Etymology: Possibly from the ancient greek “phḗnē/φήνη” meaning “vulture”.
Pronunciation: fin-ee-uhs, fahy-nyoos
Alternate Spellings: Phineas, Φινεύς
When researching this name, I’ve found that the name Phineus can refer to at least two different people from Greek Mythology. Though there is potentially at least one other figure named Phineus.
1) King Phineus from the Argonauts
This Phineus is perhaps the most well-known of the figures in Greek mythology bearing the name. The son of King Agenor in Thrace, Phineus had been given the gift of prophecy from the god Apollo. Now, because Phineus prophesied truly and revealed too much of the gods’ secrets, how he treated his sons, gave Phrixus directions for their journey, or chose a long life to having sight, Zeus blinded him as punishment. It was either that or death. Then, because that wasn’t enough, Phineus was exiled to the island of Salmydessus, where every time he would sit down to eat, the Harpies would come and steal all the food. What little food would be left after was foul and inedible.
Later, when Jason and the Argonauts arrived, they came to Phineus’ aid by having the winged Boreads, Calais, and Zetes (brothers of Cleopatra) chase after the Harpies. The goddess Iris intervened, keeping the Boreads from killing the Harpies and promising that Phineus would never be bothered by the Harpies again.
In gratitude for their service, Phineus prophesied to Jason about the Symplegades and how to get past the clashing rocks to continue their quest.
Other sources have the two Boreads pursue the Harpies until they fell from exhaustion into the sea below. Another source says that it is Helios, the sun god who sent the Harpies to torment Phineus for choosing to be blinded. Alternatively, Helios blinds Phineus at the behest of his son Aeëtes for helping his enemies. A more obscure source says that it is Poseidon who blinds Phineus instead of Zeus, in those versions of the stories, Phineus’ sons have their vision restored by the Boreads or Asclepius.
In the versions where Phineus doesn’t kill his sons, but instead either blinds them or has them buried to their waists to be tortured and has his first wife Cleopatra imprisoned and tortured when the Argonauts arrive, they learn of the punishments being meted out. As the Boreads are brothers to Cleopatra and that is their nephews, a battle breaks out between Phineus’ army of Thracians and the Argonauts’ crew. The Argonauts emerge victorious when Herakles slays Phineus.
Some accounts of this Phineus place him as a king in Paphlagonia or Arcadia instead of Thrace. Yet other sources state that Phineus is killed by Boreas, or that he is carried off by the Harpies into the country of either Bistones or Milchessians.
Parentage & Family
In Apollonius of Rhodes’ account, Phineus is the son of Agenor. The Bibliotheca names Poseidon as the father of Phineus, who was in another account Agenor’s father. Hesiodic Catalogue of Women names Phoenix and Cassiopeia as Phineus’ parents.
Phineus’ first wife is Cleopatra, the daughter of the North Wind, Boreas, and Oreithyia. Cleopatra (not to be confused with Mark Anthony and Cleopatra) bore Phineus two sons. There is a very long list of just who these two sons are. Either Plexippus and Pandion (these two are the most commonly named), Gerymbas and Aspondus, or Polydector (Polydectus) and Polydorus, or Parthenius and Crambis, or Oryithus (Oarthus) and Crambis. If you are confused as to who to go with, you are not alone.
Phineus’ second wife is Idaea, a Scythian Princess and daughter of Dardanus. Idaea claimed her stepsons raped her and Phineus blinded the sons. After Phineus is killed, Idaea returns to her people, where her father Dardanus kills her for how she treated her stepsons. Other wives that Phineus had are Dia, Eidothea (sister of Cadmus), and Eurytia.
With Idaea, Phineus has two other sons, Mariandynus and Thynus, and two daughters, Eraseia and Harpyreia. A third daughter, Olizone is mentioned, in some sources, she is named as Dardanus’ wife. That could just owe to more than one person who has the same name.
Lost Play & Works
Phineus – A now lost play written by Aeschylus, the first in a trilogy that includes The Persians and thought to have been produced in 472 B.C.E. In this play, Helios transforms Phineus into a mole over an unknown insult.
Antigone – The story of Phineus and Cleopatra has a brief mention of this story by Sophocles.
2) Uncle Phineus from the story of Perseus & Andromeda
In the story of Perseus & Andromeda, Phineus is the son of Belus and brother to King Cepheus of Egypt. At the beginning of the story, Phineus had been promised his niece, Andromeda in marriage. However, when the oracle told King Cepheus to offer up his daughter Andromeda in sacrifice to appease Poseidon’s anger, it is Perseus who comes and rescues the Princess and defeats the monster Cetus. As a reward, Cepheus offers Andromeda’s hand in marriage to Perseus. Had Phineus been the one to defeat Cetus and rescue Andromeda, this wouldn’t have been disputed or contested.
Phineus is adamant that because he was promised Andromeda’s hand first, he has the first claim and picks a fight with Perseus about his right to marry her during the wedding. After slaying a Gorgon and a Sea Monster, a mere mortal man is no challenge for Perseus who once again pulls out Medusa’s head and turns Phineus to stone. Given variations of the story, sometimes this is when Cepheus and Cassiopeia are also turned to stone when they accidentally look at the gorgon’s severed head. With Phineus now dead, Andromeda accompanies Perseus back to his home Tiryns in Argos where they eventually founded the Perseid dynasty.
Ovid’s Metamorphosis goes into detail about how Phineus may have arrived alone in Aethiopia but soon had many friends within Cepheus’ court. When Phineus threw a spear at Perseus, missing, Perseus soon after pulled the Gorgon’s head out and many of Phineus’ allies were turned to stone before it was finally turned on Phineus despite pleading for his life.
3) Phineus, Arcadian Prince
This Phineus would be one of the fifty sons of the infamous King Lycaon and the naiad Cyllene, Nonacris, or an unknown woman. Given how notorious King Lycaon and his sons were, Zeus came down to test them in the guise of a peasant. When these brothers mixed the remains of a child into the god’s meal, a justifiably enraged Zeus threw his meal over the table. All of the brothers and Lycaon were slain by lightning bolts.
In the Apollodorus, this version of the story sees Lycaon transformed into a wolf and a prototype for the werewolf legends as a curse.
Posted on April 2, 2023, in Arcadia, Deity, Greek, Harpy, King, Lightning, Promise/Oath, Prophecy, Punishment, Sacrifice, Thracian, Werewolf, Wolf and tagged Greek, Mythology. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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