PERIKLYMENOS (or Periclymenus) was the eldest of son of Neleus, king of Pylos, who was granted the ability to shape-shift by his grandfather Poseidon. When Herakles attacked the kingdom, Periklymenos assumed the form of a lion, an ant, a snake, a swarm of bees and an eagle, but was nevertheless vanquished by the hero.
Periklymenos was also numbered amongst the Argonauts, although he does not appear in the story beyond the catalogues of the fifty heroes.
[1.1] NELEUS & KHLORIS (Homer Odyssey 11.281, Apollodorus 1.9.9, Diodorus Siculus 4.68.6, Hyginus Fabulae 10 & 14)
[1.2] NELEUS (Apollonius Rhodius 1.156, Ovid Metamorphoses 12.540, Valerius Flaccus 1.387)
[2.1] POSEIDON & ASTYPALE (Hyginus Fabulae 157)
[2.2] POSEIDON (Seneca Medea 634)
[1.1] PENTHILOS (Pausanias 2.18.8)
PERICLYMENUS (Periklumenos), one of the Argonauts, was a son of Neleus and Chloris, and a brother of Nestor. (Hom. Od. xi. 285 ; Apollod. i. 9. § 15; Orph. Argon. 155.) Poseidon gave him the power of changing himself into different forms, and conferred upon him great strength, but he was nevertheless slain by Heracles at the taking of Pylos. (Apollod. i. 9. § 9, ii. 7. § 3 ; Apollon. Rhod. i. 156 with the Schol.; Ov. Met. xiii. 556, &c.; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1685.) According to Hyginus (Fab. 10) Periclymenus escaped Heracles in the shape of an eagle.
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
Homer, Odyssey 11. 281 (trans. Murray) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Odysseus in the Underworld :] And I saw beauteous Khloris, whom once Neleus wedded because of her beauty, when he had brought countless gifts of wooing. Youngest daughter was she of Amphion, son of Iasos, who once ruled mightily in Orkhomenos of the Minyai. And she was queen of Pylos, and bore to her husband glorious children, Nestor, and Khromios, and lordly Periklymenos, and besides these she bore noble Pero, a wonder to men."
Homer, Iliad 11. 688 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[King Nestor of Pylos speaks of a time from his youth :] We in Pylos were few and we had been having the worst of it. For Herakles had come in his strength against us and beaten us in the years before, and all the bravest among us had been killed. For we who were sons of lordly Neleus had been twelve, and now I alone was left of these, and all the others had perished."
[N.B. Periklymenos, mentioned in the Odyssey above, was one of the twelve sons.]
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 10 (from Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica 1. 156) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"But Hesiod says that he [Periklymenos] changed himself in one of his wonted shapes and perched on the yoke-boss of Herakles' horses, meaning to fight with the hero; but that Herakles, secretly instructed by Athena, wounded him mortally with an arrow. And he says as follows : `. . and lordly Periklymenos. Happy he! For earth-shaking Poseidon gave him all manner of gifts. At one time he would appear among birds, an eagle; and again at another he would be an ant, a marvel to see; and then a shining swarm of bees; and again at another time a dread relentless snake. And he possessed all manner of gifts which cannot he told, and these then ensnared him through the devising of Athene.'"
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 9. 9 (trans. Frazer) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Neleus . . . came to Messene, and founded Pylos, and married Khloris, daughter of Amphion, by whom he had a daughter, Pero, and sons, to wit, Tauros, Asterios, Pylaon, Deimakhos, Eurybios, Epilaos, Phrasios, Eurymenes, Euagoras, Alastor, Nestor and Periklymenos, whom Poseidon granted the power of changing his shape. And when Herakles was ravaging Pylos, in the fight Periklymenos turned himself into a lion, a snake, and a bee, but was slain by Herakles with the other sons of Neleus. Nestor alone was saved, because he was brought up among the Gerenians."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 7. 3 :
"After the capture of Elis he [Herakles] marched against Pylos, and having taken the city he slew Periklymenos, the most valiant of the sons of Neleus, who used to change his shape in battle. And he slew Neleus and his sons, except Nestor; for he was a youth and was being brought up among the Gerenians. In the fight he also wounded Haides, who was siding with the Pylians."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 19. 6 :
"When the ship [Argo] was built, and he [Jason] inquired of the oracle, the god gave him leave to assemble the nobles of Greece and sail away. And those who assembled were as follows : . . . Periklymenos, son of Neleus; Augeias, son of Helios . . ."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1. 156 ff (trans. Seaton) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"[From the catalogue of Argonauts :] And with them eriklymenos Neleios set out to come, eldest of all the sons of godlike Neleus who were born at Pylos; Poseidon had given him boundless strength and granted him that whatever shape he should crave during the fight, that he should take in the stress of battle."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 68. 6 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Neleus, when he had arrived in Messenê together with his companions, founded the city of Pylos, the natives of the region giving him the site. And while king of this city he married Khloris, the daughter of Amphion the Theban, and begat twelve sons, the oldest of whom was Periklymenos and the youngest the Nestor who engaged in the expedition against Troy."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 18. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"So they [the Herakleidai, descendants of Herakles] expelled Tisamenos from Lakedaimon and Argos, and the descendants of Nestor from Messenia, namely Alkmaion, son of Sillos, son of Thrasymedes, Peisistratos, son of Peisistratos, and the sons of Paion, son of Antilokhos, and with them Melanthos, son of Andropompos, son of Boros, son of Penthilos, son of Periklymenos."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 2. 346 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"[When Nestor's son Antilokhos is killed on the battlefield of Troy, the old man calls upon his other son Thrasymedes to help him recover the corpse :] `Hither to me, Thrasymedes war-renowned! Help me to thrust back from thy brother's corse, yea, from mine hapless son, his murderer, that so ourselves may render to our dead all dues of mourning. If thou flinch for fear, no son of mine art thou, nor of the line of Periklymenos, who dared withstand Herakles' self. Come, to the battle-toil! For grim necessity oftentimes inspires the very coward with courage of despair.'"
