Phoenix (son of Amyntor)

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Briseis serves wine to Phoenix. A red-figure kylix, by the Brygos Painter (c. 490 BC) Louvre G152.[1]

In Greek mythology, Phoenix (Ancient Greek: Φοῖνιξ Phoinix, gen. Φοίνικος Phoinikos) was the son of king Amyntor, and a king of the Dolopians.[2] Phoenix, on the urgings of his mother (variously named as Cleobule, Hippodameia, or Alcimede) had sex with his father's concubine. Amyntor, discovering this, called upon the Erinyes to curse him with childlessness.[3] In later accounts of the story, Phoenix was falsely accused by Amyntor's concubine, and blinded by his father, but Chiron restored his sight.[4] Phoenix fled to Peleus, the king of Phthia, and Achilles' father, where Peleus made Phoenix a king of the Dolopians, and gave him the young Achilles to raise.

Phoenix participated in the hunt for the Calydonian Boar,[5] and was said to have given Achilles' son the name Neoptolemus.[6] As an old man he accompanied Achilles to the Trojan War.[7] By some accounts, after Achilles died, Phoenix was one of those sent to fetch Neoptolemus from Scyros.[8] On his way home from Troy, Phoenix died and was buried by Neoptolemus.[9] His tomb was said to be either in Eion, Macedonia,[10] or in Trachis, Thessaly.[11]


The Iliad[edit]

Embassy to Achilles. On the left, Phoenix standing, Odysseus seated facing Achilles seated, and Patroclus standing on the right. A red-figure hydria, by the Kleophrades Painter (c. 480 BC) Staatliche Antikensammlungen 8770.[12]

Phoenix plays an important role in Book 9 of the Iliad of Homer. Achilles, the Greeks' greatest warrior, has withdrawn from the war because of his great anger at his ill treatment by the Greek commander Agamemnon. Phoenix, who had been in charge of Achilles upbringing, now an old man, has accompanied Achilles to the Trojan War. Phoenix is sent by Agamemnon to Achilles' tent, as part of an embassy with Ajax and Odysseus, to persuade Achilles to return to the battle.[13] Odysseus speaks first, presenting Agamemnon's offer of reconciliation,[14] an appeal which Achilles rejects utterly, saying that he will leave with his ships the next morning.[15] Then Phoenix, "bursting into tears",[16] pleads passionately with Achilles to put down his anger and return to the war. In a long speech covering 172 lines,[17] Phoenix's speech presents an "exposition of heroic, traditional ethics".[18]

Phoenix begins by reminding Achilles how he came to be a second father to Achilles.[19] Phoenix's father was Amyntor, the son of Ormenus, and a king in Hellas.[20] When Amyntor forsook his wife, Phoenix's mother, for a concubine, at the urging of his jealous mother, Phoenix had sex with Amyntor's concubine. To punish this crime Amyntor called upon the Erinyes to curse Phoenix with childlessness. Outraged Phoenix intended to kill Amyntor, but was finally dissuaded. Instead he decided to leave his father's kingdom. For nine days some of his friends and family kept watch over him to prevent his leaving, but finally on the tenth day he managed to escape, and fleeing through Hellas, Phoenix came to Phthia, where king Peleus, the father of Achilles, took in Phoenix, and treated him like a son. Peleus made Phoenix a king of the Dolopians. And Phoenix was given charge of the young Achilles, whom Phoenix reared as a son.[21] Having reminded Achilles of all this, Phoenix asks Achilles to "master thy proud spirit; it beseemeth thee not to have a pitiless heart. Nay, even the very gods can bend".[22]

