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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.

Archemoros ensnared by the snake and strangled.

Opheltes of Nemea[edit]

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.[1]

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.[1][2][3][4]

According to John Tzetzes, there were two mountains on Euboea, one of which was named after Opheltes, and the other after Zarex.[5]

The University of California at Berkeley's excavations at Nemea, begun in 1973, uncovered the likely site of the shrine of Opheltes in 1979, an open air structure rebuilt several times since the 6th century BC.[6]

Other characters[edit]

Opheltes is not to be confused with:


  1. ^ a b Hyginus, Fabulae, 74
  2. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, 3. 6. 4
  3. ^ Statius, Thebaid, 4.741, 5.534ff., 5.632
  4. ^ William Smith. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1870. Volume 1, page 265
  5. ^ Tzetzes on Lycophron, 373
  6. ^ Bravo, Jorge José (2006-01-01). "The hero shrine of Opheltes/Archemoros at Nemea: a case study of ancient Greek hero cult".
  7. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae, 134
  8. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.5.16
  9. ^ Virgil, Aeneid, 9. 201
  10. ^ Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica, 1. 198
  11. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 32.186, 35.379, 37.85, 37.101
  12. ^ Homer, Iliad, 6.20
  13. ^ Homer, Iliad, 11. 302
  14. ^ Homer, Iliad, 8. 274
  15. ^ Homer, Iliad, 21. 210