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In Greek mythology, Thamyris (Ancient Greek: Θάμυρις, 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[edit]

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]

According to Diodorus the mythical singer Linus took three pupils: Heracles, Thamyris, and Orpheus, which neatly settles Thamyris' legendary chronology.[6] 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 vocal accompaniment.[7]

Thamyris is said to have been enamored of Hyacinth (who however spurned him for the god Apollo), and thus to have been the first man to have loved another male.[1]

Contest with Muses[edit]

While returning from Oechalia, Thamyris paused at the ford of the river Alpheus and boasted that he could surpass the Muses - the daughters of Zeus - in singing. But they were angry and stilled his singing forever, robbing him of the divine powers of song and playing the lyre anymore. The story is mentioned briefly in the Iliad.[8] According to Apollodorus in the Library, the Muses instead punished him by gouging out his eyes.[9]

This allusion is taken up in Euripides' Rhesus, and in the scholia on the Iliad. These later sources add the details that Thamyris had demanded as his prize for wining the contest either the privilege of having sex with all the Muses or of marrying one of them;[4] and that after his death he was further punished in Hades. Ancient scholia emphasized that the eisode was meant to illustrate that poetic inspiration was a gift of the gods, and could be taken away by them.[10][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. ^ a b 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. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica 3.67
  7. ^ Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia 7.204
  8. ^ Homer, Iliad 2.594-600
  9. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library 1.3.3
  10. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.3.3
  11. ^ Scholia on Homer, Iliad 2.595. See Dalby, Andrew (2006), Rediscovering Homer, New York, London: Norton, ISBN 0-393-05788-7, p. 96.
  12. ^ Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica: Thamyris Glacier.


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