Story & Trivia
The name Danube comes from the ancient Celtic word ‘danu’ which simply means river. As the river sustained their lives through its many functions, Goddess Danu was representative of the river. She was considered the mother of all Celtic gods.
As the Celts grew as a clan first on the banks of this river, they referred to it as the ‘The River’ and paid homage to her as Goddess Danu. As the Celts spread, each river was navigated. They believed that the Goddess Danu helped create every river and thereby opened up the land along it for occupation. Thus as the rivers were created, by their Goddess, their lands increased. Each of the rivers too had their own Goddesses, but Danu is the Great Modron or the great mother.
Tuatha Dé Danann, are the people of the Goddess Danu and are a race of people in Irish mythology.
Danube or the Istros among the Greeks
Istros was the name the Danube River was known by in northern Europe in ancient times. In Greek mythology, Istros, the King of Rivers, is supposed to be so important that other rivers which escort his flow to Euxeinos (present day Black Sea) have their names only for as long as they flow by him. Once they flow in (as they are tributaries) their birth-name is forgotten for they surrender to Istros.
Istros was said to be the son of Okeanos and Tethys. Okeanos was the primeval river/sea god who encircled the Earth and was father to all river and stream gods/goddesses born in Greek mythology. Tethys was a nurse who distributed the waters over the earth through an underground cavern system.
In ancient works, the mouth of the Danube and the Black Sea are together called the Okeanos.
Also, in Greek mythology, there was a great hero Achilles. His mother dipped him in the river Styx for then he would become invulnerable to all bodily harm. But, the heel she held the baby by to dip into the waters was left vulnerable. That is why at the end of his life an arrow to his heel killed him: from here came the term “Achille’s Heel”, representative of an important vulnerability.
Once he was burnt to ashes on the funeral pyre, his mother came to mourn him. She took his ashes and then at the mouth of the Danube, raised an island Leuce in memory of Achilles. Here a mound was raised in his memory and a temple was also built.
The sea birds are said to look after this temple. They sweep with their wings and each morning they fly out to sea, wet their wings and return to sprinkle it on the temple. Many come here to honour Achilles. It was also a place of healing.
It is also said that Leuce in the Danube, is an island where the ghosts of many brave warriors reside.
In Greek mythology a group of people called the Hyperboreans were said to have existed in the far north of Europe and their world was a perfect one. They venerated Apollo among all the gods and he was said to have lived among them.
Their world was supposed to be halfway between the world of the Gods and mortals. When the Olympic Games were to be instituted in memory of Zeus his father, Heracles thought a crown of the branches of the Olive tree would be a good honour for the winners.
These were available at the source of the Danube or the Istros as they called it in the land of the Hyberboreans. He brought a sapling and planted it at Olympia. This crown of Olive branches, Heracles felt would be the connection between the games in the mortal world and the gods.
1. This river originates as the Brigach and Breg Rivers in Germany.
2. Its mouth is in Romania as it empties into the Black Sea leaving a vast delta.
3. The Danube Delta is the second largest in Europe second only to the Volga.
4. The Danube River Basin has become home to tens of millions of people.
5. The Danube River System flows through a huge number of cities over many countries due to its tributaries.
6. There is an organisation focusing on the Danube River that promotes conservation of the river’s waters and practical uses that benefit the many inhabitants of its basin and surrounding areas.
7. The river seems to be the subject of a number of songs, books, and stories in European culture.
8. The Danube’s waters, whether direct, ground, or spring sources, provide for millions who live in that part of Europe.
9. The canals and the river itself provide important transportation routes for trade and travel.
10. Fishing on the Danube was very popular in the Middle Ages but has died down since then except for in the Danube Delta where many fishermen still conduct the trade.
11. Nature parks and reserves that attract lots of tourism are located all along the Danube.