25. Zeus and Io

Once upon a time, with soft entreating words, Zeus tried to seduce the fair-skinned Io, the daughter of the river-god Inachus. But while he spoke, the virgin Io swiftly fled and Zeus called dark clouds, to spread darkness. Unable to see, Io stopped running. In the darkness, Zeus ravished Io, who became pregnant with the seed of Zeus.

Meanwhile, Hera, the wife of Zeus, wondered why only a small patch of earth was covered by clouds dark as night, when it was bright day. Suspicious of the amours of Zeus, she ordered the clouds to recede. As the clouds retreated, Zeus was afraid of being caught by Hera, and he changed the fair Io instantly to a beautiful white cow. When Hera inquired about the cow, Zeus falsely said the cow was begotten from the earth. However, Hera was not fooled and she requested to keep the cow for herself. Reluctantly, Zeus agreed and Hera took away the cow.

Hera placed the cow under the guard of Argus, who had hundred eyes of which only two eyes slept in turns, while the others remained awake. Zeus ordered Hermes to steal the cow from Argus, but Hermes killed Argus. The furious Hera now planted stinging flies, invisible and pitiless, in the breast of the cow, due to which the cow was constantly tormented. In agony, the cow roamed the earth, until at last, beside the river Nile in Egypt, she laid her knees, wept bitterly and implored Zeus to end her pain. Zeus made Io regain her original form and Io gave birth, to a son named Epaphus. Hera sent the Curetes, who took the infant Epaphus away from Io. When Zeus knew of this, he killed the Curetes. Io set out in search of her child, and she found the queen of Byblus was nursing Epaphus.

Having found her son, Io returned to Egypt and married Telegonus, the king of Egypt. She set an image of Demeter whom the Egyptians called Isis. The Egyptians also called Io by the name of Isis. Later, Epaphus became king of Egypt and married Memphis, the daughter of Nile.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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