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This article is about one of the Greek mythological figures, the wife of Ceyx. For other uses, see Alcyone
In Greek mythology, Alcyone (Ἁλκυόνη, Halkyónē) was the daughter of
Aeolus, either by Enarete or Aegiale. She married Ceyx, son of
Eosphorus, the Morning Star.
They were very happy together in Trachis, and according to Pseudo-
Apollodorus's account, often sacrilegiously called each other "Zeus" and
"Hera".  This angered Zeus, so while Ceyx was at sea (going to consult
an oracle according to Ovid's account), the god threw a thunderbolt at his
ship. Soon after, Morpheus (God of Dreams) disguised as Ceyx appeared
to Alcyone as an apparition to tell her of his fate, and she threw herself
into the sea in her grief. Out of compassion, the gods changed them both
into halcyon birds, named after her.
Herbert James Draper, Halcyone, 1915.
Ovid and Hyginus both also recount the metamorphosis of the pair
in and after Ceyx's loss in a terrible storm, though they both omit Ceyx
and Alcyone calling each other Zeus and Hera (and Zeus's resulting anger) as a
reason for it. Ovid also adds the detail of her seeing his body washed up onshore
before her attempted suicide.
Ovid and Hyginus both also make the metamorphosis the origin of the etymology for
"halcyon days," the seven days in winter when storms never occur. They state that
these were originally the seven days each year (either side of the shortest day of the
year) during which Alcyone (as a kingfisher) laid her eggs and made her nest on the
beach and during which her father Aeolus, god of the winds, restrained the winds and Alcyone and Ceyx marble bas relief,
calmed the waves so she could do so in safety. The phrase has since become a term originally at Parlington Hall, Aberford,
used to describe a peaceful time generally. Its proper meaning, however, is that of a removed to Lotherton Hall sometime
lucky break, or a bright interval set in the midst of adversity; just as the days of calm
and mild weather are set in the height of winter for the sake of the kingfishers'
The myth is also briefly referred to by Virgil, again without reference to Zeus's anger.
Various kinds of kingfishers are named after the couple, in reference to the metamorphosis myth:
The genus Ceyx (within the River kingfishers family) is named after him
The kingfisher family Halcyonidae (Tree Kingfishers) is named after his wife, as is the genus Halcyon.
The Belted Kingfisher's Latin species name (Megaceryle alcyon) also references her name.
Their story features in The Book of the Duchess.
Their story is the basis for the opera Alcyone by the French composer Marin Marais
A collection of Canada's celebrated nature poet, Archibald Lampman, Alcyone, his final set of poetry published
posthumously in 1899, highlights both Lampman's apocalyptic and utopian visions of the future.
TS Eliot draws from this myth in The Dry Salvages: "And the ragged rock in the restless waters,/Waves wash over it, fogs
conceal it;/On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,/In navigable weather it is always a seamark/To lay a course by: but
in the sombre season/Or the sudden fury, is what it always was."
1. ^ Hesiod, Catalogue of Women fr. 15; Apollodorus i. 7. 3 -4 )
2. ^ Ovid Metamorphoses XI, 410ff.-748 (also here )
3. ^ Hyginus Fabulae 65
4. ^ Virgil Georgics i. 399 - "[At that time] not to the sun's warmth then upon the shore / Do halcyons dear to Thetis ope their wings"
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith,
Wikimedia Commons has media
William, ed. (1867). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography
related to: Ceyx and Alcyone