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MITOLOGY DICTIONARY(D)

D


Dactyls
In Greek mythology, they are demons believed to live on Mount Ida in Phrygia (Asia Minor), or on the Isle of Crete. They were considered to be the first metallurgists: they discovered iron and the art of working metals by fire. They belonged to the retinue of the goddess Cybele. The Dactyls are sometimes identified with the Cabiri, Curetes and Corybantes; mostly because of the mystery cults that surrounded those groups. Their name is derived from daktylos ("finger") and is probably based either on their skill with metals or on their small size.

Daimon
Daimon is the Greek derivative for the term demon. In this sense the term "demon" means "replete with knowledge." The ancient Greeks thought there were good and bad demons called 'eudemons' and 'cacodemons.' The term 'daimon' means "divine power," "fate" or "god." Daimons, in Greek mythology, included deified heroes. They were considered intermediary spirits between men and the gods. Good daimons were considered to be guardian spirits, giving guidance and protection to the ones they watched over. Bad daimons led people astray. Socrates said he had a life-time daimon that always warned him of danger and bad judgment, but never directed his actions. He said his daimon was more accurate than omens of either watching the flights or reading the entrails of birds, which were two respected forms of divination of the time.

Damia
A Greek goddess of growth in nature. Possibly equal to Demeter.

Damocles
Damocles was a courtier of Dionysius the Elder. According to a legend, Damocles on one occasion commented to his ruler on the grandeur and happiness of rulers. Dionysius soon thereafter invited his courtier to a luxurious banquet, where Damocles enjoyed the delights of the table until his attention was directed upward and he saw a sharp sword hanging above him by a single horsehair. By this device Dionysius made Damocles realize that insecurity might threaten those who appeared to be the most fortunate. (Sword of Damocles: symbolic potential disaster.)

Danaides
The fifty daughters of Danaus. He fled with his daughters in fear of his twin brother Aegyptus, but the fifty sons of Aegyptos followed them to Argos and forced Danaus to give them his daughters in marriage. At their father's behest they murdered their husbands at their wedding night. The only one who spared her husband was Hypermnestra. In Hades, the girls were condemned eternally to pour water in a vessel with holes in its bottom.

Danaus
The son of king Belus of Egypt, according to legend Danaus and his brother Aegyptus had 100 children, Danaus 50 girls (the Danaides, "daughters of Danaus" ) and Aegyptus 50 boys. When all the children had grown into adulthood Aegyptus demanded that all his sons should marry the daughters of Danaus, refusing such a request, Danaus and his daughters fled to the Greek city of Argos, in the northeastern Peloponnese. Aegyptus and his 50 sons pursued them in a hostile manner, and when they arrived in Argos they were in a frenzied mood. Danaus, not wanting them to harm the Argives, consented to the mass wedding, but in reality, hateful of the whole idea. On the day of the wedding Danaus spoke to each of his daughters, and instructed them all to kill whoever they took for their husband, the plan was to murder them in the wedding bed. All but one successfully killed the cousin they married. The exception was Hypermnestra, which when translated can mean "special intent" or "excessive wooing". The reason she gave for sparing Lynceus' life, and also helping him escape, was that he left her virginity untouched; she loved and respected him for this. Danaus was angered when he learned of his daughters disobedience, so much that he threw her to the mercy of the Argive law courts, but she was acquitted. Some versions say Aphrodite the love goddess intervened. Danaus had an ingenious way of marrying off the rest of his daughters, by getting the suitors to run the length of a race-course, his daughters standing at the finishing line, each were chosen by the order in which the suitors finished the race. Lynceus, the husband of Hypermnestra returned to Argos and killed Danaus, as revenge for the deaths of his brothers. Later Lynceus and Hypermnestra ruled Argos and lay the foundation to the dynasty of Argive kings. The descendants of the Danaides were known as the "Danaans" (Danai) in Homer's epic poems, the term simply means "Greeks" or the Greek nation as a whole. The myth of Danaus is probably a reflection of the contact between Egypt and Mycenaean. Greeks (circa 1600-1200 BC and a possible Egyptian origin for the Danaans. In one version of this legend the 49 daughters, who were guilty of killing their husbands, and for their outrage to the marriage bed, were punished in the underworld after they had died. Their punishment was to continually fetch water, but the jars were full of holes, so no sooner had they filled the jar the water would leak out. (or in some versions the containers were sieves).

Daphne
The story of Daphne is an example of an etiological myth, one that is strongly explanatory of why certain things in their culture were a certain way. There are many examples of Greek myths that explain why certain religious rituals were performed, why some peoples may be named what they are, or even why varying objects, plants and animals were symbols of their gods. The gods were known for punishing mortals for offending them, but occasionally they punished each other. The gods were a vengeful folk, and they did not take kindly to being insulted, by mortal or god. Apollo made the mistake of insulting one of his fellow immortal. Apollo was a great archer, but sometimes he was a little full of himself. One day he caught sight of Eros, the son of Aphrodite. Eros was also an archer, and his arrows were responsible for instilling the twists and turns of love and lust in a person's heart. Apollo teased young Eros, putting down his abilities as an archer, claiming that one so small could make no difference with his arrows. Angry at this insult, Eros shot two arrows, one tipped in gold, one blunted and tipped with lead. The arrow dipped in gold had the power to create insatiable lust in a person, while the other created absolute abhorrence towards all things romantic and passionate. The unfortunate soul who was struck with that arrow would have no desire to love anyone. The arrow dipped in gold struck Apollo, but the arrow dipped in lead struck fair Daphne. Daphne was the daughter of the river god Peneus. Apollo chased down the maiden, desperate for her love, but she wanted nothing to do with him, and she ran from him endlessly. Soon, she grew weary in her running and that Apollo would ultimately catch her. Fearful, she called out to her father for help. As all gods of water posses the ability of transformation, Peneus transformed his daughter into a laurel tree. Suddenly her legs took root, and her arms grew into long and slender branches. Apollo reached the laurel tree, and, still enamored with Daphne, held the tree in a special place in his heart. He claimed the tree the as his special tree, and adorned himself with some of it's leaves. And that is why the laurel was, and still is, a symbol of the god Apollo.

Daphnis
The son of Hermes and a nymph. He was known as a shepherd and flute player. He is regarded as the inventor of bucolic poetry. The naiad Nomia fell in love with him, but he repaid her love with unfaithfulness and she repaid his inconstancy by blinding him

Dardanus
The son of Zeus and Electra. He sailed from Samothrace to Troas in a raft made of hides. Once he arrived there, he founded the city of Dardania

Deimos
The personification of dread. Deimos ("fear") is considered as a son of Ares, and brother of Phobos. He accompanied Ares on the battlefields.

Deino
Deino, which means dread, was one of the three Graeae (gray women) in Greek Mythology. Her parents were Phorcys and Ceto. She had quite a few sisters including Enys, Pemphredo, and Graea. Her other sisters were female monsters known as the Gorgons. The Gorgons, who the Graea guarded, were Euryale, Sthenno, and Medusa. The best known Gorgon, Medusa, had snakes for hair, and turned whoever looked at her to stone. There were several ways in which Deino and her sisters Enys and Pemphredo were unique. First, they had been gray-haired since their birth (hence their name). But even more interesting, they only shared one eye and one tooth among them. This occasionally led to trouble. In one mythological story King Polydectes sent Perseus off to bring back the head of Medusa, one of the Gorgons. Since Perseus needed information on where to find Medusa, he went to Deino and the other two Graeae. As the sisters were passing their eye between them, Perseus snatched it and held it until they told him everything he wanted to know.

Delphi
Geographically, Delphi is situated 2,000 feet above sea level, set in a semicircular spur of Mount Parnassus which rises to 8069 feet, this natural barrier is known as the Phaedriades (shining ones), and overlooks the Pleistos Valley, 15km southwest from the site is the central Corinthian Gulf where the ancient harbor of Kirrha was situated, it was here the supplicants landed. Delphi, site of the sanctuary to Phoebus Apollo, the Pythian Games and the legendary Oracle "Pythia". The name of the site may commemorate Apollo's cult title which is "Delphinios" meaning dolphin or porpoise. As one legend says, Apollo first came to Delphi in the guise of a dolphin swimming into the Corinthian Gulf bringing with him priests from Crete, but in another version Apollo journeyed from the north pausing at Tempe, in Thessaly, and gathered laurel. Every fourth year laurel was taken from Tempe to Delphi, which became the prize in the form of a crown worn by the victors of the Pythian Games. In ancient times Delphi was known as Pytho. Homer tells of a rocky place called Pytho in his Iliad. The mythology attached to Delphi dates back to prehistoric times. It is thought that there was a shrine to the earth-mother "Gaia" and was later shared with Poseidon, who originally was the god of earthquakes and water. The oracle at that period in time was translated from the lapping of the waters, and the rustling of the trees, (the oracle of Dodona, in Epirus, northwestern Greece, translated the rustling from a sacred beech tree). A mythical figure called Herophile, who was more commonly known as "Sibyl" sang the oracle in Gaia's shrine, and from that time on all prophetesses where known by that name. The "Sibylline Rock" can still be seen, and it was here the Sibyl sat and gave out her prophecies speaking in riddles. According to Pausanias, the Sibyl was the daughter of a mortal and a nymph "born between man and goddess, daughter of sea monsters and immortal nymph". Other versions believed she was sister to Apollo, and others his daughter. According to one legend, Gaia gave the oracle to her daughter, the goddess of justice Themis, who in turn passed it on to her sister the moon goddess Phoebe. Apollo became the main deity when, according to Homer, "he killed the fearsome dragon Python, piercing it with his darts". This is how, in mythology Apollo was introduced to Delphi, by killing the serpent or dragon Python in its lair beside the Castalian Spring. Python was the protector of Gaia and the sanctuary of Pytho, the young god was given the name "Pythian Apollo"(part of Apollo's cult was a sacred serpent), but only after serving nine years to king Admetus as a cowherd, to make amends for his deadly deed. When Apollo returned to Delphi he took over as its ruler, and to celebrate his deeds they held a festival in his honor every nine years, some versions say eight. It was known as the "Septeria". Delphi was also known as the center of the world, the Omphalos, a carved symbol of prophetic arts and also represented the "navel of the world". To find out exactly where the center of the world was located, Zeus released two eagles from opposite ends of the earth, one from the east and one from the west, and the precise spot where they met, was in Delphi. Apollo allowed Dionysus to stay in Delphi, but only for three winter months, while he visited the country of the Hyperboreans. The legend of Heracles is also present at Delphi, when the great hero stole the "Tripod of the Oracle". This legend is depicted in various art forms. In Delphi the east pediment of the Siphnian Treasure House, which is now in the Delphi Museum, shows the struggle between Heracles and Apollo, and Athena acting as go between. There are also fine examples of pottery showing this image. The Delphic Oracle, known as the "Pythia". This priestess would be seated on a tripod (Apollo's symbol of prophecy) in a state of trance, the position of the tripod was situated above a fissure in the floor of the temple, from which arose strange hallucinating vapors. She would also be chewing laurel leaves, while in this trance she only mumbled her answer, which a high priest would translate into Apollo's prophecy. Before this took place the supplicants (male only), which were known as Theopropes, had to be purified in a ritual washing ceremony which took place in the Castalian Spring. The Pythia also had to purify herself in the same manner before she performed her duties. The consultation would begin with a ritual sacrifice of an animal, but if the offering was not in a favorable condition and if cold water sprinkled onto the animal made it tremble the supplicant and the animal were turned away. From here the petitioners would enter the sanctum of the temple. Here the question, which had been previously written, was handed to the priest, who in turn asked the Pythia for Apollo's answer. From her sometimes garbled muttering, the priest would translate into hexameter verse. The Pythia never gave a straight answer, Heraclitus the philosopher (circa 500 BCE) said. The oracle neither conceals nor reveals the truth, but only hints at it. The historian Herodotus gave an account of this when he reported of king Croesus of Lydia (circa 546 BCE) who asked if he should invade Persian territory. His reply from the oracle was, if he did invade a mighty empire would be destroyed. Croesus thinking he would be victorious invaded, but it was his own empire that fell and subsequently destroyed. Every four years Delphi held the Pythian Games, originally they were held every eight but in 582 BCE. The games were reorganized, which took place in the third year of each Olympiad. This festival comprised of musical and athletic events. The music events were in honor of Apollo and Dionysus and took place in the theatre which held 5,000 spectators. The highest place on the slopes of the sanctuary is the stadium, here 7,000 spectators could watch the games. All types of event took place from running to chariot racing, the museum houses the famous statue found in Delphi called the "Charioteer". The archaeological finds from Delphi has given archaeologists and historians much information, especially from the inscriptions found in abundance around the site. There are hymns to Apollo, lists of officials and even statements regarding temple money written either on walls or stone slabs. The ancient site of Delphi has a lot to offer in regard to giving an insight of ancient Greece but also the mythology attached to it