Phoenix next relates two stories meant to persuade Achilles. The first story concerns the Litai ("Prayers"), daughters of Zeus, who follow along after Ate ("Sin").[23] This story is meant to show Achilles the dangers inherant in refusing prayers of supplication. After telling the story, Phoenix again asks Achilles to "cast aside thine anger" and heed the supplication of his comrads in arms and return to the battle.[24] Phoenix reminds Achilles' that heroes of old, in their wrath, might be won over by gifts and pleadings. He then recounts the story of the hero Meleager, with its many parallels to Achilles' situation.[25] Like Achilles, Meleager has withdrawn from battle in anger. Offering gifts, his friends and family beg Meleager to return to the battle, but he refuses them. But when his own household is threatened, finally heeding the pleas of his wife, he returns to the battle, but received no gifts and honors, for doing so. Finally Phoenix urges Achilles not to be like Meleager, but to accept the gifts and honors Agammenon has offered, before it is too late. But Achilles says he has no need of such gifts and has honor enough already. Further he admonishes Phoenix "not to confound my spirit by weeping and sorrowing," on Agamemnon's behalf. Nevertheless Achiles invites Phoenix to stay the night "and at break of day we will take counsel whether to return to our own or to tarry here."[26]

Brief mentions of Phoenix also appear in Books 16, 17, 19, and 23.[27] In Book 16 Phoenix leads a company of Myrmidons into battle.[28] In Book 17, Athena takes Phoenix's form, as she urges on Menelaus in the heat of battle.[29] In Book 19, Phoenix is among those comforting Achilles in his tent after the death of Patroclus.[30] In Book 23, Phoenix is an umpire in Patroclus' funeral games.[31]

Epic Cycle[edit]

Besides the Iliad a few other mentions of Phoenix, from the epic tradition, are found in the Epic Cycle, a collection of epic poems about the Trojan War. According to scholia to Iliad 19, citing the Epic Cycle, prior to the Trojan War, Phoenix was sent with Odysseus and Nestor to seek out Achilles (who, as it turns out, is hiding on Skyros disguised as a girl) to recruit him for the war.[32] According to the Cypria, (one of the poems in the Epic Cycle) Achilles' son Neoptolemus, originally named Pyrrhus, was given the name Neoptolemus ("young soldier") by Phoenix, because Achilles was a young man when he went to war.[33] According to Proclus' summary of the Nostoi Phoenix, while traveling home from the Trojan War with Neoptolemus, died and was buried by Neoptolemus.[34]

Later sources[edit]

The late sixth-century early fifth-century BC poet Pindar mentioned Phoenix, saying that he "held a throng of Dolopians, bold in the use of the sling and bringing aid to the missiles of the Danaans, tamers of horses."[35] Phoenix appeared as a character in tragedian Aeschylus' lost play Myrmidons (c. 490–480), which included an embassy scene, and presumably Phoenix's attempt to persuade Achilles to put aside his anger and return to the battlefield.[36]

The tragedian Sophocles, in his play Philoctetes (409 BC), tells us that after Achilles died at Troy, the Greeks received a prophecy which said that they would never take Troy unless Neoptolemus came to fight for them, so the Greeks sent Phoenix and Odysseus to Scyros to bring Neoptolemus back with them to Troy.[37] A red-figure volute-krater (c. 470 BC), had already depicted Neoptolemus, with Phoenix and Odysseus (all named), saying goodbye to his mother and grandfather Lycomedes on Skyros (Ferrara 44701).[38]

Sophocles, and his fellow tragedians Euripides, and Ion of Chios, among others, all wrote plays titled Phoenix, now lost, which presumably told the story of Phoenix's conflict with his father.[39] Nothing is known about the plays by Sophocles or Ion. However from an allusion in Aristophanes' play The Acharnians, Euripides is known to have represented Phoenix as blind.[40] Moreover evidence indicates that in Euripides' version of the story, Phoenix is falsely accused of rape by his father's concubine, and is blinded by Amyntor in punishment.[41]

The Cyzicene epigrams, the third book of the Palatine Anthology, refers to the blinding of Phoenix by Amyntor, with Phoenix's mother, here named Alcimede, trying to restrain her husband.[42] The poet Lycophron alludes to Phoenix, and his blinding by his father, and connects Phoenix with Eion,[43] where he was said to have been buried.[44] Lycophron scholia name Phoenix's mother Cleobule, and give the concubine's name as either Clytie or Phthia.[45] According to the A scholia to Iliad 9.448, Phoenix's mother was named Hippodameia, and the concubine Clytie.[46]

