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ARISTAEUS, a divinity whose worship was widely spread throughout ancient Greece, but concerning whom the myths are somewhat obscure. The account most generally received connects him specially with Thessaly. Apollo carried off from Mount Pelion the nymph Cyrene, daughter or granddaughter of the river-god Peneus, and conveyed her to Libya, where she gave birth to Aristaeus. From this circumstance the town of Cyrene took its name. The child was at first handed over to the care of the Hours, or the nymph Melissa and the centaur Cheiron. He afterwards left Libya and went to Thebes, where he received instruction from the Muses in the arts of healing and prophecy, and married Autonoe, daughter of Cadmus, by whom he had several children, among others, the unfortunate Actaeon. He is said to have visited Ceos, where, by erecting a temple to Zeus Icmaeus (the giver of moisture), he freed the inhabitants from a terrible drought. The islanders worshipped him, and occasionally identified him with Zeus, calling him Zeus Aristaeus. After travelling through many of the Aegean islands, through Sicily, Sardinia and Magna Graecia, everywhere conferring benefits and receiving divine honours, Aristaeus reached Thrace, where he was initiated into the mysteries of Dionysus, and finally disappeared near Mount Haemus. While in Thrace he is said to have caused the death of Eurydice, who was bitten by a snake while fleeing from him. Aristaeus was essentially a benevolent deity; he was worshipped as the first who introduced the cultivation of bees (Virgil, Georg. iv. 315-558), and of the vine and olive; he was the protector of herdsmen and hunters; he warded off the evil effects of the dog-star; he possessed the arts of healing and prophecy. He was often identified with Zeus, Apollo and Dionysus. In ancient sculptures and coins he is represented as a young man, habited like a shepherd, and sometimes carrying a sheep on his shoulders. Coins of Ceos exhibit the head of Aristaeus and Sirius in the form of a dog crowned with rays.

Pindar, Pythia, ix. 5-65; Apollonius Rhodius, schol. on ii. 498, 500; Diodorus, iv. 81.

Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Sections in Greek will yield a transliteration when the pointer is moved over them, and words using diacritic characters in the Latin Extended Additional block, which may not display in some fonts or browsers, will display an unaccented version.

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