KYKNOS & TENNES
KYKNOS (Cycnus) and his son TENNES were two of the first champions to stand against the Greeks at Troy. Kyknos was the king of Kolonai (Colonae) in the Troad and a son of the god Poseidon. At birth he was exposed by his mother on the sea-shore and nurtured by gulls until some passing fishermen found and adopted him. Kyknos married Prokleia, a daughter of King Laomedon of Troy, who bore him a son Tennes and daughter Hemithea--according to some, the twins were actually sired by the god Apollon. After the death of his first wife, he married a woman named Philonome who fell in love with her step-son Tennes. When he spurned her advances, she told her husband that he had tried to seduce her, and the maddened king cast the boy and his sister adrift at sea in a chest. They eventually came ashore on the nearby island of Leukophrys which Tennes renamed Tenedos after himself.
When the Greek fleet set out for Troy, they first landed on the island of Tenedos. Thetis sent a message to Akhilleus (Achilles) warning him not to slay Tennes, for this would arouse the wrath of Apollon. However the messenger was lax in his duty and the warning delivered too late, for Akhilleus had already seduced Tennes' sister Hemithea, brawled with the king and slain him.
Tennes and Hemithea were afterwards worshipped as gods of the island. They identified Hemithea with Leukothea, mother of the sea-god Palaimon. In historical times the Tenedians sacrificed infants to this god--a rare example of institutionalised human sacrifice in ancient Greece.
After the events of Tenedos the Greeks landed at Troy where Kyknos and Hektor stood as the main champions of the Trojans. Poseidon had made his son Kyknos invulnerable to weapons, but after a heated battle, Akhilleus managed to slay him--either with the cast of a millstone or by strangling him with the thong of his helmet. He was afterwards transformed by the god into a swan (kyknos in Greek).
There were several others heroes named Kyknos in Greek mythology who were likewise associated with the swan, including a son of Ares who fought Herakles in Phthiotis and a friend of Phaethon from Ligouria.
FAMILY OF CYCNUS & TENNES
PARENTS OF KYKNOS
[1.1] POSEIDON (Homerica Cypria Frag 1, Pausanias 10.14.1, Ovid Metamorphoses 12.80, Seneca Hercules Furens 180)
[1.2] POSEIDON & KALYKE (Hyginus Fabulae 157)
OFFSPRING OF KYKNOS
[1.1] TENNES, HEMITHEA (by Prokleia) (Apollodorus E.23, Pausanias 10.14.1)
[1.2] TENNES, HEMITHEA (Lycophron 229)
[1.3] TENNES (Diodorus Siculus 5.83.1, Strabo 8.6.22)
[1.4] KOBIS, KORIANOS, GLAUKE (Dictys Cretensis 2.13)
PARENTS OF TENNES
[1.1] KYKNOS & PROKLEIA (Apollodorus E.23, Pausanias 10.14.1)
[1.2] KYKNOS (Lycophron 229, Diodorus Siculus 5.83.1, Strabo 8.6.22)
[1.3] APOLLON (Apollodorus E.23)
CYCNUS (Kyknos), a son of Poseidon by Calyce (Calycia), Harpale, or Scamandrodice. (Hygin. Fab. 157; Schol. ad Pind. Ol. ii. 147; Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 233.) He was born in secret, and was exposed on the sea-coast, where he was found by shepherds, who seeing a swan descending upon him, called him Cycnus. When he had grown up to manhood, he became king of Colonae in Troas, and married Procleia, the daughter of Laomedon or of Clytius (Paus. x. 14. § 2), by whom he became the father of Tenes and Hemithea. Dictys Cretensis (ii. 13) mentions different children. After the death of Procleia, he married Philonome, a daughter of Craugasus, who fell in love with Tenes, her stepson, and not being listened to by him calumniated him, so that Cycnus in his anger threw his son together with Hemithea in a chest into the sea. According to others Cycnus himself leaped into the sea. (Virg. Aen. ii. 21.) Afterwards, when Cycnus learned the truth respecting his wife's conduct, he killed Philonome and went to his son, who had landed in the island of Tenedos, and had become king there. According to some traditions, Tenes did not allow his father to land, but cut off the anchor. (Conon, Narrat. 28; Paus. x. 14. § 2.) In the war of the Greeks against Troy, both Cycnus and Tenes assisted the Trojans, but both were slain by Achilles. As Cycnus could not be wounded by iron, Achilles strangled him with the thong of his helmet, or by striking him with a stone. (Comp. Diod. v. 83; Strab. xiii. p. 604; Schol. ad Theocrit. xvi. 49; Dict. Cret. ii. 12, &c.; Ov. Met. xii. 144.) Ovid adds, that the body of Cycnus disappeared and was changed into a swan, when Achilles came to take away his armour.
TENNES (Tênnês), or Tenes, son of Cycnus, the king of Colone in Troas, and Procleia, or, according to others, a son of Apollo, and brother of Hemithea. After the death of Procleia, Cycnus married Philonome, a daughter of Craugasus or Tragnasus. She fell in love with her stepson; and as she was unable to win the love of Tenes, she accused him before his father of improper conduct towards her. Cycnus accordingly threw both his son and daughter into a chest, and exposed them on the waves of the sea. But the chest was driven on the coast of the island of Leucophrys, which Tenes, after his own name, called Tenedos, after its inhabitants had chosen him for their king. Cycnus at length heard of the innocence of his son, killed Philonome, and went to his children in Tenedos, where both he and Tenes were slain by Achilles, who, on his voyage to Troy, made a landing on Tenedos. But Tenes was afterwards worshipped as a hero in Tenedos. (Paus. x. 14. § 2 ; Diod. v. 83; Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 232 ; Strab. xiv. p. 640.) According to Pausanias, Tenes did not allow his father to land in Tenedos, but cut off the rope with which Cycnus had fastened his ship to the coast. (Comp. Steph. Byz. s. v. Tenedos.) The death of Tenes by Achilles also is related differently, for once, it is said, when Achilles was pursuing the sister of Tenes in Tenedos, Tenes, endeavouring to stop him, was slain by Achilles, who did not know that Tenes was a son of Apollo. (Plut. Quaest. Graec. 28 ; Tzetz. l. c.) In the temple of Tenes in Tenedos, it was not allowed to mention the name of Achilles, nor was any fluteplayer permitted to enter it, because the flute-player Molpus had borne false witness against Tenes to please his step-mother Philonome. (Plut. and Diod. l. c.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
CYCNUS, TENNES & THE LANDING OF THE GREEKS AT TENEDOS
Stasinus of Cyprus or Hegesias of Aegina, Cypria Fragment 1 (from Proclus, Chrestomathia 1) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"Next they [the Greek fleet departing from Aulis] sail as far as Tenedos."
[N.B. It is not known if Tennes figured in the epic, Proclus does not elaborate in his brief summary of the Tenedos episode.]
Pindar, Olympian Ode 2. 82 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Akhilleus (Achilles), he who felled Hektor (Hector), Troy's pillar invincible, unyielding, and brought death to Kyknos (Cycnus), and the Aithiop (Ethiopian) son of Eos (the Dawn)."
Aeschylus, Cycnus (lost play) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
Aeschylus wrote a play entitled Kyknos which probably dramatized the story of the king of Trojan Kolonai (Colonae) and his son Tennes. Apollodorus--E3.24 below--is probably summarising the plot of either this play or a similar one by another writer on the subject.
Achaeus of Eretria, Cycnus (lost play) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
The playwright Achaeus also produced a Kyknos in Athens.
Critias of Athens, Tennes (lost play) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
The tragedian Critias produced a play entitled Tennes. It probably covered the same story as the plays entitled Kyknos above.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E3. 23 - 27 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"After putting to sea from Aulis they [the Greek fleet] touched at Tenedos. It was ruled by Tenes, son of Kyknos (Cycnus) and Prokleia (Proclia), but according to some, he was a son of Apollon. He dwelt there because he had been banished by his father.
For Kyknos had a son Tenes and a daughter Hemithea by Prokleia, daughter of Laomedon, but he afterwards married Philonome, daughter of Tragasos; and she fell in love with Tenes, and, failing to seduce him, falsely accused him to Kyknos of attempting to debauch her, and in witness of it she produced a flute-player, by name Eumolpos.
Kyknos believed her, and putting him and his sister in a chest he set them adrift on the sea. The chest was washed up on the island of Leukophrys (Leucophrys), and Tenes landed and settled in the island, and called it Tenedos after himself. But Kyknos afterwards learning the truth, stoned the flute-player to death and buried his wife alive in the earth.
So when the Greeks were standing in for Tenedos, Tenes saw them and tried to keep them off by throwing stones, but was killed by Akhilleus (Achilles) with a sword-cut in the breast, though Thetis had forewarned Akhilleus not to kill Tenes, because he himself would die by the hand of Apollon if he slew Tenes."
Lycophron, Alexandra 229 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"And now Palaimon (Palaemon), to whom babes are slain [i.e. the island of Tenedos], beholds the hoary Titanid bride of Ogenus seething with the corded gulls [i.e. the Greek fleet]. And now two children [Tennes and Hemithea] are slain together with their father [Kyknos (Cycnus)] who is smitten on the collar-bone with the hard mill-stone, an omen of good beginning; those children which before escaped when cast out to death in an ark through the lying speech of the piper [Eumolpos], to whom hearkened the sullen butcher [Kyknos] of his children--he the gull-reared, captive of the nets of fishermen, friend of winkle and bandy sea-snail--and imprisoned his two children in a chest. And therewithal the wretch [Mnemon], who was not mindful to tell [Akhilleus (Achilles)] the bidding of the goddess mother [Thetis] but erred in forgetfulness, shall die upon his face, his breast pierced by the sword."
[N.B. According to the Scholiast on Lycophron the Greek fleet--"corded gulls"--sailed across the sea--"the hoary Titanid bride of Ogenos"--and landed on the island of Tenedos where infants were sacrificed to the god Palaimon. The island was inhabited by Tennes and Hemithea, children of Kyknos, king of Kolonai (Colonae) in the Troad, by his first wife, Prokleia. His second wife, Philonome, abetted by the flute-player, Molpos, had previously induced Kyknos to set them adrift upon the sea in an ark. Tennes, who was really a son of Apollon, came to land in the island of Leukophrys, which, after his name, was thence called Tenedos. When the Greeks arrived on the island, Thetis sent a messenger named Mnemon to warn Akhilleus not to slay Tennes, for this would enrage Apollon. But he failed to deliver the message in time, and Akhilleus slew him in anger. Later, the Greeks landed in the Troad, where Akhilleus fought and slew Kyknos, the father of the Tenedians.]
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 83. 1 - 5 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"When a considerable time had elapsed after the settlement of Lesbos, the island known as Tenedos came to be inhabited in somewhat the following manner. Tennes was a son of Kyknos (Cycnus), who had been king of Kolonê (Colonae) in the Troad, and was a man who had gained renown because of his high achievements. Gathering together colonists and using as his base the mainland opposite to it, he seized an uninhabited island called Leukophrys (Leucophrys); this island he portioned out in allotments among his followers, and he founded a city on it which he named Tenedos after himself. And since he governed uprightly and conferred many benefactions upon the inhabitants, during his lifetime he was in high favour, and upon his death he was granted immortal honours; for they built for him a sacred precinct and honoured him with sacrifices as though he were a god, and these sacrifices they have continued to perform down to modern times.
But we must not omit to mention what the myths of the Tenedians have to tell about Tennes, the founder of the city. Kyknos his father, they say, giving credence to the unjust slanders of his wife, put his son Tennes in a chest and cast it into the sea; the chest was borne along by the waves and brought to shore on Tenedos, and since Tennes had been saved alive in this astonishing fashion by the providence of some one of the gods, he became king of the island, and becoming distinguished by reason of the justice he displayed and his other virtues, he was granted immortal honours. But it had happened, when his step-mother was slandering him, that a certain flute player had borne false witness against him, and so the Tenedians passed a law that no flute player should ever enter his sacred precinct.
And when Tennes was slain by Akhilleus (Achilles) in the course of the Trojan War, on the occasion when the Greeks sacked Tenedos, the Tenedians passed a law that no man should ever pronounce the name of Akhilleus in the sacred precinct of the founder of their city. Such, then, is the account which the myths give regarding Tenedos and its ancient inhabitants."
Strabo, Geography 8. 6. 22 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"And it seems, also, that there is a kinship between the peoples of Tenedos and Tenea [a town in Korinthos (Corinth) on the Isthmos], through Tennes the son of Kyknos (Cycnus), as Aristotle says; and the similarity in the worship of Apollon among the two peoples affords strong indications of such kinship."
