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Q: family tragedy/resolution ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   10 Comments )
Subject: family tragedy/resolution
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: j10-ga
List Price: $35.00
Posted: 19 Sep 2003 12:58 PDT
Expires: 19 Oct 2003 12:58 PDT
Question ID: 258334
for hiabadie-ga
Who are the mythical (greek tragedy included) Mothers/Fathers who killed 
their children?
Who are the Mothers/Fathers who envied their children?
Who are the Mothers/Fathers who poisoned their children?
Not too cheery questions, but the tips the thing.  take your time
Subject: Re: family tragedy/resolution
Answered By: hlabadie-ga on 24 Sep 2003 13:40 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
The mythic theme of parental infanticide is recurrent within Greek and
Roman literature. The Greeks attributed the practice to both gods and
heroes (human descendants of deities). It will be noticed that stories
appear to cluster around certain characters or families, that some
elements occur almost universally (a rivalry between brothers, for
instance, i.e., Atreus and Thyestes, Acrisius and Proteus, Sisyphus
and Salmoneus, Romulus and Remus), and that infanticide is more often
than not a vengeful act by a mother in reaction to some outrage.


Among the gods, Cronos the son of Ouranos and Gaia (Sky and Earth) was
said to have consumed his children at birth, lest they overthrow him
as he had his own father. His wife and sister Rhea was enraged by this
practice, and, when she was about to be delivered of Zeus, fled to
Crete where she gave birth in the cave Dicte. Rhea then presented
Cronos with a stone wrapped in a cloth which he swallowed, thinking it
Zeus. Zeus was suckled by the goat Amalthea, and his nannies were the
nymphs Adrastia and Ida. After he grew up, Zeus succeeded in taking
control of the universe from Cronos and compelled him to regurgitate
the eaten children, who then assumed roles as the familiar Olympian
gods. The story is told by the poet Hesiod in his Theogony and
repeated in many sources thereafter, including The Library of

Hesiod - Theogony

Library Book I


An interesting example of cultural assimilation can be found in the
story related by Philo of Byblus, who wrote in the AD late 1st/early
2nd Centuries. In a passage preserved by the Patristic historian
Eusebius, Philo says that among the Semitic speaking peoples of the
East: "It was an ancient custom in a crisis of great danger that the
ruler of a city or nation should give his beloved son to die for the
whole people, as a ransom offered to the avenging demons; and the
children this offered were slain with mystic rites. So Cronos, whom
the Phoenicians call Israel, being king of the land and having an
only-begotten son called Jeoud (for in the Phoenician tongue Jeoud
signifies 'only begotten'), dressed him in royal robes and sacrificed
him upon an altar in a time of war, when the country was in great
danger from the enemy." (Quoted by Frazer in The Dying God, volume 3
of The Golden Bough, Macmillan/St. Martin's Press, 1921, 1966 London
and New York, page 166.)

Obviously, a much older story pertaining to the Moloch cult of
Phoenicia has been equated with a Greek myth by the thoroughly
Hellenized Philo or his immediate sources.

Redaction of the Decalogue: Circumcision and the Sacrifice

"The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (1st century B.C.) reports that
once (in the year 310 B.C.) a great disaster was threatening the city
of Carthage. The people ascribed their calamity to the anger of
Cronos, to whom they once had sacrificed their best children, but then
offered him only bought or weakly children. Thereupon the
Carthaginians sacrificed two hundred children from the best families.
A child was laid in the arms of a bronze statue of Cronos and would
then roll off into a burning oven (Library XX, xiv). Philo of Byblos,
who wrote a History of the Phoenicians around A.D. 100, reports that
child sacrifice was customary among the Phoenicians. In times of
national danger, 'The Phoenicians sacrificed their dearest children in
a mysterious fashion.' Cathage similarly has a reputation for the
sacrificial burning of children sometimes, according to Diodorus even
with a great scaffold in which a many-armed sculpture in the form of a
god tipped the child sacrifices into a flaming pyre (Ranke-Heinmann
286, Smith R 363, 374)."


Tantalus stands at the head of perhaps the most convoluted and tragic
family history in Greek mythology. Tantalus was the king of Sipylus
(NE of Smyrna in Asia Minor) and was variously alleged to have been
the son of Zeus or one or another of the major deities. In any case,
he was a favorite of the Olympians, being permitted to attend their
banquets. On one occasion, Tantalus was host to the gods, and he
decided, for reasons not entirely clear, to serve up his son Pelops as
the meat in a stew, which he did. The gods immediately detected the
abominable ingredient, except for Demeter, who was preoccupied by
mourning for her daughter Persephone. Demeter absentmindedly ate the
shoulder that had been served to her. Tantalus was duly punished (his
name became a byword for unfulfilled desire after he was thrown into
Tartarus, eternally condemned to be immersed up to his waist in a pool
the water of which receded whenever he bent to drink and flowed back
when he straightened, and with fruit suspended above his head just out
of reach), and Zeus brought Pelops back to life. Hermes was ordered to
boil the remains of Pelops in the same cauldron used to prepare the
stew, and the boy was magically restored to life. To make up for the
shoulder that had been eaten by Demeter, he was given an ivory

Hyginus 82 Tantalus

Pelops went on to found a powerful house that ruled much of Greece.
However, the sin of Tantalus hung over them as a familial curse, which
had to be expiated through a succession of tragedies by his

After his resurrection, Pelops became a favorite of Poseidon, who
whisked him away to Olympus. Thinking that Pelops was dead, Broteas
became the heir of Tantalus in Sipylus. Broteas was succeeded by his
son Tantalus II. After a long absence, Pelops tried to settle again in
Phrygia, but was driven out and crossed over to the Greek city state
of Pisa (not the Italian one). With the aid of a magical chariot and
team of horses given him by Poseidon, Pelops won a race against
Oenomaus of Pisa and took his throne and his daughter Hippodameia. He
expanded the kingdom and renamed the whole lower portion of Greece the
Peloponnesus. By Hippodameia, Pelops had a large number of children.
Of them , sons Pittheus became ruler of Troezen and Atreus and
Thyestes joint rulers of Mycenae, and daughters Astydameia (mother of
Amphitryon) and Eurydice (mother of Alcmene). (The race with Oenomaus
is important, but too long to recite. Suffice it to say that Pelops
made a deal with Myrtilus the charioteer of Oenomaus that he could
enjoy Hippodameia on the wedding night of Pelops and Hippodameia, if
he helped throw the race. Pelops then reneged and cast Mrytilus from
the chariot into the sea --it could fly-- and Myrtilus set a curse on
Pelops and his entire family with his dying breath, continuing the
ill-starred history of the Tantalids.)

Atreus and Thyestes

This portion of the story is very involved. Atreus and Thyestes became
rivals for the throne of Mycenae, playing one another false at turns.
Atreus was married to Aerope, by whom he had Agamemnon, Menelaus,
(more about them later) and Anaxibia. (He had another son, Pleithenes,
by his first wife Cleola who died in childbirth, but Pleithenes was
mistakenly murdered by assassins who had been sent by Atreus to murder
the son of Thyestes.) Thyestes by a trick and the connivance of Aerope
had gotten himself elected sole ruler of Mycenae. Atreus extracted a
promise from Thyestes that he would abdicate in his favor is the sun
would move backward in the sky, a seeming impossibility. However, Zeus
had already arranged the miracle with Helius, and Thyestes was
dethroned and exiled. Atreus wasn't finished with him yet. He lured
Thyestes back with a promise of amnesty and joint rule, and then slew
the five children of his brother who still resided in Mycenae. He
cooked them and gave them to Thyestes, just as Tantalus had killed and
cooked Pelops for the gods. Atreus presented Thyestes with the
decapitated heads of the children to show him what he had eaten, and
Thyestes swooned, vomiting and putting yet another curse on Atreus and
all of his line.

Thyestes fled to Sicyon, where his daughter Pelopeia was a priestess.
He had been told that by the Oracle of Delphi that the only way to get
revenge on Atreus was to father a child on his own daughter.
Accordingly, he ravished Pelopeia while disguised, but she managed to
steal his sword. Atreus, meanwhile, repenting of his crimes, had been
told by the Oracle that he must recall Thyestes from Sicyon. Going
there, he was too late to find his brother, but he developed a passion
for Pelopeia, whom he assumed was the daughter of the king of Sicyon.
Having already killed Aerope, he asked for Pelopeia in marriage, and
the alliance was made. Pelopeia, ashamed of her rape, tried to kill
the son that she bore, exposing him on a mountain, but Atreus
recovered the child through the agency of his goatherds. He forgave
Pelopeia for her post partum insanity, and named the boy Aegisthus.

