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When Hercules had been translated to the gods, his sons fled from Eurystheus and came to Ceyx.1 But when Eurystheus demanded their surrender and threatened war, they were afraid, and, quitting Trachis, fled through Greece. Being pursued, they came to Athens, and sitting down on the altar of Mercy, claimed protection.2 Refusing to surrender them, the Athenians bore the brunt of war with Eurystheus, and slew his sons, Alexander, Iphimedon, Eurybius, Mentor and Perimedes. Eurystheus himself fled in a chariot, but was pursued and slain by Hyllus just as he was driving past the Scironian cliffs; and Hyllus cut off his head and gave it to Alcmena; and she gouged out his eyes with weaving-pins.3


1 Ceyx, king of Trachis, who had given shelter and hospitality to Herakles. See above, Apollod. 2.7.7. Compare Diod. 4.57, who agrees with Apollodorus as to the threats of Eurystheus and the consequent flight of the children of Herakles from Trachis to Athens. According to Hecataeus, quoted by Longinus, De sublimitate 27, king Ceyx ordered them out of the country, pleading his powerlessness to protect them. Compare Paus. 1.32.6.

2 Compare Scholiast on Aristoph. Kn. 1151, who mentions that the Heraclids took refuge at the altar of Mercy. As to the altar of Mercy see below, Apollod. 3.7.1 note. Apollodorus has omitted a famous episode in the war which the Athenians waged with the Argives in defence of the children of Herakles. An oracle having declared that victory would rest with the Athenians if a highborn maiden were sacrificed to Persephone, a voluntary victim was found in the person of Macaria, daughter of Herakles, who gave herself freely to die for Athens. See Eur. Heraclid. 406ff.; Eur. Heraclid. 488ff.; Paus. 1.32.6; Zenobius, Cent. ii.61; Timaeus, Lexicon, s.v. Βάλλ᾽ εἰς μακαρίαν; Scholiast on Plat. Hipp. Maj. 293a; Scholiast on Aristoph. Kn. 1151. The protection afforded by Athens to the suppliant Heraclids was a subject of patriotic pride to the Athenians. See Lys. 2.11-16; Isoc. 4.15, 16. The story was told by Pherecydes, who represented Demophon, son of Theseus, as the protector of the Heraclids at Athens. See Ant. Lib. 33. In this he may have been followed by Euripides, who in his play on the subject introduces Demophon as king of Athens and champion of the Heraclids (Eur. Heraclid. 111ff.). But, according to Paus. 1.32.6, it was not Demophon but his father Theseus who received the refugees and declined to surrender them to Eurystheus