Strabo, Geography 13. 1. 46 :
"[In the Troad :] After the Sigeian (Sigeum) Promontory and the Akhilleion (Achilleum) one comes to the Akhaeïon (Achaeum), the part of the mainland that belongs to the Tenedians; and to Tenedos itself, which is not more than forty stadia distant from the mainland. It is about eighty stadia in circumference, and has an Aiolian (Aeolian) city and two harbors and a temple of Apollon Smintheus, as the poet [Homer] testifies :--‘And dost rule mightily over Tenedos, O Smintheus.’ Round it lie several small islands, in particular two, which are called the Kalydnai (Calydnae) and are situated on the voyage to Lekton (Lecton). And some give the name Kalydna to Tenedos itself, while others call it Leukophrys. In it is laid the scene of the myth of Tennes, after whom the island was named, as also that of Kyknos (Cycnus), a Thrakian by birth and, according to some, father of Tennes and king of Kolonai (Colonae). Both Larisa and Kolonai used to be adjacent to the Akhaeïon formerly being on the part of the mainland that belonged to the Tenedians."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 14. 1 - 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The axes were dedicated [at the shrine of Delphoi] by Periklyto (Periclyto), son of Euthymakhos, a man of Tenedos, and allude to an old story. Kyknos (Cycnus), they say, was a son of Poseidon, and ruled as king in Kolonai (Colonae), a city in the Troad situated opposite the island Leukophrys (Leucophrys).
He had a daughter, by name Hemithea, and a son, called Tennes, by Prokleia (Procleia), who was a daughter of Klytios (Clytius) and a sister of Kaletor (Caletor). Homer in the Iliad says that this Kaletor, as he was putting the fire under the ship of Protesilaos, was killed by Aias (Ajax). Prokleia died before Kyknos, and his second wife, Philonome, daughter of Kragasos (Cragasus), fell in love with Tennes. Rejected by him she falsely accused him before her husband, saying that he had made love to her, and she had rejected him. Kyknos was deceived by the trick, placed Tennes with his sister in a chest and launched it out to sea.
The young people came safely to the island Leukophrys, and the island was given its present name from Tennes. Kyknos, however, was not to remain for ever ignorant of the trick, and sailed to his son to confess his ignorance and to ask for pardon for his mistake. He put in at the island and fastened the cables of his ship to something--a rock or a tree--but Tennes in a passion cut them adrift with an axe.
For this reason a by-word has arisen, which is used of those who make a stern refusal : ‘So and so has cut whatever it may be with an axe of Tenedos.’ The Greeks say that while Tennes was defending his country he was killed by Akhilleus. In course of time weakness compelled the people of Tenedos to merge themselves with the Alexandrians on the Troad mainland."
Plutarch, Greek Questions 28.73 (not currently quoted here) :
According to Frazer's commentary on Apollodorus, Plutarch describes how Thetis warned Akhilleus (Achilles) not to slay Tennes and charged one of his servants to remind him of the warning. But while scouring the island, Akhilleus fell for his beautiful sister and made love to her. Tennes retaliated and in the brawl which ensued was slain by Akhilleus. When the hero discovered who he had slain, he killed the servant that was supposed to warn him, and buried Tennes on the spot where a sanctuary was later founded for his hero-cult. This version of the story differs from the one given by Apollodorus (above).
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 15 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"In Greece they worship a number of deified human beings, Alabandus at Alabanda, Tennes at Tenedos, Leucothea, formerly Ino, and her son Palaemon throughout the whole of Greece." [N.B. On the island of Tenedos, Leukothea was the sister of Tennes, and Palaimon her son.]
Eustathius and the Scholiast on Homer name Tenes's sister Leukothea and their stepmother Polyboia.
CYCNUS & THE LANDING OF THE GREEKS AT TROY
Stasinus of Cyprus or Hegesias of Aegina, Cypria Fragment 1 (from Proclus, Chrestomathia 1) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"[The Greek fleet departs from Aulis.] Next they sail as far as Tenedos . . . Then the Greeks tried to land at Ilion [Troy], but the Trojans prevent them, and Protesilaos is killed by Hektor (Hector). Akhilleus (Achilles) then kills Kyknos (Cycnus), the son of Poseidon, and drives the Trojans back. The Greeks take up their dead and send envoys to the Trojans demanding the surrender of Helene and the treasure with her."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca E3. 28 - 30 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Putting to sea from Tenedos they made sail for Troy, and sent Odysseus and Menelaus to demand the restoration of Helene and the property. But the Trojans, having summoned an assembly, not only refused to restore Helene, but threatened to kill the envoys . . .
Now Thetis charged Akhilleus (Achilles) not to be the first to land from the ships, because the first to land would be the first to die. Being apprized of the hostile approach of the fleet, the barbarians marched in arms to the sea, and endeavored by throwing stones to prevent the landing. Of the Greeks the first to land from his ship was Protesilaos, and having slain not a few of the barbarians, he fell by the hand of Hektor . . . On the death of Protesilaos, Akhilleus landed with the Myrmidones, and throwing a stone at the head of Kyknos (Cycnus), killed him. When the barbarians saw him dead, they fled to the city, and the Greeks, leaping from their ships, filled the plain with bodies. and having shut up the Trojans, they besieged them; and they drew up the ships."
Lycophron, Alexandra 229 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"And now two children [Tennes and Hemithea] are slain together with their father [Kyknos (Cycnus)] who is smitten on the collar-bone with the hard mill-stone, an omen of good beginning . . . [Kyknos] the sullen butcher of his children--he the gull-reared, captive of the nets of fishermen, friend of winkle and bandy sea-snail."
[N.B. According to the Scholiast on Lycophron, Akhilleus (Achilles) slew Kyknos at Troy with the cast of a millstone. Kyknos was a son of Poseidon and Kalyke (Calyce) who was exposed at birth by his mother on the sea-shore, and fed by sea-birds until he was found by fishermen.]
Aristotle, Rhetoric 2. 22. 12 (trans. Freese) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"Praising Akhilleus (Achilles) because he is a man, or one of the demigods, or because he went on the expedition against Troy; for this is applicable to many others as well, so that such praise is no more suited to Akhilleus than to Diomedes. By particular I mean what belongs to Akhilleus, but to no one else; for instance, to have slain Hektor (Hector), the bravest of the Trojans, and Kyknos (Cycnus), who prevented all the Greeks from disembarking, being invulnerable; to have gone to the war when very young, and without having taken the oath; and all such things."
Strabo, Geography 13. 1. 19 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"There is another Kolonai (Colonae) on the outer Hellespontine sea, which is one hundred and forty stadia distant from Ilion [Troy] and is said to be the birthplace of Kyknos (Cycnus)."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 4. 523 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"[At the funeral games of Akhilleus (Achilles) :] The contests on; and many rose now for the leaping [i.e. the long jump contest]. Far beyond the marks of all the rest brave Agapenor sprang : loud shouted all for that victorious leap; and Thetis gave him the fair battle-gear of mighty Kyknos (Cycnus), who had smitten first Protesilaos, then had reft the life from many more, till Peleus' son [Akhilleus] slew him first of the chiefs of grief-enshrouded Troy."
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 14. 126 ff :
"[The fall of Troy :] Then rose a cunning harper in their midst. And sang the song of triumph and of peace re-won . . . All the War's Story in their eager ears he sang--how leagued peoples gathering met at hallowed Aulis--how the invincible strength of Peleus' son [Akhilleus (Achilles)] smote fenced cities twelve in sea-raids, how he marched o'er leagues on leagues of land, and spoiled eleven--all he wrought in fight with Telephos and Eetion--how he slew giant Kyknos (Cycnus)."
Anonymous, Dictys Cretensis' Journal of the Trojan War 2. 12 - 13 (trans. Frazer) (Latin faux-journal C4th A.D. after Greek original C1st A.D.) :
"[During the first battles of the Trojan War when the Greeks made landfall :] Achilles and Ajax the son of Telamon fought with great glory, their courage sustaining and increasing the confidence of our men. They struck fear into the enemy, some of whom, having dared to oppose them, soon were retreating, and all of whom finally were taking to flight. Thus we, being free for a time from enemy attack, were able to draw up our ships and set them safely in order. Then we chose Achilles and Ajax the son of Telamon, since they were the bravest, to guard the ships and the army, stationing them at the ends of our camp to cover our flanks. When everyone was settled in place, Telephus departed for home. Our army was very grateful to him for having led us to Troy.
Soon afterwards Cycnus surprised us with a treacherous attack. He had heard of our coming, for his kingdom was not far off from Troy. His attack was made against those of our men who were preoccupied with the burial of Protesilaus. These, expecting no trouble, were caught unawares and forced to flee in utter disorder. But soon the rest of our men, those not entrusted with the burial, learned what was happening and came to the rescue. Among these was Achilles who encountered and slew Cycnus along with countless numbers of others; thus those who had fled were relieved.
