Peleus

Summary

Peleus (ancient Greek Πηλεύς Pēleús, Etruscan Pele) is in Greek mythology king of the Myrmidons of Phthia in Thessaly, the son of Aiakos (therefore also called the Aiakide) and Endeis (daughter of Cheiron). As husband of Thetis he was father of Achilleus, who was often called Pel(e)ide(s), Peleiade or Peleione (“Peleus” son”).

With his brother Telamon he conspired to kill a hated younger half-brother, Phokos. Telamon carried out the deed by throwing a discos at his head (they hid the body in the forest. The crime was discovered, however, and the brothers had to flee from their father”s home in Aigina.

Eurytion

Peleus went to Phthia in Thessaly to King Eurytion who cleansed him of his blood guilt and gave him his daughter Antigone together with the third part of his land as dowry. (According to other sources it was Aktor himself who cleansed Peleus and gave him his daughter Polymele as a wife). From this marriage sprang the beautiful Polydora. The alliance did not last long, however, because during the Calydonian hunt he accidentally killed his father-in-law Eurytion. Peleus had to flee again and ended up in Iolkos.

Akastos

After he had been desecrated again by Akastos of Iolkos (son of Pelias), he settled there. He is mentioned as a participant of the Argonaut procession and measured himself at the funeral games in honor of Pelias in the wrestling match with the Amazonian Atalanta.

However, he got into new mischief, because Astydameia (according to other sources: Hippolyte), Akastos” wife, fell in love with him. When he did not give in to her wooing, she slandered him to her husband: Peleus had stalked her virtue. She sent word to his wife that he wanted to marry Sterope, the daughter of Akastos; Antigone hanged herself out of grief. Akastos did not want to take offense at the one he had himself desecrated, but decided to consecrate him to death in a different way. He took him to Pelion to hunt and left the tired man lying helpless after depriving him of his sword. Thus the wild centaurs found him and would probably have killed him; Cheiron, however, (according to other sources: Hermes) took care of him and brought back his hidden sword.

Peleus took revenge by conquering Iolkos with the help of the Dioscuri (Tyndarids, according to some sources: and with Iason). He put Akastos to flight, killed Astydameia and had her dismembered limbs scattered and over them the army entered the city. The conquered Iolkos he handed over to Thessalos, son of Iason, with his Pelasgian Haimonians. When exactly this is supposed to have happened is difficult to determine – just as there are many chronological difficulties and confusions in the history of Peleus.

Marriage with Thetis

The most celebrated Peleus legend in image and song is probably that of his love union with the nereid Thetis, which gave rise to one of the most famous heroes of ancient mythology – the Thessalian national hero Achilles. After Peleus” first wife died, he won Thetis, whom the gods had destined to be his wife (according to an older, pre-Homeric legend, in a wrestling match). Zeus himself had shown interest in her, but had been warned by Prometheus that Thetis” son would be greater than his father; so she was destined for a mortal. The child of this marriage Achilleus, was entrusted to Cheiron for upbringing.

To the wedding of Peleus and Thetis were invited – except Eris – all Olympian gods. As a wedding gift, the groom received from Poseidon the immortal steeds Xanthos and Balios, from Cheiron the great, heavy lance, and from the others all those weapons with which Achilles would later fight before Troy. Eris, however, the uninvited goddess of strife, in revenge threw a golden apple among the guests, which bore the inscription “The Fairest”. As a result, a quarrel broke out between Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, which led to the judgment of Paris, the “Rape of Helen” and ultimately to the Trojan War.

Later years

Peleus used to hospitably receive fugitives. For example, Phoinix, who – cursed by his father Amyntor – sought protection in Phthia. In another version Amyntor had his eyes gouged out: Cheiron healed the blind man, and Peleus subsequently made him king of the Dolopians. Also Epeigeus, the former ruler of Budeion who had fled because of murder, found admission; as well as Patroklos, who had killed Cleitonymos in anger and later became Achilleus” most trusted friend.

Peleus also tried to reconcile Actor – whose father Eurytion he had accidentally killed during the hunt, as told above – by offering him a large herd of cattle as a gift; the latter, however, refused. Thus he let the animals run then, after the oracle had been consulted, as instructed without shepherds. The cattle fell victim to a wolf, which was subsequently transformed into a stone, which could be seen for a long time between Lokris and Phocis.

Age and death

The fact that Peleus reached a great age is already emphasized several times in the epic. The Iliad mentions him in several places, although he himself did not participate in the Trojan War.

According to Euripides, Peleus – after the Greeks returned home from Troy – was driven out of Phthia by Archandros and Architeles, the sons of Akastos (or Akastos himself). On the island of Kos he met his grandson Neoptolemos, who killed them and helped Peleus to return. Later, driven away again by Orestes, he fled again to Kos, where he died in Kümmernis: If his only son Achilleus had already fallen before Troy, he now also had to learn of the death of Neoptolemos, whose body was brought by Andromache. According to other sources, the grandson succeeded his ancestors in Phthia.

An allegorizing interpretation results from the derivation of the name Peleus from “pelos” (ancient Greek πηλός ”clay, loam”) and the consideration of the sea nymph Thetis as the personified water: Thus the human race is supposed to have emerged from this connection. Apollo – as Phoibos a sun god – was not allowed to come to the wedding, because fire and water extinguish each other. Also Eris was not invited, because for the procreation of humans unity, not discord is required.

According to Preller, Peleus is supposed to mean the same as “Pallas” (Πάλλας, with stress on the first syllable): a wielder, the “wielder of the terrible lance of death” from Pelion, which passed from Peleus to his son Achilleus. However, this derivation is questionable. The verb “pallo” (“Pallas” (Παλλάς) in turn – with emphasis on the second syllable – means ”youth, girl” and was, among other things, an epithet of Athena.

Mount Peleus in Antarctica is named after him.

Sources

  1. Peleus
  2. Peleus
  3. Scholion zu Pindar, Nemeische Oden 5,12; Scholion zu Ilias 16,14; Hyginus, Fabulae 14
  4. Plutarch, Theseus 10; Pausanias 2,29,7; Apollodorus 3,2,6; Gale adl. c. Cf. Mezir. sur les ep. d’Ovid 1,144
  5. Pausanias, Corinth 29,140
  6. Apollodorus 3,13,2
  7. Scholion zu Lykophron 175,901
  8. ^ Peleus is mentioned in Homer”s Odyssey during the conversation between Odysseus and the dead Achilles.
  9. ^ The island lies in the Saronic Gulf opposite the coast of Epidaurus; it had once been called Oenone, Pausanias was informed.
  10. ^ In poetry he and Telamon are sometimes the Endeides, the “sons of Endeis”; see, for example, Pausanias 2.29.10.
  11. Peleo se menciona en la Odisea de Homero durante la conversación entre Odiseo y el difunto Aquiles.
  12. 1 2 Н. О. Пелей // Энциклопедический словарь — СПб.: Брокгауз — Ефрон, 1898. — Т. XXIII. — С. 111.
  13. Антигона // Энциклопедический словарь / под ред. И. Е. Андреевский — СПб.: Брокгауз — Ефрон, 1890. — Т. Iа. — С. 833.
  14. Пелей / 46839 // Большой энциклопедический словарь / Гл. ред. А. М. Прохоров. — 1-е изд. — М. : Большая российская энциклопедия, 1991. — ISBN 5-85270-160-2.
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