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The Dactyls of Mount Ida were Daemons, Cretan or Phrygian in origin, who formed part of Rhea's retinue, or possibly Cybele's. Their name means 'the fingers'. They were so called either on account of their skill at working with their hands - and especially working with metals - or from aetiological tradition. It was said by some that when their mother (Rhea, or perhaps one of the Nymphs of Mount Ida) was giving birth to them she pressed her clenched fingers into the soil to ease her pain, and from the marks so produced the infants took their name. Others say that they sprang from the dust that Zeus' nurses scattered behind them through their fingers.

They were related to the Curetes, and were said, like them, to have watched over Zeus during his infancy. They were five in number, though they are often said to have numbered ten, five males and five females, and sometimes even a hundred. An Elean tradition names the males as follows: Heracles, the oldest (not to be confused with Alcmene's son), Epimedes, Idas (or Acesidas), Paeonius, and Iasus.

The Dactyls were magicians, credited with the spread, and sometimes the invention, of the Mysteries. To amuse the infant Zeus, they organized the first Olympic Games. They were also believed to have taught Paris music on Mount Ida in the Troad.


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