AMPHIARAOS (Amphiaraus) was a hero of the war of the Seven Against Thebes who was swallowed up by the earth and transformed into an oracular demigod or daimon (spirit). His oracle at Oropos in Boiotia was one of the most revered in ancient Greece. Amphiaraos' name perhaps means "Pray-Around" from the Greek words araomai and amphis.
Amphiaraos' mortal life is not described on this page, only the story of his apotheosis and oracle.
FAMILY OF AMPHIARAUS
[1.1] OIKLES (Pindar Nemea Str5, Aeschylus Seven 609, Apollodorus 1.68, Pausanias 6.17.6, Statius Thebaid, et al)
[1.2] APOLLON (or OIKLES) & HYPERMNESTRA (Hyginus Fabulae 70)
[1.1] ALKMAION, AMPHILOKHOS (by Eriphyle) (Apollodorus 1.86, Statius Thebaid, et al)
[1.2] ALKMAION, AMPHILOKHOS, EURYDIKE, DEMONASSA, ALKMENE (by Eriphyle) (Pausanias 5.17.7)
AMPHIARA′US, (Amphiaraos), a son of Oicles and Hypermnestra, the daughter of Thestius. (Hom. Od. xv. 244; Apollod. i. 8. § 2; Hygin. Fab. 73; Paus. ii. 21. § 2.) On his father's side he was descended from the famous seer Melampus. (Paus. vi. 17. § 4.) Some traditions represented him as ason of Apollo by Hypermnestra, which, however, is merely a poetical expression to describe him as a seer and prophet. (Hygin. Fab. 70.) Amphiaraus is renowned in ancient story as a brave hero : he is mentioned among the hunters of the Calydonian boar, which he is said to have deprived of one eye, and also as one of the Argonauts. (Apollod. i. 8. § 2, 9. § 16.) For a time he reigned at Argos in common with Adrastus ; but, in a feud which broke out between them, Adrastus took to flight. Afterwards, however, he became reconciled with Amplliaraus, and gave him his sister Eriphyle in marriage, by whom Amphiaraus became the father of Alcmaeon, Amphilochus, Eurydice, and Demonassa. On marrying Eriphyle, Amphiaraus had sworn, that he would abide by the decision of Eriphyle on any point in which he should differ in opinion from Adrastus. When, therefore, the latter called upon him to join the expedition of the Seven against Thebes, Amphiaraus, although he foresaw its unfortunate issue and at first refused to take any part in it, was nevertheless persuaded by his wife to join his friends, for Eriphyle had been enticed to induce her husband by the necklace of Harmonia which Polyneices had given her. Amphiaraus on leaving Argos enjoined his sons to avenge his death on their heartless mother. (Apollod. iii. 6. § 2; Hygin. Fab. 73; Diod. iv. 65; Hom Od. xv. 247, &c.) On their way to Thebes the heroes instituted the Nemean games, and Amphiaraus won the victory in the chariot-race and in throwing the discus. (Apollod. iii. 6. § 4.) During the war against Thebes, Amphiaraus fought bravely (Pind. Ol. vi. 26, &c.), but still he could not suppress his anger at the whole undertaking, and when Tydeus, whom he regarded as the originator of the expedition, was severely wounded by Melanippus, and Athena was hastening to render him immortal, Amphiaraus cut off the head of Melanippus, who had in the mean time been slain, and gave Tydeus his brains to drink, and Athena, struck with horror at the sight, withdrew. (Apollod. iii. 6. § 8.) When Adrastus and Amphiaraus were the only heroes who survived, the latter was pursued by Periclymenus, and fled towards the river Ismenius. Here the earth opened before he was overtaken by his enemy, and swallowed up Amphiaraus together with his chariot, but Zeus made him immortal. (Pind. Nem. ix. 57, Ol. vi. 21, &c.; Plut. Parall. 6; Cic. de Divin. i. 40.) Henceforth Amphiaraus was worshipped as a hero, first at Oropus and afterwards in all Greece. (Paus. i. 34. § 2; Liv. xlv. 27.) He had a sanctuary at Argos (Paus. ii. 23. § 2), a statue at Athens (i. 8. § 3), and a heroum at Sparta. (Müller, Orchom. pp. 146, 486.) The departure of Amphiaraus from his home when he went to Thebes, was represented on the chest of Cypselus. (Paus. v. 17. § 4.).
