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Now Menelaus had by Helen a daughter Hermione and, according to some, a son Nicostratus;1 and by a female slave Pieris, an Aetolian, or, according to Acusilaus, by Tereis, he had a son Megapenthes;2 and by a nymph Cnossia, according to Eumelus, he had a son Xenodamus. [2]

Of the sons born to Leda Castor practised the art of war, and Pollux the art of boxing;3 and on account of their manliness they were both called Dioscuri.4 And wishing to marry the daughters of Leucippus, they carried them off from Messene and wedded them;5 and Pollux had Mnesileus by Phoebe, and Castor had Anogon by Hilaira. And having driven booty of cattle from Arcadia, in company with Idas and Lynceus, sons of Aphareus, they allowed Idas to divide the spoil. He cut a cow in four and said that one half of the booty should be his who ate his share first, and that the rest should be his who ate his share second. And before they knew where they were, Idas had swallowed his own share first and likewise his brother's, and with him had driven off the captured cattle to Messene. But the Dioscuri marched against Messene, and drove away that cattle and much else besides. And they lay in wait for Idas and Lynceus. But Lynceus spied Castor and discovered him to Idas, who killed him. Pollux chased them and slew Lynceus by throwing his spear, but in pursuing Lynceus he was wounded in the head with a stone thrown by him, and fell down in a swoon. And Zeus smote Idas with a thunderbolt, but Pollux he carried up to heaven. Nevertheless, as Pollux refused to accept immortality while his brother Castor was dead, Zeus permitted them both to be every other day among the gods and among mortals.6 And when the Dioscuri were translated to the gods, Tyndareus sent for Menelaus to Sparta and handed over the kingdom to him.

1 Homer definitely affirms (Hom. Od. 4.12-14; compare Hom. Il. 3.174ff.) that Helen had only one child, her daughter Hermione. But according to Hesiod, whose verses are quoted by the Scholiast on Soph. El. 539, Helen afterwards bore a son Nicostratus to Menelaus. Compare Scholiast on Hom. Od. iv.11, who tells us further that according to more recent writers Helen had a son Corythus or Helenus by Alexander (Paris). According to Dictys Cretensis v.5, Helen had three sons by Alexander, namely, Bunomus, Corythus, and Idaeus, who were accidentally killed at Troy through the collapse of a vaulted roof. The Scholiast on Hom. Il. iii.175, says that the Lacedaemonians worshipped two sons of Helen, to wit, Nicostratus and Aethiolas. He further mentions, on the authority of Ariaethus, that Helen had by Menelaus a son Maraphius, from whom the Persian family of the Maraphions was descended. See Dindorf's edition of the Scholiast on the Iliad vol. i. pp. 147ff., vol. iii. p. 171. According to one account, Helen had a daughter by Theseus before she was married to Menelaus; this daughter was Iphigenia; Helen entrusted her to her sister Clytaemnestra, who reared the child and passed her off on her husband Agamemnon as her own offspring. This account of the parentage of Iphigenia was supported by the authority of Stesichorus and other poets. See Paus. 2.22.6ff.; Ant. Lib. 27. Sophocles represents Menelaus as having two children before he sailed for TroySoph. Elec. 539ff.).

