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[12]

Bias wooed Pero, daughter of Neleus.1 But as there were many suitors for his daughter's hand, Neleus said that he would give her to him who should bring him the kine of Phylacus. These were in Phylace, and they were guarded by a dog which neither man nor beast could come near. Unable to steal these kine, Bias invited his brother to help him. Melampus promised to do so, and foretold that he should be detected in the act of stealing them, and that he should get the kine after being kept in bondage for a year. After making this promise he repaired to Phylace and, just as he had foretold, he was detected in the theft and kept a prisoner in a cell. When the year was nearly up, he heard the worms in the hidden part of the roof, one of them asking how much of the beam had been already gnawed through, and others answering that very little of it was left. At once he bade them transfer him to another cell, and not long after that had been done the cell fell in. Phylacus marvelled, and perceiving that he was an excellent soothsayer, he released him and invited him to say how his son Iphiclus might get children. Melampus promised to tell him, provided he got the kine. And having sacrificed two bulls and cut them in pieces he summoned the birds; and when a vulture came, he learned from it that once, when Phylacus was gelding rams, he laid down the knife, still bloody, beside Iphiclus, and that when the child was frightened and ran away, he stuck the knife on the sacred oak,2 and the bark encompassed the knife and hid it. He said, therefore, that if the knife were found, and he scraped off the rust, and gave it to Iphiclus to drink for ten days, he would beget a son. Having learned these things from the vulture, Melampus found the knife, scraped the rust, and gave it to Iphiclus for ten days to drink, and a son Podarces was born to him.3 But he drove the kine to Pylus, and having received the daughter of Neleus he gave her to his brother. For a time he continued to dwell in Messene, but when Dionysus drove the women of Argos mad, he healed them on condition of receiving part of the kingdom, and settled down there with Bias.4


1 The following romantic tale of the wooing of Pero is told also by the Scholiast on Hom. Od. xi.287. It is repeated also in substantially the same form by Eustathius on Hom. Od. 11.292, p. 1685. Compare Scholiast on Theocritus iii.43; Scholiast on Ap. Rhod., Argon. i.118; Prop. ii.3.51ff. A summary of the story, shorn of its miraculous elements, is given by Homer (Hom. Od. 11.287-297, Hom. Od. 15.225-238) and Paus. 4.36.3). See Frazer's Appendix to Apollodorus, “Melampus and the kine of Phylacus.”

2 According to the Scholiast on Hom. Od. xi.287, 290 and Eustathius on Hom. Od. xi.292, p. 1685, the tree was not an oak but a wild pear-tree (ἄχερδος).

3 Compare Apollod. E.3.20, with the note.

4 See below, Apollod. 2.2.2; Diod. 2.68.4; Paus. 2.18.4.

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