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Son of Neleus and Chloris, ruler of the Messenian and Triphylian Pylus, and later also, after the extinction of the royal family there, of Messenia; wedded to Eurydice, by whom he had seven sons and two daughters. He was the only one of twelve sons of Neleus who escaped being slain by Heracles, since he was, it is said, living at the time among the Gerenians in Messenia, from whom he derives the name Gerenios, given him in Homer. After this disaster, the king of the Epeans, Augeas, illegally keeps back a four-horsed chariot, which Neleus has sent to Elis to compete in a contest. Neleus, as yet hardly a youth retaliates by driving off the herds of the Epeans; upon which the latter with a large army besiege the Pylian fortress of Thyroessa on the Eurotas. Neleus forms one of the relieving army, serving as a foot-soldier, owing to his father's having, from regard to his youth, had the war-horses concealed Ecom him. He slays in battle Augeas' son-in-law, and, fighting from the dead man's chariot, wins a most brilliant victory, so that the Pylians offer thanks to him among men even as they offer them to Zeus among the gods. In like manner in the war against the Arcadians, when he was the youngest of all the combatants, he killed the gigantic and much dreaded hero Ereuthalion. He also took an important part in the battle between the Centaurs and the Lapithae. In old age, when he was ruling over the third generation of his people, he was involved in the expedition against Troy, owing, as the story went, to the obligation incurred by his son Antilochus as a suitor of Helen; with Odysseus he gains the help of Achilles and Patroclus for the undertaking, and himself sails, in the company of his sons Antilochus and Thrasymedes, with 90 ships to the seat of war at Ilium. Here, according to Homer, "Neleus the horseman," in spite of his great age, takes a prominent part among the heroes in council and battle alike: the qualities which adorn him are wisdom, justice, eloquence ("from his lips flows language sweeter than honey" [Il. i 248]), experience in war, unwearied activity, and courage. All value and love him, none more than Agamemnon, who wishes that he had ten such counsellors: in that case, he says, Troy would soon fall [Il. ii 372]. He is so great a favourite with Homer that in ancient times it was conjectured that the poet was himself a native of Pylos. After the destruction of Troy he returns in safety with his son Thrasymedes to Pylos, Antilochus (q.v.) having for the sake of his father, who was in sore peril, sacrificed his own life in battle against Memnon. Ten years afterwards, Telemachus still finds him at Pylos, amidst his children, in the enjoyment of a cheerful and prosperous old age. [On the "cup of Nestor," see TOREUTIC ART.]
Type: Standard
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