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AMONG the ancient legendary genealogies, there was none which figured with greater splendor, or which attracted to itself a higher degree of poetical interest and pathos, than that of the Pelopids: Tantalus, Pelops, Atreus and Thyestes, Agamemnon and Menelaus and Egisthus, Helen and Clytemnestra, Orestes and Elektra and Hermione. Each of these characters is a star of the first magnitude in the Grecian hemisphere: each name suggests the idea of some interesting romance or some harrowing tragedy: the curse, which taints the family from the beginning, inflicts multiplied wounds at every successive generation. So, at least, the story of the Pelopids presents itself, after it had been successively expanded and decorated by epic, lyric, and tragic poets. It will be sufficient to touch briefly upon events with which every reader of Grecian poetry is more or less familiar, and to offer some remarks upon the way in which they were colored and modified by different Grecian authors.

Pelops is the eponym or name-giver of the Peloponnesus: to find an eponym for every conspicuous local name was the invariable turn of Grecian retrospective fancy. The name Peloponnesus is not to be found either in the Iliad or the Odyssey, nor any other denomination which can be attached distinctly and specially to the entire peninsula. But we meet with the name in one of the most ancient post-Homeric poems of which any fragments have been preserved—the Cyprian Verses—a poem which many (seemingly most persons) even of the contemporaries of Herodotus ascribed to the author of the Iliad, though Herodotus contradicts the opinion. The attributes by which the Pelopid Agamemnon and his house are marked out and distinguished from the other heroes of the Iliad, are precisely those which Grecian imagination would naturally seek in an eponymous superior wealth, power, splendor and regality. Not only Agamemnon himself, but his brother Menelaus, is “more of a king” even than Nestor or Diomedes. The gods have not given to the king of the much-golden Mycenae greater courage, or strength, or ability, than to various other chiefs; but they have conferred upon him a marked superiority in riches, power and dignity, and have thus singled him out as the appropriate leader of the forces. He enjoys this preeminence as belonging to a privileged family and as inheriting the heaven-descended scepter of Pelops, the transmission of which is described by Homer in a very remarkable way. The scepter was made “by Hephaestus, who presented it to Zeus; Zeus gave it to Hermes, Hermes to the charioteer Pelops; Pelops gave it to Atreus, the ruler of men; Atreus at his death left it to Thyestes, the rich cattle-owner; Thyestes in his turn left it to his nephew Agamemnon to carry, that he might hold dominion over many islands and over all Argos”.

We have here the unrivalled wealth and power of the “king of men, Agamemnon”, traced up to his descent from Pelops, and accounted for, in harmony with the recognized epical agencies, by the present of the special scepter of Zeus through the hands of Hermes; the latter being the wealth-giving god, whose blessing is most efficacious in furthering the process of acquisition, whether by theft or by accelerated multiplication of flocks and herds. The wealth and princely character of the Atreids were proverbial among the ancient epic poets. Paris not only carries away Hellen, but much property along with her: the house of Menelaus, when Telemachus visits it in the Odyssey, is so resplendent with gold and silver and rare ornament, as to strike the beholder with astonishment and admiration. The attributes assigned to Tantalus, the father of Pelops, are in conformity with the general idea of the family—superhuman abundance and enjoyments, and intimate converse with the gods, to such a degree that his head is turned, and he commits inexpiable sin. But though Tantalus himself is mentioned, in one of the most suspicious passages of the Odyssey (as suffering punishment in the under-world), he is not announced, nor is anyone else announced, as father of Pelops, unless we are to construe the lines in the Iliad as implying that the latter was son of Hermes. In the conception of the author of the Iliad, the Pelopids are, if not of divine origin, at least a mortal breed specially favored and ennobled by the gods—beginning with Pelops, and localized at Mycenae. No allusion is made to any connection of Pelops either with Pisa or with Lydia.

The legend which connected Tantalus and Pelops with Mount Sipylus may probably have grown out of the Eolic settlements at Magnesia and Kyme. Both the Lydian origin and the Pisatic sovereignty of Pelops are adapted to times later than the Iliad, when the Olympic games had acquired to themselves the general reverence of Greece, and had come to serve as the religious and recreative center of the Peloponnesus—and when the Lydian and Phrygian heroic names, Midas and Gyges, were the types of wealth and luxury, as well as of chariot driving, in the imagination of a Greek. The inconsiderable villages of the Pisatid derived their whole importance from the vicinity of Olympia: they are not deemed worthy of notice in the Catalogue of Homer. Nor could the genealogy which connected the eponym of the entire peninsula with Pisa have obtained currency in Greece unless it had been sustained by pre-established veneration for the locality of Olympia. But if the sovereign of the humble Pisa was to be recognized as forerunner of the thrice-wealthy princes of Mycenae, it became necessary to assign some explanatory cause of his riches. Hence the supposition of his being an immigrant, son of a wealthy Lydian named Tantalus, who was the offspring of Zeus and Plouto. Lydian wealth and Lydian chariot-driving rendered Pelops a fit person to occupy his place in the legend, both as ruler of Pisa and progenitor of the Mycenaean Atreids. Even with the admission of these two circumstances there is considerable difficulty, for those who wish to read the legends as consecutive history, in making the Pelopids pass smoothly and plausibly from Pisa to Mycenae.

I shall briefly recount the legends of this great heroic family as they came to stand in their full and ultimate growth, after the localization of Pelops at Pisa had been tacked on as a preface to Homer’s version of the Pelopid genealogy.

Tantalus, residing near Mount Sipylus in Lydia, had two children, Pelops and Niobe. He was a man of immense possessions and preeminent happiness, above the lot of humanity: the gods communicated with him freely, received him at their banquets, and accepted of his hospitality in return. Intoxicated with such prosperity, Tantalus became guilty of gross wickedness. He stole nectar and ambrosia from the table of the gods, and revealed their secrets to mankind: he killed and served up to them at a feast his own son Pelops. The gods were horror-struck when they discovered the meal prepared for them: Zeus restored the mangled youth to life, and as Demeter, then absorbed in grief for the loss of her daughter Persephone, had eaten a portion of the shoulder, he supplied an ivory shoulder in place of it. Tantalus expiated his guilt by exemplary punishment. He was placed in the under-world, with fruit and water seemingly close to him, yet eluding his touch as often as he tried to grasp them and leaving his hunger and thirst incessant and unappeased. Pindar, in a very remarkable passage, finds this old legend revolting to his feelings: he rejects the tale of the flesh of Pelops having been served up and eaten, as altogether unworthy of the gods.

Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus, was married to Amphion, and had a numerous and flourishing offspring of seven sons and seven daughters. Though accepted as the intimate friend and companion of Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, she was presumptuous enough to triumph over that goddess, and to place herself on a footing of higher dignity, on account of the superior number of her children. Apollo and Artemis avenged this insult by killing all the sons and all the daughters: Niobe, thus left a childless and disconsolate mother, wept herself to death, and was turned into a rock, which the later Greeks continued always to identify on Mount Sipylus.

Some authors represented Pelops as not being a Lydian, but a king of Paphlagonia; by others it was said that Tantalus, having become detested from his impieties, had been expelled from Asia, by Ilus the king of Troy—an incident which served the double purpose of explaining the transit of Pelops to Greece, and of imparting to the siege of Troy by Agamemnon the character of retribution for wrongs done to his ancestor. When Pelops came over to Greece, he found Enomaus, son of the god Ares and Harpinna, in possession of the principality of Pisa, immediately bordering on the district of Olympia. Enomaus, having been apprized by an oracle that death would overtake him if he permitted his daughter Hippodameia to marry, refused to give her in marriage except to some suitor who should beat him in a chariot-race from Olympia to the isthmus of Corinth; the ground here selected for the legendary victory of Pelops deserves attention, inasmuch as it is a line drawn from the assumed centre of Peloponnesus to its extremity, and thus comprises the whole territory with which Pelops is connected as eponym. Any suitor overmatched in the race was doomed to forfeit his life; and the fleetness of the Pisan horses, combined with the skill of the charioteer Myrtilus, had already caused thirteen unsuccessful competitors to perish by the lance of Enomaus. Pelops entered the lists as a suitor: his prayers moved the god Poseidon to supply him with a golden chariot and winged horses; or according to another story, he captivated the affections of Hippodameia herself, who persuaded the charioteer Myrtilus to loosen the wheels of Enomaus before he started, so that the latter was overturned and perished in the race. Having thus won the hand of Hippodameia, Pelops became Prince of Pisa. He put to death the charioteer Myrtilus, either from indignation at his treachery to Enomaus, or from jealousy on the score of Hippodameia: but Myrtilus was the son of Hermes, and though Pelops erected a temple in the vain attempt to propitiate that god, he left a curse upon his race which future calamities were destined painfully to work out.

Pelops had a numerous issue by Hippodameia: Pittheus, Troezen and Epidaurus, the eponyms of the two Argolic cities so called, are said to have been among them: Atreus and Thyestes were also his sons, and his daughter Nikippe married Sthenelus of Mycenae, and became the mother of Eurystheus. We hear nothing of the principality of Pisa afterwards: the Pisatid villages became absorbed into the larger aggregate of Elis, after a vain struggle to maintain their separate right of presidency over the Olympic festival. But the legend ran that Pelops left his name to the whole peninsula: according to Thucydides, he was enabled to do this because of the great wealth which he had brought with him from Lydia into a poor territory. The historian leaves out all the romantic interest of the genuine legends —preserving only this one circumstance, which, without being better attested than the rest, carries with it, from its common-place and prosaic character, a pretended historical plausibility.

Besides his numerous issue by Hippodameia, Pelops had an illegitimate son named Chrysippus, of singular grace and beauty, towards whom he displayed so much affection as to rouse the jealousy of Hippodameia and her sons. Atreus and Thyestes conspired together to put Chrysippus to death, for which they were banished by Pelops and retired to Mycenae,—an event which brings us into the track of the Homeric legend. For Thucydides, having found in the death of Chrysippus a suitable ground for the secession of Atreus from Pelops, conducts him at once to Mycenae, and shows a train of plausible circumstances to account for his having mounted the throne. Eurystheus, king of Mycenae, was the maternal nephew of Atreus: when he engaged in any foreign expedition, he naturally entrusted the regency to his uncle; the people of Mycenae thus became accustomed to be governed by him, and he on his part made efforts to conciliate them, so that when Eurystheus was defeated and slain in Attica, the Mycenaean people, apprehensive of an invasion from the Herakleids, chose Atreus as at once the most powerful and most acceptable person for his successor. Such was the tale which Thucydides derived “from those who had learnt ancient Peloponnesian matters most clearly from their forefathers”. The introduction of so much sober and quasi-political history, unfortunately unauthenticated, contrasts strikingly with the highly poetical legends of Pelops and Atreus, which precede and follow it.

Atreus and Thyestes are known in the Iliad only as successive possessors of the scepter of Zeus, which Thyestes at his death bequeaths to Agamemnon. The family dissensions among this fated race commence, in the Odyssey, with Agamemnon the son of Atreus, and Egisthus the son of Thyestes. But subsequent poets dwelt upon an implacable quarrel between the two fathers. The cause of the bitterness was differently represented: some alleged that Thyestes had intrigued with the Cretan Aerope, the wife of his brother; other narratives mentioned that Thyestes procured for himself surreptitiously the possession of a lamb with a golden fleece, which had been designedly introduced among the flocks of Atreus by the anger of Hermes, as a cause of enmity and ruin to the whole family. Atreus, after a violent burst of indignation, pretended to be reconciled, and invited Thyestes to a banquet, in which he served up to him the limbs of his own son, and the father ignorantly partook of the fatal meal. Even the all-seeing Helios is said to have turned back his chariot to the east in order that he might escape the shocking spectacle of this Thyestean banquet: yet the tale of Thyestean revenge—the murder of Atreus perpetrated by Egisthus, the incestuous offspring of Thyestes by his daughter Pelopia is no less replete with horrors.

