Nysa | Mythical Place

Nysa Greek Mythology

Nysa (ancient Greek Νύσα) is a place of Greek mythology. It is the name of the birthplace of the god Dionysus and the name of the plain where the abduction of Kore/Persephone took place.

Birth of Dionysus

Already Homer mentioned the mountain Nyseion (Νυσήϊον) as the place where Dionysus grew up under the protection of the nymphs. The mountain is named after Nysa, the nurse of Dionysus.

There was no agreement on a localization even in ancient times. Numerous places related to viticulture were associated and eventually named accordingly.

Eustathios of Thessalonike locates Nysa in the Caucasus, but alternatively names Boeotia, Arabia, India, and Libya. Stephanos of Byzantium names 10 cities with the name Nysa, some of which are real (e.g., Nysa on the Meander) and others mythical.

Also in Herodotus appears a Nysa in Aithiopia. Since in that time Ethiopia was reckoned to India, this Nysa therefore identified with the Indian Nysa of Dionysus, it was obvious in the course of the expansion of the geographical horizon due to the Alexander campaign to locate the Nysa attested by Herodotus in the now better known India: Thus Nysa appears in Arrian as a quite real city, situated between the rivers Kabul and Indus.

Dionysus had founded the city after the conquest of India and named it Nysa (Νῦσα) in honor of his nurse. The nearby mountain range Meros was named after the thigh (μηρός) of Zeus, from which Dionysus was born (see thigh birth).

The inhabitants were not Indians, but descendants of companions of Dionysus and parts of the army, who remained as invalids in India. Accordingly, in modern times there were similarly dubious attempts of localization (e.g. at Swat, at Kabul, the Meros as Pamir, etc.).

In Pliny, Nysa is identified with Scythopolis, one of the cities of the Decapolis in Syria. Indeed, the cult of Dionysus seems to have had a special significance there.

In connection with this, the Nyseion Mountains appear in the Dionysiaka of Nonnos of Panopolis in the confrontation between Dionysus, who comes from Carmel, and Lykurgos, who drives the nurses of Dionysus over the mountains with an invincible battle axe and finally forces the god himself to take refuge in the sea at Tethys.

Lykurg is in and of itself associated with Thrace, but already at the turn of the 5th to the 4th century BC the myth seems to have been transferred to Syria, where Lykurgos may have been equated with an Arab deity.

Abduction of Persephone

According to the Homeric hymn, the Nysa was the name of the plain (Νύσιον πεδίον Nysion pedion) where the abduction of Kore, the daughter of Demeter, by Hades, the ruler of the underworld, took place. She played there with her companions, the Okeanids, and picked flowers.

By order of Zeus, a wonderful, amazing flower grew there, the daffodil. But when Kore bent down, the earth opened and out jumped Hades on his chariot. He seized the girl and dragged her down to the underworld, where he made her Persephone, queen of the dead.


Further ambiguity is brought by Apollonios of Rhodes, who in the Argonautika casually links the plain of Nysa with Zeus' overcoming of the monster Typhon:

The dragon guarding the Golden Fleece had sprung from the earth at the rock of Typhon in the Caucasus, by the mountains and plain of Nysa, where Typhon, overcome by Zeus, lies in bands beneath the Sirbonian Lake, the Sirbonian Lake being located at the east end of the Nile Delta.