33. Athamas kills his son Learkhos

Once upon a time, Hera hated Europa and the house of Kadmos. She wanted to make Ino and Athamas suffer, as they had helped to raise the babe Dionysus, whom she also hated. She pondered that true wisdom recognized and utilized an enemy’s device. Recognizing Bacchic frenzy as the device of Dionysus, she resolved to utilize it. She wanted to make Ino and Athamas become mad, and in their madness, to kill their own children, just like Pentheus was killed by his Bacchic frenzied mother Agaue.

Hera descended to the infernal and ordered Tisiphone of snaky hair, to make Athamas and Ino lose their wits. Thereafter, she returned to Olympus, where Iris, the child of Thaumas, purified her body by sprinkling water. Meanwhile, Tisiphone, accompanied by Madness, Terror, Fear and Woe, proceeded to fulfill Hera’s decree. Plucking two snakes from her hair, Tisiphone flung them at Athamas and Ino, whose minds were poisoned with wild rage, extreme violence and maddened crime.

Immediately, Athamas and Ino lost their wits. Athamas, in his madness, thought Ino was a savage lioness and his son Learkhos, her cub. Athamas snatched his son Learkhos from the bosom of Ino, whirled the babe around, dashed the babe against the wall, and the babe died. The maddened Ino screamed and holding her other babe Melicertes in her arms, she swiftly ran away from Athamas. She climbed a rugged rocky summit, overlooking the wild Ionian sea and prayed to Dionysus, for help. Then holding the babe Melicertes close to her bosom, she leapt in the white foaming rough waves. When no trace of Ino and Melicertes could be found, they were declared as dead.

However, Aphrodite had taken pity on her guiltless granddaughter Ino, and prayed to her uncle Poseidon to open his heart to her descendants. Poseidon regarded her prayer and changed Ino and Melicertes, to the ocean deities Leucothoe and Palaemon.

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

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