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[2] Not long after, some cattle were stolen from Euboea by Autolycus, and Eurytus supposed that it was done by Hercules; but Iphitus did not believe it and went to Hercules. And meeting him, as he came from Pherae after saving the dead Alcestis for Admetus, he invited him to seek the kine with him. Hercules promised to do so and entertained him; but going mad again he threw him from the walls of Tiryns.1 Wishing to be purified of the murder he repaired to Neleus, who was prince of the Pylians. And when Neleus rejected his request on the score of his friendship with Eurytus, he went to Amyclae and was purified by Deiphobus, son of Hippolytus.2 But being afflicted with a dire disease on account of the murder of Iphitus he went to Delphi and inquired how he might be rid of the disease. As the Pythian priestess answered him not by oracles, he was fain to plunder the temple, and, carrying off the tripod, to institute an oracle of his own. But Apollo fought him,3 and Zeus threw a thunderbolt between them. When they had thus been parted, Hercules received an oracle, which declared that the remedy for his disease was for him to be sold, and to serve for three years, and to pay compensation for the murder to Eurytus.


1 The story is told somewhat differently by Hom. Od. 21.23-30. According to him, Iphitus had lost twelve mares (not oxen) and came in search of them to Herakles, who murdered him in his house and kept the mares. A Scholiast on Hom. Od. xxi.22 says that the mares had been stolen by Autolycus and sold by him to Herakles. Another Scholiast on the same passage of Homer, who refers to Pherecydes as his authority, says that Herakles treacherously lured Iphitus to the top of the wall, then hurled him down. As to the quest of the mares and the murder of Iphitus, see also Soph. Trach. 270-273; Diod. 4.31.2ff. (who says that Herakles himself stole the mares out of spite at Eurytus); Tzetzes, Chiliades ii.417-423; Scholiast on Hom. Il. v.392. Apollodorus seems to be the only writer who substitutes cattle for mares in this story.

2 Compare Diod. 4.31.4ff.; Scholiast on Hom. Il. v.392.

3 As to the attempt of Herakles to carry off the tripod, see Plut. De EI apud Delphos 6; Plut. De sera numinis vindicta 12 (who says that Herakles carried it off to Pheneus); Paus. 3.21.8, Paus. 8.37.1, Paus. 10.13.7ff.; Scholiast on Pind. O. 9.29(43); Cicero, De natura deorum iii.16.42; Hyginus, Fab. 32; Serv. Verg. A. 8.300. The subject was often represented in ancient art; for example, it was sculptured in the gable of the Treasury of the Siphnians at Delphi; the principal pieces of the sculpture were discovered by the French in their excavation of the sanctuary. See E. Bourguet, Les ruines de Delphes (Paris, 1914), pp. 76ff., and Frazer, commentary on Pausanias, vol. v. pp. 274ff.

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  • Commentary references to this page (5):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Trachiniae, 252
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Trachiniae, 253
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Trachiniae, 258
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Trachiniae, 270
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Trachiniae, 272
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