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Salmoneus was a son of Aeolus and Enarete or Iphis (daughter of Peneus) and brother of Athamas, Sisyphus, Cretheus, Perieres, Deioneus, Canace, Alcyone, and Perimede. Salmoneus was the father of Tyro by his first wife Alcidice, the second one being Sidero.
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' subjects were ordered 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. Virgil's Aeneid has Salmoneus placed in Tartarus after Zeus smites him where he is subjected to eternal torment.
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)
- Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 7. 3
- Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 9. 8
- 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