SALMONEUS was one of the seven sons of King Aiolos (Aeolus) of Thessalia who led a group of colonists to the Peloponnese where he established the kingdom of Salmonia in the region later known as Pylos (in southern Elis and north-western Messenia).
Salmoneus was an arrogant, impious man who demanded his people worship him as the god Zeus. He impersonated the deity by driving around in a chariot dragging bronze kettles to make thunder and casting torches in the air as faux-lightning. Zeus was enraged and struck Salmoneus dead with a thunderbolt and laid waste to his city. Later Salmoneus' grandson Neleus came to the region, claimed the throne and founded a new capital at Pylos.
CHRONOLOGY OF MYTH
In the chronology of myth Salmoneus was the great-grandson of Deukalion (Deucalion), survivor of the Great Deluge.
His contemporaries included King Perseus of Argos and Kadmos (Cadmus) of Thebes--daughters of these two hero-kings married his brothers. His nephew Endymion ruled the neighbouring kingdom of Elis, north of the river Alpheios.
Of Salmoneus' descendants, his grandson Neleus fought a war with Herakles, and another, Pelias, commanded Jason fetch the Golden Fleece.
His great-grandsons included the seer Melampos, and the Argonauts Jason, Akastos, Admetos, Iphiklos and Periklymenos.
His great-grandson Nestor and many of his great-great-grandsons (i.e. the sons of the Argonauts) were leaders of the Greek army at Troy.
FAMILY OF SALMONEUS
[1.1] AIOLOS (Hesiod Catalogues Frag 4, Diodorus Siculus 4.68.1, Hyginus Fabulae 60, Hyginus Astronomica 2.20)
[1.2] AIOLOS & ENARETE (Apollodorus 1.7.3)
[2.1] ATHAMAS (Hyginus Astronomica 2.20)
SALMONEUS (Salmôneus), a son of Aeolus by Enarete, and a brother of Sisyphus. (Apollod. i. 7. § 3; Schol. ad Pind. Pyth. iv. 252.) He was first married to Alcidice and afterwards to Sidero; by the former wife he was the father of Tyro. (Hom. Od. xi. 235; Apollod. i. 9. § 8 ; Diod. iv. 68.) He originally lived in Thessaly, but emigrated to Elis, where he built the town of Salmone. (Strab. viii. p. 356.) He there went so far in his presumption and arrogance, that he deemed himself equal to Zeus, and ordered sacrifices to be offered to himself; nay, he even imitated the thunder and lightning of Zeus, but the father of the gods killed the presumptuous man with his thunderbolt, destroyed his town, and punished him in the lower world. (Apollod. i. 9. § 7; Lucian, Tim. 2; Virg. Aen. vi. 585, &c. ; Hygin. Fab. 60, 61, 250; Claudian, in Rufin. 514.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Homer, Odyssey 11. 236 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Odysseus sees the shades of heroines in the underworld :] The first that I saw was high-born Tyro, daughter of great Salmoneos (Salmoneus) and wife of Kretheus (Cretheus) son of Aiolos (Aeolus)--such was her twofold boast."
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 4 (from Plutarch, Moralia 747) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"And from Hellen the war-loving king sprang Doros and Xouthus (Xuthus) and Aiolos (Aeolus) delighting in horses. And the sons of Aiolos, kings dealing justice, were Kretheus (Cretheus), and Athamas, and clever Sisyphos, and wicked Salmoneus and overbold Perieres."
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 13 (from Scholiast on Homer's Odyssey 12. 69) :
"Tyro the daughter of Salmoneus, having two sons by Poseidon, Neleus and Pelias, married Kretheus (Cretheus), and had by him three sons, Aison (Aeson), Pheres and Amythaon."
