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[36] When Telegonus learned from Circe that he was a son of Ulysses, he sailed in search of him. And having come to the island of Ithaca, he drove away some of the cattle, and when Ulysses defended them, Telegonus wounded him with the spear he had in his hands, which was barbed with the spine of a sting-ray, and Ulysses died of the wound.1


1 Compare Oppian, Halieut. ii.497-500; Scholia Graeca in Homeri Odysseam, ed. G. Dindorf, vol. i. p. 6; Hom. Od. 11.134; Eustathius on Hom. Od. xi.133, p. 1676; Philostratus, Vit. Apollon. vi.32; Philostratus, Her. iii.42; Parthenius, Narrat. 3; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 794; Scholiast on Aristoph. Plutus 303; Cicero, Tusc. Disp. ii.21.48ff.; Hor. Carm. 3.29.8; Hyginus, Fab. 127; Ovid, Ibis 567ff.; Dictys Cretensis vi.14ff.; Serv. Verg. A. 2.44. The fish (τρυγών), whose spine is said to have barbed the fatal spear, is the common stingray (Trygon pastinaca), as I learn from Professor D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, who informs me that the fish is abundant in the Mediterranean and not uncommon on our southern coasts. For ancient descriptions of the fish he refers me to Oppian, Halieut. ii.470ff. (the locus classicus); Ael., Nat. Anim. i.56; Nicander, Ther. 828ff. According to Aelian, the wound inflicted by the stingray is incurable. Hercules is said to have lost one of his fingers by the bite of a stingray (Ptolemy Hephaest., Nov. Hist. ii. in Westermann's Mythographi Graeci, p. 184). Classical scholars, following Liddell and Scott, sometimes erroneously identify the fish with the roach. The death of Ulysses through the wound of a stingray is foreshadowed in the prophecy of Tiresias that his death would come from the sea (Hom. Od. 11.134ff.). According to a Scholiast on Hom. (Scholia Graeca in Homeri Odysseam, ed. G. Dindorf, vol. i. p. 6), Hyginus, and Dictys Cretensis, Ulysses had been warned by an oracle or a dream to beware of his son, who would kill him; accordingly, fearing to be slain by Telemachus, he banished him to Cephallenia (Dictys Cretensis vi.14). But he forgot his son Telegonus, whom he had left behind with his mother Circe in her enchanted island. The death of Ulysses at the hands of his son Telegonus was the subject of a tragedy by Sophocles. See The Fragments of Sophocles, ed. A. C. Pearson, vol. ii. pp. 105ff.

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