Procris

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In Greek mythology, Procris (Ancient Greek: Πρόκρις, gen.: Πρόκριδος) was the daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens and his wife, Praxithea. She married Cephalus, the son of Deioneus. Procris had at least two sisters, Creusa and Orithyia. Sophocles wrote a tragedy called Procris which has been lost, as has a version contained in the Greek Cycle, but at least six different accounts of her story still exist.

Contents

Pherecydes

The earliest version of Procris' story comes from Pherecydes. Cephalus remains away from home for eight years, because he wanted to test Procris. When he returns, he succeeds in seducing her while disguised. Although they are reconciled, Procris suspects that her husband has a lover, because he is often away hunting. A servant tells her that Cephalus called to Nephele (cloud) to come to him. Procris follows him the next time he goes hunting, and leaps out of the thicket where she is hiding when she hears him call out to Nephele again. He is startled and shoots her with an arrow, thinking that she is a wild animal, and kills her.

Ovid, late version

In Ovid's later account, the goddess of the dawn, Eos (Aurora to the Romans) seizes Cephalus while he is hunting, but Cephalus begins to pine for Procris. A disgruntled Eos returns Cephalus to his wife, but offers to show Cephalus how easily Procris would be seduced by another stranger. He therefore goes home in disguise. He pushes Procris to "hesitate" by promising her money before claiming that she is unfaithful. Procris flees to take up the pursuits of Diana, and is later persuaded to return to her husband, bringing him a magical spear and hunting dog as a gift. The transformation scene centers on the dog, which always catches its quarry, and the uncatchable fox; Jupiter turns them into stone.

The tale resumes with a similar ending to that of Pherecydes, as Procris is informed of her husband's calling out to "Aura", the Latin word for breeze. Cephalus kills her by accident when she stirs in the bushes nearby, upset at his beeseching of "beloved Aura" to "come into his lap and give relief to his heat". Procris dies in his arms after begging him not to let Aura take her place as his wife. He explains to her that it was 'only the breeze' and she seems to die at ease.[1]

Ovid, early version

Ovid tells the end of the story a bit differently in the third of his books on The Art of Love.[2] [3] No goddesses are mentioned in this earlier published work, and the tale is related as a caution against credulity. Cephalus quite innocently beseeches a cool breeze (Zephyr,[2] or Aura[3]) to come to his overheated breast when he lies in the shade after hunting.

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