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A Greek mythological figure, Telephus (or Telephos) referred to two different people.

  1. One was the father of Cyparissus.
  2. The other was much more famous. He was the husband of Astyoche and father of Eurypylus.

Telephus (Τήλεφος) (#2) was featured in works by Euripides and Ennius among others.

He was one of the Heraclidae, a son of Heracles and Princess Auge of Tegea. Her father Aleus was told by an oracle that he would be overthrown by his grandson. So he:

Heracles right and left the infant Telephus suckled by a deer. The eagle represents the kingdom of Pegamum, Herculaneum. wall painting, Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale Inv. 9008.

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  1. Forced Auge to become a priestess of Athena and leave the child, Telephus, on Mt. Parthenion. He was suckled by a deer.
  2. Auge and Telephus were put in a crate and set adrift on the sea. They washed up in Asia Minor.
  3. Abandoned Telephus and sold Auge into slavery. She ended up marrying King Teuthras.

Achilles versus Telephus, Vase painting

Telephus later became King of the Mysians. When the Greeks left for the Trojan War, they accidentally stopped in Mysia. In the battle, Achilles wounded Telephus, who killed Thersander. The wound would not heal and Telephus asked an oracle which claimed "he that wounded shall heal".

According to others' reports about Euripides' lost play about Telephus, he went to Aulis, pretending to be a beggar and asked Achilles to help heal his wound. Achilles refused, claiming to have no medical knowledge. Alternatively, Telephus held Orestes for ransom, the ransom being Achilles' aid in healing the wound. Odysseus reasoned that the spear had inflicted the wound and the spear must be able to heal it. Pieces of the spear were scraped off onto the wound, and Telephus healed. This is an example of sympathetic magic.

Heracles and Telephus, Louvre MR219

Heracles and Telephus, Chiaramonti 1314

History of Telephus from Pergamon (Click images to enlarge)


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