The prophetic power, which Amphiaraus was believed to possess, was accounted for by his descent from Melampus or Apollo, though there was also a local tradition at Phlius, according to which he had acquired them in a night which he spent in the prophetic house (oikos mantikos) of Phlius. (Paus. ii. 13. § 6; comp. i. 34. § 3.) He was, like all seers, a favourite of Zeus and Apollo. (Hom. Od. xv. 245.) It should be remarked here, that Virgil (Aen. vii. 671) mentions three Greek heroes as contemporaries of Aeneas, viz. Tiburtus, Catillus, and Coras, the first of whom was believed to be the founder of Tibur, and is described by Pliny (H. N. xvi. 87) as a son of Amphiaraus.
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
PARENTAGE OF AMPHIARAUS
Pindar, Nemean Ode 9. 16 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"The son of Oikleus (Oicles) . . . Amphiaraos (Amphiaraus)."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 68 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The people who gathered for the [Calydonian Boar Hunt] . . . Amphiaraos, the son of Oikles (Oicles), from Argos."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 111 :
"The Argonauts: . . . Amphiaraos son of Oikles (Oicles)."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 60 :
"Amphiaraos, the son of Oikles (Oicles), who as a prophet foresaw the deaths of all the members of the expedition [of the Seven Against Thebes] except Adrastos (Adrastus), shrank from joining it himself and tried to dissuade others."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 63 :
"Leaders of the Seven [Against Thebes] : . . . Amphiaraos son of Oikles (Oicles)."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 17. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Mantios was a son of Melampos, the son of Amythaon, and he had a son Oikles (Oicles), while Klytios (Clytius) was a son of Alkmaion (Alcmaeon), the son of Amphiaraos, the son of Oikles."
Pausanias, Guide to Greece 5. 17. 7 :
"[Amongst the scenes depicted on the chest of Kypselos (Cypselus) at Olympia :] Next is wrought the house of Amphiaraos (Amphiaraus), and baby Amphilokhos (Amphilochus) is being carried by some old woman or other. In front of the house stands Eriphyle with the necklace, and by her are her daughters Eurydike and Demonassa, and the boy Alkmaion (Alcmaeon) naked. Asius in his poem makes out Alkmena (Alcmena) also to be a daughter of Amphiaraos and Eriphyle. Baton is driving the chariot of Amphiaraos, holding the reins in one hand and a spear in the other. Amphiaraos already has one foot on the chariot and his sword drawn; he is turned towards Eriphyle in such a transport of anger that he can scarcely refrain from striking her."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 70 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Seven Kings who set out for Thebes . . . Amphiaraos, son of Oecleus (Oecles), or, as other writers say, son of Apollo by Hypermnestra, daughter of Thestios, from Pylos."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 73 :
"Amphiaraus, son of Oecleus and Hypermnestra, daughter of Thestius, was an augur who knew that if he went to attack Thebes he would not return."
THE DEATH & APOTHEOSIS OF AMPHIARAUS
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 99 (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And Eriphyle bare in the palace Alkmaion (Alcmaeon), shepherd of the people, to Amphiaraos (Amphiaraus) . . . Once the Danai (Danae) followed him [Polyneikes (Polynices)] to Thebes, to win renown. But, though well he [Amphiaraos] knew from Zeus all things ordained, the earth yawned and swallowed him up with his horses and jointed chariot, far from deep-eddying Alpheus."
Pindar, Nemean Ode 9. 16 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"The son of Oikleus (Oicles) . . . Amphiaraos, Zeus with his thunderbolt's consuming might cleft open the deep-breasted earth, and hid him from man's sight, horses and all."
Pindar, Nemean Ode 10. 7 ff :
"Once in Thebes the earth, sundered by lightning bolts of Zeus, engulfed the seer [Amphiaraos] son of Oikleus (Oicles), storm-cloud of war."
Pindar, Olympian Ode 6. 13 ff :
"Oikleus' (Oicles') son, the prophet Amphiaraos, the split earth engulfed him, his chariot and gleaming steeds."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 76 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"As he [Tydeus] lay there half dead [i.e. he was mortally wounded by Melanippos on the battlefield during the war of the Seven Against Thebes], Athena pleaded with Zeus and took Tydeus some medicine, with which she was going to make him immortal. But when Amphiaraos (Amphiaruas) witnessed this [i.e. he was a seer and so privy to the will of the gods] because of his hatred of Tydeus for inciting the Argives to march against Thebes in defiance of his judgement, he lopped off the head of Melanippos and gave it to Tydeus--who had killed Melanippos even though he was himself wounded--and gave it to Tydeus. Tydeus cracked open the skull and gulped down its contents. When Athena saw him do this, in revulsion she begrudged him her beneficence and kept it from him.
Amphiaraos then escaped to the river Ismenos [in the rout of the armies of the Seven Against Thebes], where, just before Periklymenos (Periclymenus) could hit him in the back, Zeus separated the earth with a thunderbolt and Amphiaraos disappeared inside, with this chariot and his driver Baton (or Elaton, according to some). And Zeus made him immortal [In this account it appears that Zeus, following Athene's petition, decreed that one of the Seven Against Thebes would become immortal. Athene intended to bestow the boon upon Tydeus, but Amphiaraos caused her to recoil from him [and so acquired the decreed immortality for himself]."
Strabo, Geography 9. 2. 11 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"In regard to the Harma in Boiotia (Boeotia), some say that Amphiaraos (Amphiaraus) fell in the battle out of his chariot near the place where his temple now is, and that the chariot was drawn empty to the place which bears the same name; others say that the chariot of Adrastos (Adrastus), when he was in flight, was smashed to pieces there, but that Adrastos safely escaped on [the immortal horse] Areion (Arion)."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 34. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Legend says that when Amphiaraos was exiled from Thebes the earth opened and swallowed both him and his chariot."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 2. 4 :
"The men of those days [the age of heroes], because of their righteousness and piety, were guests of the gods, eating at the same board; the good were openly honored by the gods, and sinners were openly visited with their wrath. Nay, in those days men were changed to gods, who down to the present day have honors paid to them--Aristaios (Aristaeus), Britomartis of Krete (Crete), Herakles the son of Alkmena, Amphiaraos the son of Oikles, and besides these Polydeukes and Kastor [the Dioskouroi (Dioscuri)]."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 14. 4 :
"The ruins of the cities Harma (Chariot ) and Mykalessos (Mycalessus). The former got its name, according to the people of Tanagra, because the chariot of Amphiaraos disappeared here, and not where the Thebans say it did."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 65. 8 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"As for Amphiaraos, [during the campaign of the Seven Against Thebes] the earth opened and he together with his chariot gell into the opening and disappeared from sight."
Pseudo-Plutarch, Greek & Roman Parallel Stories 6 (trans. Babbitt) (Greek historian C2nd A.D.) :
"When the captains that accompanied Polyneikes (Polynices) were feasting, an eagle swooped down and carried the spear of Amphiaraos up to a height and then let it drop. The spear became fixed in the earth and was changed into a laurel. The next day, when the captains were fighting, at that very spot Amphiaraüs was swallowed up with his chariot, where now is the city that is called Harma (Chariot). So says Trisimakhos in the third book of his Founding of Cities."
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 27 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
[Ostensibly a description of an ancient Greek painting in Neapolis (Naples) :] The two-horse chariot . . . is bearing Amphiaraos (Amphiaraus) on his way back from Thebes at the time when the earth is said to have opened to receive him, in order that he may prophesy in Attika (Attica) and utter true answers, a sage among men most sage. Of those seven who sought to gain the kingdom for the Theban Polyneikes (Polynices) none returned save Adrastos and Amphiaraos; the rest the Kadmeian (Cadmean) soil received . . .
Now those others belong to another tale, but the painting bids you look at Amphiaraos alone as in his flight he sinks beneath the earth, fillets and laurel and all. His horses are white, the whirling of his chariot wheels shows urgent haste, the panting breath of the horses issues from every nostril, the earth is bespattered with foam, the horses' manes are all awry, and fine dust settling on their bodies wet with sweat makes them less beautiful but more true to life. Amphiaraos otherwise is in full armour, but he has left off his helmet, thus dedicating his head to Apollon, for his look is holy and oracular.
