Danae | Mother of Perseus

Danae Greek Mythology

Dânae (or Dánae) was, according to Greek mythology, a princess who was the love of Zeus, and had a son by him. Dânae was the daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos, and of Eurydice.

The myth

Disappointed that he had no male heirs, Acrisius sought an oracle, which answered him that even if he hid at the end of the Earth, he would be killed by his grandson, Dânae's son.

The princess was still a virgin, and so that she would never have a son, the king imprisoned her in a bronze tower (according to tradition, he may also have hidden her in an underground room, whose walls were built of bronze, or in a cave), which he kept constantly guarded by his most valiant guards. He intended, thus, to prevent her from giving him an heir, her future assassin.

Despite all this care, Zeus, taken by love for the young and beautiful princess, transmutes himself into a golden rain, and penetrates the building through a hole in its ceiling, falling on Dânae's lap, impregnating her.

For some authors, this allegorical form implies that the god had in fact bribed the watchmen greedily, in order to enter the cloister where his beloved was imprisoned. Dânae is heptaneta of Uranus, hexa-neta of Cronos, and penta-neta of Posidon.

This is how Perseus was born. Learning of what had happened, Acrisius ordered that mother and son be thrown into the sea, inside a wooden chest. This was the solution he found so that he would not attract the god's wrath against him by killing his son: the waters, supposedly, would kill them.

But fate did not favor Acrisius: at Zeus' request, Poseidon calmed the seas, and they both survived. Carried by the currents to the island of Seriphos, they were found by fishermen who then took them to the local monarch, Polidectes.

They were taken in by Dites (or Dictis), the sovereign's brother, who raised the child. The king ends up falling in love with Dânae. After a few years, he intends to marry her, but, fearing that his young son will oppose him, he orders him to kill the terrible Medusa, hoping that he will fail and die.

This monster petrified all those struck by its gaze, but the young hero succeeds in his attempt, and on his return, commemorative athletic games are held in Larissa.

There, in the audience, is King Acrisius. He is shot by a dart (or disc, in some versions) thrown by Perseus, thus fulfilling the prophecy.


One interprets this myth as the rain fertilizing the soil with its golden drops. Dânae would thus mean the earth eager for moisture, which only Zeus could fertilize.

Myth Variants

Dânae is attributed with the foundation of the city of Ardea, in the region of Latium - today a commune of Rome.