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MELAMPUS

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Son of Amythaon (see Ae0LUS, 1) and of Eidomene; brother of Bias, the oldest Greek seer, and ancestor of the family of seers called Melampodidae. The brothers went with their uncle Neleus froin Thessaly to Pylus in Messenia, where they dwelt in the country. Melampus owed his gift of soothsaying to some serpents, which he had saved from death and reared, and who in return cleansed his ears with their tongues when he slept; on awaking he understood the voices of birds and thus learnt what was secret. When Neleus would only give Bias his beautiful daughter Pero on condition that he first brought him the oxen of Iphiclus of Phylace in Thessaly, which were guarded by a watchful dog, Melampus offered to fetch the oxen for his brother, though he knew beforehand that he would be imprisoned for a year. He is caught in the act of stealing them, and kept in strict confinement. From the talk of the worms in the woodwork of the roof he gathers that the house will soon fall to pieces. He thereupon demands to be taken to another prison ; this is scarcely done, when the house breaks down. When, on account of this, Phylacus, father of Iphiclus, perceives his prophetic gifts, he promises him the oxen, if by his art he will find out some way of curing his son's childlessness. Melampus offers a bull to Zeus, cuts it in pieces, and invites the birds to the meal. From these he hears that a certain vulture, that had not come, knew how it could be effected. This vulture is made to appear, and relates, that the defect in Iphiclus was the result of a sudden fright at seeing a bloody knife, with which his father had been castrating some goats; he had dug the knife into a tree, which had grown round about it; if he took some of the rust scraped off it, for ten days, he would be cured. Melampus finds the knife, cures Iphiclus, obtains the oxen, and Bias receives Pero for his wife. Afterwards he went to Argos, because, according to Homer [Od. xv 225-240] Neleus had committed a serious offence against him in his absence, for which he had taken revenge; while, according to the usual account he had been asked by king Proetus to heal his daughter, stricken with madness for acting impiously towards Dionysus or Hera. He had stipulated that his reward should be a third of the kingdom for himself, another for Bias; besides which Iphianassa became his wife, and Lysippe that of Bias, both being daughters of Proetus. A descendant of his son Antiphates was Oicles, who was a companion of Heracles in the expedition against Troy, and was slain in battle by Laomedon; he again was ancestor of the seer and hero Amphiaraus. Descendants of his other son Mantius were Cleitus, whom Eos, the goddess of dawn, carried off on account of his beauty, and Polypheides, whom, after the death of Amphiaraus, Apollo made the best of seers. The son of Polypheides was the seer Theoclymenus, who, flying from Argos on account of committing a murder, met Telemachus at Pylus, was led by him to Ithaca, and announced to Penelope the presence in Ithaca of Odysseus, and to the suitors their approaching death. The seer Polyidus (q.v.) was also said to be a great-grandson of Melampus. At Argos Melampus was held to be the first priest of Dionysus, and originator of mysterious customs at festivals and at ceremonies of expiation.
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