For other uses of the name Iphis see Iphis.
File:Bauer - Isis Iphis.jpg

Isis changing the sex of Iphis. Engraving by Bauer.

Iphis was a name attributed to three individuals:

Daughter of Ligdus[edit | edit source]

According to Greek mythology and the Roman poet Ovid, who wrote about transformations in his Metamorphoses, Iphis (or Iphys) was the daughter of Telethusa and Ligdus in Crete. Ligdus had already threatened to kill his pregnant wife's child if it wasn't a boy. Telethusa despairs, but is visited in the middle of the night by the Egyptian goddess Isis, attended by Anubis and Apis, who assures her that all will be well. When Telethusa gives birth to Iphis, she conceals her daughter's sex from her husband and raises her daughter as a boy. Iphis falls in love with another girl, Ianthe. Iphis is deeply in love and prays to Juno to allow her to marry her beloved. When nothing happens, her mother Telethusa brings her to the temple of Isis and prays to the goddess to help her daughter. Isis responds by transforming Iphis into a man. The male Iphis marries Ianthe and the two live happily ever after. Their marriage is presided over by Juno, Venus, and Hymenaios, the god of marriage.[1]

File:Picart - Isis Telethusa.jpg

Isis and Telethusa (work by Picart).

The 17th-century publisher Humphrey Moseley once claimed to possess a manuscript of a play based on the Iphis and Ianthe story, by William Shakespeare. Scholars have treated the claim with intense skepticism; the play has not survived.

Cypriot shepherd[edit | edit source]

Ovid also introduces us to another character from Greek mythology, also named Iphis, a Cypriot shepherd who loved a woman named Anaxarete. Anaxarete scorned him and Iphis killed himself in despair. Because Anaxarete was still unmoved, Aphrodite changed her to stone.[2]

Mistress[edit | edit source]

As written in Homer's Iliad, Iphis was also a name given to the mistress of Patroclus, Achilles' companion-in-arms.

Modern Literature[edit | edit source]

Ali Smith's 2007 novel Girl Meets Boy is based on Ovid's story, and is part of the Canongate Myth Series.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Ovid. Metamorphoses, Book IX, 666-797.
  2. Ovid. Metamorphoses, Book XIV, 802.
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