In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, the Meliae or Meliai were nymph
A nymph in Greek mythology is a female minor nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from gods, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing;...

s of the ash tree, whose name they shared. They appeared from the drops of blood spilled when Cronus
In Greek mythology, Cronus or Kronos was the leader and the youngest of the first generation of Titans, divine descendants of Gaia, the earth, and Uranus, the sky...

 castrated Uranus, according to Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

, Theogony 187. From the same blood sprang the Erinyes
In Greek mythology the Erinyes from Greek ἐρίνειν " pursue, persecute"--sometimes referred to as "infernal goddesses" -- were female chthonic deities of vengeance. A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as "those who beneath the earth punish whosoever has sworn a false oath"...

, suggesting that the ash-tree nymphs represented the Fates in milder guise (Graves 6.4). From the Meliae sprang the race of mankind of the Age of Bronze.


The Meliae belong to a class of sisterhoods whose nature is to appear collectively and who are invoked in the plural, though genealogical myths, especially in Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

, give them individual names, such as Melia, "but these are quite clearly secondary and carry no great weight" (Burkert 1985 III.3.2). The Melia thus singled out is one of these daughters of Oceanus
Oceanus ; , Ōkeanós) was a pseudo-geographical feature in classical antiquity, believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to be the world-ocean, an enormous river encircling the world....

. By her brother the river-god Inachus
In Greek mythology, Inachus was a king of Argos after whom a river was called Inachus River, the modern Panitsa that drains the western margin of the Argive plain...

, she became the mother of Io
Io (mythology)
Io was, in Greek mythology, a priestess of Hera in Argos, a nymph who was seduced by Zeus, who changed her into a heifer to escape detection. His wife Hera set ever-watchful Argus Panoptes to guard her, but Hermes was sent to distract the guardian and slay him...

, Phoroneus
In Greek mythology, Phoroneus was a culture-hero of the Argolid, fire-bringer, primordial king of Argos and son of the river god Inachus and either Melia, the primordial ash-tree nymph or Argia, the embodiment of the Argolid itself: "Inachus, son of Oceanus, begat Phoroneus by his sister Argia,"...

, Aegialeus
In Greek mythology, Aegialeus is a name attributed several individuals.* Aegialeus was the elder son of Adrastus, a king of Argos, and either Amphithea or Demonassa. Aegialeus was identified as one of the Epigoni, who avenged their fathers' disastrous attack on the city of Thebes by retaking the...

 or Phegeus
Phegeus was a Greek mythological king who offered succor and his daughter, Arsinoe , to Alcmaeon, who was fleeing from the Erinyes. Alcmaeon left his mother's, Eriphyle's, jewelry and clothing with him and then returned for it later in order to please the river god Achelous and have his daughter,...

, and Philodice
Philodice may refer to:* Philodice, daughter of the river-god Inachus, wife of Leucippus, and sister to Io in Greek mythology* Philodice a genus of flowering plants in the family Eriocaulaceae...

. In other stories, she was the mother of Amycus
In Greek mythology, Amycus was the son of Poseidon and Melia. He was a boxer and King of the Bebryces, a mythical people in Bithynia. Polydeuces beat him in a boxing match when the Argonauts passed through Bithynia. He was also a prominent Trojan during the Trojan War. He married Theona and had...

 by Poseidon, as the Olympian representative of Oceanus.

Many species of Fraxinus, the ash trees, exude
Plant sap
Sap is a fluid transported in xylem cells or phloem sieve tube elements of a plant. It transports water and nutrients throughout the plant....

 a sugary substance, which the ancient Greeks called méli, "honey". The species of ash in the mountains of Greece is the Manna-ash (Fraxinus ornus
Fraxinus ornus
Fraxinus ornus is a species of Fraxinus native to southern Europe and southwestern Asia, from Spain and Italy north to Austria and the Czech Republic, and east through the Balkans, Turkey, and western Syria to the Lebanon.It is a medium-sized deciduous tree growing to 15–25 m tall with a trunk up...

). The Meliae were nurses of the infant Zeus in the Cretan cave of Dikte
Dikti or Dicte is a mountain range on the east of the island of Crete in the prefecture of Lassithi. On the west it extends to the prefecture of Heraklio.According to the Greek Mythology, Zeus was reared on this mountain...

, according to Callimachus
Callimachus was a native of the Greek colony of Cyrene, Libya. He was a noted poet, critic and scholar at the Library of Alexandria and enjoyed the patronage of the Egyptian–Greek Pharaohs Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Ptolemy III Euergetes...

, Hymn to Zeus. They fed him honey.

Of "manna
Manna or Manna wa Salwa , sometimes or archaically spelled mana, is the name of an edible substance that God provided for the Israelites during their travels in the desert according to the Bible.It was said to be sweet to the taste, like honey....

", the ash-tree sugar, the standard 19th-century US pharmacopeia, The Dispensatory of the United States of America (14th edition, Philadelphia, 1878) said:
Fermented honey preceded wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

 as an entheogen
An entheogen , in the strict sense, is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context. Historically, entheogens were mostly derived from plant sources and have been used in a variety of traditional religious contexts...

 in the Aegean world
Aegean civilization
Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age civilizations of Greece around the Aegean Sea. There are three distinct but communicating and interacting geographic regions covered by this term: Crete, the Cyclades and the Greek mainland. Crete is associated with the Minoan civilization...



  • Ruck, Carl A.P. and Danny Staples, The World of Classical Myth 1994, p. 140.
  • Burkert, Walter
    Walter Burkert
    Walter Burkert is a German scholar of Greek mythology and cult.An emeritus professor of classics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, he also has taught in the United Kingdom and the United States...

    , 1985. Greek Religion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).
  • Graves, Robert
    Robert Graves
    Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

    (1955) 1960. The Greek Myths.

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