A son of Cretheus and Tyro, the daughter of Salmoneus. Tyro, previous to her marriage with Neleus, is said to have loved the river god Enipeus; and in the form of Enipeus Poseidon once appeared to her, and became by her the father of Pelias and Neleus.1 Tyro exposed the two boys, but they were found and reared by horse herds, and when they had grown up they learned who their mother was, and Pelias killed their foster-mother, who had ill-used Tyro.2
After the death of Cretheus, the two brothers quarreled about the succession to the throne of Iolcus. Neleus, who was expelled, went with Melampus and Bias to Pylos, which his uncle Aphareus gave to him.3 Neleus thus became king of Pylos, which town he found in existence when he arrived there; but some state that he himself built Pylos, or at least that he erected the royal palace there.4 It should be observed that several towns of the name of Pylos claimed the honor of being the city of Neleus or of his son Nestor, such as Pylos in Messenia, Pylos in Elis, and Pylos in Triphylia; the last of which is probably the one mentioned by Homer in connection with Neleus and Nestor.5
Neleus was married to Chloris, who, according to Homer,6 was a daughter of Amphion of Orchomenos, and according to others7 a Theban woman, and by her he became the father of Nestor, Chromius, Periclymenus, and Pero, though the total number of his sons was twelve.8 When Heracles had killed Iphitus, he went to Neleus to be purified; but Neleus, who was a friend of Eurytus, the father of Iphitus, refused to purify Heracles.9 In order to take vengeance, Heracles afterwards marched against Pylos, and slew the sons of Neleus, with the exception of Nestor,10 though some later writers state that Neleus also was killed.11
Neleus was thus reduced to a state of defenselessness, and Augeas, king of the Epeians, availed himself of the opportunity for harassing his kingdom; among other things Augeas intercepted and kept for himself a team of four horses which Neleus had sent to the Olympian games.12 Neleus took vengeance for this by carrying away the flocks of the Epeians,13 whereupon the latter invaded the territory of Pylos, and besieged Thryoessa on the Alpheius. Athena informed Neleus of it, but he would not allow his son Nestor to venture out against the Epeians, and concealed his war steeds. But Nestor fought against them on foot, and was victorious.14
Pausanias says15 that Neleus died at Corinth, and that he, in conjunction with Nestor, restored the Olympian games. The descendants of Neleus, the Neleidae, were expelled from their kingdom by the Heraclidae, and migrated for the most part to Athens.16 It should be observed that Hyginus17 calls the father of Neleus Hippocoon, and that he mentions him among the Argonauts.
- Homer. Odyssey xii, 234 ff.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 9.8.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 9.9; Diodorus Siculus. Historical Library iv, 68.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece iv, 2.3, 36.1.
- Strabo. Geography viii, p. 337.
- Odyssey xii, 280 ff.
- Diodorus Siculus, l.c.
- Odyssey xii, 285; Iliad xii, 692; Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 9.9; Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius, i, 156.
- Diodorus Siculus. Historical Library iv, 31.
- Homer. Iliad xii, 690.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 6.2, 7.3; Hyginus. Fabulae, 10.
- Homer. Iliad xii, 699 ff.
- Iliad xii, 670 ff.
- ibid. xii, 707 ff.
- Description of Greece ii, 2.2.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 18.7; iv, 3.3.
- Fabulae, 10, 14.
- 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.