For the skipper butterfly genus, see Gorgythion (butterfly).
Born perhaps 12th century BC
Died Troy
Residence Troy
Nationality Trojan
Occupation soldier
Parents Priam and Castianeira
Relatives Hector, Paris, Deiphobus, Helenus, Polites, Antiphus, Hipponous, Polydorus, Creusa, Laodice, Polyxena, Cassandra, Troilus, Hippothous, Kebriones

In Greek mythology, Gorgythion (Greek: Γοργυθίων, gen.: Γοργυθίωνος) was one of the sons of King Priam of Troy at the time of the Trojan War and appears as a minor character in Homer's Iliad. His mother was Castianeira of Aisyme.[1]



Map of the Troad.

Those scholars who believe that the Trojan War was a real war generally date it to the 12th or 11th centuries BC. The dates given for the war by Eratosthenes, which are 1194–1184 BC, are a little later than the archaeological evidence of the burning of Troy VII, excavated by Manfred Korfmann in the 1980s.[2]


Near the end of the Iliad, Priam himself tells Achilles: "I begat the bravest sons in wide Troy, of whom I say that none are left. Fifty there were to me, when the sons of the Greeks arrived; nineteen indeed from one womb, but the others women bore to me in my palaces. And of the greater number fierce Mars indeed has relaxed the knees under them..."[3] Gorgythion is referred to at his death as "...the brave son of Priam".[4] Of Gorgythion's mother Castianeira, Homer says (in Samuel Butler's translation) "His mother, fair Castianeira, lovely as a goddess, had been married from Aesyme."[5]

Apollodorus of Athens says that Priam had nine sons and four daughters by Hecuba (the sons being Hector, Paris, Deiphobus, Helenus, Pammon, Polites, Antiphus, Hipponous, Polydorus, and the daughters Creusa, Laodice, Polyxena, and the prophetess Cassandra), and he names thirty-eight sons by other women, including Troilus, Hippothous, Kebriones, and Gorgythion.[6]

In the Fabulae of Gaius Julius Hyginus, fable 90 consists wholly of a list of "Sons and daughters of Priam to the number of fifty-five", in which Gorgythion is included.[7]

Name and description

In the Iliad, Gorgythion is described as beautiful, and his epithet is the blameless.[4] Jane Ellen Harrison pointed out[8] that "blameless" (άμύμων) was an epithet of the heroized dead, who were venerated and appeased at shrines. Zeus even applies the epithet to Aegisthus, the usurper, Harrison observes.

"The epithet άμύμων in Homer is applied to individual heroes, to a hero's tomb [Odyssey xxiv.80], to magical, half-mythical peoples like the Phaeacians and Aethiopians [Iliad x.423] who to the popular imagination are half canonized, to the magic island [Odyssey xii.261] of the god Helios, to the imaginary half-magical Good Old King [Odyssey xix.109]. It is used also of the 'convoy' [Iliad vi.171] sent by the gods, which of course is magical in character; it is never, I believe, an epithet of the Olympians themselves. There is about the word a touch of what is magical and demonic rather than actually divine."

In applying "blameless" to Gorgythion, then, the poet may have been reflecting a tradition of cult among his descendents, that was known to Homer or in the Homeric tradition. John Pairman Brown has suggested that Gorgythion's name "surely echoes the Gergithes; the 'Gergithes remnants of the Teucrians' are projected back into the heroic age as individual antagonists".[9]

According to Herodotus, the Gergithes were "the remnants of the ancient Teucrians" (that is, of the ancient Trojans).[10]


Gorgythion is killed by an arrow of Teucer's at lines 303-305 of Book VIII of the Iliad, although Teucer's target is Gorgythion's brother Hector. Teucer aims two arrows at Hector, but kills first Gorgythion and next Hector's friend Archeptolemus, which serves to increase the impression of Hector's elusiveness and strength.[11]

When Gorgythion dies, Homer says[4] -

And as a poppy, which in the garden is weighed down with fruit and vernal showers, droops its head to one side, so did his head incline aside, depressed by the helmet.

Susanne Lindgren Wofford comments on this simile "But the poppy is not wilted or dead, just top-heavy; in any case, a poppy will return every spring to bow its head, but Gorgythion's death is final; it is a unique event that does not participate in any natural cycles of renewal or return... to make death seem beautiful is to transform it into something different."[12]

In Alexander Pope's looser but more poetic translation (1715–1720), the death scene reads[13] -

The weapon flies
At Hector’s breast, and sings along the skies:
He miss’d the mark; but pierced Gorgythio’s heart,
And drench’d in royal blood the thirsty dart.
(Fair Castianira, nymph of form divine,
This offspring added to king Priam’s line.)
As full-blown poppies, overcharged with rain,
Decline the head, and drooping kiss the plain;
So sinks the youth: his beauteous head, depress’d
Beneath his helmet, drops upon his breast.

This translation of the Iliad was called by Samuel Johnson "a performance which no age or nation could hope to equal", while Richard Bentley wrote: "It is a pretty poem, Mr Pope, but you must not call it Homer."[14]

In the 4th century AD, a Roman called Q. Septimius published Dictys Cretensis Ephemeridos belli Trojani, purporting to be a translation by Lucius Septimius of a chronicle of the Trojan War by Dictys of Crete, the companion of Idomeneus during the Trojan War. In Book 3, Patroclus, and not Teucer, is said to have killed Gorgythion[15]:

Patroclus, however, had seen the enemy coming. Protected by his armor and holding a spear he had snatched from the ground, he resisted more boldly. He slew Gorgythion and drove off Deiphobus, Gorgythion’s brother, wounding him in the leg with his spear.

Other uses of the name

See also


  1. ^ "There was an historical town of Oisyme, lying at the foot of Pangaios, and this is commonly identified with the Homeric Aisyme. This may be right; there is at least no other candidate for the position," Walter Leaf noted, with the reservation— because of the later presence in the Troad of the Gergythes that Herodotus regarded as ancient inhabitants— that Aisyme might have been an otherwise unnoted town in the environs of Troy. (Leaf, Troy: A Study in Homeric Geography 1912:274). Of Oisyme Leaf noted Thucydides, iv.107, and afterwards called Emathia, from Stephanus Byzantinicus. Oisyme has no entry in Richard Stillwell, et al., eds. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. (Princeton University Press) 1976.
  2. ^ Latacz, Joachim, Troy and Homer: towards a solution of an old mystery, Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0199263086
  3. ^ Homer, Iliad 24.495-497 (Buckley's translation)
  4. ^ a b c Iliad, trans. Theodore Alois Buckley (1873): "...but in the breast he struck blameless Gorgythion with an arrow, the brave son of Priam."
  5. ^ Samuel Butler, Iliad (trans.) online at gutenberg.org (Accessed: 22 January 2008)
  6. ^ Apollodorus. Chronicle, 3.12.5.
  7. ^ Hyginus, Fables 50 - 99, translated by Mary Grant
  8. ^ Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, 3rd ed. 1922:334; she credited Gilbert Murray with the observation concerning "blameless".
  9. ^ Brown, John Pairman, Israel and Hellas, vol. II (Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and New York, 2000), p. 195.
  10. ^ Herodotus, The Histories, 5.122
  11. ^ The Virtual Iliad, online at thinkquest.org (accessed 21 January 2008)
  12. ^ Wofford, Susanne Lindgren. The Choice of Achilles: The Ideology of Figure in the Epic. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992.
  13. ^ The Iliad of Homer, translated by Alexander Pope, with notes by the Rev. Theodore Alois Buckley MA FSA, 1899 edition
  14. ^ Shankman, Steven, Pope's Iliad: Homer in the Age of Passion, Princeton University Press, 1983
  15. ^ DICTYS CRETENSIS BOOK 3 TRANS. BY R. M. FRAZER online at theoi.com (accessed 23 January 2008)
  16. ^ Gorgythion, Godman and Salvin, 1896 at itis.gov (accessed 23 January 2008)
  17. ^ F. D. Godman & O. Salvin (eds.), Biologia Centrali Americana: Zoologia-Insecta-Diptera, London, 1896
  18. ^ 48373 Gorgythion (2161 T-3) online at jpl.nasa.gov (accessed 21 January 2008)

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