Homeric legend is never thus revolting. Agamemnon and Menelaus are known to us chiefly with their Homeric attributes, which have not been so darkly overlaid by subsequent poets as those of Atreus and Thyestes. Agamemnon and Menelaus are affectionate brothers: they marry two sisters, the daughters of Tyndareus king of Sparta, Clytemnestra and Helen; for Helen, the real offspring of Zeus, passes as the daughter of Tyndareus. The “king of men” reigns at Mycenae; Menelaus succeeds Tyndareus at Sparta. Of the rape of Helen, and the siege of Troy consequent upon it, I shall speak elsewhere: I now touch only upon the family legends of the Atreids. Menelaus, on his return from Troy with the recovered Helen, is driven by storms far away to the distant regions of Phoenicia and Egypt, and is exposed to a thousand dangers and hardships before he again sets foot in Peloponnesus. But at length he reaches Sparta, resumes his kingdom, and passes the rest of his days in uninterrupted happiness and splendor: being moreover husband of the godlike Helen and son-in-law of Zeus, he is even spared the pangs of death. When the fullness of his days is past he is transported to the Elysian fields, there to dwell along with “the golden-haired Rhadamanthus” in a delicious climate and in undisturbed repose.

Far different is the fate of the king of men, Agamemnon. During his absence, the unwarlike Egisthus, son of Thyestes, had seduced his wife Clytemnestra, in spite of the special warning of the gods, who, watchful over this privileged family, had sent their messenger Hermes expressly to deter him from the attempt. A venerable bard had been left by Agamemnon as the companion and monitor of his wife, and so long as that guardian was at hand, Egisthus pressed his suit in vain. But be got rid of the bard by sending him to perish in a desert island, and then won without difficulty the undefended Clytemnestra. Ignorant of what had passed, Agamemnon returned from Troy victorious and full of hope to his native country; but he had scarcely landed when Egisthus invited him to a banquet, and there with the aid of the treacherous Clytemnestra, in the very ball of festivity and congratulation, slaughtered him and his companions “like oxen tied to the manger”. His concubine Cassandra, the prophetic daughter of Priam, perished along with him by the hand of Clytemnestra herself. The boy Orestes, the only male offspring of Agamemnon, was stolen away by his nurse, and placed in safety at the residence of the Phokian Strophius.

For seven years Egisthus and Clytemnestra reigned in tranquility at Mycenae on the throne of the murdered Agamemnon. But in the eighth year the retribution announced by the gods overtook them: Orestes, grown to manhood, returned and avenged his father by killing Egisthus, according to Homer; subsequent poets add, his mother also. He recovered the kingdom of Mycenae, and succeeded Menelaus in that of Sparta. Hermione, the only daughter of Menelaus and Helen, was sent into the realm of the Myrmidons in Thessaly, as the bride of Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, according to the promise made by her father during the siege of Troy.

Here ends the Homeric legend of the Pelopids, the final act of Orestes being cited as one of unexampled glory. Later poets made many additions: they dwelt upon his remorse and hardly earned pardon for the murder of his mother, and upon his devoted friendship for Pylades; they wove many interesting tales, too, respecting his sisters Iphigenia and Elektra and his cousin Hermione,—names which have become naturalized in every climate and incorporated with every form of poetry.

These poets did not at all scruple to depart from Homer, and to give other genealogies of their own, with respect to the chief persons of the Pelopid family. In the Iliad and Odyssey, Agamemnon is son of Atreus. In Homer he is specially marked as reigning at Mycenae; but Stesichorus, Simonides and Pindar represented him as having both resided and perished at Sparta or at Amyklae. According to the ancient Cyprian Verses, Helen was represented as the daughter of Zeus and Nemesis: in one of the Hesiodic poems she was introduced as an Oceanic nymph, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. The genealogical discrepancies, even as to the persons of the principal heroes and heroines, are far too numerous to be cited, nor is it necessary to advert to them, except as they bear upon the unavailing attempt to convert such legendary parentage into a basis of historical record or chronological calculation.

The Homeric poems probably represent that form of the legend, respecting Agamemnon and Orestes, which was current and popular among the Eolic colonists. Orestes was the great heroic chief of the Eolic emigration; he, or his sons, or his descendants, are supposed to have conducted the Achaeans to seek a new home, when they were no longer able to make head against the invading Dorians: the great families at Tenedos and other Eolic cities even during the historical era, gloried in tracing back their pedigrees to this illustrious source. The legends connected with the heroic worship of these mythical ancestors form the basis of the character and attributes of Agamemnon and his family, as depicted in Homer, in which Mycenae appears as the first place in Peloponnesus, and Sparta only as the second: the former the special residence of “the king of men”; the latter that of his younger and inferior brother, yet still the seat of a member of the princely Pelopids, and moreover the birth-place of the divine Helen. Sparta, Argos and Mycenae are all three designated in the Iliad by the goddess Here as her favorite cities; yet the connection of Mycenae with Argos, though the two towns were only ten miles distant, is far less intimate than the connection of Mycenae with Sparta. When we reflect upon the very peculiar manner in which Homer identifies Here with the Grecian host and its leader, —for she watches over the Greeks with the active solicitude of a mother, and her antipathy against the Trojans is implacable to a degree which Zeus cannot comprehend, and when we combine this with the ancient and venerated Heraeon, or temple of Here, near Mycenae, we may partly explain to ourselves the preeminence conferred upon Mycenae in the Iliad and Odyssey. The Heraeon was situated between Argos and Mycenae; in later times its priestesses were named and its affairs administered by the Argeians: but as it was much nearer to Mycenae than to Argos, we may with probability conclude that it originally belonged to the former, and that the increasing power of the latter enabled them to usurp to themselves a religious privilege which was always an object of envy and contention among the Grecian communities. The Eolic colonists doubtless took out with them in their emigration the divine and heroic legends, as well as the worship and ceremonial rites, of the Heraeon; and in those legends the most exalted rank would be assigned to the close-adjoining and administering city.

Mycenae maintained its independence even down to the Persian invasion. Eighty of its heavy-armed citizens, in the ranks of Leonidas at Thermopile, and a number not inferior at Plataea, upheld the splendid heroic celebrity of their city during a season of peril, when the more powerful Argos disgraced itself by a treacherous neutrality. Very shortly afterwards Mycenae was enslaved and its inhabitants expelled by the Argeians. Though this city so long maintained a separate existence, its importance had latterly sunk to nothing, while that of the Thirian Argos was augmented very much, and that of the Dorian Sparta still more.

The name of Mycenae is imperishably enthroned in the Iliad and Odyssey; but all the subsequent fluctuations of the legend tend to exalt the glory of other cities at its expense. The recognition of the Olympic games as the grand religious festival of Peloponnesus gave vogue to that genealogy which connected Pelops with Pisa or Elis and withdrew him from Mycenae. Moreover, in the poems of the great Athenian tragedians, Mycenae is constantly confounded and treated as one with Argos. If any one of the citizens of the former, expelled at the time of its final subjugation by the Argeians, had witnessed at Athens a drama of Aeschylus, Sophocles, or Euripides, or the recital of an ode of Pindar, he would have heard with grief and indignation the city of his oppressors made a partner in the heroic glories of his own. But the great political ascendency acquired by Sparta contributed still farther to degrade Mycenae, by disposing subsequent poets to treat the chief of the Grecian armament against Troy as having been a Spartan. It has been already mentioned that Stesichorus, Simonides and Pindar adopted this version of the legend: we know that Zeus Agamemnon, as well as the here Menelaus, was worshipped at the Dorian Sparta, and the feeling of intimate identity, as well as of patriotic pride, which had grown up in the minds of the Spartans connected with the name of Agamemnon, is forcibly evinced by the reply of the Spartan Syagrus to Gelon of Syracuse at the time of the Persian invasion of Greece. Geron was solicited to lend his aid in the imminent danger of Greece before the battle of Salamis: he offered to furnish an immense auxiliary force, on condition that the supreme command should be allotted to him. “Loudly indeed would the Pelopid Agamemnon cry out (exclaimed Syagrus in rejecting this application), if he were to learn that the Spartans had been deprived of the headship by Geon and the Syracusans”. Nearly a century before this event, in obedience to the injunctions of the Delphian oracle, the Spartans had brought back from Tegea to Sparta the bones of “the Laconian Orestes”, as Pindar denominates him: the recovery of these bones was announced to them as the means of reversing a course of ill-fortune, and of procuring victory in their war against Tegea. The value which they set upon this acquisition, and the decisive results ascribed to it, exhibit a precise analogy with the recovery of the bones of Theseus from Skyros by the Athenian Cimon shortly after the Persian invasion. The remains sought were those of a hero properly belonging to their own soil, but who had died in a foreign land, and of whose protection and assistance they were for that reason deprived. And the superhuman magnitude of the bones, which were contained in a coffin seven cubits long, is well suited to the legendary grandeur of the son of Agamemnon.




THE earliest names in Laconian genealogy are an indigenous Lelex and a Naiad nymph Kleochareia. From this pair sprung a son Eurotas, and from him a daughter Sparta, who became the wife of Lacedaemon, son of Zeus and Taygete, daughter of Atlas. Amyklas, son of Lacedaemon, had two sons, Kynortas and Hyacinthus—the latter a beautiful youth, the favorite of Apollo, by whose hand he was accidentally killed while playing at quoits: the festival of the Hyacinthia, which the Lacedaemonians generally, and the Amyklaeans with special solemnity, celebrated throughout the historical ages, was traced back to this legend. Kynortas was succeeded by his son Perieres, who married Gorgophone, daughter of Perseus, and had a numerous issue—Tyndareus, Ikarius, Aphareus, Leukippus, and Hippokoon. Some authors gave the genealogy differently, making Perieres, son of Eolus, to be the father of Kynortas, and Ebalus son of Kynortas, from whom sprung Tyndareus, Ikarius and Hippokoon.

Both Tyndareus and Ikarius, expelled by their brother Hippokoon, were forced to seek shelter at the residence of Thestius, king of Kalydon, whose daughter, Leda, Tyndareus espoused. It is numbered among the exploits of the omnipresent Heracles, that he slew Hippokoon and his sons, and restored Tyndareus to his kingdom, thus creating for the subsequent Herakleidan kings a mythical title to the throne. Tyndareus, as well as his brothers, are persons of interest in legendary narrative: he is the father of Castor, of Timandra, married to Echemus, the hero of Tegea, and of Clytemnestra, married to Agamemnon. Pollux and the ever-memorable Helen are the offspring of Leda by Zeus. Ikarius is the father of Penelope, wife of Odysseus: the contrast between her behavior and that of Clytemnestra and Helen became the more striking in consequence of their being so nearly related. Aphareus is the father of Idas and Lynkeus, while Leukippus has for his daughters, Phoebe and Ilaeira. According to one of the Hesiodic poems, Castor and Pollux were both sons of Zeus by Leda, while Helen was neither daughter of Zeus nor of Tyndareus, but of Oceanus and Tethys.

The brothers Castor and (Polydeukes, or) Pollux are no less celebrated for their fraternal affection than for their great bodily accomplishment: Castor, the great charioteer and horse-master; Pollux, the first of pugilists. They are enrolled both among the hunters of the Kalydonian boar and among the heroes of the Argonautic expedition, in which Pollux represses the insolence of Amykus, king of the Bebrykes, on the coast of Asiatic Thrace—the latter, a gigantic pugilist, from whom no rival has ever escaped, challenges Pollux, but is vanquished and killed in the fight.

The two brothers also undertook an expedition into Attica, for the purpose of recovering their sister Helen, who had been carried off by Theseus in her early youth, and deposited by him at Aphidna, while he accompanied Perithous to the underworld, in order to assist his friend in carrying off Persephone. The force of Castor and Pollux was irresistible, and when they redemanded their sister, the people of Attica were anxious to restore her: but no one knew where Theseus had deposited his prize. The invaders, not believing in the sincerity of this denial, proceeded to ravage the country, which would have been utterly ruined, had not Dekelus, the eponymous of Dekeleia, been able to indicate Aphidna as the place of concealment. The indigenous Titakus betrayed Aphidna to Castor and Pollux, and Helen was recovered: the brothers in evacuating Attica, carried away into captivity Ethra, the mother of Theseus. In after-days, when Castor and Pollux, under the title of the Dioskuri, had come to be worshipped as powerful gods, and when the Athenians were greatly ashamed of this act of Theseus—the revelation made by Dekelus was considered as entitling him to the lasting gratitude of his country, as well as to the favorable remembrance of the Lacedaemonians, who maintained the Dekeleians in the constant enjoyment of certain honorary privileges at Sparta, and even spared that dome in all their invasions of Attica. Nor is it improbable that the existence of this legend had some weight in determining the Lacedaemonians to select Dekelia as the place of their occupation during the Peloponnesian war.

