1. A Messenian, who appears as one of the chief heroes in the first Messenian war.
In the sixth year of that war the Messenians sent to Delphi to consult the oracle, and the ambassador Tisis brought back the answer, that the preservation of the Messenian senian state demanded that a maiden of the house of the Aepytids should be sacrificed to the gods of the lower world. When the daughter of Lyciscus was drawn by lot, the seer Epebolus declared that she was a supposititious child, and not a daughter of Lyciscus. Hereupon Lyciscus left his country and went over to the Lacedaemonians.
As, however, the oracle had added, that if, for some reason, the maiden chosen by lot could not be sacrificed, another might be chosen in her stead, Aristodemus, a gallant warrior, who likewise belonged to the house of the Aepytids, came forward and offered to sacrifice his own daughter for the deliverance of his country.
A young Messenian, however, who loved the maiden, opposed the intention of her father, and declared that he as her betrothed had more power over her than her father. When this reason was not listened to, his love for the maiden drove him to despair, and in order to save her life, he declared that she was with child by him. Aristodemus, enraged at this assertion, murdered his daughter and opened her body to refute the calumny.
The seer Epebolus, who was present, now demanded the sacrifice of another maiden, as the daughter of Aristodemus had not been sacrificed to the gods, but murdered by her father.
But king Euphaes persuaded the Messenians, who, in their indignation, wanted to kill the lover, who had been the cause of the death of Aristodemus' daughter, that the command of the oracle was fulfilled, and as he was supported by the Aepytids, the people accepted his counsel. (Paus. 4.9
. §§ 2-6; Diodor. Fragm. Vat.
p. 7, ed. Dindorf.; Euseb. Praep. Evang.
5.27.) When the news of the oracle and the manner of its fulfilment became known at Sparta, the Lacedaemonians were desponding, and for five years they abstained from attacking the Messenians, until at last some favourable signs in the sacrifices encouraged them to undertake a fresh campaign against Ithome.
A battle was fought, in which king Euphaes lost his life, and as he left no heir to the throne, Aristodemus was elected king by the Messenians, notwithstanding the opposition of some, who declared him unworthy on account of the murder of his daughter.
This happened about B. C. 729. Aristodemus shewed himself worthy of the confidence placed in him: he continued the war against the Lacedaemonians, and in B. C. 724 he gained a great victory over them. The Lacedaemonians now endeavoured to effect by fraud what they had been unable to accomplish in the field, and their success convinced Aristodemus that his country was devoted to destruction.
In his despair he put an end to his life on the tomb of his daughter, and a short time after, B. C. 722, the Messenians were obliged to recognize the supremacy of the Lacedaemonians. (Paus. 4.10