Who is Pyrrha in Greek Mythology?
Pyrrha is a mortal woman who played a huge role in Greek mythology. Not only does she have a very infamous mother, she also is responsible, along with her husband, for repopulating the entire earth after humanity was destroyed by Zeus. She and her husband, Deucalion, were the king and queen of Phthia, which was an ancient Grecian city in the region of Thessaly.
Her name comes from the Greek word purrhos, which means “flame colored,” or simply “red.” Ancient writers of Greek mythology describe Pyrrha as being red haired, hence her name. Being named for a physical characteristic is very common in Greek mythology, and nearly every character’s name has a meaning.
Pyrrha and the Great Flood
The story of Pyrrha is the Greek mythological equivalent to the Biblical story of Noah and the Ark. In fact, mythologies from all over the world include variations of story of a great flood. All of the flood myths have the same four characteristics in common: a warning of the coming flood, a boat, a single all-encompassing world flood, and a preservation of animals.
The Greeks believed that Zeus, the king of the gods, determined that in order to end the Age of Bronze he would wipe out all of humanity with a flood. The Age of Bronze was actually the pantheon’s third time creating humans. The first two ages of man were also destroyed by Zeus for various reasons. This time, the humans in the Age of Bronze displeased Zeus because they were so warlike. The Age of Bronze was named for the bronze armour that soldiers wore.
When Prometheus, one of the Titans, saw into the future and learned about Zeus’s plan, he warned his son, Deucalion. Prometheus told Deucalion and his wife, Pyrrha, to build an ark in order to survive. When the waters finally receded, Deucalion and Pyrrha found that they had landed on Mt. Parnassus (in Greece) and that they were the only two humans who had survived.
While the bulk of Pyrhha’s role in Greek mythology comes from the flood story, she is on her own still a character of importance. Her father was the Titan Epimetheus, and her mother was Pandora. Pandora is famous for being the first mortal woman told about in Greek mythology. She is the one who opened the infamous box, which released all kinds of evil and diseases into the world. While Pandora was created by the god Hephaestus, Pyrhha would have been one of the first naturally born human females.
Repopulation of the Earth
After Pyrrha and her husband Deucalion had escaped Zeus’s wrath on humanity and landed on Mt. Parnassus, they knew they had to repopulate the earth. They turned to the oracle Themis for advice on how to accomplish this. They were told to throw the bones of their mother over their shoulders. They were correct in identifying their “mother” to be Mother Earth, also known as Gaea, and her “bones” to be rocks.
Therefore, they set out to repopulate the earth by throwing rocks over their shoulders. All of the rocks thrown by Deucalion became men, and the rocks thrown by Pyrrha became women. Additionally, they had six children of their own: three boys and three girls. One of their sons, Hellen, grew up to become the progenitor of the Hellenic race, which are the Greeks.
While the general outline of the story is the same in all retellings, there are a couple details that differ in the story from writer to writer. One Roman poet says that Zeus took pity on Pyrrha and Deucalion and saved them from the flood by ending the rain and delivering them to the top of the mountain because of their devout worship of the gods.
There are also variations of the story that say Pyrrha’s son Hellen was actually conceived by Zeus, which was a common occurrence in Greek mythology. This would mean that the Greeks considered themselves as having a direct lineage from the king of the gods since Hellen is supposed to have fathered the Greek race.
All the writers agree on the key points of the story though. Pyrrha and Deucalion survived a flood caused by Zeus, and they successfully repopulated the earth together.
While Pyrhha’s mother, Pandora, may be known for bringing hardship and disease to mankind, Pyrrha herself has a much different legacy. According to Greek mythology, all Greek women can trace their lineage directly back to her. She is responsible for helping repopulate the earth after Zeus ended the Age of Bronze by covering the earth with the waters of a great flood. She and her husband, Deucalion, were able to not only produce their own children but to increase the human population in a supernatural way.
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