The fatal combat between Castor and Polydeukes on the one side, and Idas and Lynkeus on the other, for the possession of the daughters of Leucippus, was celebrated by more than one ancient poet, and forms the subject of one of the yet remaining Idylls of Theocritus. Leucippus had formally betrothed his daughters to Idas and Lynkeus; but the Tyndarids, becoming enamored of them, outbid their rivals in the value of the customary nuptial gifts, persuaded the father to violate his promise, and carried off Phoebe and Ilaeira as their brides. Idas and Lynkeus pursued them and remonstrated against the injustice: according to Theocritus, this was the cause of the combat. But there was another tale, which seems the older, and which assigns a different cause to the quarrel. The four had jointly made a predatory incursion into Arcadia, and had driven off some cattle, but did not agree about the partition of the booty—Idas carried off into Messenia a portion of it which the Tyndarids claimed as their own. To revenge and reimburse themselves, the Tyndarids invaded Messenia, placing themselves in ambush in the hollow of an ancient oak. But Lynkeus, endued with preternatural powers of vision, mounted to the top of Taygetus, from whence, as he could see over the whole Peloponnesus, he detected them in their chosen place of concealment. Such was the narrative of the ancient Cyprian Verses. Castor perished by the hand of Idas, Lynkeus by that of Pollux. Idas, seizing a stone pillar from the tomb of his father Aphareus, hurled it at Pollux, knocked him down and stunned him; but Zeus, interposing at the critical moment for the protection of his son, killed Idas with a thunderbolt. Zeus would have conferred upon Pollux the gift of immortality, but the latter could not endure existence without his brother: he entreated permission to share the gift with Castor, and both were accordingly permitted to live, but only on every other day.

The Dioskuri, or sons of Zeus,—as the two Spartan heroes, Castor and Pollux, were denominated,—were recognized in the historical days of Greece as gods, and received divine honors. This is even noticed in a passage of the Odyssey, which is at any rate a very old interpolation, as well as in one of the Homeric hymns. What is yet more remarkable is, that they were invoked during storms at sea, as the special and all-powerful protectors of the endangered mariner, although their attributes and their celebrity seem to be of a character so dissimilar. They were worshipped throughout most parts of Greece, but with preeminent sanctity at Sparta.

Castor and Pollux being removed, the Spartan genealogy passes from Tyndareus to Menelaus, and from him to Orestes.

Originally it appears that Messene was a name for the western portion of Laconia, bordering on what was called Pylos: it is so represented in the Odyssey, and Ephorus seems to have included it amongst the possessions of' Orestes and his descendants. Throughout the whole duration of the Messenico-Dorian kingdom, there never was any town called Messene: the town was first founded by Epaminondas, after the battle of Leuctra. The heroic genealogy of Messenia starts from the same name as that of Laconia—from the autochthonous Lelex: his younger son, Polykaon marries Messene, daughter of the Argeian Triopas, and settles the country. Pausanias tells us that the posterity of this pair occupied the country for five generations; but he in vain searched the ancient genealogical poems to find the names of their descendants. To them succeeded Perieres, son of Eolus; and Aphareus and Leukippus, according to Pausanias, were sons of Perieres.

Aphareus, after the death of his sons, founded the town of Arene, and made over most part of his dominions to his kinsman Neleus, with whom we pass into the Pylian genealogy.



THE Arcadian divine or heroic pedigree begins with Pelasgus, whom both Hesiod and Asius considered as an indigenous man, though Akusilaus the Argeian represented him as brother of Argos and son of Zeus by Niobe, daughter of Phoroneus. Akusilaus wished to establish a community of origin between the Argeians and the Arcadians.

Lykaon, son of Pelasgus and king of Arcadia, had, by different wives, fifty sons, the most savage, impious and wicked of mankind: Maenalus was the eldest of them. Zeus, in order that he might himself become a witness of their misdeeds, presented himself to them in disguise. They killed a child and served it up to him for a meal; but the god overturned the table and struck dead with thunder Lykaon and all his fifty sons, with the single exception of Nyktimus, the youngest, whom he spared at the earnest intercession of the goddess Gaea (the Earth). The town near which the table was overturned received the name of Trapezus (Tabletown).

This singular legend (framed on the same etymological type as that of the ants in Aegina, recounted elsewhere) seems ancient, and may probably belong to the Hesiodic Catalogue. But Pausanias tells us a story in many respects different, which was represented to him in Arcadia as the primitive local account, and which becomes the more interesting, as he tells us that he himself fully believes it. Both tales indeed go to illustrate the same point—the ferocity of Lykaon’s character, as well as the cruel rites which he practiced. The latter was the first who established the worship and solemn games of Zeus Lykaeus: he offered up a child to Zeus, and made libations with the blood upon the altar. Immediately after having perpetrated this act, he was changed into a wolf.

“Of the truth of this narrative (observes Pausanias) I feel persuaded: it has been repeated by the Arcadians from old times, and it carries probability along with it. For the men of that day, from their justice and piety, were guests and companions at table with the gods, who manifested towards them approbation when they were good, and anger if they behaved ill, in a palpable manner: indeed at that time there were some, who having once been men, became gods, and who yet retain their privileges as such Aristaeus, the Cretan Britomartis, Heracles son of Alkmena, Amphiaraus the son of Oikles, and Pollux and Castor besides. We may therefore believe that Lykaon became a wild beast, and that Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus, became a stone. But in my time, wickedness having enormously increased, so as to overrun the whole earth and all the cities in it, there are no farther examples of men exalted into gods, except by mere title and from adulation towards the powerful: moreover the anger of the gods falls tardily upon the wicked, and is reserved for them after their departure from hence”.

Pausanias then proceeds to censure those who, by multiplying false miracles in more recent times, tended to rob the old and genuine miracles of their legitimate credit and esteem. The passage illustrates forcibly the views which a religious and instructed pagan took of his past time—how inseparably he blended together in it gods and men, and how little he either recognized or expected to find in it the naked phenomena and historical laws of connection which belonged to the world before him. He treats the past as the province of legend, the present as that of history; and in doing this he is more skeptical than the persons with whom he conversed, who believed not only in the ancient, but even in the recent and falsely reported miracles. It is true that Pausanias does not always proceed consistently with this position: he often rationalizes the stories of the past, as if he expected to find historical threads of connection; and sometimes, though more rarely, accepts the miracles of the present. But in the present instance he draws a broad line of distinction between present and past, or rather between what is recent and what is ancient: his criticism is, in the main, analogous to that of Arrian in regard to the Amazons —denying their existence during times of recorded history, but admitting it during the early and unrecorded ages.

In the narrative of Pausanias, the sons of Lykaon, instead of perishing by thunder from Zeus, become the founders of the various towns in Arcadia. And as that region was subdivided into a great number of small and independent townships, each having its own eponym, so the Arcadian heroic genealogy appears broken up and subdivided. Pallas, Orestheus, Phigalus, Trapezeus, Maenalus, Mantineus, and Tegeates, are all numbered among the sons of Lykaon, and are all eponyms of various. Arcadian towns.

The legend respecting Kalliste and Arkas, the eponym of Arcadia generally, seems to have been originally quite independent of and distinct from that of Lykaon. Eumelus, indeed, and some other poets made Kallisto daughter of Lykaon; but neither Hesiod, nor Asius, nor Pherekydes, acknowledged any relationship between them. The beautiful Kallisto, companion of Artemis in the chase, had bound herself by a vow of chastity. Zeus, either by persuasion or by force, obtained a violation of the vow, to the grievous displeasure both of Here and Artemis. The former changed Kallisto into a bear, the latter when she was in that shape killed her with an arrow. Zeus gave to the unfortunate Kallisto a place among the stars, as the constellation of the Bear: he also preserved the child Arkas, of which she was pregnant by him, and gave it to the Atlantid nymph Maia to bring up.

Arkas, when he became king, obtained from Triptolemus and communicated to his people the first rudiments of agriculture; he also taught them to make bread, to spin, and to weave. He had three sons—Azan, Apheidas, and Elatus: the first was the eponym of Azania, the northern region of Arcadia; the second was one of the heroes of Tegea; the third was father of Ischys (rival of Apollo for the affections of Koronis), as well as of Epytus and Kyllen: the name of Epytus among the heroes of Arcadia is as old as the Catalogue in the Iliad.

Aleus, son of Apheidas and king of Tegea, was the founder of the celebrated temple and worship of Athena Alea in that town. Lycurgus and Kepheus were his sons, Auge his daughter, who was seduced by Heracles, and secretly bore to him a child: the father, discovering what had happened, sent Auge to Nauplius to be sold into slavery: Teuthras, king of Mysia in Asia Minor, purchased her and made her his wife: her tomb was shown at Pergamum on the river Kaikus even in the time of Pausanias.

From Lykurgus, the son of Aleus and brother of Auge, we pass to his son Ankaeus, numbered among the Argonauts, finally killed in the chase of the Kalydonian boar, and father of Agapenor, who leads the Arcadian contingent against Troy,—(the adventurers of his niece, the Tegeatic huntress Atalanta, have already been touched upon),—then to Echemus, son of Aöropus and grandson of the brother of Lycurgus, Kepheus. Echemus is the chief heroic ornament of Tegea. When Hyllus, the son of Herakles, conducted the Herakleids on their first expedition against Peloponnesus, Echemus commanded the Tegean troops who assembled along with the other Peloponnesians at the isthmus of Corinth to repel the invasion: it was agreed that the dispute should be determined by single combat, and Echemus, as the champion of Peloponnesus, encountered and killed Hyllus.

Pursuant to the stipulation by which they had bound themselves, the Herakleids retired, and abstained for three generations from pressing their claim upon Peloponnesus. This valorous exploit of their great martial hero was cited and appealed to by the Tegeates before the battle of Plataea, as the principal evidence of their claim to the second post in the combined army, next in point of honor to that of the Lacedaemonians, and superior to that of the Athenians: the latter replied to them by producing as counter-evidence the splendid heroic deeds of Athens,—the protection of the Herakleids against Eurystheus, the victory over the Kadmeians of Thebes, and the complete defeat of the Amazons in Attica. Nor can there be any doubt that these legendary glories were both recited by the speakers, and heard by the listeners, with profound and undoubting faith, as well as with heart-stirring admiration.

One other person there is—Ischys, son of Elatus and grandson of Arkas—in the fabulous genealogy of Arcadia whom it would be improper to pass over, inasmuch as his name and adventures are connected with the genesis of the memorable god or hero Esculapius, or Asklepius. Koronis, daughter of Phlegyas, and resident near the lake Boebeis in Thessaly, was beloved by Apollo and became pregnant by him: unfaithful to the god, she listened to the propositions of Ischys son of Elatus, and consented to wed him: a raven brought to Apollo the fatal news, which so incensed him that he changed the color of the bird from white, as it previously had been, into black. Artemis, to Avenge the wounded dignity of her brother, put Koronis to death; but Apollo preserved the male child of which she was about to be delivered, and consigned it to the Centaur Cheiron to be brought up. The child was named Asklepius or Aesculapius, and acquired, partly from the teaching of the beneficent leech Cheiron, partly from inborn and superhuman aptitude, a knowledge of the virtues of herbs and a mastery of medicine and surgery, such as had never before been witnessed. He not only cured the sick, the wounded, and the dying, but even restored the dead to life. Kapaneus, Eriphyle, Hippolytus, Tyndareus and Glaukus were all affirmed by different poets and logographers to have been endued by him with a new life. But Zeus now found himself under the necessity of taking precautions lest mankind, thus unexpectedly protected against sickness and death, should no longer stand in need of the immortal gods: he smote Asclepius with thunder and killed him. Apollo was so exasperated by this slaughter of his highly-gifted son, that he killed the Cyclopes who had fabricated the thunder, and Zeus was about to condemn him to Tartarus for doing so; but on the intercession of Latona he relented, and was satisfied with imposing upon him a temporary servitude in the house of Admetus at Pherae.

