Chapter 18: Other Myths
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♠ Isokrates, 6 Archidamos 22-23
But the Messenians went so far in their wickedness that they plotted against and slew Cresphontes, albeit he was the founder of their state, the sovereign of their land, a descendant of Heracles, and once the leader of their armies.  His sons, however, escaped the perils which confronted them and threw themselves upon the mercy of Sparta, beseeching us to come to the aid of their dead father and offering us their land. And you, after inquiring of Apollo, and being directed by him to accept this gift and avenge the wronged, thereupon beleaguered the Messenians, forced them to surrender, and thus gained possession of their territory. Greek Text
♠ Hyginus, Fabulae 137
MEROPE: When Polyphontes, King of Messenia, had killed Cresphontes, son of Aristomachus, he gained possession of his kingdom and his wife Merope [with whom Polyphontes, after slaying Cresphontes, seized the kingdom]. But Merope hid the infant son whom she had borne to Cresphontes and sent him to a guest-friend in Aitolia. Polyphontes kept hunting for him with great assiduity, and promised gold to the one who killed him. After he came to man’s estate, he planned to avenge the deaths of his father and his brothers, so he came to King Polyphontes to claim the gold, saying that he had killed the son of Cresphontes and Merope — Telephon. In the meantime the King bade him remain as a guest, in ordere to find out more about him. When he had fallen asleep through weariness, the old man who was an intermediary between mother and son came weeping to Merope, saying that he wasn’t at the guest-friend’s home, nor could he be found. Merope, believing that the one who was asleep was the slayer of her son, went into the chamber with an axe, unaware that she was about to kill her son. The old man recognized him and kept the mother from the crime. When Merope saw she had opportunity to avenge herself on her foe, she became reconciled with Polyphontes. While the king was joyfully making sacrifice, his guest falsely presented to strike the victim to be offered, killed him, and secured his father’s kingdom. Latin Text
♠ POxy 2458 – Papyrus fragment from Oxyrhynchus, as published in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series, Vol. XXVII, ed. E.G. Turner [et al.]. 1962.
♠ Plutarch, Moralia 998e
Do but consider the famous Merope in the tragedy, who taking up a hatchet, and lifting it at her son’s head, whom she took for her son’s murderer, speaks thus as she was ready to give the fatal blow,
Villain, this pious blow shall cleave thy head;
what a bustle she raises in the whole theatre while she raises herself to give the blow, and what a fear they are all in, lest she should prevent the old man that comes to stop her hand, and should wound the youth. Greek Text
♠ fr 456 N² – Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, pp. 500-01, ed. A. Nauck, 2nd ed. Leipzig 1889.
♠ AP 3.5 – Palatine Anthology (Greek Anthology), vol. 1, pp. 96-97, ed. W.R. Paton. Cambridge Mass., 1916-18.
Greek Text and English Translation
♠ ApB 2.8.5 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)
Cresphontes had not long reigned over Messene when he was murdered with two of his sons; and Polyphontes, one of the true Heraclids, came to the throne and took to wife, against her will, Merope, the wife of the murdered man. But he too was slain. For Merope had a third son, called Aepytus, whom she gave to her own father to bring up. When he was come to manhood he secretly returned, killed Polyphontes, and recovered the kingdom of his fathers. Greek Text
♠ Pausanias, Description of Greece 4.3.6-8
The common people of the old Messenians were not dispossessed by the Dorians, but agreed to be ruled by Cresphontes and to divide the land with the Dorians. They were induced to give way to them in this by the suspicion which they felt for their rulers, as the Neleidae were originally of Iolcos. Cresphontes took to wife Merope the daughter of Cypselus, then king of the Arcadians, by whom with other children was born to him Aepytus his youngest.  He had the palace, which he and his children were to occupy, built in Stenyclerus. Originally Perieres and the other kings dwelt at Andania, but when Aphareus founded Arene, he and his sons settled there. In the time of Nestor and his descendants the palace was at Pylos, but Cresphontes ordained that the king should live in Stenyclerus. As his government for the most part was directed in favour of the people, the rich rebelled and killed Cresphontes and all his sons except Aepytus.  He was still a boy and being brought up by Cypselus, and was the sole survivor of his house. When he reached manhood, he was brought back by the Arcadians to Messene, the other Dorian kings, the sons of Aristodemus and Isthmius, the son of Temenus, helping to restore him. On becoming king, Aepytus punished his father’s murderers and all who had been accessories to the crime. By winning the Messenian nobles to his side by deference, and all who were of the people by gifts, he attained to such honor that his descendants were given the name of Aepytidae instead of Heracleidae. Greek Text
Edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, March 2022.
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