IDAS, in Greek legend, son of Aphareus of the royal house of Messene, brother of Lynceus. He is only mentioned in a single passage in Homer (Iliad, ix. 556 sqq.), where he is called the strongest of men on earth. He carried off Marpessa, daughter of Evenus, as his wife and dared to bend his bow against Apollo, who was also her suitor. Zeus intervened, and left the choice to Marpessa, who declared in favour of Idas, fearing that the god might desert her when she grew old (Apollodorus i. 7). The Apharetidae are best known for their fight with the Dioscuri.

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A quarrel had arisen about the division of a herd of cattle which the four had stolen. Idas claimed the whole of the booty as the victor in a contest of eating, and drove the cattle off to Messene. The Dioscuri overtook him and lay in wait in a hollow oak. But Lynceus, whose keenness of sight was proverbial, saw Castor through the trunk and warned his brother, who thereupon slew the mortal Castor; finally, Pollux slew Lynceus, and Idas was struck by lightning (Apollodorus iii. n; Pindar, Nem., x. 60; Pausanias iv. 3. i). According to others, the Dioscuri had carried off the daughters of Leucippus, who had been betrothed to the Apharetidae (Ovid, Fasti, v. 699; Theocritus xxii. 137). The scene of the combat is placed near the grave of Aphareus at Messene, at Aphidna in Attica, or in Laconia; and there are other variations of detail in the accounts (see also Hyginus, Fab. 80). Idas and Lynceus were originally gods of light, probably the Sun and Moon, the herd of cattle (for the possession of- which they strove with the Dioscuri) representing the heavenly bodies. The annihilation of the Apharetidae in the legend indicates the subordinate position held by the Messenians after the loss of their independence and subjugation by Sparta, the Dioscuri being distinctly Spartan, as the Apharetidae were Messenian heroes. The grave of Idas and Lynceus was shown at Sparta, according to Pausanias (iii. 13. i), whose own opinion, however, is that they were buried in Messenia. On the chest of Cypselus, Marpessa is represented as following Idas from the temple of Apollo (by whom, according to some, she had been carried off), and there was a painting by Polygnotus of the rape of the Leucippidae in the temple of the Dioscuri at Athens.

In the article GREEK ART, fig. 66 (PI. iv.) represents Idas and the Dioscuri driving off cattle.

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

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