Aegisthus To Aethra (Greco-Roman Mythology)



The son of Thyestes by his daughter, Pelopia. She stole Thyestes’ sword during the rape. She then married Thyestes’ brother, Atreus, who was visiting Sicyon and thought that Pelopia was the daughter of Threspotus. When Pelo-pia gave birth to Aegisthus she abandoned him, but Atreus, believing the boy to be his own, took him in and reared him.

When Aegisthus grew up, Atreus sent him to kill Thyestes, but when the latter saw the sword Aegisthus carried, he recognized it as the one Pelopia had stolen, and the secret was discovered. Pelopia killed herself, and Aegisthus killed Atreus, thus restoring Thyestes to the throne of Mycenae.

During the Trojan War, Aegisthus seduced Clytemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon. Cly-temnestra conspired with Aegisthus to kill Agamemnon on his return from the campaign, along with his booty from the war, Cassandra. Clytemnestra welcomed her husband regally on his return, but while he was in his bath she entangled him in a net, and after Aegisthus struck him twice she beheaded him with an axe. Clytemnestra then went out to kill Cassandra, who had refused to enter the palace.

Aegisthus lived in constant fear of vengeance and would have killed Electra had Clytemnestra allowed it. Instead he married her to a peasant who was fearful of consummating their union. Orestes meanwhile took refuge with Strophius, king of Phocis, who had married Agamemnon’s sister, and here he formed a friendship with Pylades, the son of Strophius, that became proverbial.

For seven years Clytemnestra and Aegisthus ruled Mycenae, Aegisthus being portrayed as a lustful, cruel, but weak man dominated by Clytemnestra. Electra, burning for revenge, sent constant messages to Orestes, and when he and Pylades were of age, they came secretly to the city and, with Electra’s help, killed both Aegisthus and Clytemnestra.



Eponym of Egypt, which he ruled along with Arabia; his brother, Danaus, ruled Libya. He suggested a mass marriage between his fifty sons and the fifty daughters of Danaus, the Danaides. Danaus fled with his daughters to Argos, but the fifty sons of Aegyptus followed and demanded the girls in marriage. Danaus consented but ordered each of his daughters to kill her respective husband on their wedding night. Forty-nine of the Danaides followed these orders, but Hypermnestra saved her husband, Lynceus.



One of the five powerful families that dominated Rome by the end of the fifth century B.C., the others being the Claudii, Cornelii, Manlii, and Valerii. All five families decisively affected the myths and legends of ancient Rome by altering them to suit their own purposes, thus boosting their power and influence.


Greco-Roman Son of Anchises, the cousin of King Priam of Troy, and Aphrodite; raised by nymphs until he was five years old. The friend of Achates. Unfortunately, Anchises boasted of Aphrodite’s love and was struck blind by a thunderbolt from Zeus. His wife is given as Creusa, a daughter of Priam, and the mother by him of Ascanius, though some sources quote Ascanius’s mother as being Lavinia, who Aeneas married after he had arrived and settled in Italy.

At the start of the Trojan War he stayed out of the fighting, but when Achilles raided his herds on Mount Ida he led his Dardanian forces into battle and soon distinguished himself. His mother frequently helped him, once carrying him away after he had been wounded by Diomedes. On another occasion, though hostile to Troy, Poseidon saved him from Achilles, whom he had been urged to challenge by Apollo.

At the end of the Trojan War, having been wounded with his mother, Aphrodite, by Diomedes, he carried his blind father through the Dardanian Gate on his back, thereby escaping. The Romans said that he took with him the Palladium, the one stolen by Odysseus only being a replica, and after seven years he reached Italy.

The tradition of Aeneas’s arrival in Italy is of unknown origin, though Homer’s Iliad makes it clear that he escaped the final sack of Troy. One strong Roman tradition that dates from at least as early as the fourth century B.C. (and later recorded by Q. Lutatius Catulus in Origin of the Roman Nation) said that Aeneas betrayed Troy to the Greeks out of hatred for Paris and was thus given safe conduct.

According to Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas, helped by his mother, Venus/Aphrodite, rescued the Penates of Troy, leading his son, Ascanius, and carrying Anchises on his back, thereby escaping the destruction, his first stop being on the slopes of Mount Ida.

Along with a small band of Trojan refugees, Aeneas set sail to find a new home. He consulted the Oracle of Apollo at Delos and was told to seek the country of his ancestors. He originally set sail for Crete since it was said that Dardanos, the founder of the Trojan royal house, had originated there, but he altered course for Italy when the Penates said that Dardanos’s first home had been there.

He landed at Epirus, now under the rule of Helenus, and was further advised that when he reached Italy he should seek a white sow and 30 piglets and there establish his city. Additionally he was told by Helenus that further counsel could be had from the Sibyl of Cumae.

When he arrived in Sicily he was welcomed at Drepanum by Acestes; while there his aged father, Anchises, died. Aeneas and his men stayed for a year in Drepanum before setting sail again, but due to the hostility of the goddess Hera/Juno they were driven ashore near the city of Carthage, whose queen was Dido.

Dido immediately fell passionately in love with Aeneas, and Aphrodite/Venus persuaded Hera/Juno to agree to their marriage. However, Dido had vowed on the death of her husband, Sychaeus, that she would never take another husband, and her marriage to Aeneas broke this vow. Divine retribution followed, for Zeus/Jupiter now told Aeneas that he must depart, which he planned to do in secret, but Dido uncovered his plan, failed to persuade him to remain, and committed suicide. As Aeneas once again put out to sea the smoke rose from her funeral pyre.

Their first port of call was once again Drepanum, where Aeneas honored his dead father with funeral games. While there Hera/ Juno incited some of his female followers to set fire to four of his five ships; undaunted, and leaving some of his retinue behind, Aeneas resumed his journey.

The remainder of Aeneas’s story is distinctly Roman.

At length Aeneas succeeded in landing in Italy, even though his pilot, Palinurus, fell asleep at the wheel and was washed overboard. Immediately Aeneas went to Cumae, and here the sibyl told him to arm himself with the Golden Bough from a wood near Lake Avernus. Then she led him down to the Underworld to consult his father’s shade. On the way he encountered the spirit of Dido, but she silently turned her back on him. When he consulted Anchises he learned of the future glory of the city he was to found and its ultimate splendor under the great Emperor Augustus.

Having returned to the upper world Aeneas once again reboarded his ship and sailed on to the estuary of the River Tiber. Here the god of the river appeared to him in a dream and told him that the prophecy of Helenus was about to be fulfilled. Forewarned, Aeneas set out the very next day and soon came upon the white sow and her 30 piglets at the site of the city of Alba Longa, a city his son would found some 30 years later.

In neighboring Laurentum (or Latium), the old Aborigine King Latinus had been told by an oracle that Lavinia, his daughter, would marry a foreigner and so agreed to her marriage to Aeneas. However, Juno now incited the Rutulian Prince Turnus of Ardea to claim that since he was of Mycenaean ancestry the oracle obviously referred to him, not to Aeneas. This was not the only opposition to Aeneas’s suit, for Latinus’s queen, Amata, also objected. When Ascanius accidentally shot a pet stag, nothing could avert war between the rival factions.

Aeneas now sought the aid of the Arcadian Greek King Evander, who ruled the Palatine Hill. Evander told Aeneas of the visit of Heracles/Hercules to the hill and his slaughter of the terrible man-eating Cacus, son of Vulcan, who had stolen the great hero’s cattle.

Evander promised to support Aeneas; Pallas, the son of Evander, joined Aeneas’s forces.

As Pallas and Aeneas came down from the Palatine Hill, Venus appeared to them and presented Aeneas with a set of wonderful armor made by Vulcan. It included a magnificent shield that depicted the future history of Rome, including Augustus’s great victory at the Battle of Actium.

The first move in the war was made by Turnus, who attacked the Trojan camp and burned its ships. These had been made out of wood from Mount Ida that was sacred to the goddess Cybele, and she persuaded Neptune to transform them into sea nymphs to save them from being utterly destroyed.

Jupiter tried to reconcile Venus and Juno, who supported opposing sides; unable to do so, he had to conclude that the outcome of the battle must be decided by fate.

Pallas, the great friend of Aeneas, was slain by Turnus, but in return he and his men inflicted very heavy casualties on the Rutulian forces, killing many of their most able leaders. Therefore, Turnus now decided to meet Aeneas in single combat, though both Latinus and Amata tried to convince him, in vain, of his folly.

Turnus’s fate was already sealed, for Jupiter had pacified Juno by agreeing to the union of the Trojans and Latins in a single nation. Amata hanged herself, believing her son already dead. In the fight Turnus was mortally wounded by Aeneas and asked that his old father should be allowed to have his body. Aeneas was about to concede to this request, for the fight was already won, when he noticed that Turnus was wearing the golden belt of his dead friend Pallas and, in blind fury, dispatched the Rutulian with a single thrust of his sword.

The war at an end, Aeneas married Lavinia and thereby united the Trojans and Latins, the condition set by Jupiter to pacify Juno. To please Juno further, Jupiter agreed that the Trojans should forget their native language and customs and adopt Italian manners. This unification of the Trojans and Latins into a single nation was the great mythical achievement of the "pious" Aeneas. Toward the end of his life it was said that he met Dido’s sister, Anna, beside the River

Numicius. Having been purified in the waters of the river he was finally received into the company of the gods and became a paternal god of the Latins.

His great-grandson, Brutus, brought a group of Trojans to England and founded Troynovant (New Troy), later to be called London, and Aeneas is hence regarded as the legendary founder of the British people and, supposedly, the forefather of King Lear. Geoffrey of Monmouth asserts that he was the ancestor of the ancient British kings, and Dryden says, quite specifically, that he was a direct ancestor of Arthur.



An epic poem by Virgil, written in 12 books of hexameters and composed between 30 and 19 B.C., the last 11 years of Virgil’s life. The work, however, was unfinished at the time of Virgil’s death. It commemorates the development of the Roman Empire through the legend of Aeneas, increases the prestige of Augustus by recalling his supposed ancestor’s deeds, foretells of future prosperity to come, and celebrates the destiny of the Romans as the divinely inspired rulers of the ancient world—a sentiment close to the heart of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, who wrote to Virgil from Spain in 26 B.C. expressing his wish to have a draft or portions of Aeneid, which had been begun at about that time.



One of the Lipari Islands within the region of Asia Minor known as Aeolis. It was the home of Aeolus and the four winds, Boreas (north), Zephyrus (west), Notus (south), and Eurus (east), the children of Astraeus and Eos. Aeolia was supposed to have been a floating island on which there was a cave where Aeolus kept the four winds, setting them free when he felt like it or when the gods so requested.

Aeolian Islands


Seven islands based on Lipara (now Lipari) northeast of Sicily, hence now called the Lipari Islands but originally named after Aeolus, demigod of the winds, which he kept in a cave on the island of Aeolia. The islands were colonized from Cnidos and Rhodes and became notorious as a haunt of pirates before becoming a Carthaginian base. The islands were finally captured by Rome in 252 B.C. Hephaistos was said to have his workshop on Hiera (now Vulcano).



A coastal district of northwest Asia Minor colonized by the Greeks at a very early date; it included the Lipari Islands (Aeolian Islands) within its limits.



1. A mortal son of Poseidon and guardian or demigod of the winds, which lived with him, pent up in a cave, on the floating island of Aeolia, one of the Aeolian Islands (now Lipari Islands). The four winds, Boreas (north), Zephyrus (west), Notus (south) and Eurus (east), the children of Astraeus and Eos, were either released at Aeolus’s whim or when the gods requested it. At Hera’s request, for example, he released them to give the Argonauts a fair wind home.

When Odysseus visited his island home, Aeolus gave him a goatskin bag that contained all the winds except that would take him home to Ithaca. His foolish companions thought the goatskin was full of wine, but when they opened it they caused a fearful storm that drove Odysseus back onto Aeolia again, and Aeolus refused Odysseus any further help.

This Aeolus should be distinguished from the one described in the next definition.

2. Son of Hellen and Orseis; the ancestor and eponym of the Aeolian branch of the classical Greeks or Hellenes. The other two branches were the Dorians from Dorus and the Ionians from Ion, the son of Xuthus. He was the father of many children, including Sisyphus.



The second wife of Atreus; she betrayed her husband to Thyestes, who had already succeeded in seducing her. Atreus had promised to sacrifice his first lamb to Artemis, but when that lamb was born with a golden fleece, he hid the fleece away in a chest. Aerope stole this and gave it to Thyestes.

When the Mycenaeans were told by an oracle to elect one of the kings of Midea as ruler, Thyestes suggested that they should choose whoever could produce a fleece of gold, and naturally he won. However, Atreus felt he had been tricked and so proposed a second test: The kingdom should belong to whichever king could cause the sun to run backwards, a contest Atreus won, thus becoming king.

Furious, Thyestes now tricked Atreus into killing Pleisthenes, his own son by a first marriage, and then fled. On discovering the trick Atreus planned a grisly reprisal; luring Thyestes to Mycenae by promising him half the kingdom, he killed Thyestes’ sons and served their flesh to their father at a banquet. When the horrified Thyestes realized what he had been eating, he cursed the house of Atreus and fled once more.

Atreus had two sons by, according to Homer, Aerope. However, other sources name their father as Pleisthenes. In any event, these sons, Agamemnon and Menelaus, were reared by Atreus, and when Thyestes laid his curse they fled and took refuge with King Tyndareus of Sparta. Here Menelaus married Helen, and some accounts say that Agamemnon was helped by Tyndareus to expel Thyestes and so gain his father’s throne.



Lived from c. 525 B.C. to c. 456 B.C. Born at Eleusis, near Athens, of a noble family, he took part in the Persian Wars, fought at Marathon (c. 490 B.C.), where he was wounded, and in all probability also fought at Salamis (c. 480 B.C.). He visited the court of Hieron I, king of Syracuse, twice and died at Gela in Sicily.

He is widely regarded as the founder of Greek tragedy, and by the introduction of a second actor he made true dialogue and action possible. His first poetic victory was gained during dramatic competitions in c. 484 B.C.; having won some 13 first prizes for tragedies, he was then defeated by Sophocles in 468 B.C. It may have been this defeat that induced him to leave Athens and go to Sicily, although his trial before the Areopagus for divulging the secrets of the Eleusinian Mysteries is also given as a reason for his departure. In Sicily he produced a new edition of his extant The Persians, which had originally been staged in 472 B.C.

Aeschylus wrote some 90 plays between 499 B.C. and 458 B.C., of which just seven survive. These are: The Suppliant Women (performed about 490 B.C.), The Persians (472 B.C.), Seven Against Thebes (467 B.C.), Prometheus Bound (c. 460 B.C.), and the Oresteia trilogy (458 B.C.), his last great victory, which comprises the three works Agamemnon, Choephoroe, and Eumenides.

The genius of Aeschylus is quite peculiar in Greek literature, for he has no equal. The grandeur of his theological perceptions, the providential ruling of the world, the inheritance of sin, and the conflict of rude with purer religion sets him apart from great contemporaries like Pindar, as well as successors like Sophocles.



The son of Cretheus, founder and king of Iolcos, and Tyro, who had previous twin sons by Poseidon, Pelias and Neleus, these boys being adopted by Cretheus when Tyro later married him. Aeson’s own son was Jason, whose life was saved only because he was smuggled out of Iolcos and entrusted to the care of Cheiron, the centaur.

When Cretheus died, Pelias imprisoned Aeson, the rightful heir to the throne, and expelled Neleus, thus making himself supreme. However, he promised to surrender the throne if Jason would fetch for him the Golden Fleece, a quest Jason successfully completed with the aid of the Argonauts and Medea. On their return they found that Pelias had forced Aeson to take his own life, though one tradition says that he was renewed to youthful vigor by the witchcraft of Medea.

All agree, however, that Medea took terrible revenge on Pelias. She managed to persuade his daughters (with one exception—Alcestis) to cut up their father and boil the pieces in a cauldron, falsely promising them that this action would rejuvenate him. Acastus, son of Pelias, was horrified by the murder and expelled Jason and Medea.



Semilegendary Greek fabulist, who, according to Herodotus, lived in the sixth century B.C. He was variously described as a Phrygian slave, some say of Iadmon, a Thracian, and as a slave in Samos. He was granted his freedom, and as a confidant of King Croesus of Lydia he undertook various unlikely missions. The Fables are attributed to him, but no evidence of his authorship exists; in all probability they are a compilation from many sources. They are anecdotal stories centered around animal characters to illustrate some moral or satirical point. They were popularized in the first century A.D. by the Roman poet Phaedrus and rewritten in sophisticated verse in 1668 by La Fontaine.



Ethiopia to the ancient Greeks, Cepheus and Cassiopeia having been the rulers.



Daughter of Pittheus, king of Troizen (Troezen). Her first lover was Bellerophon, but she was visited by Poseidon the same night she laid with Aegeus, and as a result she bore the great hero of Attica, Theseus, whom she brought up in secret. When he was of age she showed him the sword of Cecrops and the sandals that Aegeus had left as a sign of his paternity; reclaiming them, Theseus proceeded to Athens.

After the death of Hippodameia, Peirithous and Theseus abducted Helen of Sparta (later to become Helen of Troy), and she fell by lot to Theseus. She was hidden by Aethra in the village of Aphidnae, as she was too young to marry. When the Dioscuri—Castor and Polydeuces—came to Attica in search of her, having been told of her whereabouts by Academus, Aethra was taken captive as a servant to Helen, who she followed to Troy. Following the end of the Trojan War she was rescued by her grandsons, Acamas and Demophoon, the sons of Theseus and Phaedra. When Theseus died she committed suicide.

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