:"This article is about Telephus the son of Heracles. The name also refers to the father of Cyparissus."

A Greek mythological figure, Telephus or Telephos (Greek: Τήλεφος, "far-shining" [His names was also rendered Telephanes (Kerenyi 1959:337). Compare the lunar name Telephassa.] ) was one of the Heraclidae, the sons of Heracles, who were venerated as founders of cities. Telephos was by far the most famous of these heroes, and the various sites at which libations were offered to placate his spirit occasioned etiological myths of travels around the Greek mainland, in Magna Graecia and in Ionia. As with other heroes, a series of episodic epiphanies can be chronologically ordered and a rationalized "biography" synthesized.

Telephus was the son of Heracles and Auge, a priestess of Athena Alea at Tegea; he was the spouse of Astyoche and the father of Eurypylus.

He was intended to be king of Tegea, but became the king of Mysia in Asia Minor. He was wounded by the Achaeans when they were coming to sack Troy and bring back Helen to Sparta.

Along with Hector, Helenus, Deiphobus, Aeneas, and Troilus he had accompanied Helen to Menelaus at Sparta and so was one of the first of all the Trojans and their allies to behold the beauty of Helen.


Aleus, king in Tegea and father of Auge, had been told by an oracle that he would be overthrown by his grandson. [This Succession Myth, a fate parallel to the succession of the gods Cronos and Zeus, is also told of sons of Metis and Thetis.] So, according to varying myths, he forced Auge to become a virginal priestess of Athena Alea, in which condition she was violated by Heracles; though the infant Telephus was hidden in the temple, his cries revealed his presence and Aleus ordered the child exposed on Mt. Parthenion, the "mountain of the Virgin [Athena] ". The child was suckled by a deer by agency of Heracles. Alternatively Aleus put Auge and the baby in a crate that was set adrift on the sea. [Compare Danaë and the infant Perseus.] and washed up on the coast of Mysia in Asia Minor. Alternatively Aleus exposed Telephus and sold Auge into slavery and she was given as a gift to King Teuthras.

In either case Telephus was adopted, either by King Corycus or by King Creon.

Youthful travels

In his early manhood Telephus left home on a return journey to Tegea, where his adopted father had found him. King Aleus and the men in his palace accepted the handsome youth, but they still inquired about his lineage. When he told them that he did not know it -- an ignorance stemming from their having abandoned him -- one of the men of the palace started to taunt the young prince. In anger the youth grabbed the man by his hair and tossed him out of the window of the palace. The man was Lycurgus the son of Aleus, and so the prophecy [All prophecies in myth and religion come true; however, there is nothing inherent in the nature of the prophecy that makes it come true, as a "Self-fulfilling prophecy.] had come true.

Telephus and Auge

Telephus' companion, Parthenopaeus, was destined to die at the gates of Thebes, but Telephus was destined to rule foreign lands and fight his fellow Greeks before they reached Troy. The two companions went off to Asia Minor to look for land to make their kingdom. They eventually came to Mysia where they aided King Teuthras in a war and defeated the enemy. For this the King gave Telephus the hand of his beautiful adopted daughter Auge.

Auge, who was still consecrated to the memory of Heracles, privately refused her father's decision and planned Telephus' death. She secreted a knife in the marriage bed and on the wedding night tried to kill Telephus but Heracles separated the two with a flash of lightning and they both recognized each other as mother and son.

Telephus as king of Mysia and the Achaeans

Telephus succeeded Teuthras as king of the Mysians. One version states that this was because he had been given the hand of Teuthras' daughter Argiope and that it was she, not Astyoche, who was the mother of Eurypylus. When the Greeks first assemled at Aulis and left for the Trojan War, they accidentally found themselves in Mysia, where they were opposed by some fellow Achaeans. Myth provides explanations for this confrontation in assuming that their king Telephus was married to Laodice the daughter of King Priam, and that Paris and Helen had stopped in Mysia on their way to Troy and had asked Telephus to fight off the Achaeans should they come. In the battle, Achilles wounded Telephus, who killed Thersander the King of Thebes. This explains why in the "Iliad" there is no Theban King.

