Danaüs (DAN-ay-uhs), the son of Belus and father of fifty daughters, the Danaïdes. He is a descendant of Io, who was a priestess of Hera and daughter of Inachus, the king of Argos. Io was loved by Zeus, who changed her into a heifer so that she might escape the jealousy of Hera, but Hera sent a gadfly to sting Io and to drive her throughout the world. Having wandered to Egypt, she was touched by Zeus, and from this mystical union was born a son, Epaphus. He, in turn, was the father of Libya, who had two sons, Belus and Agenor. Belus had two sons, Aegyptus and Danaüs. Aegyptus had fifty sons, and Danaüs had fifty daughters. The sons of Aegyptus wished to marry the daughters of Danaüs, but the latter, horrified at the violent lust of their cousins, fled to Argos to seek the protection of their ancestral home. When the play begins, Danaüs, having just landed at Argos, advises his daughters to seek the protection of the local gods. He himself is an old man, unable to protect them from their kinsmen who, as he knows, are sailing in hot pursuit. He asks the aid of Pelasgus, the king of Argos. Having received it and having been given a refuge in the kingdom, he warns his daughters that they must behave in such a fashion as to merit the protection that they have been granted.
Pelasgus (peh-LAZ-guhs), the king of Argos. He is a vacillating man, torn...
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