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Melicertes

MELICERTES, in Greek legend, the son of the Boeotian prince Athamas and Ino, daughter of Cadmus. Ino, pursued by her husband, who had been driven mad by Hera because Ino had brought up the infant Dionysus, threw herself and Melicertes into the sea from a high rock between Megara and Corinth. Both were changed into marine deities Ino as Leucothea, Melicertes as Palaemon. The body of the latter was carried by a dolphin to the Isthmus of Corinth and deposited under a pine tree. Here it was found by his uncle Sisyphus, who had it removed to Corinth, and by command of the Nereids instituted the Isthmian games and sacrifices in his honour. There seems little doubt that the cult of Melicertes was of foreign, probably Phoenician, origin, and introduced by Phoenician navigators on the coasts and islands of the Aegean and Mediterranean. He is a native of Boeotia, where Phoenician influences were strong; at Tenedos he was propitiated by the sacrifice of children, which seems to point to his identity with Melkart. The premature death of the child in the Greek form of the legend is probably an allusion to this.

The Romans identified Palaemon with Portunus (the harbour god). No satisfactory origin of the name Palaemon has been riven. It has been suggested that it means the " wrestler " or struggler " (iraXaiu) and is an epithet of Heracles, who is often identified with Melkart, but there does not appear to be any traditional connexion between Heracles and Palaemon. Melicertes being Phoenician, Palaemon also has been explained as the " burning lord " (Baal-haman), but there seems little in common between a god of the sea and a god of fire.

See Apollodorus iii. 4, 3; Ovid, Metam. iv. 416-542, Fasti, vi. 485 ; Hyginus, Fab. 2 ; Pausanias i. 44, ii. I ; Philostratus, Icones, ii. 16; articles by Toutain in Daremberg and Saglio's Dictionnaire des antiquites and by Stoll in Roscher's Lexikon der Mylhologie ; L. Preller, Griechische Mythologie; R. Brown, Semitic Influence in Hellenic Mythology (1898).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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