Both the poet Ovid and the mythographer Hyginus say that Phoenix was one of the heroes to have participated in the hunt for the Calydonian Boar.[47] And Virgil in his Aeneid, has Phoenix and Odysseus, during the sack of Troy, in a temple, in Priam's palace, standing guard over Troy's treasures.[48]

The mythographer Apollodorus,[49] probably drawing on Euripides' Phoenix,[50] says that Phoenix was falsely accused of seducing Amyntor's concubine Phthia. Amyntor blinded Phoenix, but Peleus brought Phoenix to the centaur Chiron who restored his sight. Peleus then made Phoenix king of the Dolopians. Apollodorus mentioned the embassy of Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax, to Achilles.[51] Like Sophocles, Apollodorus says Phoenix and Odysseus were sent to bring Neoptolemus to Troy,[52] and agreeing with Proclus, says that after the war, treveling home with Neoptolemus, Phoenix died and Neoptolemus buried him.[53]

The Greek comic poet Eubulus wrote a play titled Phoenix, so too did the Latin poet Ennius.[54]


Embassy to Achilles. On the left, Ajax and Odysseus standing, facing Achilles seated and Phoenix standing on the right. A skyphos (c. 480–470 BC) Louvre G146.[55]

Phoenix is depicted in several ancient works of art, from as early as c. 570 BC.[56] He can often be distinguished by his white hair and beard, in contrast to the black of the other figures,[57] as in the red-figure kylix by the Brygos Painter (c. 490 BC), where he is being served wine by Briseis (Louvre G152 shown above).[58]

The embassy to Achilles, from Book 9 of Homer's Iliad, becomes a popular scene on Attic vases of the early fifth century BC, with Phoenix being a prominent figure.[59] A dozen or so Attic vases depict the scene.[60] The earliest of these, c. 490 BC, is a red-figure calyx-krater attributed to the Eucharides Painter (Louvre G163).[61] It depicts, on the left, Phoenix standing behind a seated Odysseus, both facing right, and on the right, Diomedes (rather than the expected Ajax) standing behind a seated Achilles, both facing left, all named by inscription. Though without his usual white hair, Phoenix here is still recognizably older than the other three men. Other vases showing similar embassy scenes include: Antikensammlungen 8770 (shown above), and Louvre G146 (shown right).

Phoenix also appears on several other vases. On a black-figure Tyrrhenian amphora, c. 570 BC, (London 1897.0727.2), Phoenix is shown as part of a scene depicting Polyxena's slaughter at the tomb of Achilles. While Neoptolemus cuts Polyxena's throat, Phoenix stands on the far right, with his back turned looking away (perhaps disapproving or unable to watch).[62] As noted above, Phoenix appears with Odysseus and Neoptolemos on a red-figure volute-krater (c. 470 BC), in a scene depicting Neoptolemos' departure from Skyros (Ferrara 44701).[63] Phoenix is probably also depicted on a red-figure kylix, by Euphronios, leading a procession, followed by a woman with hand to head (Thetis?) looking back, Ajax carrying Achilles' corpse, and a warrior (probably Odysseus) at the rear of the procession (J. Paul Getty Museum 77.AE.20).[64]

Phoenix appears on both sides of an Athenian red-figure stamnos, c. 480 BC, attributed to the Triptolemos Painter (Antikenmuseum BS 477).[65] The B. side is another embassy to Achilles scene. Phoenix, his long white hair tied up in back, stands on the right, behind the seated Achilles. On the A. side, Phoenix on the left, named by inscription, restrains either Ajax or Ajax, while Priam on the right, also depicted with long white hair tied up in the back, restrains Hector. If the warrior being restrained by Phoenix is Ajax, then this would appear to be the Ajax's dual with Hector from Iliad 7,[66] otherwise this might be Achilles' dual with Hektor, following the death of Patroclus,[67] although the Iliad does not mention Phoenix's involvement in either dual. A related scene occurs on a Athenian red-figure amphora (c. 480 BC) by the Kleophrades Painter (Martin von Wagner Museum L508).[68] On the A. side, Phoenix (named) restrains a warrior (Ajax?), while on the B. side, another old man (Priam?) restrains Hektor (named).


