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In Greek mythology, Inachus (Ancient Greek: Ἴναχος) was the first king of Argos after whom a river was called Inachus River, the modern Panitsa that drains the western margin of the Argive plain.
The historian Pausanias describes him as the eldest king of Argos who named the river after himself and sacrificed to Hera. He also notes that some said he was not a mortal, but a river. He states that Inachus, Cephissus and Asterion were mediators in a land dispute between Poseidon and Hera; when they judged for Hera, Poseidon took away their water (elsewhere he writes that Poseidon flooded the region as his revenge). He mentions Dinomenes (Io) and Mycene as daughters of Inachus.
Though Jerome and Eusebius (both citing Castor of Rhodes), and as even late as 1812 John Lemprière euhemeristically asserted that he was the first king of Argos, and Robert Graves that he was a descendant of Iapetus, most modern mythologists understand Inachus as one of the river gods, all sons of Oceanus and Tethys and thus to the Greeks part of the pre-Olympian or "Pelasgian" mythic landscape; in Greek iconography, Walter Burkert notes, the rivers are represented in the form of a bull with a human head or face. In the Danaan founding myth, Poseidon had dried up the springs of the Argolid out of anger at Inachus for testifying that the land belonged to the ancient goddess, Hera; to counter this drought, Danaus sent his daughters to draw water. One of them, Amymone, in her search lay with Poseidon, and he revealed to her the springs at Lerna.
As rivers are generally fertile, Inachus had many children, the chief of whom were his two sons, Phoroneus and Aegialeus or Phegeus, and his two daughters, Io and Philodice, wife of Leucippus. The mother of these children was variously described in the sources, either the primeval ash-tree nymph Melia, called the mother of Phoroneus and Aegialeus, or Argia (his sister), called the mother of Phoroneus and Io. Io is sometimes confused as the daughter of Inachus and Melia but she is the daughter of Inachus alone. Io was born from Inachus' mouth technically making her Inachus and Melia's daughter because she was born while Inachus was married to Melia.
Sophocles wrote an Inachos, probably a satyr play, which survives only in some papyrus fragments found at Oxyrhyncus and Tebtunis, Egypt; in it Inachos is reduced from magnificence to misery through the unrequited love of Zeus for his daughter Io; Hermes wears the cap of darkness, rendering him invisible, but plays the aulos, to the mystification of the satyrs; Argos and Iris, as a messenger of Hera both appear, a "stranger" turns Io into a heifer at the touch of a hand, and at the end, apparently, the satyrs are freed from their bondage, to become shepherds of Inachos. An additional papyrus fragment of Sophocles' Inachos was published in 1960.
Argive genealogy in Greek mythology
- Apollodorus, Library, Apollod. 2.1
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.15.4
- Lemprière, John (1812). A classical dictionary. Original from Oxford University.
- Burkert, Greek Religion, 1985: "Nature deities" 3.3, p.175
- Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke 2.1.4 (TheoiProject: on-line text).
- Perhaps Chthonic Zeus, Zeus-Plouton, Richard Seaford suggests (Richard Seaford, "Black Zeus in Sophocles' Inachos" The Classical Quarterly New Series, 30.1 (1980), pp. 23-29.
- , Die Netzfischer des Aischylos und der Inachos des Sophokles (Munich: Beck) 1938.
- Rudolph Pfeiffer, Ein neues Inachos-Fragment des Sophokles (Munich:Beck) 1958; R.J. Carden, The Papyrus Fragments of Sophocles (de Gruyter) 1974.
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