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In Greek mythology, Thamyris (Ancient Greek, Thámuris) was a Thracian singer. He is notable in Greek mythology for reportedly being a lover of Hyacinth and thus to have been the first male to have loved another male,[1] but when his songs failed to win his love from the god Apollo, he challenged the Nine Muses to a competition and lost.[2]


Thamyris was the son of Philammon and the nymph Argiope from Mount Parnassus. One account makes him the father of Menippe who became the mother of Orpheus by Oeagrus.[3]


Early years

When Philammon refused to take Argiope into his house as his wife, the girl left Peloponnese and went to the country of the Odrysians in Thrace where she gave birth to a son, Thamyris. When the boy reached puberty, he became so accomplished in singing to the cithara that the Scythians made him their king even though he was an interloper.[4][5]

Contest with Muses

Thamyris was so proud of his skill and boasted that he could outsing the Muses. When he competed with the goddesses in singing, he was defeated and as punishment for his presumption, they blinded him by slashing out his eyes. They also took away his ability to make poetry and to play the lyre. This outline of the story was told in the Iliad.[6]

This allusion is taken up in Euripides' Rhesus, in the Library attributed to Apollodorus, and in the Scholia on the Iliad. These later sources add the details that Thamyris had claimed as his prize, if he should win the contest, the privilege of having sex with all the Muses (according to one version) or of marrying one of them;[4] and that after his death he was further punished in Hades. The story legendarily demonstrates that poetic inspiration, a gift of the gods, can be taken away by the gods.[7][8]

According to Diodorus the mythical singer Linus took three pupils: Heracles, Thamyris, and Orpheus, which neatly settles Thamyris' legendary chronology.[9] When Pliny the Elder briefly sketches the origins of music he credits Thamyris with inventing the Dorian mode and with being the first to play the cithara as a solo instrument with no voice accompaniment.[10]

Thamyris is said to have been a lover of Hyacinth and thus to have been the first man to have loved another male.[11]


Thamyris is also the name of a Theban who was killed by Actor.


Thamyris Glacier on Anvers Island in Antarctica is named after Thamyris.[12]


  1. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.3.3
  2. ^ "Thamyris | Greek mythology".
  3. ^ Tzetzes, Chiliades 1.12 line 306
  4. ^ a b Conon, Narrations 7
  5. ^ Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 4.33.3
  6. ^ Homer, Iliad 2.594-600
  7. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.3.3
  8. ^ Scholia on Homer, Iliad 2.595. See Dalby, Andrew (2006), Rediscovering Homer, New York, London: Norton, ISBN 0-393-05788-7, p. 96.
  9. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica 3.67
  10. ^ Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia 7.204
  11. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.3.3
  12. ^ Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica: Thamyris Glacier.


External links

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