Demeter
The Greek earth goddess par excellence, who brings forth the fruits of the earth, particularly the various grains. She taught mankind the art of sowing and ploughing so they could end their nomadic existence. As such, Demeter was also the goddess of planned society. She was very popular with the rural population. As a fertility goddess she is sometimes identified with Rhea and Gaia. In systematized theology, Demeter is a daughter of Cronus and Rhea and sister of Zeus by whom she became the mother of Persephone. When Persephone was abducted by Hades, lord of the underworld, Demeter wandered the earth in search of her lost child. During this time the earth brought forth no grain. Finally Zeus sent Hermes to the underworld, ordering Hades to restore Persephone to her mother. However, before she left, Hades gave her a pomegranate (a common fertility symbol). When she ate from it, she was bound to spend a third of the year with her husband in the infernal regions. Only when her daughter is with her, Demeter lets things grow (summer). The dying and blossoming of nature was thus connected with Demeter. In the Eleusinian mysteries, Demeter and Persephone were especially venerated. When she was looking for her daughter, in the shape of an old woman called Doso, she was welcomed by Celeus, the king of Eleusis (in Attica). He requested her to nurse his sons Demophon and Triptolemus 1. To reward his hospitality she intended to make the boy Demophon immortal by placing him each night in the hearth, to burn his mortal nature away. The spell was broken one night because Metanira, the wife of Celeus, walked in on her while she was performing this ritual. Demeter taught the other son, Triptolemus, the principles of agriculture, who, in turn, taught others this art. In Demeter's honor as a goddess of marriage, women in Athens, and other centers in Greece, celebrated the feast of Thesmophoria (from her epithet Thesmophoros, "she of the regular customs"). Throughout Classical times members of all social strata came from all parts of the Mediterranean world to be initiated in and celebrate her Mysteries at Eleusis. In ancient art, Demeter was often portrayed (sitting) as a solemn woman, often wearing a wreath of braided ears of corn. Well-known is the statue made by Knidos (mid forth century BC). Her usual symbolic attributes are the fruits of the earth and the torch, the latter presumably referring to her search for Persephone. Her sacred animals were the snake (an earth-creature) and the pig (another symbol of fertility). Some of her epithets include Auxesia, Deo, Chloe, and Sito. The Romans equated her with the goddess Ceres.

Dendrites
An epithet of Dionysus as fertility-god, literally meaning "he or the trees." He was the last god to come to Olympus. Homer didnıt admit him. Thebes was his own city, where he was born, the son of Zeus and the Theban princess Semele.

Despina

"Mistress". A daughter of Poseidon and Demeter. It is also an epithet for multiple goddesses, such as Aphrodite, Demeter, and Persephone.

Deucalion
Deucalion is the son of Prometheus and Clymene. When Zeus punished humankind for their lack of respect by sending the deluge, Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha were the sole survivors. They were saved because of their piety. Prometheus advised his son to build an ark and they survived by staying on the boat. When they were finally able to get back on land (on Mount Parnassos), they gave thank offerings to Zeus and consulted the oracle of Themis how they might replenish the earth with humans once again. They were told to throw the bones of their mother behind their shoulder and the human race would reappear. Since the mother of all is Earth, they threw stones and reformed the human race. The stones thrown by Pyrrha became women, those thrown by Deucalion became men

Dike

Dike was the Greek goddess of justice for humanity. Her mother, Themis, was the goddess of divine justice. Dike was born a human and put on earth to keep justice. When Zeus, her father, saw that was impossible, he brought her up to the gods and goddesses to sit on the opposite side of her mother, next to him. Among the gods and goddesses she was the best of all the virgins. She then, with all the other gods and goddesses, watched down on the humans from Mt. Olympus.

Dione
According to certain traditions, the goddess or Titaness Dione became by Zeus the mother of Aphrodite. Actually, her name is a feminine form of Zeus (dios).

Dionysus
Dionysus, also commonly known by his Roman name Bacchus, appears to be a god who has two distinct origins. On the one hand, Dionysus was the god of wine, agriculture, and fertility of nature, who is also the patron god of the Greek stage. On the other hand, Dionysus also represents the outstanding features of mystery religions, such as those practiced at Eleusis: ecstasy, personal delivery from the daily world through physical or spiritual intoxication, and initiation into secret rites. Scholars have long suspected that the god known as Dionysus is in fact a fusion of a local Greek nature god, and another more potent god imported rather late in Greek pre-history from Phrygia (the central area of modern day Turkey) or Thrace. According to one myth, Dionysus is the son of the god Zeus and the mortal woman, Semele (daughter of Cadmus of Thebes). Semele is killed by Zeus' lightning bolts while Dionysus is still in her womb. Dionysus is rescued and undergoes a second birth from Zeus after developing in his thigh. Zeus then gives the infant to some nymphs to be raised. In another version, one with more explicit religious overtones, Dionysus, also referred to as Zagreus in this account, is the son of Zeus and Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. Hera gets the Titans to lure the infant with toys, and then they rip him to shreds eating everything but Zagreus' heart, which is saved by either Athena, Rhea, or Demeter. Zeus remakes his son from the heart and implants him in Semele who bears a new Dionysus Zagreus. Hence, as in the earlier account, Dionysus is called "twice born." The latter account formed a part of the Orphic religion's religious mythology. It does seem clear that Dionysus, at least the Phrygian Dionysus, was a late arrival in the Greek world and in Greek mythology. He is hardly mentioned at all in the Homeric epics, and when he is it is with some hostility. A number of his stories are tales of how Dionysus moved into a city, was resisted, and then destroyed those who opposed him. The most famous account of this is that of Euripides in his play the Bacchae. He wrote this play while in the court of King Archelaus of Macedon, and nowhere do we see Dionysus more destructive and his worship more dangerous than in this play. Scholars have speculated not unreasonably that in Macedon Euripides discovered a more extreme form of the religion of Dionysus being practiced than the more civil, quiet forms in Athens. Briefly, Dionysus returns to Thebes, his putative birthplace, where his cousin Pentheus is king. He has returned to punish the women of Thebes for denying that he was a god and born of a god. Pentheus is enraged at the worship of Dionysus and forbids it, but he cannot stop the women, including his mother Agave, or even the elder statesmen of the kingdom from swarming to the wilds to join the Maenads (a term given to women under the ecstatic spell of Dionysus) in worship. Dionysus lures Pentheus to the wilds where he is killed by the Maenads and then mutilated by Agave

Dithyrambos

A frequent epithet of Dionysus, possibly meaning "he of the double door", i.e. twice born, alluding to his premature birth. The term also refers to the solemn odes and hymns sung to Dionysus at his festivals.

