Minthe

Summary

In Greek mythology, Minthe (also Menthe, Mintha or Mentha; Greek: Μίνθη or Μένθη) was a naiad nymph associated with the river Cocytus. She was beloved by Hades, King of the Underworld, and transformed into a mint plant by either his wife Persephone or his sister and mother-in-law Demeter.[1]

Etymology

The -nth- element in menthe is characteristic of a class of words borrowed from a Pre-Greek language: compare acanthus, labyrinth, Corinth, etc.[citation needed]

Mythology

The Naiad nymph Minthe became concubine to Hades.[2] In jealousy, his wife Persephone intervened and metamorphosed Minthe, in the words of Strabo's account, "into the garden mint, which some call hedyosmos (lit. 'sweet-smelling')". A mountain near Pylos was named after Minthe:

Near Pylus, towards the east, is a mountain named after Minthe, who, according to myth, became the concubine of Hades, was trampled under foot by Core, and was transformed into garden-mint, the plant which some call Hedyosmos. Furthermore, near the mountain is a precinct sacred to Hades,[3]

Similarly to that, a scholiast on Nicander wrote that Minthe became Hades' mistress; for this Persephone tore her into pieces, but Hades turned his dead lover into the plant that bore her name.[4] Ovid also briefly mentions Minthe and her transformation at the hands of Persephone in his Metamorphoses.[5] According to Oppian, Minthe had been Hades' mistress before he abducted and married Persephone. Afterwards, she would boast that she surpassed Persephone in beauty and that Hades would soon return to her; in anger, Persephone's mother Demeter trampled her, and from the earth sprang the mint herb:

Mint, men say, was once a maid beneath the earth, a Nymph of Cocytus, and she lay in the bed of Aidoneus; but when he raped the maid Persephone from the Aetnaean hill, then she complained loudly with overweening words and raved foolishly for jealousy, and Demeter in anger trampled her with her feet and destroyed her. For she had said that she was nobler of form and more excellent in beauty than dark-eyed Persephone and she boasted that Aidoneus would return to her and banish the other from his halls: such infatuation leapt upon her tongue. And from the earth sprang the weak herb that bears her name.[6]

Orpheus wrote that Demeter, seeing the mint sad, hated it, and made it barren.[7]

Culture

In ancient Greece, mint was used in funerary rites, together with rosemary and myrtle, and not simply to offset the smell of decay; mint was an element in the fermented barley drink called the kykeon that was an essential preparatory entheogen for participants in the Eleusinian Mysteries, which offered hope in the afterlife for initiates.[8]

References

  1. ^ William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology Mintha
  2. ^ Patriarch Photius, Lexicon μίνθα
  3. ^ Strabo, Geographica 8.3.14.
  4. ^ Scholia ad Nicandri Alexipharmaca 375
  5. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.728.
  6. ^ Oppian, Halieutica 3.485 ff.
  7. ^ Etymologicum Graecae Linguae Gudianum, Μίνθη. A small collection of versions of Minthe's story can be found in Greek in here.
  8. ^ Kerenyi 1967.

Sources

Ancient

  • Ovid, Metamorphoses. Translated by A. D. Melville; introduction and notes by E. J. Kenney. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-953737-2.
  • Ovid: Metamorphoses X: 728–731
  • Strabo, The Geography of Strabo. Edition by H.L. Jones. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. 1924. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Halieutica in Oppian, Colluthus, Tryphiodorus. Oppian, Colluthus, and Tryphiodorus. Translated by A. W. Mair. Loeb Classical Library 219. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928. Online version at topos text.

Modern

External links

  • MINTHE from The Theoi Project