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In Homeric Greece the islands of Taphos lay in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Acarnania in northwestern Greece, home of sea-going and piratical inhabitants, the Taphians. Penelope mentions the Taphian sea-robbers when she rebukes the chief of her suitors (Odyssey, book xi), and it is disguised as "Mentes", "lord of the Taphian men who love their oars," that Athena accepts the hospitality of Telemachus and speeds him on his journey from Ithaca to Pylos (Odyssey i). The Taphians dealt in slaves (Odyssey xv).

By the time of Euripides, the islands are identified with the Echinades, which is the modern name for this archipelago: in Euripedes' Iphigeneia at Aulis (405 BC), the chorus of women from Chalcis have spied the Hellenes' fleet and seen Eurytus who "led the Taphian warriors with the white oar-blades, the subjects of Meges, son of Phyleus, who had left the isles of the Echinades, where sailors cannot land." [1].

The Taphians accounted themselves the descendents of Perseus, for the mother of Taphius, their eponymous colonizer, was a granddaughter of Perseus and lay with Poseidon to beget the heroic founder. Their most noted king was Pterelaos, rendered immortal by Poseidon by the single golden hair among the hairs of his head, but undone by his faithless daughter (Comaetho) who plucked it while he slept, so that the Mycenaean adventurer Amphitryon of Tiryns could overcome and kill him and retrieve the cattle Pterelaos' sons had rustled from Mycenae, with much spoils besides. As he was returning with his spoils to his bride at Thebes, Zeus preceded him by one night: taking Amphitryon's shape, and brandishing a Taphian cup as a sign of his success, the king of gods fathered Heracles.


Greek Mythology

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