Alcmaeon To Amphiaraus (Greco-Roman Mythology)



Son of Amphiaraus and Eriphyle, and father of Acarnan and Amphoretus. He slew his own mother, Eriphyle, in revenge for her vanity and deceit toward both his father and himself, having been bribed by Polyneices’ son to urge him and his brother, Am-philochus, to lead a second attack against Thebes, just as she had been bribed to force Amphiaraus to accompany the first attack of the Seven Against Thebes.

Driven mad and pursued for his matricide by the Erinnyes, he fled to the king of Psophis, Phlegeus (or Phegeus), who purified him and married Alcmaeon to his daughter, Arsinoe; he gave her, as a wedding gift, the robe and necklace of Harmonia. However, uncured of his madness he was soon forced to flee and was again purified, this time by the river god Achelous, who married Alcmaeon to his daughter, Callirrhoe, who soon demanded the necklace and robe of Harmonia, knowing them to be in his possession. Alcmaeon dared to return to Psophis and obtained the sacred items from Phlegeus on the pretext of taking them to Delphi. Phlegeus uncovered the true reason for Alcmaeon’s return and had his sons kill him, before he himself sent the ill-fated treasures to Delphi.

In Euripides’ Alcmaeon the hero encountered Tiresias’s daughter, Manto, and had by her Amphilochus and Tisiphone, who he gave to Creon of Corinth to rear; he later bought daughter Tisiphone back as a slave.



Play by Euripides in which Alcmaeon encountered Tiresias’s daughter, Manto, and had by her Amphilochus and Tisiphone, who he gave to Creon of Corinth to rear; he later bought daughter Tisiphone back as a slave.

Alcmen~e, ~a


Wife of Amphitryon (Amphitrion), son of Alcaeus. She refused to consummate her marriage until her brothers, who had been killed by the Taphians, had been avenged by her husband. While Amphitryon was away from Thebes fighting the Taphians, Zeus visited her in the form of Amphitryon, telling her of his victory over the Taphians, and lay with her, supposedly halting the sun for a day to extend his night with her. The true Amphitryon returned the following day, and the confusion that followed is the subject of many comedies.

Nine months later the boastful Zeus pronounced that he was about to become the father of a son, who would be called Heracles or "glory of Hera" and become the ruler of the house of Perseus. Jealous Hera made Zeus promise that any son born that day to the house of Perseus would become its king. Having made the promise, Hera then brought on the birth of Eurystheus, a grandson of Perseus, and delayed the birth of Heracles. Eventually Alcmene bore twin sons, Heracles, the son of Zeus, and Iphicles, Amphitryon’s son, who was one night younger due to the time difference between conceptions. In fear of Hera, Alcmene exposed Heracles, and in error Hera nursed him, thus conferring immortality upon him. Later he was returned to Alcmene.

When Eurystheus acceded to the throne of the house of Perseus, he was determined to remove the threat of Alcmene, Heracles, and his children and tried to expel them from Greece. In Athens they found protection, and when Eurystheus attacked the city he was resisted by Theseus or his sons, Demophoon, Iolaus, and Hyllus. Following the self-sacrifice of Macaria, Heracles’ daughter, as demanded by an oracle, Eurystheus was defeated by either Hyllus or Iolaus and dispatched by Alcmene.

Following Amphitryon’s death—and by then living in Boeotia—Alcmene was married to Rhadamanthus, who proved so just a ruler that he later became one of the three judges of the Underworld.



Also: Halcyone.

1. One of the daughters of Atlas and Pleione. Along with the six sisters—Celone, Electra, Maia, Merope, Sterope, and Taygeta—she was placed in the heavens in the star cluster known as the Pleiades, or "seven sisters," of which she is said to be the leader.

Astronomical: One of the seven stars of the Pleiades cluster in the constellation of Taurus. For a full description see Pleiades.

2. The daughter of Aeolus, god, demigod, or king of the winds. She married Ceyx, the son of the morning star. Conflicting reasons are given for the pair’s transformation into birds. Apollodorus says that the gods, enraged with their marital bliss or because they began calling themselves Zeus and Hera, caused the transformation. Ovid, however, tells a different story. Returning from a voyage, Ceyx was shipwrecked and drowned; Alcyone, finding her dead husband’s body, threw herself into the sea in her grief. In sympathy the gods changed them both into birds, though here again there is some difference between the birds. All versions agree that Alcyone herself was changed into a kingfisher, and some accounts say that Ceyx was also turned into a kingfisher; others say the male bird was a gannet.

Following the transformation Zeus forbade Aeolus to release the winds and decreed that the seas should remain calm for seven days before and after the winter solstice while Alcyone was hatching her eggs. This has led to modern usage of the phrase "halcyon days."



