Melampous

Prometheus, son of the Titan Iapetos, begat Deukalion, who emigrated from Crete to Thessaly (see Apollodoros), and there begat in turn Hellen (eponym of the Hellenic people), whose son Aiolos had several sons, among whom were Kretheus, Sisyphos, Athamas, and Salmoneus (whom Zeus destroyed because he mistook himself for Zeus).

But Salmoneus had a daughter Tyro, beloved of Poseidon. The story is as old as Homer (or some very early interpolator of his), how she loved the river Enipeus and often wandered along its banks; how Poseidon disguised himself as the river-god and visited her, making a great wave curl over them both; and how he then revealed himself, and how at the end of her time she bore twins, Pelias and Neleus.

The latter had a daughter Pero, who was wooed by Bias, the son of her father’s half-brother Pheres. Neleus made it a condition of the match that he should receive as bride-price the cattle of Iphiklos, which were located in Phylake and carefully guarded against robbers by a dog which neither man nor beast could come near. Unable to steal these kine, Bias invited his brother Melampous to help him. Now Melampus was a notable seer, who had received the gift of understanding the speech of beasts and birds; for on the killing by his servants of a pair of snakes, he had burned their bodies as if they were human and protected their young, who in return one day licked his ears, after which he could understand the speech of all creatures, and particularly of birds, who are far better prophets than men.

Melampous undertook to get the cattle for his brother Bias, but foretold that he should be detected in the act of stealing them, and that he should get the kine after being kept in bondage for a year. After making this promise, he repaired to Phylake and, just as he had foretold, he was detected in the theft and kept a prisoner in a cell. When the year was nearly up, he heard the worms in the hidden part of the roof, one of them asking how much of the beam had been already gnawed through, and others answering that very little of it was left. At once he bade his captors transfer him to another cell, and not long after that had been done the cell fell in.

Phylakos marvelled, and perceiving that Melampous was an excellent soothsayer, he released him and invited him to say how his son Iphiklos might get children. Melampous promised to tell him, provided he got the kine. And having sacrificed two bulls and cut them in pieces he summoned the birds; and when a vulture came, he learned from it that once, when Phylakos was gelding rams, he laid down the knife, still bloody, beside Iphiklos, and that when the child was frightened and ran away, he stuck the knife on the sacred oak, and the bark encompassed the knife and hid it. He said, therefore, that if the knife were found, and he scraped off the rust, and gave it to lphiklos to drink for ten days, he would beget a son. Having learned these things from the vulture, Melampous found the knife, scraped the rust, and gave it to Iphiklos for ten days to drink, and a son Podarkes was born to him.

But he drove the kine to Pylos, and having received the daughter of Neleus (i.e., his and Chloris’ peerless daughter Pero), he gave her to his brother. For a time he continued to dwell in Messene, but when Dionysos drove the women of Argos mad, he healed them on condition of receiving part of the kingdom, and settled down there with Bias.

Bias and Pero had a son Talaus, who married Lysimache, daughter of Abas, son of Melampous, and had by her Adrastos, Parthenopaios, Pronax, Mekisteus, Aristomachos, and Eriphyle, whom Amphiaraus married. Parthenopaios had a son Promachos, who marched with the Epigonoi against Thebes; and Mekisteus had a son Euryalos, who went to Troy. Pronax had a son Lycourgos; and Adrastos had by Amphithea, daughter of Pronax, three daughters, Argia, Deipyle, and Aigialia, and two sons, Aigialeus and Kyanippos.

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