A son of Priam and Hecabe, was a skillful observer of auguries, and knew the counsel of the gods;1 but he was at the same time a warrior, and with Deiphobus he led the third host of the Trojans against the camp of the Greeks.2 He fought against Menelaus, but was wounded by him.3 This is in outline all that the Homeric poems tell us of Helenus, but in other traditions we find the following additions.
Once, when yet children, Helenus and Cassandra were left by their parents in the temple of the Thymbraean Apollo; and, as they fell asleep, snakes came and cleaned their ears, whereby they acquired the gift of prophecy.4 Another tradition was, that his original name was Scamandrius, and that he received the name of Helenus from a Thracian soothsayer, who also instructed him in the prophetic art.5
Respecting his deserting his countrymen and joining the Greeks, there are different accounts; according to some it was the act of his free will, and, according to others, he was ensnared by Odysseus, who wanted to have his prophecy respecting the fall of Troy.6 Others again relate that Chryses announced to the Greeks that Helenus was staying with him in the temple of Apollo. When therefore Diomedes and Odysseus were sent to fetch him, Helenus surrendered to them, requesting them to assign to him a place where he might live away from his own friends and relatives. He then informed them that he had not left his country and friends from fear of death, but on account of the sacrilege which Paris had committed, in murdering Achilles in the temple, and told them of the time and the circumstances under which Troy should fall.7 Others, lastly, relate that, on the death of Paris, Helenus and Deiphobus disputed about the possession of Helen, and that Helenus being conquered, fled to Mount Ida, where he was taken prisoner by the Greeks.8
In the Philoctetes of Sophocles, Helenus foretells to Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, that Troy shall fall only through Pyrrhus and Philoctetes; and after the destruction of the city, he reveals to Pyrrhus the sufferings which awaited the Greeks who returned home by sea, and prevail upon him to return by land, and settle in Epeirus.9 After the death of Pyrrhus he received a portion of the country, and married Andromache, by whom be became the father of Cestrinus. The remaining part of Epeirus was given to Molossus, the son of Pyrrhus.10
When Aeneas in his wanderings arrived in Epeirus, he was hospitably received by Helenus, who also foretold him the future events of his life.11 According to an Argive tradition, Helenus was buried at Argos.12
- Homer. Iliad vi, 76; vii, 44; Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 12.5.
- Iliad xii, 94.
- xiii, 580 ff.
- Eustathius on Homer, p. 663.
- ibid., p. 626.
- Tzetzes on Lycophron, 905; Sophocles. Philoctetes, 605, 1338; Ovid. Metamorphoses xiii, 99, 723.
- Dictys Cretensis, iv, 18.
- Conon. Narratives, 34; Servius on Virgil's Aeneid ii, 166.
- Servius on Virgil's Aeneid ii, 166.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece i, 11.1 ff.; ii, 23.6; Virgil. Aeneid iii, 295, 333.
- Virgil. Aeneid iii, 245, 374; Ovid. Metamorphoses xv, 438.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 23.5.
- 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.