Sophocles, Salmoneus (lost satyr play) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
Sophocles dramatized the story of Salmoneus in a lost satyr-play. He also wrote two tragedies on Tyro--Tyro Keiromene (the Shorn) and Tyro Anagnorizomene ( Rediscovered)--which probably featured Salmoneus or contained references to his story.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 7. 3 (trans. Frazer) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Aiolos (Aeolus) reigned over the regions about Thessalia (Thessaly) and named the inhabitants Aiolians (Aeolians). He married Enarete, daughter of Deimakhos (Deimachus), and begat seven sons, Kretheus (Cretheus), Sisyphos, Athamas, Salmoneus, Deion, Magnes, Perieres, and five daughters, Kanake (Canace), Alkyone (Alcyone), Peisidike (Pisidice), Kalyke (Calyce), Perimede.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 9. 7 - 8 :
"Salmoneus at first dwelt in Thessalia (Thessaly), but afterwards he came to Elis and there founded a city. And being arrogant and wishful to put himself on an equality with Zeus, he was punished for his impiety; for he said that he was himself Zeus, and he took away the sacrifices of the god and ordered them to be offered to himself; and by dragging dried hides, with bronze kettles, at his chariot, he said that he thundered, and by flinging lighted torches at the sky he said that he lightened. But Zeus struck him with a thunderbolt, and wiped out the city he had founded with all its inhabitants.
Now Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus and Alkidice (Alcidice), was brought up by Kretheus (Cretheus), brother of Salmoneus, and conceived a passion for the river Enipeus . . . Poseidon in the likeness of Enipeus lay with her, and she secretly gave birth to twin sons [Neleus and Pelias]."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 9. 11 :
"Kretheus (Cretheus) founded Iolkos (Iolcus) and married Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus, by whom he had sons, Aison (Aeson), Amythaon, and Pheres."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 68. 1 - 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"We shall endeavour to set forth the facts concerning Salmoneus and Tyro and their descendants as far as Nestor, who took part in the campaign against Troy. Salmoneus was a son of Aiolos (Aeolus), who was the son of Hellen, who was the son of Deukalion (Deucalion), and settling out from Aiolis (Aeolis) with a number of Aiolians he founded a city in Eleia [Elis] on the banks of the river Alpheios (Alpheus) and called it Salmonia after his own name. And marrying Alkidicê (Alcidice), the daughter of Aleus, he begat by her a daughter, her who was given the name Tyro, a maiden of surpassing beauty.
When his wife Alkidicê died Salmoneus took for a second wife Sidero, as she was called, who treated Tyro unkindly, as a step-mother would. Afterwards Salmoneus, being an overbearing man and impious, came to be hated by his subjects and because of his impiety was slain by Zeus with a bolt of lightning.
As for Tyro, who was still a virgin when this took place, Poseidon lay with her and begat two sons, Pelias and Neleus. Then Tyro married Kretheus (Cretheus) and bore Amythaon and Pheres and Aison (Aeson)."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 6. 6. 4 - 5 :
"Salmoneus was impious and arrogant and made it his practice to ridicule the divinity, and he declared that his achievements excelled those of Zeus. Consequently he used to make a tremendous noise by means of a machine he contrived and to imitate in this way peals of thunder, and he would celebrate neither sacrifices nor festivals. The same Salmoneus had a daughter named Tyro, who received this name by reason of the whiteness and softness of her body.
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 6. 7. 1 - 3 :
"For Salmoneus, being impious and arrogant, made it his practice to ridicule the divinity and to declare that his achievements excelled those of Zeus; consequently he used to make a tremendous noise by means of a machine he contrived, and by imitating claps of thunder he would declare that he had thundered more loudly than Zeus. Speaking generally, in his mockery of the gods he would celebrate neither sacrifices nor festivals in their honour, as the other rulers were accustomed to do.
And there was born to him an only daughter, Tyro, to whom he thought this name was appropriate by reason of the softness of her body and the whiteness of her skin. Poseidon became enamoured of this maiden because of her beauty, and lying with her he begat Pelias and Neleus. And Salmoneus, not believing that it was Poseidon who had taken her virginity, would not leave off ill-treating Tyro; but in the end he paid the penalty to the deity for his impiety, ending his life when struck by lightning from the hand of Zeus."
