Torch: WI - Page 19

you thought you knew mythology?

by michael kearney, marquette alumnus


Erginus (in a story reminiscent of Hannibal) promised his dying father Clymenus that he would destroy the murderous Thebans. He thus conquered Thebes, took away all the men’s armor, and forced the Thebans to pay the annual tribute of one hundred oxen for the next twenty years. Every year, Erginus sent heralds to collect the tribute, but one year they were unfortunate enough to run into Heracles. Warning: grisly. “Heracles cut off their ears and noses, hung them around their necks, and send them thus back to Orchomenus as ‘tribute’” (Tripp 278). Maddened, Erginus therefore attacked Thebes, ostensibly doomed to destruction because its citizens had no weapons. Heracles, however, devised a plan—telling the Theban youths to put on the rusting armor dedicated in temples by their forefathers. The Thebans managed to catch the attackers in a narrow pass, utterly routing the Orchomenians, who were then forced to pay tribute double the Thebans’ former requirements.

Erginus—wifeless, childless, and poor—later went to Delphi to discover how he might change his fortunes. She advised “to fix a new tip to his plow.” Erginus consequently married a young woman, and had the children Trophonius and Agamedes by her (their story is equally interesting to learn). Late in his life, Erginus challenged Zetes and Calais, the winged sons of Boreas, to a foot-race, which he somehow won—maybe because it was a foot-race.

4.Leros (Hyginus, Fabulae 2.33)

“There were no hares on the island of Leros, and a certain young man of the state, led by a liking for the breed, brought in from another country a pregnant female, and watched over her very carefully as she bore her young. When she had borne them, many of the citizens developed an interest, and by acquiring some for money, some as gifts, they all began to raise hares. In no long time such a multitude of hares was produced that the whole island was swarming with them. When men gave them nothing to eat, they made inroads on the grain fields and devoured everything” (2.33). The humans deployed themselves in a phalanx the width of the island and slowly pushed forward—and inch by inch the hares were driven into the sea (where they drowned, because they’re hares).

5.Some weird tribes — Arimaspians, Mossynoeci, Tibareni

Arimaspians: A one-eyed people who lived next to the Hyperboreans. They were engaged in a constant struggle against griffins, stealing their gold as often as possible.

Mossynoeci: Engage in public sexual promiscuity: “Whatever it is right to do openly before the people or in the marketplace, all this they do in their homes, but whatever acts we perform at home, these they perform out of doors in the midst of the streets, without blame” (Ap. Rhod. 2.1015). Their king ruled absolutely from the highest hut, but if he made a mistake, he was starved for a day.

Tibareni: The men effectively birth the children: “Here when wives bring forth children to their husbands, the men lie in bed and groan with their heads close bound; but the women tend them with food, and prepare child-birth baths for them” (Ap. Rhod. 2.1009).

Those are just a few of the many weird stories of mythology. Some are of course too risqué for description here, so I’ll leave those for you to find.

Mythology can be weird—whether zany, revolting, or purely unbelievable. Here are some stories you won’t find in Percy Jackson.

Following the Persian conquest of the Chersonese (in modern-day Istanbul), Artayctes was made governor of the region. He, unknown to Xerxes, seized the temple of Protesilaus and its treasures, and he further disgraced the area by there conducting extramarital affairs. The Athenians then captured the region and Artayctes, supposedly as Protesilaus’ punishment of the Persians. During his imprisonment, his guard was amazed to see dried fish leaping in his pan as they were cooked, which Artayctes understood as this sign: “‘it is to me that Protesilaus of Elaeus is trying to signify that although he is dead and dry, he has power given him by the god to take vengeance on me, who wronged him'” (9.120). The Persian promised to pay back double the money he had seized, but the Athenians remained unmoved. Their general Xanthippus ordered Artayctes hanged and his son stoned to death before his father’s eyes.

Asteropaeus was the leader of the Paeonians (Trojan allies during the War). At the start of the Iliad, he had been in Troy for only two weeks. Asteropaeus had a unique skill—he was ambidextrous and often threw two spears at once. Following the death of Patroclus, Achilles rampaged through everyone in his path, often depositing their corpses in the river Scamander (which later attacked Achilles, only to be doused by Hephaestus).

In Book 21, Achilles jumped on top of Asteropaeus while Scamander was deliberating how to punish Achilles’ impudence. Scamander then gave Asteropaeus the courage to fight against Achilles. “Asteropaeus hurled with both spears at once...with the one spear he smote the shield...with the other he smote the right forearm of Achilles a grazing blow, and the black blood gushed forth” (21.162-167). While Asteropaeus was soon killed, he was the only Trojan in the Iliad to draw blood from Achilles. His armor and sword were later awarded as prizes at the funeral games of Patroclus.

Turn to page 20 to read three more strange mythological stories.



Artayctes (Herodotus 7.33, 9.116-120)

Herodotus has many more, much weirder stories, but I’ll leave those to you to find.



Asteropaeus (Homer, Iliad 21.139-204)

This one is for Adam Abuhajir.

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