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[5] And on the altars on which they sacrificed they found signs lying: for they who got Argos by the lot found a toad; those who got Lacedaemon found a serpent; and those who got Messene found a fox.1 As to these signs the seers said that those who found the toad had better stay in the city ( seeing that the animal has no strength when it walks); that those who found the serpent would be terrible in attack, and that those who found the fox would be wily.

Now Temenus, passing over his sons Agelaus, Eurypylus, and Callias, favoured his daughter Hyrnetho and her husband Deiphontes; hence his sons hired some fellows to murder their father.2 On the perpetration of the murder the army decided that the kingdom belonged to Hyrnetho3 and Deiphontes. Cresphontes had not long reigned over Messene when he was murdered with two of his sons;4 and Polyphontes, one of the true Heraclids, came to the throne and took to wife, against her will, Merope, the wife of the murdered man.5 But he too was slain. For Merope had a third son, called Aepytus, whom she gave to her own father to bring up. When he was come to manhood he secretly returned, killed Polyphontes, and recovered the kingdom of his fathers.6


1 In the famous paintings by Polygnotus at Delphi, the painter depicted Menelaus, king of Sparta, with the device of a serpent on his shield. See Paus. 10.26.3. The great Messenian hero Aristomenes is said to have escaped by the help of a fox from the pit into which he had been thrown by the Lacedaemonians. See Paus. 4.18.6ff. I do not remember to have met with any evidence, other than that of Apollodorus, as to the association of the toad with Argos.

2 Compare Paus. 2.19.1; Paus. 2.28.2ff., who agrees as to the names of Hyrnetho and her husband Deiphontes, but differs as to the sons of Temenus, whom he calls Cisus, Cerynes, Phalces, and Agraeus.

3 The grave of Hyrnetho was shown at Argos, but she is said to have been accidentally killed by her brother Phalces near Epidaurus, and long afterwards she was worshipped in a sacred grove of olives and other trees on the place of her death. See Paus. 2.23.3; Paus. 2.28.3-7.

4 Compare Paus. 4.3.7.

5 Compare Hyginus, Fab. 137.

6 Compare Paus. 4.3.7ff. (who does not name Polyphontes); Hyginus, Fab. 184. According to Hyginus, the name of the son of Cresphontes who survived to avenge his father's murder was Telephon. This story of Merope, Aepytus, and Polyphontes is the theme of Matthew Arnold's tragedy Merope, an imitation of the antique.

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