Asclepius was worshipped with very great solemnity at Trikka, at Kos, at Cnidus, and in many different parts of Greece, but especially at Epidaurus, so that more than one legend had grown up respecting the details of his birth and adventures: in particular, his mother was by some called Arsinoe. But a formal application had been made on this subject (so the Epidaurians told Pausanias) to the oracle of Delphi, and the god in reply acknowledged that Asclepius was his son by Koronis. The tale above recounted seems to have been both the oldest and the most current. It is adorned by Pindar in a noble ode, wherein however he omits all mention of the raven as messenger —not specifying who or what the spy was from whom Apollo learnt the infidelity of Koronis. By many this was considered as an improvement in respect of poetical effect, but it illustrates the mode in which the characteristic details and simplicity of the old fables came to be exchanged for dignified generalities, adapted to the altered taste of society.

Machaon and Podaleirius, the two sons of Asclepius, command the contingent from Trikka, in the north-west region of Thessaly, at the siege of Troy by Agamemnon. They are the leeches of the Grecian army, highly prized and consulted by all the wounded chiefs. Their medical renown was further prolonged in the subsequent poem of Arktinus, the Iliu-Persis, wherein the one was represented as unrivalled in surgical operations, the other as sagacious in detecting and appreciating morbid symptoms. It was Podaleirius who first noticed the glaring eyes and disturbed deportment which preceded the suicide of Ajax.

Galen appears uncertain whether Asclepius (as well as Dionysus) was originally a god, or whether he was first a man and then became afterwards a god; but Apollodorus professed to fix the exact date of his apotheosis. Throughout all the historical ages the descendants of Asclepius were numerous and widely diffused. The many families or gentes called Asklepiads, who devoted themselves to the study and practice of medicine, and who principally dwelt near the temples of Asclepius, whither sick and suffering men came to obtain relief—all recognized the god not merely as the object of their common worship, but also as their actual progenitor. Like Solon, who reckoned Neleus and Poseidon as his ancestors, or the Milesian Hekataeus, who traced his origin through fifteen successive links to a god—like the privileged gens at Pelion in Thessaly, who considered the wise Centaur Cheiron as their progenitor, and who inherited from him their precious secrets respecting the medicinal herbs of which their neighborhood was full,—Asklepiads, even of the later times, numbered and specified all the intermediate links which separated them from their primitive divine parent. One of these genealogies has been preserved to us, and we may be sure that there were many such, as the Asklepiads were found in many different places. Among them were enrolled highly instructed and accomplished men, such as the great Hippocrates and the historian Ktesias, who prided themselves on the divine origin of themselves and their gens—so much did the legendary element pervade even the most philosophical and positive minds of historical Greece. Nor can there be any doubt that their means of medical observation must have been largely extended by their vicinity to a temple so much frequented by the sick, who came in confident hopes of divine relief, and who, whilst they offered up sacrifice and prayer to Aesculapius, and slept in his temple in order to be favored with healing suggestions in their dreams, might, in case the god withheld his supernatural aid, consult his living descendants. The sick visitors at Kos, or Trikka, or Epidaurus, were numerous and constant, and the tablets usually hung up to record the particulars of their maladies, the remedies resorted to, and the cures operated by the god, formed both an interesting decoration of the sacred ground and an instructive memorial to the Asklepiads.

The genealogical descent of Hippocrates and the other Asklepiads from the god Asclepius is not only analogous to that of Hekataeus and Solon from their respective ancestral gods, but also to that of the Lacedaemonians kings from Heracles, upon the basis of which the whole supposed chronology of the ante-historical times has been built, from Eratosthenes and Apollodorus down to the chronologers of the present century. I shall revert to this hereafter.




THE memorable heroic genealogy of the Eakids establishes a fabulous connection between Aegina, Salamis, and Pithia, which we can only recognize as a fact, without being able to trace its origin.

Eakus was the son of Zeus, born of Aegina, daughter of Asopus, whom the god had carried off and brought into the island to which he gave her name: she was afterwards married to Aktor, and had by him Menoetius, father of Patroclus. As there were two rivers named Asopus, one between Phlius and Sicyon, and another between Thebes and Plataea—so the Aeginetans heroic genealogy was connected both with that of Thebes and with that of Phlius: and this belief led to practical consequences in the minds of those who accepted the legends as genuine history. For when the Thebans, in the 68th Olympiad, were hard-pressed in war by Athens, they were directed by the Delphian oracle to ask assistance of their next of kin: recollecting that Thebe and Aegina had been sisters, common daughters of Asopus, they were induced to apply to the Aeginetans as their next of kin, and the Aeginetans gave them aid, first by sending to them their common heroes, the Eakids, next by actual armed force. Pindar dwells emphatically on the heroic brotherhood between Thebes, his native city, and Aegina.

Eakus was alone in Aegina: to relieve him from this solitude, Zeus changed all the ants in the island into men, and thus provided him with a numerous population, who, from their origin, were called Mylmidons. By his wife Endeis, daughter of Cheiron, Eakus had for his sons Peleus and Telamon: by the Nereid Psamathe, he had Phokus. A monstrous crime had then recently been committed by Pelops, in killing the Arcadian prince, Stymphalus, under a simulation of friendship and hospitality: for this the gods had smitten all Greece with famine and barrenness. The oracles affirmed that nothing could relieve Greece from this intolerable misery except the prayers of Eakus, the most pious of mankind. Accordingly envoys from all quarters flocked to Aegina, to prevail upon Eakus to put up prayers for them: on his supplications the gods relented, and the suffering immediately ceased. The grateful Greeks established in Aegina the temple and worship of Zeus Panhellenius, one of the lasting monuments and institutions of the island, on the spot where Eakus had offered up his prayer. The statues of the envoys who had come to solicit him were yet to be seen in the Eakeium, or sacred edifice of Eakus, in the time of Pausanias: and the Athenian Isocrates, in his eulogy of Evagoras, the despot of Salamis in Cyprus (who traced his descent through Teukrus to Eakus), enlarges upon this signal miracle, recounted and believed by other Greeks as well as by the Aeginetans, as a proof both of the great qualities and of the divine favor and patronage displayed in the career of the Eakids. Eakus was also employed to aid Poseidon and Apollo in building the walls of Troy.

Peleus and Telamom, the sons of Eakus, contracting a jealousy of their bastard brother, Phokus, in consequence of his eminent skill in gymnastic contests, conspired to put him to death. Telamon flung his quoit at him while they were playing together, and Peleus dispatched him by a blow with his hatchet in the back. They then concealed the dead body in a wood, but Eakus, having discovered both the act and the agents, banished the brothers from the island. For both of them eminent destinies were in store.