  1. ^ Matheson 2009, pp. 192 Fig. 3, 195; Beazley Archive 203900; LIMC 241; AVI Web 6490.
  2. ^ Tripp, s.v. Phoenix (2), pp. 477–478; Smith s.v. Phoenix 2.
  3. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.434–495.
  4. ^ Apollodorus, 3.13.8.
  5. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 173; Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.307.
  6. ^ Gantz, p. 581; Pausanias, 10.26.4 = Cypria fr. 19 West, pp. 98–99.
  7. ^ Homer, Iliad, 9.165–169, 9.220–224, 9.427–622, 16.194, 17.555–561, 19.309–313, 23.359–361; Ovid, Heroides 3.27–29, 3.127–130; Apollodorus, 3.13.8.
  8. ^ Sophocles, Philoctetes 343–344, 1329–1342; Apollodorus, E.5.10–11; Philostratus the Younger, Imagines 394 K 6.
  9. ^ Apollodorus, E.6.12.
  10. ^ Smith, s.v. Phoenix 2; Tzetzes on Lycophron 417.
  11. ^ Strabo, 9.4.14
  12. ^ Boardman, Griffin, and Murray, p. 47; Powell, p. 220; Beazley Archive 352474; LIMC 6001; AVI Web 5361.
  13. ^ Gantz, p. 613; Homer, Iliad 9.165–169.
  14. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.225–306.
  15. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.307–429.
  16. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.432–433.
  17. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.434–605. For a detailed discussion of Phoenix's speech, see Rosner, pp. 314–327. Several scholars have questioned the authenticity of this section of the Iliad see Rosner, p. 314; Scodel, p. 129 with n. 4.
  18. ^ Scodel, p. 129.
  19. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.434–495. For a detailed discussion of the autobiographical part of Phoenix's speech see Rosner, pp. 315–318; Scodel, pp. 128–136. Rosner, p. 315, describes the theme of this section of the speech as one of "paternal love and duty". Scodel, p. 128 n. 3, notes that the scholarly consensus sees this part of Phoenix's speech "as serving to stress the emotional ties between Phoenix and Achilles".
  20. ^ For the "hopeless confusion" in Homer's statements concerning the location of Amyntor's kingdom see Leaf's note to Iliad 9.447, p. 403.
  21. ^ Compare with Hyginus, Fabulae 257.
  22. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.495–501.
  23. ^ Rosner, pp. 318–322; Homer, Iliad 9.502–514.
  24. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.517.
  25. ^ Rosner, pp. 322–324; Swain, pp. 271–276.
  26. ^ Homer, Iliad 9.607–619.
  27. ^ Gantz, p. 609.
  28. ^ Homer, Iliad 16.194.
  29. ^ Homer, Iliad 17.555–561.
  30. ^ Homer, Iliad 19.309–313.
  31. ^ Homer, Iliad 23.359–361.
  32. ^ Gantz, pp. 581–582; Scholia (D) Iliad 19.326 = Cypria fr. 19 West, pp. 96–99. Compare with Hyginus, Fabulae 96; Apollodorus, 3.13.8.
  33. ^ Gantz, p. 581; Pausanias, 10.26.4 = Cypria fr. 19 West, pp. 98–99.
  34. ^ Gantz, p. 688; Proclus, Summary of the Nostoi = Returns argument 4 West pp. 156, 157.
  35. ^ Strabo 9.5.5 = Pindar fr. 183 Race pp. 408, 409.
  36. ^ Sommerstein, p. 134; Shapiro 1994, p. 19; Aeschylus fr. 132b Sommerstein, pp. 138, 139.