3 Traditions varied concerning the death and burial of Eurystheus. Diod. 4.57.6, in agreement with Apollodorus, says that all the sons of Eurystheus were slain in the battle, and that the king himself, fleeing in his chariot, was killed by Hyllus, son of Herakles. According to Paus. 1.44.9, the tomb of Eurystheus was near the Scironian Rocks, where he had been killed by Iolaus (not Hyllus) as he was fleeing home after the battle. According to Euripides, he was captured by Iolaus at the Scironian Rocks and carried a prisoner to Alcmena, who ordered him to execution, although the Athenians interceded for his life; and his body was buried before the sanctuary of Athena at Pallene, an Attic township situated between Athens and Marathon. See Eur. Heraclid. 843ff.; Eur. Heraclid. 928ff.; Eur. Heraclid. 1030ff. According to Strab. 8.6.19, Eurystheus marched against the Heraclids and Iolaus at Marathon; he fell in the battle, and his body was buried at Gargettus, but his head was cut off and buried separately in Tricorythus, under the high road, at the spring Macaria, and the place was hence called “the Head of Eurystheus.” Thus Strabo lays the scene of the battle and of the death of Eurystheus at Marathon. From Paus. 1.32.6 we know that the spring Macaria, named after the heroine who sacrificed herself to gain the victory for the Heraclids, was at Marathon. The name seems to have been applied to the powerful subterranean springs which form a great marsh at the northern end of the plain of Marathon. The ancient high road, under which the head of Eurystheus was buried, and of which traces existed down to modern times, here ran between the marsh on the one hand and the steep slope of the mountain on the other. At the northern end of the narrow defile thus formed by the marsh and the mountain stands the modern village of Kato-Souli, which is proved by inscriptions to have occupied the site of the ancient Tricorythus. See W. M. Leake, The Demi of Athens, 2nd ed. (London, 1841), pp. 95ff., and Frazer, commentary on Pausanias, vol. ii. pp. 432, 439ff. But Pallene, at or near which, according to Euripides, the body of Eurystheus was buried, lay some eighteen miles or so away at the northern foot of Mount Hymettus, in the gap which divides the high and steep mountains of Pentelicus and Hymettus from each other. That gap, forming the only gateway into the plain of Athens from the north east, was strategically very important, and hence was naturally the scene of various battles, legendary or historical. Gargettus, where, according to Strabo, confirmed by Hesychius and Stephanus Byzantius (s.v. Γαργηττός), the headless trunk of Eurystheus was interred, seems to have lain on the opposite side of the gap, near the foot of Pentelicus, where a small modern village, Garito, apparently preserves the ancient name. See W. M. Leake, op. cit. pp. 26ff., 44-47; Karten von Attika, Erläuternder Text, Heft II. von A. Milchhoefer (Berlin, 1883), pp. 35 (who differs as to the site of Gargettus); Guides-Joanne, Grèce, par B. Haussoullier, i. (Paris, 1896), pp. 204ff. Thus the statements of Euripides and Strabo about the place where the body of Eurystheus was buried may be reconciled if we suppose that it was interred at Gargettus facing over against Pallene, which lay on the opposite or southern side of the gap between Pentelicus and Hymettus. For the battles said to have been fought at various times in this important pass, see Hdt. 1.62ff.; Aristot. Ath. Pol. 15, with Sir J. E. Sandys's note; Plut. Thes. 13; Scholiast on Eur. Hipp. 35. The statement of Apollodorus that Hyllus killed Eurystheus and brought his head to Alcmena, who gouged out his eyes with weaving-pins, is repeated by Zenobius, Cent. ii.61, who probably here, as so often, simply copied our author without acknowledgment. According to Pind. P. 9.79(137)ff., (with the Scholia), the slayer of Eurystheus was not Hyllus but Iolaus; and this seems to have been the common tradition. Can we explain the curious tradition that the severed head and body of the foeman Eurystheus were buried separately many miles apart, and both of them in passes strategically important? According to Eur. Heraclid. 1026ff., Eurystheus, before being killed by the order of Alcmena, announced to the Athenians that, in gratitude for their merciful, though fruitless, intercession with Alcmena, he would still, after his death, lying beneath the sod, be a friend and saviour to Athens, but a stern foe to the descendants of the Heraclids—that is, to the Argives and Spartans, both of whom traced the blood of their kings to Herakles. Further, he bade the Athenians not to pour libations or shed blood on his grave, for even without such offerings he would in death benefit them and injure their enemies, whom he would drive home, defeated, from the borders of Attica. From this it would seem that the ghost of Eurystheus was supposed to guard Attica against invasion; hence we can understand why his body should be divided in two and the severed parts buried in different passes by which enemies might march into the country, because in this way the ghost might reasonably be expected to do double duty as a sentinel or spiritual outpost in two important places at the same time. Similarly the dead Oedipus in his grave at Athens was believed to protect the country and ensure its welfare. See Soph. OC 576ff.; Soph. OC 1518-1534; Soph. OC 1760-1765; Aristides, Or. xlvi. vol. ii. p. 230, ed. G. Dindorf. So Orestes, in gratitude for his acquittal at Athens, is represented by Aeschylus as promising that even when he is in his grave he will prevent any Argive leader from marching against Attica. See Aesch. Eum. 732(762)ff. And Euripides makes Hector declare that the foreigners who had fought in defence of Troy were “no small security to the city” even when “they had fallen and were lying in their heaped-up graves.” See Eur. Rh. 413-415. These examples show that in the opinion of the Greeks the ghosts even of foreigners could serve as guardian spirits of a country to which they were attached by ties of gratitude or affection; for in each of the cases I have cited the dead man who was thought to protect either Attica or Troy was a stranger from a strange land. Some of the Scythians in antiquity used to cut off the heads of their enemies and stick them on poles over the chimneys of their houses, where the skulls were supposed to act as watchmen or guardians, perhaps by repelling any foul fiends that might attempt to enter the dwelling by coming down the chimney. See Hdt. 4.103. So tribes in Borneo, who make a practice of cutting off the heads of their enemies and garnishing their houses with these trophies, imagine that they can propitiate the spirits of their dead foes and convert them into friends and protectors by addressing the skulls in endearing language and offering them food. See Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild, i.294ff. The references in Greek legend to men who habitually relieved strangers of their heads, which they added to their collection of skulls, may point to the former existence among the Greeks of a practice of collecting human skulls for the purpose of securing the ghostly protection of their late owners. See notes on Apollod. 2.5.11 (Antaeus), Apollod. 2.7.7 (Cycnus). Compare Apollod. E.2.5 (Oenomaus); note on Apollod. 1.7.8 (Evenus).

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