2 Compare Hom. Od. 4.10-12.

3 Compare Hom. Il. 3.237; Hom. Od. 11.300.

4 That is, “striplings of Zeus.”

5 The usual tradition seems to have been that Idas and Lynceus, the sons of Aphareus, were engaged to be married to the daughters of Leucippus, who were their cousins, since Aphareus and Leucippus were brothers (see above, Apollod. 3.10.3). They invited to their wedding Castor and Pollux, who were cousins both to the bridegrooms and the brides, since Tyndareus, the human father of Castor and Pollux (see above, Apollod. 3.10.7), was a brother of Aphareus and Leucippus (see above, Apollod. 3.10.3). But at the wedding Castor and Pollux carried off the brides, and being pursued by the bridegrooms, Idas and Lynceus, they turned on their pursuers. In the fight which ensued, Castor and Lynceus were slain, and Idas was killed by Zeus with a thunderbolt. See Theocritus xxii.137ff.; Scholiast on Hom. Il. iii.243; Scholiast on Pind. N. 10.60(112); Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 546; Tzetzes, Chiliades ii.686ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 80; Ovid, Fasti v.699ff.; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. p. 27 (First Vatican Mythographer 77). According to Apollodorus, however, the fight between the cousins was occasioned by a quarrel arising over the division of some cattle which they had lifted from Arcadia in a joint raid. This seems to have been the version of the story which Pindar followed; for in his description of the fatal affray between the cousins (Pind. N. 10.60(112)ff.) he speaks only of anger about cattle as the motive that led Idas to attack Castor. The rape of the daughters of Leucippus by Castor and Pollux was a favourite subject in art. See Paus. 1.18.1; Paus. 3.17.3; Paus. 3.18.11; Paus. 4.31.9. The names of the damsels, as we learn from Apollodorus, were Phoebe and Hilaira. Compare Stephanus Byzantius, s.v. Ἄφιδνα; Prop. i.2.15ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 80. At Sparta they had a sanctuary, in which young maidens officiated as priestesses and were called Leucippides after the goddesses. See Paus. 3.16.1. From an obscure gloss of Hesychius, s.v. πωλία, we may perhaps infer that these maiden priestesses, like the goddesses, were two in number, and that they were called “the colts of the Leucippides.” Further, since the name of Leucippus, the legendary father of the goddesses, means simply “White Horse,” it is tempting to suppose that the Leucippides, like their priestesses, were spoken of and perhaps conceived as white horses. More than that, Castor and Pollux, who carried off these white-horse maidens, if we may call them so, were not only constantly associated with horses, but were themselves called White Horses (λευκόπωλοι) by Pind. P. 1.66(126) and “White Colts of Zeus” by Euripides in a fragment of his lost play the Antiope. See S. Wide, Lakonische Kulte (Leipsig, 1893), pp. 331ff.; A. B. Cook, Zeus, i.442. These coincidences can hardly be accidental. They point to the worship of a pair of brother deities conceived as white horses, and married to a pair of sister deities conceived as white mares, who were served by a pair of maiden priestesses called White Colts, assisted apparently by a boy priest or priests; for a Laconian inscription describes a certain youthful Marcus Aurelius Zeuxippus as “priest of the Leucippides and neatherd (? βουαγόρ) of the Tyndarids,” that is, of Castor and Pollux. See P. Cauer, Delectus Inscriptionum Graecarum propter dialectum memorabilium, p. 17, No. 36; H. Collitz und F. Bechtel, Sammlung der griechischen DialektInschriften, iii.2, pp. 40ff., No. 4499.

6 Compare Hom. Od. 11.298-304; Pind. N. 10.55(101)ff., 75(141)ff.; Pind. P. 11.61(93)ff.; Scholiast on Hom. Od. xi.302; Lucian, Dial. Deorum xxvi.; Verg. A. 6.121ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 80; Hyginus, Ast. ii.22; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. p. 120 (Second Vatican Mythographer 132). The last of these writers explains the myth to mean that when the star of the one twin is setting, the star of the other is rising. It has been plausibly argued that in one of their aspects the twins were identified with the Morning and Evening Stars respectively, the immortal twin (Pollux) being conceived as the Morning Star, which is seen at dawn rising up in the sky till it is lost in the light of heaven, while the mortal twin (Castor) was identified with the Evening Star, which is seen at dusk sinking into its earthy bed. See J. G. Welcker, Griechische Götterlehre, i.606ff.; Rendel Harris, The Dioscuri in the Christian Legends (London, 1903), pp. 11ff. It would seem that this view of the Spartan twins was favoured by the Spartans themselves, for after their great naval victory of Aegospotami, at which Castor and Pollux were said to have appeared visibly in or hovering over the Spartan fleet, the victors dedicated at Delphi the symbols of their divine champions in the shape of two golden stars, which shortly before the fatal battle of Leuctra fell down and disappeared, as if to announce that the star of Sparta's fortune was about to set for ever. See Cicero, De divinatione i.34.75, ii.32.68. The same interpretation of the twins would accord well with their white horses (see the preceding note), on which the starry brethren might be thought to ride through the blue sky.

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  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PESSINUS
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (20):
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.10.3
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.10.7
    • Homer, Iliad, 3.237
    • Homer, Odyssey, 11.298
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.18.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.22.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.16.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.17.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.18.11
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.31.9
    • Pindar, Pythian, 1
    • Pindar, Pythian, 11
    • Pindar, Nemean, 10
    • Sophocles, Electra, 539
    • Homer, Iliad, 3.174
    • Homer, Odyssey, 11.300
    • Homer, Odyssey, 4.10
    • Homer, Odyssey, 4.12
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 6.121
    • Sextus Propertius, Elegies, 1.2
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