Ancient Greek Flood Myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha

Deucalion and Pyrrha, Ca 1636. Found in the Collection of the Museo Del Prado, Madrid.
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The story of Noah's ark is not the only flood story in mythology: There are many others. The story of Deucalion and Pyrrha is the Greek version. Like the version found in the Old Testament, in the Greek version, the flood is a means to punish mankind.

The Flood in the Context of Greek Mythology

According to Hesiod's Theogony, there were five “ages of man”: the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Ages, the Age of Heroes, and the Iron Age.

  • The Golden Age was a time of virtue and plenty under the leadership of the Titan Cronus. This delightful period, however, ended in a war when the children of Cronus joined together to battle against the Titans.
  • The Silver Age began after Cronus was deposed by his children, led by Zeus. Now, instead of the Titans, the world was ruled by the Olympians. Less brilliant as the Golden Age, the Silver Age was a time during which human beings refused to obey the gods. Zeus ended the Silver Age by killing the humans who had displeased him and sending them to the underworld.
  • After a period of time, Zeus decided to create a new type of human being. The men of the Bronze Age were strong and aggressive, with weapons, armor, and homes made of bronze. These terrible men worshiped the war god Ares, ate the hearts of their enemies, and finally destroyed one another.
  • Disappointed by the Bronze men, Zeus sent a great flood. The flood was followed by a new era called the Age of Heroes, during which the great Trojan wars were fought. Great men were born during this era; after their deaths, they spent eternity in the delightful Elysian Fields.
  • Finally, after the heroes had played their role, Zeus created the Age of Iron. As with all the other ages, it is doomed to a final failure, at which point Zeus will return to remake the world.

The Story of the Flood

Warned by his father, the immortal Titan Prometheus, Deucalion built an ark to survive the coming Bronze Age-ending flood that Zeus sent to punish mankind for its wickedness. Deucalion and his cousin-wife, Pyrrha (daughter of Prometheus' brother Epimetheus and Pandora), survived for 9 days of flooding before landing at Mt. Parnassus.

All alone in the world, they wanted company. In answer to this need, the Titan, and goddess of prophecy ​Themis cryptically told them to throw the bones of their mother behind them. They interpreted this as meaning "throw stones over their shoulders onto Mother Earth," and did so. The stones Deucalion threw became men, and those Pyrrha threw became women.

Deucalion and Pyrrha settled in Thessaly where they produced offspring the old-fashioned way. Their two sons were Hellen and Amphictyon. Hellen sired Aeolus (founder of the Aeolians), Dorus (founder of the Dorians), and Xuthus. Xuthus sired Achaeus (founder of the Achaeans) and Ion (founder of the Ionians).