But frequent raids by the enemy caused heavy casualties to our side and deeply disturbed our leaders. Therefore, the first thing we decided to do was to attack the cities in the region near Troy with a part of our army and wreak general destruction. We began with the kingdom of Cycnus and plundered the country around it. When, however, we invaded and began to fire the capital, where it was said the sons of Cycnus were being reared, the people, that is, the Neandrienses, offered no resistance and begged us to forbear. Weeping, they prayed on bended knee, by all things human and divine, that their city be spared. They were not, they said, to be blamed for the wicked acts of their evil king; they had been innocent and, after his death, had sided with us. Thus they stirred us to pity and saved their city. We required, however, that they hand over the sons of the king, Cobis and Corianus, along with their sister Glauce. Then we gave the girl to Ajax, in addition to this regular share of the booty, a due reward for his valorous deeds. Soon afterwards the Neandrienses came to the camp and sued for peace; they promised to be our allies and to do whatever we ordered.
When this campaign had been finished, we stormed Cilla but refrained from touching Carene, though it was near. Thus we showed our gratitude for the faithful friendship of the Neandrienses, for they were lords in Carene."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 157 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Sons of Neptunus [Poseidon] . . . Cygnus (Cycnus) by Calyce, daughter of Hecato."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 273 :
"Those who first conducted Games . . . Thirteenth. Priam made a cenotaph in Ilium [Troy] for Paris, the son whom he had ordered killed [at birth], and held gymnastic contents. The contestants in running were Nestor, son of Neleus, Helenus, son of Priam, Deiphobus, son of the same, Polites, son of the same. Telephus, son of Hercules, Cygnus (Cycnus), son of Neptunus [Poseidon], Sarpedon, son of Jove [Zeus], Paris Alexander." [N.B. Many years after the infant Paris had been exposed on Mount Ida, he returned to Troy as a young man to attend the Games held to commemorate his alleged death.]
Ovid, Metamorphoses 12. 70 - 173 (trans. Brookes More) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Fame now had spread the tidings, a great fleet of Greek ships was at that time on its way, an army of brave men. The Trojans stood, all ready to prevent the hostile Greeks from landing on their shores. By the decree of Fate, the first man killed of the invaders' force was strong Protesilaus, by the spear of valiant Hector, whose unthought-of power at that time was discovered by the Greeks to their great cost. The Phyrgians also learned, at no small cost of blood, what warlike strength came from the Grecian land. The Sigean shores grew red with death-blood : Cygnus (Cycnus), Neptunus' [Poseidon's] son there slew a thousand men : for which, in wrath, Achilles pressed his rapid chariot straight through the Trojan army; making a lane with his great spear, shaped from a Pelion tree. And as he sought through the fierce battle's press, either for Cygnus or for Hector, he met Cygnus and engaged at once with him (Fate had preserved great Hector from such foe till ten years from that day). Cheering his steeds, their white necks pressed upon the straining yoke, he steered the chariot towards his foe, and, brandishing the spear with his strong arm, he cried, ‘Whoever you may be, you have the consolation of a glorious death you die by me, Haemonian Achilles!’ His heavy spear flew after the fierce words. Although the spear was whirled direct and true, yet nothing it availed with sharpened point. It only bruised, as with a blunted stroke, the breast of Cygnus! ‘By report we knew of you before this battle, goddess born.’ The other answered him, ‘But why are you surprised that I escape the threatened wound?’ (Achilles was surprised). ‘This helmet crowned, great with its tawny horse-hair, and this shield, broad-hollowed, on my left arm, are not held for help in war : they are but ornament, as Mars [Ares] wears armor. All of them shall be put off, and I will fight with you unhurt. It is a privilege that I was born not as you, of a Nereid but of him [Poseidon] whose powerful rule is over Nereus, his daughters and their ocean.’ So, he spoke.
