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[27] and as they were offering a sacrifice to Apollo, a water-snake approached from the altar and bit Philoctetes; and as the sore did not heal and grew noisome, the army could not endure the stench, and Ulysses, by the orders of Agamemnon, put him ashore on the island of Lemnos, with the bow of Hercules which he had in his possession; and there, by shooting birds with the bow, he subsisted in the wilderness.1

1 This story of the exposure and desertion of Philoctetes in Lemnos appears to have been told in the epic Cypria, as we may judge by the brief summary of Proclus. See Epicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, ed. G. Kinkel, p. 19. According to Proclus, the Greeks were feasting in Tenedos when Philoctetes was bitten by a water-snake. This is not necessarily inconsistent with the statement of Apollodorus that the accident happened while the Greeks were sacrificing to Apollo, for the feast mentioned by Proclus may have been sacrificial. According to another version of the story, which Sophocles followed in his Philoctetes, the accident to Philoctetes happened, not in Tenedos, but in the small island of Chryse, where a goddess of that name was worshipped, and the serpent which bit Philoctetes was the guardian of her shrine. See Soph. Phil. 263-270; Soph. Phil. 1326-1328. Later writers identified Chryse with Athena, and said that Philoctetes was stung while he was cleansing her altar or clearing it of the soil under which it was buried, as Tzetzes has it. See Scholiast on Hom. Il. ii.722; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 911; Eustathius on Hom. Il. ii.724, p. 330. But this identification is not supported by Sophocles nor by the evidence of a vase painting, which represents the shrine of Chryse with her name attached to her image. See Jebb's Soph. Ph., p. xxxviii, section 21.; Baumeister, Denkmäler des klassischen Altertums, iii.1326, fig. 1325. The island of Chryse is no doubt the “desert island near Lemnos” in which down to the first century B.C. were to be seen “an altar of Philoctetes, a bronze serpent, a bow, and a breastplate bound with fillets, the memorial of his sufferings” (Appian, Mithridat. 77). The island had sunk in the sea before the time of Pausanias in the second century of our era (Paus. 8.33.4). According to a different account, the unfortunate encounter of Philoctetes with the snake took place in Lemnos itself, the island where he was abandoned by his comrades. See Scholiast on Hom. Il. ii.724, p. 330 and Eustathius on Hom. Il. ii.724, p. 330; Scholiast on Soph. Ph. 270; Hyginus, Fab. 102. Philoctetes was commonly supposed to have received the bow and arrows of Hercules from that hero as a reward for his service in kindling the pyre on Mount Oeta. See Soph. Phil. 801-803; Diod. 4.38.4; Scholiast on Hom. Il. ii.724; Hyginus, Fab. 102; Ov. Met. 9.229-234. According to one account, which Servius has preserved, it was from these arrows, envenomed with the poison of the hydra, and not from a serpent, that Philoctetes received his grievous hurt. It is said that Hercules on the pyre solemnly charged his friend never to reveal the spot where his ashes should repose. Philoctetes promised with an oath to observe the wish of his dying friend, but afterwards he betrayed the secret by stamping with his foot on the grave. Hence on his way to the war one of the poisoned arrows fell upon and wounded the traitor foot. See Serv. Verg. A. 3.402; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. pp. 21, 132 (First Vatican Mythographer 59; Second Vatican Mythographer 165). Homer speaks of Philoctetes marooned by the Greeks in Lemnos and suffering agonies from the bite of the deadly water-snake (Hom. Il. 2.721-725), but he does not say how or where the sufferer was bitten. Sophocles represents Lemnos as a desert island (Soph. Phil. 1ff.). The fate of the forlorn hero, the ancient Robinson Crusoe, dwelling for ten years in utter solitude on his lonely isle, was a favourite theme of tragedy. Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides all composed plays on the subject under the title of Philoctetes. See Dio Chrysostom lii; Jebb's Introduction to Soph. Ph., pp. xiiiff.; TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), pp. 79ff., 613ff.

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