Philomela and Pronce – The Dangerous Sisters

Philomela and Pronce – The Dangerous Sisters

Philomela was a female character from the Greek mythology. She was the daughter of King Pandion I of Athens. In the story, she appears as the sister of Procne, who married King Tereus of Thrace. The story goes like this:

On the fifth of their marriage, Procne asked her husband if she could go to Athens and bring her sister back. The two of them had not seen each other in a very long time and they missed each other. Tereus agreed and took her to Athens, where Pandion I told him to take great care of her. Unfortunately, on their way back to Thrace, Tereus gave into his lust and then raped Philomela.

As if that was not enough, he threatened her not to say anything to her sister. However, Philomela was defiant and refused to comply. In his anger, Tereus cut off her tongue and then abandoned her in the wild. After he returned home to Thrace, he told his wife Pronce that her sister died.

Philomela and Pronce – The Dangerous SistersPhilomela and Pronce - The Dangerous Sisters

Philomela still did not want to give up, though. Even though she could not speak, she decided to weave the crime onto a tapestry. She brought it to her sister Proce, who got very upset about what happened. In her rage, she killed her son Itys and then boiled him and served him to her husband. Unaware of the whole thing, Tereus ate the meal without complaint. He found out only after the two sisters showed him the severed head of Itys to him.

The ending of the story shows Tereus chasing the two women with an axe. Terrified, they prey to the gods, and they answer their pleas. The gods turn all three of them into birds. Procne becomes a swallow, Philomela a nightingale and Tereus a hoopoe.

In early Greek sources, Philomela got turned into a swallow, a bird which has no song. The myth appears in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and it’s one of his most famous stories. This also became inspiration for lots of works of other Greek writers.

 

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