Douglas Frame

Heracles in Ionian Epic: Genesis of the “Sack of Oikhalia”

In a 1980 article Holly Davidson, in whose honor I offer this piece, made keen observations about epic traditions for Heracles.[1] She gave support to the work of Georges Dumézil, who in Mythe et épopée volume II compared Heracles with a Scandinavian and an Indic hero.[2] She focused her attention on traditions for Heracles in epic, as attested by the Homeric poems on the one hand and by another Ionian epic called the Oikhalias Halosis (Sack of Oikhalia) on the other hand. Citing a study by Walter Burkert she noted that the Sack of Oikhalia does not derive from the Homeric poems in any direct or linear way.[3] In what follows I propose to investigate further the relationship between the Sack of Oikhalia and the Homeric poems, a subject to which I come on the basis of my own earlier work. I ask that Holly accept these pages as a heartfelt tribute.


In a 2005 article, and more throughly in a 2009 monograph, I investigated the Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo from the standpoint of geography.[4] I argued that the representation of the Peloponnesus in the hymn reflects a Spartan bias following the Second Messenian War. When the Spartans conquered Messenia in the late seventh century BC they expelled the coastal population, descendants of what was once Homer’s “sandy Pylos,” the city of king Nestor in the southwest Peloponnesus. The Spartan land grab of all of Messenia was not the norm in Greek inter-state relations, and the expulsion of a people renowned in Homeric epic, Nestor’s Pylians, would have had a particular sting. The Hymn to Pythian Apollo uses the Homeric poems to blunt the opprobrium which the Spartan aggression would have stirred by creating a set of “alternative facts.” In the hymn Apollo establishes an oracle at Delphi at the end of his journey from mount Olympus to search out a suitable location for his new oracle. He then commandeers a ship of Cretan sailors who are on their way to Pylos, and forces them to go instead to Delphi to become his priests. There is detailed geography in both Apollo’s journey southward and the Cretan sailors’ voyage northward, and while this geography is meticulously coherent, it has a particular thrust. The Cretan sailors duly pass by Pylos, their intended destination, but Pylos has been displaced from southwest to northwest Peloponnesus, and relocated from the territory of Messenia to the territory of Elis. The effect of this displacement is to deny that Nestor’s famous city was ever in Messenia. Apollo, who steers the ship himself, effectively guarantees the new arrangement advanced by the hymn. Messenia receives no mention whatever in the Cretan ship’s voyage, as it passes from cape Taenaron in Lacedaemon to the Alpheios river, in the historical region of Triphylia, and on to Pylos, north of the Alpheios in Elis.[5] Messenia is a blank in this voyage, and this reflects what Messenia—the Messenian coast— had in fact become under the Spartans following the expulsion of the Pylians. To effect the displacement of Pylos the hymn takes passages from both Homeric poems and minimally reworks them. The Pylian entry to the Catalogue of Ships in Iliad 2 mentions a number of places in random geographical order; the hymn, with a simple reordering of the relevant lines from the catalogue, puts these places into a tendentious geographical order which locates Pylos north of the Alpheios river.[6] In the Odyssey, on the other hand, Telemachus sails from Pylos to Ithaca by night, and he passes a cape called Pheai, after which he jumps off toward the open water and Ithaca. Cape Pheai, just north of the Alpheios river, is a logical jumping off point if Telemachus’s voyage began in Messenia, but not if it began in Elis; from an Elean Pylos he would have had to voyage south instead of north to pass this cape. The hymn takes the relevant lines from Telemachus’s voyage and applies them to the voyage of the Cretan sailors, but replaces Pheai with another place farther north along the coast, beyond Elis in Achaea: by the addition of a single letter Pheai of the Odyssey becomes Pherai in the hymn, and this is meant as a correction of Telemachus’s voyage: when Telemachus sailed from Pylos to Ithaca, he did not start in Messenia, but in Elis, and was thus in Achaea when he jumped off toward Ithaca.[7] The hymn does not balk at the illogic of this—Telemachus would have been sailing directly away from Ithaca for a considerable distance before jumping off at Pherai toward Ithaca— but instead draws attention to the point of it all, namely that the route of the Cretan ship as far as Pherai was also Telemachus’s route. It does so by having Ithaca loom in the distance, emphatically, just as the Cretan ship passes Pherai. As in the case of the Alpheios river, the hymn borrows a line from Homer, but makes the necessary change in this case by adding the letter rho; other minor changes give the line in the hymn an air of independent authority: thus agallomenē, “reveling,” replaces epeigomenē, “sped on,” to describe the Cretan ship in contrast to Telemachus’s ship: H. Apollo 427, εὔτε Φερὰς ἐπέβαλλεν ἀγαλλομένη Διὸς οὔρῳ (“when it made for Pherai, exulting in Zeus’s wind,”) in contrast to Odyssey 15.297, ἡ δὲ Φεὰς ἐπέβαλλεν ἐπειγομένη Διὸς οὔρῳ (“it made for Pheai, sped on by Zeus’s wind”). [8] To make absolutely clear what the voyage of the Cretan sailors is meant to show, namely the “true” route of Telemachus’s ship in Odyssey 15, the hymn quotes a second passage from his voyage, this time virtually verbatim. Once past the crucial point of Pherai, the Cretan ship sails under a Zeus-sent wind into the gulf of Krisa and on to its final destination. Two of the three lines describing the favorable wind and rapid course of the ship are taken from the beginning of Telemachus’s voyage, where Athena sends a favorable wind to him as he sets sail from Pylos.[9]

My 2005 article was titled “The Homeric Poems after Ionia: A Case in Point.” Written for a conference on the reception of the Homeric poems, the article made the case that at the end of the Second Messenian War, traditionally dated 601 BC,[10] there must have been a fixed text of the Homeric poems, a text that had become known widely enough that the Spartans felt compelled to modify it in order to shift blame away from themselves for what, at their hands, had now become of Nestor’s storied city. At this date, near the end of the seventh century BC, a fixed text of the Homeric poems—of the Iliad and the Odyssey—would have been the possession of the Homeridai, a guild of rhapsodes on the island of Chios. The Homeridai, who had preserved this text, and would thus have had the authority to guarantee it, originated a century or so earlier as the group of poets who first composed the Homeric poems in the monumental form in which we know them. As argued in detail in Part 4 of my 2009 monograph, Hippota Nestor, the likeliest occasion for the creation of the Homeric poems was the festival of the Panionia, celebrated at a location on the coast of Asia Minor beginning in the late eighth century. The twelve cities of the Ionian dodecapolis, which regularly celebrated their newly formed union at the site called Panionion, would all have contributed to the formation of the epics, which went hand in hand with the formation of their new union. The period of Homeric composition ended when Panionion, and the coast that was home to ten of the twelve Ionian cities, was subjugated by the Lydians and harassed by other invaders in the first half of the seventh century BC.[11] It was then that Homeric poetry ceased to be part of the community formation that had taken place at Panionion and was removed, fully formed, offshore to the safety of the island of Chios.[12]

Within the twelve-city union there were different relationships between particular cities. Miletus, which in my scheme was the prime mover in the formation of the dodecapolis,[13] had a close relationship with the island of Chios,[14] but a less easy relationship with the island of Samos: in the Lelantine war, fought during an early period between two Euboean cities, Miletus supported one of the cities, Eretria, whereas Samos supported the other, Chalkis.[15] The two island members of the dodecapolis, Chios and Samos, would both have contributed equally to the creation of the Homeric poems at Panionion, but when the period of creation ended, it was Chios, not Samos, that received and preserved the poems in a direct succession from “Homer.” While the legacy of Miletus—I do not hesitate to call the Homeric poems that—was preserved on the island of Chios, the island of Samos became home to a different guild of rhapsodes, the Kreophyleioi. The Kreophyleioi were known particularly for a Heracles epic, the Oikhalias Halosis, or “Sack of Oikhalia,” to which I will turn below. But there was also a tradition that Sparta, in the person of its legendary lawgiver Lycurgus, received the Homeric poems soon after their creation from the Kreophyleioi on Samos.[16] Sparta had a special relationship with the island of Samos at an early period—as early as the Second Messenian War in any case, when the Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo was composed.[17] This hymn, as discussed above, sets out to cleanse the Homeric poems of the notion of a Messenian Pylos—if Pheas is replaced by Pheras in Odyssey 15.297 Messenia disappears.[18] But if the Homeridai on Chios had the older Pheas in their Homeric text, as surely they did, who would have been able to dispute their authority? According to Spartan tradition the Kreophyleioi on Samos were in possession of the Homeric poems at as early a time as the Homeridai on Chios: the Homeridai claimed Homer himself for their origin, but the Kreophyleioi were seen as going back to a contemporary of Homer.[19] While Chios was the main preserver of what had been created at Panionion, what had been created there was the collective effort of all twelve Panionic cities, and Samos, as one of the twelve cities, would have had a basis for claiming its own authority even against the Homeridai of Chios. It was the Kreophyleioi, I think, who would have been claimed as the authority for the new version of Odyssey 15.297.[20]


