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Phaon: There are two literary characters by this name.

Phaon in Greek mythology was a boatman of Mitylene in Lesbos. He was old and ugly when Aphrodite came to his boat. She put on the guise of a crone. Phaon ferried her over to Asia Minor and accepted no payment for doing so. In return, she gave him a box of ointment. When he rubbed it on himself, he became young and beautiful. Many were captivated by his beauty.

According to mythology, Sappho fell in love with him. He lay with her but soon grew to resent her and devalue her. Sappho was so disraught with his rejection that she threw herself into the sea to drown. Aelian says that Phaon was killed by a man whom he was cuckolding.

Aside from Aelian, this Phaon's story is told by Ovid and Lucian.


A second Phaon is a character in Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene *, in book II, canto iv. This Phaon is a squire who is deceived by Philemon and, under the influence of Furor (frenzied rage), kills Claribel with his sword and Philemon with poison.

(* an epic poem by Edmund Spenser, first published in 1590 (the first half) with the more or less complete version being published in 1596.)

Greek Mythology

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