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Who is Pythius the Lydian?

Pythius the Lydian, host to Xerxes at Celainai in Herodotus 7, has previously been identified as the grandson of Croesus, but this identification has not been fully explored. This note first examines the figure of Pythius and his origins in the text of Herodotus. Although Pythius becomes a mythical figure in later writers such as Plutarch, Herodotus has deliberately created a coherent family line, despite his very disparate sources in the legend of Atys and story of Pythius’ son’s death. Secondly, the implications of Pythius’ identity in his encounters with Xerxes are discussed: Pythius embodies the hard-learned wisdom of the Mermnads, and of Xerxes’ predecessors, that no one can combat fate. It is ironic that Xerxes’ final encounter before the invasion of Europe, revealing both his great generosity and his great cruelty, should be with a man who has himself learnt the workings of fate, but whose actions Xerxes cannot imitate.

Author(s):  Lewis, Sian
Format:  Article
Date:  1998
Source:  Histos
Volume:  2