In Greek mythology, Aristaeus was the god useful arts, such as bee-keeping and cheese-making, olive-growing, herding, and hunting. He was a rustic god, a god of the countryside and pastoral places.
Aristaeus was a minor god in Athens but a prominent god in Boetia, a farming region in central Greece, where he was known as “the pastoral Apollo.” Aristaeus is often pictured on Boetian pottery as a young man with wings.
Aristaeus also appears prominently in the mythology of Macedonia, Arcadia, Sicily, Sardinia, Thessaly, and Ceos. Later, stories about his travel emerged in order to account for his prominence in all these different regions.
Over time, Aristaeus became a popular Greek name, given to many famous public figures in ancient Greek politics and society.
Aristaeus’s Birth and Training
Aristaeus was the son of Apollo and Cyrene. Apollo seduced Cyrene by promising she would be the founding mother of a great city raised in her name if she would go to Libya with him. After Aristaeus was born, he was taken by Hermes and raised on nectar and ambrosia. The Earth goddess Gaia then made him immortal.
Various gods and goddesses taught Aristaeus the rustic arts. Apollo taught him the art of healing with herbs. The goddess Demeter taught him how to hunt and how to skin the animals he caught and tan leather. The god Dionysus taught him to make beer and wine. The great Earth mother Demeter taught him the arts of herding and agriculture.
From the Myrtle-Nymphs Aristaeous learning to make olive oil, keep bees for honey, and to make butter and cheese.
When Aristaeus became a man he sailed to Boetia and was schooled in deeper mysteries by the Centaur Chiron. He married Autonoe, a daughter of Cadmus, founder of Thebes. They had a son named Acteon, who was also trained in hunting and other mysteries by the cave-dwelling Chiron.
Aristaeus, Ceos, and the Dog-Star Sirius
According to one myth, the Delphic Oracle advised Aristaeus to visit Ceos, where he would be greatly honored by the local people. When he arrived he found them falling ill due to the early morning rising of Sirius, the Dog-Star. Aristaeus put together a healing ritual that involved a sacrifice to Sirius at its first appearance, thereby cooling the weather and healing the sick populace.
Aristaeus also found that Ceos was overrun by murderers. He found them and had them executed, making Ceos safe once again.
How Aristaeus Saved the Bees
In yet another story, Aristaeus found that his bees were all dying. He went to see the Water Nymph Arethusa, who appeared to him as a fountain. Arethusa told him to make sacrifices of cattle and leave their carcasses on the altar. From those carcasses, new colonies of bees appeared.
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