All the curses began to add up by this time, and a famine befell
Mycenae. Atreus dispatched his elder sons Agamemnon and Menelaus to
Delphi to get information on Thyestes. Luck was with them, and they
met their uncle as he was coming away from the Oracle. They took him
back to Mycenae, where he was imprisoned. Atreus had it in his mind to
kill Thyestes, and he sent his youngest son Aegisthus to stab him
while he slept. Taking the sword that Pelopeia had retained from the
night of her rape, Aegisthus attempted the murder, but he was
overpowered. Thyestes immediately recognized the sword (another
recurring point) and understood that Aegisthus was his own son. He
speared him on condition that he perform certain tasks. First, he must
bring Pelopeia to him. Thyestes explained that the sword was his, and
Pelopeia grabbed it and committed suicide on the spot. Thyestes then
sent Aegisthus with the bloody sword to Atreus to tell him that
Thyestes was dead. Atreus went off exalting to make a thanksgiving
sacrifice, and then Thyestes revealed himself to Aegisthus as his real
father, ordering him to kill Atreus, which he did. Thus, Thyestes
ruled again in Mycenae.


Agamemnon and Menelaus fled to Oeneus of Aetolia, where they received
refuge. Eventually, Tyndareus of Sparta avenged them and restored
Agamemnon to the throne of Mycenae by force of arms, Thyestes and
Aegisthus going into exile. Agamemnon then set about conquering the
kingdoms of some of his relations. He took Pisa from Tantalus II, and
married his widow, Clytemnestra was the daughter of Tyndareus and
Leda. Leda, it will be recalled from general knowledge, had been
ravished by Zeus in the form of a swan, and had produced two eggs from
which were born tow sets of twins, Clytemnestra and Helen, Castor and
Polydeuces, the later known as the Dioscuri (it was said that
Polydeuces and Helen were the children of Zeus, while Castor and
Clytemnestra were the children of Tyndareus). Castor and Polydeuces
prepared to go to war against Agamemnon, but Tyndareus intervened and
forgave Agamemnon. Helen was won in a famous competition by Menelaus,
to whom Tyndareus ceded Sparta. (When she was still a child, Helen was
already accounted the most beautiful woman in Greece, and she was
abducted by Theseus, already a middle-aged man. She was recovered by
her brothers while Theseus was in Tartarus to rescue his friend.)

Clytemnestra had four children by Agamemnon, a son Orestes, and
daughters Iphigeneia, Electra, and Chrysothemis. To condense the
narrative, Helen ran off with Alexandros (called Paris, the son of
Priam of Troy) and Agamemnon and Menelaus mounted an expedition to
retrieve her. When Agamemnon killed a stag sacred to Artemis at the
staging point of Aulis, the goddess prevented the fleet from sailing,
and an oracle proclaimed that only the sacrifice of Agamemnon's
daughter Iphigeneia would placate the goddess. Agamemnon sent for
Iphigeneia, not divulging his purpose, and performed the sacrifice.
(One version of the story has it that Artemis cast a confusion over
the altar at the last second and substituted a heifer for the girl,
taking her away.)

Clytemnestra was naturally outraged, and she began to plot against
Agamemnon with Aegisthus, who had begun courting her in Agamemnon's
absence. The result was that the couple murdered Agamemnon on his
return after the ten-year long Trojan War. Orestes was spirited away
by his tutor, and Electra and Chrysothemis languished at home,
oppressed by their mother and the usurper because of Electra's
constant lamentations and denunciations. Clytemnestra had only one
fear, that Orestes would return to avenge his father, but a ruse
convinced her that Orestes had been killed in a chariot race, and she
rejoiced at the news. Orestes returned in disguise and killed both his
mother and Aegisthus, bringing an end to the long saga of family
bloodshed that had begun with Tantalus.