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 10 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Chloris was the only daughter of Niobe and Amphion who survived. Neleus, Hippocoon’s son, married her, and she bore to him twelve sons. When Hercules was besieging Pylus he slew Neleus and ten of his sons, but the eleventh, Periclymenus, was changed to an eagle by the favour of Neptunus [Poseidon], his grandfather, and escaped death. Now the twelfth, Nestor, was the one at Ilium."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 14 :
"Argonauts assembled . . . Periclymenus, son of Neleus and Chloris, daughter of Amphion and Niobe; he was from Pylos."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 157 :
"Sons of Neptunus [Poseidon] . . . Periclymenus and Ancaeus by Astypale, daughter of Phoenix."
[N.B. Both Periklymenos and Ankaios were Argonauts.]
Ovid, Metamorphoses 12. 536 (trans. Brookes More) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Nestor had hardly told this marvellous tale of bitter strife betwixt the Lapithae and those half-human, vanquished Centauri, when Tlepolemus [son of Herakles], incensed because no word of praise was given to Hercules, replied in this way; `Old sir, it is very strange, you have neglected to say one good word in praise of Hercules. My father told me often, that he overcame in battle those cloud born centauri.'
Nestor, very loth, replied, `Why force me to recall old wrongs, to uncover sorrow buried by the years, that made me hate your father? It is true his deeds were wonderful beyond belief, heaven knows, and filled the earth with well earned praise which I should rather wish might be denied . . . Your father, I recall once overthrew Messene's walls and with no cause destroyed Elis and Pylos and with fire and sword ruined my own loved home. I cannot name all whom he killed. But there were twelve of us, the sons of Neleus and all warrior youths, and all those twelve but me alone he killed. Ten of them met the common fate of war, but sadder was the death of Periclymenus.
`Neptunus [Poseidon], the founder of my family, had granted him a power to assume whatever shape he chose, and when he wished to lay that shape aside. When he, in vain, had been transformed to many other shapes he turned into the form of that bird, which is wont to carry in his crooked talons the forked lightnings, favorite bird of Jove [Zeus]. With wings and crooked bill and sharp-hooked talons, he assailed and tore the face of Hercules. But, when he soared away on eagle wings up to the clouds and hovered, poised in air, that hero aimed his too unerring bow and hit him where the new wing joined his side. The wound was not large, but his sinews cut failed to uphold him, and denied his wings their strength and motion. He fell down to earth; his weakened pinions could not catch the air. And the sharp arrow, which had lightly pierced the wing, was driven upward through the side into the left part of my brother's neck. O noble leader of the Rhodian fleet, why should I sing the praise of Hercules? But for my brothers I take no revenge except withholding praise of his great deeds. With you, my friendship will remain secure.'"
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 1. 387 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"[From the catalogue of the Argonauts :] On Hercules’ side too Tydeus rises to his oar, and Periclymenus, son of Neleus, whom small Methone and Elis rich in horses and Aulon exposed to the waves saw break his adversary’s face with the gauntlets."
Seneca, Medea 634 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Alcides [Herakles] laid low the sons of Aquilo [i.e. the Boreades], he slew Neptunus' [Poseidon's] son [i.e. Periklymenos] wont to take upon him countless shapes."
The Ancient Scholia (from Frazer's notes on Apollodorus) :
In the verses of Hesiod quoted by the Scholiast on Ap. Rhod., Argon. i.156, Periklymenos received from Poseidon the power of turning himself into an eagle, an ant, a bee, or a snake; but Herakles, so says the scholiast, killed him with a blow of his club when he had assumed the form of a fly. According to another account, it was in the form of a bee that Periklymenos was slain by Herakles (Eustathius on Hom. Od. xi.285, pp. 1685ff.; Scholiast on Hom. Il. ii.336). Ov. Met. 12.549ff. says that Herakles shot him in the shape of an eagle, and this version is followed by Hyginus, Fab. 10. Periklymenos is also reported to have been able to change himself into any animal or tree he pleased (Eustathius, on Hom. Od. xi.285, pp. 1685ff.; Scholiast on Hom. Od. xi.286).
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragments - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy - Greek Epic C4th A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Seneca, Medea - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
Other references not currently quoted here : Scholiast on Homer's Iliad 11.690 ; Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica 1.156 ; Eustathius on Homer's Odyssey 11.285