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In Greek mythology, Euphemus /jˈfməs/ (Ancient Greek: Εὔφημος, Eὔphēmos, pronounced [eʊ̯́pʰɛːmos] "reputable") was counted among the Calydonian hunters[1] and the Argonauts, and was connected with the legend of the foundation of Cyrene.[2][3]


Euphemus was a son of Poseidon, granted by his father the power to walk on water.[4] His mother is variously named: (1) Europe, daughter of the giant Tityos;[5] (2) Doris (Oris),[6] (3) Mecionice,[7][8] daughter of either Eurotas or Orion[6] or (4) lastly, Macionassa.[9] In some accounts he is said to have been married to Laonome, sister of Heracles.[8][10]


Euphemus birthplace is given as "the banks of the Cephissus" by Pindar[11] or Hyria in Boeotia by the Megalai Ehoiai,[7] but his later residence was Taenarum in Laconia.[12][13][14][15] Euphemus joined the voyage of the Argonauts, and served the crew as helmsman.[8][16] He let a dove fly between the Symplegades to see if the ship would be able to pass as well.[17] By a Lemnian woman (Malicha, Malache, or Lamache) he became the father of Leucophanes.[8][18]

Euphemus was mythologically linked to the Greek colonization of Libya and foundation of Cyrene. In Pindar's Pythian Ode 4, the myth of him as the ancestor of the colonizers is recounted in the form of a prophecy by Medea, and runs as follows. When the Argonauts stop by the lake Tritonis in Libya, they encounter Eurypylus, a son of Poseidon, who offers them a clod of earth as a sign of hospitality. Euphemus takes the clod with instructions to throw it on the ground beside the entrance to the Underworld at Taenarum by which his descendants in the fourth generation would then rule over Libya. The clod is accidentally washed overboard and carried to the island Thera, and Libya is colonized from that island by Battus of Thera, an alleged distant descendant of Euphemus (by 17 generations), who founds Cyrene.[2][3][19][20]

The Argonautica by Apollonius Rhodius appears to follow a different version of the same myth: in the poem, when the Argonauts arrive near Lake Tritonis, Euphemus accepts the clod of earth from Triton who first introduces himself as Eurypylus but later reveals his true divine identity.[21] Later, Euphemus has a dream of the clod producing drops of milk and then changing into a woman; in his dream, he has sex with the woman, and at the same time cries over her as if she were nursed by him; she then tells him that she is a daughter of Triton and Libya and the nurse of future children of Euphemus, and instructs him to entrust her to the care of the Nereids, promising that she would return in the future to provide a home for Euphemus' children. Euphemus consults Jason about this dream and, following his advice, throws the clod in the sea, whereupon it transforms into the island Calliste (Thera). The island is later colonized by the descendants of Euphemus who had previously been expelled from Lemnos and failed to find refuge in Sparta.[22]

Euphemus was portrayed on the chest of Cypselus as the winner of the chariot race at the funeral games of Pelias.[23]

In popular culture[edit]

In the 1963 motion picture Jason and the Argonauts Euphemus is portrayed by British actor/stuntman Doug Robinson. The film relegates him to being only a minor character recognized as being a champion swimmer. In contrast to his mythology, Euphemus is killed by the film's villain Acastus who betrayed the Argonauts.


  1. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae, 173
  2. ^ a b Emily Kearns, "Euphemus", in Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth (editors), The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Oxford University Press 2009.
  3. ^ a b Judith Maitland, "Poseidon, Walls, and Narrative Complexity in the Homeric Iliad", The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol 49, No 1 (1999), pp 1–13 at p 13, JSTOR 639485 accessed 23 November 2011.
  4. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.182; Hyginus, Fabulae 14
  5. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 14; Pindar, Pythian Ode 4.45
  6. ^ a b Tzetzes, Chiliades 2.43
  7. ^ a b Hesiod, Megalai Ehoiai fr. 253 Merkelbach & West (1967) in scholia on Pindar, Pythian Ode 4.35
  8. ^ a b c d Tzetzes on Lycophron, Alexandra 886
  9. ^ John Lempière, Argonautae
  10. ^ Scholia on Pindar, Pythian Ode 4. 76
  11. ^ Pindar, Pythia 4.46.
  12. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 14
  13. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 179
  14. ^ Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica, 1. 365
  15. ^ Argonautica Orphica, 205
  16. ^ Pindar, Pythian Ode 4. 22
  17. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 2. 536–562
  18. ^ Scholia on Pindar, Pythian Ode 4. 45
  19. ^ Pindar, Pythian Ode 4. 14–56
  20. ^ Herodotus, Histories, 4. 150
  21. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 4. 1551–1562
  22. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 4. 1731–1764
  23. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5. 17. 9



  • Merkelbach, R.; West, M.L. (1967), Fragmenta Hesiodea, Oxford, ISBN 0-19-814171-8{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link).