Phineus with the Boreads.

In Greek mythology, Phineus[1] (/ˈfɪnəs, ˈfɪn.js/; Ancient Greek: Φινεύς, Ancient Greek: [pʰiː.neǔs]) or Phineas, was a king of Salmydessus in Thrace[2] and seer, who appears in accounts of the Argonauts' voyage.[3] Some accounts make him a king in Paphlagonia[4] or in Arcadia.[5]


Several different versions of Phineus's parentage were presented in ancient texts. According to Apollonius of Rhodes, he was a son of Agenor,[6] but the Bibliotheca says that other authors named his father as Poseidon (who is the father of Agenor).[7] The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, on the other hand, reported that Phineus was the son of Phoenix[8] and Cassiopeia.[9][10]

His first wife was Cleopatra, daughter of Boreas and Oreithyia, by whom he had a pair of sons, named Plexippus and Pandion,[11] or Gerymbas and Aspondus,[12] or Polydector (Polydectus) and Polydorus,[13] or Parthenius and Crambis,[14] or Oryithus (Oarthus) and Crambis[citation needed]. His second wife, Idaea, daughter of the Scythian king Dardanus[15] (less commonly Dia,[16] Eidothea, sister of Cadmus,[17] or Eurytia[18]), deceived him into blinding these sons, a fate Phineus himself would suffer.[19]

By his second wife, or by a Scythian concubine,[20] Phineus had two more sons, Mariandynus and Thynus.[21] According to some sources, he also had two daughters, Eraseia and Harpyreia[22] while another daughter Olizone was called the wife of Dardanus, who was the son of Zeus and Electra, and became the mother of Erichthonius.[23]

Comparative table of Phineus' family
Relation Names Source
Homer Hesiod Sophocles Apollon. Diodo. Ovid Valer. Apollod. Dictys Nonnus Tzetzes Unknown
Sch. Ody. Ehoiai Sch. Anti. Argo. Sch. Sch. Ibis
Parentage Phoenix and Cassiopeia
Wife Cleopatra (1st wife)
First wife
Children Gerymbas
Polydector (Polydectus)
Oryithus (Oarthus)


Apollo was said to have given the gift of prophecy to Phineus,[24] but the latter's own blinding was variously attributed to the outrage against his sons,[25] his giving Phrixus directions on his journey,[26] or because he preferred long life to sight,[27] or, as reported in the Argonautica (thus the best-known version), for revealing the future to mankind.[28] For this reason he was also tormented by the Harpies, who stole or defiled whatever food he had at hand or, according to the Catalogue of Women, drove Phineus himself to the corners of the world.[29] According to scholia on the Odyssey, when asked by Zeus if he preferred to die or lose sight as punishment for having his sons killed by their stepmother, Phineus chose the latter saying he would rather never see the sun, and consequently it was the scorned Helios who sent the Harpies against him.[18] In yet another version, he blinded Phineus at the request of his son Aeëtes, who asked him to do so because Phineus offered his assistance to Aeëtes' enemies.[30][31] Alternatively the agent of punishment was Poseidon.[30] However the Harpies plagued him, deliverance from this curse motivated Phineus's involvement in the voyage of the Argo.[32] Those accounts in which Phineus is stated to have blinded his sons, add that they had their sight restored to them by the sons of Boreas,[33] or by Asclepius.[34]

When the ship landed by his Thracian home, Phineus described his torment to the crew and told them that his brothers-in-law, the wing-footed Boreads, both Argonauts, were fated to deliver him from the Harpies.[35] Zetes demurred, fearing the wrath of the gods should they deliver Phineus from divine punishment, but the old seer assured him that he and his brother Calais would face no retribution.[36] A trap was set: Phineus sat down to a meal with the Boreads standing guard, and as soon as he touched his food the Harpies swept down, devoured the food and flew off.[37] The Boreads gave chase, pursuing the Harpies as far as the "Floating Islands" before Iris stopped them lest they kill the Harpies against the will of the gods.[38] She swore an oath by the Styx that the Harpies would no longer harass Phineus, and the Boreads then turned back to return to the Argonauts. It is for this reason, according to Apollonius, that the "Floating Islands" are now called the Strophades, the "Turning Islands".[39] Phineus then revealed to the Argonauts the path their journey would take and informed them how to pass the Symplegades safely, thus partially filling the same role for Jason that Circe did for Odysseus in the Odyssey.[32]

