Do you recall the myth of Io and the gadfly sent by Hera?
Title: Jupiter and Io
Artist :Paris Bordone (1500–1571)
Medium: oil on canvas
A summary of the legend can be found at:
In most versions of the legend, Io was the daughter of Inachus, though various other purported genealogies are also known. According to some sources her mother was the nymph Melia, daughter of the Oceanus. The 2nd century AD geographer Pausanias also suggests that she is the daughter of Inachus and retells the story of Zeus falling in love with Io, the legendary wrath of Hera, and the metamorphosis by which Io is becoming a cow. At another instant several generations later, Pausanias recounts another Io, descendant of Phoroneus, daughter of Iasus, who himself was the son of Argusand Ismene, the daughter of Asopus, or of Triopas and Sosis; Io's mother in the latter case was Leucane. Io's father was called Peiren in the Catalogue of Women, and by Acusilaus, possibly a son of the elder Argus, also known as Peiras, Peiranthus or Peirasus. Io may therefore be identical to Callithyia, daughter of Peiranthus, as is suggested by Hesychius of Alexandria.
Io was a priestess of the Goddess Hera in Argos, whose cult her father Inachus was supposed to have introduced to Argos. Zeus noticed Io, a mortal woman, and lusted after her. In the version of the myth told in Prometheus Bound she initially rejected Zeus' advances, until her father threw her out of his house on the advice of oracles. According to some stories, Zeus then turned Io into a heifer in order to hide her from his wife; others maintain that Hera herself transformed Io.
In the version of the story in which Zeus transformed Io, the deception failed, and Hera begged Zeus to give her the heifer as a present, which, having no reason to refuse, he did. Hera then sent Argus Panoptes, who had 100 eyes, to watch Io and prevent Zeus from visiting her, and so Zeus sent Hermes to distract and eventually slay Argus. According to Ovid, he did so by first lulling him to sleep by playing the panpipes and telling stories. Zeus freed Io, still in the form of a heifer.
In order to exact her revenge, Hera sent a gadfly to sting Io continuously, driving her to wander the world without rest. Io eventually crossed the path between the Propontis and the Black Sea, which thus acquired the name Bosporus (meaning ox passage), where she met Prometheus, who had been chained on Mt. Caucasus by Zeus. Prometheus comforted Io with the information that she would be restored to human form and become the ancestress of the greatest of all heroes, Heracles (Hercules). Io escaped across the Ionian Sea to Egypt, where she was restored to human form by Zeus. There, she gave birth to Zeus's son Epaphus, and a daughter as well, Keroessa. She later married Egyptian king Telegonus. Their grandson, Danaos, eventually returned to Greece with his fifty daughters (the Danaids), as recalled in Aeschylus' play The Suppliants.
The myth of Io must have been well known to Homer, who often calls Hermes Argeiphontes, meaning "Argus-slayer." Walter Burkert notes that the story of Io was told in the ancient epic tradition at least four times of which we have traces: in the Danais, in the Phoronis— Phoroneus founded the cult of Hera, according to Hyginus' Fabulae 274 and 143—in a fragment of the Hesiodic Aigimios, as well as in similarly fragmentary Hesiodic Catalogue of Women. A mourning commemoration of Io was observed at the Heraion of Argos into classical times.
An insightful mythology instructor (whose name I cannot recall at the moment) encouraged considering that Zeus' supposed adulteries may have been the result of religious takeovers. The local pagan goddess would become a "lover" of Zeus/Jupiter. Although the local goddess would thereby lose importance, her incorporation into the newly dominant religious context would soothe the locals.
At the time of studying the myth of Io, my primary contact with flies was with the housefly (Musca domestica). Io's flight due to Musca domestica seemed unlikely.
Now that I have been repeatedly bitten by horseflies and/or deerflies, I appreciate the legendary impact of gadflies.
Since biting flies often inject anesthesia so the bite-in-progress may not felt by the human or animal blood meal provider, the bite may temporarily go unnoticed. Later one may be surprised at the effects of an unnoticed bite.
On youtube.com there are several videos humans have taken while being bitten by biting flies. Two examples follow:
Apparently both horseflies and deerflies are in the family Tabanidae which is derived from Tabanus:
Apart from the common name "horse-flies", broad categories of biting, bloodsucking Tabanidae are known by a large number of common names. The word "Tabanus" was first recorded by Pliny the Younger and has survived as the generic name. In general, country-folk did not distinguish between the various biting insects that irritated their cattle and called them all "gad-flies", from the word "gad" meaning a spike. The most common name is "cleg[g]", "gleg" or "clag", which comes from Old Norse and may have originated from the Vikings. Other names such as "stouts" refer to the wide bodies of the insects and "dun-flies" to their sombre colouring. Chrysops species are known as "deer-flies", perhaps because of their abundance on moorland where deer roam, and "buffalo-flies", "moose-flies" and "elephant-flies" emanate from other parts of the world where these animals are found. In North America they are known as "breeze-flies", and in Australia, some are known as "March flies", a name used in other Anglophonic countries to refer to the non-bloodsucking Bibionidae.
To be continued...