Immediately he threw his spear against Achilles, destined to pierce the curving shield through brass and through nine folds of tough bull's hide. It stopped there, for it could not pierce the tenth. The hero wrenched it out, and hurled again a quivering spear at Cygnus, with great strength. The Trojan stood unwounded and unharmed. Nor did a third spear injure Cygnus, though he stood there with his body all exposed. Achilles raged at this, as a wild bull in open circus, when with dreadful horns he butts against the hanging purple robes which stir his wrath and there observes how they evade him, quite unharmed by his attack. Achilles then examined his good spear, to see if by some chance the iron point was broken from it, but the point was firm, fixed on the wooden shaft. ‘My hand is weak,’ he said, ‘but is it possible its strength forsook me though it never has before? For surely I had my accustomed strength, when first I overthrew Lyrnessus' walls, or when I won the isle of Tenedos or Thebes (then under King Eetion) and I drenched both with their own peoples' blood, or when the river Caycus ran red with slaughter of its people, or, when twice Telephus felt the virtue of my spear. On this field also, where such heaps lie slain, my right hand surely has proved its true might; and it is mighty.’ So he spoke of strength, remembered.
But as if in proof against his own distrust, he hurled a spear against Menoetes, a soldier in the Lycian ranks. The sharp spear tore the victim's coat of mail and pierced his breast beneath. Achilles, when he saw his dying head strike on the earth wrenched the same spear from out the reeking wound, and said, ‘This is the hand, and this the spear I conquered with; and I will use the same against him who in luck escaped their power; and the result should favor as I pray the helpful gods.’ And, as he said such words, in haste he hurled his ashen spear, again at Cygnus. It went straight and struck unshunned Resounding on the shoulder of that foe, it bounced back as if it hit a wall or solid cliff. Yet when Achilles saw just where the spear struck, Cygnus there was stained with blood. He instantly rejoiced; but vainly, for it was Menoetes' blood!
Then in a sudden rage, Achilles leaped down headlong from his lofty chariot; and, seeking his god-favored foe, he struck in conflict fiercely, with his gleaming sword. Although he saw that he had pierced both shield and helmet through, he did not harm the foe--his sword was even blunted on the flesh. Achilles could not hold himself for rage, but furious, with his sword-hilt and his shield he battered wildly the uncovered face and hollow-temples of his Trojan foe. Cygnus gave way; Achilles rushed on him, buffeting fiercely, so that he could not recover from the shock. Fear seized upon Cygnus, and darkness swam before his eyes. Then, as he moved back with retreating steps, a large stone hindered him and blocked his way. His back pushed against this, Achilles seized and dashed him violently to the ground. Then pressing with buckler and hard knees the breast of Cygnus, he unlaced the helmet thongs, wound them about the foeman's neck and drew them tightly under his chin, till Cygnus' throat could take no breath of life. Achilles rose eager to strip his conquered foe but found his empty armor, for the god of ocean had changed the victim into that white bird whose name he lately bore.
There was a truce for many days after this opening fight while both sides resting, laid aside their arms . . . They talked of their own deeds and valor, all that thrilling night : and even the strength of enemies whom they had met and overcome. What else could they admit or think of, while the great Achilles spoke or listened to them? But especially the recent victory over Cygnus held them ardent. Wonderful it seemed to them that such a youth could be composed of flesh not penetrable by the sharpest spear; of flesh which blunted even hardened steel, and never could be wounded. All the Greeks, and even Achilles wondered at the thought. Then Nestor said to them : ‘During your time, Cygnus has been the only man you knew who could despise all weapons and whose flesh could not be pierced by thrust of sword or spear. But long ago I saw another man able to bear unharmed a thousand strokes, Caeneus of Thessaly, Caeneus who lived upon Mount Othrys.’"
Seneca, Hercules Furens 180 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"The Thessalian chief [Achilles] . . . practising for thy fate, O Troy, he laid low the Thracian arms, or smote [Cycnus] the son of Neptunus [Poseidon] with white plumes gleaming." [N.B. The helm of Kyknos was plumed with the feathers of gulls.]
- Epic Cycle, The Cypria Fragments - Greek Epic C7th - 6th B.C.
- Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Aristotle, Rhetoric - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Lycophron, Alexandra - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- 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.
- Anonymous, Dictys Cretensis - Greek Faux-Journal C1st 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.
- Cicero, De Natura Deorum - Latin Rhetoric C1st B.C.
- Seneca, Troades - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
Other references for Kyknos not currently quoted here: Tzetzes Antehomerica 257ff., Scholiast on Theocritus 16.49.
Other references for Tennes not currently quoted here: Tzetzes Scholiast on Lycophron 232, Scholiast on Homer's Iliad 1.38, Eustathius on Homer's Iliad 1.38, Plutarch Greek Questions 28.73.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.