In Greek mythology, the name Opheltes refers to several distinct characters. Of them the best known is Opheltes, the infant son of King Lycurgus of Nemea, whose death by a serpent was correctly interpreted by Amphiaraus to be of bad omen for the Seven against Thebes.
Opheltes of Nemea
Opheltes (also known as Archemoros) was the infant son of the Nemean king Lycurgus and Queen Eurydice. When their son was born, Lycurgus consulted the oracle at Delphi in order to find out how he might insure the health and happiness of his child, and was instructed that the child must not touch the ground until he had learned to walk.
One day his nursemaid, Hypsipyle, was walking with the young Opheltes in her arms. She met the Seven Argive generals marching against Thebes, who asked her where the nearest wellspring was. Hypsipyle put Opheltes on the ground in a bed of wild celery and walked away with them, to show them where it was. While she was away, a snake strangled Opheltes. Amphiaraus, the seer, interpreted this as signifying that the campaign against Thebes would be unsuccessful. After this incident the generals held a funeral celebration for Opheltes and they arranged sport games to honor him: such was the beginning of the famous Nemean Games. The child was posthumously renamed Archemoros ("the forerunner of death") in accordance with Amphiaraus' prophecy.
The University of California at Berkeley's excavations at Nemea since 1973 have uncovered the likely site of the shrine of Opheltes, an open air structure rebuilt several times since the 6th century BC.
- Opheltes, one of the pirates that attempted to kidnap Dionysus and were changed by him into dolphins.
- Opheltes, son of Peneleos, who died in the Trojan War, and the father of Damasichthon, a King of Thebes.
- Opheltes, son of Arestor, a soldier in the army of Dionysus during the Indian campaign, killed by Deriades.
Opheltes is not to be confused with:
- Opheltius, the name which refers to two soldiers in the Trojan War on each side of the conflict:
- Ophelestes, name of two defenders of Troy:
- Hyginus, Fabulae, 74
- Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, 3. 6. 4
- Statius, Thebaid, 4.741, 5.534ff., 5.632
- William Smith. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1870. Volume 1, page 265
- Tzetzes on Lycophron, 373
- Hyginus, Fabulae, 134
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.5.16
- Virgil, Aeneid, 9. 201
- Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica, 1. 198
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 32.186, 35.379, 37.85, 37.101
- Homer, Iliad, 6.20
- Homer, Iliad, 11. 302
- Homer, Iliad, 8. 274
- Homer, Iliad, 21. 210