Danaë (laurel, bay) In Greek mythology, mother of the hero Perseus; daughter of King Acrisius of Argos and Eurydice; sister of Evarete. Acrisius had been told by an oracle that one day his daughter would bear a son who would kill him. Acrisius locked Danaë in a bronze chamber, either in a tower or underground. Zeus, always ready to sleep with a beautiful young girl, came to Danaë in the form of a golden shower (urine) and fathered Perseus. The king, however, refused to believe his daughter’s son was fathered by Zeus. He shut Danaë and the boy in a chest and had it cast into the sea. It floated safely to the island of Seriphus and was found by Dictys, a fisherman. He took care of Perseus until the lad was grown. Polydectes, brother of Dictys and king of the island, fell in love with Danaë, who did not return his love. To more easily pursue Danaë, Polydectes sent Perseus to fetch the head of Medusa, hoping the young man would be killed. Danaë went into hiding until Perseus returned with Medusa’s head. In anger at being sent on the expedition, Perseus showed the head to Polydectes and his guests at a banquet, and they all turned to stone. He then took his mother back to Argos. Homer’s Iliad (book 14), Vergil’s Aeneid (book 7), and Ovid’s Metamorphoses (book 10) all cite the myth. Numerous Renaissance paintings portray Danaë and the Golden Shower as an opportunity to be both erotic and learned. Among the artists who treated the subject are Titian, Correggio, Tintoretto, and Rembrandt. Richard Strauss’s opera Die Liebe der Danaë also deals with the myth.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante