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ἱππεία here=driving of horses, like “ἱπποσύνη” ( Il. 4. 303 etc.); a word used by Eur. H. F. 374 with ref. to the raids of Centaurs (“χθόνα Θεσσαλῶν ἱππείαις ἐδάμαζον”).

Oenomaüs, king of Pisa in Elis, had promised the hand of his daughter Hippodameia to the suitor who should defeat him in a chariot-race; the penalty of failure being death. The young Pelops, son of Tantalus, offered himself as a competitor. Myrtilus, the charioteer of Oenomaüs, was persuaded (either by Hippodameia or by Pelops) to betray his master. He did so by leaving out one or both of the linch-pins by which the naves of the chariot-wheels were secured to the axles. Tzetzes on Lycophron 156ταῖς χοινίκισι” (=“πλήμναις”, the naves) “τῶν τροχῶν οὐκ ἐμβαλὼν τοὺς ἥλους”. According to another story, he substituted a linch-pin of wax for a real one (schol. Apoll. Rh. 752ἐμβαλόντα κήρινον ἔμβολον ἐπὶ τοῦ ἀκραξονίου”). So Pelops won the race, and the bride. But Oenomaüs was soon avenged on the traitor; for Myrtilus insulted Hippodameia, and was thrown into the sea by Pelops; upon whose house he invoked a curse, as he sank.

Euripides, too, ( Or. 990 ff., Helen. 386 f.) refers to this chariot-race as the event with which the troubles of the Pelopidae began. Apollonius Rhodius briefly describes the critical moment of the race as one of the subjects embroidered on the cloak of Jason (1. 752 ff.); there Oenomaüs was seen, ‘falling sideways, as the axle broke at the naves of the wheels,’—“ἄξονος ἐν πλήμνῃσι παρακλιδὸν ἀγνυμένοιο” | “πίπτεν”.

The eastern pediment of the temple of Zeus at Olympia (circ. 450 B.C.) was adorned with sculptures by Paeonius, representing the preparation for this contest ( Paus. 5. 10. 6). The fragments found on the site have sufficed for a reconstruction of the group. Zeus occupied the centre; to the right of him were Pelops and Hippodameia; to the left, Oenomaüs and his wife Steropè. On each side was a chariot drawn by four horses. Myrtilus was sitting in front of his team, with his face turned away from his master.

In the older and nobler form of the myth, Pelops won, not by a fraud, but by the grace of Poseidon, who gave him winged horses (Pindar O. 1. 87 “ἔδωκεν δίφρον τε χούσεον πτεροῖσίν τ᾽ ἀκάμαντας ἵππους”). On the chest (“λάρναξ”) of Cypselus, seen by Pausanias in the Heraeum at Olympia ( Paus. 5. 17. 5), Pelops was driving two winged horses.

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hide References (5 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (5):
    • Euripides, Heracles, 374
    • Euripides, Orestes, 990
    • Homer, Iliad, 4.303
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.10.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.17.5
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