Marpessa of Aetolia

In Greek mythology, Marpessa /ˌmɑːrˈpɛsə/ (Ancient Greek: Μάρπησσα, romanizedMárpēssa, "the robbed one"[citation needed]) was an Aetolian princess and a granddaughter of Ares.

Marpessa and Idas, separated of Apollo by Zeus, Attic red-figure psykter, c. 480 BC, Staatliche Antikensammlungen (Inv. 2417).


Marpessa was the daughter of King Evenus[1] of Aetolia (son of Ares either by Demonice or Sterope) and princess Alcippe (daughter of King Oenomaus of Pisa).[2] She attracted the attention of the hero Idas as well as the god Apollo. Marpessa eventually married Idas, by whom she begot Cleopatra, the future wife of the hero Meleager.[3]


Illustration of Marpessa by Helen Stratton from Jeanie Lang's 1915 A Book of Myths.

Marpessa was a beautiful lady, described as being "fair-ankled".[4] Idas, son of King Aphareus, came from Messenia to ask for the hand of Marpessa, but Evenus refused his request because he wanted his daughter to remain a virgin. Idas went to his father Poseidon and begged for the use of a winged chariot.[5] After Poseidon consented to his use of the chariot, Idas kidnapped Marpessa and carried her away from a band of dancers and to Pleuron in Aetolia.[6] Her father, after chasing the couple for a long time, realized that he could not catch up to them. In his madness, he killed his horses and then drowned himself in a nearby river Lycormas and became immortal. The river was named later after him.[7]

In other version, Apollo also wanted Marpessa and pursued Idas as he carried away Marpessa. As the two fought for the girl's hand, Zeus intervened and asked Marpessa to choose between the mortal and the god. Marpessa chose Idas, reasoning to Apollo that had she chosen the god, she would have eventually grown old and lost his affections.[8][9]

In Homer's version, Marpessa was already married to Idas when Apollo carried her away from her husband. Idas, however, confronted Apollo:[10]

Idas that was mightiest of men that were then upon the face of earth;
who also took his bow to face the king Phoebus Apollo
for the sake of the fair-ankled maid [i.e. Marpessa].[11]

When Idas was slain by the hands of Polydeuces, one of the Dioscuri, Marpessa killed herself.[12]

Modern use of the nameEdit

  • Marpessa, as a name, was used to describe a 206,000 ton Shell Oil company supertanker (VLCC). In December 1969, it became the world's largest oil tanker to sink up to that date. Marpessa had been on its maiden voyage from Europort, Rotterdam, when an explosion ripped through the hull and it foundered 50 miles off the west coast of Africa.


  1. ^ Apollodorus, 1.8.2; Propertius, Elegies 1.2; Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 4.2.7 & 5.18.2
  2. ^ Plutarch, Parallela minora 40
  3. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.557
  4. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.557 Pausanias, 5.18.2
  5. ^ Jeanie Lang. A Book of Myths, p. 90-99.
  6. ^ Baccchylides, Dithyrambs 6.1
  7. ^ Pseudo-Plutarch, De fluviis 1.8
  8. ^ Apollodorus, 1.7.8–9.
  9. ^ Jeanie Lang. A Book of Myths, p. 90-99.
  10. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.557
  11. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.557   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  12. ^ Pausanias, 4.2.7 & 5.18.2


External linksEdit