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Phoroneus is the first man.

A priest finds Solon amusing

The Athenian statesman and poet Solon (ca. 640-ca. 560 BC) amused some Egyptian priest when he, visiting the country of the river Nile, said that Phoroneus was the first man. For, on hearing that, the Egyptian replied:

"O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children: there is not such a thing as an old Greek." (Egyptian priest to Solon. Plato, Timaeus 23b).

In fact not even the Greek genealogies seem to make of Phoroneus the first man. But then again genealogies are entangled and a matter of endless dispute:

"The legends of Greece generally have different forms, and this is particularly true of genealogy." (Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.53.5).

Aegialeus 2, first in Sicyon

Now, if generations were counted backwards, it is Aegialeus 2, who appears to be the first man of the heroic era, and not Phoroneus. But Fame plays its own part, and no one ever called Aegialeus 2 the first man, and that is probably why he will never be regarded as such even if he were the first man. Instead Aegialeus 2 bears the title of being the first inhabitant of Sicyon, which is the city on the Peloponnesian coast of the Gulf of Corinth. On the other hand Aegialeus 2, who some said died childless, was Phoroneus' brother. But then again this tells less than it could be assumed. For their parents being deities (their father Inachus was a river god, and their mother was one of the OCEANIDS), nothing can be taken for granted concerning their ages, since Time is not the same for mortals and immortals. Also Io, being a daughter of Inachus, may be called sister of Phoroneus, but her parentage is uncertain. The title "the first man" itself appears sometimes to be part of a longer sentence meaning "the first man ... who did this or that". So for example, some have said that Phoroneus was the first of mortals ... to rule.

Hermes reveals important secret to mortals

At the time of Phoroneus, who lived several generations before the great Flood in the age of Deucalion 1, men had lived for centuries without cities and without laws. During this period they spoke the same tongue until Hermes, who is the guide of speech, explained to them the secret of languages. And with this knowledge Discord arose among mortals, and they divided into nations.

Phoroneus, first ruler

From this division came the need for government, and so Zeus gave over the first rule to Phoroneus, because he had being the first to make offerings to Hera, building a temple for her, or because he first made arms for her. And either because he was a pious man, or because he understood that order cannot be achieved without arms as long as division prevails among mortals, he obtained from Zeus the authority to rule. Having become a ruler, Phoroneus gathered together inhabitants that until then were scattered living as isolated families, and founded a city which was first called City of Phoroneus, and later Argos after Argus 5, the grandson of Phoroneus. He then reigned over the whole country which afterwards was named Peloponnesus after Pelops 1.

Phoroneus discovers fire

In Argos, Phoroneus was still remembered in historical times, and the Argives brought offerings to his grave as to a hero, keeping also a statue of him, next to which there was an ever burning fire, for according to the Argives, it was Phoroneus who discovered fire, and not Prometheus 1 as others think.

Founder of the royal house of Argos

At the death of Phoroneus, he was succeeded on the throne by his grandson Argus 5, son of Zeus and Niobe 1, the first mortal woman to consort with the god.


Parentage (two versions)

Mates (three versions)



Inachus & Melia

Inachus & Argia 3


Inachus is a river god. Melia and Argia 3 are OCEANIDS.

a) Teledice

b) Cinna

c) Cerdo

Apis 2

The wife of Phoroneus—either Teledice, Cinna or Cerdo—is known only for being his wife and the mother of his children.

Apis 2 was king and named the Peloponnesus after himself Apia, but being a tyrant he was conspired against, being killed by his father Telchis (for some have given this parentage, and others have said that Apollo was Apis 2's father) and his own son Thelxion.

Niobe 1

Niobe 1, the first mortal woman who slept with Zeus, gave birth to Argus 5 and Pelasgus 1. The first succeeded Phoroneus, and the second is reported to have reigned in Argolis, the inhabitants of the Peloponnesus being called Pelasgians after him. Otherwise he is remembered as the king of Argos to whom the DANAIDS came looking for protection.


Car became king of Megara, and was buried between this city and Corinth.

Chthonia 2

Chthonia 2 is also called daughter of Colontas, the man who would not afford hospitality to Demeter when she came to Argos. For this he was punished by being burnt up.

Clymenus 7

Clymenus 7 is known for having founded a sanctuary of Demeter.

Sparton 2

Sparton 2 has been called father of Myceneus, who is, according to some, the eponym of Mycenae. But others say that Mycenae was called after Mycene, daughter of Inachus, and thereby sister of Phoroneus.

Europs 2

Europs 2 is the father of Hermion, founder of the city of Hermione, near Troezen.

Lyrcus 2

Lyrcus 2 was sent by Io's father Inachus to search for her. Having searched for her in vain, he renounced the quest, but being too afraid of Inachus, he did not return to Argos but went instead to King Caunus of Caria in Asia Minor where he married his daughter.

Genealogical Charts

Names in this chart: Aegyrus, Apis 2, Apollo, Argia 3, Argus 5, Basilus, Calchinia, Car, Cerdo, Chrysorthe, Cinna, Clymenus 7, Coronus 2, Criasus 1, Ecbasus, Europs 2, Evadne 1, Hermion, Inachus, Lamedon, Leucippus 5, Lyrcus 2, Melia, Myceneus, Niobe 1, Orthopolis, Peratus, Phorbas 1, Phoroneus, Piras 1, Plemnaeus, Poseidon, Sparton 2, Strymon 1, Teledice, Thelxion, Thurimachus, Tiryns, Zeus, Zeuxippe 3.

Related sections Argos, Mythical Chronology 

Aes.Supp.262; Apd.1.7.6, 2.1.1; DH.1.11.2, 1.17.3; Hyg.Fab.143, 145; Nonn.32.67; Parth.1.1, 1.3, 1.6.; Pau.1.39.5, 1.44.6, 2.5.6-7, 2.16.4, 2.21.1, 2.22.5, 2.34.4, 2.35.4; Pla.Tim.22.