2.1.3 – The Road to Corinth continued: Memories of Theseus and Melicertes

Theseus overcomes the sow Phaea

τῆς δὲ Κορινθίας ἐστὶ γῆς καὶ ὁ καλούμενος Κρομυὼν ἀπὸ τοῦ Κρόμου τοῦ Ποσειδῶνος. ἐνταῦθα τραφῆναί φασι Φαιὰν, καὶ τῶν λεγομένων Θησέως καὶ τὸ ἐς τὴν ὗν ταύτην ἐστὶν ἔργον.

Sisyphus buries Melicertes and founds the Isthmian games

προϊοῦσι δὲ ἡ πίτυς ἄχρι γε ἐμοῦ πεφύκει παρὰ τὸν αἰγιαλὸν καὶ Μελικέρτου βωμὸς ἦν. ἐς τοῦτον τὸν τόπον ἐκκομισθῆναι τὸν παῖδα ὑπὸ δελφῖνος λέγουσι: κειμένῳ δὲ ἐπιτυχόντα Σίσυφον θάψαι τε ἐν τῷ ἰσθμῷ καὶ τὸν ἀγῶνα ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ ποιῆσαι τῶν Ἰσθμίων.

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The liminal territory between poleis can be a treacherous no-man’s land.  We have already met Theseus along the road from Attica to the isthmus where he tossed the robber Sciron into the sea.  Now we learn of two more of his famous deeds, the defeat of the wild boar Phaia and, in the next section, the brigand Sinis who stretches travelers between two pine trees.

In this section, Pausanias presents part two of Melicertes’ story: his tomb.  After his mother Ino throws herself and her son into the sea to escape the wrath of her husband Athamas, Melicertes is carried to dry land by a dolphin.  The hero Sisyphus discovers the body and buries the boy on the isthmus.

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Theseus’ Six Labors (Draft)

“Loose not the wine-skin’s jutting neck, great chief of the people, until thou shalt have come once more to the city of Athens” (Thes 3.3).  Those were the oracle’s words to Aegeus, king of Athens; unfortunately, Aegeus did not heed these words.  Pittheus, founder king of Troezen, had a daughter named Aethra; Pittheus understood the message and used this opportunity to trick Aegeus into sleeping with Aethra (Thes. 3.1-4).  Aegeus did not know that this encounter would lead to the birth of his child, Theseus (Thes. 3.3)…

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Theseus and the sow of Crommyon.
Theseus and the sow of Crommyon.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, March 2000. Boston 21.1205