Kalamos (Ancient Greek: Κάλαμος, "reed, reed pen"; Latin: Calamus) is a Greek mythological figure. He is son of Maiandros, the god of the Maeander river.


A story in Nonnus's Dionysiaca tells about the love of two youths, Kalamos and Karpos, the son of Zephyrus and Chloris. Karpos drowned in the Meander river while the two were competing in a swimming contest. In his grief, Kalamos allowed himself to drown also. He was then transformed into a water reed, whose rustling in the wind was interpreted as a sigh of lamentation.[1]

Walt Whitman's "Calamus" poems in Leaves of Grass may have been inspired by this story.[citation needed]

Etymology of the word Kalamos

Similar words can be found in Sanskrit (कलम kalama, meaning "reed" and "pen" as well as a type of rice), Hebrew (kulmus, meaning quill) and Latin (calamus) as well as the ancient Greek Κάλαμος (Kalamos). The Arabic word قلم qalam (meaning "pen" or "reed pen") is likely to have been borrowed from one of these languages in antiquity.[citation needed] The Swahili word kalamu ("pen") comes from the Arabic qalam.[citation needed]

The Greeks also used the term for various wind instruments, especially but not necessarily reed instruments, including the aulos, or the plural kalamoi for the syrinx.[2]

From the Latin calamus come a number of modern English words:

See also


  1. ^ Nonnos, Dionysiaca, translated by le Comte de Marcellus in 1856. Eglinton 1964: 474.
  2. ^ "Kalamos". Grove Music Online (8th ed.). Oxford University Press. 2001.