Epopeus (Ancient Greek: Ἐπωπεύς) was a mythical Greek king of Sicyon, with an archaic bird-name that linked him to epops (ἔποψ), the hoopoe, the "watcher". A fragment of Callimachus' Aitia ("Origins") appears to ask, "Why, at Sicyon, is it the hoopoe, and not the usual "splendid ravens", that is the bird of good omen?"
Epopeus was in fact the most memorable king at Sicyon and features in Euripides' Antiope. He founded a sanctuary of Athena on the Sicyonian acropolis where he performed victory rites, celebrating his victory over Theban intruders. Athena caused olive oil to flow before the shrine.
At Titane in Sicyonia, Pausanias saw an altar, in front of it a tumulus raised to the hero Epopeus, and, near to the barrow-tomb, the "Gods of Aversion"—the apotropai—"before whom are performed the ceremonies which the Hellenes observe for the averting of evils". In the etiological myth that accounted for the origin of rituals propitiating the daimon of Epopeus, it was told that Zeus impregnated Antiope, who, being the wife of Nycteus, fled in shame to Epopeus, king of Sicyon, abandoning her children, Amphion and Zethus. They were exposed on Mount Cithaeron, but, in a familiar mytheme, were found and brought up by a shepherd. Nycteus, unable to retrieve his wife, sent his brother Lycus to take her. He did so and gave her as a slave to his own wife, Dirce.
The name Nycteus signifies "of the night", as does Nyctimene in the following variant: according to accounts by the Roman Gaius Julius Hyginus and in Ovid's Metamorphoses (ii.590), an Epopeus was a king of Lesbos. He had sexual intercourse with his "nocturnal" daughter Nyctimene, whom Minerva in pity transformed into an owl, the bird that shuns the daylight.
- ↑ "Now the long list of Sicyonian kings which we find in Pausanias touches on bird lore at more than one juncture", Noel Robertson observes, in "Callimachus' Tale of Sicyon ('SH' 238)" Phoenix 53.1/2 (Spring 1999:57-79): a previous king at Sicyon was Korax, the "raven" king, son of Koronos (Pausanias 2.5.8), the "crow" king who was born of a love-match of Apollo, to whom the crow belonged; a later king at Sicyon took as a bride Φηνω, the "vulture" (Pausanias 2.6.5); in other locales one might compare Tereus, transformed into a hoopoe (Pausanias, 1.41.9); and Celeus, the "woodpecker" king in Eleusis— and indeed the Latin Picus, also a "woodpecker" king.
- ↑ The fragment is interpreted so by Noel Robertson, "Callimachus' Tale of Sicyon ('SH' 238)" Phoenix 53.1/2 (Spring 1999:57-79); Robertson continues by elucidating Epopeus.
- ↑ Pausanias, 2.11.1.
- ↑ Fabulae 204 and 253
- ↑ See also Hyginus, Fabula 204
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