One of the 24 giant sons of Gaia (Ge) with serpents’ tails. Alcyoneus led the brothers’ attempt to avenge the imprisonment of their other brothers, the Titans, and attacked Olympus. Among the 24 were Porphyrion, Ephialtes, Mimas, Pallas, Enceladus, and Polybutes. Only following a tremendous battle, both in Olympus and on earth, were the giants defeated by the gods, who were helped by a magic herb of invulnerability that had been found by Heracles (who appears here out of normal chronological order many years before his supposed birth). Heracles always gives the giants the final blow.



One of the Furies or Erinnyes born from the drops of blood that fell on Mother Earth when Uranos was castrated by Cronos. They were described as winged daughters of earth or night, having serpents for hair. Their purpose was to punish unnatural crime, such a parricide. Later they became known euphemistically as the Eumenides or "well-meaning," the name said to have been given them after the acquittal of Orestes. Originally there may have been many sisters of Alecto, but later writers only name two other Furies, Tisiphone and Megaera.

Having serpent hair they are often confused with the three Gorgons: Medusa, Euryale, and Stheno.



King of Tegea and father of Auge and, through her seduction by Heracles, grandfather of Telephus.



A name sometimes used to refer to Paris.

Alexander Romance


Possibly dating from the third century B.C. the Alexander Romance is a remarkable work that builds on the travels of Alexander the Great and brings him into contact with many strange beasts. In it he is made the son of the last Pharaoh of Egypt, Nectanebo, and during his travels he meets the Queen of the Amazons and also visits the legendary Queen Candace of Meroe.

He marches through a land of perpetual darkness in search of the Water of Life, a quest in which he is beaten by his cook or his daughter. He explores the depths of the seas in a diving bell and also ascends to the heavens in a basket borne aloft by four eagles. He visits the abodes of the gods as well as the Oracle of King Sesonchosis of Egypt at the extreme eastern limit of the world.

The recurring theme of all these adventures is Alexander the Great’s anxiety over learning the date of his death and his attempts to obtain immortality. As a twist he meets with a group of Indian Brahmans, and they request the latter as a boon from him, suggesting that at some stage he had succeeded in his quest. Finally human-headed birds persuade him to give up his futile search, and he dies at Babylon of poison.

Alexander the Great


King of Macedonia between 356 B.C. and 323 B.C. and the conqueror of the large Persian Empire. The son of King Phillip II of Macedonia and Queen Olympias, Alexander was born in Pella and was educated by the great philosopher Aristotle. Alexander first saw fighting in 340 B.C. at the age of 16, and two years later (338 B.C.) at the battle of Chaeronea he contributed to the victory with a cavalry charge. His father was murdered when Alexander was 20, and the Macedonian throne and army passed into his more than capable hands.

First he secured his northern borders and, in 336 B.C., suppressed an attempted uprising in Greece by capturing Thebes. In 334 B.C. Alexander and his armies crossed the Dardanelles for their campaign against the huge Persian Empire, and at the River Granicus, close to the Dardanelles, he won his first victory. In 333 B.C. he defeated Persia’s King Darius at Issus and then set out for Egypt, where he was greeted as Pharaoh, founding the coastal city of Alexandria. Meanwhile, Darius had assembled a half-million men for a final battle, but in 331 B.C. at Arbela on the Tigris, with just 47,000 men, Alexander drove the Persians into retreat.

Following his victory over the Persians he stayed a month in Babylon before marching to

Susa and Persepolis. In 330 B.C. he marched on Ecbatana (now Hamadan, Iran), and soon afterwards he learned that Darius was dead. He founded colonies at Herat and Kandahar in Afghanistan, and in 328 B.C. he reached the plains of Sogdiana. It was here that he married Roxana, the daughter of King Oxyartes. The mighty continent of India now lay before him, and he marched forth to the Indus. Near the River Hydaspes (now Jhelum) he contested one of his fiercest battles ever against the raja Porus. At the River Hyphasis (now Beas) his armies refused to continue, and reluctantly he retreated back along the Indus and along the coast. In 324 B.C. they reached Susa, where Alexander married his second wife, Darius’s daughter, and ended his reign as a recluse, dying in Babylon of malarial fever.

In the centuries that followed he became a legendary figure in Greek tradition (said to originate from Alexandria), his exploits being described in every language of the Orient and medieval Europe. The basis of these accounts is the Greek Alexander Romance that possibly dates from the third century B.C.

In this extraordinary work, Alexander is made the son of the Pharaoh Nectanebo, the last pharaoh of Egypt. Using as his theme the travels of Alexander beyond the known limits of the world, the author brings Alexander into contact with many weird and savage beasts and equally strange races of men—pygmies, lions with six legs, hairy women with wings, and so on. He meets the Queen of the Amazons and also visits the legendary Queen Candace of Meroe.

He marches through a land of perpetual darkness in search of the Water of Life but is beaten in the quest by his cook or his daughter. He explores the depths of the seas in a diving bell and also ascends to the heavens in a basket borne aloft by four eagles. He visits the abodes of the gods as well as the Oracle of King Sesonchosis of Egypt at the extreme eastern limit of the world.

The recurring theme of all these adventures is Alexander’s anxiety over learning the date of his death and his attempts to obtain immortality. As a twist he meets a group of Indian Brahmans, and they request the latter as a boon from him, suggesting that at some stage he had succeeded in his quest. Finally human-headed birds persuaded him to give up his futile search, and he dies at Babylon of poison.

Medieval Greek sources add further details to the image of the seeker of universal knowledge, making him a sage of supreme knowledge. He turned his daughter—the only contender for having beaten him to the Water of Life—into a mermaid, and thereafter all mermaids acknowledge him as their father (or as spiritual brother in some sources). In Macedonia he is thought to rule the whirlwinds, and in modern Greek his name has been conflated into Megalexandros.

Even now, if caught by storms while at sea, sailors may see the mermaids appear. They ask the sailors, "Where is King Alexander the Great?" The correct reply: "Alexander the Great lives and rules and keeps the world at peace." Provided the correct answer is given, the storms will subside and the sailors may sail on in safety.

In medieval romance, Alexander the Great even appears in the Arthurian legends. In one such romance, Perceforest, he is made an ancestor of Arthur himself as the result of an affair with Sebille, the Lady of the Lake in his time.



The winged sandals worn by and therefore an attribute of Hermes, whose other attributes were the petasus and the caduceus.

Alma Mater


A title given to the goddess Ceres.



The husband of Iphimedeia who adopted her sons by Poseidon, the gigantic Ephialtes and Otus, who thenceforth became known as Aloeidae.



The gigantic sons, Ephialtes and Otus, of Poseidon by Iphimedeia who later married Aloeus, hence Aloeidae. At the age of nine the two boys captured and imprisoned Ares for 13 months in a brazen vessel. They then vowed to outrage Hera and Artemis, and in their attempt to reach the heavens they piled Mount Pelion on Mount Ossa. Artemis tricked them into going to Naxos, where they hoped to encounter her, but she disguised herself as a doe and as she leaped between them they accidentally killed each other. Hermes then released Ares, and the spirits of the Aloeidae were committed to Tartarus, where they were tied with vipers back-to-back to a pillar for all time.



The god of the River Alpheus, the principal river of Elis in the Peloponnesos, and the son (like all the river deities) of Oceanos and Tethys. Falling in love with the nymph Are-thusa, he pursued her under the sea to the Sicilian island of Ortygia, where she rose as a spring or fountain. It was believed that the waters of the Alpheus in fact flowed through the sea, not mingling with the salt waters, to rise mixed into the waters of the spring Arethusa at Syracuse.



The wife of her uncle, Oeneus, king of Cal-ydon, and mother of Deianeira, Gorge, and Meleager. At Meleager’s birth the Fates pronounced that he would die when a brand that was then on the fire was consumed. Althaea immediately seized the brand, extinguished it, and then hid it safely away. When Meleager grew up he took part in the Calydonian Boar Hunt and succeeded in slaying the beast that was ravaging the countryside. However, he quarreled with his fellow huntsmen, Althaea’s brothers, when he gave away the head of the boar to Atalanta, who, it is said, he loved. During the violent argument Meleager killed his uncles, and in revenge Althaea immediately threw the brand onto the fire to fulfill the prophecy of the Fates. When the brand burned out Meleager died, whereupon Althaea took her own life.



It is usually said that Amalthea was the goat that nursed the infant Zeus while he was being hidden by Rhea in the Dictaean Cave on Crete from his father, Cronos. As a reward the goat was subsequently placed in the heavens as the constellation Capricorn(us), one of her horns becoming the Cornucopia or "horn of plenty," sometimes called the Horn of Amalthea, her skin becoming the aegis of Zeus.

However, some accounts vary by saying that Amalthea was the name of a nymph into whose care Zeus was placed by Rhea, and that it was she who gave Zeus the she-goat to act as a wet nurse. As a child Zeus was then said to have given Amalthea one of the goat’s horns, promising her that it would always be miraculously filled with fruit.



The wife of Latinus and mother by him of Turnus. When her son met Aeneas in single combat she hanged herself, convinced that her son was dead before he actually died.



The Amazons were a race of legendary female warriors living near the Black Sea beyond the River Thermodon in Scythia, at least according to Herodotus. Some said they came from the Caucasus and then settled in Asia Minor.

