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Acontius is a minor character in Greek mythology, who features in the writings of Ovid. Althoug his story is relatively unknown and arguably unimportant, it does describe the cleverness of Acontius and the importance of the gods in the lives of mortals.
Acontius and Cydippe
Acontius was attending the festival of Artemis which took place at Delos. During this festival, he chanced upong Cydippe, a beautiful Athenian maiden, sitting on the steps of the temple of Artemis.
Acontius fell in love with Cydippe and wanted to marry her. He came up with a clever way to achieve this end without risking an outright rejection.
Taking an apple, Acontius wrote the words “I swear by the goddess Artemis to marry Acontius” on it. He then rolled the apple towards Cydippe.
Cydippe picked up the apple and looking at the words curiously, read them out. Unbeknownst to her, this amounted to an oath made on the name of the goddess Artemis.
When Acontius accosted Cydippe, she rejected his advances, not knowing that she was acting against her oath. Artemis, the goddess of hunting, would not tolerate a broken oath taken in her name. Unimpressed with Cydippe’s actions, she cursed her so that she would be unable to marry anyone but Acontius.
Cydippe went on to become engaged several times, but each time, she would fall severely ill just before the wedding, which resulted in the cancellation of the wedding. Finally, Cydippe sought the counsel of the Oracle at Delphi, to understand why she wasn’t able to get married. The Oracle told her that it was because she had angered the goddess Artemis by breaking an oath made in her temple.
Cydippe’s father agreed to the marriage between Cydippe and Acontius. Finally, Acontius was able to marry the girl that he had fallen in love with.
Apart from this story, Acontius plays no significant role in Greek mythology. However, the story makes for entertaining reading and shows us facets of the lives of the Ancient Greeks. This story can be found in Heroides 20 and 21 by Ovid.