A now-lost play about Phineus, Phineus, was written by Aeschylus and was the first play in the trilogy that included The Persians, produced in 472 B.C.[40] Eventually, Helios transformed Phineus into a mole, a blind creature, over some unspecific insult.[41]

The story of Phineus and Cleopatra is briefly mentioned in Sophocles' Antigone.[42]


  1. ^ The name is occasionally rendered "Phineas" in popular culture, as in the film Jason and the Argonauts. "Phineus" may be associated with the ancient city of Phinea (or Phineopolis) on the Thracian Bosphorus.[citation needed]
  2. ^ Scholia on Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.178, 237; Scholia ad eund 2.177; Apollodorus, 1.9.21
  3. ^ Bremmer (1996), Dräger (2007).
  4. ^ Scholia on Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.178, 237; Scholia ad eund 2.177; Eustathius ad Homer, Iliad 2.851, ad Dionysius Periegetes, 787; Stephanus of Byzantium, s.v.; Constantine Porphyrogennetos, De thematibus 1.7; William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography s.v. Paphlagonia
  5. ^ Servius, Commentary on Virgil's Aeneid 3.209
  6. ^ Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.236–7
  7. ^ Apollodorus, 1.9.21
  8. ^ Pseudo-Scymnos, Circuit de la terre 953 ff.
  9. ^ Hesiod, Ehoiai fr. 138 (Merkelbach & West 1967); Scholia on Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.178
  10. ^ Phineus was the grandson of Agenor as the son of Phoenix according to Pherecydes and Antimachus as cited in George W. Mooney, Commentary on Apollonius: Argonautica vs Phineus
  11. ^ Apollodorus, 3.15.3
  12. ^ Scholia on Sophocles, Antigone 977 (ed. Brunck)
  13. ^ Scholia on Ovid, Ibis 273
  14. ^ Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, 2.140; Dräger (2007)
  15. ^ Diodorus Siculus, 4.43.3–4; Apollodorus, 3.15.3; Tripp, s.v. Dardanus (2) p. 190
  16. ^ Scholia on Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.178
  17. ^ Scholia on Sophocles, Antigone 989
  18. ^ a b Scholia on Homer, Odyssey 12.69
  19. ^ Scholia on Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.178; Sophocles, Antigone 966–76
  20. ^ Idaea and the Scythian concubine might be the same.
  21. ^ Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, 2.140
  22. ^ Tzetzes, Chiliades 1.220; on Lycophron, Alexandra 166
  23. ^ Dictys Cretensis, 3.5 & 4.22
  24. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 19
  25. ^ Sophocles, fr. 704 Radt
  26. ^ Megalai Ehoiai fr. 254 (Merkelbach & West 1967).
  27. ^ Hesiod, Ehoiai fr. 157 (Merkelbach & West 1967)
  28. ^ Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.178–86
  29. ^ Phineus' food: Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.187–201; his wandering torment: Hesiod, Ehoiai fr. 157 (Merkelbach & West 1967)
  30. ^ a b Fowler, p. 222, vol. II
  31. ^ Gantz, pp 352–353
  32. ^ a b Dräger (2007).
  33. ^ Orphic Argonautica 674
  34. ^ Scholia ad Pindar, Pythian Odes 13.96
  35. ^ Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.234–9
  36. ^ Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.244–61
  37. ^ Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.263–72
  38. ^ Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.282–7
  39. ^ Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.288–97
  40. ^ Thomson, G. (1973). Aeschylus and Athens (4 ed.). Lawrence & Wishart. p. 279.
  41. ^ Pseudo-Oppian, Cynegetica 2.615
  42. ^ Sophocles (1984). The Three Theban Plays. Translated by Fagles, Robert. New York City: Penguin Classics. p. 109.


Further reading