A son of Neleus and Chloris of Pylos in Triphylia, and husband of Eurydice (or, according to others, of Anaxibia, the daughter of Cratieus), by whom he became the father of Pisidice, Polycaste, Perseus, Stratius, Aretus, Echephron, Pisistratus, Antilochus, and Thrasymedes.1 With regard to Anaxibia having been his wife, we are informed by Eustathius,2 that after the death of Eurydice, Nestor married Anaxibia, the daughter of Atreus, and sister of Agamemnon; but this Anaxibia is elsewhere described as the wife of Strophius, and the mother of Pylades.3
When Heracles invaded the country of Neleus, and slew his sons, Nestor alone was spared, because at the time he was not at Pylos, but among the Gerenians, where he had taken refuge.4 This story is connected with another about the friendship between Heracles and Nestor, for the latter is said to have taken no part in the carrying off from Heracles the oxen of Geryon; and Heracles rewarded Nestor by giving to him Messene, and became more attached to him even than to Hylas and Abderus. Nestor, on the other hand, is said to have introduced the custom of swearing by Heracles.5
When a young man, Nestor was distinguished as a warrior, and, in a war with the Arcadians, he slew Ereuthalion.6 In the war with the Eleians, he killed Itymoneus, and took from them large flocks of cattle.7 When, after this, the Eleians laid siege to Thryoëssa, Nestor, without the war-steeds of his father, went out on foot, and gained a glorious victory.8 He also took part in the fight of the Lapiths against the centaurs,9 and is mentioned among the Calydonian hunters and the Argonauts;10 but he owes his fame chiefly to the Homeric poems, in which his share in the Trojan war is immortalized. After having, in conjunction with Odysseus, prevailed upon Achilles and Patroclus to join the Greeks against Troy, he sailed with his Pylians in sixty ships to Asia.11
At Troy he took part in all the most important events that occurred, both in the council and in the field of battle. Agamemnon through Nestor became reconciled with Achilles, and therefore honored him highly; and whenever he was in any difficulty, he applied for advice to Nestor.12 In the picture which Homer draws of him, the most striking features are his wisdom, justice, bravery, knowledge of war, his eloquence, and his old age.13 He is said to have ruled over three generations of men, so that his advice and authority were deemed equal to that of the immortal gods.14 In this sense we have also to understand the tria saecula, which he is said by Latin writers to have ruled.15 But, notwithstanding, his advanced age, he was brave and bold in battle, and distinguished above all others for drawing up horses and men in battle array.
After the fall of Troy he, together with Menelaus and Diomedes, returned home, and safely arrived in Pylos,16 where Zeus granted to him the full enjoyment of old age, surrounded by intelligent and brave sons.17 In this condition he was found by Telemachus, who visited him to inquire after his father, and was hospitably received by him.
The town of Pylos in Messenia claimed to be the city of Nestor; and, when Pausanias visited it, the people showed to him the house in which Nestor was believed to have lived.18
In the temple of Messene at Messene he was represented in a painting with two of his sons, and he was also seen in the painting of Polygnotus in the Lesche at Delphi.19
- Homer. Odyssey iii, 413 ff., 452, 464; xii, 285 ff.; Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 9.9.
- on Homer, p. 296.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 29.4.
- Homer. Iliad xii, 692; Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 7.3; Pausanias. Description of Greece iii, 26.6.
- Philostratus. Heroicus, 2; comp. Ovid. Metamorphoses xii, 540 ff.; Pausanias. Description of Greece iv, 3.1, who states that Nestor inhabited Messenia after the death of the sons of Aphareus.
- Homer. Iliad iv, 319; vii, 133 ff.; xxiii, 630 ff.
- ibid. xii, 670.
- ibid. xii, 706 ff.
- ibid. i, 260 ff.
- Ovid. Metamorphoses viii, 313; C. Valerius Flaccus. Argonautica i, 380.
- Iliad ii, 591 ff.; xii, 767.
- ibid. ii, 21; x, 18.
- Odyssey iii, 126 ff., 244; xxiv, 52; Iliad i, 273; ii, 336, 361, 370 ff.; vii, 325; ix, 104; x, 18; xii, 627.
- Odyssey iii, 245; Iliad i, 250; comp. Hyginus. Fabulae, 10.
- Gellius, xix, 7; Cicero. De Senectute, 10; Horace. Odes, ii, 9.13; Ovid. Metamorphoses xii, 158.
- Odyssey iii, 165 ff.
- ibid iv, 209 ff.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece iv, 3.4, 36.2.
- ibid. iv, 31.9; x, 25, in fin.; Philostratus. Heroicus, 2.
- 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.