An Aiacid


Aeacus and Telamon by Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune.

Aeacus (or Aiacos; Greek: Αἰακός) was a mythological king of the island of Aegina in the Saronic Gulf.

Aeacus was the son of Zeus and Aegina, a daughter of the river-god Asopus.  He was the father of Peleus, Telamon and Phocus and was the grandfather of Achilles (son of Peleus) and Ajax (son of Telemon).

Aeacus was born on the island of Oenone or Oenopia, where Aegina had been carried by Zeus to secure her from the anger of her parents; afterward, this island became known as Aegina. Some stories related that, at the time when Aeacus was born, Aegina was not inhabited, and that Zeus either changed the ants (μύρμηκες) of the island into the men (Myrmidons) over whom Aeacus ruled, or he made the men grow up out of the earth. Ovid, on the other hand, supposed that the island was not uninhabited at the time of the birth of Aeacus, instead stating that during the reign of Aeacus, Hera, jealous of Aegina, ravaged the island bearing the name of the latter by sending a plague or a fearful dragon into it, by which nearly all its inhabitants were carried off. Afterward, Zeus restored the population by changing the ants into men. These legends seem to be a mythical account of the colonization of Aegina.

While he reigned in Aegina, Aeacus was renowned for his justice and piety, and was frequently called upon to settle disputes not only among men, but even among the gods themselves. When Greece was visited by a drought as a consequence of a murder that had been committed, the oracle of Delphi declared that the calamity would not cease unless Aeacus prayed to the gods to end it. Aeacus prayed, and as a result, the drought ceased. Aeacus then demonstrated his gratitude by erecting a temple to Zeus Panhellenius on Mount Panhellenion, and afterward, the Aeginetans built a sanctuary on their island called Aeaceum, which was a square temple enclosed by walls of white marble. Aeacus was believed in later times to be buried under the altar of this sacred enclosure.

In the Afterlife

After his death, Aeacus became one of the three judges in Hades (along with the Cretan brothers Rhadamanthus and Minos) and, according to Plato, was specifically concerned with the shades of Europeans upon their arrival to the underworld. In works of art he was depicted bearing a sceptre and the keys of Hades. Aeacus had sanctuaries in both Athens and in Aegina, and the Aeginetans regarded him as the tutelary deity of their island by celebrating the Aeacea in his honor.



Tagged: , , , ,

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: