Also known as:
Chthonic spirit Aeacus, son of Zeus and Aegina, was king of the Isle of Aegina. Zeus imprisoned his mother on an uninhabited island, and so Aeacus had no one to rule. He prayed to Zeus, who transformed the island’s ants into
people, called Myrmidons or “ant people.” (Aeacus’ grandson Achilles later led a troop of Myrmidons to battle in Troy.) An alternative version with the same conclusion suggests that the island was decimated by plague and that’s why Aeacus beseeched Zeus to repopulate it. This myth may recall the decimation of Aegina’s original inhabitants or Aegina’s subjugation by Athens. In 431 BCE, Aegina’s inhabitants were expelled in favor of Athenian colonists. Aeacus allied himself with his father’s pantheon. The Olympians adored him and called upon him to arbitrate their disputes. Aeacus was considered an exceptionally honest man in life—just, fair, and ethical. He was eventually venerated as a deity with shrines in Athens and Aegina, where he is believed to be buried. He had two sons with Chiron’s daughter, Endaïs: Peleus, father of Achilles, and Telamon, father of Ajax. Aeacus raped a Nereid named Psamanthe (“sea sand”). Attempting to escape him, she transformed into a seal. Their son, Phokos, (literally “seal”) Demonstrated superior athletic and martial skills. His jealous half brothers murdered him and were then exiled by their father. When he died, Aeacus journeyed to Hades like anyone else, but unlike everyone else, he did not become a twittering shade. Instead he was appointed a judge. He lives in Hades’ palace and is trusted to be the keeper of the keys to Hades and to hold onto Hades’ scepter when the Death Lord doesn’t feel like carrying it. In the mortal realm, Aeacus is petitioned for justice. If you have a dispute, legal or ethical, that extends beyond the grave, Aeacus may be petitioned for assistance. Aeacus has close family ties to water spirits: aside from his judicial functions, he is also traditionally invoked for protection from pirates.
Aeacus is very proud of his family: surround him with their images including Zeus, Achilles, and Aegina. Alexander the Great claimed descent from Aeacus via his mother: add his image, too.
Achilles; Aegina; Hades; Nereid; Thetis; Zeus
Aeacus (bewailing) In Greek mythology, first king of Aegina; son of Zeus by Aegina, a daughter of the river god Asopus in Philius. Zeus, in the form of an eagle, had taken Aegina and carried her off to the island named after her, where Aeacus was born. As king of Aegina, Aeacus ruled the Myrmidons, people whom Zeus had transformed from ants to populate the island. Aeacus was loved by the gods for his piety, and when a drought desolated Greece, his intercession obtained rain from Zeus. The Greeks built Aeacus a temple enclosed with a marble wall. The poet Pindar says that Aeacus helped Poseidon and Apollo construct the walls of Troy. Because Aeacus was noted for his justice, he was made one of the judges over the dead, along with Minos and Rhadamanthys. At Aegina and Athens he was worshipped as a demigod. His sons by Chiron’s daughter Endeis were Telamon and Peleus, the fathers of Ajax and Achilles. Another son, Phocus, by the Nereid Psamathe was killed by his half brothers, who were then banished by their father for the crime. Ovid’s Metamorphoses (book 7) and Hesiod’s Theogony (1003–5) tell of Aeacus.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante
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