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In Greek mythology, Deucalion ("new-wine sailor") was the son of Prometheus and Clymene or Celaeno.

When the wrath of Zeus was ignited against the whole of the Pelasgians, the original pre-Hellenic inhabitants of Greece, Zeus decided to bring an end to the Golden Age with the Great Deluge. It appears that all was not as golden as it seemed, at least not in primitive Arcadia, where an old cult of the wolf that demanded human sacrifice and the eating of human flesh lingered longest, for there the son of Pelasgus, Lycaon ("wolf man"), who had brought civilized life into Arcadia, or so it had seemed, offended Zeus by sacrificing to him a boy. This was a sacrifice which was forbidden in the new Olympian order and utterly inappropriate as an offering and repugnant besides. Zeus struck Lycaon's house with a thunderbolt and turned Lycaon into a wolf. Which however may have been the whole point, for in Arcadia Zeus was honored as Zeus Lykaos, "Wolf-Zeus, son of the she-wolf". Sending a werewolf to be king among the wolves and thus keep them off the flocks seems to have been the practice, and lingered among the shepherds of Arcadia into the age of the Olympiads.

But it was the treatment Zeus received when he visited the hall of the fifty sons of Lycaon, in the usual poverty-stricken disguise that gods assume whenever they travel. They set him a stew of sheep guts— hearts, livers and tripes— in which they included the stewed innards of their brother Nyctimus. Zeus was appalled at the primitive cannibal offering and turned them all into a pack of wolves. But Nyctimus he restored to life.

So Zeus was set upon loosing a deluge, where the rivers would run in torrents and the sea encroach rapidly on the coastal plain, engulf the foothills with spray and wash everything clean.

Deucalion had been forewarned of the flood by his father, Prometheus, the first in a long Near Eastern tradition of more-than-human mediators between Mankind and God. Deucalion was to build an ark and provision it carefully (no animals are rescued in this version of the Flood myth), so that when the waters receded after nine days, he and his wife Pyrrha, daughter of Epimetheus, were the one surviving pair of humans. Their ark touched solid ground on Mount Parnassus or Mount Etna or Mount Athos or Mount Othrys in Thessaly -- it depends whose version one is reading.

Once the deluge was over and the couple had given thanks to Zeus, Deucalion consulted an oracle of Themis about how to repopulate the earth. He was told to cover your head and throw the bones of your mother behind your shoulder. Deucalion and Pyrrha understood that "mother" is Gaia, the mother of all living things, and the "bones" to be rocks. They threw the rocks behind their shoulders and the stones formed people. Pyrrha's became women; Deucalion's became men.

Deucalion and Pyrrha had at least two children, Hellen and Protogenea, and possibly a third, Amphictyon (who is autochthonous in other traditions).

Deucalion's parallels with Noah and with Utnapishtim, the survivor of the Sumerian Flood that is told in the Epic of Gilgamesh, are even clearer in the wine subtext in this myth. Though Deucalion is no longer allowed to be the inventor of wine as Noah still is, his name gives away his secret: deucos + halieus "new wine sailor". His wife, named "wine-red", just happens to be the sister of Ariadne who mothered with Dionysus, several wine-making progenitors of Aegean tribes.

External links

  • Deucalion from Charles Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1867), with source citations and some variants not given here.
  • Deucalion from Carlos Parada, Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology.