Αιακος

The most pious of the Greeks, the son of Zeus and the Nymph Aegina, the daughter of the river Asopus. He was born on the island of Oenone, later called Aegina after his mother. Aeacus wanted some companions and a population to rule over, and he asked Zeus to change the numerous ants on the island into human beings. Zeus complied with this request and the people were named Myrmidons by Aeacus, from the Greek (μυρμηχες) meaning 'ant'. Aeacus subsequently married Endeis, the daughter of Sciron and fathered two sons, Telamon and Peleus (see also CYCHREUS). Some writers, who apparently give the earliest version of the legend, do not recognize any relationship between Telamon and Peleus and cite only the latter as the son of Aeacus.

Later, Aeacus coupled with Psamathe, the daughter of Nereus, and fathered a son. Psamathe who like most sea and river divinities possessed the gift of changing her shape, had turned herself into a seal to escape from Aeacus' pursuit, but this was to no avail and the son conceived by this union was given the name of Phocus which recalled his mother's metamorphosis. The son was exceptionally athletic and this made his two brothers Peleus and Telamon so envious that they killed him by throwing a discuss at his head and then buried his body in a wood. When Aeacus discovered that this murder had taken place he exiled his sons from Aegina. Aeacus' reputation for piety and justice, demonstrated by his stern judgement against his own sons, resulted in his being chosen out of all the Greeks, to address a solemn prayer to Zeus at a time then fields were barren. This aridity was due to Zeus who was angry with Pelops for dismembering his enemy Stymphalus, the king of Arcadia and scattering his body over the land. Aeacus succeeded in placating Zeus.

It is said that after his death, Aeacus judged the spirits of the dead in the Underworld, but this belief is comparatively late. Homer knew nothing of it, for he mentions only Rhadamanthys as the judge. Plato is the first source to site Aeacus in this context. Another legend concerning Aeacus claims that together with Apollo and Poseidon he took part in building the walls of Troy. After the walls had been built, three serpents made their way to the top of them. When two of the serpents approached the sections built by the two gods, they fell dead but the third was able to slide over the section built by the mortal Aeacus. Apollo interpreted this omen as forecasting that Troy would be taken twice, first by a son of Aeacus (meaning the capture by Heracles, together with Telamon and Peleus) and secondly, three generations later, by Neoptolemus, the great grandson of Aeacus and the son of Achilles.

{E2 DICTIONARY OF CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY}

Table of Sources:
- Apollod. Bibl. 3, 12, 6
- Diod. Sic. 4, 61, 1ff.; 4, 72, 5ff.
- Paus. 2, 29, 2ff.
- Hyg. Fab. 52
- Ovid, Met. 7, 614ff.
- Tzetzes on Lyc. Alex. 176
- Strabo 8, 6, 16, p. 375
- Hesiod, Theog. 1003ff.
- Pind. Nem. 5, 12ff. (21ff.); Ol. 8, 31ff. (41ff.)
- Isoc. 9, 14; 15
- Plato, Apol. 41a; Gorg. 523e ff.

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