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For other uses, see Autolycus (disambiguation).

In Greek mythology, Autolycus (/ɔːˈtɒlɪkəs/; Greek: Αὐτόλυκος Autolykos, "The Wolf Itself", or very wolf [1]) was a son of the Olympian god Hermes and Chione. He was the husband of Neaera,[2] or according to Homer,[3] of Amphithea. Autolycus fathered Anticlea (who married Laertes of Ithaca and was the mother of Odysseus) and several sons, of whom only Aesimus is named.

Life and major events[edit]

Autolycus was born the son of Hermes [4] and Chione [5] or Philonis.[6] He had a helmet to make him invisible.

Autolycus was conceived after Hermes had intercourse with the virgin Chione (Ovid 11). [7]

Pausanias states that Autolycus' real father was Daedalion (Pausanias 8. 4. 6.). [8]

Autolycus was husband to Mestra, daughter of Erysichthon (Ovid 8. 738) [9] (who could change her shape at will), or to Neaera (Pausanias 8. 4. 3), or to Amphithea (Homer, Odyssey, 19. 394). He became the father of Anticlea and Polymede, of whom the latter was the mother of Jason, the famous Argonaut who led a group of men to find the coveted Golden Fleece (Apollodorus 1.9.16). A different Autolycus, the son of Deimachus, was a part of the Argonauts who went on the journey to find the fleece.

Through Anticleia, Autolycus was also the grandfather of the famous warrior Odysseus (Homer 24.330), and he was responsible for the naming of the child as well. This happened when the nurse of the child Eurycleia "laid the child upon his knees and spoke, and addressed him: Autolycus, find now thyself a name to give to thy child's own child; be sure he has long been prayed for" (Homer 19.386-403).

Autolycus obtained most of the same skills that his supposed father Hermes possesses, such as the art of theft, trickery (Hyginus 201), and skill with the lyre and gracious song (Ovid 11. 301). It was said that he "loved to make white of black, and black of white, from a hornless animal to a horned one, or from horned one to a hornless" (Hyginus 201). He was given the gift that his thievery could not be caught by anyone (Hyginus 201).

He put his skills to the test when he stole the helmet of the great warrior and his grandson, Odysseus, "he had broken into the stout-built house of Amyntor, son of Ormenus; and he gave it to Amphidamas of Cythera to take to Scandeia, and Amphidamas gave it to Molus as a guest-gift, but he gave it to his own son Meriones to wear; and now, being set thereon, it covered the head of Odysseus" (Homer 10.254 I). Autolycus, master of thievery, was also well known for stealing Sisyphus' herd right from underneath him. Sisyphus, who was commonly known for being a crafty king that killed guests, seduced his niece and stole his brothers' throne (Hyginus 50-99) and was banished to the throes of Tartarus by the gods.

Heracles, the great Greek hero, was taught the art of wrestling by Autolycus (Apollodorus 2.4.9). However, Autolycus was a source of some controversy in Heracles' life, because Autolycus stole some cattle from Euboea and Eurytus, who accused Heracles of the deed and, upon his going mad about these accusations, Heracles killed them plus another one of Autolycus' sons, Iphitus. This led to Heracles serving three years of punishment for the deed to repent for this (Apollodorus 2.6.3).

Cultural references[edit]

Although not as well known as many other Greek mythological figures, Autolycus has appeared in a number of works of fiction.

  • A comic thief in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale boasts that he is named after Autolycus and, like the latter's father, Mercury/Hermes, is "a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles".
  • Autolycus is the name of Debbie Aldridge's horse in the BBC Radio 4 series The Archers.
  • Autolycus is the name of a midget submarine owned by the Lost Boys, the thieves of Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines series of books.
  • Autolycus appears in an episode of the Canadian television series Class of the Titans episode "Bad Blood" voiced by Joseph May. He was hired by Cronus to steal Hercules's last surviving arrow.
  • The superhero/trickster figure of Uncle Sam in Robert Coover's The Public Burning (1977, New York, Grove Books) is described in the following terms (p. 7): "American Autolycus, they called him in the Gospels, referring to his cunning powers of conjuration, transmutation, and magical consumption (he can play the shell game, not with a mere pea, but with whole tin mines, forests, oil fields, mountain ranges, and just before Thanksgiving this past year made an entire island disappear!)”.
  • In the game Age of Empires Online, there's an army of computer-controlled opponents, who call themselves the Followers of Autolycus, must be defeated during several quests of the Greek civilization.


  1. ^ KJ Gutzwiller (associate professor of classics at the University of Cincinnati c.1991) -. Theocritus' Pastoral Analogies: The Formation of a Genre (p.37). Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1991 ISBN 0299129446. Retrieved 2015-04-12. (ed. < very wolf >)
  2. ^ Pausanias viii. 4. § 3 (cited in Smith)
  3. ^ Odyssey xix. 394, &c. (cited in Smith)
  4. ^ Bibliotheca, Library 1.9.16
  5. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 201
  6. ^ Catalogue of Women fr. 64.
  7. ^ Ovid - Metamorphoses - Book the Eleventh : The Transformation of Daedalion Translated by Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al (MIT) [Retrieved 2015-04-12](ed. < ... unresisted revels in her arms ... >)
  8. ^ Pausanias - Pausanias's Description of Greece (p.lix) translated by J G Frazer Cambridge University Press, 10 May 2012 ISBN 1108047238 [Retrieved 2015-04-12]
  9. ^ I Ziogas (Lecturer in Classics at the Australian National University, Canberra) - Ovid and Hesiod: The Metamorphosis of the Catalogue of Women (p.136) Cambridge University Press, 11 Apr 2013 ISBN 1107007410 [Retrieved 2015-04-12](ed. the author (I Ziogas) states a detail of Ovid 8. 738, < Mestra is not actually mentioned by name in Ovid 8. 738 >)
  10. ^ Murray, Nicholas, biography on Aldous Huxley 2002.


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autolycus — Please support Wikipedia.
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649 news items

Broadway World
Fri, 09 Oct 2015 21:30:00 -0700

Personal career favorites include Autolycus in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of The Winter's Tale, Pistol for the same company in Henry V, Malvolio in both Kennedy Center and Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival versions of Twelfth Night, ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Tue, 06 Oct 2015 23:22:30 -0700

There are occasional jolts (the character of Autolycus, reimagined as a used-car salesman, loses something in translation), but the richness of her language, the swing and swoop of her sentences, smooths out the transitions and eases us over the joins.
Broadway World
Wed, 07 Oct 2015 11:56:15 -0700

The cast with feature Steven Barkhimer* - Autolycus, Marianna Bassham*-Paulina, Allyn Burrows*-Leontes, Austyn Davis-Perdita, Nigel Gore*-Polixenes, Jesse Hinson*-Camillo, Mara Sidmore*-Hermione and Felix Teich-Florizel. Designers include Cristina ...
The Independent
Sun, 04 Oct 2015 03:41:15 -0700

Shakespeare's lovable rogue, Autolycus, becomes – brilliant, this – a used car dealer: Autos Like Us. As for the famous, redemptive ending where a statue of Hermione comes to life … Winterson takes inspiration from the line “music, awake her” in ...


Thu, 01 Oct 2015 12:05:19 -0700

MiMi, a famous singer, is silenced by the death of her son and the disappearance of her daughter.Tony Gonzales does not "exit, pursued by a bear," but is murdered instead. Autolycus becomes a "wheeler-dealer. A dealer in wheels. A soapbox salesman with ...

Strand (subscription)

Strand (subscription)
Wed, 07 Oct 2015 08:14:20 -0700

We are introduced to a host of new characters, most notably the rogue Autolycus, played by Kevin Wong, who did a fantastic job of bringing laughter and warmth to the stage on an extremely cold night—The Winter's Tale was aptly named. Songs were ...

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal
Wed, 23 Sep 2015 11:48:41 -0700

Like Autolycus in “The Winter's Tale,” I'm a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles. The most luxurious trip I've ever taken was: flying first class to the Maldives, where I spent two weeks on a blissful, sun-kissed atoll. If I were 25 and childless: I'd ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Sat, 26 Sep 2015 02:00:36 -0700

And being Shakespeare there's always a joker – in his case Autolycus, a pedlar and a rogue, in my case the dodgy dealer who runs a garage called Autos Like Us. I inverted the structure of the play so that the opening chapter blasts us straight into a ...

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