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Salmoneus was a son of Aeolus and Enarete or Iphis, daughter of Peneus or Laodice and brother of Athamas, Sisyphus, Cretheus, Perieres, Deioneus, Canace, Alcyone, and Perimede. Salmoneus was the father of Tyro by his first wife Alcidice and his second wife being Sidero.
Emigrating from Aeolis with a number of Aeolians, Salmoneus founded a city in Eleia (Elis) on the banks of the river Alpheius and called it Salmonia after his own name. He then married Alcidice, the daughter of Aleus but when she died, the king took for a second wife Sidero who treated his beautiful daughter Tyro unkindly.
Salmoneus and his brother Sisyphus hated each other. Sisyphus found out from an oracle that if he married Tyro, she would bear him children who would kill Salmoneus. At first, Tyro submitted to Sisyphus, married him, and bore him a son. When Tyro found out what the child would do to Salmoneus, she killed the boy. It was soon after this that Tyro lay with Poseidon and bore him Pelias and Neleus.
Salmoneus, being an overbearing man and impious, came to be hated by his subjects for he ordered them to worship him under the name of Zeus. He built a bridge of brass, over which he drove at full speed in his chariot to imitate thunder, the effect being heightened by dried skins and cauldrons trailing behind while torches were thrown into the air to represent lightning. For this sin of hubris, Zeus eventually struck him down with his thunderbolt and destroyed the town.
- And he [i.e. Salmoneus] acted profanely, by casting torches (in the air) as if they were lightnings,
- And dragging dried hides with kettles at his chariot,
- Pretending to make thunder, so he was thunderstruck by Zeus.
According to Frazer, the early Greek kings, who were expected to produce rain for the benefit of the crops, were in the habit of imitating thunder and lightning in the character of Zeus. At Crannon in Thessaly, there was a bronze chariot which in time of drought was shaken and prayers offered for rain. S. Reinach suggests that the story that Salmoneus was struck by lightning was due to the misinterpretation of a picture, in which a Thessalian magician appeared bringing down lightning and rain from heaven. Hence arose the idea that he was the victim of the anger or jealousy of Zeus and that the picture represented his punishment.
- Strabo, Geography, 8. 3. 32
- Hellanicus in scholia on Plato, Symposium, 208 (p. 376)
- Scholia on Homer. Odyssey, 11.235
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, 1.7.3
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, 1.9.8
- Diodorus Siculus. The Library, 4.68.1-2.
- Tzetzes, Chiliades Book 7.9
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, 1.9.7
- Hyginus, Fabulae 60, 61
- Strabo viii. p. 356
- Manilius, Astronom. 5, 91
- Virgil, Aeneid vi. 585, with Heyne's excursus
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Salmoneus". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Virgil Aeneid 6.585-594
- Frazer Early History of the Kingship, 1905
- see also Golden Bough, i., 1900, p. 82
- Antigonus of Carystus, Historiae mirabiles, 15
- S. Reinach Revue archéologique, 1903, i. 154
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History translated by Charles Henry Oldfather. Twelve volumes. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. 1989. Vol. 3. Books 4.59–8. Online version at Bill Thayer's Web Site
- Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica. Vol 1-2. Immanel Bekker. Ludwig Dindorf. Friedrich Vogel. in aedibus B. G. Teubneri. Leipzig. 1888-1890. Greek text available at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Hyginus, Fabulae from The Myths of Hyginus translated and edited by Mary Grant. University of Kansas Publications in Humanistic Studies. Online version at the Topos Text Project.
- John Tzetzes, Book of Histories, Book VII-VIII translated by Vasiliki Dogani from the original Greek of T. Kiessling's edition of 1826. Online version at theio.com
- Pseudo-Apollodorus, The Library with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library. Greek text available from the same website.
- Strabo, The Geography of Strabo. Edition by H.L. Jones. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. 1924. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Strabo, Geographica edited by A. Meineke. Leipzig: Teubner. 1877. Greek text available at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Publius Vergilius Maro, Aeneid. Theodore C. Williams. trans. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1910. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Publius Vergilius Maro, Bucolics, Aeneid, and Georgics. J. B. Greenough. Boston. Ginn & Co. 1900. Latin text available at the Perseus Digital Library.