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In Greek mythology, Iapetus //,1 also Japetus (Ancient Greek: Ἰαπετός Iapetos),2 was a Titan, the son of Uranus and Gaia, and father (by an Oceanid named Clymene or Asia) of Atlas, Prometheus, Epimetheus and Menoetius.
Iapetus ("the Piercer") is the one Titan mentioned by Homer in the Iliad (8.478–81) as being in Tartarus with Cronus. He is a brother of Cronus, who ruled the world during the Golden Age. His name derives from the word iapto ("wound, pierce") and usually refers to a spear, implying that Iapetus may have been regarded as a god of craftsmanship, though scholars mostly describe him as the god of mortality.
In Hesiod's Works and Days Prometheus is addressed as "son of Iapetus", and no mother is named. However, in Hesiod's Theogony, Clymene is listed as Iapetus' wife and the mother of Prometheus. In Aeschylus's play Prometheus Bound, Prometheus is son of the goddess Themis with no father named (but still with at least Atlas as a brother). However, in Horace's Odes, in Ode 1.3 Horace describes how "audax Iapeti genus/ Ignem fraude mala gentibus intulit"; "The bold offspring of Iapetus [i.e. Prometheus]/ brought fire to peoples by wicked deceit".
The sons of Iapetus were sometimes regarded as mankind's ancestors, and as such some of humanity's worst qualities were said to have been inherited from these four gods, each of whom were described with a particular moral fault that often led to their own downfall. For instance, sly and clever Prometheus could perhaps represent crafty scheming; the inept and guileless Epimetheus, foolish stupidity; enduring Atlas, excessive daring; and arrogant Menoetius, rash violence.3
Pausanias (8.27.15) wrote:
- As I have already related, the boundary between Megalopolis and Heraea is at the source of the river Buphagus. The river got its name, they say, from a hero called Buphagus, the son of Iapetus and Thornax. This is what they call her in Laconia also. They also say that Artemis shot Buphagus on Mount Pholoe because he attempted an unholy sin against her godhead.
Stephanus of Byzantium quotes Athenodorus of Tarsus:
- Anchiale, daughter of Iapetus, founded Anchiale (a city near Tarsus): her son was Cydnus, who gave his name to the river at Tarsus: the son of Cydnus was Parthenius, from whom the city was called Parthenia: afterwards the name was changed to Tarsus.
This may be the same Anchiale who appears in the Argonautica (1.1120f):
- And near it they heaped an altar of small stones, and wreathed their brows with oak leaves and paid heed to sacrifice, invoking the Mother of Dindymum, Most Venerable, Dweller in Phrygia, and Titias and Cyllenus, who alone of many are called dispensers of doom and assessors of the Idaean Mother, – the Idaean Dactyls of Crete, whom once the nymph Anchiale, as she grasped with both hands the land of Oaxus, bare in the Dictaean cave.
Iapetus has (for example, by Robert Graves)4 been equated with Japheth (יֶפֶת), the son of Noah, based on the similarity of their names and on old Jewish traditions, that held Japheth as the ancestor of the Greeks, the Slavs, the Italics, the Teutons, the Dravidians etc. (see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews). Iapetus was linked to Japheth by 17th-century theologian Matthew Poole5 and more recently by John Pairman Brown.6
- Wells, John (14 April 2010). "Iapetus and tonotopy". John Wells's phonetic blog. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- Of uncertain etymology; R. S. P. Beekes has suggested a Pre-Greek origin (Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, pp. 573–4).
- Smiley, Charles N. "Hesiod as an Ethical and Religious Teacher", The Classical Journal, vol. XVII, 1922; pg. 514
- Robert Graves, The Greek Myths vol. 1 p. 146
- Matthew Poole, Commentary on the Holy Bible (1685), vol.1, 26
- John Pairman Brown, Israel and Hellas (1995), 82
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Iapetus.|