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His strange birth and death

Johann Heinri Tischbein's Odysseus & Penelope

A king of Kefaloniá, Kefalos, had a son named Arkikious who annexed Ithaca and made it the centre of his realm; his son was Laertes, King of Ithaca, who sailed aboard the Argo and married Anticleia, daughter of Autolykus, who gave birth to Odysseus.

But tradition says that Autolykus (a son of Hermes) and Sisyphus (who went on to become a rock-pushing celebrity in hell) used to graze their flocks next to each other, and through trickery would steal one another’s sheep. Autolykus thought that if he married his daughter Anticleia to Sisyphus, their child would inherit cunning from both sides of the family and be the ultimate trickster.

Sisyphus was equally keen, and had his evil way with Anticleia before their wedding; but during the interval Laertes asked to marry her, and did. She was already pregnant by Sisyphus, and Autolykus, the child’s grandfather, named him Odysseus, which means ‘angry’ or ‘he who is hated by all’.

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Sidelights and Myths

Text © Dana Facaros

Images by PD art, PD Art