They were said to keep their men segregated on an island and only mated with them in order to produce children, the male infants either being killed or sent back to be raised with the men, whereas the girls were kept and raised to become warriors. This matriarchal society was certainly believed to have a real existence, and they are usually portrayed in fifth-century B.C. art in Scythian tunics and leggings.

Many heroes fought them, though they knew that if they were defeated they would be enslaved by them. Among the heroes was Bellerophon. One of the 12 labors of Heracles was to capture the girdle of the Amazon Queen Hippolyta (Hippolyte). It was either on this occasion or later that Theseus, who accompanied Heracles, carried off the Amazon Antiope, though another tradition says that he did not carry off Antiope but her sister Hippolyta, and it was she that became the mother, by Theseus, of Hippolytus. In revenge the Amazons attacked Athens but were defeated by Theseus and his army. Some accounts say it was not until after the Amazons had been routed at Athens that Theseus took Hippolyta captive.

When the Amazons came to the aid of Troy during the Trojan War, they were led by the beautiful Penthesilea, the daughter of Otrere and Ares. She was killed by Achilles, and it is said that at the very moment that he plunged his sword into her body they fell in love with each other.

Alexander the Great was said to have conquered the Amazons and to have met their queen, Thalestris, but, according to some versions, she failed to seduce him. The Amazons were also said to have built the original temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

Later accounts of this race of warrior women derived their name from a false etymology of A-mazon or "breastless," leading to the popular claim that they cut off one breast, usually their right, to facilitate their use of the bow.

The term Amazon has come to depict any tall, strong, fierce, and attractive woman, or a female warrior.



Epithet of the goddess Aphrodite meaning "she who postpones old age."


Greco-Roman Greek: "immortal." The food of the gods in both Greek and Roman mythology, which is often equated with honey. It was supposed to confer immortal life, and thus the gods kept their immortality by bathing in it, rubbing it into their skin, or simply eating it. Without ambrosia a god became weakened, and any mortal who ate it became strong and immortal. Nectar, the wine of the gods, was drunk with it.


Greco-Egyptian A variant of Amon that appears to have been a slight corruption used by the classical Greeks in an attempt to give the deity a more Greek complexion.

In this form he was identified with Zeus, and Alexander the Great claimed him as his father, therefore being represented on coins wearing the ram’s horns that characterized the god. The Alexander Romance, however, says that Alexander the Great was the son of the last pharaoh, the wizard Nectanebo, who came to his mother in the depths of night wearing a long robe and the horns of a ram.

The temple of Amon at Siwa Oasis in Libya was the site of the famous Oracle of Ammon. Herodotus tells us that he was told by the priests of Thebes that two priestesses were abducted by the Phoenicians, one being sold in Libya, the other in Greece. These priestesses, the Theban priests said, were the founders of divination in both countries and set up the original oracles there.



An alternative name for Cupid, the god of love, and the equivalent of the Greek Eros.

Astronomical: The name Amor has been given to one of the smaller asteroids.



The father of Alcmaeon and Amphilochus, he killed his uncle, Talaus of Argos, drove out Adrastus, and so became king. However, to quiet their quarrel, Amphiaraus married Eriphyle, Adrastus’s sister, who was given the authority to arbitrate any future disagreement between the two cousins. When Adrastus was preparing the expedition of the Seven Against Thebes, Amphiaraus, in his role as seer, prophesied the death of all the leaders save Adrastus himself, and so refused to go. However, Polyneices, whose claim to the throne of Thebes was the reason for the expedition, bribed Eriphyle by giving her the famous necklace of Harmonia, and she arbitrated that Amphiaraus should accompany the expedition. He duly went but made his sons swear to kill Eriphyle in revenge.

The seven leaders—hence the expedition’s name, the Seven Against Thebes—were Adrastus, Amphiaraus, Polyneices, Tydeus, Capaneus, Hippomedon, and Parthenopaeus. The death at Nemea of another member of the party, Opheltes, was interpreted as another omen that they were doomed to failure.

In the battle at Thebes, Capaneus was struck by Zeus’s lightning while attempting to scale the walls. Hippomedon, Parthenopaeus, and Polyneices were all killed. Melanippus was mortally wounded by Amphiaraus, who was then pursued by Periclymenus. Zeus threw his thunderbolt and caused the ground to open up and swallow Amphiaraus, chariot and all. At his loss Adrastus lost heart, and the expedition was defeated.

However, Amphiaraus reemerged from earth near Oropos in Attica, where he was revered in classical times as a healing and oracular deity. His sanctuary, the Amphiareion, became an important place of pilgrimage, especially for the sick.

Next post:

Previous post: