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Abaris  

Alan H. Griffiths

Abaris, legendary devotee of *Apollo from the far north, a shamanistic missionary and saviour-figure like *Aristeas whom *Pindar (fr. 270 Snell–Maehler) associated with the time of *Croesus—perhaps in connection with the king's miraculous rescue from the pyre and translation to the *Hyperboreans. Herodotus, ending his discussion of the latter (4. 36), tantalizes by refusing to say more than that ‘he carried the arrow around the whole world while fasting’ (cf. the mission of *Triptolemus, and *Demeter's search for Persephone).

Article

Acamas  

Emily Kearns

Acamas, son of *Theseus and brother of *Demophon (1). Unknown to the Iliad, the brothers are certainly present at Troy in the Iliu Persis (fr. 4 Davies), and free their grandmother *Aethra from her servitude there. They share other adventures in the later mythological tradition; when young, they are sent to Euboea for safety, and on their return from Troy both are connected with the seizure of the *Palladium and involuntary homicide.

Article

Acarnan  

W. M. Murray

Acarnan, eponym of *Acarnania. He was the son, with Amphoterus, of Callirhoë (the daughter of Acheloüs) and *Alcmaeon (1) (who had settled in the *Achelous floodplain to escape the *Erinyes). Later, when Alcmaeon was murdered by the sons of *Phegeus, Callirhoë begged *Zeus to age her sons prematurely so they might avenge their father's murder.

Article

Acastus  

Herbert Jennings Rose

Acastus, in mythology, son of Pelias (see neleus); he took part in the Argonautic expedition and the Calydonian boar-hunt (see argonauts; meleager (1)). When *Peleus took refuge with him, Acastus' wife (variously named) loved him, and being repulsed, accused him to her husband of improper advances. Acastus, therefore, stole Peleus' wonderful sword and left him alone on Mt. *Pelion, where he was rescued by Chiron (see centaurs).

Article

Achaeus (1), eponym of the Achaeans; in mythology, son of *Poseidon (Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 1. 17. 3), *Zeus (Serv. on Aen. 1. 242), *Xuthus (Apollod. 1. 50), or *Haemon (schol. Il. 2. 681).

Article

W. M. Murray

Acheloüs, the longest of all Greek rivers, rising in central *Epirus and debouching, after a course of 240 km. (150 mi.; mostly through mountainous gorges), into the NW corner of the Corinthian Gulf. Its lower reaches were affected by heavy alluviation (Hdt. 2. 10. 3; Thuc. 2. 102. 3) and constituted the frequently disputed frontier between *Acarnania and *Aetolia. Recent geological studies based on coring in the river's delta continue to refine our understanding of this process as it relates to historical periods. Acheloüs was personified early as a water- and *river-god (the son of *Oceanus and *Tethys), from whom all seas, rivers, and springs derived (Hom. Il. 21. 194–7; Hes. Theog. 337–40). For his mythology and widespread depiction in art, see H. P. Isler, LIMC 1/1 (1981) 12–36.

Article

Acheron  

W. M. Murray

Acheron, a river of Thesprotia in southern *Epirus which breaks through an impenetrable gorge into the Acherusian plain where a lake (named Acherusia) lay in ancient times. The river empties into the Ionian Sea at the ancient Glycys Limen (or ‘sweet harbour’). Homer (Od. 10. 513) describes the Acheron as a river of *Hades into which the Cocytus and Pyriphlegethon streams flow, the place where Odysseus consulted the spirits of the Underworld (Od.11). Herodotus (5. 92. 7) mentions a death oracle (nekyomanteion) by the banks of the river where one called forth dead spirits for consultation. Remains of such an oracle have been excavated near Mesopotamo (see ephyra).

Article

Andrew Brown

Achilles (Ἀχιλλεύς), son of *Peleus and *Thetis; greatest of the Greek heroes in the Trojan War; central character of *Homer's Iliad.

His name may be of Mycenaean Greek origin, meaning ‘a grief to the army’. If so, the destructive Wrath of Achilles, which forms the subject of the Iliad, must have been central to his mythical existence from the first.

In Homer he is king of Phthia, or ‘Hellas and Phthia’, in southern Thessaly (see phthiotis), and his people are the Myrmidons. As described at Il. 2. 681–5 the size of his kingdom, and of his contingent in the Trojan expedition (50 ships), is not outstanding. But in terms of martial prowess, which is the measure of excellence for a Homeric hero, Achilles' status as ‘best of the Achaeans’ is unquestioned. We are reminded of his absolute supremacy throughout the poem, even during those long stretches for which he is absent from the battlefield.

Article

Herbert Jennings Rose

Acrisius, in mythology, son of Abas, king of *Argos (1), and his wife Aglaïa, father of *Danaë and brother of *Proetus. After Abas' death the two brothers quarrelled; in their warfare they invented the shield. Proetus, defeated, left the country, returned with troops furnished by his father-in-law Iobates, and agreed to leave Argos to Acrisius, himself taking *Tiryns; both were fortified by the *Cyclopes.

