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In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, Myrtilus was a divine hero, a son of Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

 on Theobule
In Greek mythology, the name Theobule refers to:*Mother of Myrtilus by Hermes.*Mother of Arcesilaus and Prothoenor by Areilycus....

 (or Myrto
Myrto (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the name Myrto may refer to one of the following characters:* Myrto, one of the Maenads* Myrto, a possible eponym for the Myrtoan Sea* Myrto, an Amazon and one of the possible mothers of Myrtilus by Hermes....

, an Amazon
The Amazons are a nation of all-female warriors in Greek mythology and Classical antiquity. Herodotus placed them in a region bordering Scythia in Sarmatia...

, or Phaethusa, daughter of Danaus
In Greek mythology Danaus, or Danaos , was the twin brother of Aegyptus and son of Achiroe and Belus, a mythical king of Egypt. The myth of Danaus is a foundation legend of Argos, one of the foremost Mycenaean cities of the Peloponnesus...

, or Clymene, or Clytie, or Cleobule
In Greek mythology, the name Cleobule refers to:*Wife of Aleus of Tegea, mother of Cepheus and Amphidamas.*Wife of Alector or Lacritus and mother of Leitus.*Daughter of Aeolus or Aeopolus, one of the possible mothers of Myrtilus by Hermes....

), and charioteer of King Oenomaus
In Greek mythology, King Oenomaus of Pisa, the father of Hippodamia, was the son of Ares, either by the naiad Harpina or by Sterope, one of the Pleiades, whom some identify as his consort instead...

 of Pisa
Pisa (Greece)
Pisa was the name of an ancient town in the western Peloponnese, Greece. The area controlled by Pisa was called Pisatis, which included Olympia, the site of the Ancient Olympic Games. Pisa and Pisatis were subjugated by Elis in 572 BC. Currently, it is a village within the municipality of Olympia...

 in Elis
Elis, or Eleia is an ancient district that corresponds with the modern Elis peripheral unit...

, on the northwest coast of the Peloponnesus.

On the eve of the fateful horse race that would decide the marriage between Pelops and Hippodameia, Myrtilus was approached by Pelops
In Greek mythology, Pelops , was king of Pisa in the Peloponnesus. He was the founder of the House of Atreus through his son of that name....

 (or in some accounts, by Hippodameia
Hippodamia was a daughter of King Oenomaus and wife of Pelops with whom her offspring were Thyestes, Atreus, Pittheus, Alcathous, Troezen, Hippalcimus, Copreus, Astydameia, Nicippe, Eurydice and others....

) who wanted him to hinder the efforts of his master, Oenamaus, to win the race. Myrtilus was offered as bribe the privilege of the first night with Hippodameia.

Myrtilus, who loved Hippodamia himself but was too afraid to ask her hand of her father, agreed and sabotaged the king's chariot by replacing the bronze linchpins with fake ones made of bees' wax. In the ensuing accident Oenomaus lost his life, cursing Myrtilus as he died. Shortly thereafter Myrtilus tried to seduce Hippodamia, who ran crying to Pelops, although Myrtilus said this was the bargain. Enraged, Pelops murdered Myrtilus by casting him into the sea off the east coast of the Peloponnesus, which was later named the Myrtoan Sea
Myrtoan Sea
The Myrtoan Sea is a subdivision of the Mediterranean Sea that lies between the Cyclades and the Peloponnesos. It is described as the part of the Aegean Sea south of Euboea, Attica, and Argolis. Some of the water mass of the Black Sea reaches the Myrtoan Sea, via transport through the Aegean...

 in honor of the hero. His body was later recovered and brought in the temple of Hermes where it was honored with annual sacrifices. Some say that Myrtilus was transformed into the constellation of Auriga
Auriga (constellation)
Auriga is a constellation in the northern sky. Its name is Latin for 'charioteer' and its stars form a shape that has been associated with the pointed helmet of a charioteer. It was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and remains among the 88 modern...


As Myrtilus died, he cursed Pelops. This curse would haunt future generation of Pelops' family, including Atreus
In Greek mythology, Atreus was a king of Mycenae, the son of Pelops and Hippodamia, and the father of Agamemnon and Menelaus. Collectively, his descendants are known as Atreidai or Atreidae....

, Thyestes
In Greek mythology, Thyestes was the son of Pelops and Hippodamia, King of Olympia, and father of Pelopia and Aegisthus. Thyestes and his twin brother, Atreus, were exiled by their father for having murdered their half-brother, Chrysippus, in their desire for the throne of Olympia...

, Agamemnon
In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope of Mycenae, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra, and the father of Electra and Orestes. Mythical legends make him the king of Mycenae or Argos, thought to be different names for the same area...

, Aegisthus
In Greek mythology, Aegisthus was the son of Thyestes and of Thyestes' daughter, Pelopia....

, Menelaus
Menelaus may refer to;*Menelaus, one of the two most known Atrides, a king of Sparta and son of Atreus and Aerope*Menelaus on the Moon, named after Menelaus of Alexandria.*Menelaus , brother of Ptolemy I Soter...

, Orestes
Orestes (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Orestes was the son of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon. He is the subject of several Ancient Greek plays and of various myths connected with his madness and purification, which retain obscure threads of much older ones....

 and Chrysippus
Chrysippus (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Chrysippus was a divine hero of Elis in the Peloponnesus, the bastard son of Pelops king of Pisa in the Peloponnesus and the nymph Axioche. He was kidnapped by the Theban Laius, his tutor, who was escorting him to the Nemean Games, where the boy planned to compete...

. Also, the burial place of Myrtilus was a taraxippus
The Taraxippus was a presence, either a ghost or a site, that frightened the horses during races at the Panhellenic Games....

in Olympia.

Spoken-word myths - audio files

Myrtilus myths as told by story tellers
Bibliography of reconstruction: Pindar
Pindar , was an Ancient Greek lyric poet. Of the canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, his work is the best preserved. Quintilian described him as "by far the greatest of the nine lyric poets, in virtue of his inspired magnificence, the beauty of his thoughts and figures, the rich...

, Olympian Ode, I (476 BC); Sophocles
Sophocles is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His first plays were written later than those of Aeschylus, and earlier than or contemporary with those of Euripides...

, (1) Electra, 504 (430 - 415 BC) & (2) Oenomaus, Fr. 433 (408 BC); Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

, Orestes, 1024-1062 (408 BC); Apollodorus
Apollodorus of Athens son of Asclepiades, was a Greek scholar and grammarian. He was a pupil of Diogenes of Babylon, Panaetius the Stoic, and the grammarian Aristarchus of Samothrace...

, Epitomes 2, 1-9 (140 BCE); Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

, Histories, 4.73 (1st c. BC); Hyginus
Gaius Julius Hyginus
Gaius Julius Hyginus was a Latin author, a pupil of the famous Cornelius Alexander Polyhistor, and a freedman of Caesar Augustus. He was by Augustus elected superintendent of the Palatine library according to Suetonius' De Grammaticis, 20...

, Fables, 84: Oinomaus; 224: Mortals who were made immortal; Poetic Astronomy, II (1st c. AD); Pausanias
Pausanias (geographer)
Pausanias was a Greek traveler and geographer of the 2nd century AD, who lived in the times of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He is famous for his Description of Greece , a lengthy work that describes ancient Greece from firsthand observations, and is a crucial link between classical...

, Description of Greece, 5.1.3 - 7; 5.13.1; 6.21.9; 8.14.10 - 11 (ca. 160 - 176 AD); Philostratus the Elder Imagines, I.30: Pelops (170 - 245 AD); Philostratus the Younger
Philostratus the Younger
Philostratus the Younger , also known as Philostratus of Lemnos, was a Greek sophist of the Roman imperial period. He was author of the second series of Imagines, which does not survive completely; in the preface, he praises his mother's father, who wrote the first series of Imagines; this is...

, Imagines, 9: Pelops (ca. 200 - 245 AD); First Vatican Mythographer, 22: Myrtilus; Atreus et Thyestes; Second Vatican Mythographer, 146: Oenomaus; Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 752; Tzetzes on Lycophron
Lycophron was a Hellenistic Greek tragic poet, grammarian, and commentator on comedy, to whom the poem Alexandra is attributed .-Life and miscellaneous works:...

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