Strabo, Geography 8. 3. 32 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[The town of] Salmone [in Triphylia, Elis] is situated near the spring of that name from which flows the Enipeus River. The river empties into the Alpheios (Alpheus), and is now called the Barnikhios (Barnichius). It is said that Tyro fell in love with Enipeus : ‘She loved a river, the divine Enipeus.’ For there [in southern Elis], it is said, her father Salmoneus reigned, just as Euripides also says in his Aiolos. Some write the name of the river in Thessalia (Thessaly) ‘Eniseus’; it flows from Mount Othrys, and receives the Apidanos, which flows down out of Pharsalos."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 29. 7 :
"[In a painting of the underworld by Polygnotos at Delphoi, C5th B.C. :] The daughter [Tyro] of Salmoneus sitting on a rock."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 60 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Sisyphus and Salmoneus, sons of Aeolus, hated each other. Sisyphys aksed Apollo how he might kill his enemy, meaning his brother, and the answer was given that if he had children from the embrace of Tyro, daughter of his brother Salmoneus, they would avenge him. When Sisyphus followed his advice two sons were born, but their mother slew them when she learned the prophecy. But when Sisyphus found out . . ((lacuna))."
[N.B. This is a variation of the Poseidon myth in which Tyro exposes her two children by the god, abandoning them in the wilderness to die.]
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 61 :
"Because Salmoneus, son of Aeolus, brother of Sisyphus, by riding in a four-horse chariot and . . ((lacuna)) carrying glowing torches [to terrify] the people, was imitating the thunder and lighting of Jove, he was smitten by the thunderbolt of Jove [Zeus]."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 239 :
"Mothers who killed their sons . . . Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus, killed her two sons by Sisyphus, son of Aeolus, in accordance with the oracle of Apollo."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 239 :
"[Chariot] Teams which destroyed their drivers . . . Salmoneus, who sitting in his chariot, imitated the thunder, was struck by a thunderbolt, and the chariot, too."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 254 :
"Those who were exceptionally dutiful . . . Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus, killed her sons on account of her father."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 20 :
"Others make Cretheus and Athamas with many others, sons of Aeolus; some, again, say that Salmoneus, son of Athamas, was a grandson of Aeolus."
Virgil, Aeneid 6. 548 & 585 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"[Aeneas journeys to the underworld where he sees the souls of the damned in Tartaros :] Aeneas looks back, and under a cliff on the left sees a broad castle, girt with triple wall and encircled with a rushing flood of torrent flames . . . Salmoneus, too, I saw [i.e. within the prison], who paid cruel penalty while aping Jove's [Zeus'] fires and the thunders of Olympus. Borne by four horses and brandishing a torch, he rode triumphant through the Greek peoples and his city in the heart of Elis, claiming as his own the homage of deity. Madman, to mimic the storm clouds and inimitable thunder with brass and the tramp of horn-footed horses! But the Father Almighty amid thick clouds launched his bolt--no firebrands he, nor pitch-pines' smoky glare--and drove him headlong with furious whirlwind."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 1. 569 (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"The leader [Jason of the Argonauts] covers his shoulders in a sacred robe and takes a goblet pertaining unto Aeson, which Salmoneus for joy at his presents had left him in friendship's name and repaid his arrows and quiver with its gold, not yet the madman he was when he strove to fashion the weapons of high Jupiter [Zeus] from a four-forked beam, and seeking to rival him in his onslaught against Athos or Rhodope himself burnt the tall forests of unhappy Pisa and the hapless fields of Elis." [N.B. Salmoneus was the grandfather of Aeson and great-grandfather of Jason.]
CHRONOLOGY OF THE MESSENIAN KINGS
|MESSENE||PYLOS *||LEPREUS **|
|1. Polykaon ***|
|2. Perieres||1. Salmoneus|
|3. Aphareus & Leukippos||2. Neleus||1. Kaukon|
|4. (Idas & Lynkeus)||3. Nestor||2. Lepreus|
|3. Nestor ****|
1. Messene (central & eastern Messenia); Pylos (western Messenia); 3. Lepreus (northern "Pylos").
* Homeric Pylos consisted of the western coast of Messenia and the region of Triphylia. The river Alpheios formed the border with Elis. Salmoneus' capital was near the River Alpheios, but his grandson Neleus relocated to the town of Pylos in the south.
** The lords of Lepreus or Kaukonia were subjects of Pylos.
*** According to a local myth the first Messenian king was Polykaon. The epic poets, however, begin the royal list with the Aiolid Perieres. Pausanias suggests several anonymous kings reigned between the two.
**** Nestor was king of Pylos and Messenia at the time of the Trojan War. His reign spanned two generations. The line of Perieres died out with the death of Idas and Lynkeus.
- 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.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Virgil, Aeneid - Latin Epic C1st B.C.
- Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st A.D.