The painting depicts also [the town of] Oropos (Oropus) as a youth among bright-eyed women, Thalattai (the Seas), and it depicts also the place used by Amphiaraos for meditation, a cleft holy and divine. Aletheia (Truth) clad all in white is there and the gate of dreams (pylê oneirôn)--for those who consult the oracle must sleep--and Oneiros (the god of dreams) himself is depicted in relaxed attitude, wearing a white garment over a black one, I think representing his nocturnal and diurnal work. And in his hands he carries a horn, showing that he brings up his dreams through the gate of truth."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 68 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[In the war of the Seven Against Thebes] . . . Amphiaraus was swallowed by the earth in his four-horse chariot."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 9. 406 (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Civil war embroils Thebae now and . . . the prophet [Amphiaraus] yet alive shall see his ghost as earth gapes open."
Propertius, Elegies 3. 13 (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"That you, too, Eriphyla, might display golden bracelets on your arms, the horses of Amphiaraus sank into the earth and he is nowhere to be found."
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7. 203 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"[On inventions :] Amphiaraus [invented] divination from fire, Tiresias of Thebes divination by inspecting birds' entrails."
Statius, Thebaid 7. 770 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"At length, revealing to his servant [the seer Amphiaraus during the battle of the Seven Against Thebes] all his godhead, Apollo said : ‘Use the light that is thine, and put on eternal fame, while Mors (Death) irrevocable fears me in thy company. We are overcome: thou knowest that the cruel Parcae (Fates) [Moira] unravel no threads; depart, long-promised delight of Elysian peoples, thou who of a surety wilt never bend thy neck to Creon's rule, or lie exposed and barred from burial.’ The other, taking breath awhile from the fight, makes answer : ‘Long since knew I, Cirrhaean father, that thou wert seated on my doomed chariot's trembling axle--why such high honour to my hapless plight?--How long wilt thou delay the death that threatens me? Already I hear the flow of rapid Styx, and the dark rivers of Dis [Haides] and the triple baying of his noxious sentinel [Kerberos (Cerberus)] . . . ’
Sad at heart Apollo leapt down and turned to hide his tears : then verily groaned the chariot and the horses, thus left desolate . . .
And now little by little the earth began to shudder to its rending, and the surface to rock, and the dust to rise in thicker clouds, already an infernal bellowing fills the plain . . . Whether the earth, labouring with imprisoned blasts, expelled the pent-up fury of the raging wind, or whether hidden waters ate away and wore down and sapped the crumbling soil, or the fabric of the rolling sky flung that way its weight, or Neptunus' [Poseidon's] trident moved all the ocean and flung too vast a sea upon the shore, or whether that uproar was a tribute to the seer, or earth threatened the brothers--lo! in a gaping chasm the ground yawns sheer and deep, and stars and shades feel mutual terror. Him [Amphiaraus] the huge abyss engulfs, and swallows the horses as they try to leap across it; he drops neither reins nor weapons, but, just as he was, drove his unshaken chariot down to Tartarus [Haides], and as he sank looked back at the heavens and groaned to see the plain meet above him, until a fainter shock joined once more the parted fields and shut out the daylight from Avernus."
Statius, Thebaid 8. 1 ff :
"When on a sudden the prophet [Amphiaraus swallowed alive by the earth] fell among the pallid Manes (Shades), and burst into the homes of death and the mysteries of the deep-sunken realm, and affrighted the Manes (Ghosts) with his armed corpse, all were filled with horror and marvelled at the weapons and horses and the body still undecayed upon the Stygian shores : for no fires had whelmed his limbs, nor came he charred from the gloomy urn, but hot with the sweat of war, and gory drops and the dust of the rent plain beflecked his shield. Not yet had the Eumenis [Erinys] met and purified him with branch of yew, not had Proserpine [Persephone] marked him on the dusky door-post as admitted to the company of the dead; nay his presence surprised the very distaff of the Fatae (Fates) [Moirai], and not till in terror beheld the augur did the Parcae [Moirai] break the thread. At the noise of his coming the care-free Elysian folk gazed round about them, and they whom in the remoter gulf a deeper night and a blind region of denser Shades o'erwhelms. Then sluggish meres and scorched lakes resound with groaning, and the pale furrower [Kharon (Charon)] of the ghost-bearing stream cries out that a new chasm has cloven Tartarus [Haides] to its depths and Manes (Spirits) have been let in across a river not his own . . .
But he [Haides], when the frame of the world above was loosened and filled him with unwonted fears, quaked at the appearing stars, and thus did he speak, offended by the gladsome light : ‘What ruin of the upper world hath thrust the hateful light of day into Avernus? Who hath burst our gloom and told the silent folk of life? Whence comes this threat? . . . ’
‘But what shall be thy [Amphiaraus'] doom,’ he cries, ‘who rushest headlong through the empty realm on a path forbidden?’ As he threatens, the other draws nigh, on foot now and shadowy to view, his armour growing faint, yet in his lifeless face abides the dignity of augurship inviolate, and on his brow remains the fillet dim to behold, and in his hand is a branch of dying olive. ‘If it be lawful and right for holy Manes (Shades) to make utterence here, O thou to all men the great Finisher, but to me, who once knew causes and beginnings, Creator also! remit, I pray, thy threatenings and thy fevered heart, nor deem worthy of thy wrath one who is but a man and fears thy laws; 'tis for no Herculean plunder--such wars are not for me--, nor for a forbidden bride--believe these emblems--that I dare to enter Lethe: let not Cerberus flee into his cave, nor Proserpine [Persephone] shudder at my chariot. I, once the best beloved of augurs at Apollo's shrines, call empty Chaos to bear witness--for what power to receive an oath has Apollo here?--for no crime do I suffer this unwonted fate, nor have I deserved to be thus torn from the kindly light of day; the urn of the Dictean judge [Minos] doth know it, and Minos can discern the truth. Sold by the treachery of my wife [Eriphyle] for wicked gold, I joined the Argive host, not unwitting--hence this crowd of new-slain ghosts thou seest, and the victims also of this right hand; in a sudden convulsion of the earth--my mind still shrinks in horror--thy darkness swallowed me up from the midst of thousands. What were my feelings, while I made my way on and on through the hollow womb of earth, and while I was whirled along, suspended in shrouding mist? Ah, woe is me! Nought of me is left to my country of my friends, nor in the power of Thebes; no more shall I behold the roofs of Lerna, nor shall I return in ashes to my stricken sire. With no pomp of tome or pyre or kinsmen's tears, to thee am I come with all my funeral train, nor likely to venture aught with yonder steeds; content am I to receive my Shade [i.e. Amphiaraus was not dead but rather dropped into Haides alive], nor remember my tripods any more. For what avails thee the use of prescient augury, when the Parcae (Fates) [Moirai] spin thy commands? Nay, be thou softened, and prove more merciful than the gods. If ever my accursed wife come hither, reserve for her thy deadly torments: she is more worthy of thy wrath, O righteous lord!’ He accepts his prayer, and is indignant that he yields . . .
Meanwhile his chariot, garlanded with sacred wool and victorious bay, and feared but of late for noble feats of arms, is sought in the clear light of day in vain, though by none vanquished and by none put to flight : the troops fall back, and the ground is suspected by all, and the soldiers avoid the traces of the dangerous field; that ill-omened spot of ravenous destruction lies idle, shunned from awe of the hellish abyss.
While Adrastus in a different quarter is encouraging his men, Palaemon flies to him with tidings, scarce trusting what he has seen, and cries in terror--for it chanced that he stood nigh the falling seer, and paled poor wretch! to see the chasm open : ‘Turn prince and flee . . . the impious earth sucks in our chariots and our weapons and men of war; lo! even the field where we stand seems to flee away. With my own eyes I saw the road to deepest night, and the firm soil rent, and him, alas! Oeclides [Amphiaraus], falling, than whom none was dearer to the prescient stars; and in vain I stretched out my arms and cried aloud.’"
Statius, Thebaid 8. 329 ff :
"Thou [Amphiaraus], dear to the gods, whom no violence nor Sidonian [Theban] sword did slay, but mighty Natura (Nature) opened her bosom to enfold in union with herself, as though for thy merits she were entombing thee in Cirrha's chasm."
THE ORACLE OF AMPHIARAUS AT OROPUS
OROPUS (OROPOS) Town in Boeotia (Central Greece)
Herodotus, Histories 1. 46. 1 ff (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"Kroisos (Croesus) [historical king of Lydia] . . . determined, if he could, to forestall the increase of the Persian power before they became great. Having thus determined, he at once made inquiries of the Greek and Libyan oracles, sending messengers separately to Delphoi (Delphi), to Abai in Phokia, and to Dodona, while others were despatched to Amphiaraos (Amphiaraus) and Trophonios, and others to Brankhidae in the Milesian country. These are the Greek oracles to which Kroisos sent for divination: and he told others to go inquire of Ammon in Libya. His intent in sending was to test the knowledge of the oracles, so that, if they were found to know the truth, he might send again and ask if he should undertake an expedition against the Persians . . .
As to the reply which the Lydians received from the oracle of Amphiaraos [which they consulted as well as the Pythian] when they had followed the due custom of the temple, I cannot say what it was, for nothing is recorded of it, except that Kroisos believed that from this oracle too he had obtained a true answer . . .
[Kroisos sent gifts in thanks to both oracles] to Amphiaraos, of whose courage and fate he had heard, he dedicated a shield made entirely of gold and a spear all of solid gold, point and shaft alike. Both of these were until my time at Thebes, in the Theban temple of Ismenian Apollon . . .
When the Lydians came to the places where they were sent, they presented the offerings, and inquired of the oracles, in these words : ‘Kroisos, king of Lydia and other nations, believing that here are the only true places of divination among men, endows you with such gifts as your wisdom deserves. And now he asks you whether he is to send an army against the Persians, and whether he is to add an army of allies.’ Such was their inquiry; and the judgment given to Kroisos by each of the two oracles was the same: namely, that if he should send an army against the Persians he would destroy a great empire. And they advised him to discover the mightiest of the Greeks and make them his friends."
Herodotus, Histories 1. 51. 1 :
"To Amphiaraos, of whose courage and fate he [the historic Lydian king Kroisos (Croesus)] had heard, he dedicated a shield made entirely of gold and a spear all of solid gold, point and shaft alike. Both of these were until my time at Thebes, in the Theban temple of Apollon Ismenios."
Herodotus, Histories 8. 134. 1 ff :
"He [the Greek general Mardonios, during the Persian War] sent a man of Europos called Mys to visit the places of divination, charging him to inquire of all the oracles which he could test. What it was that he desired to learn from the oracles when he gave this charge, I cannot say, for no one tells of it. I suppose that he sent to inquire concerning his present business, and that alone.
This man Mys [historical figure] is known to have gone to Lebadea and to have bribed a man of the country to go down into the cave of Trophonios . . . and moreover he bribed one who was no Theban but a stranger to lie down to sleep in the shrine of Amphiaraos. No Theban may seek a prophecy there, for Amphiaraos bade them by an oracle to choose which of the two they wanted [out of the oracles of Ismeian Apollon and Amphiaraos] and forgo the other, and take him either for their prophet or for their ally. They chose that he should be their ally. Therefore no Theban may lie down to sleep in that place."
Strabo, Geography 9. 1. 22 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"In the neighborhood of Psaphis [in Attika] is the Amphiaraeion (Amphiaraeum), an oracle once held in honor, where in his flight Amphiaraos, as Sophokles (Sophocles) says, ‘with four-horse chariot, armour and all, was received by a cleft that was made in the Theban dust.’"
Strabo, Geography 9. 2. 10 :
"Near Oropos (Oropus) [in Boiotia] is a place called Graia (Graea), and also the temple of Amphiaraos . . . The temple of Amphiaraos was transferred hither in accordance with an oracle from the Theban Knopia (Cnopia)."
Strabo, Geography 9. 2. 11 :
"In regard to the Harma in Boiotia, some say that Amphiaraos fell in the battle out of his chariot near the place where his temple now is, and that the chariot was drawn empty to the place which bears the same name."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 34. 2 ff (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"About twelve stades from the city [Oropos (Oropus) in Boiotia] is a sanctuary of Amphiaraos. Legend says that when Amphiaraos was exiled from Thebes the earth opened and swallowed both him and his chariot. Only they say that the incident did not happen here, the place called Harma (the Chariot) being on the road from Thebes to Khalkis (Chalcis). The divinity of Amphiaraos was first established among the Oropians, from whom afterwards all the Greeks received the cult. I can enumerate other men also born at this time who are worshipped among the Greeks as gods; some even have cities dedicated to them, such as Eleus in Khersonnesos (Chersonese) dedicated to Protesilaos, and Lebadea of the Boiotians dedicated to Trophonios.
The Oropians have both a temple and a white marble statue of Amphiaraos. The altar shows parts. One part is to Herakles, Zeus, and Apollon Healer, another is given up to heroes and to wives of heroes, the third is to Hestia and Hermes and Amphiaraos and the children of Amphilokhos (Amphilochus). But Alkmaion (Alcmaeon), because of his treatment of Eriphyle, is honored neither in the temple of Amphiaraus nor yet with Amphilokhos. The fourth portion of the altar is to Aphrodite and Panakea (All-Curing), and further to Iaso (Healer), Hygeia (Health) and Athena Healer. The fifth is dedicated to the Nymphai (Nymphs) and to Pan, and to the rivers Akheloios (Achelous) and Kephisos (Cephisus). The Athenians too have an altar to Amphilokhos [son of Amphiaraos] in the city, and there is at Mallos in Kilikia (Cilicia) an oracle of his which is the most trustworthy of my day. The Oropians have near the temple a spring, which they call the Spring of Amphiaraos; they neither sacrifice into it nor are wont to use it for purifications or for lustral water. But when a man has been cured of a disease through a response the custom is to throw silver and coined gold into the spring, for by this way they say that Amphiaraos rose up after he had become a god. Iophon the Knossian, a guide, produced responses in hexameter verse, saying that Amphiaraos gave them to the Argives who were sent against Thebes. These verses unrestrainedly appealed to popular taste. Except those whom they say Apollon inspired of old none of the seers uttered oracles, but they were good at explaining dreams and interpreting the flights of birds and the entrails of victims. My opinion is that Amphiaraos devoted him self most to the exposition of dreams. It is manifest that, when his divinity was established, it was a dream oracle that he set up. One who has come to consult Amphiaraos is wont first to purify himself. The mode of purification is to sacrifice to the god, and they sacrifice not only to him but also to all those whose names are on the altar. And when all these things have been first done, they sacrifice a ram, and, spreading the skin under them, go to sleep and await enlightenment in a dream."
Plutarch, Life of Aristides 19. 1 (trans. Perrin) (Greek historian C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"The contest [the historical Persian War] thus begun in two places, the Lakedaimonians (Lacedaemonians) were first to repulse the Persians. Mardonios was slain by a man of Sparta named Arimnestos, who crushed his head with a stone, even as was foretold him by the oracle in the shrine of Amphiaraos. Thither he had sent a Lydian man, and a Karian besides to the oracle of Trophonios. This latter the prophet actually addressed in the Karian tongue; but the Lydian, on lying down in the precinct of Amphiaraos, dreamed that an attendant of the god stood by his side and bade him be gone, and on his refusal, hurled a great stone upon his head, insomuch that he died from the blow (so ran the man's dream). These things are so reported."
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 46c - d (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to C3rd A.D.) :
"Eraistratos says : ‘Some persons approve waters by their weight without proper testing. Witness, for example, the water of the Amphiaraos spring compared with that of Eretria. The one is bad, the other good, but there is no difference in their weight whatsoever.’ . . . Euenor prefers cistern water, and further says that the water from the Amphiaraos spring is superior in comparison with that of Eretria."
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 27 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[From a description of an ancient Greek painting of Amphiaraos swallowed by the chasm :] Amphiaraos otherwise is in full armour, but he has left off his helmet, thus dedicating his head to Apollon, for his look is holy and oracular. The painting depicts also [the town of] Oropos as a youth among bright-eyed women, Thalattai (the Seas), and it depicts also the place used by Amphiaraos for meditation, a cleft holy and divine. Aletheia (Truth) clad all in white is there and the gate of dreams (pylê oneirôn)--for those who consult the oracle must sleep--and Oneiros (God of Dreams) himself is depicted in relaxed attitude, wearing a white garment over a black one, I think representing his nocturnal and diurnal work. And in his hands he carries a horn, showing that he brings up his dreams through the gate of truth."
[N.B. Oropos was a dream-oracle. The Oneiros (Dream) carries a horn because the gate of true dreams in the underworld was constructed of horn, cf. Homer, Odyssey 19.566.]
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 2. 37 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"[The pagan prophet Apollonius of Tyana addresses the King of Babylon :] ‘The faculty of divination by means of dreams is the divinest and most godlike of human faculties, the soul detects the truth all the more easily when it is not muddied by wine, but accepts the message unstained and scans it carefully . . . If the vision was seen I the first sleep or at midnight, when the soul is still immersed in the lees of wine and muddied thereby, the [the interpreters of dreams] decline to make any suggestions, if they are wise. And that the gods also are of this opinion, and that they commit the faculty of oracular response to souls which are sober, I will clearly show. There was, O king, a seer among the Greeks called Amphiaraos.’
‘I know,’ said the other; ‘for you allude, I imagine, to the son of Oikles (Oicles), who was swallowed up alive by the earth on his way back from Thebes.’
‘This man, O king,’ said Apollonios, ‘still divines in Attika (Attica), inducing dreams in those who consult him, and the priests take a man who wishes to consult him, and they prevent his eating for one day, and from drinking wine for three, in order that he may imbibe the oracles with his soul in a condition of utter transparence. But if wine were a good drug of sleep, then the wise Amphiaraos would have bidden his votaries to adopt the opposite regimen, and would have had them carried into his shrine as full of wine as leathern flagons.’"
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 19 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"If we allow [that] Ino [is divine], are we going to make Amphiaraus and Trophonius divine? The Roman tax-farmers finding that lands in Boeotia belonging to the immortal gods were exempted by the censor's regulations, used to maintain that nobody was immortal who had once upon a time been a human being."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 68 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"The land of broad threshing-floors [Boiotia] kept for the underworld oracle, to bear the name of Amphiaraos and his chariot in later days."
Suidas s.v. Amphiareion (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Amphiareon (Amphiareum) : [Thus] in Attic. But [note] Amphiareion."
OTHER CULTS OF AMPHIARAUS
I. ATHENS Chief City of Attica (Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 3. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"After the statues of the eponymoi [near the Council Chambers of Athens] come statues of gods, Amphiaraos, and Eirene (Irene, Peace) carrying the boy Ploutos (Plutus, Wealth)."
II. SICYON (SIKYON) Chief City of Sicyonia (Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 13. 7 :
"Behind the market-place [of Sikyon] is a building which the Phliasians name the House of Divination. Into it Amphiaraos entered, slept the night there, and then first, say the Phliasians, began to divine. According to their account Amphiaraos was for a time an ordinary person and no diviner. Ever since that time the building has been shut up."
III. ARGOS Chief City of Argolis (Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 32. 3 :
"Very near to the temple of Dionysos [in the city of Argos] you will see the house of Adrastos, farther on a sanctuary of Amphiaraos, and opposite the sanctuary the tomb of Eriphyle . . . and after them a sanctuary of Baton. Now Baton belonged to the same family as Amphiaraos, to the Melampodidai [descendants of the seer Melampos], and served as his charioteer when he went forth to battle. When the rout took place at the wall of Thebes, the earth opened and received Amphiaraos and his chariot, swallowing up this Baton at the same time."
IV. Near LERNA Town in Argolis (Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 37. 5 :
"I saw also [near Lerna] what is called the Spring of Amphiaraos and the Alkyonian (Alcyonian) Lake, through which the Argives say Dionysos went down to Haides to bring up Semele."
V. SPARTA Chief City of Lacedaemonia (Southern Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 12. 5 :
"Farther along the Aphetaid Road [in Sparta, Lakedaimonia] are hero-shrines, of . . . and of Amphiaraos the son of Oikles. The last they think was made by the sons of Tyndareus [the Dioskouroi (Dioscuri)], for that Amphiaraos was their cousin."
VI. Near POTNIAE (POTNIAI) Town in Boeotia (Central Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 8. 3 :
"On the way from Potniai (Potniae) to Thebes [in Boiotia] there is on the right of the road a small enclosure with pillars in it. Here they think the earth opened to receive Amphiaraos, and they add further that neither do birds sit upon these pillars, nor will a beast, tame or wild, graze on the grass that grows here."
VII. DELPHI Sanctuary in Phocis (Central Greece)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 10. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Other votive offerings of the Argives [found at Delphoi], likenesses of the captains of those who with Polyneikes (Polynices) made war on Thebes . . . Near is represented the chariot of Amphiaraos, and in it stands Baton, a relative of Amphiaraos who served as his charioteer."
- Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragments - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Herodotus, Histories - Greek History C5th 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.
- Plutarch, Lives - Greek Historian C1st - 2nd A.D.
- Plutarch, Parallel Stories - Greek Historian C1st - 2nd A.D.
- Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Philostratus the Elder, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.
- Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana - Greek Biography C2nd A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Propertius, Elegies - Latin Elegy C1st B.C.
- Cicero, De Natura Deorum - Latin Rhetoric C1st B.C.
- Pliny the Elder, Natural History - Latin Encyclopedia C1st A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Suidas, The Suda - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.