When he had succeeded his father as king of Pherae, he sued for the hand of Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, who promised her to him on condition that he should come to her in a chariot drawn by lions and boars. This task Admetus performed by the assistance of Apollo, who served him according to some accounts out of attachment to him,3 or according to others because he was obliged to serve a mortal for one year for having slain the Cyclopes.4
On the day of his marriage with Alcestis, Admetus neglected to offer a sacrifice to Artemis, and when in the evening he entered the bridal chamber, he found there a number of snakes rolled up in a lump. Apollo, however, reconciled Artemis to him, and at the same time induced the Moirae to grant to Admetus deliverance from death, if at the hour of his death his father, mother, or wife would die for him. Alcestis did so, but Kore, or according to others Heracles, brought her back to the upper world.5
The Greek playwright used the subject for his drama Alcestis.
On a Roman relief, Admetus and Alcestis are displayed before Pelias on his throne. A sarcophagus from Ostia (second century CE; Vatican Museum) shows the death of Alcestis, followed by a scene where Heracles brings her back from the underworld.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 9.2, 9.14.
- ibid. i, 9.16; Hyginus. Fabulae, xiv, 173.
- (Scholiast on Euripides' Alcestis, 2; Callimachus. Hymn to Apollo, 46, ff.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 10.4.
- ibid. i, 9.15; compare Alcestis.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.