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According to the Odyssey, Aedon was the daughter of Pandareus and the wife of the Theban Zethus (the brother of Amphion). She had only one son and envied the number of children born to sister-in-law Niobe, Amphion's wife. Driven by her jealousy she tried to kill Niobe's eldest son, Amaleus, in his sleep, but by mistake killed her own son, Itylus. In her grief she begged the gods' pity and they transformed her into a nightingale (αηδων in Greek). There is an alternative legend, no less tragic and equally marked by murders, about the nightengale: in this Aedon was the daughter of Pandareus of Miletus and the wife of the artist Polytechnus. They lived together at Colophon, in Lydia, and had a son, Itys. So long as they honoured the gods Polytechnus and Aedon were happy, but their good fortune filled them with pride and they boasted that they were more closely united than Hera and Zeus. The former sent Eris or Discord to punish them, and they were filled with the desire to outdo each other. Both set to work, he building a chariot, she weaving, the first to complete their task having to give the other a serving maid. With the help of Hera, Aedon won the contest.

The resentful Polytechnus resolved on revenge. He went to Ephesus and asked his father-in-law to allow him to take Chelidon, Aedon's sister, to stay with her. On the journey he ravished her, gave her the clothes of a slave, cut off her hair and threatened her with death if she told her sister who she was. When he got back to Aedon he gave Chelidon to her as a serving maid. She stayed in her sister's service for some time without being recognized, but one day when she was lamenting her misfortunes at the well Aedon overheard and recognized her and they both resolved to take their revenge. They killed Itys, served his body on a dish for his father to eat, and fled toward Miletus. Polytechnus, learning from a neighbour the nature of the food he had eaten, immediately left in pursuit of them but was stopped by the servants of Pandareus, whose daughters had told him the whole story. Polytechnus was arrested, smeared all over with honey and laid out in a meadow. Plagued by flies, he aroused the pity of Aedon who drove off the flies. Her brothers and sisters, enraged by this, wanted to kill her immediately, but Zeus took pity on this heartbroken family and changed them all into birds, Pandareus into a sea-eagle, Harmothoe, Aedon's mother, into a halcyon, Polytechnus into a green woodpecker, because Hephaestus had previously given him a woodpecker, Aedon's brother into a hoopoe, Aedon herself, as her name shows, into a nightengale, and Chelidon into a swallow (for which the Greek word is χελιδων). Through an act of special kindness on the part of Artemis (to whom she had cried for help when her brother-in-law was ravishing her), Chelidon was granted the right to live among humans.


Table of Sources:
- Hom. Od. 19, 518ff.
- Antoninus Liberalis, Met. 11

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