I now turn to the particular patrimony of the Kreophyleioi, the Oikhalias Halosis. Using the model developed to deal with the origins of the Hymn to Pythian Apollo, namely rival guilds of rhapsodes on Samos and Chios who supported minimally divergent versions of the Homeric text, I propose to investigate the Oikhalias Halosis, as far as the content of this lost epic can be ascertained, in relation to the Homeric poems. The Samian epic was most likely created in the seventh century, not long after the Homeric period ended.[21] Heracles, the hero of the Oikhalias Halosis, makes occasional appearances in the Homeric poems, and these can be compared with what we know of the later Samian epic. A central part of Heracles’ epic tradition concerned his labors, imposed on him by Eurystheus, king of Argos. His aethloi are referred to in Iliad 19, in Agamemnon’s speech of reconciliation to Achilles, on which I again cite the work of Holly Davidson.[22] One labor in particular, fetching the hound of Hades from the underworld, is referred to in both the Iliad and the Odyssey.[23] The two Homeric poems, which in my view were created together as a single unit at the festival of the Panionia, draw on the same epic tradition for Heracles’ aethloi. An important conduit for this tradition must have been the island of Samos. Heracles’ heroic identity, including his name, is closely connected with the goddess Hera;[24] Argos, where Heracles is forced to undergo his labors by king Eurystheus, was the site of Hera’s pre-eminent cult in mainland Greece. Her equally important cult in Samos seems to have been derived from the cult in Argos, and there is thus a clear path for Heracles’ epic tradition to have established itself in Samos.[25]

It is reasonable to assume that Samos was home to epic traditions for Heracles’ labors, and that the Homeric poems would have drawn on those traditions in the context of the poems’ Panionic creation. But no actual epic on the theme of the aethloi is associated with Samos.[26] What we have instead is the Oikhalias Halosis, a poem closer in spirit to the two Homeric poems. Unlike the labors of Heracles, which feature an outsize hero ridding the earth of wild beasts and monsters, the Oikhalias Halosis has a more human theme, comparable to that of the Iliad.[27] The Oikhalias Halosis was about the destruction of a city, Oikhalia, whose ruler was the hero Eurytos. The Homeric poems know nothing of this sack, much less that it was Heracles who did the deed. Eurytos himself, on the other hand, is known to both the Iliad and the Odyssey, where his epithet Oikhalieus, “of Oikhalia,” regularly associates him with his city.[28] The Odyssey twice refers to Eurytos, the king of Oikhalia, as a famous archer. In both contexts, moreover, Heracles, another famous archer, is also there. In Odyssey 8, when Odysseus asserts his athletic prowess among the Phaeacians, he includes his skill with the bow. He says that no one but Philoctetes among living mortals surpassed him with the bow, but he would not wish to rival the great bowmen of an earlier generation, Heracles or Oikhalian Eurytos. Both these heroes rivaled the gods with the bow, and Eurytos was killed by Apollo when he challenged Apollo to a contest.[29] In Odyssey 21 Eurytos and Heracles are associated again when Odysseus’s bow is taken from the palace storeroom in preparation for the poem’s climactic contest. This bow, which Odysseus did not take with him to Troy, was given to him by Iphitos, the son of Eurytos, when they once met in Messenia, each on a different mission: Odysseus had been sent to retrieve cattle stolen by Messenian men, and Iphitos came in search of lost horses. After an exchange of gifts, Iphitos’s bow for a spear and sword of Odysseus, the two parted in the expectation that they would meet again sometime in their own palaces, but that did not happen: Iphitos was first killed by Heracles for the sake of the very horses he sought when he and Odysseus met. The bow given to Odysseus was that of Iphitos’s father, Eurytos, who left it to his son when he died (Odyssey 21.13­–41). Heracles is censured in this passage, for he not only took Iphitos’s horses, but killed him for the horses while he was a guest in his house; the crime is described in a ring composition that begins with Iphitos’s search for his horses in Messenia and ends with his gift of the bow to Odysseus (21.22­–33):

Ἴφιτος αὖθ’ ἵππους διζήμενος, αἵ οἱ ὄλοντο
δώδεκα θήλειαι, ὑπὸ δ’ ἡμίονοι ταλαεργοί·
αἳ δή οἱ καὶ ἔπειτα φόνος καὶ μοῖρα γένοντο,
ἐπεὶ δὴ Διὸς υἱὸν ἀφίκετο καρτερόθυμον,
φῶθ’ Ἡρακλῆα, μεγάλων ἐπιίστορα ἔργων,
ὅς μιν ξεῖνον ἐόντα κατέκτανεν ᾧ ἐνὶ οἴκῳ,
σχέτλιος, οὐδὲ θεῶν ὄπιν αἰδέσατ’ οὐδὲ τράπεζαν,
τὴν ἥν οἱ παρέθηκεν· ἔπειτα δὲ πέφνε καὶ αὐτόν,
ἵππους δ’ αὐτὸς ἔχε κρατερώνυχας ἐν μεγάροισι.
τὰς ἐρέων Ὀδυσῆϊ συνήντετο, δῶκε δὲ τόξον,
τὸ πρὶν μὲν ἐφόρει μέγας Εὔρυτος, αὐτὰρ ὁ παιδὶ
κάλλιπ’ ἀποθνῄσκων ἐν δώμασιν ὑψηλοῖσι.

Iphitos was there in search of his horses, twelve mares
he had lost; hard-working mule colts were with them, nursing.
These mares presently were to mean his doom and murder
at the time when he came to the son of Zeus, strong-hearted,
the man called Herakles, guilty of monstrous actions,
who killed Iphitos while he was a guest in his household;
hard man, without shame for the watchful gods, nor the table
he had set for Iphitos, his guest; and when he killed him
he kept the strong-footed horses for himself in his palace.
In search of his mares, Iphitos met Odysseus, and gave him
the bow, which once the great Eurytos had carried, and left it
afterward to his son when he had died in his high house.

(Lattimore translation)

Both accounts in the Odyssey seem hard to square with what we know of the Oikhalias Halosis.[30] Eurytos’s death at the hands of Apollo would hardly follow naturally from the destruction of his city at the hands of Heracles; and Eurytos’s bow cannot have passed at his death to his son Iphitos if Iphitos was killed in connection with Heracles’ sack.[31] But before addressing these two problems there is a more basic divergence between Homer and what we know of the Oikhalias Halosis, and that is the location of Oikhalia. Already in Homer there is ambiguity about the location of Oikhalia, whether it lay in Thessaly or Messenia. Within the catalogue of ships itself, in the two passages cited above, there is divergence: the kingdom of the two Asclepiadai, Podaleirios and Machaon, is in Thessaly, but when Thamyris was blinded on his way to Pylos he had to be coming, not from Thessaly, but from somewhere in Messenia. A location of Oikhalia in Messenia is also presupposed by the Odyssey, where Odysseus meets Iphitos in “Lacedaemon,” i.e. in Messenia, searching for his horses (21.13).[32] What is remarkable is that the Oikhalias Halosis followed neither tradition in Homer for the location of Oikhalia, Thessaly or Messenia, but instead located Oikhalia in Euboea, in the territory of the city of Eretria. Pausanias 4.2.3 attests that this was the poem’s location for Oikhalia, and this location is thus one of the few solid pieces of information to survive about the poem.[33] My working assumption is that it was important to the poets of the Oikhalias Halosis to innovate within a Homeric framework, and that a door for a new location of Oikhalia was left open by the very ambiguity of the Homeric location of the city. But the reason for this innovation, as opposed to a justification for it, is the real question. If we seek the reason for the relocation of Oikhalia to the territory of Eretria, it is hard to ignore the Lelantine war, in which Samos supported the city of Chalkis against the city of Eretria. When Heracles lays waste a site that would be closely equated with Eretria, was this not meant to evoke an actual war in which Eretria was engaged, and Samos as well, when the Oikhalias Halosis was composed?

The Lelantine war cannot be precisely dated. The struggle between the two cities located on either side of the fertile Lelantine plain—Chalkis at the plain’s western end and Eretria several kilometers to the east of the plain’s eastern end—is likely to have been a continuing one. The war is usually dated to the eighth or seventh century, or to both. It is perhaps best to think in terms of a history of conflict that began even before the eighth century, but only erupted into a war involving other Greek states in the seventh century.[34] This would make the actual war contemporary with the composition of the Oikhalias Halosis.[35]


The time has come to propose a reconstruction of the genesis and main features of the Oikhalias Halosis on the basis of my model for the Kreophyleioi. This model entails a minimal adjustment of Homeric geography, as is the case in the relocation of Oikhalia to Euboea, but also assumes an avoidance of outright conflict with the accounts of the Homeric poems.[36] I propose that the sack of Oikhalia by Heracles is an innovation of the Kreophyleioi, and that Homer knows of no such tradition because no such tradition existed when the Iliad and the Odyssey were composed; the Lelantine war created the occasion for something new. If the Kreophyleioi were the acknowledged experts on Heracles’ epic traditions, they would, by that token, be in a position, if they wished, to create something new. The task would be merely to make Heracles’ new deed fit into his life story, and since that story was a series of individual episodes, a new episode could always be made to fit. The main feature of the new episode, as indicated by the poem’s title, was the destruction of Oikhalia, pure and simple; that was what had resonance in contemporary Samos. The inspiration to make Heracles the agent of this destruction can be seen in Odyssey 8, where Heracles and Eurytos are paired as two famous bowmen of the past. This pairing suggested an archery contest, with a daughter of Eurytos, Iole, as the prize.[37] Sophocles omits such a contest when he tells the story through the character Likhas, but the scholia to Sophocles report what the tradition was apart from Sophocles: when Heracles won Iole in a bow contest Eurytos refused to hand her over. While the scholiast does not name sources, it can be assumed that the Oikhalias Halosis was one.[38]

How much of the Sophocles play comes from the Oikhalias Halosis is a key question. The play has little to say about Heracles’ actual sack of Oikhalia, but is concerned instead with the aftermath of his sack: the jealousy stirred in his wife Deianeira by the appearance of his war prize Iole; the torment and death of Heracles as a result of Deianeira’s attempt to win him back, her love philter proving to be a cruel poison. If the Oikhalias Halosis was as focused on the destruction of the Euboean city as I propose, what is of central concern in the play of Sophocles, namely the death of Heracles, can hardly have played a part at all in the Samian epic. A crucial piece of evidence bears this out. Callimachus, in one of his epigrams, speaks as though in the voice of the Oikhalias Halosis; in this voice he summarizes the poem’s contents as a way of identifying it, and goes on to make a gently ironic judgment about the poem’s authorship: it is not by Homer, as some thought, but by the Samian Kreophylos, who once received Homer as a guest in his house.[39] The description of the poem’s contents— κλείω δ’ Εὔρυτον ὅσσ’ ἔπαθεν,/ καὶ ξανθὴν Ἰόλειαν, “I celebrate Eurytos, what he suffered,/ and fair-haired Iole”— would be wholly inadequate if the poem in any way concerned Heracles’ death: Heracles’ death, if it occurred, would make the poem about Heracles, a far more important figure than Eurytos, and Callimachus’s epigram, without any mention of Heracles, seems to me to rule that out.[40]

If the Oikhalias Halosis wished to avoid inconsistency with the Homeric poems, what can it have done about the two traditions found in the Odyssey, the death of Iphitos at Heracles’ hands, and the death of Eurytos at Apollo’s hands? I start with the easier case, Heracles’ murder of Iphitos. If Iphitos inherited his father’s bow, his death must have followed his father’s death by some period of time, and that would put his death later than the dramatic time of the Oikhalias Halosis. I propose that Iphitos’s death, which was greatly to the discredit of Heracles, was simply ignored in the Oikhalias Halosis. Sophocles, who includes Iphitos’s murder as part of his version of the story, must go against Homer and put Heracles’ crime in the past rather than the future with respect to the sack of Oikhalia: Zeus is said to have punished Heracles for the murder of Iphitos by subjugating him to the Lydian queen Omphale for a year, at the end of which Heracles returned and sacked Oikhalia (269–280). The Sophocles scholia which report the bow contest won by Heracles go on to provide information about the sons of Eurytos. The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, a passage of which the scholia quote, names four sons of Eurytos, one of whom is Iphitos. In the Oikhalias Halosis, according to the scholia, Eurytos had only two sons; while these two sons are not named it is an attractive assumption that Iphitos was not one of them.[41]

The death of Iphitos at the hands of Heracles could be ignored without denying the Homeric evidence, and ignore it the Oikhalias Halosis most likely did. If Iphitos was mentioned at all, it would only have been to keep him out of harm’s way during Heracles’ sack, and thus make him available for Heracles to kill later. This would be like the Hesiodic account of Nestor’s sojourn among the Gerenians, where Nestor’s timely absence saved him from Heracles’ sack of Pylos.[42] In the case of Eurytos himself, on the other hand, could his death by the arrows of Apollo also be ignored? This seems a harder case, but I think the case can be made. Both Homeric episodes, the death of Iphitos and the death of Eurytos, are in the future with respect to the sack of Oikhalia, and if one was ignored, the other could be too. But Homer, with the account of Eurytos’s death at the hands of Apollo, would be left uncontradicted only if Eurytos was not killed in Heracles’ sack of Oikhalia. Was that the case? Certain things indicate that it was. There is the parallel case of Heracles’ sack of Pylos, in which all of Neleus’s sons except Nestor were killed, but Neleus himself was not killed.[43] Did something like this happen in the Oikhalias Halosis —were Eurytos’s two sons killed by Heracles, but not Eurytos himself? I return to Callimachus’s summary of the Oikhalias Halosis: κλείω δ’ Εὔρυτον ὅσσ’ ἔπαθεν,/ καὶ ξανθὴν Ἰόλειαν, “I celebrate Eurytos, what he suffered,/ and fair-haired Iole.” What Eurytos “suffered” may have included his death, but not necessarily,[44] and death is not the worst that an epic hero might suffer. Worse, for one, was a wound to his honor. Eurytos began the quarrel by wounding Heracles’ honor, and Heracles sought to avenge this wound. The role of honor in Heracles’ motivation is revealed in the speech of Likhas, who suppresses the role of Eros as a motivation.[45] Likhas weaves together a complex story, most of which cannot go back to the Oikhalias Halosis, but the role of wounded honor stands out as what motivated Heracles. As Likhas tells the story, Eurytos first insulted Heracles when he was his guest, calling him inferior to his sons as a bowman and belittling him as the slave of Eurystheus, and then throwing him out at dinner when he was heavy with wine.[46] This treatment is made Heracles’ motivation for killing Iphitos when Iphitos comes to Tiryns in search of his horses. Heracles is then enslaved by Zeus to the Lydian queen Omphale to punish him for Iphitos’s unholy murder. Heracles finally returns and takes revenge on Eurytos, whom he holds responsible for his enslavement to Omphale. This is not meant to add up to a convincing story, since Eros turns out to be the much simpler explanation of Heracles’ behavior. In terms of Heracles’ traditions the series of events is in fact a hodge-podge: the drunken Heracles who gets himself thrown out of the city is a figure of Sicilian and Attic comedy; the murderer of Iphitos is Homeric, but the Homeric sequence of events with respect to Eurytos’s death is distorted. The slave to Omphale may be a figure of Ionian epic, but if Heracles’ enslavement was tied to the murder of Iphitos it did not occur in the Oikhalias Halosis; the murder of Iphitos, as discussed, was most likely ignored in the Oikhalias Halosis.[47]

The key insult at the start of the quarrel, I propose, was that Heracles was called the slave of a free man, Eurystheus. I will return to the scene in which this insult figures because it bears on what, according to the scholiast, Sophocles left out, namely the bow contest. The insult about enslavement to Eurystheus is only briefly expressed in a now corrupt line. The main wound to Heracles’ honor is shifted to his enslavement to Omphale.[48] In response to his own enslavement, and the reproach that this brought on, Heracles swore vengeance—to enslave Eurytos, his daughter, and his wife in return (Women of Trachis 254—261):

χοὔτως ἐδήχθη τοῦτο τοὔνειδος λαβὼν
ὥσθ’ ὅρκον αὑτῷ προσβαλὼν διώμοσεν
ἦ μὴν τὸν ἀγχιστῆρα τοῦδε τοῦ πάθους
ξὺν παιδὶ καὶ γυναικὶ δουλώσειν ἔτι.
κοὐχ ἡλίωσε τοὔπος, ἀλλ’ ὅθ’ ἁγνὸς ἦν,
στρατὸν λαβὼν ἐπακτὸν ἔρχεται πόλιν
τὴν Εὐρυτείαν· τόνδε γὰρ μεταίτιον
μόνον βροτῶν ἔφασκε τοῦδ’ εἶναι πάθους.

