Wednesday, November 9, 2016

TFBT: The Daemons Lykos and Chimaireus

Do you know about Lykos and Chimaireus, the sons of Prometheus?  Neither did I and I have a reputation  for an “encyclopaedic knowledge” of Greek Mythology.  (My friends say the nicest things to me!)  Apparently, Cassandra, otherwise known a Princess Alexandra of Troy knew about them.  She rants about them in the book named for her.   (Lykophr. 132, with scholia and Tzetzes)   

They were the sons of Prometheus and his niece Celaeno, daughter of Atlas.    This is a rarely known fact to those of us in the habit of just using Hesiod’s Theogony as a genealogical resource.  However, marrying his niece, (a common practice in Greek myths) relieves us of the problem of Hesiod’s "Clymene".  The poet marries off this Oceanid first to Iapetus, Prometheus’ father, then to Prometheus (Yuck!) and finally to the Titan of the Sun, Helios.     

Regardless of their titanic ancestry, it appears that Lykos and Chimaireus, were mortal.  Menelaus was sent to Troy to propitiate the brothers and enquired after their tombs.  A plague raged in Sparta and with the usual ambiguity the Oracle at Delphi sent Helen’s husband to the Troas to perform rituals in the honor of the sons of Prometheus.   

Of course this state-visit is what prompts the Trojans to visit Sparta, and consequently Helen’s abduction and the first great war in the western world and then the reduction of the weight of the tribes of men upon the shaggy earth.   

Nothing more is known about Lykos and Chimaireus.   

Of course Robert Graves “Paris and Helen; q” told this story better than I in  The Greek Myths  and Samson Eitrem has some interesting asides and speculation in

“Lykos and Chimaireus.” The Classical Review, vol. 34, no. 5/6, 1920, pp. 87–89.


  1. I had come across these brothers, but there was too little information about them and I preferred to leave them out. Who could make sense of two heroes known only from their tomb?

    I looked at the page of their mother:

    Briefly: Most sources give as her partner Poseidon rather than Prometheus. Of the two brothers, Lykos (Lycus) is definitely more important. He is mentioned by all sources while the presence and name of his brother(s) varies.

  2. Maya, I assumed Lykus was a filler- ame like Creon. A name you use when you dont really know his name. But Chimaireus ! There has to be a story there! What were te alternative names for the C-deamon?


  3. Nycteus. Connection with the dreaded Nyx?
    Hyginus also once lists a third brother, Euphemos. What is the etymology of Chimaireus? (I cannot read the JSTOR article.)

    Maybe there is a conflation of two different pairs of brothers. Lycus and Nycteus, with different parentage, appear in the saga of Thebes.

    Unlike you, I am quite interested in Lykos. I think there may be some primordial Indo-European myth around these brothers. Cf. the sons of Loki, a counterpart of Prometheus:

    "...Then were taken Loki's sons, Váli and Nari or Narfi; the Æsir changed Váli into the form of a wolf, and he tore asunder Narfi his brother. And the Æsir took his entrails and bound Loki with them..."

  4. A little below in the same Wikipedia article:

    "The picture is confused, making it uncertain whether Nari and Narfi are the same, and how he or they relate to the father of Nótt, the personification of night, who is also sometimes called Narfi. The name has been interpreted as meaning "narrow", but Rudolf Simek suggests that... Narfi may have "originally [been] a demon of the dead" and that his name could be related to the Old Norse word nár, "corpse"."

  5. Maya,

    Lykos and Chimaireus Apparently lived in Troy and Lycus and Nycteus in Thebes, I don't think they were related. Comparing Prometheus and Loki are an interesting idea. I will have to wor on this idea hen I get home. Thanks

  6. Which is the source where Hesiod gives Prometheus a wife (of any name)? It is neither the Theogony nor W&D, so must be some fragment.

    I read a little more about Loki; he seems to be no longer considered a fire-god. A Danish 13th century author, Saxo Grammaticus, describes a visit of the human hero Thorkil to a cave where the giant Utgartha-Loki is bound. I find curious the group of consonants r-k-l in the hero's name; reminds me of Heracles, and I have never seen any good explanation or interpretation of Heracles' name. So this encounter between the bound giant and the hero naturally reminded me of that between Prometheus and Heracles. But Thorkil never has any intention to help the poor giant. Instead, he pulls out of the latter's beard a hair to prove his labor. The hair is as long and tough as a spear and very stinky. The giant remains apathic but the act awakens a legion of guardian snakes:

    [1.1] DEUKALION (by Pronoia) (Hesiod Catalogues Frag 1)
    [1.2] DEUKALION (Apollodorus 1.45, Ovid Metamorphoses 1.363)
    [1.3] HELLEN, DEUKALION (by Klymene) (Schol. on Apollonius Rhod. 2.1086)
    [2.1] AIDOS (Pindar Olympian 3)

    So Loki's not a fire daemon any more? There is the story about their trip to GiantLand that suggests he is..
    Universally, Heracles is said to mean "the Glory of Hera". Ends up that all the terrible things she put him through guaranteed his ascension to Olympus, adopted him and gave him her daughter as wife


    1. Thank you!
      Unfortunately, we know nothing more about the Pronoia from Hesiod's fragment. We do not really know whether she was on Oceanid or not. Curiously, Pronoia was a custom epithet of Athena.

    2. Maya,

      Atsma confounds her with Hesoine.

    3. Curiously, the name of Nauplius' wife is given alternatively as Clymene or Hesione by Apollodorus (Library 2.1.5).

  8. I also find that there is a connection between Loki and fire:
    1) Because, when he returns by flight after rescuing Idunn, holding her (transformed) and chased by the transformed giant Tyassi, the gods make a fire-wall; they seem to know that fire will stop or kill Tyassi but not Loki or anyone/anything under his protection.
    2) Because, during the visit to Utgard, he competes with a personification of fire.
    3) Because, after he falls into disgrace, the gods do not slay him right away.

    Nevertheless, most modern scholars, based on the scarcity of evidence and the absence of any cult of Loki, regard him as a "god without portfolio" - a similarity to Prometheus. (Aeschylus' Prometheus says that Zeus gave every god a job, but unfortunately never specifies what his job was; we have just a vague impression that he was not happy with it.)
    Another similarity: Prometheus' dad was "the Piercing" Iapetus, and Loki's was "the Cruel Striker" Farbauti, about whom unfortunately nothing is known. So maybe, despite my theory, Prometheus was Iapetus' son from the beginning.

  9. Actually, I do not remember Loki ever to have used fire as a weapon; this is an argument that he is indeed no fire-deity. (Cf. Hephaestus fighting Xanthus.)

  10. I have never found "Heracles" as "Glory of Hera" a satisfactory etymology. It seems to me secondary, maybe after changes in the spoken language. I've read somewhere an attempt to derive "Heracles" from "glorious times" (the same root as in Horae).
    Little hope in all this. Heracles is a child of a well-forgotten age - maybe not even the Bronze Age but the Halcolithic. The Iron Age Greeks worshiped him but nobody managed to write anything significant about him. You cannot make much of a guy who travels around, kills monsters and anything else that moves, and finally gains immortality.

  11. Maya,

    I read somewhere that Prometheus' job was Herald of the Olympians. Supposedly some accounts make him the "mid-wife" at Athena's birth, implying that he too was a smithy-god.

    Loki not using fire as a weapon is a good point. However, Poseidon never uses the "sea" as a weapon. He brings up a storm (the winds) who will drown you in the sea. Which brings up an interesting discussion with Lenny Muellner the other day. Several of us hired him to help tutor us; that is help us with our studies in learning ancient greek. We got to discussing the Greek words for sea. Ends up there is no one for salt water. "Pontus" is the open sea; the hazardous way, "Thalassa" is the sea near the shore. "Halys" is literally salt. This sort of follows an English language tradition of all the ocean the Deep, as if the ocean was just a veil on the deep. Now I have to rethink me concept of the descendant of Pontus, its not some much that they are sea-gods but rather represent the dangers of the deep. Hence they are sea-monster with Nereus a notable acception. Or something like that.

    You wrote, "I have never found "Heracles" as "Glory of Hera" a satisfactory etymology" I might be willing to argue with you, list reference after reference and certainly go on and on about my previously listed mythological arguments, but on a similar issue I have the exact complaint. I see all theories based on IE; Indo-European, the ancestral language of almost all the European languages and more. But, IE is hypothetical language with a hypothetical grammar that was never written and no one living ever heard. It violates the second if rule; if they got the vocabulary right and if they got the grammar right... I've seen too much of these corresponding to those in Graves to fall for the IE arguments. As you say, not satisfactory.

    Hey, the Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours will be starting up again in 2017. Have you thought about taking it? It's free


    PS, we went to New York to celebrate my birthday. There will be a blog post soon about "The Gods of Manhattan".