While we notice the indifference to the moral quality of actions implied in the old Hesiodic legend, when it imputes distinctly and nakedly this proceeding to two of the most admired persons of the heroic world —it is not less instructive to witness the change of feeling which had taken place in the age of Pindar. That warm eulogist of the great Eakid race hangs down his head with shame, and declines to recount, though he is obliged darkly to glance at the cause which forced the pious Eakus to banish his sons from Aegina. It appears that Kallimachus, if we may judge by a short fragment, manifested the same repugnance to mention it.

Telamon retired to Salamis, then ruled by Kychreus, the son of Poseidon and Salamis, who had recently rescued the island from the plague of a terrible serpent. This animal, expelled from Salamis, retired to Eleusis in Attica, where it was received and harbored by the goddess Demeter in her sacred domicile. Kychreus dying childless left his dominion to Telamon, who, marrying Periboea, daughter of Alkathoos, and grand-daughter of Pelops, had for his son the celebrated Ajax. Telamon took part both in the chase of the Kalydonian boar and in the Argonautic expedition: he was also the intimate friend and companion of Heracles, whom he accompanied in his enterprise against the Amazons, and in the attack made with only six ships upon Laomedon, king of Troy. This last enterprise having proved completely successful, Telamon was rewarded by Heracles with the possession of the daughter of Laomedon, Hesione—who bore to him Teukros, the most distinguished archer amidst the host of Agamemnon, and the founder of Salamis in Cyprus.

Peleus went to Pithia, where he married the daughter of Eurytion, son of Aktor, and received from him the third part of his dominions. Taking part in the Kalydonian boar-hunt, he unintentionally killed his father-in-law Eurytion, and was obliged to flee to Iolkos, where he received purification from Akastus, son of Pelias: the danger to which lie became exposed by the calumnious accusations of the enamored wife of Akastus has already been touched upon in a previous section. Peleus also was among the Argonauts; the most memorable event in his life however was his marriage with the sea-goddess Thetis. Zeus and Poseidon had both conceived a violent passion for Thetis. But the former, having been forewarned by Prometheus that Thetis was destined to give birth to a son more powerful than his father, compelled her, much against her own will, to marry Peleus; who, instructed by the intimations of the wise Cheiron, was enabled to seize her on the coast called Sepias in the southern region of Thessaly. She changed her form several times, but Peleus held her fast until she resumed her original appearance, and she was then no longer able to resist. All the gods were present, and brought splendid gifts to these memorable nuptials: Apollo sang with his harp, Poseidon gave to Peleus the immortal horses Xanthus and Balius, and Cheiron presented a formidable spear, cut from an ash-tree on Mount Pelion. We shall have reason hereafter to recognize the value of both these gifts in the exploits of Achilles.

The prominent part assigned to Thetis in the Iliad is well known, and the post-Homeric poets of the Legend of Troy introduced her as actively concurring first to promote the glory, finally to bewail the death of her distinguished son. Peleus, having survived both his son Achilles and his grandson Neoptolemus, is ultimately directed to place himself on the very spot where he had originally seized Thetis, and thither the goddess comes herself to fetch him away, in order that he may exchange the desertion and decrepitude of age for a life of immortality along with the Nereids. The spot was indicated to Xerxes when he marched into Greece by the Ionians who accompanied him, and his magi offered solemn sacrifices to her as well as to the other Nereids, as the presiding goddesses and mistresses of the coast.

Neoptolemus or Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, too young to engage in the commencement of the siege of Troy, comes on the stage after the death of his father as the indispensable and prominent agent in the final capture of the city. He returns victor from Troy, not to Pithia, but to Epirus, bringing with him the captive Andromache, widow of Hector, by whom Molossus is born to him. He himself perishes in the full vigor of life at Delphi by the machinations of Orestes, son of Agamemnon. But his son Molossus —like Fleance, the son of Banquo, in Macbeth—becomes the father of the powerful race of Molossian kings, who played so conspicuous a part during the declining vigor of the Grecian cities, and to whom the title and parentage of Eakids was a source of peculiar pride, identifying them by community of heroic origin with genuine and undisputed Hellenes.

The glories of Ajax, the second grandson of Eakus, before Troy, are surpassed only by those of Achilles. He perishes by his own hand, the victim of an insupportable feeling of humiliation, because a less worthy claimant is allowed to carry off from him the arms of the departed Achilles. His son Philaeus receives the citizenship of Athens, and the gens or deme called Philaidae traced up to him its name and its origin moreover the distinguished Athenians, Miltiades and Thucydides, were regarded as members of this heroic progeny.

Teukrus escaped from the perils of the siege of Troy as well as from those of the voyage homeward, and reached Salamis in safety. But his father Telamon, indignant at his having returned without Ajax, refused to receive him, and compelled him to expatriate. He conducted his followers to Cyprus, where he founded the city of Salamis: his descendant Evagoras was recognized as a Teukrid and as an Eakid even in the time of Isocrates.

Such was the splendid heroic genealogy of the Eakids,—family renowned for military excellence. The Eakeion at Aegina, in which prayer and sacrifice were offered to Eakus, remained in undiminished dignity down to the time of Pausanias. This genealogy connects together various eminent gentes in Achaia Phthioitis, in Aegina, in Salamis, in Cyprus, and amongst the Epirotic Molossians. Whether we are entitled to infer from it that the island of Aegina was originally peopled by Myrmidones from Achaia Phthiotis, as Muller imagines, I will not pretend to affirm. These mythical pedigrees seem to unite together special clans or gentes, rather than the bulk of any community—just as we know that the Athenians generally had no part in the Eakid genealogy, though certain particular Athenian families laid claim to it. The intimate friendship between Achilles and the Opuntian hero Patroclus—and the community of name and frequent conjunction between the Locrian Ajax, son of Oileus, and Ajax, son of Telamon connect the Eakids with Opus and the Opuntian Locrians, in a manner which we have no farther means of explaining. Pindar too represents Menoetius, father of Patroclus, as son of Aktor and Aegina, and therefore maternal brother of Eakus.