Argive Priestess


Jupiter and Io by Antonio da Correggio

Jupiter and Io by Antonio da Correggio (between 1520 and 1540)

Kunsthistorisches Museum, ViennaPublic Domain


Io was an Argive priestess of Hera, the daughter of the river god Inachus or, in some accounts, of the Argive king Iasus.

A lover of Zeus, Io was transformed into a cow when Zeus’ wife Hera discovered their affair. This metamorphosis, though dramatic, was not enough for Hera; the jealous goddess also had her rival held prisoner, appointing the many-eyed monster Argus Panoptes to watch over her.

After Io escaped from Argus (with the help of the god Hermes), Hera next sent a gadfly to chase her to Egypt. It was in Egypt that Io was at last restored to her true form and gave birth to a son, Epaphus. In later times, Io was often identified with the Egyptian goddess Isis.

Io’s story is one of many myths describing Zeus’ adulterous (and disastrous) affairs. Her metamorphosis has sometimes been interpreted as a metaphor for initiation rites and the transition of girls into adulthood.[1]