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Royal Succession in Heroic Greece*

  • Margalit Finkelberg (a1)

This article is about the rules of succession in Bronze Age Greece as reflected in Greek tradition. The question as to whether or not the figures dealt with by this tradition are historical is of little relevance to the present discussion: what I seek to recover is not the history of one royal house or another but rather the recurring patterns according to which the members of these houses – no matter whether real or fictitious – were expected to behave when it came to the question of accession to the throne and transmission of the kingship to their successors.

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1 Pelops and Hippodameia: Pind. Ol. 1.67–71, 88; the murder of Chrysippos: Hellan. 4 F 157 (= Schol. Il. 2.105); Thuc. 1.9.2; the sons of Pelops: Pind. Ol. 1.89; Schol. Eur. Or. 4. According to Pindar, Pelops fathered six sons, but other sources give him more. For the discussion see West M. L., The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (Oxford, 1985), pp. 109–10.

2 Pind. Nem. 5.14–16 with Schol.; Diod. 4.72.6–7; Hyg. Fab. 14; Paus. 2.29.2.

3 Il. 2.641–2, athetized by Zenodotus; cf. Leaf's commentary ad loc.

4 Tydeus Apollod. 1.76; Diomedes Il. 5.412; Andraimon Apollod. 1.64, 78, cf. Il. 2.638.

5 Bellerophontes: Il. 6.155–95; Teukros: Pind. Nem. 4.46–7; Paus, 2.29.4; Melampous: Od. 15.225–41; Apollod. 2.28–9, cf. 1.102; Xouthos: Eur. Ion 57–64, 289–98; Strab. 8.7.1, p. 383; Paus. 7.1.2.

6 Hecat. 1 F 15.

7 Paus. 1.2.6 (trans, by P. Levi), cf. Apollod. 3.180–6.

8 Paus. 1.41.5 διαδξασθαι δ τν βασιλείαν γαμβρν Nσον τε Мεγαρέα καì αὖθις ᾿Αλκθουν Μεγαρέως

9 Megapenthes: Apollod. 2.29; Erysichthon: Paus. 1.2.6. Another example of a similar exegesis is preserved by Pausanias in his account of the early kings of Megara (1.41.3–5, cf. n. 8). Alkathoos son of Pelops killed the lion of Kithairon, married the daughter of the king Megareus, and became king in his stead. Yet Megareus had two sons of his own, Euippos and Timalkos. According to the Megarian version, Euippos was slain by the lion of Kithairon, whereas Timalkos was even earlier killed by Theseus. However, Pausanias demonstrates conclusively that the version of Timalkos' early death is invalid.

10 Hes. frr. 197.3–1; 198.7–8; 199.1–3 M–W.

11 In a number of versions, Orestes succeeds Menelaos in Sparta by virtue of his marriage to Hermione, the daughter of Menelaos and Helen. Thus, according to Paus. 2.18.6, Orestes became king of Sparta because the Spartans preferred him to Nikostratos and Megapenthes, Menelaos' sons by a slave-girl. However, according to Hes. fr. 175 M–W, Nikostratos was son of Menelaos and Helen; this version is followed in Apollod. 3.133, cf. West, op. cit., p. 119 and n. 203. The alleged illegal birth of Nikostratos looks suspiciously similar to the late birth of Megapenthes and the early death of Erysichthon and Timalkos (see n. 9). It is probable, then, that the mother-to-daughter succession in Sparta should be continued so as to include Hermione as well.

12 Ramsay W. M., Asianic Elements in Greek Civilization (London, 1928), p. 238.

13 O. R. Gurney in CAH 3 ii.1, p. 667.

14 Finley M. I., The World of Odysseus2 (Harmondsworth, 1979), pp. 84–5. Characteristically, not only the suitors but also Telemachos himself state explicitly on more than one occasion that Odysseus' son is not considered the next king of Ithaca: Telemachos' real concern is not so much with the kingship as with his oikos which is being destroyed by the suitors, See Od. 1.394–5, 400–2; 20.334–7.

15 Finley, op. cit., pp. 86–7.

16 Ibid., p. 90.

17 Ibid., p. 91.

18 Ibid., p. 90.

19 Similar situations are also attested for Argos, where Kometes son of Sthenelos married the queen Aigialeia and simply expelled the former king Diomedes on his return from Troy, and for Crete, whence the former king Idomeneus had been expelled exactly in the same way, see Apollod. Epit. 6.9–10.

20 Lectures on the Early History of the Kingship (London, 1905), pp. 238–41.

21 Ibid., p. 234.

22 Glaukos' genealogy, as adduced at Il. 6.152–5, 195–206, comprises six generations (Aiolos–Sisyphos–Glaukos–Bellerophontes–Hippolochos–Glaukos); Aineias' at Il. 20.215–40 eight (Zeus–Dardanos–Erichthonios–Tros–Assarakos–Kapus–Anchises–Aineias); and Kodros' genealogy as adduced by Hellanicus (see n. 23) comprises twelve generations.

