From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In Greek mythology, Tithonus or Tithonos (Template:Lang-grc) was the lover of Eos, Titan of the dawn. He was a Trojan by birth, the son of King Laomedon of Troy by a water nymph named Strymo (Στρυμώ). The mythology reflected by the fifth-century vase-painters of Athens envisaged Tithonus as a rhapsode, as the lyre in his hand, on an oinochoe of the Achilles Painter, ca. 470 BC–460 BCE (illustration) attests. Competitive singing, as in the Contest of Homer and Hesiod, is also depicted vividly in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo and mentioned in the two Hymns to Aphrodite.


The poem is a dramatic monologue in blank verse from the point-of-view of Tithonus. Unlike the original myth, it is Tithonus who asks for immortality, and it is Aurora, not Zeus, who grants this imperfect gift. As narrator, Tithonus laments his unnatural longevity, which separates him from the mortal world as well as from the immortal but beautiful Aurora.

Cultural references

Aldous Huxley's novel, "After Many a Summer Dies the Swan" was titled after a verse from the Lord Tennyson poem "Tithonus."

An episode of the television show The X-Files titled "Tithonus" concerns a man who cheated Death, but eventually came to see his immortality as a curse rather than a gift. The man is able to "sense" death coming for people and attempts to catch the face of Death in photographs, believing that if he sees his face, he will finally die.

In the television show Doctor Who and the spin-off show Torchwood, the character Jack Harkness faces the same fate as Tithonus in that when brought back from the dead, he discovers he is now both immortal — in the sense of recovering well from being killed - and still ageing, albeit extremely slowly — perhaps over billions of years.

Traces of the theme of immortality without eternal youth appear in Book 3 of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels where the Struldbrugs are in Tithonus' predicament. The difference is that they are alleged to be born that way.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Tithonus" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools