Telephus (Telephos)

Roman marble of Heracles and his child Telephos of the 1st - 2nd century (after a Greek original of the 4th century BC), found in Tivoli, Italy and now at the Louvre. Source:

An oracle told King Aleus of Tegea that he would be overthrown by his grandson, so he forced his daughter Auge to become a virgin priestess. After she was violated by Heracles, their son, the infant Telephus, was hidden in the temple but his cries revealed him. Aleus ordered Telephus exposed on Mt. Parthenion. He was saved by a doe Heracles sent to suckle him. Grown up, Telephus consulted the Delphic oracle to learn who his mother was. He was told to go to King Teuthras in Mysia. There he was kindly received, found his mother, and married Argiope, the daughter of Teuthras, whom he succeeded as king of Mysia. The Greeks invaded Mysia on the way to the Trojan War. Telephus repelled them until Dionysus assisted the Greeks and caused him to stumble on a vine, after which he was wounded by Achilles. The wound would not heal and when he consulted the oracle he was told "only he could cure him who had wounded him." The Greeks meanwhile had received an oracle that without the aid of Telephus they could not reach Troy. Achilles cured Telephus with rust from the spear with which the wound had been inflicted. Telephus, in return, pointed out the road to Troy.


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Telephus, the fabled son of Hercules, by Auge, daughter of Aleus, King of Tegea, in Arcadia.----On a brass medallion of Antoninus Pius, in the Mus. Albano, the reverse (without epigraph) exhibits Hercules standing near a tree, looking at a little boy suckled, on a mountain, by a doe. On the top of the mountain is an eagle.----Vaillant and Venuti both regard this type as referring to the twin brothers and wolf of the Roman story. But Eckhel, after comparing it with that on the coin of Pergamus in Mysia, clearly shows that it relates to the infancy of Telephus, who being, according to the Greek myth, the offspring of a furtive amour, was abandoned at his birth by his unhappy mother, on Mount Parthenius, where, left exposed to die, he was miraculously suckled and fostered with maternal fondness by a doe. The presence of the eagle above is explained as an interposition of Jupiter himself, who sends his watchful bird to guard the helpless child----ordaining that the deserted progeny of his own son by Alcmena should not miserably perish, but be preserved for a high destiny.----See copious reasons for this interpretation given in Doct. Num. Vet. vol. ii. 468, and vol. vii. 34.

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