Telephus' wound

The wound would not heal and Telephus asked the oracle of Delphi which responded in a mysterious way that "he that wounded shall heal". Telephus' convinced Achilles to heal his wound in return for showing them the way to Troy, thus resolving the conflict.

According to reports about Euripides' lost play "Telephos", he went to Aulis pretending to be a beggar and asked Clytemnaestra the wife of Agamemnon what he should do to be healed. She had three reasons to help him: she was related to Heracles; Heracles fought a war that made her father King of Sparta; and she was angry at her husband and some say that he promised to marry her in return for her aid. Although he did not marry Clytaemnaestra, she helped him by telling him to kidnap her only son Orestes, and to threaten to kill him if Achilles would not heal his wound.

When Telephus threatened the young child, Achilles refused, claiming to have no cathartic knowledge. Odysseus, however, reasoned that the spear that had inflicted the wound must be able to heal it. Pieces of the spear were scraped off onto the wound, and Telephus healed. This is an example of sympathetic magic. Afterwards Telephus guided the Achaeans to Troy. [Telephus' role in the expedition has thus been seen as an instance of a common story-pattern in which a character provides a hero with information necessary for his primary quest only after he is won over in a "preliminary adventure" (Davies 2000:9-10).]

The Achaeans asked Telephus to join them. However, he declined their offer, claiming that he was the stepson of King Priam through his wife (a)Laodice, b) Astoche)Clarifyme|date=April 2007 and in that way was stepbrother to Paris.

He was one of the men that competed in the games when Paris won and was also one of those that threatened to kill him.

Laodice's wrath

Laodice was beautiful and was extremely faithful to her husband Telephus. But Telephus had a child by her aunt Astyoche despite the fact that his bed companion was double his age. A later interpolation asserts that with Argiope he had Roma, who gave her name to Rome.


Telephus led his Mysian forces towards Troy to help his grand father King Priam. Eurypylus, Telephus' son, was supposed to succeed to the Mysian throne but Achilles' son Neoptolemus killed Telephus' son Eurypylus at Troy.

Laodice at Troy

Telephus assured the Trojans that the horse was not bad and convinced them to let the horse into Troy.

Laodice went with Eurypylus and Telephus to Troy although Telephus did not fight. Laodice sneaked into Acamas' bed and she committed adultery. At the fall of Troy Laodice was sucked into a chasm in the Earth.

He met with Neoptolemus (or Calchas) who gave him a deadly blow in the very same place that Achilles had which had never truly healed.

Telephus returns to Greece

Telephus fled back to Athens where the Heraclids were and became a General and Leader of the Heraclids a few years before the death of his Grandmother Alcmene. He was the one who was there when she died.

When he heard that the Trojan princess that he had truly loved (Cassandra was left) he went crazy and made an attack on Arcadia and Ithica but he was defeated in a fight with Telemachus. During that time he killed many including the sons of Aleus and Aleus himself before they died he said:"I am the son of Auge".

After that he traveled to Rhodes where he met with Polyxo and Helen. Helen told him of all that had happened after the fall of Troy. He impregnated Helen but she was soon after killed by Polyxo and so she died along with their unborn child.

He plucked out his eyes and fled Rhodes all the way to Gibraltar and climbed to the top of the Pillars of Hercules where he died of grief.

His last words were "Father take my soul."

It was said by Pausanias that Heracles took his soul up to Olympos and he became his squire.

Or that he went to the Island of the Blest, Elysian Fields etc. after his death.

Telephus in the arts

Telephus features in Sophocles's "The Assembly of the Achaeans" and Euripides' "Telephus".



*cite journal |last=Davies |first=Malcolm |year=2000 |title=Euripides "Telephus" Fr. 149 (Austin) and the Folk-Tale Origins of the Teuthranian Expedition |journal=Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik |volume=133 |pages=7–10 |url= |format=PDF
*cite book |last=Kerenyi |first=Karl |authorlink=Karl Kerenyi |title=The Heroes of the Greeks |year=1959 |publisher=Thames and Hudson |pages=pp. 337–341

External links

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