  37. ^ Gantz, pp. 639–640; Sophocles, Philoctetes 343–344, 557–567, 1329–1342. So also Apollodorus, E.5.10–11. Compare with Homer, Odyssey 11.506–509, where Odysseus tells Achilles' shade in the underworld that he brought Neoptolemus to Troy.
  38. ^ Gantz, p. 640; Beazley Archive 206070; LIMC 6591.
  39. ^ Gantz, p. 618; Kotlinska-Toma, pp. 30, 62. Sophocles' Phoenix may be the same as a play elsewhere called The Dolopians, see Llyod-Jones, pp. 68–69. Phoenix also appeared as a character in Sophocles, The Lovers of Achilles, see Llyod-Jones, p. 58, and probably played an important role in Sophocles' Scyrians, see Kotlinska-Toma, 187; Lloyd-Jones, pp. 276–277.
  40. ^ Gantz, p. 618; Aristophanes, Acharnians 421. For a detailed discussion of Euripides' Phoenix see Collard and Cropp, pp. 405–421. For further evidence for Phoenix's blindness in Euripides' play, see test. iva, Collard and Cropp, pp. 410, 411, frs. 815 (with note), 816.2, Collard and Cropp, pp. 418, 419.
  41. ^ Collard and Cropp, p. 406; Gantz, p. 618; test. iic, Collard and Cropp, p. 406; test. iva, Collard and Cropp, pp. 410, 411.
  42. ^ Gantz, p. 618; Palatine Anthology 3.3 (Paton, pp. 152–153)
  43. ^ Lycophron, Alexandra 417–423, with notes f and h.
  44. ^ Smith, s.v. Phoenix 2; Tzetzes on Lycophron 417.
  45. ^ Gantz, p. 618; Frazer's note 3 to Apollodorus, 3.13.8; Smith s.v. Phoenix 2; Tzetzes on Lycophron 421.
  46. ^ Gantz, p. 618; Frazer's note 3 to Apollodorus, 3.13.8; Smith, s.v. Phoenix 2.
  47. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 173; Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.307.
  48. ^ Virgil, Aeneid 2.761–763.
  49. ^ Apollodorus, 3.13.8.
  50. ^ Gantz, p. 618; Frazer's note 3 to Apollodorus, 3.13.8.
  51. ^ Apollodorus, E.4.3.
  52. ^ Apollodorus, E.5.11.
  53. ^ Apollodorus, E.6.12.
  54. ^ Collard and Cropp, p. 407 For Ennius' Phoenix, see Goldberg and Manuwald, pp. 114–121.
  55. ^ Shapiro 1994, p. 17; Beazley Archive 204682; LIMC 8366; AVI Web 6487.
  56. ^ Gantz, p. 658.
  57. ^ Matheson 2014, p. 143; Matheson 2009, p. 195.
  58. ^ Matheson 2009, pp. 192 Fig. 3, 195; Beazley Archive 203900; LIMC 241; AVI Web 6490.
  59. ^ Boardman, Griffin, and Murray, p. 47; Matheson 2014, p. 143. For a discussion of the embassy scene see Shapiro 1994, pp. 16–21.
  60. ^ Shapiro 1994, p. 19.
  61. ^ Shapiro 1994, pp. 18–19; Beazley Archive 202217; LIMC 9764.
  62. ^ Gantz, p. 658; Beazley Archive 310027; LIMC 11175; British Museum 1897,0727.2.
  63. ^ Gantz, p. 640; Beazley Archive 206070; LIMC 6591.
  64. ^ Moore, pp. 177–178; Beazley Archive 7504; LIMC 18151; J. Paul Getty Museum 77.AE.20.
  65. ^ Shapiro 2009, p. 8, Fig. 4; Matheson 2014, pp. 142–143; Matheson 2009, p. 195; Beazley Archive 203796; LIMC 12573; AVI Web 1999.
  66. ^ Matheson 2014, pp. 142–143; Matheson 2009, p. 195.
  67. ^ Shapiro 2009, p. 8.
  68. ^ Robertson, p. 67; Beazley Archive 201658; LIMC 12569; AVI Web: 8123.