Hyperborea

"Neither ship nor marching feet may reach Hyperborea."

Hyperborea is a continent-bound land, bordered by Oceanus to the north and the great peaks of the Rhipaion Mountains to the south.The sea is blocked by eternal ice (thoug the waters immediately around Hyperborea's shores are clear), and the Rhipaions are too high and cold for mortals to cross.

Boreas's chill breath brings winter to the lands to the south of the Rhipaions (Scythia, Thrace, Istria [land of the River Istros (Danube)], Celtica, Italy, and Greece). However, Hyperborea lies even farther north, so is blessed with eternal spring. Its fields yield two crops of grain every year. Most of the country is wild, covered with rich and beautiful forests--"the gardens of Apollo."

Inhabitants

The Hyperboreans are favored by the gods. They have very long lifespans and never suffer from disease. They speak a language peculiar to themselves.

See Hyperborean Royalty for details on the Theocrats, their wives, and their children. See Hyperborean Characters and Selected Hyperboreans for profiles of other inhabitants.

Apollo's Cult

Hyperborea is a theocracy ruled by three priests of Apollo (see Boreas, below). Apollo's temple is circular, and hecatombs of asses are sacrificed to him here. 

Apollo's mother, the Titaness Leto, was born on a Hyperborean island. While pregnant and hounded by Hera, Leto travelled south to Delos, where her children, Artemis and Apollo were born. Hyperborea sent pilgrims to the island: five men, called the Peripherees, and three maiden priestesses, Hyperokhe, Akhaeia, and Laodike. Three maiden nymphs, daughters of Boreas, followed: Oupis, Loxo, and Hekaerge. When the Delians raped or killed several of these maidens, the Hyperboreans ended their pilgrimages and started sending their offerings through neighboring peoples. These gifts now travel through Scythia, or through Istria to the Adriatic. Boreas's murdered maiden daughters are now worshiped in Delos as divine attendants to Artemis. They preside over the skills of archery: aim (Oupis), trajectory (Loxo), and distancing (Hekaerge).

Two Hyperborean priests, Pagasus and Agyieus, established Apollo's worship at Delphi after the god slew Python and took control of the Oracle there.

After Apollo slew the Cyclopes in revenge for Zeus's slaying of Asclepius, he took refuge in Hyperborea, and hid the arrow he'd used under a mountain there. (He later gave this magic arrow to his son, the Hyperborean priest Abaris, a legendary wandering healer and seer. This arrow allowed Abaris to fly over the whole world, while he fasted and performed miracles.) 

Apollo bears great affection for the Hyperboreans for their warm welcome during his exile. He returns to visit them every 19 years, when the position of the stars returns to the same place. The Hyperboreans also celebrate the god with a near-constant festival of music, song, and dance. Many people in the sacred city play the lyre and cithera, and hymns are joined by the white swans. The summer solstice is the time of the greatest celebrations for their patron god, with contests of the arts and martial skills, massive pageants, and generous sacrifices and feasting.

Boreas

Boreas (the North Wind) and Zephyrus (the West Wind) share a palace in Thrace (at Mt. Haemus), and often fertilized mares in spring by taking the forms of wind-stallions. The offspring were the surest and finest of their kind. 

Boreas abducted the Athenian princess Oreithya, daughter of Erechtheus, and bore her to Hyperborea. Their children were Khione (goddess of snow), Cleopatra (who wed Phineas), Haemus (who wed Rhodope), and the winged twins Calais and Zetes (who joined the crew of the Argo, and later wed two daughters of Eridanus, Eulalie and Tamesis). 

By Khione, Boreas had three sons of gigantic stature (about twice the height of other men). These three Boreades became priest of Apollo, and now rule as the joint Theocrats of Hyperborea (see Hyperborean Royalty for more details).

Eridanus

The Eridanus is the chief river of Hyperborea. Part of the river also appears in Thessaly; the two halves the river are connected through subterranean caverns spanning half the known world. The god of the river is, naturally, a son of Oceanus and Tethys, and is known as the "king of rivers" for his elder and exalted status.

The river's name means "early burnt," and derives from the death of Phaeton. When this son of Helios was struck down out of the sky by Zeus, his chariot fell into the Eridanus, creating a lake of bitumen that still belches steam clouds from the smouldering wound. No bird can cross this lake and live.

Phaeton's friend Kyknos leapt into the bitumen lake and was transformed into a swan. Since that time, Hyperboreans who are approaching death will leap into the lake and be transformed into singing white swans. These swans migrate to the Lydian river Kayster, the Ligurian river Po, and other southern places, but are mute outside their homeland. Phaeton's sisters gathered on the banks of the Eridanus to mourn him, and were turned into amber-shedding poplars in order to stop their mourning cries. Similar poplars grow near the southern rivers favored by the migrating swans. 

In the ages since this Phaeton's fall, the Eridanus has healed enough to be navigable again, but a sizable remnant of the bitumen lake remains.

The Rhipaions

Besides the bitter cold of their arctic heights, the Rhipaions are also dangerous because of three species who live here in constant conflict. Giant ants collect gold nuggets from rivers and beneath the earth. Gryphons then steal the gold, and hoard it in their mountain-top nests. The Arimaspians (or Arimaspoi), a race of fair-haired, one-eyed giants who dwell in the southern slopes, raid the gryphon's nests for this gold. (The Arimaspians may be descendants of the Cyclopes.)

The Arimaspians occasionally make raids on peoples outside their home territory, and have been know to invade Hyperborea from time to time. The Hyperboreans, while a peaceful people, have enough skilled warriors to drive out the giants before they reach population centers.

Directly to the south of the Rhipaions is the Pterophoros, a desolate, snow-covered land cursed with eternal winter. These wastes continue south as far as Thrace and Scythia.

While Boreas's main home lies at Mt. Haemus in Thrace, he also has a frozen home in the Rhipaions. His daughter Khione dwells in a cave near the northern edge of the Rhipaions, some distance south of the head of the Hyperborean Eridanus.

Visits by Greek Heroes

Perseus was hosted by the Hyperboreans while he was searching for the Graiae, swan-bodied hags who revealed the location of Medusa.

Heracles visited Hyperborea twice. The first time was during a quest for the golden-antlered hind of Artemis [a reindeer?]. Later, when he founded the Olympian Games, Heracles made a pilgrimage to Hyperborea for sacred wild olives for the shrine at Elis.
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Tim Emrick,
Nov 27, 2015, 10:43 AM
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Tim Emrick,
Nov 27, 2015, 10:09 AM
Ċ
Tim Emrick,
Nov 27, 2015, 10:43 AM
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