Tantalus 1, Breek Mythology Links

House of Pelops


Hyginus 88 Atreus

Sophocles Electra

Google Answer

Peresus Project Texts

Sophocles, Electra (ed. Sir Richard Jebb)




(Note, due to problems posting the full text of the Answer in the
Answer field provided, the Answer will be completed in the Comments.)

Clarification of Answer by hlabadie-ga on 24 Sep 2003 13:43 PDT
Part 2 of the Answer:


Among the heroes, the story of Theseus, Phaedra, and Hippolytus is
well-known in myth and tragedy. The Athenian hero Theseus was himself
almost the victim of murder by his father Aegeus. Aegeus (or Aegeus
and Poseidon) had sired Theseus by Aethra, daughter of Pittheus (of
Troezen). Suspecting that she might become pregnant, Aegeus had left a
sword with her, which he directed her to give to a son if indeed one
were born. Eventually, Theseus, learning who his father was, went to
Athens to declare himself. During the intervening years, however,
Aegeus had married the Colchian witch Medea (of whom much is told
elsewhere), and Medea foresaw the arrival of Theseus. She feared him
as the heir of Aegeus, and she persuaded Aegeus that the visitor was a
spy and that it would be wise to kill him with a cup of poisoned wine.
Aegeus was handing the cup to Theseus when he saw the sword hanging at
his belt and recognized it. He knew that the young man was his son and
Theseus was saved. I digress.

Theseus had fathered a son, Hippolytus, by the Amazon Antiope, whom
Theseus later killed in battle during the invasion of Attica by the
Amazons. Theseus sent the boy to be raised by Pittheus, who made him
heir to his kingdom. Among the many wives and mistresses of Theseus
was Phaedra, sister of the king of Crete and of Ariadne (another of
Theseus' conquests), by whom Theseus had two legitimate sons,
DemophoŲn and Acamas. Phaedra, by a spell cast on her by Aphrodite,
fell in love with Hippolytus at first sight when he came to Athens to
participate in the Eleusinian mysteries. Phaedra confessed her love to
Hippolytus, who reproached her, and she tore her clothing and accused
him of attempted rape in revenge. She committed suicide and leaves a
note accusing Hippolytus. Theseus banished Hippolytus and in his grief
wished by Poseidon (his putative co-sire) that a beast should emerge
from the sea and kill Hippolytus that very day. Hippolytus was driving
his chariot along the shore when a great bull came roaring from the
sea and pursued him. The terrified horses bolted uncontrollably, and
Hippolytus was thrown from the chariot entangled in the reins and was
torn apart on the shingle. Artemis reveals to Theseus the truth and
reconciles the dying son and his father.

Plutarch Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans

The Internet Classics Archive | Theseus by Plutarch

"On the eighth day of Cronius, now called Hecatombaeon, he arrived at
Athens, where he found the public affairs full of all confusion, and
divided into parties and factions, Aegeus also, and his whole private
family, labouring under the same distemper; for Medea, having fled
from Corinth, and promised Aegeus to make him, by her art, capable of
having children, was living with him. She first was aware of Theseus,
whom as yet Aegeus did not know, and he being in years, full of
jealousies and suspicions, and fearing everything by reason of the
faction that was then in the city, she easily persuaded him to kill
him by poison at a banquet, to which he was to be invited as a
stranger. He, coming to the entertainment, thought it not fit to
discover himself at once, but willing to give his father the occasion
of first finding him out, the meat being on the table, he drew his
sword as if he designed to cut with it; Aegeus, at once recognising
the token, threw down the cup of poison, and, questioning his son,
embraced him, and having gathered together all his citizens, owned him
publicly before them, who, on their part, received him gladly for the
fame of his greatness and bravery; and it is said, that when the cup
fell, the poison was spilt there where now is the enclosed space in
the Delphinium; for in that place stood Aegeus's house, and the figure
of Mercury on the east side of the temple is called the Mercury of
Aegeus's gate."


