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by Dr Alena Trckova-Flamee Ph.D.

According to legend, Oenopion was the son of the wine-god Dionysus and Ariadne, and the grandson of the Cretan king Minos. Oenopion and his brothers -- Thoas, Staphylus, Tauropolus, Latramys and Euanthes -- were regarded as the founders of the Hellenic tribes in the Aegean islands. Oenopion became a legendary king of Chios and a hero of that island, which is situated in the eastern Aegean just a few kilometers away of the coast of Asia Minor.

The name of this legendary king -- the Greek word Oinopion -- is connected with his activities. In the old Greek language oinos means "wine," a "vineyard" or a "magic drink," and pioein, pioeios is "to do, to make." These two words suggest that a person who carried this name was a oinoplethes, someone "rich with wine;" in modern Greek a oinopion is a place where they make wine beverages.

Oenopion came to Chios with a Cretan fleet accompanied by his sons Talos, Euanthes, Melas, Salagas and Athamas. They changed the local dynasty (Chios and his sons) which, according to legend, traced its origin back to the god Poseidon. Oenopion brought to the island Chios the wine-cult and the art of cultivating vineyards from Crete. He was the first person who received a seedling of vine from his father Dionysus; Icarius in Attica was known as the first wine-maker and also the first victim. During Oenopion's rule the island of Chios flourished and new inhabitants came from Caria and from the island of Euboia.

There is a story that Oenopion, besides his sons, had also a daughter, Meropa. He promised to give her as spouse to the young Orion, who had fallen in love with her. However, Oenopion did not really want Meropa to marry Orion and hence he poured him so much wine that Orion, being drunk and his passions excited by wine, attacked the girl. Oenopion, with some advice from his father, punished Orion with blindness and cast him out of the island. After this act he had to run away to escape Orion's revenge and he hid himself in an underground room that Hephaestus had made for him.

Pausanias wrote about Oenopion's grave in Chios, about his legends and his deeds. The purpose of the legends was to explain certain events in the history of the island (which was inhabited from the fourth millennium BCE), such as the arrival of the Ionian Greeks in the eight century BCE: they introduced viticulture and trade and made the island one of the richest and most important places of the Ionian union of towns.

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