“And he was so much stung at having this shame set upon him that he put himself on oath and swore that in all truth he would yet enslave the man who had brought about this affliction together with his child and wife. And he did not fail to keep his word, but once he had been purified he raised a mercenary army and went against the city of Eurytos; for he it was whom he held responsible, alone among mortals, for what he had suffered.” (Lloyd-Jones translation, Loeb edition)

κοὐχ ἡλίωσε τοὔπος, “and he did not fail to keep his word”: this seems a clear reference to Eurytos’s enslavement at Heracles’ hands—enslavement rather than death. It is true that the speech belongs to Likhas, who conceals the truth about Iole from Deianeira, but falsifying the fate of Eurytos would not serve Likhas’s purpose of deception. I propose that in the Oikhalias Halosis Heracles’ enslavement to Eurystheus was the insult cast by Eurytos that made Heracles swear to make a slave of Eurytos in return. Eurytos’s two sons were killed when Oikhalia was sacked, but Eurytos, his daughter, and his wife, were enslaved. The Homeric tradition that Eurytos challenged Apollo to a bow contest implies his arrogance. In the Oikhalia Halosis Heracles experienced that arrogance and humbled it, but left to Apollo, and Apollo’s arrows, Eurytos’s final humbling.

There are two passages in the Sophocles play where Eurytos’s death in Heracles’ sack, as opposed to his enslavement, seems to be envisaged. While it is not necessary that Sophocles be consistent on this point—the Oikhalia Halosis, not Sophocles, is at issue—, his inconsistency turns out to be minor.

In the first of the passages in question a messenger arrives who reports that Likhas told a different story in the market place of Trachis from what he later told Deianeira, that it was “for the sake of this girl”—the still unnamed Iole— that Heracles “brought down Eurytos and the high towers of Oikhalia” (Women of Trachis 351–355):

τούτου λέγοντος τἀνδρὸς εἰσήκουσ’ ἐγώ,
πολλῶν παρόντων μαρτύρων, ὡς τῆς κόρης
ταύτης ἕκατι κεῖνος Εὔρυτόν θ’ ἕλοι
τήν θ’ ὑψίπυργον Οἰχαλίαν, Ἔρως δέ νιν
μόνος θεῶν θέλξειεν αἰχμάσαι τάδε.

“I heard this man saying, before many witnesses, that it was on account of this girl that Heracles brought down Eurytos and the high towers of Oikhalia, and that it was Eros alone among the gods that bewitched him into this deed of arms.” (Lloyd-Jones translation)

The verb translated as “brought down,” heloi, is from hairein, “to take,” which in Homeric poetry developed the meaning “to kill” in certain contexts;[49] the verb can also have this meaning in later Greek, including Sophocles.[50] In the passage above the verb occurs in a grammatical trope in which its basic meaning, “take,” applies to Oikhalia and its poetic meaning, “kill” applies to Eurytos.[51] As Jebb points out ad loc., the construction occurs in Iliad 11.328, where Odysseus and Diomedes, with one verb, heletēn, seize a chariot and kill its two occupants: ἔνθ’ ἑλέτην δίφρόν τε καὶ ἀνέρε δήμου ἀρίστω. Sophocles may have had the Homeric passage in mind, but whether he did or not, the poetic usage softens any implication of Eurytos’s death: both Eurytos and Oikhalia were “brought down,” and that meaning may be pressed in the case of Eurytos or not. Sophocles does not press it.

If Eurytos’s death was a feature of the Oikhalias Halosis it would be surprising that Sophocles did not make more of it; the passage just examined seems a way to dispose of any question that might naturally arise about Eurytos’s fate rather than to make his fate clear. The second passage to be addressed does make Eurytos’s death clear, but the passage is a well-recognized interpolation. It is in the continuation of the messenger’s speech, after he has revealed that it was for the girl standing in front of Deianeira, and for no other reason, that Heracles sacked Oikhalia (359–368; the interpolation, here marked in italics, is in 362–364,):

ἀλλ’ ἡνίκ’ οὐκ ἔπειθε τὸν φυτοσπόρον
τὴν παῖδα δοῦναι, κρύφιον ὡς ἔχοι λέχος,
ἔγκλημα μικρὸν αἰτίαν θ’ ἑτοιμάσας
ἐπιστρατεύει πατρίδα [τὴν ταύτης, ἐν ᾗ
τὸν Εὔρυτον τόνδ’ εἶπε δεσπόζειν θρόνων,
κτείνει τ’ ἄνακτα πατέρα] τῆσδε καὶ πόλιν
ἔπερσε. καί νῦν, ὡς ὁρᾷς, ἥκει δόμους
ὡς τούσδε πέμπων οὐκ ἀφροντίστως, γύναι,
οὐδ’ ὥστε δούλην· μηδὲ προσδόκα τόδε·
οὐδ’ εἰκός, εἴπερ ἐντεθέρμανται πόθῳ.

“No, when he failed to persuade her father to give him his daughter, to have as his secret love, he trumped up a petty accusation and a pretext, and marched against her country [in which he said this Eurytus was king, killed the king her father,] and sacked the city. And now, as you see, he has come back, sending her not without forethought, lady, or as a slave; do not expect that, nor is it likely, if indeed he is inflamed with desire.” (Lloyd-Jones text and translation) .[52]

In the interpolated lines Deianeira would learn that the girl in front of her is Eurytos’s daughter, but fifteen lines later she asks if the girl is low born, as Likhas led her to believe, and the messenger replies that she is Eurytos’s daughter and her name is Iole (377–382).[53] If the interpolated lines were genuine Deianeira would already know that the girl is Eurytos’s high-born daughter.[54]

Heracles in the Iliad, as Holly Davidson has shown, is a paradigm for Achilles, the heroic warrior subjected to an inferior king.[55] Achilles remains subject to Agamemnon in the end—Troy was taken by the Greeks under Agamemnon’s command—but he makes Agamemnon pay for an intolerable wound to his honor. Achilles turns the tables on Agamemnon, who cannot do without him, and who must recognize that he cannot do without him. In this sense Agamemnon is made subject to Achilles. In the poem created by the Kreophyleioi of Samos, whose antecedants must have taken part in the creation of the Homeric poems, Achilles, the avenger of his own wounded honor, seems to have become the model for Heracles.[56] Walter Burkert has well shown the extent to which the Oikhalias Halosis was Homeric in spirit.[57] A prime example is the wound to Heracles’ honor as the basis for his action in the Oikhalias Halosis.[58] Heracles is treated arrogantly by Eurytos (whose arrogance was already well marked in Homer in his challenge to Apollo), and he makes Eurytos suffer, and suffer mightily, for this arrogance, killing his sons, destroying his city, enslaving his wife, and carrying off his daughter.[59] The occasion for the wound to Heracles’ honor was a bow contest. This too has a clear Homeric resonance if Iole, like Penelope, was to marry the victor in the contest. I propose that this was the case, and that it was Eurytos’s sons rather than Eurytos himself who had to be defeated in the contest; the Sophoclean echo of this would be the insult cast at Heracles that as a bowman he was inferior to Eurytos’s sons. As the scholia to Sophocles report Heracles was the victor in the contest, but he was denied his prize Iole. I propose that Eurytos arrogantly denied Heracles the hand of his daughter on the grounds that Heracles, as the slave of the freeman Eurystheus, was not good enough; the echo of this in Sophocles, despite the corrupt text, is clear. As an essentially Homeric hero, different from the outsize hero of the aethloi, Heracles had to swallow the insult when he was deprived of his prize; to exact his revenge he first had to gather an army. The similarity to the situation in Iliad 1, where Achilles is stripped of the prize that he had won, is striking.[60] Like Achilles, if my analysis is correct, Heracles did not kill his arrogant oppressor, but instead make him live the consequences of his action.[61]

Heracles himself was guilty of a great moral outrage according to Odyssey 21; little could surpass in heinousness the murder of a guest. Sophocles emphasizes the heinousness of Heracles’ crime when he makes it the reason that Zeus enslaved him to Omphale before his sack of Oikhalia.[62] The Oikhalias Halosis, if it did not violate the Homeric sequence of events like Sophocles, but instead ignored Iphitos and his fate entirely, would thereby have mitigated the outrage firmly fixed in the Odyssey: Heracles was himself made a guest who was outraged by his host, and his later murder of Iphitos could thus be seen as provoked by his own mistreatment as a guest. This would not have been spelled out—the murder of a guest could not be excused so easily—but it did offer, so to speak, another side to the story.


The Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo was my starting point in this essay. On the basis of this hymn I drew conclusions about the Kreophyleioi on Samos: that they were in possession of the Homeric poems in the seventh century, and that thus at the end of the seventh century, when the Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo was composed, they were in a position to dispute the text and interpretation of a passage in Odyssey 15; this they would have done for the benefit of the Spartans, with whom they had a special relationship. The authority of the Kreophyleioi as rhapsodes, I posit, derived from their earlier participation in the creation of the Homeric poems. After the Homeric poems were created at Panionion at the end of the eighth and beginning of the seventh century, rhapsodic traditions continued in Ionia, but separately rather than collectively, and in the safety of islands rather than at the center on the mainland. In the context of the Lelantine war the Kreophyleioi created a new epic, the hero of which was Heracles, whose traditions were their specialty. The new episode in the life of Heracles, the destruction of Oikhalia, did not have roots in the Homeric poems, but the Homeric poems had other lore about Oikhalia and its king Eurytos, and it was important that this lore not be contradicted. The poem that resulted was very much in the vein of the Homeric poems, especially the Iliad. The Iliad ends with genuine pathos in the death of the hero Hector and the suffering of his father Priam; the Oikhalias Halosis attempted something similar with the sufferings of Eurytos, which included the death of his two sons among all his other losses. Callimachus indicates the pathos of the poem with the phrase hoss’ epathen, “the things that he suffered”; if the pathos did not rise to the level of the Iliad, as Callimachus also indicates with his judgment that the poem was not Homer’s, it was in the same vein.

The Homeridai of Chios, who in their name claimed the mantle of Homer, continued their own creative activity in the seventh century. The Hymn to Delian Apollo, which was joined to the Hymn to Pythian Apollo in the late sixth century,[63] was most likely composed in the mid-seventh century, at about the same time as the Oikhalias Halosis. The Delian hymn features a festival of Ionians on the island of Delos, where Panionian heritage could still be celebrated after Panionion itself had become inhospitable.[64] The hymn claims to be by “the blind man who lives in rocky Chios,” τυφλὸς ἀνήρ, οἰκεῖ δὲ Χίῳ ἔνι παιπαλοέσσῃ (172). This is the signature of the Homeridai, the Chian rhapsodes, [65] whose pride in their heritage is clearly proclaimed: when the Delian maidens are asked what poet they delight in most (169–170), they are to answer, the blind poet who lives in Chios, “whose poems hereafter are the best,” τοῦ πᾶσαι μετόπισθεν ἀριστεύουσιν ἀοιδαί. In this proud assertion the rivalry of the Homeridai with other rhapsodes comes through clearly.

Rivalry between the Kreophyleioi and the Homeridai was still in play at the end of the seventh century when the Hymn to Pythian Apollo was composed and the location of a place on Telemachus’s voyage home was subjected to doubt. The same kind of thing can be seen earlier in the creation of the Oikhalias Halosis. The location of Oikhalia was already a matter of doubt in Homer, and the Kreophyleioi seized on this to give Oikhalia a new and highly contentious location, which in effect made Heracles take sides in the Lelantine war on the side favored by Samos, the rhapsodes’ home. We do not have direct evidence for Chios in the Lelantine war, but we know that Miletus was on the other side from Samos in the war, and that Miletus and Chios were closely aligned. None of this implies actual hostility between the two island cities, Samos and Chios, and their guilds of rhapsodes. It was a matter of rivalry, not hostility. Callimachus again had it right when he pictured Homer, the creator of the Iliad and the Odyssey, as a guest-friend in the house of Kreophylos, the creator of the Oikhalias Halosis: τοῦ Σαμίου πόνος εἰμὶ δόμῳ ποτὲ θεῖον ἀοιδόν/δεξαμένου…


[1] O. M. Davidson, “Indo-European Dimensions of Herakles in Iliad 19.95–133,” Arethusa 13 (1980) 197–202.

[2] G. Dumézil, Mythe et épopée II (Paris 1971) 25–125.

[3] W. Burkert, “Die Leistung eines Kreophylos: Kreophyleer, Homeriden und die archaische Heraklesepik,” Museum Helveticum 29 (1972) 74–85; on p. 81 Burkert observes that the Oikhalias Halosis, whose contents are not known in any detail, cannot have contained elements of the mythic tradition referred to in the Odyssey.

[4] “The Homeric Poems after Ionia: A Case in Point,” Classics @ Issue 3: The Homerizon; Conceptual Interrogations in Homeric Studies, eds. C. Due and R. Armstrong (Center for Hellenic Studies 2005) Hippota Nestor, Hellenic Studies 37, Cambridge, MA and Washington, DC, 2009 (online version, Chs. 12 and 13.

[5] Cf. Hipota Nestor §5.14.

[6] The line with the Alpheios river, H. Apollo 423, is taken verbatim from Iliad 2. In the Iliad the line in question follows mention of Pylos, which naturally begins the Pylian entry to the catalogue of ships (Iliad 2.591–592):

οἳ δὲ Πύλον τ’ ἐνέμοντο καὶ Ἀρήνην ἐρατεινὴν
καὶ Θρύον Ἀλφειοῖο πόρον καὶ ἐΰκτιτον Αἰπὺ….

And those who inhabited Pylos and lovely Arene
and Thryon, ford of the Alpheios, and well-built Aipy….

In the hymn Pylos is put past the Alpheios in the ship’s voyage (H. Apollo 421–424):

ἡ δὲ πρήσσουσα κέλευθον
Ἀρήνην ἵκανε καὶ Ἀργυφέην ἐρατεινὴν
καὶ Θρύον Ἀλφειοῖο πόρον καὶ ἐΰκτιτον Αἶπυ
καὶ Πύλον ἠμαθόεντα Πυλοιγενέας τ’ ἀνθρώπους.

Plying its path
it came to Arene and lovely Argyphea
and Thryon, ford of the Alpheios, and well-built Aipy
and sandy Pylos and the Pylos-born men.

[7] Only Aristarchus (scholia to Iliad 7.135) and Strabo (8.3.26) had the true reading Pheas in Odyssey 15.297; the medieval manuscript tradition has only Pheras, which modern editions correct based on Aristarchus. It thus appears that the hymn largely achieved its goal of remaking Telemachus’s voyage, or at least contesting it.

[8] The two passages in their entirety:

Odyssey 15.296–300:

δύσετό τ’ ἠέλιος σκιόωντό τε πᾶσαι ἀγυιαί·
ἡ δὲ Φεὰς ἐπέβαλλεν ἐπειγομένη Διὸς οὔρῳ,
ἠδὲ παρ’ Ἤλιδα δῖαν, ὅθι κρατέουσιν Ἐπειοί.
ἔνθεν δ’ αὖ νήσοισιν ἐπιπροέηκε θοῇσιν,
ὁρμαίνων, ἤ κεν θάνατον φύγοι ἦ κεν ἁλοίη.

The sun set and all the ways grew dark;
it [the ship] made for Pheai, driven by Zeus’s wind,
and past shining Elis, where the Epeians have power.
From there he struck out for the fast islands,
pondering whether he would escape death or die.

Apollo 425–429:

βῆ δὲ παρὰ Κρουνοὺς καὶ Χαλκίδα καὶ παρὰ Δύμην
ἠδὲ παρ’ Ἤλιδα δῖαν ὅθι κρατέουσιν Ἐπειοί.
εὔτε Φερὰς ἐπέβαλλεν ἀγαλλομένη Διὸς οὔρῳ
καί σφιν ὑπὲκ νεφέων Ἰθάκης τ’ ὄρος αἰπὺ πέφαντο,
Δουλίχιόν τε Σάμη τε καὶ ὑλήεσσα Ζάκυνθος.

It went past Krounoi and Khalkis and past Dyme
and past shining Elis, where the Epeians have power.
When it made for Pherai, exulting in Zeus’s wind,
Ithaca’s steep mountain also appeared to
them from under the clouds,
and Doulichion and Same and wooded Zakynthos.

See Hipota Nestor §5.12 for signs that the Odyssey passage became a significant battleground for the location of Homeric Pylos. The line with mention of “shining Elis,” which occurs in both the Odyssey and the hymn, is formulaic in Homer. In the hymn the line is used to place Pherai beyond Elis; to counter this arrangement the same line was at some point added to Odyssey 15, where it fits less smoothly than in the hymn, but has the effect of placing Elis after Pheai in Telemachus’s voyage. Before the controversy over the location of Pylos arose there was no need to mention Elis at all in Telemachus’s voyage; cape Pheai itself would have been his jumping off point to the islands. It was the hymn that made Elis a contested part of Telemachus’s voyage; for more on the hymn’s geographical treatment of Elis see Hipota Nestor §5.15–§5.15.

[9] H. Apollo 430–439:

ἦλθ’ ἄνεμος ζέφυρος μέγας αἴθριος ἐκ Διὸς αἴσης
λάβρος ἐπαιγίζων ἐξ αἰθέρος, ὄφρα τάχιστα
νηῦς ἀνύσειε θέουσα θαλάσσης ἁλμυρὸν ὕδωρ.

A great clear west wind came by Zeus’s fate
rushing briskly from the sky, so that as fast as possible
the ship might reach its goal running across the salt water of the sea.

Odyssey 15.292–294:

τοῖσιν δ’ ἴκμενον οὖρον ἵει γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη,
λάβρον ἐπαιγίζοντα δι’ αἰθέρος, ὄφρα τάχιστα
νηῦς ἀνύσειε θέουσα θαλάσσης ἁλμυρὸν ὕδωρ.

Gray-eyed Athena sent them a favorable wind
rushing briskly through the sky, so that as fast as possible
the ship might reach its goal running across the salt water of the sea.

[10] In 371 BC the Theban general Epameinondas, according to his own reported words, freed Messenia after 230 years of Spartan servitude.

[11] Cimmerian marauders actually occupied the site of Panionion for a number of years in the middle of the seventh century; see Hippota Nestor §4.17– §4.18.

[12] Hippota Nestor §4.41– §4.42.

[13] And in the creation of the Homeric epics, which accompanied the formation of the dodecapolis; I argue both points in detail in Hippota Nestor, Part 4.

[14] Chios was supported by Miletus in an early conflict with Erythrai, the Panionic city opposite Chios on the mainland; Chios later repaid Miletus for its earlier help when the Lydian king Alyattes made repeated attacks on Miletus c. 600 BC and Chios alone of the Panionic cities came to Miletus’s aid (Herodotus 1.18.3); see Hippota Nestor n. 4.145 and cf. n. 4.48.

[15] Herodotus 5.99; to repay Miletus for its support in the Lelantine war Eretria at the start of the Ionian revolt added five ships to Athens’ twenty ships: οἱ γὰρ δὴ Μιλήσιοι πρότερον τοῖσι Ἐρετριεῦσι τὸν πρὸς Χαλκιδέας πόλεμον συνδιήνεικαν ὅτε περ καὶ Χαλκιδεῦσι ἀντία Ἐρετριέων καὶ Μιλησίων Σάμιοι ἐβοήθεον, “for the Milesians had earlier helped the Eretrians in carrying on the war against the Chalkidians, when the Samians helped the Chalkidians against the Eretrians and the Milesians.” The participation of Miletus and Samos in the Lelantine war is given context by Thucydides 1.15.3, who says that in this conflict, more than in any other of the early period of Greek history, “the rest of the Greek world” (τὸ ἄλλο Ἑλληνικὸν) also took part.

[16] Aristotle fr. 611.10 Rose, from the Constitutions as excerpted by Heraclides Lembus (Heraclides Lembus 372.10 Dilts). Aristotle is the earliest source but the tradition was doubtless older; cf. n. 20 below.

[17] See Paul Cartledge, “Sparta and Samos: A Special Relationship?” Classical Quarterly N.S. 32 (1982) 243–265; Cartledge, p. 255, sees the beginnings of the special relationship as early as 650 BC. Cf. Hippota Nestor §5.20.

[18] Messenia as the location of Pylos, disputed in the seventh century, was disputed again in the fifth century, and it was then Tripylia rather than Elis that was put forward as the true location. For the circumstances of this latter day attempt to relocate Pylos, and for the manipulation of the Homeric text meant to establish it, see Hippota Nestor, Ch. 14.

[19] Their supposed namesake Kreophylos received Homer as a guest in his home according to Callimachus Epigrams 6 Pfeiffer (see below). Kreophylos is said to have received the Iliad from Homer by the scholia to Plato Republic 600b, but there is contamination with other traditions in this source (see Hippota Nestor n. 5.68). Lycurgus, who obtained the poems for Sparta, was said to have received them from the Kreophyleioi, the descendants of Kreophylos (Aristotle fr. 611.10 Rose [ n. 15 above] and Plutarch, Lycurgus 4.4); cf. Hippota Nestor n. 5.68.

[20] Burkert [n. 3 above] 78 follows Wilamowitz in dating the Lycurgus tradition to the fourth century, when it would have been meant to rival the Athenian tradition that Hipparchus brought the poems to Athens; the Spartan tradition in my view was much older than that (see Hippota Nestor n. 5.68). Authorship of the hymn remains with the Spartans in my scheme; for Tyrtaeus as a possible, even likely author, see Hippota Nestor §5.25–§5.26 and EN5.13 (Endnote to n5.94).

[21] This is Burkert’s date; see his pp. 81–82 for the evidence of a Corinthian amphora, c. 600 BC, and a fragment of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, both probably inspired by the Oikhalias Halosis.

[22] Davidson [n. 1 above] 200: “When Agamemnon in 19.95–133 blames Ἄτη for his having dishonored Achilles, he cites the story of the birth of Herakles, which tells of a superior person serving an inferior to his own dishonor….The fact that Agamemnon admits to his ἄτη by citing this Herakles story ironically establishes him as a parallel to Eurystheus, and Achilles as a parallel to Herakles. Agamemnon’s own ultimate inferiority to Achilles is thus indirectly recognized.”

[23] Iliad 8.362–369; Odyssey 11.617–626. In the Odyssey Heracles himself tells Odysseus of the labors (aethlous) imposed on him by an inferior man (kheironi phōti); in Iliad 8.363 and 19.133 the phrase hup’ Eurusthēos aethlōn is used to the same effect.

[24] Iliad 19.96–125 tells how Hera, tricking Zeus, delayed Heracles’ birth in order to make him subject to Eurystheus; Iliad 5.392–394 tells how Heracles, in a graphic display of the hostility between hero and goddess, once wounded Hera in the right breast with an arrow. For the name Heracles as “the glory of Hera,” see Walter Pötscher, “Hera und Heros,” Rheinishes Museum 104 (1961) 302–355, and “Der Name des Herakles,” Emerita 39 (1971) 169–184; both articles are referred to by Davidson. For more on the connection between Heracles and Hera, in particular the notion of “seasonality” inherent in the names, see Gregory Nagy, esp. §105–§108 in “The Epic Hero,” 2006, 2nd ed. (on-line version) Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, DC.

[25] M.B. Sakellariou, La migration grecque en Ionie (Athens 1958) 105 considers the colonization of Samos to have been primarily from the Argolid; features of the Samian cult of Hera showing its filiation from the Argive cult confirm the tradition for Epidaurus, and perhaps Cleonai, as places of origin. In Pausanias 7.4.4 there are conflicting views about Hera’s statue in Samos, some saying it was brought to Samos from Argos by the Argonauts, the Samians themselves seeing it as always theirs.

[26] The earliest known epic that had Heracles’ labors as its subject was attributed to Peisandros of Rhodes; this poem, which was most likely composed in the seventh century, was known to Theocritus, whose Epigram 22 refers to both the poet and the work. Rhodes, colonized by Peloponnesian Dorians, was a natural home to the essentially Dorian tradition of the labors.

[27] See nn. 57 and 58 below for Walter Burkert’s keen analysis.

[28] In the catalogue of ships his city is named as one of three cities in the Thessalian kingdom of Podaleirios and Machaon (οἵ τ’ ἔχον Οἰχαλίην πόλιν Εὐρύτου Οἰχαλιῆος, Iliad 2.730); in the Pylian entry to the catalogue of ships the singer Thamyris, who was blinded by the Muses at Dorion, is said to have suffered this fate as he came from Oikhalia, the city of “Oikhalian Eurytos” (Οἰχαλίηθεν ἰόντα παρ’ Εὐρύτου Οἰχαλιῆος, Iliad 2.596). The epithet Oikhalieus also occurs in the Odyssey (see next note).

[29] Odyssey 8.225–228:

ἀνδράσι δὲ προτέροισιν ἐριζέμεν οὐκ ἐθελήσω,
οὔθ’ Ἡρακλῆϊ οὔτ’ Εὐρύτῳ Οἰχαλιῆϊ,
οἵ ῥα καὶ ἀθανάτοισιν ἐρίζεσκον περὶ τόξων.
τῶ ῥα καὶ αἶψ’ ἔθανεν μέγας Εὔρυτος οὐδ’ ἐπὶ γῆρας
ἵκετ’ ἐνὶ μεγάροισι· χολωσάμενος γὰρ Ἀπόλλων
ἔκτανεν, οὕνεκά μιν προκαλίζετο τοξάζεσθαι.

[30] Cf. Burkert [n. 3 above] 81: “beides fügt sich in dieser Form unmöglich in eine Oichalias Halosis”.

[31] Or indeed before Heracles’ sack, as Sophocles has it, Women of Trachis 269–273. See n. 13 below for the question of the sons of Eurytos and their deaths in Heracles’s sack of Oikhalia.

[32] See Pausanias 3.26.8–10 for a cult of Makhaon in Messenia; Nestor is supposed to have brought Makhaon’s bones back to Messenia from Troy. Podaleirios, who survived the Trojan war, had his own further story as colonizer in Asia Minor; see Hippota Nestor §1.3, n. 6 and §2.8, n. 20.

