Harpalyce, the Swift of Foot

Here we have the third instalment of my Classical Maidens profiles! Today we look at Harpalyce, the maiden of incredible speed and skill!

Who was Harpalyce?

There are three figures in myth that go by this name, but I am going to be looking at the Thracian young maiden brought up by her father after the death of her mother and raised on the milk of a cow and a horse (a trait particular to wild characters).

What are the sources about her?

This Harpalyce is mentioned briefly by Virgil in the first book of the Aeneid, by his commentator Servius, and by Hyginus in Fabulae 193 and 252.

Who were her parents?

Her father was Harplaycus, King of the Amymnei. Her mother is not named but died in her infancy. Hyginus noted that she was exceptionally dutiful, saving her father after he was attacked by Neoptolemus, returning from Troy, and putting the enemy to flight. He raised her to be his successor to the kingdom, trained in arms, and she proved to be a good warrior.

Did she end up ruling the kingdom?

No, her father was killed in an insurrection of the citizens, and Harpalyce fled to the woods and lived there afterwards.

Did she have any special abilities?

Aside from being skilled in combat, she is also said to be very fast, able to run faster than horses.

How did she die?

She survived in the woods by stealing and plundering cattle. She eventually gets caught in a snare and the herdsmen kill her. A rather anticlimactic death!

Who will be next week’s featured mythological maiden? Let me know if you have any requests!


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