Aethra bore to Aegeus a son Theseus, and when he was grown up, he pushed away the rock and took up the sandals and the sword,1 and hastened on foot to Athens. And he cleared2 the road, which had been beset by evildoers. For first in Epidaurus he slew Periphetes, son of Hephaestus and Anticlia, who was surnamed the Clubman from the club which he carried. For being crazy on his legs he carried an iron club, with which he despatched the passers-by. That club Theseus wrested from him and continued to carry about.3 [2] Second, he killed Sinis, son of Polypemon and Sylea, daughter of Corinthus. This Sinis was surnamed the Pine-bender; for inhabiting the Isthmus of Corinth he used to force the passersby to keep bending pine trees; but they were too weak to do so, and being tossed up by the trees they perished miserably. In that way also Theseus killed Sinis.4

1 The tokens of paternity left by his human father Aegeus. See above, Apollod. 3.15.7.

2 Literally, “tamed.” As to the adventures of Theseus on his road to Athens, see Bacch. 17(18).16ff., ed. Jebb; Diod. 4.59; Plut. Thes. 8ff.; Paus. 1.44.8; Paus. 2.1.3ff.; Scholiast on Lucian, Jupiter Tragoedus 21, pp. 64ff., ed. H. Rabe; Ov. Met. 7.433ff.; Ovid, Ibis 407ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 38.

3 Compare Diod. 4.59.2; Plut. Thes. 8.1; Paus. 2.1.4; Ov. Met. 7.436; Hyginus, Fab. 38. Periphetes dwelt in Epidaurus, which Theseus had to traverse on his way from Troezen to the Isthmus of Corinth. No writer but Apollodorus mentions that this malefactor was weak on his legs; the infirmity suggests that he may have used his club as a crutch on which to hobble along like a poor cripple, till he was within striking distance of his unsuspecting victims, when he surprised them by suddenly lunging out and felling them to the ground.

4 Compare Bacch. 17(18).19ff., ed. Jebb; Diod. 4.59.3; Plut. Thes. 8.2; Paus. 2.1.4; Scholiast on Lucian, Jupiter Tragoedus 21; Scholiast on Pind. I., Arg. p. 514, ed. Boeckh; Ov. Met. 7.440ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 38. Bacchylides, the Scholiast on Pindar, and Hyginus call Sinis a son of Poseidon (Neptune). The ancients are not agreed as to the exact mode in which the ruffian Sinis despatched his victims. According to Diodorus, Pausanias, and the Scholiast on Pindar he bent two pine-trees to the ground, tied the extremities of his victim to both trees, and then let the trees go, which, springing up and separating, tore the wretch's body in two. This atrocious form of murder was at a later time actually employed by the emperor Aurelian in a military execution. See Vopiscus, Aurelian, 7.4. A Ruthenian pirate, named Botho, is said to have put men to death in similar fashion. See Saxo Grammaticus, Historia Danica, bk. vii. vol. i. pp. 353ff., ed. P. E. Müller. According to Hyginus, Sinis, with the help of his victim, dragged down a pine-tree to the earth; then, when the man was struggling to keep the tree down, Sinis released it, and in the rebound the man was tossed up into the air and killed by falling heavily to the ground. Apollodorus seems to have contemplated a similar mode of death, except that he does not mention the cooperation of Sinis in bending the tree to the earth. According to the Parian ChronicleMarmor Parium 35ff.) it was not on his journey from Troezen to Athens that Theseus killed Sinis, but at a later time, after he had come to the throne and united the whole of Attica under a single government; he then returned to the Isthmus of Corinth, killed Sinis, and celebrated the Isthmian games. This tradition seems to imply that Theseus held the games as a funeral honour paid to the dead man, or more probably as an expiation to appease the angry ghost of his victim. This implication is confirmed by the Scholiast on Pindar, who says that according to some people Theseus held the Isthmian games in honour of Sinis, whom he had killed. Plutarch tells us Plut. Thes. 8.2 that when Theseus had killed Sinis, the daughter of the dead man, by name Perigune, fled and hid herself in a bed of asparagus; that she bore a son Melanippus to Theseus, and that Melanippus had a son Ioxus, whose descendants, the Ioxids, both men and women, revered and honoured asparagus and would not burn it, because asparagus had once sheltered their ancestress. This hereditary respect shown by all the members of a family or clan for a particular species of plant is reminiscent of totemism, though it is not necessarily a proof of it.

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  • Cross-references in notes to this page (1):
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    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.15.7
    • Bacchylides, Dithyrambs, 18
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.44.8
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.1.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.1.4
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 7.433
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    • Plutarch, Theseus, 8
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