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The Son of Daphurgée

a. When Herakles returned to Thebes after his Labours, he visited his friend Daphurgee, with whom, when a child, he had fought the wild goats of the Teloditee. Daphurgee, son of Ompheistos and King of Myleagia, had since married Ulithare, daughter of the satyr Gelandios. She had borne him five daughters, the Daphurgides, and a son, Zedymon, who was so small that he could stand in his father's hand. Daphurgee loved his wife but he could not help blaming her for the small size of his son, who made him the laughing stock of his neighbourhood (1).

b. Daphurgee confided his humiliation to Herakles. He said : "I am ashamed of my son Zedymon. Even my slaves call him because he is so small (2). Should I repudiate Ulithare?". Herakles, who had been desiring his friend' s wife for a long time, came up instantly with a stratagem to possess her without having a suspicious Daphurgee around. He told him that the smallness of Zedymon was a consequence of the offences to the Gods he had committed in his youth, and he advised him to leave as soon as possible for Tyrinthe, to placate the Gods with the relevant sacrifices.

c. Daphurgee, pushing a whole herd in front of him, left his house. Meanwhile, Herakles raped Ulithare. However, she did not cry for help and some people said she was the one who seduced him. When he came back from Tyrinthe, Daphurgee found Ulithare pregnant. She gave birth to a nice, big son, much to Daphurgee's happiness, and this son was named Megadymon. , his half-brother, was angry. Hidden in his mother's thick hair, he had witnessed the rape, and he knew that Medadymon's father was Herakles. He also knew that his own father was plotting his death, so that Megadymon, who was much better good-looking than himself, would inherit the kingdom of Myleagia (3).

d. called his friend Lagothoos the Hare, climbed on his back and held fast to his long ears. Together, they travelled in Peloponnese, Etolia, Thessalia and Thrace, where they were involved in numerous adventures (4). Zedymon eventually arrived in Paphlagonia, where he found Herakles. The hero was fighting for Begimuse, king of the Paphlagons, at war against the Bythiniantribes. Zedymon jumped on Herakles' lion fur, and demanded that he recognised Megadymon as his son, and made him come and fight at his side. Herakles tried in vain to get rid of the small Zedymon. He scratched his large body, plunged into the water, but Zedymon did not let go. Herakles fought the entire campaign of Bythinia with sticking to him like an oversized flea. Daphurgee's son pricked him, verbally abused him, and even called the horseflies to help him torture the hero (5). The microscopic but unrelenting rage of his adversary won Herakles over, who accepted what was not, after all, such a bad deal. He asked for Megadymon to fight at his side, something that Daphurgee, who owed him so much, could not refuse without offending him. Megadymon was killed in combat. Daphurgee died of grief, letting climb on the throne of Myleagia.


1. This myth must be construed in the light of the rules of inheritance that prevailed in Peloponnese and Etolia throughout the prehellenistic period. Matriarchy was slowly giving way to patriarchy, and this considerable societal shift was not well accepted in the most remote and rural areas. The story of the Son of Daphurgee was spread around by the Theban priesthood, as a rightful example of patrilinear inheritance. Zedymon is the normal inheritor of the Throne, in spite of his small size, because he is his father's son. Herakles' presence in the story is more a narrative ploy than anything else, since Herakles's qualities and faults were known by everyone.

2. Calling someone by a diminutive was a major offence that was punished by death, for a slave, or banishment, for a free man. Daphurgee and Zedymon are weak characters in a comedy, but not in a tragedy.

3. In the matriarchal tradition, Megadymon, son of Ulithare but not the son of Daphurgee, could inherit the throne. After all, Herakles is a better "stud" than Daphurgee, who only sired daughters and an unfinished (though resourceful) son.

4. Lagothoos the Hare, who is sometimes considered as an avatar of Hermes, is a complex mixture of a large array of symbols: qualities such as swiftness and cunning are counterbalanced by a tendency to brag (as in the Aesopian tradition). The adventures of Zedymon and Lagotoos are known all around the Mediterranean basin, and still survive as jokes. The curved trajectory of the two friends is also one of the main commercial routes, from the south of Greece to modern Turkey. The image of on his hare as a high-speed particle could be the first known metaphor of information transfer (along withthe more recent Runner of Marathon).

5. In another attempt to take advantage of Herakles'popularity for their own proselytism, the priests anticipate the tragic fate of the hero, who will try in vain to get rid of Nessos' shirt, plunging in thewaters of the Cape Cenee. Horseflies were a plague for the cattle breeders: Herakles' defeat is not as ridiculous as it seems (Cf. the myth of Io). Alsoremarkable is the role played by the "verbal abuse", presented here asequally efficient as the physical one (the "pricking") : Herakles surrenders to the verb, and not only to brute force. This reflects also another important shift in the prehellenistic world, i.e. the transition between warrior societies to merchant ones.

Final text and notes established by Philip V. Simon, from the Robert Graves Society, with the financial support of the Barney & Barney Insurance Corp.'s Fundation for Greek Studies. Chapter 17.4 has appeared previously in 1989, under a somewhat different form, in the Journal of Indo-European Mythological Research, 345 (12):234-238. © Robert Graves Society, 1989. The complete list of references is available on request.

Gilles Tran © 2001 www.oyonale.com