A son of Athamas and Ino, was originally called Melicertes. When his mother, who was driven mad by Hera, had thrown herself with her boy, who was either still alive or already killed, from the Molurian rock into the sea, both became marine divinities, viz. Ino became Leucothea, and Melicertes became Palaemon.1 According to some, Melicertes after his apotheosis was called Glaucus,2 whereas, according to another version, Glaucus is said to have leaped into the sea from his love of Melicertes.3
The apotheosis was effected by the Nereides, who saved Melicertes, and also ordered the institution of the Nemean games. The body of Melicertes, according to the common tradition, was washed by the waves, or carried by dolphins into port Schoenus on the Corinthian isthmus, or to that spot on the coast where subsequently the altar of Palaemon stood.4 There the body was found by his uncle Sisyphus, who ordered it to be carried by Donacinus and Amphimachus to Corinth, and on the command of the Nereides instituted the Isthmian games and sacrifices of black bulls in honor of the deified Palaemon.
On the isthmus of Corinth there was a temple of Palaemon with statues of Palaemon, Leucothea, and Poseidon; and near the same place was a subterraneous sanctuary, which was believed to contain the remains of Palaemon.5 In the island of Tenedos, it is said that children were sacrificed to him, and the whole worship seems to have had something gloomy and orgiastic about it.6
The Romans identified Palaemon with their own god Portunus, or Portumnus.
The story is told in Spencer's The Faeirie Queene (IX, xi) and in Colin Clout, also by Spenser, his name is used for the poet Thomas Churchyard (ca. 1520-1604).
In works of art Palaemon is represented as a boy carried by marine deities or dolphins.7
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 4.3; Hyginus. Fabulae, 2; Ovid. Metamorphoses iv, 520; xiii, 919.
- Athenaeus, vii, p. 296.
- Athenaeus, vii, p. 297.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece i, 44.11; ii, 1.3; Plutarch. Symposiacs v, 3.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 2.1.
- Philostratus. l.c.; Homer. Odyssey iii, 6.
- Philostratus of Lemnos. Imagines ii, 16.
- Euripides. Iphigeneia in Taurus, 251.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 1.3.
- Philostratus. Heroicus, 19; Imagines, ii, 16.
- Scholiast on Euripides' Medea, 1274.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
- Tzetzes on Lycophron, 107, 229.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.