Mythography | The Greek Hero Theseus


Athamas was king of Orchomenus. He was given Nephele as a bride by
Zeus. Nephele was made from clouds in the image of the queen of
Olympus, Hera, by Zeus, in order to deceive Sisyphus, who had
developed a mad infatuation with Hera. After Sisyphus had been
deceived and punished, Zeus gave Nephele in marriage to Athamas.
Nephele had two children by Athamas, Phrixus and Helle. Athamas then
divorced Nephele to marry Ino, and he had two sons by her, Learchus
and Melicertes. When Orchomenus was stricken by drought, Athamas sent
to the Oracle to find out the remedy, but Ino bribed the messenger to
report a false oracular pronouncement, to the effect that Athamas must
sacrifice Phrixus and Helle to Zeus. Athamas prepared the sacrifice,
but a golden ram appeared and flew off with the children. Helle fell
to her death in the body of water called after her, Hellespont, but
Phrixus clung to the ram's coat and was borne to Colchis. Athamas was
driven mad, and slew his son Learchus, but Ino escaped with Melicertes
by jumping off a cliff into the sea. In Roman myth, Ino and Melicertes
were rescued by naiads and transformed into the minor deities
Leucothea and Palaemon, the latter of whom was identified with the
Roman deity Portunus, the god of the harbors.


Greek Mythology - Palaimon the S...

The Fasti
VI.488-502, 546-548


Diomedes was the son of Aeson, king of Iolcos. Aeson was ousted and
exiled by his brother Pelias, and Diomedes was reared secretly by the
Centaur Cheiron, who called the boy Jason. Leaving aside all of the
circumstances leading to the launching of the Argo and the events of
the voyage to Colchis, it is enough to know that Jason was sent on a
fool's errand to Colchis to retrieve the fleece of the Golden Ram that
had carried Phrixus to safety. The fleece was guarded by an unsleeping
dragon, and the king of Colchis, the exiled Corinthian AeŽtes, was
unwilling to give up the fleece. He set some impossible tasks of his
own, but Jason succeeded, helped by Medea, the daughter of AeŽtes, a
powerful witch in the service of Hecate. Medea had fallen in love with
Jason, having been placed under a spell by Aphrodite, and Jason had
made a solemn promise to be faithful to her if she would assist him.
When Jason completed the tasks that had been set for him, AeŽtes tried
to cheat him, but the Argonauts seized the fleece and fought their way
back to the Argo, setting sail with the Colchians in pursuit. Medea
had taken her brother Apsyrtis with them, and she killed him and
scattered his dismembered body on the sea, knowing that the Colchians
would stop long enough to gather the remains, thereby giving the Argo
time to escape.

Returning to Greece, Jason and Medea settled in Corinth, where Medea
claimed the throne for Jason, she being the only surviving child of
AeŽtes, who had been the king there before his expulsion by Corinthus.
Corinthus had died without issue, and Jason was accepted as king. He
ruled prosperously for ten years, but he began to suspect that Medea
had poisoned Corinthus, and he also had formed the idea of making
Glauce, daughter of king Creon of Thebes, his wife. Medea reminded him
of his vow and of his debt to her for his kingship, but he declared
his intention of divorcing her. In despair at this ill treatment,
Medea poisoned their children and fled to Athens, where she claimed
sanctuary of Aegeus.


ClassicNotes: Euripides



Harpalyce was the daughter of Clymenus and Epicaste. Clymenus
incestuously raped Harpalyce and then married her to Alastor. Clymenus
later annulled the marriage and took her back. As revenge, Harpalyce
killed the son that he had fathered on her and cooked the corpse,
which she then served. Clymenus committed suicide. Harpalyce was
transformed into a bird of prey.

Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths, 111.p


Sisyphus (more famous for his exemplary punishment in Tartarus) was
cheated of the throne of Thessaly by his brother Salmoneus. The Oracle
of Delphi advised him to father children on his niece, Tyro, and that
they would avenge him. Sisyphus courted Tyro secretly and had by him
two sons. When she learned of his true motive for his interest in her,
political intrigue against her father, she murdered the sons.
Ironically, Sisyphus proved the Oracle correct. He displayed the dead
bodies in the marketplace of Larissa and accused Salmoneous of incest
and the murder of the children, and the people ostracized Salmoneous.

Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths, 67.e

In addition to the story of Pentheus, told in The Baccahe, there are
other similar stories.


