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Homeric world (5)

Ancient myths

Aloadae - Otus & Ephialtes

The sons of Aloeus or of Poseidon by Iphimedeia. They were giants who kept Ares captured for thirteen months. When they tried to put Mount Ossa on top of Mount Olympus and then Pelion Mountain on top of Ossa in order to ascend to heaven, Apollo slew them (Il. 5.385, Od. 11.305).


Sons of Aloeus, the first to sacrifice to Muses on Helicon, they found Ascra


Aloadae, Aloeidae, Aloiadae (Aloeidai, Aloiaoai or Aloadai), are patronymic forms from Aloeus, but are used to designate the two sons of his wife Iphimedeia by Poseidon: viz. Otus and Ephialtes. The Aloeidae are renowned in the earliest stories of Greece for their extraordinary strength and daring spirit. When they were nine years old, each of their bodies measured nine cubits in breadth and twenty-seven in height. At this early age, they threatened the Olympian gods with war, and attempted to pile mount Ossa upon Olympus, and Pelion upon Ossa. They would have accomplished their object, says Homer, had they been allowed to grow up to the age of manhood; but Apollo destroyed them before their beards began to appear (Od. xi. 305). In the Iliad (v. 385; comp. Philostr. de Vit. Soph. ii. 1.1) the poet relates another feat of their early age. They put the god Ares in chains, and kept him imprisoned for thirteen months; so that he would have perished, had not Hermes been informed of it by Eriboea, and secretly liberated the prisoner. The same stories are related by Apollodorus (i. 7.4), who however does not make them perish in the attempt upon Olympus. According to him, they actually piled the mountains upon one another, and threatened to change land into sea and sea into land. They are further said to have grown every year one cubit in breadth and three in height. As another proof of their daring, it is related, that Ephialtes sued for the hand of Hera, and Otus for that of Artemis. But this led to their destruction in the island of Naxos (Comp. Pind. Pyth. iv. 156). Here Artemis appeared to them in the form of a stag, and ran between the two brothers, who, both aiming at the animal at the same time, shot each other dead. Hyginus (Fab. 28) relates their death in a similar manner, but makes Apollo send the fatal stag (Comp. Callim. Hymn. in Dian. 264; Apollon. Rhod. i. 484, with the Schol). As a punishment for their presumption, they were, in Hades, tied to a pillar with serpents, with their faces turned away from each other, and were perpetually tormented by the shrieks of an owl (Munck, ad Hygin. l. c.; Virg. Aen. vi. 582). Diodorus (v. 50), who does not mention the Homeric stories, contrives to give to his account an appearance of history. According to him, the Aloeidae are Thessalian heroes who were sent out by their father Aloeus to fetch back their mother Iphimedeia and her daughter Pancratis, who had been carried off by Thracians. After having overtaken and defeated the Thracians in the island of Strongyle (Naxos), they settled there as rulers over the Thracians. But soon after, they killed each other in a dispute which had arisen between them, and the Naxians worshipped them as heroes. The foundation of the town of Aloeium in Thessaly was ascribed to them (Steph. Byz. s. v.). In all these traditions the Aloeidae are represented as only remarkable for their gigantic physical strength; but there is another story which places them in a different light. Pausanias (ix. 29.1) relates, that they were believed to have been the first of all men who worshipped the Muses on mount Helicon, and to have consecrated this mountain to them; but they worshipped only three Muses--Melete, Mneme and Aoide, and founded the town of Ascra in Boeotia. Sepulchral monuments of the Aloeidae were seen in the time of Pausanias (ix. 22.5) near the Boeotian town of Anthedon. Later times fabled of their bones being seen in Thessaly (Philostr. i. 3). The interpretation of these traditions by etymologies from otheo and aloa, which has been attempted by modern scholars, is little satisfactory.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited April 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Editor's remarks

Worship of the Muses

Information about the Muses are found at Helicon Mountain where they were worshipped.


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