ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Story of Pygmalion in Greek Mythology

Updated on February 19, 2015
Colin Quartermain profile image

Having travelled through Italy, Greece and the Aegean in his youth, Colin quickly became interested in the ancient mythology of the region.

The name Pygmalion, is today, most closely associated with the title of a play written by George Bernard Shaw in 1912. The name of this 20th century play, and the plot of the play, can be traced back thousands of years though, back into the stories of Greco-Roman mythology.

Pygmalion Works on his Statue

Laurent Pécheux (1729–1821) PD-art-100
Laurent Pécheux (1729–1821) PD-art-100 | Source

The Story of Pygmalion in Greek Mythology

Pygmalion is briefly mentioned in the Bibliotheca (Pseudo-Apollodorus), where a figure by that name is King of Cyprus, father of Metharme, and possibly grandfather of Adonis.

Generally speaking, the Bibliotheca only briefly touches on known myths, and the complete story of Pygmalion is generally taken from the Roman poet Ovid’s work, Metamorphoses. The relatively late narration of the story though, doesn’t prevent the story of Pygmalion being known as a Greek myth.

Ovid writes of Pygmalion being a talented sculptor living on the island of Cyprus, near to the city of Amathus.

As with many great artists, Pygmalion was far more interested in his work than the world that existed outside his studio, and over time he came to despise people. In particular, Pygmalion chose to reject all women; this rejection was a result of Pygmalion observing the Propoetides, the daughters of Propoetus, prostituting themselves in Amathus. The Propoetides had been punished by Aphrodite (Venus, as named by Ovid) for refusing to acknowledge the goddess’ divinity.

Distancing himself from the outside world, Pygmalion would put all of his time and effort into his work, and as a result, Pygmalion became known for creating the most intrinsic and beautiful statues of anyone.

Pygmalion put most of his effort though into one statue, a statue crafted from a perfect piece of ivory. Day and night Pygmalion would work, until the sculptor had crafted a woman with the perfect female form.

Pygmalion Adorns His Creation

Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754–1829) PD-art-100
Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754–1829) PD-art-100 | Source

Pygmalion put so much effort into his sculpture, and spent so much time with it, that he found himself falling in love with it, and the sculptor would end up dressing it in the finest of clothes, and adorning it with precious jewellery.

The sculptor then decided that it was time to reverse his rejection of women, and Pygmalion would visit the temple of Aphrodite; and in the temple, Pygmalion would pray for his creation to become his wife.

Aphrodite heard Pygmalion’s prayer, and so decided to visit the sculptor’s studio, to look at his creation. The goddess was rightly impressed with the work, and deciding that the statue even bore a resemblance to herself, granted Pygmalion’s wish. Thus, when Pygmalion returned from the temple, he found that his creation was no longer a beautiful sculpture, but was a beautiful woman.

Pygmalion and his creation were married, and Aphrodite continued to favour the pair, for Pygmalion became father to a son, Paphos, the founding father of the city of Paphos, the one time capital of Cyprus.

Pygmalion Comes to Life

Victor Louis Hugues (1827–1888) PD-art-100
Victor Louis Hugues (1827–1888) PD-art-100 | Source

Pygmalion Through to the Modern Day

The story of Pygmalion is only a minor one in Greco-Roman mythology, although a famous one, but it does link into other stories. In other myths, Daedalus was said to have been able to animate his creations, as was the god Hephaestus. Additionally, the bronze Talos was able to move, and even Pandora was crafted from inanimate clay.

The animation of the inanimate though, was not just a myth from antiquity, as there has been evidence discovered from across the ancient world, of craftsmen animating statues to encourage worshippers in many temples.

The story of Pygmalion is often referred to as the story of Pygmalion and Galatea; Galatea being the name given to the statue transformed into human form. The naming of the statue though was something done during the Renaissance period, and has nothing to do with the original mythology.

This though did not prevent W.S. Gilbert from writing a play, Pygmalion and Galatea, an Original Mythological Comedy, in 1871. This take on the original myth sees Galatea transformed into human form, but then also back into stone. This play is of course closer to the original story, than George Bernard Shaw’s work, but Shaw, in his own way, shows the transformation of a woman, in this case Eliza.

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)