Leucippe and her two sisters were daughters of Minyas, king of
Orchomenus. They disdained the Bacchanalia, which was in progress at
the time. Despite that Dionysus himself invited them to join him they
refused. The god then maddened them, and Hippasus the son of Leucippe
was selected by lot to become a sacrifice to Dionysus. The boy was
torn to bits and devoured by the three women, who were then
metamorphosed into bats.

Metamorphoses, IV. 1-40, 390-415 (Latin) (translation)

Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths, 27.g
Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1955, 1966

Classical Mythology Online - Myth Summary for Chapter 25 25/summary.html 


Lysippe, Iphinoe, and Iphianassa were daughters of Proteus the son of
Abas, ruler of Tiryns, and joint ruler of Argos with his brother
Acrisius. According to Apollodorus, Hesiod wrote in a lost portion of
the Catalogues of Women, that the three were driven mad by Dionysus
and went rampaging through the Argive countryside, infecting other
women to such a degree that many killed their own children.
Eventually, they and the others were cured of their madness by their
kinsman Melampus.

"But Melampus, son of Amythaon by Idomene, daughter of Abas, being a
seer and the first to devise the cure by means of drugs and
purifications, promised to cure the maidens if he should receive the
third part of the sovereignty. When Proteus refused to pay so high a
fee for the cure, the maidens raved more than ever, and besides that,
the other women raved with them; for they also abandoned their houses,
destroyed their own children, and flocked to the desert."

Apollodorus, The LIbrary, II.1-2, Harvard University Press, Harvard,
1921,1967, trans. Frazer, James George, pp.145-149


Clarification of Answer by hlabadie-ga on 24 Sep 2003 13:46 PDT
Part 3 of the Answer:



From Norse mythology, there is the story of Aun (or On) king of the
Swedes, who sacrificed his sons serially to Odin. For each sacrifice,
he received an additional nine years of life./ He was prevented by the
people from making a tenth sacrifice died at a great age.

Human Sacrifice in Legends and Myths

"After that King Aun came back to Uppsala when he was sixty years old,
and he then offered a great sacrifice in order to have long life. He
gave to Odin his son, who was then sacrificed to him. King Aun had
this answer from Odin, that he should still live for sixty years.

Aun was king in Uppsala for another twenty-five years until Ali the
Bold, son of Frieleiv, came with his army to Sweden again King Aun.
They fought several battles and Ali always won. Then King Aun fled a
second time from his kingdom and went to West Gautland. Ali was king
in Uppsala and ruled the kingdom again for twenty-five years until
Starkad the Old slew him.

After Ali's death, King Aun went back to Uppsala and ruled the kingdom
again for twenty-five years. He then made a great sacrifice and
offered his second son. Odin then told him he should go on living as
long as he gave him a son every ten years and further gave a name to
each of the districts of his land according to the number of those
sons he offered up to Odin.

When he had offered up seven of his sons he lived for ten years till
he could not walk and had to be borne on a stool. Then he sacrificed
his eighth son and lived for ten more years, but now he had to lie in
his bed. Then he offered up his ninth son and lived for another ten
years, but now he drank from his horn like a baby.

Aun had now one son left, and would sacrifice him. He wanted to give
Odin Uppsala and the lordships which lie thereto, and he had it called
Tiundaland [the tenth land]. But the Swedes forbade him, and the
offering was put off. Thereupon King Aun died and was buried in a howe
near Uppsala."

Yngling Saga

"14. AUN (ON OR ANE) THE OLD - King of Sweden until 380 A.D. Aun was
not a warrior, but stayed "quietly at home." Several times he fled
from attackers, always returning. In return for a long life, Aun
sacrificed nine of his sons. At last the people of Sweden refused to
let him sacrifice the tenth son. Aun died without pain at a very old


Of the multitude of infants who were exposed in myth, and in addition
to those already mentioned, these are the more well-known. All have a
common set of plot details: a prophecy that threatens catastrophe to
the nation or the parent if the child is born or survives, exposure of
the infant, rescue of the infant by herders, a surprise return by the
exposed child as an adult and the fulfillment of the prophecy.


The story of Oedipus is too famous to need extensive exposition. The
prophecy that any son born of Jocasta would kill his father brought
about his exposure. Hearing a similar prophecy as an adult, he assumed
that his adoptive parents, Polybus and Periboea, were meant and fled.
The story of how he killed his father Laius at the crossroads,
liberated Thebes from the Sphinx, married his mother Jocasta, brought
down plague upon the city, etc. can be found in the tragedies by
Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus and Oedipus at Colonus.

Oedipus Tyrannus


Perseus was the son of Zeus by DanaŽ, the daughter of Acrisius (son of
Abas, brother of Proteus). Proteus had made attempts on DanaŽ's
virtue, and Acrisius had shut her up in a tower.  She was visited by
Zeus, however, and conceived Perseus. Acrisius, thinking that Proteus
had somehow continued the assaults on DanaŽ, which she denied, he
locked her and Perseus in a wooden chest and threw it into the sea.
The chest drifted to Seriphos, where the mother and son were rescued
by a fisherman named Dictys, the brother of Polydectes, king of the
island, who took them into his household. After many adventures,
Perseus returned home, accidentally killing Acrisius with an errant
throw of the discus in a competition.

Adventures of Perseus

Romulus and Remus

Romulus and Remus were reportedly conceived by a Vestal Virgin
(actually the Vestals had not yet been established at that time, and
the woman, Rhea Silva/Silvia, was the daughter of the deposed king of
Alba Longa, Numitor, kept in seclusion by her uncle, Amulius, the
usurper) by a flame that crept into her lap in the form of a serpent,
supposedly a manifestation of Mars. The infants were placed in an ark
or cradle and exposed. As it happened, the river Tiber overflowed its
banks and floated the ark away, where it was discovered first by a
female wolf, which suckled them, and then by a herdsman named
Faustulus. In the course of time, the boys grew and became local
heroes, and their royal lineage was discovered, after which they
restored their grandfather and then went off to found their own
colonial settlement, Rome.

Mythology Online - Classical Archive
The Preservation of Romulus and Remus

Alexandros (Paris)

While pregnant with Alexandros, Hecabe, the wife of Priam of Troy,
dreamed that she would give birth to a fire brand that would start a
conflagration which would destroy the entire city. As a consequence,
the newborn son, Alexandros, was exposed on the mountain Ida. True to
form, he was found by one of Priam's herdsmen, renamed Paris, and
reared in humble circumstances. Of course, he eventually became
involved in the contest, incited by Eris (Discord), in which he was to
choose the most beautiful among the three great goddesses, Hera,
Athena, and Aphrodite, for which Judgment he was bribed by Aphrodite
with the promise of having the most beautiful woman alive, Helen of
Sparta, as his wife. Inevitably, that led to the destruction of Troy,
as prophesied.

The Judgement of Paris


P.S. Apparently there is a limit to the size of an Answer that can be
handled by the server routines: thus the need to use Clarifications.

Request for Answer Clarification by j10-ga on 24 Sep 2003 15:26 PDT
hlabadie-ga. Has anyone told you lately you're too big for your
server?  Great job.  My schedule doesn't allow me to read this in
depth today, but I can tell you are spot-on for what I am looking for.
 Once again a great job!  Give me a bit of time to read and mull.  I
may have a question or two an wouldn't want to miss the chance for
clarification.  I get to it asap.

Request for Answer Clarification by j10-ga on 24 Sep 2003 15:32 PDT
And- I am in a standing O (as in ovation) applauding (sound of two
hands clapping in cyberspace?) bravo!

Clarification of Answer by hlabadie-ga on 24 Sep 2003 15:33 PDT
I'll be pleased to offer any additional information that I can.

j10-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $70.00
You've given me a doctoral course on the question.  I know you've
given me a great deal more than I need and I will enjoy the study of
the material you have offered.  Your additional comments about the
legality of infanticide are also very welcome.  I'll be studying these
areas intently over the coming weeks. again, bravo!  It's a treat to
get more than I could ask for.

Subject: Re: family tragedy/resolution
From: apteryx-ga on 20 Sep 2003 13:13 PDT
I offered a few of these under the question about films, not realizing
then that there was another one about literature.

Subject: Re: family tragedy/resolution
From: hlabadie-ga on 20 Sep 2003 16:31 PDT
Thanks for asking for me.

Medea, of course, is the most famous example, but it will take a while
to come up with others. Usually it was as a result of a family curse,
as it were. Hippolytus was killed indirectly.

In addition, there are any number who were exposed but who survived.
Would you want those as well?

Subject: Re: family tragedy/resolution
From: pinkfreud-ga on 20 Sep 2003 16:41 PDT
In Euripides' "The Bacchae," Pentheus is killed by his mother, Agave,
who is in a state of ecstatic Dionysian possession, and mistakes
Pentheus for a lion:

"Pentheus is dead. Dionysus revealed him to the Maenads, who ripped
the boy to pieces with their bare hands. The first to attack the boy
was his own mother, Agave. She is possessed, and thinks that she
killed a lion. She now enters, with Pentheus' head impaled on a
thyrsus. She boasts to the Bacchae about her prize."
Subject: Re: family tragedy/resolution
From: apteryx-ga on 20 Sep 2003 19:50 PDT
Listening to PBS radio while driving around today, I heard a grim fact
that immediately made me think of this question.  Every day in the
U.S., 27 children die of abuse or neglect.  Most children who are
killed are killed by their parents.  There is nothing ancient about
this theme.

Subject: Re: family tragedy/resolution
From: j10-ga on 21 Sep 2003 12:52 PDT
hlabadie-ga--Yes, those who survive their parent's attack would also
be of note, especially if the wounding/survival promotes another form
of development in the story (classic return reborn,
transfigured/renewed esp. if their is some gift to the greater good of
society). There is no rush on this one.  I'm pulling research from
several foci so please take your time-dark research requires time and
the possibility for some serious fun in between.
Subject: Re: family tragedy/resolution
From: hlabadie-ga on 24 Sep 2003 10:14 PDT
Just a note to alert you that I have an answer prepared, but there has
been a technical problem posting it.

Subject: Re: family tragedy/resolution
From: j10-ga on 24 Sep 2003 15:21 PDT
apteryx-ga--your comment re: pbs radio and stats of 27 children who
die daily is, to begin, horrifying but not surprising (sadly).  If you
could provide me with the name of that show, I'd appreciate it.  Maybe
I could get a transcript.  Thanks so much.
Subject: Re: family tragedy/resolution
From: hlabadie-ga on 25 Sep 2003 12:16 PDT
As you asked only about mythological figures, I didn't think that the
Answer was the proper place for this, but I add it as a comment.

Historically, infanticide was legal in Sparta and Rome. In Sparta, the
government decided if a new born was healthy enough to be permitted to
live. Rejected babies were killed by tossing them down a ravine. In
Rome, it was customary for a father to acknowledge a child by picking
it up. Unacknowledged children could be killed if deformed, or if
illegitimate, for example, exposed. Obviously, this didn't happen in
all cases: the club-footed, stuttering emperor Claudius is an example
of an exception. Exposed children were typically placed on the
doorstep and were either adopted anonymously or taken as slaves.
Fathers had the absolute power of life and death` (the patria
postestas), and could sell children into slavery. Women never were
exempted from control by their fathers, even when married, unless they
were explicitly liberated.

The Twelve Tables

Pater familias - Wikipedia

infanticide.The Columbia Encyclopedia

Subject: Re: family tragedy/resolution
From: hlabadie-ga on 25 Sep 2003 17:58 PDT
Thank you for the exceptionally generous tip and the rating. Good luck
with the book.

Subject: Re: family tragedy/resolution
From: apteryx-ga on 25 Sep 2003 20:29 PDT
j10, I'd certainly be happy to tell you if I could.  I was out doing
errands from about 1:30 to 5:00 on Saturday afternoon, 9/20/03.  I had
my radio tuned to KQED-FM, and I just heard the bits of programs that
were on while I was in the car.  As usual I missed the beginnings and
ends of things.  So I have no idea what program this was on.

I have been all over and trying to figure out what
show that was, even checking several days before and after (just in
case I forgot when it was), but I couldn't recognize any topic or
title that seemed like it would have fit.  There's no reason to think
that this was the main subject of the show.  I do think it might have
been part of a discussion about child protection, maybe both in the
U.S. and abroad, but I am not sure.

You probably know that you can listen to entire PBS shows online, so
maybe if you sample the programs aired during that time period, you'll
be able to zero in.  That's the best clue I can give you.


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