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Not to be confused with Icarus, whose wings failed in flight.

In Greek mythology, there were two people named Icarius (/ˈkɛəriəs/; Ancient Greek: Ἰκάριος Ikários).

Icarius of Sparta[edit]

One Icarius was the son of either Perieres and Gorgophone or of Oebalus and Bateia, brother of Hippocoon and Tyndareus and, through Periboea, father of Penelope, Perileos, Thoas, Damasippus, Imeusimus, Aletes and Iphthime.[1] According to other traditions, he was the father of Penelope, Alyzeus and Leucadius by Polycaste.[2] His other possible wives were Dorodoche (daughter of Ortilochus) and Asterodia (daughter of Eurypylus);[3] the latter was said to have born him five sons - Amasichus, Phalereus, Thoon, Pheremmelias, Perilaos - and a daughter Laodice[4] or Laodamia.[5] He was a Spartan king and a champion runner who would not allow anyone to marry his daughter unless he beat him in a race. Odysseus succeeded and married Penelope.[6] After they got married, Icarius tried to persuade Odysseus to remain in Sparta. He did leave with Penelope, but Icarius followed them, imploring his daughter to stay. Odysseus told her she must choose whether to be with her father or with her husband. Penelope did not answer, but modestly covered her face with a veil. Icarius correctly understood that this was a sign of her will to leave with Odysseus, let them go and erected a statue of Aidos (Modesty) on the spot.[7] Icarius was apparently still alive at the time of the events of the Odyssey.

Icarius of Athens[edit]

Icarius transporting wine in a 3rd-century mosaic from Paphos

The other Icarius was from Athens. He was cordial towards Dionysus, who gave his shepherds wine. They became intoxicated and killed Icarius, thinking he had poisoned them. His daughter, Erigone, and her dog, Maera, found his body. Erigone hanged herself over her father's grave.[8][9] Dionysus was angry and punished Athens with a plague, inflicting insanity on all the unmarried women, who all hung themselves like Erigone did. The plague did not cease until the Athenians introduced honorific rites for Icarius and Erigone. Icarius was placed in the stars as the constellation Boötes.[10][11] There is a mosaic in Paphos, Cyprus, from a Roman villa from the mid 2nd century a.d. which is called "Dionysus House". The mosaic First wine drinkers describes Dionysus giving the gift of vine and wine to Icarius as a reward for Icarius' generous hospitality.[12] It was probably this Icarius whom Clement of Alexandria[13] referred to as husband of Phanothea, a woman who was believed to have invented the hexameter.[14]


  1. ^ Bibliotheca 3. 10. 3-6
  2. ^ Strabo, Geography, 10. 2. 24
  3. ^ Scholia on Homer, Odyssey 15. 16
  4. ^ Scholia on Homer, Odyssey, 1. 275 & 277
  5. ^ Scholia on Homer, Odyssey, 4. 797
  6. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 12. 2
  7. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 20. 10-11
  8. ^ Bibliotheca 3. 14. 7
  9. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 47. 34
  10. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae, 130
  11. ^ Hyginus, Poetical Astronomy, 2. 4
  12. ^ Kondoleon, C. Domestic and Divine: Roman Mosaics in the House of Dionysos. Cornell University Press, 1995, p. 177.
  13. ^ Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, 1. 16
  14. ^ William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, v. 2, page 558

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