Greek Mythology >> Kings & Villians >> Phorbas


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Fearsome One

PHORBAS was a prince of the Thessalian Phlegyes (Phlegyans) who emmigrated to the town of Olenos (Olenus) near Elis in the Peloponnesos. There he married Hyrmina, a grand-daughter of King Endymion of Elis. Phorbas was a savage king who preyed on pilgrims visiting the oracle of Delphoi until he was killed by the god Apollon in a boxing match.

Phorbas' elder son Augeias--according to some--succeeded him as king of Elis, while the younger, Aktor (Actor), came to rule the Eleian region of Bouprasion (Buprasium). His grandsons included the twin Molionidai and the hero Lepreus.

Another Phorbas, hero of the island of Rhodes, was sometimes confounded with the Phlegyan Phorbas.


[1.1] LAPITHES & ORSINOME (Diodorus Siculus 4.69.2 & 5.58.4)
[1.2] LAPITHOS (Pausanias 5.1.11)


[1.1] AUGEAS (Apollodorus 2.5.5)
[1.2] AUGEAS, AKTOR (Diodorus Siculus 4.69.2)
[1.3] AKTOR (by Hyrmina) (Pausanias 5.11.1)
[2.1] PRONOE (Apollodorus 1.7.7)
[3.1] ASTYDAMEIA (Aelian Miscellany 1.24)
[4.1] TIPHYS (by Hyrmina) (Hyginus Fabulae 14)


PHORBAS (Phorbas), a son of Lapithes and Orsinome, and a brother of Periphas. Phorbas went from Thessaly to Olenos, where Alector, king of Elis, made use of his assistance against Pelops, and shared his kingdom with him. Phorbas then gave his daughter Diogeneia in marriage to Alector, and he himself married Hyrmine, a sister of Alector, by whom he became the father of Augeas and Actor. (Diod. iv. 69; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 303 ; Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. i. 172; Paus. v. 1. § 8 ; Apollod. ii. 5. § 5.) He is also described as a bold boxer, and to have plundered the temple of Delphi along with the Phlegyes, but to have been defeated by Apollo. (Schol. ad Hom. II. xxiii. 660; Ov. Met. xi. 414, xii. 322.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.



Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 5. 5 (trans. Frazer) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Augeias (Augeas) was king of Elis; some say that he was a son of Helios (the Sun), others that he was a son of Poseidon, and others that he was a son of Phorbas; and he had many herds of cattle."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 7. 6 - 7 :
"Endymion had by a Naias nymphe or, as some say, by Iphianassa, a son Aitolos (Aetolus), who slew Apis, son of Phoroneus, and fled to the Kouretian (Curetan) country . . . Aitolos and Pronoe, daughter of Phorbos (Phorbus), had sons, Pleuron and Kalydon (Calydon), after whom the cities in Aitolia (Aetolia) were named."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 69. 1 - 2 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"We shall now discuss in turn the Lapithai (Lapiths) and Kentauroi (Centaurs). To Okeanos (Oceanus) and Tethys, so the myths relate, were born a number of sons who gave their names to rivers, and among them was Peneios (Peneus), from whom the river Peneios in Thessalia (Thessaly) later got its name. He lay with the nymphe named Kreousa (Creusa) and begat as children Hypseus and Stilbê, and with the latter Apollon lay and begat Lapithes and Kentauros (Centaurus).
Of these two, Lapithes made his home about the Peneios river and ruled over these regions, and marrying Orsinomê, the daughter of Eurynomos, he begat two sons, Phorbas and Periphas. And these sons became kings in this region and all the peoples there were called Lapithai after Lapithes. As for the sons of Lapithes, Phorbas went to Olenos (Olenus), from which city Alektor (Alector), the king of Eleia [Elis], summoned him to come to his aid, since he stood in fear of the overlordship of Pelops, and he gave him a share of the kingship of Elis; and to Phorbas were born two sons, Aigeus [i.e. Augeas] and Aktor (Actor), who received the kingship over the Eleians."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 1. 10 - 11 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"He [Augeas king of Elis] made preparations himself to resist Herakles, should he attack Elis; more particularly he made friends with the sons of Aktor (Actor) and with Amarynkeus (Amarynceus). Amarynkeus, besides being a good soldier, had a father, Pyttios (Pyttius), of Thessalian descent, who came from Thessalia to Elis. To Amarynkeus, therefore, Augeas also gave a share in the government of Elis; Aktor and his sons had a share in the kingdom and were natives of the country. For the father of Aktor was Phorbas, son of Lapithos (Lapithus), and his mother was Hyrmina, daughter of Epeios (Epeius). Aktor named after her the city of Hyrmina, which he founded in Elis."

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 1. 24 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Kaukon (Caucon) son of Poseidon and Astydameia daughter of Phorbas had a child called Lepreus."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 14 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Argonauts assembled . . . Tiphys, son of Phorbas and Hyrmine, a Boeotian; he was steersman of the ship Argo."


Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 2. 19 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[Ostensibly a description of an ancient Greek painting at Neapolis (Naples) :] This river, my boy, is the Boiotian Kephisos (Boeotian Cephisus), a stream not unknown to the Mousai (Muses); and on its bank Phlegyans are encamped, barbarian people who do not yet live in cities. Of the two men boxing you doubtless see that one is Apollon, and the other is Phorbas, whom the Phlegyans have made king because he is tall beyond all of them and the most savage of the race. Apollon is boxing with him for the freedom of the road. For since Phorbas seized control of the road which leads straight to Phokis (Phocis) and Delphoi (Delphi), no one any longer sacrifices at Pytho or conducts paians in honour of the god, and the tripod's oracles and prophetic sayings and responses have wholly ceased. Phorbas separates himself from the rest of the Phlegyans when he makes his raids; for this oak-tree, my boy, he has taken as his home, and the Phlegyans visit him in these royal quarters in order, forsooth, to obtain justice. Catching those who journey toward the shrine, he sends the old men and children to the central camp of the Phlegyans for them to despoil and hold for ransom; but as for the stronger, he strips for a contest with them and overcomes some in wrestling, outruns others, and defeats others in the pancratium and in throwing the discus; then he cuts off their heads and suspends these on the oak, and beneath this defilement he spends his life. The heads hang dank from the branches, and some you see are withered and others fresh, while others have shrunken to bare skulls; and they grin and seem to lament as the wind blows on them.
To Phorbas, as he exults over these ‘Olympian’ victories, has come Apollon in the likeness of a youthful boxer. As for the aspect of the god, he is represented as unshorn, my boy, and with his hair fastened up so that he may box with girt-up head; rays of light rise from about his brow and his cheek emits a smile mingled with wrath; keen is the glance of his eyes as it follows his uplifted hands. And the leather thongs are wrapped about his hands, which are more beautiful than if garlands adorned them. Already the god has overcome him in boxing--for the thrust of the right hand shows the hand still in action and not yet discontinuing the posture wherewith he has laid him low--but the Phlegyan is already stretched on the ground, and a poet will tell how much ground he covers; the wound has been inflicted on his temple, and the blood gushes forth from it as from a fountain. He is depicted as savage, and of swinelike features--the kind that will feed upon strangers rather than simply kill them. Fire from heaven rushes down to smite the oak and set it afire, not, however, to obliterate all record of it; for the place where these events occurred, my boy, is still called ‘Heads of Oak.’"

Ovid, Metamorphoses 11. 410 ff (trans. Brookes More) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"King Ceyx, disturbed by his loved brother's [Daedalion's] fate and prodigies which happened since that time, prepared to venture to the Clarian god [i.e. Apollon], that he might there consult the oracle, so sanctified to consolation of distress : for then the way to Delphi was unsafe because of Phorbas and his Phlegyans."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 67 ff ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Dionysos gathered allies for his Indian campaign :] The rockdwellers came also from their selfvaulted caves, bearing all the name of Pan their father the ranger of the wilderness, all armed to join the host . . . Along with these came Phorbas to join the march, savage and insatiate." [N.B. It is not clear if this Phorbas is another Pan or the savage Phlegyan king.]


1. Aethlios 1. Alxion     1. Olenos
2. Endymion 2. Oinomaos      
3. Epeios
4. Aitolos
3. Pelops      
5. (Polyxeinos)
6. Eleios *
4. Polyxeinos
5. Heleios *
1. Phorbas   2. Alektor
7. Augeias **   2. Aktor   3. Dexamenos
4. Hipponoos ****
8. Agasthenes 1. Amarynkeus *** 3. Kteatos & Eurytos 1. Phyleus  
9. Polyxeinos 2. Diores 4. Thalpios & Antimakhos 2. Meges  

1. Pisa (southern Elis); 2. Elis (central Elis); 3. Bouprasion (northern Elis); 4. Doulikhion (island west of Elis); 5. Olenos (northern Elis & western Akhaia).
* Eleios-Heleios is the same figure. One tradition represents him as a son of Perseus and the heir of King Pelops, another makes him a grandson of King Endymion. He was sometimes confounded with the sun-god Helios.
** Augeias ruled the whole of Elis including the regions of Elis, Pisa, Bouprasion and Doulikhion. After his death the kingdom was divided into four autonomous parts.
*** Amarynkeus received a quarter of the kingdom of Augeias. One assumes his portion was Pisatis.
**** In the reign of Hipponoos, Olenos was annexed by King Oineus of Aitolia. It is listed as an Aitolian dominion in Homer's Catalogue of Ships.





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