Article

Actaeon  

Herbert Jennings Rose and Jenny March

Actaeon, in mythology son of *Aristaeus and Autonoë, daughter of *Cadmus, and a great huntsman. Ovid gives the most familiar version of his death (Met. 3. 138 ff.): one day on Mt. Cithaeron he came inadvertently upon *Artemis bathing, whereupon the offended goddess turned him into a stag and he was torn apart by his own hounds. Other versions of his offence were that he was *Zeus' rival with *Semele (our oldest authorities: Stesichorus fr. 236 Davies, PMGF; Acusilaus fr. 33 Jacoby), or that he boasted that he was a better huntsman than Artemis (Eur. Bacch. 339–40), or that he wished to marry Artemis (Diod. Sic. 4. 81. 4). After his death his hounds hunted for him in vain, howling in grief, until the *Centaur Chiron made a lifelike image of him to soothe them (Apollod. 3. 4. 4).Actaeon torn by hounds is found in many works of art from the 6th cent. In earlier pictures he sometimes wears a deerskin (as apparently in Stesichorus), but the first vases on which he sprouts antlers are after the middle of the 5th cent. Artemis surprised bathing appears first in Pompeian paintings. See L.

Article

Adonis  

V. Pirenne-Delforge and André Motte

Name given by the Greeks to a divine personage whom they thought to be eastern in origin (Semitic Adon = ‘Lord’), but whose eastern prototypes (Dumuzi, Tammuz, Baal, Ešmun) are very different from the picture which became established in Greece. In mythology, Adonis is born from the incest of an easterner, whose name is variously given as Agenor, Cinyras, Phoenix, and Theias, and of *Myrrha or Smyrna. He aroused the love of *Aphrodite, who hid him in a chest and entrusted him to *Persephone, but she, captivated in her turn, refused to give him back. Then *Zeus decreed that the young man should spend four months of the year in the Underworld (see hades) and four months with Aphrodite—whom Adonis chose also for the final four months, left to his own decision. He was born from a myrrh tree, and dying young in a hunting accident, was changed into an anemone, a flower without scent ([Apollod.] 3. 14. 3–4; Ov. Met.

Article

Emily Kearns

Adrasteia, a goddess apparently of the ‘mountain mother’ type, like *Cybele, associated with *Phrygia, but well known to the Greeks from a fairly early date. In the Phoronis, the *Idaean Dactyls are described as the ‘servants, skilled of hand, of mountain Adrasteia’ (fr 2 Davies, EGF, and Bernabé, PEG), and she was named also in *Aeschylus’ Niobe (TrGF 3 F158); *Antimachos identified her with *Nemesis. In Athens, her cult was established before 429/8 bce, when she is grouped together with *Bendis in the accounts of the ‘treasurers of the other gods’; thus the cult was publicly funded, and could be seen as ‘official’. But in contrast with Bendis, we know nothing more of her Athenian cult.

Article

Adrastus (1), described in the Iliad as former king of *Sicyon (2. 572), was worshipped there at least until the 6th cent. (Hdt. 5. 67). Best known as the leader of the first Argive expedition against *Thebes (1) (and possibly the second as well), he was the only one to survive, escaping on the semi-divine horse *Arion (1) (Il. 23. 346–7; Thebaid fr. 6 Davies). He had undertaken the expedition to restore one son-in-law, Polynices, to the throne, and was to have done the same for the other, *Tydeus of Calydon (Hutchinson, on Aesch. Sept.575).

The tradition which made Adrastus king at *Argos (1) may owe something to the interpolation of a patrilineal descendant into a matrilineal regal line (Finkelberg). His connections with cult sites other than Sicyon (Colonos Hippios, *Eleusis, *Megara) derive from the influence of the epic.

Article

Aeacus  

Alan H. Griffiths

Aeacus (Αἰακός), ancestral hero of *Aegina, whose eponymous nymph bore him to *Zeus; to give him company, Zeus turned the island's ant population into humans, transforming murmēkes into ‘Myrmidons’ (Hes. fr. 205 M–W; cf. Ov. Met. 7. 517–660). As a primeval figure, he was naturally close to the gods, and unlike e.g. *Tantalus or *Ixion he retained their favour; according to Pindar (a sedulous propagator of Aeginetan legends) he helped *Apollo and *Poseidon build the walls of *Laomedon's Troy (Ol. 8) and even settled disputes between the gods themselves (Isocrates 8. 24). Famous for his justice and piety in life, he became a judge in the Underworld (Pl. Ap. 41a, Grg. 524a; Isoc. 9. 14 f.; cf. Ar. Ran. 464 ff.). He was the founder of the warrior clan of the Aeacidae: his sons *Peleus and *Telamon (1), exiled for the murder of their brother *Phocus, fathered *Achilles and Ajax (see aias (1)) respectively.