[33] Pausanias discusses Thessaly and Euboea as the location of Eurytos’s city before restating his view that Messenia is its true location; in his discussion of Euboea he cites Hecataeus for Oichalia’s exact location within the territory of Eretria:

Θεσσαλοὶ δὲ καὶ Εὐβοεῖς, ἥκει γὰρ δὴ ἐς ἀμφισβήτησιν τῶν ἐν τῇ Ἑλλάδι <τὰ>πλείω, λέγουσιν οἱ μὲν ὡς τὸ Εὐρύτιον – χωρίον δὲ ἔρημον ἐφ’ ἡμῶν ἐστι τὸ Εὐρύτιον – πόλις τὸ ἀρχαῖον ἦν καὶ ἐκαλεῖτο Οἰχαλία, τῷ δὲ Εὐβοέων λόγῳ Κρεώφυλος ἐν Ἡρακλείᾳ πεποίηκεν ὁμολογοῦντα· Ἑκαταῖος δὲ ὁ Μιλήσιος ἐν Σκίῳ μοίρᾳ τῆς Ἐρετρικῆς ἔγραψεν εἶναι Οἰχαλίαν. ἀλλὰ γὰρ οἱ Μεσσήνιοι τά τε ἄλλα δοκοῦσί μοι μᾶλλον εἰκότα ἐκείνων λέγειν καὶ οὐχ ἥκιστα τῶν ὀστῶν ἕνεκα τῶν Εὐρύτου, ἃ δὴ καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἔπειτά που <ὁ> λόγος ἐπέξεισί μοι.

“Most matters of Greek history have come to be disputed. The Thessalians say that Eurytion, which today is not inhabited, was formerly a city and was called Oikhalia. The account given by the Euboeans agrees with the statements of Kreophylos in his Heracleia [i.e. the Oichalias Halosis]; and Hecataeus of Miletus stated that Oikhalia is in Skios, a part of the territory of Eretria. Nevertheless, I think that the whole version of the Messenians is more probable than these, particularly on account of the bones of Eurytos, which my story will deal with later [at 4.33.5].” (Ormerod translation in the Loeb edition)

Sophocles follows the Oikhalia Halosis in locating Eurytos’s city in Euboea; see Jebb on Women of Trachis 237–238 and 750.

[34] The archaeological site of Lefkandi is important for the early history of central Euboea. Lefkandi is at the eastern end of the Lelantine plain, between Eretria to the east and Chalkis to the west. It is possible, perhaps probable, that Lefkandi was an earlier site of Eretria, which would thus formerly have bordered on the Lelantine plain and then been moved ten kilometers to the east. For the idea that there was a general population shift from Lefkandi to Eretria between 850 and 700 BC see A.R. Knodell, “Small-World Networks and Mediterranean Dynamics in the Euboean Gulf: An Archaeology of Complexity in Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Greece” (Ph.D. diss., Brown University: 2013), Chapter 8. Noting that about 825 BC there seems to have been a general decline in population at Lefkandi and that at the same time the first traces of settlement are found at Eretria, and that by 700 occupation seems effectively to have ceased at Lefkandi, Knodell comments: “The cessation of settlement at Lefkandi in the Late Geometric period, and rapid expansion of settlement at Eretria is about as direct a suggestion for population movement from one proximal site to another as one can hope to see.” There is mention of an “Old Eretria” (palaia Eretria) in Strabo 10.1.10, but Strabo locates it at the same site as the historical city of Eretria and says that it was destroyed by the Persians. What “Old Eretria” could have been at such a late date is not clear; if Strabo is confused about the date of Old Eretria’s end he may also have been confused about its location. If Eretria was in fact gradually relocated from Lefkandi, its relocation would have taken place during the period of conflict before any open war involving other Greek states; why it would have been moved in the earlier circumstance is a question for speculation.

[35] During the period in which the Homeric poems were composed the conflict would not yet have erupted into open war; this would fit the model of Panionic collaboration in the creation of the Homeric poems, before Samos and Miletus became involved on opposite sides in a distant war. Leodamas, the last king of Miletus, whom I take to be the prime mover in the creation of both the Ionian dodecapolis and the Homeric poems, became king of Miletus by defeating the city of Karystos in Euboea. In terms of the temporal distinction drawn here Leodamas’s campaign should be seen as belonging to the period of conflict in Euboea preceding the Lelantine war rather than to the war itself; for Leodamas and his role with respect to the dodecapolis and the Homeric poems see Hippota Nestor §4.49– §4.55.

[36] I do not claim that the Kreophyleioi could not contradict the Homeric poems if they wished, rather that they wished not to do so.

[37] No such daughter is found in Homer.

[38] Cf. Burkert, p. 81 n. 31: “…dagegen muss eine Form des Bogenwettkampfes vorgekommen sein …, insofern nach Schol. Soph. Trach. 266 einzig Sophokles diesen unterdrückt hat.”

In Sophocles the cause of conflict between Heracles and Eurytos is disguised in the speech of Likhas, who wishes to hide from Deianeira the true cause of conflict between the two heroes, namely Iole; the scholia to line 266 comment that Sophocles [in Likhas’s speech] is idiosyncratic in making the cause of conflict an insult cast by Eurytos at Heracles, namely that he was inferior as a bowman to Eurytos’s own sons (265–266): “for” the scholia continue “he [Eurytos] not only bragged about his sons, but also, after offering Iole as the prize in a bow contest, did not hand her over to Heracles when he won” (οὐ γὰρ ἠλαζονεύσατο μόνον περὶ τῶν παίδων ἑαυτοῦ ἀλλὰ καὶ δῶρον τοξείας προθεὶς τὴν Ἰόλην νικήσαντι Ἡρακλεῖ οὐκ ἠγγύησεν). After the lemma τῶν ὧν τέκνων λίποιτο—Heracles’ alleged inferiority to Eurytos’s sons—, the scholiast says τοῦτο ἰδίως, i.e. only Sophocles says this. But the scholiast’s following οὐ…μόνον, “not only,” leaves it open whether the insult about Eurytos’s sons may also have occurred in the Oikhalias Halosis along with the archery contest.

[39] Callimachus Epigrams 6 Pfeiffer:

τοῦ Σαμίου πόνος εἰμὶ δόμῳ ποτὲ θεῖον ἀοιδόν
δεξαμένου, κλείω δ’ Εὔρυτον ὅσσ’ ἔπαθεν,
καὶ ξανθὴν Ἰόλειαν, Ὁμήρειον δὲ καλεῦμαι
γράμμα· Κρεωφύλῳ, Ζεῦ φίλε, τοῦτο μέγα.

I am the work of the Samian who once received the divine poet
in his home, and I celebrate Eurytos, what he suffered,
and fair-haired Iole; but I am called a writing
of Homer: dear Zeus, for Kreophylos this is a great thing.

 [40] The Homeric poems do not contain a specific tradition for Heracles’ death: Achilles, resigning himself to his own death, attributes the death of Heracles, his heroic paradigm, to “fate and the hard anger of Hera” (ἀλλά ἑ μοῖρα δάμασσε καὶ ἀργαλέος χόλος Ἥρη, Iliad 18.119); the Odyssey, with its appearance of Heracles in the underworld, presupposes his death but does not say how it occurred. Even if the death of Heracles somehow mattered to the Oikhalias Halosis—and that seems highly unlikely— the Homeric poems presented no problem to be negotiated.

[41] Hesiod, fr. 26.27–31 M-W:

ἡ δ’ ὑποκυσαμένη καλλίζωνος Στρατονίκη
Εὔρυτον ἐν μεγάροισιν ἐγείνατο φίλτατον υἱόν·
τοῦ δ’ υἱεῖς ἐγένοντο Δηίων <τε> Κλυτίος τε
Τοξεύς τ’ ἀντίθεος ἠδ’ Ἴφιτος ὄζος Ἄρηος·
τοὺς δὲ μέθ’ ὁπλοτάτην τέκετο ξανθὴν Ἰόλειαν

“Beautiful-girdled Stratonike conceived
and bore a dearest son Eurytos in her halls;
to him were born the sons Dēḯōn and Klutios,
and god-like Toxeus and Iphitos, scion of Ares;
after them Antioche bore her youngest, fair-haired Iole.”

I suggest that that the first two sons named in the Hesiod passage, Dēḯōn and Klutios, line 29, were the two who were killed in the Oikhalias Halosis, and that the second two, Toxeus and Iphitos, line 30, were added by Hesiod, Iphitos on the basis of Homer, and Toxeus for the sake of his name, matching the theme of archery. See Merkelbach and West for uncertainty about the name Dēḯōn, which does not scan.

