In Greek mythology, Glaucus (“shiny,” “bright” or “bluish-green”) was the name of several different figures, including one God. These figures are sometimes referred to as Glaukos or Glacus.


[edit] Glaucus, the sea-God

Glaucus was a Greek sea-god. His parentage is different in the different traditions, which Athenaeus lists (Athen. vii. c. 48, Claud. de Nupt. Mar. x. 158.):

  • Theolytus the Methymnaean, in his Bacchic Odes – Copeus (also records an affair between Glaucus and Ariadne)
  • Promathides of Heraclea, in his Half Iambics – Polybus (by his wife Euboea)
  • Mnaseas, in Book III of his History of the Affairs of Europe – Anthedon and Alcyone
  • Euanthes, in his Hymn to Glaucus – Poseidon and the nymph Naias

[edit] Origins

According to Ovid, Glaucus began life as a mortal fisherman living in the Boeotian city of Anthedon. He discovered by accident a magical herb which could bring the fish he caught back to life, and decided to try eating it. The herb made him immortal, but also caused him to grow fins instead of arms and a fish’s tail instead of legs (though some versions say he simply became a merman), forcing him to dwell forever in the sea. Glaucus was initially upset by this side-effect, but Oceanus and Tethys received him well and he was quickly accepted among the deities of the sea, learning from them the art of prophecy.

Glaucus fell in love with the beautiful nymph Scylla, but she was appalled by his fish-like features and fled onto land when he tried to approach her. He asked the witch Circe for a potion to make Scylla fall in love with him, but Circe fell in love with him. She tried to win his heart with her most passionate and loving words, telling him to scorn Scylla and stay with her. But he replied that trees would grow on the ocean floor and seaweed would grow on the highest mountain before he would stop loving Scylla. In her anger, Circe poisoned the pool where Scylla bathed, transforming her into a terrible monster with twelve feet and six heads.

In Euripides‘ play Orestes, Glaucus was a son of Nereus and says that he assisted Menelaus on his homeward journey with good advice. He also helped the Argonauts. It was believed that he commonly came to the rescue of sailors in storms, having once been one himself.

[edit] The sea-God in art

A statue of Glaucus was installed in 1911 in the middle of the Fontana delle Naiadi, Mario Rutelli’s fountain of four naked bronze nymphs, located in the Piazza Repubblica, Rome.

[edit] Other figures named Glaucus

[edit] Glaucus, King of Corinth

Glaucus, usually surnamed Potnieus, from Potniae near Thebes, was a Corinthian king, son of Merope and Sisyphus. He angered Aphrodite, and she angered his horses during the funeral games of King Pelias. In the end, the horses literally tore Glaucus’ body apart (ref.: Virgil, Georgics, Hyginus ). His ghost supposedly was a taraxippus (“terrifier of horses”) during the Isthmian Games (ref: Pausanias ). He was also the father of Bellerophon.

[edit] Glaucus, the soldier

Glaucos and Diomedes Exchange Armour  pélikè attique du Peintre de Hasselmann, v. 420 av. J.-C.

Glaucos and Diomedes Exchange Armour pélikè attique du Peintre de Hasselmann, v. 420 av. J.-C.

Glaukos was a son of Hippolochus and a grandson of Bellerophon. He was a captain in the Lycian army under the command of his close friend and cousin Sarpedon. The Lycians in the Trojan War were allies of Troy. During the war Glaukos fought valiantly.

In the Iliad he met Diomedes in the field of battle in face to face combat. In response to Diomedes’ challenge to him, Glaukos said that as a grandson of Bellerophon he would fight anybody. On learning of Glaukos’ ancestry Diomedes planted his spear in the ground and told of how his grandfather Oeneus was a close friend of Bellerophon, and declared that the two of them despite being on opposing sides should continue the friendship. As a sign of friendship Diomedes took off his bronze armor and gave it to Glaukos. Glaukos then had his wits taken by Zeus and gave Diomedes his gold armour.

Glaukos was in the division of Sarpedon and Asteropaios when the Trojans assaulted the Greek wall. Their division fought valiantly, allowing Hector to break through the wall. During this assault Teucer shot Glaukos with an arrow, wounding him and forcing him to withdraw from combat. Later, upon seeing Sarpedon mortally wounded, Glaukos prayed to Apollo, asking him to help him to rescue the body of his dying friend. Apollo cured his wound, allowing Glaukos to rally the Trojans around the body of Sarpedon until the gods carried the body away.

Later in the war, when the fighting over Achilles‘ corpse took place, Glaukos was killed by Ajax. His body however, was rescued by Aeneas and was then taken by Apollo to Lycia for funeral rites.

There is also an asteroid, 1870 Glaukos, named after the Lycian hero.

See: Iliad 2.876; 6.199.

[edit] Glaucus, the child

Glaucus or Glaukos was a son of Minos and Pasiphaë.

One day, Glaucus was playing with a ball or mouse and suddenly disappeared. His parents went to the Oracle at Delphi who told them “A marvelous creature has been born amongst you: whoever finds the true likeness for this creature will also find the child.”

They interpreted this to refer to a newborn calf in Minos’ herd. Three times a day, the calf changed color from white to red to black. Polyidus observed the similarity to the ripening of the fruit of the mulberry (or possibly the blackberry) plant, and Minos sent him to find Glaucus.

Searching for the boy, Polyidus saw an owl driving bees away from a wine-cellar in Minos’ palace. Inside the wine-cellar was a cask of honey, with Glaucus dead inside. Minos demanded Glaucus be brought back to life, though Polyidus objected. Minos was justified in his insistence, as the Delphic Oracle had said that the seer would restore the child alive. Minos shut Polyidus up in the wine-cellar with a sword. When a snake appeared nearby, Polyidus killed it with the sword. Another snake came for the first, and after seeing its mate dead, the second serpent left and brought back a herb which then brought the first snake back to life. Following this example, Polyidus used the same herb to resurrect Glaucus.

Minos refused to let Polyidus leave Crete until he taught Glaucus the art of divination. Polyidus did so, but then, at the last second before leaving, he asked Glaucus to spit in his mouth. Glaucus did so and forgot everything he had been taught.

The story of Polyidus and Glaucus was the subject of a lost play attributed to Euripides.

Glaucus later led an army that attacked Italy, introducing to them the military girdle and shield. This was the source of his Italian name, Labicus, meaning “girdled”.

[edit] Glaucus, the welder

According to Herodotus, Alyattes, the Lydian King and father of Croesus, gave a salver of welded iron to the Oracle of Delphi. This salver, “the most remarkable of all the offerings at Delphi,” was the work of Glaucus of Chios, “the inventor of the art of welding.”[1]


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