Aëdon (nightingale, songstress) is in Greek mythology, the daughter of Pandareos, wife of the Theban king, Zethus; and mother of Itylus, whom she killed and fed to her husband. Envious of her sister-in-law Niobe for having six sons, Aëdon tried to kill the oldest but by mistake killed one of her own. 

She was changed into a nightingale by Zeus and forever bewailed her fate. In a later variant myth Aëdon is the wife of Polytechnus at Colophon in Lydia. She angered the goddess Hera by boasting that she lived more happily with her husband than Hera with Zeus. 

Hera sent Eris (strife) to set a wager between Aëdon and Polytechnus that whoever finished first the piece of work they had in hand (he a chair, she a garment) should be given by the other the present of a slave girl as a prize. 

With Hera’s aid Aëdon won. In anger Polytechnus fetched Aëdon’s sister Chelidonis on a false pretext from her father’s house and subdued her. He then presented her to his wife as her slave. Aëdon did not recognize her sister dressed in slave garments. 

One day Aëdon overheard Chelidonis lamenting her fate and helped her plot to kill Aëdon’s son Itylus, cook him, and feed him to his father, Polytechnus. Learning the fate of his son, Polytechnus pursued Chelidonis to her home. 

But the gods, wishing to prevent more bloodshed, turned them all into birds: Pandareos became an osprey; his wife, a kingfisher; Polytechnus, a pelican; Chelidonis, a swallow; and Aëdon, a nightingale.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow-Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante