Glaucus (son of Sisyphus)

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In Greek and Roman mythology, Glaucus[pronunciation?] (Greek: Γλαῦκος, Glaukos "greyish blue" or "bluish green" and "glimmering") was a son of Sisyphus whose main myth involved his violent death as the result of his horsemanship. He was a king of Corinth[1] and the subject of a lost tragedy by Aeschylus, Glaucus Potnieus (Glaucus at Potniae),[2] fragments of which are contained in an Oxyrhynchus Papyrus.[3]


The mother of Glaucus was Merope, a daughter of Atlas and one of the Pleiades.[4] By marrying Sisyphus, she became the only one of her sister Pleiades to mate with a mortal.

At first Sisyphus had tried to arrange a marriage for Glaucus with the shape-shifting Mestra, a daughter of Erysichthon, but despite the payment of valuable bride-gifts, she eluded the marriage and was taken to an island by Poseidon.[5] Glaucus then married a daughter of Nisus named Eurymede[6] or Eurynome.[7] Zeus had declared that Glaucus would sire no children even by his own wife, perhaps because of his violations against Aphrodite. While Eurynome gave birth to the famed hero Bellerophon, Poseidon is usually seen as the true father.[8] The Iliad, however, names Glaucus as Bellerophon's father.[9] The equine theme continues: Poseidon was associated with horses, and Bellerophon was the rider of the winged horse Pegasus.

Glaucus succeeded Sisyphus to the throne of Ephyra, the city he had built, which later became Corinth.[citation needed] He was the ancestor of the Glaucus in the Iliad.[10]


Glaucus took part in the funeral games organized in honor of Pelias by his son Acastus, the famous Athla epi Pelia in which some of the foremost heroes of Greece competed, including the Argonauts.[11] Glaucus lost to Iolaus in the chariot race. A fragment from Aeschylus's tragedy has sometimes been taken to mean that Glaucus died in a chariot accident on the way home, but it seems more probable that the accident occurred during the race.[11] According to Pausanias,[12] Glaucus haunted the Isthmian Games as a form of Taraxippus, because he was killed by his horses during the funeral games.

There are two main traditions concerning the death of Glaucus.[13] In one, he feeds his mares on human flesh in order to make them fierce in battle, but at the games he has no supply for them, and they turn on their master and devour him instead.[14] Servius, however, regards Glaucus as a doublet of Hippolytus: he offended the goddess Aphrodite (Venus) either by keeping his mares from mating in order to preserve their speed,[15] or by scorning her in general.[16] The goddess then brings retribution upon him through his horses.[17] In other sources, the mares are driven into their man-killing frenzy by consuming either an herb in their Boeotian pasture at Potniae[18] or water from a toxic well.[19] Gilbert Murray saw Hippolytus, Glaucus and their ilk as undergoing sparagmos as vegetation deities.[20]

In the Georgics, Vergil casts the neglect of Venus as preventing the mares from mating.[21] That the Romans considered mating a hazard of horse husbandry is indicated by a strange anecdote from Vergil's older contemporary Varro: when a stallion kept refusing to mate, the handler succeeded by covering its head; when uncovered, the stallion attacked him and killed him by biting.[22]


  1. ^ Gilbert Murray, The Eumenides of Aeschylus (Oxford University Press, 1925), p. 15.
  2. ^ A.F. Garvie, Aeschylus: Persae (Oxford University Press, 2009), p. xliii.
  3. ^ H.D. Broadhead, The Persae of Aeschylus (Cambridge University Press, 1960), p. lviii.
  4. ^ Iliad 6.154–155 (Merope is not named); Asclepiades 12F1; (Pseudo-)Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.9.3.
  5. ^ Hesiod, Catalogue of Women, frg. 43a 2–83; Hand, The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology, pp. 433, 663.
  6. ^ Bibliotheca 1.9.3.
  7. ^ Hyginus, Fabula 157.
  8. ^ Hesiod, frg. 43a 2–83; Pindar, Olympian Ode 13.66–69. Hand, The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology, pp. 433, 663.
  9. ^ Iliad 6.154.
  10. ^ Lowell Edmunds, Approaches to Greek Myth (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), p. 13.
  11. ^ a b Garvie, Aeschylus: Persae, p. xliv.
  12. ^ Pausanias 6.20.10–19, as noted by Stephen G. Miller, Arete: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources (University of California Press, 2004), p. 56.
  13. ^ Katharina Volk, Vergil's Georgics (Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 60.
  14. ^ As recorded by Probus and attributed to Asclepiades Tragilensis; Volk, Vergil's Georgics, p. 60. See also Hyginus, Fabula 250, and Pausanias 6.20.19, as noted by Robin Hand, The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology, Based on H.J. Rose's Handbook of Greek Mythology (Routledge, 2004), pp. 432, 663.
  15. ^ Vergil, Georgics 3.266–288, with Servius's note to line 268; Hand, The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology, pp. 432, 663.
  16. ^ Hand, The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology, p. 432.
  17. ^ Volk, Vergil's Georgics, p. 60.
  18. ^ Scholium to Euripides, Orestes 318; "Porniades" in Et. Magn.; Pliny the Elder, Natural History 25.94; Hand, The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology, pp. 432, 663.
  19. ^ Servius, note to Aeneid 268; well in Pausanias 9.8.1; Hand, The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology, pp. 432, 663.
  20. ^ Gilbert Murray, Aeschylus: The Creator of Tragedy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940), p. 113.
  21. ^ Vergil, Georgics 3.266–268.
  22. ^ Varro, On Agriculture 2.7.9.