While Electryon, the brother of Alcaeus, was reigning at Mycenae, the sons of Pterelaus together with the Taphians invaded his territory, demanded the surrender of the kingdom, and drove away his oxen. The sons of Electryon entered upon a contest with the sons of Pterelaus, but the combatants on both sides all fell, so that Electryon had only one son, Licymnius, left, and Pterelaus likewise only one, Everes. The Taphians, however, escaped with the oxen, which they entrusted to Polyxenus, king of the Eleans. Thence they were afterwards brought back to Mycenae by Amphitryon after he had paid a ransom.
Electryon now resolved upon avenging the death of his sons, and to make war upon the Taphians. During his absence he entrusted his kingdom and his daughter Alcmene to Amphitryon, on condition that he should not marry her till after his return from the war. Amphitryon now restored to Electryon the oxen he had brought back to Mycenae; one of them turned wild, and as Amphitryon attempted to strike it with his club, he accidentally hit the head of Electryon and killed him on the spot. Sthenelus, the brother of Electryon, availed himself of this opportunity for the purpose of expelling Amphitryon, who together with Alcmene and Licymnius went to Thebes. Here he was purified by Creon, his uncle.
In order to win the land of Alcmene, Amphitryon prepared to avenge the death of Alcmene's brothers on the Taphians (Teleboans), and requested Creon to assist him in his enterprise, which the latter promised on condition that Amphitryon should deliver the Cadmean country from a wild fox which was making great havoc there (see Teumessian Fox). But as it was decreed by fate that this fox should not be overtaken by any one, Amphitryon went to Cephalus of Athens, who possessed a famous dog, which, according to another decree of fate, overtook every animal it pursued (see Laelaps). Cephalus was induced to lend Amphitryon his dog on condition that he should receive a part of the spoils of the expedition against the Taphians. Now when the dog was hunting the fox, Fate got out of its dilemma by Zeus changing the two animals into stone.
Assisted by Cephalus, Panopeus, Heleus, and Creon, Amphitryon now attacked and ravaged the islands of the Taphians, but could not subdue them so long as Pterelaus lived. This chief had on his head one golden hair, the gift of Poseidon, which rendered him immortal. His daughter Comaetho, who was in love with Amphitryon, cut off this hair, and after Pterelaus had died in consequence, Amphitryon took possession of the islands; and having put to death Comaetho, and given the islands to Cephalus and Heleius, he returned to Thebes with his spoils, out of which he dedicated a tripod to Apollo Ismenius.3
Amphitryon fell in a war against Erginus, king of the Minyans, in which he and Heracles delivered Thebes from the tribute which the city had to pay to Erginus as an atonement for the murder of Clymenus.4 His tomb was shown at Thebes in the time of Pausanias.5
Aeschylus and Sophocles wrote each a tragedy of the name of Amphitryon, which are now lost. We still possess a comedy of T. Maccius Plautus, the Amphitruo, the subject of which is a ludicrous representation of the visit of Zeus to Alcmene in the disguise of her lover Amphitryon.
When in Aphitryon's shape, Zeus gave a banquet but Amphitryon came home and claimed the honor of being the master of the house. However, as far as the guests and servants were concerned, he who gave the feast was to them the host.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 4.5.
- Description of Greece viii, 14.2.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 4.6, 7; Pausanias. Description of Greece ix, 10.4; Herodotus. Histories v, 9.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 4.8 ff.
- Description of Greece i, 41.1; compare Homer. Odyssey xii, 266 ff.; Hesiod. Shield of Heracles, init.; Diodorus Siculus, iv, 9 ff.; Hyginus. Fabulae, 29, 244; Müller. Orchomenos und die Minyer, p. 207 ff.
- 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.