Dodona

Dodona is situated in northwestern Greece, in the region of Epirus. This ancient sanctuary and oracle of Zeus dates back as far as the third millennium BC when the "earth mother" was worshipped here. Early in the second millennium BC the worship of the "holy beech tree" sprang up (in other versions an oak tree) today the oak tree is preferred as the oak is sacred to Zeus. During the 13th and 14th centuries BC the worship of the Pelasgian god Zeus was beginning to be established in Dodona, and the original earth goddess was renamed "Diona" and subsequently became the wife of Zeus (Dias). They both lived among the branches of the holy tree, where the seer-priests interpreted what the god spoke from the rustling of the leaves. In the early period there were no buildings as such and according to Homer's epic poem the Iliad, (circa 750 BC) the priests "slept on the ground, with unwashed feet". But Herodotus wrote (circa 435 BC) that priestesses had replaced the male priests. " These priestesses called themselves doves" (peleiades), this probably comes from the legend of two priestesses from Thebes in Egypt, who were abducted by Phoenicians, to escape they turned themselves into two black doves and flew away. One landed in Libya (and established a similar sanctuary to that of Dodona). When the black dove alighted on a branch of a tree in Dodona it spoke in a human voice, demanding that an oracle be established there. (Another mythological story, this from "Jason and the Argonauts", says that Jason's ship "the Argo" had the gift of prophecy, as the prow had been carved by Athena from an oak tree which was taken from the wood beside the sanctuary of Zeus at Dodona.) In the early fourth century BC a small temple was built in honor and worship of Zeus, and in the third century the Epirote king Pyrrhus had put together a building program and also inaugurated a festival to be held every four years, with athletic and musical competitions, the building program included various auxiliary buildings, also a wall to protect the oracle and holy tree, around the same period the temples of Heracles and Diona were built, as well as the first theatre which had a stone floor and wooden proscenium. Although Dodona became the religious and political center of northwestern Greece it was never as influential as the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. An invasion by the Aetolians ( 219 BC) destroyed the buildings of the Dodona oracle, but were rebuilt by the Epirotes with the help of king Philip V of Macedon. The temple of Zeus was made bigger and more splendid, as were those of Heracles and Diona, and in addition a stadium was built. During the Roman conquest the sanctuary of Dodona was once again destroyed (167 BC) later to be rebuilt in 31 BC by the Emperor Augustus. The Dodona oracle was used by supplicants until early in the Christian era when the holy tree was cut down (AD 391) and the oracle ceased functioning.

Doris
Doris was a sea goddess in Greek mythology. She was the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys (who were also sea gods/goddesses). Doris had many, many sisters. She was the wife of the sea god Nereus, her half-brother. She had fifty daughters, called the Nereids. Doris was not one of the goddesses who lived on Mt. Olympus.

Dorus

The son of Hellen, and the mythical ancestor of the Dorians, one of the three main groups of people of ancient Greece. Dorus settled in Doris, which the Dorians regarded as their mother country. The Dorians settled first in Sparta, Argolis, and Corinth in the Peloponnisos where according to legend their arrival was related to the mythical return of the Heraclids, the descendants of Heracles.

Dryads
In Greek mythology, the dryads are female spirits of nature (nymphs), who preside over the groves and forests. Each one is born with a certain tree over which she watches. A dryad either lives in a tree, in which case she is called a hamadryad, or close to it. The lives of the dryads are connected with that of the trees; should the tree perish, then she dies with it. If this is caused by a mortal, the gods will punish him for that deed. The dryads themselves will also punish any thoughtless mortal who would somehow injure the trees.

Dryope
A Greek nymph, loved by the god Apollo, and the mother of Amphissus. When once she was gathering flowers for her child she came upon a lotus and wanted to take it, but it turned out to be the nymph Loti who was changed into a flower. Dryope then turned into a lotus herself. She was the daughter of Eurytus.

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