web counter









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.