Or Alceste (Ἀλκέστη), a daughter of Pelias and Anaxibia.1 Homer2 calls her the fairest among the daughters of Pelias. When Admetus, king of Pherae, sued for her hand, Pelias, in order to get rid of the numerous suitors, declared that he would give his daughter to him only who should come to his court in a chariot drawn by lions and boars. This was accomplished by Admetus, with the aid of Apollo. The sacrifice of herself for Admetus was highly celebrated in antiquity.3 Towards her father, too, she showed her filial affection, for, at least, according to Diodorus,4 she did not share in the crime of her sisters, who murdered their father.
Ancient as well as modern critics have attempted to explain the return of Alcestis to life in a rationalistic manner, by supposing that during a severe illness she was restored to life in a physician of the name of Heracles.5 Alcestis was represented on the chest of Cypselus, in a group showing the funeral solemnities of Pelias.6
The poet Euridipes (480-406 BCE) wrote the drama Alcestis.
A piece of a Greek earthenware from Eritrea, which served to protect the knees during weaving, depicts Alcestis as bride and in the company of her maids (late fifth century BCE). A richly decorated column drum from the rebuilt Artemis temple at Ephese shows her between the winged god of death and Hermes (a work by Scopas or Praxiteles, fourth century BCE). In the museum of Florence there is an alto relieve, the work of Cleomenes, which is believed to represent Alcestis devoting herself to death.7
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 9.10, 15.
- Iliad ii, 715.
- Aelian. Varia Historia xiv, 45; History of Animals i, 15; Philostratus. Heroicus ii, 4; Ovid. Ars Amatoria iii, 19; Euripides.Alcestis.
- iv, 52; comp. however, Palaephatus. On Unbelievable Tales, 41.
- Palaephatus, l.c.; Plutarch. Amatorius, 761.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece v, 17.4.
- Meyer. Geschichte der bildende Künste, pp. 1.162, 2.159.
- Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- 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.