SALMONEUS, in Greek mythology, son of Aeolus (king of Magnesia in Thessaly, the mythic ancestor of the Aeolian race), grandson of Hellen and brother of Sisyphus. He removed to Elis, where he built the town of Salmone, and became ruler of the country. His subjects were ordered to worship him under the name of Zeus; he built a bridge of brass, over which he drove at full speed in his chariot to imitate thunder, the effect being heightened by dried skins and caldrons trailing behind, while torches were thrown into the air to represent lightning. At last Zeus smote him with his thunderbolt, and destroyed the town (Apollodorus i. 9. 7; Hyginus, Fab. 60, 61; Strabo viii. p. 356; Manilius, Astronom. 5, 91; Virgil, Aen. vi. 585, with Heyne's excursus). Joseph Warton's idea that the story is introduced by Virgil as a protest against the Roman custom of deification is not supported by the general tone of the Aeneid itself. According to Frazer (Early History of the Kingship, 1905 ; see also Golden Bough, i., 1900, p. 82), the early Greek kings, who were expected to produce rain for the benefit of the crops, were in the habit of imitating thunder and lightning in the character of Zeus. At Crannon in Thessaly there was a bronze chariot, which in time of drought was shaken and prayers offered for rain (Antigonus of Carystus, Historiae mirabiles, 15). S. Reinach (Revue archeologique, 1903, i. 154) suggests that the story that Salmoneus was struck by lightning was due to the misinterpretation of a picture, in which a Thessalian magician appeared bringing down lightning and rain from heaven ; hence arose the idea that he was the victim of the anger or jealousy of Zeus, and that the picture represented his punishment.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)