23 As clearly follows both from the reconstruction of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women by Merkelbach and West and from West's subsequent analysis of the structure of this poem, the women are invariably treated here as subordinated to the overall patrilinear arrangement of the genealogical material, see Merkelbach R. and West M. L., Fragmenta Hesiodea (Oxford, 1967) and West, op. cit., pp. 31–50, 173–82. The same can be said of the Greek genealogy in general. The twelve-generation genealogy of Kodros by Hellanicus can serve as an example. Hellanicus gives the following sequence: γνεтαι γρ Δευκαλίωνος μν καί Πύρρας… Ἔλλην. Ἔλληνος δ κα Ὀθρηίδος Ξοθος Aἴολος Ξενοπτρα· Aἰλου δ κα Ἲϕιδος τς Πηνειοȗ Σαλμωνεύς· Σαλμωνέως δ κα ᾿Aλκιδίκης υρώ ἦς κα Пοσειδνος Nηλεύς· Nηλέως δ κα Xλωρίδος Περικλύμενος· Περικλυμένου δ κα Πεισιδίκης Bρος· Bώρον δ κα Λυσιδίκης Πενθίλος· Πενθίλου δ κα Ἀγχιρρόης Ἀνδρόπομπος· Ἀνδροπόμπου δ κα ῾HνιόΧης τς Άρμενίου το Zευξίππου το Eὺμλου το Ἀδμτον Mέλανθος. οὖτος Ἡρακλειδν κ Mεσσνης εἰς Ἀθνας ὑπεχώρησε κα αὐτῷ γίνεται παῖς Kδρος (Hellan. 4 F 125). Note that of the two women taking part in this genealogy, Henioche is treated in strictly patrilinear terms, and her introduction together with her husband Andropompos does not affect the agnatic reckoning of the descent of their son Melanthos. As distinct from this, Tyro looks like an intruder on the patrilinear scheme: she is represented as continuing the line of her father Salmoneus, and her son Neleus is represented as her successor. This fits in perfectly well with the epiklēros pattern, known to us from the historic period: in the absence of sons, the father's line would be continued by his daughter whose sons would count as male descendants of their maternal grandfather, see e.g. Gernet L., ‘Sur l'épiclérat’, REG 34 (1921), 337–79. If the Ehoiai were indeed part of the Catalogue rather than a separate poem (see West, op. cit., pp. 31–2), it is not out of the question that this was the principle according to which the major Ehoiai (including that of Tyro) were introduced into the poem.

24 Pherec. 3 F 114, cf. Od. 15.238–41.

25 Herod. 9.34; Diod. 4.68; Apollod. 1.102; 2.28–9; Paus. 2.18.4.

26 Od. 11.281–97; 15.226–39; Pherec. 3 F 33. In the Catalogue of Women, Hes. fr. 37.5–15, it is already as the husband of Pero that Bias goes to Argos, presumably only to receive a share in Proitos' kingdom, cf. West, op. cit., n. 109 on p. 79, whereas Od. 15.235–9 definitely implies that Bias remained in Pylos and that Melampous went to Argos alone.

27 Od. 15.242–55, cf. Hes. fr. 136 M–W; Pherec. 3 FF 115–16. For the discussion of Melampous' descendants see West, op. cit., pp. 79–81.

28 Nem. 9.13–15.

29 That of the Seven against Thebes. This is further supported by the fact that not only Adrastos but also other sons of Talaos (Aristomachos, Hippomedon, Mekisteus, Parthenopaios, Pronax) are referred to in various sources as participants in that expedition.

30 At 3 F 33.37, Pherecydes only names Perialkes, Aretos, and Alphesiboia as children of Bias and Pero. The first mentioning of Talaos as son of Bias and Pero is Ap. Rhod. 1.118–20.

31 Oἱ Ἀναξαγορίδαι Paus. 2.18.5; 2.30.10. On Anaxagoras' genealogical position see West, op. cit., p. 177, cf. also p. 81 and n. 111.

32 According to Apollod. 3.87 and Paus. 8.36.6, Oïkles was at home in Arcadia; as follows from Diod. 4.35.1–2 and Apollod. 1.74, Hipponoos was king of Olenos in Achaia.

