The Myth of Alcmaeon

Alcmaeon, son of Amphiaraus and Eriphyle, was a member of the campaign against Thebes, undertaken to avenge his father’s death. In battle, he proved extremely skilled and killed the king of Thebes, Laomedon, who was the son of Polyneices.

alcmaeonAlcmaeon, when he returned from the campaign against Thebes, decided to take revenge on his mother, Eriphyle, for the betrayal she had committed against him and his father. Polyneices, son of Oedipus, wished to campaign against Thebes to seize the throne from his brother, Eteocles. He asked for the help of the Seven Generals, among whom was Amphiaraus.

At first, Amphiaraus was reluctant to join, as as a seer of the future, he knew that only Adrastus would return alive from the campaign. Eriphyle managed to convince Amphiaraos to join the campaign with the promise that Polyneices would give her the famous necklace of Harmony. Indeed, Amphiaraos agreed and instructed his sons to kill their mother after the war and join the campaign against Thebes.

However, Eriphyle betrayed her sons and regained the mantle of Harmony from Polyneices’ son, Thersandros, to convince her sons to join the Epigoni campaign. Alcmaeon, after learning of Eriphyle’s bribery, killed her. This led to his persecution by the Erinyes for matricide. He was forced to seek refuge with king Phigeus of Arcadia, who helped him to purge himself of crime and gave him his daughter, Alphesiboia or Arsinoe, as wife. Despite this, the Erinyes continued to pursue him.

Alcmaeon then went to an oracle to ask for an oracle. There he was advised to go to a country where the sunlight did not reach when he committed matricide. Thus, he ended up at the mouth of the Achelous River, where the river’s alluvium had created a land that had no light from the sun because of his crime. There, he was purified a second time and married the daughter of the river, Calliroi.

Calliroe begged Alcmaeon to bring her the veil and necklace of Harmony, which Eriphyle had obtained as a reward for her double treachery. However, Alcmaeon had given them to Alphesiboia, the daughter of Phigeus. Under the pretense of dedicating them to the god Apollo, he took them back from her. However, Phigeus’ sons lured him into an ambush and killed him. But it didn’t take long for them to get their revenge, as Alcmaeon’s young sons, Acarnanes and Amphotes, killed them and turned the tide. Thus the righteous sons of Alcmaeon suddenly became men and avenged their father.