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DAKTYLOS HERAKLES
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Δακτυλος Ἡρακλης Daktylos Heraklês Dactyl Heracles Finger Air-Famed
(daktylos, aer, kles)

HERAKLES was the leader of the five Daktyloi (Dactyls), daimones who established the Olympic Games in the age of Kronos (Cronus). He and his brothers were probably more specifically connected with the race in armour, one of the oldest Olympic event. Like the Kouretes (Curetes) the Dakytloi were pictured as armoured youths.

The Daktylos Herakles was identified with the hero of the same name--Herakles the son of Zeus and Alkmene--who eventually superceded him as the reputed founder of the Olympic Games.

PARENTS
See the Kouretes

DACTYL HERACLES FOUNDER OF THE OLYMPICS

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 64. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"And writers tell us that one of them [the Daktyloi, Dactyls] was named Herakles (Heracles), and excelling as he did in fame, he established the Olympic Games, and that the men of a later period thought, because the name was the same, that it was the son of Alkmene [the Herakles of the Twelve Labours] who had founded the institution of the Olympic Games. And evidences of this, they tell us, are found in the fact that many women even to this day take their incantations from this god and make amulets in his name, on the ground that he was a wizard and practised the arts of initiatory rites; but they add that these things were indeed very far removed from the habits ofhte Herakles who was born of Alkmene."

Strabo, Geography 8. 3. 30 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"What is more, the Olympian Games are an invention of theirs [the Daktyloi, Dactyls]; and it was they who celebrated the first Olympiads, for one should disregard the ancient stories both of the founding of the temple and of the establishment of the games--some alleging that it was Herakles (Heracles), one of the Daktyloi Idaioi (Idaean), who was the originator of both, and others, that it was Herakles the son of Alkmene and Zeus, who also was the first to contend in the games and win the victory; for such stories are told in many ways, and not much faith is to be put in them."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 7. 6 - 10 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"As for the Olympic Games, the most learned antiquarians of Elis say that Kronos (Cronus) was the first king of heaven, and that in his honour a temple was built in Olympia by the man of that age, who were named the Golden Race. When Zeus was born, Rhea entrusted the guardianship of her son to the Daktyloi of Ida, who are the same as those called Kouretes (Curetes). They came from Kretan (Cretan) Ida--Herakles (Heracles), Paionaios (Paeonaeus), Epimedes, Iasios and Idas. Herakles being the eldest, matched his brothers, as a game, in a running-race, and crowned the winner with a branch of wild olive, of which they had such a copious supply that they slept on heaps of its leaves while still green. It is said to have been introduced into Greece by Herakles from the land of the Hyperboreans, men living beyond the home of Boreas . . . Herakles of Ida, therefore, has the reputation of being the first to have held, on the occasion I mentioned, the games, and to have called them Oympiakos (the Olympics). So he established the custom of holding them every fifth year, because he and his brothers were five in number.
Now some say that Zeus wrestled here with Kronos himself for the throne, while others say that he held the games in honour of his victory over Kronos. The record of victors include Apollon, who outran Hermes and beat Ares at boxing . . .
Later on there came from Krete (Crete) Klymenos (Clymenus), the son of Kardys (Cardys), about fifty years after the flood came upon the Greeks in the time of Deukalion. He was descended from Herakles of Ida; he held the games at Olympia and set up an latar in honour of Herakles, his ancestor, and the other Kouretes, giving to Herakles the surname of Parastates (Assistant)."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 13. 8 :
"The altar of Olympic Zeus [at Olympia] . . . Some say it was built by Herakles Idaios (Idaean Heracles)."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 2. 2 :
"The Olympic games . . . are traced back to a time earlier than the human race, the story being that Kronos (Cronus) and Zeus wrestled there, and that the Kouretes (Curetes) [i.e. the Daktyloi] were the first to race at Olympia."

Suidas s.v. Allos houtos Herakles (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Allos houtos Herakles (This man is another Herakles): Applied to those accomplishing something by force. Something proverbial said first about Theseus or about the Herakles (Heracles) [who was one] of the Daktyloi Idaioi (Idaean Dactyls) or about the son of Alkmene because of the older [ones of this name]."


CULT OF THE DACTYL HERACLES

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 16 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"Nevertheless I should like to know what particular Hercules it is that we worship [there were more than one] . . . A third comes from the Digiti [Daktyloi, Dactyls] of Mount Ida, who offer sacrifices at his tomb."

I) OLYMPIA Sanctuary in Elis (Southern Greece)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 5, 14, 7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"After this stands an altar of Herakles (Heracles) surnamed Parastates (Assistant) [at Olympia]; there are also altars of the brothers of Herakles--Epimedes, Idas, Paionaios, and Iasos; I am aware, however, that the altar of Idas is called by others the altar of Akesidas."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 14. 9 :
"Near the treasury of the Sikyonians [at Olympia] is an altar of Herakles (Heracles), either one of the Kouretes (Curetes) [i.e. Daktyloi], or the son of Alkmena, for both accounts are given."

II) ELIS Chief City of Elis (Southern Greece)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 23. 3 :
"There are also in the gymnasium [at Elis] altars of the gods, of Herakles Idaios (Idaean Heracles), surnamed Parastates (Comrade)."

III) MEGALOPOLIS Chief City of Arkadia (Southern Greece)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 31. 1 :
"[At Megalopolis in Arkadia] is an enclosure sacred to the Great Goddesses (Megalai Theai) . . . By the side of Demeter there is also a Herakles (Heracles) about a cubit high. This Herakles, says Onomakritos [Greek chresmologue C6th to 5th B.C.] in his poem, is one of those called Idaioi Daktyloi (Idaean Dactyls)."

IV) MYKALLESSIA Village in Boiotia (Central Greece)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 19. 5 :
"On the way to the coast of Mykalessos (Mycalessus) is a sanctuary of Demeter Mykalessia. They say that each night it is shut up and opened again by Herakles, and that Herakles (Heracles) is one of what are called the Daktyloi Idaioi (Idaean Dactyl). Here is shown the following marvel. Before the feet of the image they place all the fruits of autumn, and these remain fresh throughout all the year."

V) THESPIAI Town in Boiotia (Central Greece)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 27. 6 :
"At Thespiai [in Boiotia] is also a sanctuary of Herakles (Heracles). The priestess there is a virgin, who acts as such until she dies . . . As a matter of fact this sanctuary seemed to me too old to be of the time of Herakles the son of Amphitryon, and to belong to Herakles called one of the Daktyloi Idaioi (Idaean Dactyls), to whom I found the people of Erythrai in Ionia and of [Phoenician] Tyre possessed sanctuaries [i.e. the Phoenician god Melqart who was identified with Herakles]. Nevertheless, the Boiotians were not unacquainted with this name of Herakles, seeing as they themselves say that the sanctuary of Demeter of Mykalessos has been entrusted to the Daktyloi Idaioi."

VI) ERYTHRAI City in Ionia (Anatolia)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 27. 6 :
"Herakles (Heracles) called one of the Daktyloi Idaioi (Idaean Dactyls), to whom I found the people of Erythrai (Erythrae) in Ionia . . . possess sanctuaries."


TITLES & EPITHETS OF THE DACTYL

Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Παραστατης Parastatês Parastates Defender, Comrade
Ιδαιος Idaios Idaeus Of Mount Ida

Sources:

  • Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
  • Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
  • Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
  • Cicero, De Natura Deorum - Latin Rhetoric C1st B.C.
  • Suidas - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.