Tyche (/ˈtki/; Ancient Greek: Τύχη Túkhē, 'Luck', Ancient Greek[tý.kʰɛː], Modern Greek[ˈti.çi]; Roman equivalent: Fortuna) was the presiding tutelary deity who governed the fortune and prosperity of a city, its destiny. In Classical Greek mythology, she is the daughter of Aphrodite and Zeus or Hermes. The Greek historian Polybius believed that when no cause can be discovered to events such as floods, droughts, frosts, or even in politics, then the cause of these events may be fairly attributed to Tyche.[1]

Goddess of Fortune
Member of the Oceanids
Istanbul - Museo archeol. - Tyche e Plutone - sec. II d.C. - Foto G. Dall'Orto 28-5-2006.jpg
Polychrome marble statue depicting Tyche holding the infant Plutus in her arms, 2nd century AD, Istanbul Archaeological Museum
Personal information
ParentsOceanus and Tethys or
Aphrodite and Zeus or
SiblingsOceanids, Potamoi
Roman equivalentFortuna

Increasingly during the Hellenistic period, cities venerated their own Tychai, specific iconic versions of the original Tyche. This practice was continued in the iconography of Roman art, even into the Christian period, often as sets of the greatest cities of the empire.


In literature, Tyche might be given various genealogies, as a daughter of Hermes and Aphrodite, or considered one of the Oceanids, daughters of Oceanus, and Tethys, or of Zeus.[2] She was connected with Nemesis[3] and Agathos Daimon ("good spirit").

She's sometimes named as the mother of Plutus,[4] the god of wealth; usually, however, he is the son of Demeter and Iasion.[5]


The remains of a Greek temple of Tyche, Olba

Tyche was uniquely venerated at Itanos in Crete, as Tyche Protogeneia, linked with the Athenian Protogeneia ("firstborn"), daughter of Erechtheus, whose self-sacrifice saved the city.[6] In Alexandria the Tychaeon, the Greek temple of Tyche, was described by Libanius as one of the most magnificent of the entire Hellenistic world.[7]

Stylianos Spyridacis[8] concisely expressed Tyche's appeal in a Hellenistic world of arbitrary violence and unmeaning reverses: "In the turbulent years of the Epigoni of Alexander, an awareness of the instability of human affairs led people to believe that Tyche, the blind mistress of Fortune, governed mankind with an inconstancy which explained the vicissitudes of the time."[9]


Tyche on the reverse of this base metal coin by Gordian III (r. 238 – 244 AD)

Tyche appears on many coins of the Hellenistic period in the three centuries before the Christian era, especially from cities in the Aegean. Unpredictable turns of fortune drive the complicated plotlines of Hellenistic romances, such as, Leucippe and Clitophon or Daphnis and Chloe. She experienced a resurgence in another era of uneasy change, the final days of publicly sanctioned Paganism, between the late-fourth-century emperors Julian and Theodosius I, who definitively closed the temples. The effectiveness of her capricious power even achieved respectability in philosophical circles during that generation, although among poets it was a commonplace to revile her for a fickle harlot.[10]

In Greco-Roman and medieval art Tyche was depicted as wearing a mural crown, and carrying a cornucopia (horn of plenty), an emblematic gubernaculum (ship's rudder), and the wheel of fortune, or she may stand on the wheel, presiding over the entire circle of fate.

The constellation of Virgo is sometimes identified as the heavenly figure of Tyche,[11] as well as other goddesses such as Demeter and Astraea.

Greco-Roman TychaiEdit

The Three Tychai, c. 160 AD, Louvre Museum

In late Roman sets the figures, usually four, represented the Tychai of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and either Antioch (more usual, as in the Esquiline Treasure of about 380 AD) or Trier, as in the Calendar of 354. The Tychai may be seen wearing a mural crown (a crown like the walls of the city).

The Tyche of Rome was represented in military costume.[12]

The attributes of the Tyche of Constantinople included a cornucopia.[12]

The Tyche of Alexandria carried sheaves of corns and stepped on the bow of a ship.[12]

Several artefacts feature the Tyche of Antioch with a male swimmer personifying the Orontes River at her feet.


  1. ^ Polybius. The Rise Of The Roman Empire, Page 29, Penguin, 1979.
  2. ^ Pindar, Twelfth Olympian Ode.
  3. ^ As on an Attic amphora, fifth century BC, Antikensammlung Berlin, illustrated at Theoi.com.
  4. ^ Aesop, Fables 413
  5. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 969; Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica 5.77.1; Hyginus, De Astronomica 2.4.7
  6. ^ Noted by Spyridakis, who demonstrated that earlier suggestions of a source in Fortuna Primigenia of Praeneste was anachronistic.
  7. ^ Libanius, in Progymnasmata 1114R, noted by Spyridakis 1969:45.
  8. ^ University of California Davis faculty: Stylianos Spyridakis Archived 2010-05-16 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Spyridakis, Stylianos. "The Itanian cult of Tyche Protogeneia", Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 18.1 (January 1969:42-48) p. 42.
  10. ^ C. M. Bowra, "Palladas on Tyche" The Classical Quarterly New Series, 10.1 (May 1960:118-128).
  11. ^ DK Multimedia: Eyewitness Encyclopedia, Stardome, Virgo: miscellaneous section
  12. ^ a b c The British Museum, London, quoted by Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin, "Tyche Furniture Ornaments", 2016, Ancient.eu


External linksEdit

  •   Media related to Tyche at Wikimedia Commons