couldn’t be penetrated by any weapon. Just like Cygnus, Caeneus is killed in battle by being crushed/suffocated.
  • A brief biography of Cygnus can be found on this site, along with events concerning his son Tennes. The story of Tennes is almost an exact replica of the more famous tale concerning Hippolytus and his step-mother Phaedra (Theseus’ wife): see, for instance, the play Hippolytus by Euripides.
  • There were other heroes called ‘Cygnus’ in Greek mythology – read a brief description of the main four here, of which the last is the one this myth focuses on. A more in-depth account of the four main heroes called Cygnus can be found on this site, along with a little LEGO© swan-scene!
  • In this picture of the myth, Achilles crushes Cygnus with his foot. The swan that Cygnus is transformed into after his death can be seen in the bottom right of the picture. The battle continuing on in the background and the man attacking from the left gives the impression that Cygnus’ death was quick, just one of many in the war, despite his invulnerability and the trouble this caused Achilles!
  • There is a constellation called ‘Cygnus’, which is meant to resemble a swan. Although it is more often linked with other ancient myths about swans – for instance, Zeus taking the shape of a swan in order to seduce Leda – it is sometimes related to this myth about Cygnus, son of Poseidon. This site not only mentions the myths related to the constellation but also goes into depth about each of the stars that form it.

Swans

  • A swan is now viewed as a very regal animal, largely because they are associated with the the Queen's right to claim any unmarked swan in Britain (read more on the process of ‘swan upping’).
  • Although swans spend a lot of their time in the water, they can also fly and sometimes reach quite some height! For instance, skip to 3.00 on this video of flying swans.

Appearance

  • It is said that one of the reasons why Cygnus was named after a swan was because of his white skin, white lips and overall white appearance. Could he have been an albino?
  • Albinism occurs in individuals lacking pigment and can manifest itself in different ways: for instance, some albinos have pinkish coloured eyes whereas others don’t.
  • Stephen Thompson and Nastya Kumarova are both albino models.

The Trojan War

  • This is one of the most famous tales of antiquity – a war between the Greeks and the Trojans that lasted for ten whole years, supposedly waged over the abduction of Helen, the wife of King Menelaus and the 'launcher of a thousand ships'.
  • Homer most famously wrote about this war in his epic poem the Iliad. For more on this epic and the war as well as lots of information regarding Achilles, check out the War with Troy: The story of Achilles section of this website.
  • For a shorter introduction to Achilles, read this brief bibliography.