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Lyrcus (Greek: Λύρκος) is the name of two Greek figures, one a figure in a 1st-century BC Hellenistic romance by Parthenius of Nicaea, the other the eponymous legendary founder of Lyrceia.[1] Stories of both located Lyrcus near Argos; their individual lives intertwine with other historical and mythological figures.

Parthenius of Nicaea[edit]

The story of Lyrcus is related by Parthenius of Nicaea in his Erotica Pathemata ("Of the Sorrows of Love").[2]

In the narrative, Io, daughter of Inachus, king in Argos,[3] was captured by brigands. Her father Inachus sent several men to search for her. One of these was Lyrcus the son of Phoroneus, who searched land and sea without finding the girl, and finally quit the quest: but he was too afraid of Inachus to return to Argos without her, and went instead to Caunus in Caria,[4] where he married the daughter of King Aegialus, Hilebia, who fell in love with Lyrcus as soon as she saw him and persuaded her father to betroth them. Aegialus gave Lyrcus as dowry a good share of the realm and of the rest of the regal attributes, and accepted him as his son-in-law.

Years passed and Lyrcus and his wife had no children. Lyrcus made a journey to the oracle at Didyma to ask how he might obtain offspring. The answer was that he would beget a child with the first woman whom he bedded after leaving the shrine. Happily he hurried towards home and wife, but on the journey, when he arrived at Bybastus (or Bubastos), he was entertained by Staphylus,[5] who welcomed Lyrcus in a friendly manner and enticed him to much drinking of wine. When Lyrcus had his senses dulled with wine, Staphylus united Lyrcus with Staphylus's own daughter Hemithea,[6] having heard the prediction of the oracle and desiring to have descendants born to Hemithea.

Bitter strife arose between Rhoeo and Hemithea, the two daughters of Staphylus, as to which should have Lyrcus, for a great desire for him had arisen in both of them. The next morning Lyrcus discovered the trap that his host had laid for him. When Lyrcus saw Hemithea by his side, he was exceedingly angry. He upbraided Staphylus violently for his conduct. Finally seeing that there was nothing to be done, Lyrcus took off his belt and gave it to the girl, telling her to keep it until their future child had come of age. Then the child would possess a token by which he might be recognized, if he should ever come to his father at Caunus.[7] Lyrcus sailed away home.

When King Aegialus heard the whole story about the oracle and about Hemithea he banished Lyrcus. There was then a war of great length between Lyrcus and Aegialus: Hilebia was on the side of Lyrcus, for she refused to repudiate her husband. Lyrcus became king of Caunus.[3] Years later Basilus, the son of Lyrcus and Hemithea, came to the land of Caunus. Lyrcus recognized him as his son, and made him ruler over his peoples.[8]

City of Lyrceia[edit]

In Pausanias's Description of Greece, the city of Lyrceia (Greek: Λυρκεία) lies on one of the two roads which proceeded from the gate of Deiras. The northern road leads to Lyrceia and Orneae. The distance from Argos to Lyrceia is about sixty stades and the distance from Lyrceia to Orneae is the same, with Lyrceia situated between the two cities on the road named Climax.[9] Homer in the Catalogue makes no mention of the city Lyrceia because at the time of the Greek expedition against Troy it already lay deserted.[10]
The city was formerly called Lynceia after Lynceus, one of the 50 sons of Aegyptus. Lynceus arrived there after fleeing from the city of Argos when all of his brothers were murdered by the daughters of Danaus on their wedding night. He gave intelligence of his safe arrival to his faithful wife Hypermnestra by holding up a torch and she in like manner informed him of her safety by raising a torch from Larissa the citadel of Argos.[9] Lyrcus was the illegitimate son of Abas, the son of Lynceus and Hypermnestra. He was expelled from Argos and got possession of Lynceia and it was renamed Lyrceia. Later the town fell in ruins with nothing remaining except the statue of Lyrcus upon a pillar.[11]


  1. ^ "Lyrcus" (Paus. ii. 25. $ 4 ; Parthen. Erot. i.) (L.S.) at
  2. ^ translated by S. Gaselee, in 1916; online text: Parthenius, Love Romances translated by S. Gaselee, 1916
  3. ^ a b Lemprière, John (1812). A classical dictionary. Original from Oxford University. 
  4. ^ Compare the mytheme of Cadmus's abandoned search for Europa.
  5. ^ Fontenrose, Joseph. The Sorrows of Ino and of Procne (Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 79, 1948 (1948)). JSTOR. pp. 125–167. doi:10.2307/283358. 
  6. ^ Her name hemi- and -theia tacitly suggests a semi-divine nature.
  7. ^ This standard feature of Romance and fairy tale (e.g. Cinderella's glass slipper) also appears in the story of Theseus.
  8. ^ Longus, John Maxwell Edmonds (contributor), Parthenius, (translated by George Thornley and Stephen Gaselee) (1916). Daphnis & Chloe and The Love Romances Of Parthenius And Other Fragments. Original from Harvard University: G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 259–263. 
  9. ^ a b William Smith; Mahmoud Saba (1857). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (volume II). Original from the University of Michigan: Walton and Maberly. p. 231. 
  10. ^ Pausanias, William Henry Samuel Jones, Richard Ernest (translated by Translated by Henry Arderne Ormerod) (1918). Pausanias Description of Greece. G.P. Putnam's Sons. p. 381. 
  11. ^ Leake, William Martin (1830). Travels in the Morea: With a Map and Plans. Original from the University of Michigan: J. Murray. p. 414.