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[4]

Having come to Nemea, of which Lycurgus was king, they sought for water; and Hypsipyle showed them the way to a spring, leaving behind an infant boy Opheltes, whom she nursed, a child of Eurydice and Lycurgus.1 For the Lemnian women, afterwards learning that Thoas had been saved alive,2 put him to death and sold Hypsipyle into slavery; wherefore she served in the house of Lycurgus as a purchased bondwoman. But while she showed the spring, the abandoned boy was killed by a serpent. When Adrastus and his party appeared on the scene, they slew the serpent and buried the boy; but Amphiaraus told them that the sign foreboded the future, and they called the boy Archemorus.3 They celebrated the Nemean games in his honor; and Adrastus won the horse race, Eteoclus the footrace, Tydeus the boxing match, Amphiaraus the leaping and quoit-throwing match, Laodocus the javelin-throwing match, Polynices the wrestling match, and Parthenopaeus the archery match.


1 As to the meeting of the Seven Champions with Hypsipyle at Nemea, the death of Opheltes, and the institution of the Nemean games, see Scholiast on Pind. N., Arg. pp. 424ff. ed. Boeckh; Bacch. 8.10ff. [9], ed. Jebb; Clement of Alexandria, Protrept. ii.34, p. 29, ed. Potter, with the Scholiast; Hyginus, Fab. 74, 273; Statius, Theb. iv.646-vi.; Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Theb. iv.717; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode. vol. i. p. 123 (Second Vatican Mythographer 141). The institution of the Nemean games in honour of Opheltes or Archemorus was noticed by Aeschylus in a lost play. See TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), p. 49. The judges at the Nemean games wore dark-coloured robes in mourning, it is said, for Opheltes (Scholiast on Pind. N., Arg. p. 425, ed. Boeckh); and the crown of parsley bestowed on the victor is reported to have been chosen for the same sad reason (Serv. Verg. Ecl. 6.68). However, according to another account, the crowns at Nemea were originally made of olive, but the material was changed to parsley after the disasters of the Persian war (Scholiast on Pind. N., Arg. p. 425). The grave of Opheltes was at Nemea, enclosed by a stone wall; and there were altars within the enclosure (Paus. 2.15.3). Euripides wrote a tragedy Hypsipyle, of which many fragments have recently been discovered in Egyptian papyri. See TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), pp. 594ff.; A. S. Hunt, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta Papyracea nuper reperta (Oxford, no date, no pagination). In one of these fragments (col. iv.27ff.) it is said that Lycurgus was chosen from all Asopia to be the warder (Κληδοῦχος) of the local Zeus. There were officials bearing the same title (κλειδοῦχοι) at OlympiaDittenberger, Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum 1021, vol. ii. p. 168) in DelosDittenberger, Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae, vol. i. p. 252, No. 170), and in the worship of Aesculapius at AthensE. S. Roberts and E. A. Gardner, Introduction to Greek Epigraphy, Part ii. p. 410, No. 157). The duty from which they took their title was to keep the keys of the temple. A fine relief in the Palazzo Spada at Rome represents the serpent coiled round the dead body of the child Opheltes and attacked by two of the heroes, while in the background Hypsipyle is seen retreating, with her hands held up in horror and her pitcher lying at her feet. See W. H. Roscher, Lexikon der griech. und röm. Mythologie, i.473; Baumeister, Denkmaler des klassichen Altertums, i.113, fig. 119. The death of Opheltes or Archemorus is also the subject of a fine vase-painting, which shows the dead boy lying on a bier and attended by two women, one of whom is about to crown him with a wreath of myrtle, while the other holds an umbrella over his head to prevent, it has been suggested, the sun's rays from being defiled by falling on a corpse. Amongst the figures in the painting, which are identified by inscriptions, is seen the mother Eurydice standing in her palace between the suppliant Hypsipyle on one side and the dignified Amphiaraus on the other. See E. Gerhard, “Archemoros,” Gesammelte Abhandlungen (Berlin, 1866- 1868) i.5ff., with Abbildungen, taf. i.; K. Friederichs, Praxiteles und die Niobegruppe (Leipzig, 1855), pp. 123ff.; Baumeister, op. cit. i.114, fig. 120.

2 See above, Apollod. 1.9.17.

3 That is, “beginner of doom”; hence “ominous,” “foreboding.” The name is so interpreted by Bacch. 8.14, ed. Jebb, σᾶμα μέλλοντος φόνου, by the Scholiast on Pind. N., Arg. pp. 424ff. ed. Boeckh, and by Lactantius Placidus in his commentary on Statius, Theb. iv 717.

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