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Nephele, Phrixus and Helle

In Greek mythology, Nephele ( Greek : Νεφέλη ) ("Cloud") was a nymph who figured prominently in the story of Phrixus and Helle. She married Athamas but he divorced her for Ino. Greek myth also has it that Nephele is the cloud whom Zeus created in the image of Hera to trick Ixion.

Phrixus, son of Athamas and Nephele, along with his twin Helle, were hated by their stepmother, Ino. Ino hatched a devious plot to get rid of the twins, roasting all the towns crop seeds so they would not grow. The local farmers, frightened of famine, asked a nearby oracle for assistance. Ino bribed the men sent to the oracle to lie and tell the others that the oracle required the sacrifice of Phrixus. Before he was killed though, Phrixus and Helle were rescued by a flying golden ram sent by Nephele, their natural mother. Helle fell off the ram into the Hellespont (which was named after her, meaning Sea of Helle) and drowned, but Phrixus survived all the way to Colchis, where King Aeetes took him in and treated him kindly, giving Phrixus his daughter, Chalciope, in marriage. In gratitude, Phrixus gave the king the golden fleece of the ram, which Aeetes hung in a tree in his kingdom.

Ixion with Nephele (a copy of Hera), Pierre Paul Rubens (1615), Musée du Louvre, Paris

Athamas and Nephele


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