[42] Hesiod fr. 35.7–9 M-W; cf. Hippota Nestor §1.3 with n. 1.6. The difference would be that Nestor was kept safe from Heracles so that he would live, not so that Heracles could kill him later.

[43] Iliad 11.699–693, 717–719. Cf. Hippota Nestor, Ch. 4 passim.

[44] The verb πάσχω, “suffer,” does not ordinarily refer to death, but can do so in a euphemistic usage; e.g. Callinus 1.17 West: τὸν δ’ ὀλίγος στενάχει καὶ μέγας ἤν τι πάθηι, “him [the warrior as opposed to the non-warrior] both great and small mourn if he should suffer something”, i.e. “if he should be killed.”

[45] The role of Eros, which is strictly bound up with the story of Deianeira, cannot go back to the Oikhalias Halosis, in which Deianeira had no part; Eros presumably led Heracles to compete for Iole’s hand, but it was wounded honor that motivated his sack of the city. Cf. n. 58 below.

[46] Women of Trachis 262–269; the text of 267–268 is corrupt, but the reference to Heracles’ enslavement to Eurystheus is clear:

ὃς αὐτὸν ἐλθόντ’ ἐς δόμους ἐφέστιον,
ξένον παλαιὸν ὄντα, πολλὰ μὲν λόγοις
ἐπερρόθησε, πολλὰ δ’ ἀτηρᾷ φρενί,
λέγων χεροῖν μὲν ὡς ἄφυκτ’ ἔχων βέλη
τῶν ὧν τέκνων λείποιτο πρὸς τόξου κρίσιν,
φώνει δὲ δοῦλος ἀνδρὸς ὡς ἐλευθέρου
ῥαίοιτο· δείπνοις δ’ ἡνίκ’ ἦν ᾠνωμένος,
ἔρριψεν ἐκτὸς αὐτόν.

“When Heracles had come to his house and was at his hearth, being an old friend, Eurytos had reviled him greatly with insults coming from a baneful mind, saying that, though he held in hands arrows that could not be escaped, he was inferior to Eurytos’ own sons when matched in archery, and [that he was a slave who was crushed by the mere voice of a freeman. ] And at dinner when he was full of wine he threw him out.” Lloyd-Jones puts φώνει δὲ δοῦλος ἀνδρὸς ὡς ἐλευθέρου/ ῥαίοιτο between daggers, commenting that the text is wholly uncertain here.

[47] Another epic of the Kreophyleioi, combining the Iphitos and Omphale stories, might be conjectured. See Wilamowitz , Euripides Herakles II, pp. 73–75, for the Omphale story as having originated in Thessaly before being transfered to Lydia by poets no longer familiar with its Thessalian geography. For evidence in the Iliad that the Lydian king Gyges was contemporary with the final stages in its composition, see Hippota Nestor §4.40 with n. 4.140 and EN4.8 (Endnote to n4.140).

[48] The city of Oikhalia as a whole paid for insults to Heracles about his enslavement to Omphale; such generalized insults are referred to in lines 281–283 in the context of Iphitos’s murder and Heracles’ consequent enslavement (see lines 275–276 for the context):

κεῖνοι δ’ ὑπερχλίοντες ἐκ γλώσσης κακῆς,
αὐτοὶ μὲν Ἅιδου πάντες εἴσ’ οἰκήτορες,
πόλις δὲ δούλη.

“They in the arrogance fed by their evil speech now all inhabit Hades, and their city is enslaved.”

[49] As in the line-end formula helen andra, “he killed the man.” See Hippota Nestor, §1.30 with n. 1.88 for the origins of the meaning “kill” in Homeric formulaic diction; see also, with more detail, The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic (New Haven 1978) 103–109 (online version at:

[50] As in Electra 528 (Clytemnestra justifying her murder of Agamemnon to Electra): ἡ γὰρ Δίκη νιν εἷλεν, οὐκ ἐγὼ μόνη, “for Justice killed him, not I alone.” The usage remained poetic in post-Homeric Greek.

[51] Lloyd-Jones’ “brought down” does justice to both meanings without being overly specific on the meaning “kill.”

[52] Without the interpolation in lines 362–364 three lines shrink to one: ἐπιστρατεύει πατρίδα τῆσδε καὶ πόλιν / ἔπερσε, “and marched against her country / and sacked the city.”

[53] In 377–378 Deianeira asks: ἆρ’ ἀνώνυμος / πέφυκεν, “was she born nameless?” This of course means not “Does she lack a name?”, but “Is she of low birth?” The fact that the messenger gives Iole’s name in 381, after saying that she is Eurytos’s daughter in 380, may have caused confusion on this point. Line 379, speaking of Iole’s high-born qualities, is assigned either to the end of Deianeira’s speech as part of a question, or to the beginning of the messenger’s reply as a statement. In either case the line relates to the word ἀνώνυμος as asking about social status, not as requesting a name.

[54] For other problems in the passage see Jebb ad loc., and M. Davies, Sophocles Trachiniae (Oxford 1991) ad loc. Jebb, who is reluctant to bracket the passage, fully recognizes its problems, and acknowledges that bracketing removes them. Davies reaches the same conclusion, and brackets the passage.

[55] See nn. 1 and 22 above.

[56] Tradition would not allow a reversal of Heracles’ enslavement to Eurystheus; but if Eurystheus could not be enslaved to Heracles, Eurytos, in some fashion, could be. Eurytos in the Oikhlias Halosis may thus have been a kind of substitute for Eurystheus to bring about a reversal of slave and master roles.

[57] Burkert, pp. 82–83: “Sucht man aber im bunten Bilderbogen der Herakles-Taten nach einem Thema, das frei is vom Mirakulösen, das nur menschlich und doch zugleich erschütternd, heroish und gleichsam tragisch ist, so bleibt, von raren Einzelheiten abgesehen, nur eines: die verhängnisvolle Werbung um Iole mit allen ihren Folgen, Οἰχαλίας ἅλωσις. Dies ist das enzige Stück der Heraklesmythologie, das sich als ‘homerisch’ im Sinn der Ilias charakterisieren lässt.” Burkert goes on to compare the Oikhalias Halosis and the Iliad for their unity, each taking a single episode and developing it—the wrath of Achilles in the Iliad, one episode in the life of Heracles in the Oikhalias Halosis. For further comparisons, including that the war was for a woman in both poems, see the following note.

[58] Cf. Burkert, p. 83: “um eine Frau ging der Kampf, gleichsam Helena und Briseis in einem, doch Begehrlichkeit and Zerstörungswut standen im Dienste der widerherzustellenden τιμή.”

[59] Note the plural in Callimachus’s phrase hoss’ epathen, “how many things he suffered.”

[60] Note that Achilles too leads an army when he sacks cities and does not act alone (Odyssey 3.105–106).

[61] Achilles is tempted to kill Agamemnon in Iliad 1 but Athena restrains him.

[62] Women of Trachis, 274–280 (Likhas’s speech):

ἔργου δ’ ἕκατι τοῦδε μηνίσας ἄναξ,
ὁ τῶν ἁπάντων Ζεὺς πατὴρ Ὀλύμπιος,
πρατόν νιν ἐξέπεμψεν, οὐδ’ ἠνέσχετο
ὁθούνεκ’ αὐτὸν μοῦνον ἀνθρώπων δόλῳ
ἔκτεινεν· εἰ γὰρ ἐμφανῶς ἠμύνατο,
Ζεύς τἂν συνέγνω ξὺν δίκῃ χειρουμένῳ·
ὕβριν γὰρ οὐ στέργουσιν οὐδὲ δαίμονες.

“It was on account of this deed that the lord, Olympian Zeus, the father of all, sent him to be sold. He did not tolerate it, because this was the only man he had killed by treachery; if he had fought him openly, Zeus would have pardoned him, since he had worsted his enemy in just fashion, for the gods also do not put up with violent crime.” (Lloyd-Jones translation)

[63] By the Samian tyrant Polycrates for his combined Puthia kai Dēlia festival in 523 or 522 BC. M.L. West and Richard Janko independently made the same attribution of the combined hymn to Polycrates; see Hippota Nestor n. 4.101.

[64] Homeric Hymn to Apollo 146–148:

ἀλλὰ σὺ Δήλῳ Φοῖβε μάλιστ’ ἐπιτέρπεαι ἦτορ,
ἔνθα τοι ἑλκεχίτωνες Ἰάονες ἠγερέθονται
αὐτοῖς σὺν παίδεσσι καὶ αἰδοίῃς ἀλόχοισιν.

“But, Phoebus, you delight your heart most of all in Delos,
where the tunic-trailing Ionians gather
with their children and revered wives.”

[65] Cf. Hippota Nestor §4.22.