Readings for reflection: Melampos

Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 1.9.11
Amythaon dwelt in Pylos and married Idomene, daughter of Pheres, and there were born to him two sons, Bias and Melampos. The latter lived in the country, and before his house there was an oak, in which there was a lair of snakes. His servants killed the snakes, but Melampos gathered wood and burnt the reptiles, and reared the young ones. And when the young were full grown, they stood beside him at each of his shoulders as he slept, and they purged his ears with their tongues. He started up in a great fright, but understood the voices of the birds flying overhead, and from what he learned from them he foretold to men what should come to pass. He acquired besides the art of taking the auspices, and having fallen in with Apollon at the Alpheios he was ever after an excellent soothsayer.

Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 1.9.12
Bias wooed Pero, daughter of Neleus. But as there were many suitors for his daughter’s hand, Neleus said that he would give her to him who should bring him the kine of Phylakos. These were in Phylake, and they were guarded by a dog which neither man nor beast could come near. Unable to steal these kine, Bias invited his brother to help him. Melampos promised to do so, and foretold that he should be detected in the act of stealing them, and that he should get the kine after being kept in bondage for a year. After making this promise he repaired to Phylake and, just as he had foretold, he was detected in the theft and kept a prisoner in a cell. When the year was nearly up, he heard the worms in the hidden part of the roof, one of them asking how much of the beam had been already gnawed through, and others answering that very little of it was left. At once he bade them transfer him to another cell, and not long after that had been done the cell fell in. Phylakos marvelled, and perceiving that he was an excellent soothsayer, he released him and invited him to say how his son Iphiklos might get children. Melampos promised to tell him, provided he got the kine. And having sacrificed two bulls and cut them in pieces he summoned the birds; and when a vulture came, he learned from it that once, when Phylakos was gelding rams, he laid down the knife, still bloody, beside Iphiklos, and that when the child was frightened and ran away, he stuck the knife on the sacred oak, and the bark encompassed the knife and hid it. He said, therefore, that if the knife were found, and he scraped off the rust, and gave it to Iphiklos to drink for ten days, he would beget a son. Having learned these things from the vulture, Melampos found the knife, scraped the rust, and gave it to Iphiklos for ten days to drink, and a son Podarces was born to him. But he drove the kine to Pylos, and having received the daughter of Neleus he gave her to his brother. For a time he continued to dwell in Messene, but when Dionysos drove the women of Argos mad, he healed them on condition of receiving part of the kingdom, and settled down there with Bias.

Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 2.2-3.1
Proitos had daughters, Lysippe, Iphinoe, and Iphianassa, by Stheneboea. When these damsels were grown up, they went mad, according to Hesiod, because they would not accept the rites of Dionysos, but according to Akusilaos, because they disparaged the wooden image of Hera. In their madness they roamed over the whole Argive land, and afterwards, passing through Arcadia and the Peloponnese, they ran through the desert in the most disorderly fashion. But Melampos, son of Amythaon by Idomene, daughter of Abas, being a seer and the first to devise the cure by means of drugs and purifications, promised to cure the maidens if he should receive the third part of the sovereignty. When Proitos refused to pay so high a fee for the cure, the maidens raved more than ever, and besides that, the other women raved with them; for they also abandoned their houses, destroyed their own children, and flocked to the desert. Not until the evil had reached a very high pitch did Proitos consent to pay the stipulated fee, and Melampos promised to effect a cure whenever his brother Bias should receive just so much land as himself. Fearing that, if the cure were delayed, yet more would be demanded of him, Proitos agreed to let the physician proceed on these terms. So Melampos, taking with him the most stalwart of the young men, chased the women in a bevy from the mountains to Sicyon with shouts and a sort of frenzied dance. In the pursuit Iphinoe, the eldest of the daughters, expired; but the others were lucky enough to be purified and so to recover their wits. Proitos gave them in marriage to Melampos and Bias, and afterwards begat a son, Megapenthes.

Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 2.37
After Dionysos had demonstrated to the Thebans that he was a god, he went to Argos where again he drove the women mad when the people did not pay him honour, and up in the mountains the women fed on the flesh of the babies suckling at their breasts.

Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 1.118
From Argos came Talaus and Areios, sons of Bias, and mighty Leodokos, all of whom Pero daughter of Neleus bare; on her account the Aeolid Melampos endured sore affliction in the steading of Iphiklos.

Scholiast on Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautika 1.118
In the Great Eoiae it is related that Melampos, who was very dear to Apollon, went abroad and stayed with Polyphantes. But when the king had sacrificed an ox, a serpent crept up to the sacrifice and destroyed his servants. At this the king was angry and killed the serpent, but Melampos took and buried it. And its offspring, brought up by him, used to lick his ears and inspire him with prophecy. And so, when he was caught while trying to steal the cows of Iphiklos and taken bound to the city of Aegina, and when the house, in which Iphiklos was, was about to fall, he told an old woman, one of the servants of Iphiklos, and in return was released.

Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks 2.25
Others say that it was Melampos the son of Amythaon who brought into Greece from Egypt the festivals of Demeter, that is, the story of her grief celebrated in hymns. These men I for my part would call originators of mischief, parents of godless legends and deadly daemon-worship, seeing that they implanted the mysteries in human life to be a seed of evil and corruption.

Diodoros Silkeliotes, Library of history 1.96.2
For the priests of Egypt recount from the records of their sacred books that they were visited in early times by Orpheus, Mousaios, Melampos, and Daidalos, also by the poet Homer and Lycurgus of Sparta, later by Solon of Athens and the philosopher Plato, and that there also came Pythagoras of Samos and the mathematician Eudoxos, as well as Demokritos of Abdera and Oenopides of Chios. As evidence for the visits of all these men they point in some cases to their statues and in others to places or buildings which bear their names, and they offer proofs from the branch of learning which each one of these men pursued, arguing that all the things for which they were admired among the Greeks were transferred from Egypt.

Diodoros Silkeliotes, Library of history 1.97.4
Melampos also, they say, brought from Egypt the rites which the Greeks celebrate in the name of Dionysos, the myths about Kronos and the war with the Titans, and, in a word, the account of the things which happened to the gods.

Herodotos, The Histories 2.49
Melampos was the one who taught the Greeks the name of Dionysos and the way of sacrificing to him and the phallic procession; he did not exactly unveil the subject taking all its details into consideration, for the teachers who came after him made a fuller revelation; but it was from him that the Greeks learned to bear the phallus along in honor of Dionysos, and they got their present practice from his teaching. I say, then, that Melampos acquired the prophetic art, being a discerning man, and that, besides many other things which he learned from Egypt, he also taught the Greeks things concerning Dionysos, altering few of them; for I will not say that what is done in Egypt in connection with the god and what is done among the Greeks originated independently: for they would then be of an Hellenic character and not recently introduced. Nor again will I say that the Egyptians took either this or any other custom from the Greeks. But I believe that Melampos learned the worship of Dionysos chiefly from Kadmos of Tyre and those who came with Kadmos from Phoenicia to the land now called Boiotia.

Hesychius s.v. Agrania
A festival in Argos for one of the daughters of Proitos.

Hesychius s.v. Agriania
A festival of the dead among the Argives and contests in Thebes.

Homer, Odyssey 15.220-255
He verily was busied thus, and was praying and offering sacrifice to Athena by the stern of the ship, when there drew nigh to him a man from a far land, one that was fleeing out of Argos because he had slain a man; and he was a seer. By lineage he was sprung from Melampos, who of old dwelt in Pylos, mother of flocks, a rich man and one that had a very wealthy house among the Pylians, but had afterward come to a land of strangers, fleeing from his country and from great-hearted Neleus, the lordliest of living men, who for a full year had kept much wealth from him by force. Now Melampos meanwhile lay bound with bitter bonds in the halls of Phylakos, suffering grievous pains because of the daughter of Neleus and the lamentable folly which the grim Erinys had laid upon his mind.. Howbeit he escaped his fate, and drove off the deep-lowing kine from Phylake to Pylos, and avenged the cruel deed upon godlike Neleus, and brought the maiden home to be his own brother’s wife. For himself, he went to the land of other men, to horse-pasturing Argos, for there it was appointed him to dwell, bearing sway over many Argives. There he wedded a wife and built him a high-roofed house, and begot Antiphates and Mantius, two stalwart sons. Now Antiphates begot great-hearted Oicles, and Oicles Amphiaraos, the rouser of the host, whom Zeus, who bears the aegis, and Apollon heartily loved with all manner of love. Yet he did not reach the threshold of old age, but died in Thebe, because of a woman’s gifts. To him were born sons, Alkmaion and Amphilochos. And Mantios on his part begot Polypheides and Kleitos. Now Kleitos golden-throned Dawn snatched away by reason of his beauty, that he might dwell with the immortals; but of Polypheides, high of heart, Apollon made a seer, far the best of mortals, after that Amphiaraos was dead. He removed to Hyperesia, having waxed wroth with his father, and there he dwelt and prophesied to all men.

Fragment of the Melampodia preserved in Clement of Alexandria’s Stromateis 5.259
And now there is no seer among mortal men such as would know the mind of Zeus who holds the aegis.

Fragment of the Melampodia preserved in the Suidas
Because of their hideous wantonness they lost their tender beauty…

Fragment of the Melampodia preserved in Athenaios’ Deipnosophistai 2.40
For pleasant it is at a feast and rich banquet to tell delightful tales, when men have had enough of feasting …

Fragment of the Melampodia preserved in Clement of Alexandria’s Stromateis 4.2.26
… and pleasant also it is to know a clear token of ill or good amid all the signs that the deathless ones have given to mortal men.

Fragment of the Melampodia preserved in Athenaios’ Deipnosophistai 11.498b
And then Mantes took in his hands the ox’s halter and Iphiklos lashed him upon the back. And behind him, with a cup in one hand and a raised sceptre in the other, walked Phylakos and spake amongst the bondmen.

Fragment of the Melampodia preserved in Athenaios, Deipnosophistai 8.609e
Hesiod in the third book of the Melampodia called Chalcis in Euboea the land of fair women.

Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.322
Who has not heard of the lakes of Aethiopia: how those who drink of them go raving mad or fall in a deep sleep, most wonderful in heaviness. Whoever quenches thirst from the Clitorian spring will hate all wine, and soberly secure great pleasure from pure water. Either that spring has a power the opposite of wine-heat, or perhaps as natives tell us, after the famed son of Amythaon by his charms and herbs, delivered from their base insanity the stricken Proetides, he threw the rest of his mind healing herbs into the spring, where hatred of all wine has since remained. Unlike in nature flows another stream of the country, called Lyncestius: everyone who drinks of it, even with most temperate care, will reel, as if he had drunk unmixed wine.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.44.5
In Aegosthena is a sanctuary of Melampos, son of Amythaon, and a small figure of a man carved upon a slab. To Melampos they sacrifice and hold a festival every year. They say that he divines neither by dreams nor in any other way. Here is something else that I heard in Erenea, a village of the Megarians. Autonoe, daughter of Kadmos, left Thebes to live here owing to her great grief at the death of Aktaion, the manner of which is told in legend, and at the general misfortune of her father’s house. The tomb of Autonoe is in this village.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.7.7-8
Within the market-place is a sanctuary of Persuasion; this too has no image. The worship of Persuasion was established among them for the following reason. When Apollon and Artemis had killed Pytho they came to Aigialeia to obtain purification. Dread coming upon them at the place now named Fear, they turned aside to Karmanor in Crete, and the people of Aigialeia were smitten by a plague. When the seers bade them propitiate Apollon and Artemis, they sent seven boys and seven maidens as suppliants to the river Sythas. They say that the deities, persuaded by these, came to what was then the citadel, and the place that they reached first is the sanctuary of Persuasion. Conformable with this story is the ceremony they perform at the present day; the children go to the Sythas at the feast of Apollon, and having brought, as they pretend, the deities to the sanctuary of Persuasion, they say that they take them back again to the temple of Apollon. The temple stands in the modern market-place, and was originally, it is said, made by Proitos, because in this place his daughters recovered from their madness.

Pausanias, Description Greece 2.18.4
The Argives are the only Greeks that I know of who have been divided into three kingdoms. For in the reign of Anaxagoras, son of Argeus, son of Megapenthes, the women were smitten with madness, and straying from their homes they roamed about the country, until Melampos the son of Amythaon cured them of the plague on condition that he himself and his brother Bias had a share of the kingdom equal to that of Anaxagoras. Now descended from Bias five men, Neleids on their mother’s side, occupied the throne for four generations down to Cyanippus, son of Aegialeus, and descended from Melampos six men in six generations down to Amphilochus, son of Amphiaraos.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.32.3
Very near to the temple of Dionysos in the city of Argos you will see the house of Adrastos, farther on a sanctuary of Amphiaraos, and opposite the sanctuary the tomb of Eriphyle … and after them a sanctuary of Baton. Now Baton belonged to the same family as Amphiaraos, to the Melampodidai, the descendants of the famed seer Melampos, and served as his charioteer when he went forth to battle. When the rout took place at the wall of Thebes, the earth opened and received Amphiaraos and his chariot, swallowing up this Baton at the same time.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.32.4
Beside the entrance to the sanctuary of Dionysos is the grave of Astycratea and Manto. They were daughters of Polyidos, son of Koiranos, son of Abas, son of Melampos, who came to Megara to purify Alkathous when he had killed his son Kallipolis. Polyidos also built the sanctuary of Dionysos, and dedicated a wooden image that in our day is covered up except the face, which alone is exposed. By the side of it is a Satyr of Parian marble made by Praxiteles. This Dionysos they call Patrous (Paternal); but the image of another, that they surname Dasyllios, they say was dedicated by Euchenor, son of Koiranos, son of Polyidos.

Pausanias, Description Greece 5.5.10
Some Greeks say that Chiron, others that Pylenor, another Centaur, when shot by Heracles fled wounded to this river and washed his hurt in it, and that it was the hydra’s poison which gave the Anigros its nasty smell. Others again attribute the quality of the river to Melampos the son of Amythaon, who threw into it the means he used to purify the daughters of Proitos.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.18.8-7
Above Nonacris are the Aroanian Mountains, in which is a cave. To this cave, legend says, the daughters of Proitos fled when struck with madness; Melampos by secret sacrifices and purifications brought them down to a place called Lusi. Most of the Aroanian mountain belongs to Phenios, but Lusi is on the borders of Kleitor. They say that Lusi was once a city, and Agesilas was proclaimed as a man of Lusi when victor in the horse-race at the eleventh Pythian festival held by the Amphictyons; but when I was there not even ruins of Lusi remained. Well, the daughters of Proitos were brought down by Melampos to Lusi, and healed of their madness in a sanctuary of Artemis. Wherefore this Artemis is called Hemerasia (She who soothes) by the Kleitorians.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.47.3
The priest of Athene is a boy; I do not know how long his priesthood lasts, but it must be before, and not after, puberty. The altar for the goddess was made, they say, by Melampos, the son of Amythaon. Represented on the altar are Rhea and the nymph Oenoe holding the baby Zeus. On either side are four figures: on one, Glauke, Neda, Theisoa and Anthrakia; on the other Ide, Hagno, Alkinoe and Phrixa. There are also images of the Muses and of Memory.

Plutarch, Greek Questions 38
They relate that the daughters of Minyas, Leukippe and Arsinoe and Alkathoe, becoming insane, conceived a craving for human flesh, and drew lots for their children. The lot fell upon Leukippe to contribute her son Hippasos to be torn to pieces, and their husbands, who put on ill-favoured garments for very grief and sorrow, were called ‘Grimy’ (Psoloeis); but the Minyads themselves were called ‘Oleiae,’ that is to say, ‘Murderesses.’ And even today the people of Orchomenos give this name to the women descended from this family; and every year, at the festival of Agrionia, there takes place a flight and pursuit of them by the priest of Dionysos with sword in hand. Any one of them that he catches he may kill, and in my time the priest Zoïlos killed one of them. But this resulted in no benefit for the people of Orchomenos; but Zoïlos fell sick from some slight sore and, when the wound had festered for a long time, he died. The people of Orchomenos also found themselves involved in some suits for damages and adverse judgements; wherefore they transferred the priesthood from Zoïlos’s family and chose the best man from all the citizens to fill the office.

Plutarch, Roman Questions 112
Did they regard the ivy as an unfruitful plant, useless to man, and feeble, and because of its weakness needing other plants to support it, but by its shade and the sight of its greenness fascinating to most people? And did they therefore think that it should not be uselessly grown in their homes nor be allowed to twine about in a futile way, contributing nothing, since it is injurious to the plants forming its support? Or is it because it cleaves to the ground? Wherefore it is excluded from the ritual of the Olympian gods, nor can any ivy be seen in the temple of Hera at Athens, or in the temple of Aphrodite at Thebes; but it has its place in the Agrionia and the Nyktelia, the rites of which are for the most part performed at night. Or was this also a symbolic prohibition of Bacchic revels and orgies? For women possessed by Bacchic frenzies rush straightway for ivy and tear it to pieces, clutching it in their hands and biting it with their teeth; so that not altogether without plausibility are they who assert that ivy, possessing as it does an exciting and distracting breath of madness, deranges persons and agitates them, and in general brings on a wineless drunkenness and joyousness in those that are precariously disposed towards spiritual exaltation.

Probus on Vergil, Eclogue 6.48
The daughters of Proitos, because they had scorned the divinity, were overcome with madness, such that they believed they had been turned into cows, and left Argos their own country. Afterwards they were cured by Melampos, the son of Amythaon.

Staphylos, Fragments of Greek History IV.506
Melampos was the first to invent the mixing of wine with water.

Statius, Thebaid 3.345-460
On the one side he is moved by the thought of tranquil peace, on the other by the shame of dishonoured quiet and the hard task of turning a people from war’s new glamour; in his doubt this late resolve at last finds favour, to try the mind of prophets and the true presaging of the sacred rites. To thy wisdom, Amphiaraos, is given the charge to read the future, and with thee Melampos, son of Amythaon – an old man now, but fresh in vigour of mind and Phoibos’ inspiration – bears company; ‘tis doubtful which Apollon more favours, or whose mouth he has sated with fuller draughts of Cirrha’s waters. At first they try the gods with entrails and blood of cattle: even then the spotted hearts of sheep and the dread veins threatening disaster portend refusal to the timorous seers. Yet they resolve to go and seek omens in the open sky.

Strabo, Geography 8.3.19
At the base of these mountains, on the seaboard, are two caves. One is the cave of the Nymphai called Anigriades … For near the cave of the nymphs called Anigriades is a spring which makes the region that lies below it swampy and marshy. The greater part of the water is received by the Anigros, a river so deep and so sluggish that it forms a marsh; and since the region is muddy, it emits an offensive odor for a distance of twenty stadia, and makes the fish unfit to eat. In the mythical accounts, however, this is attributed by some writers to the fact that certain of the centaurs here washed off the poison they got from the Hydra, and by others to the fact that Melampos used these cleansing waters for the purification of the Proitides. The bathing-water from here cures leprosy, elephantiasis, and scabies. It is said, also, that the Alpheios was so named from its being a cure for leprosy.