Metaneira or Meganira was the daughter of Amphictyon, king of Athens, and wife of Celeus, king of Eleusis. According to the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, she had two sons and four daughters: Demophon, Triptolemus, Kallidike, Kleisidike, Demo and Kallithoe. However, in other versions, Metaneira only has three daughters. When Demeter came to Eleusis, Metaneira entrusted her with the care of her youngest son, Demophon. Demeter attempted to make the child immortal by dipping him in ambrosia and burning his mortality away in the fire. When Metaneira saw her child buried deep in flames, she shrieked and forced the goddess to abandon her efforts. Demeter lashed out at the hapless mother, calling her (and all humans) ignorant, foolish, and unable to foresee the future. She then reveals her true nature and orders the Eleusinians to build her a temple and an altar. Metaneira remained speechless for a long time and did not even think of picking up her treasured little boy from the floor. Metaneira’s intervention has far more dramatic consequences in other versions of the story. Demeter just leaves Demophon in the fire, and the child perishes in flames. According to Nonnus of Panopolis, an influential Greek epic poet of the Imperial Roman era, Demeter consoled Metaneira after Celeus’ death. Pausanias mentions the presence of a temple dedicated to Metaneira in Eleusis, near the spot where her daughters first encountered Demeter.
Apulian Hydria / Demeter's reconciliation with Metaneira, Varrese Painter, ca. 340 BCE, vessel, Berlin State Museums (SMB) © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin