In Greek mythology, Catreus (English translation: "down-flowing") was a king of Crete and a son of Minos and Pasiphaë.[1] He had one son, Althaemenes, and three daughters, Apemosyne, Aerope and Clymene. Catreus was mistakenly killed by his son thereby fulfilling an oracle.

According to Apollodorus' account,[2] an oracle told Catreus that one of his children would kill him. Although Catreus kept the prophecy secret, his son Althaemenes found out, and fearing that he would kill his father, took his sister Apemosyne and left Crete for Rhodes. Catreus gave his other daughters to Nauplius to be sold off in foreign lands: Aerope married Pleisthenes,[3] and Clymene married Nauplius. Years later, Catreus sailed the seas searching for his son, the heir to the throne. His ship stopped at Rhodes and was mistaken for a pirate ship. Althaemenes and others attacked the 'invaders', and the prophecy came to pass; Catreus died at the hands of his son, from a javelin blow. Diodorus Siculus, gives a slightly different version of the story,[4] saying that an oracle had been given to Althaemenes which said that he was destined to kill his father. Another tradition, followed by Sophocles in his play Ajax and by Euripides in the lost play Kressai,[5] was that Catreus found Aerope in bed with a slave and sent her to Nauplius to be drowned.[6]

The story of Catreus shares similarities with stories told about Aleus, king of Tegea. In these stories,[7] Aleus received an oracle that his grandson would kill Aleus' sons, so Aleus took measures to keep his daughter Auge a virgin, nevertheless Auge became pregnant (by Heracles) and Aleus (as did Catreus) gives his daughter to Nauplius, to be drowned but instead Nauplius sold her to the Mysian king Tethras, who adopts her son Telephus, as his heir. As an adult Telephus returns to Tegea and unknowingly kills his uncles.

According to Apollodorus, Menelaus, Aerope's son, was away at Catreus' funeral, when Paris took Helen to Troy.[8]


  1. Apollodorus, 3.2.1; Diodorus Siculus, 4.60.4. Pausanias, 8.53.4 says that while the Cretans claim Catreus was the son of Minos, that according to the Tegeans, Catreus was the son of Tegeates.
  2. Apollodorus, 3.2.
  3. In other places, Apollodorus says Aerope married Atreus, see E.2.10, E.3.12.
  4. Diodorus Siculus, 5.59.1–4
  5. Gantz, I p. 271.
  6. Sophocles, Ajax 1295–1297 with Jebb's note to 1295. Euripides' treatment of the story is according to the scholiast on Sophocles' Ajax 1297, see Collard and Cropp, pp. 520–522, Jebb's note to Ajax 1295, Webster, pp. 37–38 and Gantz, I p. 271.
  7. Alcidamas, Odysseus 14-16 (Garagin and Woodruff, p. 286); Apollodorus, 2.7.4, 3.9.1; Diodorus Siculus, 4.33.7–12; Pausanias, 8.48.7.
  8. Apollodorus, E.3.3.


  • Apollodorus, Apollodorus, The Library, with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921.
  • Collard, Christopher and Martin Cropp, Euripides Fragments: Aegeus–Meleanger, Loeb Classical Library (June 30, 2008). ISBN 978-0-674-99625-0.
  • Diodorus Siculus, Diodorus Siculus: The Library of History. Translated by C. H. Oldfather. Twelve volumes. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. 1989. Vol. 3. Books 4.359–8. ISBN 0-674-99375-6.
  • Gantz, Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996, Two volumes: ISBN 978-0-8018-5360-9 (Vol. 1), ISBN 978-0-8018-5362-3 (Vol. 2).
  • Garagin, M., P. Woodruff, Early Greek Political thought from Homer to the Sophists, Cambridge 1995. ISBN 978-0-521-43768-4
  • Pausanias, Pausanias Description of Greece with an English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A., in 4 Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1918. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Sophocles, The Ajax of Sophocles. Edited with introduction and notes by Sir Richard Jebb. Sir Richard Jebb. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 1893.
  • Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Creteus"
  • Webster, Thomas Bertram Lonsdale, The Tragedies of Euripides, Methuen & Co, 1967 ISBN 978-0-416-44310-3.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Catreus. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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