Article

Aëdon  

Herbert Jennings Rose

Aëdon (Ἀηδών), in mythology, daughter of *Pandareos, the son of Hermes and Merope. She married Zethus and had two children, Itylus and Neïs. Envying *Niobe, Amphion's wife, for her many children, she planned to kill them, or one of them, at night; but Itylus was sleeping in the same room as they and she mistook the bed and so killed him. In her grief she prayed to be changed from human form, and became a nightingale (ἀηδών).

Article

Emily Kearns

Aegeus, Athenian hero, father of *Theseus. As son of *Pandion and brother of *Pallas (2), *Nisus (1), and *Lycus (1), he received at the division of *Attica the area around Athens, although in Beazley, ARV2 259. 1 his place is taken by Orneus, indicating that he may be a latecomer in this group. When king of Athens, he consulted the *Delphic oracle about his childlessness, but failing to understand the reply (a figurative injunction to abstain from sex until his return home) fathered Theseus on *Aethra, daughter of Pittheus, king of Troezen. Later he married *Medea, who attempted to poison Theseus on his arrival in Athens, and was therefore driven out by him. When Theseus returned from Crete, he or his steersman forgot to raise the agreed sign on the ship, and Aegeus, thinking his son was dead, threw himself off the acropolis or into the sea (in this version called ‘Aegean’, Αἰγαῖον πέλαγος, after him).

Article

Aegimius, a legendary king, son (or father, scholiast Pind. Pyth. 1. 121) of Dorus, eponym of the *Dorians. Being attacked by the *Centaurs, he asked *Heracles to help him, and in gratitude for his aid adopted *Hyllus and made him joint heir with his own sons.

Article

aegis  

Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood

Aegis, divine attribute, represented as a large all-round bib with scales, fringed with snakes' heads and normally decorated with the gorgoneion (see gorgo). In Homer *Zeus' epithet aigiochos, and the story (Il. 15. 308–10) that the aegis was given to him by *Hephaestus suggest a primary association with Zeus, who lends it to *Apollo (Il. 15. 229–30). It is unclear whether Athena's aegis is also borrowed (cf. Il. 5. 736–8; cf. schol. Il. 15. 229). In post-Homeric times the aegis is most closely associated with *Athena, who is commonly shown wearing it over her dress; Zeus is very rarely shown with the aegis. At Il. 2. 446–9 the aegis is ageless and immortal, with a hundred tassels; its tasselled nature is reflected in its epithet thysanoessa. At Il. 5. 738–42 it is decorated with the Gorgon's head and the allegorical figures Phobos (Fear), Eris (Strife), Alke (Strength), and Ioke (Pursuit). Its shaking by Zeus (Il.

Article

Herbert Jennings Rose and Jenny March

Aegisthus, in mythology the son of Thyestes who survives to avenge the deaths of his brothers at the hands of *Atreus. In Aeschylus he is only a baby when Atreus kills the other boys, and perhaps for this reason survives (Ag. 1583–1606). A version apparently Sophoclean (see Dio Chrys. 66. 6; cf. Apollod. Epit. 2. 14; Hyg. Fab. 87 and 88. 3–4) makes him the incestuous offspring of Thyestes and his daughter Pelopia after the murder of the elder sons; an oracle had advised that a son thus born would avenge their deaths. In connection with this story, it was said that the baby Aegisthus (his name suggesting the word αἴξ, goat) was exposed and fed by a she-goat (Hyg. ibid. and 252). When he grew up he learnt the truth, and avenged the murder of his brothers by killing Atreus and later, with *Clytemnestra, *Agamemnon.

Article

Aeolus  

J. N. Bremmer

Aeolus, (1) the Homeric ruler of the winds (Od. 10. 1–79). Unlike Virgil (Aen. 1), Homer makes him a human by suppressing the idea that winds are minor deities. (See wind-gods.) He lives in Aeolia, a floating island, in the furthest west. His six sons and six daughters have married one another. Already the 5th cent. found this incest intolerable: *Euripides (Aeolus) made Aeolus force his daughter *Canace to commit suicide because of her love for her brother *Macareus; Ovid (Her.11) paints the drama in shrill colours. In Hellenistic times he was worshipped by the Liparaeans (Diod. Sic. 20. 101. 2).(2) The son of *Hellen and eponym of the Aeolians occurs first in Hesiod (frs. 9, 10 M–W) but is clearly presupposed by Homer (Il. 6. 154; Od. 11. 236 f.). His original home is the north of Greece, where many of his descendants are located. (3) Son of *Poseidon and Melanippe, who is exposed together with his brother Boeotus.