33 See, however, Pind. Nem. 9.13–14, where Adrastos and his brothers are seen as having been expelled from Argos by Amphiaraos: ϕεγε γρ Ἀμϕιαρ ποτε θρασυμδεα κα δεινν στσιν πατρίων οἴκων πό τʼ Ἂργεος· ρχο δ’ οὐκ ἒτ᾽ ἒσαν αλαο παῖδες, βιασθέντες λύα

34 Il. 2.572 και Σικυν’, ὅθ’ ἄρ’ Ἅδρηστος πρτ’ μβασιλευεν.

35 Herod. 5.67.

36 Hes. fr. 197.6–7 M–W.

37 Adrastos' kingship at Argos was rejected on independent grounds by Nilsson M. P. in The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology (Berkeley, 1932), pp. 113–14, see esp. p. 114: ‘Adrastos was not king of the city of Argos, though he is genealogically annexed to the kingly house of Argos.’

38 Obviously, the strict application of the principle of tripartite kingship would cast doubt on the legitimacy of Diomedes' kingship, attested for the next generation: Diomedes belonged to none of the three clans whose representatives sat in turn on the throne of Argos (though in some sources he is connected through the female line with the clan of Megapenthes). This doubt was expressed by Pausanias in 2.30.10, in whose opinion the kingship of Argos really belonged to Kapaneus' son Sthenelos. Surprisingly enough, Pausanias' conclusion fits in perfectly well with the order of the rotation as represented in Fig. 2: the ‘legal’ successor of Amphiaraos is the representative of Megapenthes' line in the next generation, that is, Kapaneus' son Sthenelos. In the Catalogue of Ships, Il. 2.563–6, Diomedes in fact occupies the place of the descendants of Amphiaraos.

39 Or Anteia, see Il. 6.160.

40 Cf. Frazer, op. cit., pp. 254–7.

41 Apollod. 1.87; 3.117; 3.123 (with Frazer's Loeb commentary ad loc.).

42 Paus. 2.21.7; 3.1.3–4; 4.2.2, cf. 4.2.4.

43 That Amyklas' genealogy as given by Apollodorus resulted from a contamination and that the correct sequence should be Kynortas–Oibalos–Tyndareos has been shown on other grounds by West, op. cit., p. 67 n. 86.

44 Pherec. 3 F 132 Ἀργεῖος δ ό Πέλοπος ἔρχεται παρ’ Ἀμύκλαν εἰς Ἀμύκλας, κα γαμεῖ το Ἀμύκλα θυγατρα Ἡγησνδραν (= Schol. Od. 4.22), cf. also Schol. Eur. Or. 4.

45 In his account of Boeotia, Pausanias represents the succession of the kings of Thebes during and after the Trojan war as alternating between the descendants of Polyneikos' son Thersandros and those of Peneleos, the leader of the Boeotians in the Trojan war, see Paus. 9.5.14–16, cf. Il. 2.494. Nothing is known of Peneleos' origin, but he was certainly not descended from Kadmos. It may be significant in this connection that Leitos, the other non-Kadmeian leader of the Boeotians in the Trojan war (Il. 2.494), is given the epithet γηγενς in Eur. Iph. A. 259.

46 Il. 2.102–8.

47 West, op. cit., pp. 157–9.

48 Cf. Frazer, op. cit., pp. 234–5.

49 Hes. fr. 197.6 M–W υἱὼ δ’ Ἀμϕιαράον Ὀïκλείδαο ἄνακτος; 198.9–10 Θόας Άνδραίμονος υίς δίου Άρητιάδαο; 199.5 υἱς τ’ Ίϕἰκλοιο Ποδάρκης Φυλακίδαο κτλ.

50 Note that kingship by marriage would make the king simultaneously at home at two different places: where he was born as the king's son and where he ruled as the queen's consort. It follows from this that in order to determine the place of kingship we must locate wife and daughter, whereas the place of birth can be determined by locating mother and sister.

51 In so far as the founders of the Aeolian colonies in Asia Minor claimed to be descendants of Orestes' son Penthilos, see Strab. 9.2.3, p. 400, 9.2.5, p. 402; Paus. 2.18.6; 3.2.1; cf. 7.6.1–2. Note that the formation stage of Homeric tradition is firmly associated with these Aeolian colonies.

52 The race contest for the daughters of Danaos: Pind. Pyth. 9.195–206, Paus. 3.12.2, Apollod. 2.21. According to Pausanias (3.22.11), Side in Lacedaemon was named after Danaos' daughter; Amymone the Danaid discovered the springs of Lerna, and the local river was named after her (2.37.1, cf. Apollod. 2.13; Hes. fr. 128 M–W); Achaios' sons Archandros and Architeles came to Argos from Phthiotis and married Skaia and Automate, daughters of Danaos; Archandros gave his son the name of Settler (Μετανάστης; Paus. 7.1.7). Cf. also Paus. 4.30.2; 4.35.2; 7.22.5; 10.35.1.

53 Paus. 4.1.1–2, cf. 4.3.9; 4.27.6; 4.31.11.

54 Paus. 7.3.1; 9.33.1–2.

55 Pind. Pyth. 9.5–70 (see esp. line 54, where Kyrene is called ρχέπολις), cf. Hes. fr. 215 M–W. Kyrene is discussed in detail in West, op. cit., pp. 85–9.

56 The Danaids Herod. 2.171; Messene Paus. 4.1.5 and 9; 4.2.6; 4.26.8.

57 Diod. 4.66.5–6; Apollod. 3.85; Paus. 7.3.1; 9.10.2–3.

58 See esp. Pindar on Argos in Nem. 10.5 πολλά δ' Αἰγύπτῳ καταοίκισεν ἄστη ταῖς Έπάϕου παλάμαις. See also n. 62 below.

59 Glaukos' account of his genealogy in Il. 6.152–206 can serve as an example. Although Glaukos is well aware that his grandfather Bellerophontes came to Lycia from Argos, this does not make him see himself as an Argive. Would the situation have been different if Bellerophontes had brought his Argive wife with him and Glaukos had been the descendant of both? It seems that something to this effect is suggested by the famous story of the Epizephyrian Locrians, related by Aristotle and Polybius; among them only the descendants of the hundred women who had been taken from Locris upon foundation of the colony were considered εὐγενεῖς (Polyb. 12.5.6–8, cf. Arist. fr. 541). This is usually taken as evidence of matrilinear reckoning of descent among the Locrians; yet a comparison with fifth-century Athens, where only those who were of Athenian descent on both their father's and their mother's side counted as Athenian citizens, is perhaps more relevant here. Note that in his account of the Ionian colonization of Asia Minor Herodotus states unequivocally that in so far as the Athenian colonists did not bring women with them, but married Carian wives, their descendants could not pass for genuine Athenians (1.146).

60 The only case of post-Bronze Age colonization in which a woman was actively involved seems to be the story of the foundation of Massalia by the Phocians of Asia Minor told in Strab. 4.1.4, p. 179: the colonists were instructed by an oracle to take with them a γεμών from the Ephesian Artemis: this γεμών was a woman called Aristarcha (a cultic epithet of the goddess), one of the most prominent women of Ephesus (τν ντίμων σϕόδρα γυναικν); she became the priestess of Artemis in the new settlement. Strabo's account, unparalleled in the foundation legends of the archaic and classical age, has given much trouble to historians (see the excellent discussion by Malkin I. in Religion and Colonization in Ancient Greece [Leiden, 1987], pp. 6972); it is possible, however, that it will appear more consistent if taken in the Bronze Age context.

61 An excellent illustration of this complexity can be found in S. Pembroke's study of the terms of kinship on the sepulchral inscriptions of Lycia Last of the Matriarchs’, JESHO 8 (1965), 217–47. See also Broadbent M., Studies in Greek Genealogy (Leiden, 1968), pp. 117.

62 Priestesses of Hera of Argos, whose succession was one of the systems used in Greek chronology (see Hellan. 4 F 79b, Thuc. 2.2.1), might well represent such a dynasty. Unfortunately, almost nothing has been preserved of Hellanicus' Ίερεῖαι, which dealt with the subject, but Jakoby's reconstruction (ad Hellan. 4 FF 74–84) brings out the names of Io, the Danaid Hypermestra, Perseus' grandmother Eurydike, Eurystheus' daughter Admete, and so on; statues of all of them could be seen at the Argive Heraion even at the time of Pausanias, see Paus. 2.17.3 and 7, cf. Thuc. 4.133.

63 The material on the wives of the Spartan kings is too meagre to allow any definite conclusion to be reached on its basis, but such principal features of the kingship in Sparta as the absence of rotation between the two royal houses, the lack of mobility and, above all, the father-to-son succession show clearly enough that what we have here is a form of kingship essentially different from that practised in the Bronze Age. The only form of rule in which elements of kingship by marriage can be observed even in the historic period is tyranny; see the illuminating paper by Louis Gernet, ‘Marriages of Tyrants’, in Gernet L., The Anthropology of Ancient Greece, English translation by Hamilton J. and Nagy B. (Baltimore and London, 1981), pp. 289301.

64 See especially Broadbent's reconstruction of the genealogy of a family of Epidaurian nobles in op. cit., pp. 18–23. As Broadbent has shown, the unifying element in the genealogy is a direct female descent line for the women of the family, which is likely to have been preserved for eight successive generations from the 3rd century b.c.; she suggests that the women of the family, who bear the names Chariko and Laphanta in alternate generations, were priestesses of the local female deities Damia and Auxesia.

* The first version of this paper was read on 13 April 1988 at a seminar on Historiography in the Ancient World held by the Faculty of Humanities of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I am grateful to the participants in that seminar, and especially to David Asheri, for their encouragement. I also wish to thank the referee and the Editor of CQ for their help in preparing the final version.

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