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For other uses, see Autolycus (disambiguation).

In Greek mythology, Autolycus (/ɔːˈtɒlɪkəs/; Greek: Αὐτόλυκος Autolykos, "The Wolf Itself") was a son of the Olympian god Hermes and Chione. He was the husband of Neaera,[1] or according to Homer,[2] 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[3] and Chione[4] or Philonis.[5] He had a helmet to make him invisible. Autolycus was conceived after Hermes raped the virgin Chione, having caused her to fall asleep by touching her face (Ovid 11. 301). However, Pausanias states that Autolycus' real father was Daedalion (Pausanias 8. 4. 7.)

Autolycus was husband to Mestra, daughter of Erysichthon (Ovid 8. 738) (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.

  • Autolycus appears as a paragon of thievery in Thomas De Quincey's "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts".
  • 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 appears in Diana Wynne Jones' book The Game as a very mischievous brat.
  • In the television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, Autolycus appears as a comical antihero, portrayed by cult actor Bruce Campbell, who has a kinder heart than he lets on. As the self-proclaimed "King of Thieves", he is depicted as a thief of great cunning but even greater ego, which typically results in him getting in over his head in one scenario after another.
  • Autolycus is the name of a fictional racehorse in the 1934 film The Clairvoyant, starring Claude Rains.
  • 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 is the name of a pet jackdaw belonging to the fictional detective Albert Campion in the novels by Margery Allingham.
  • Autolycus appears in an episode of the Canadian television series Class of the Titans, stealing Hercules's last surviving arrow for Cronus.
  • 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!)”.
  • Autolycus was the penname Aldous Huxley used when writing the 'Marginalia′ column in the Athenaeum.[6]
  • 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.
  • Autolycus was portrayed by Rufus Sewell in the 2014 movie Hercules portrayed by Dwayne Johnson.


  1. ^ Pausanias viii. 4. § 3 (cited in Smith)
  2. ^ Odyssey xix. 394, &c. (cited in Smith)
  3. ^ Bibliotheca, Library 1.9.16
  4. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 201
  5. ^ Catalogue of Women fr. 64.
  6. ^ Murray, Nicholas, biography on Aldous Huxley 2002.


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autolycus — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
1617 videos foundNext > 

Autolycus, King of Thieves

Because there just aren't enough vids of Bruce Campbell as Auto!

Bruce Campbell Little Goody Two Shoes

Little Goody Two Shoes routine from both TV series Hercules (Bruce as Autolycus) and the movie Evil Dead: Army of Darkness (Bruce as Ash). Pretty fun how lit...

Xena - Royal Couple of Thieves - Season 1 (Catching Autolycus)

Geraldine Jacobsen doubling with Lucy Lawless as Xena in the Season 1 Episode "Royal Couple of Thieves". Here Xena chases down and captures Autolycus (Bruce ...

Autolycus - Smooth Criminal

I've been sitting on this video for a while; I think its about time I finally uploaded it =) No copyright infringement intended.

Autolycus - I need a hero

Another one of my fav TV caracters... )) Autolycus from "Hercules adventures" )


A little tribute to the one and only Autolycus - the King of Thieves! The music is from "The Piano" movie soundtrack - the exact name of the piece is "The Fl...

Hard to be humble Autolycus.wmv

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble, with Autolycus from Hercules the Legendary Journey. The song rather was a character description for the King of Thieves. Song...

Autolycus Monologue

"Winter's Tale" Act IV, scene iii.

Xena (Autolycus)

Königliche Diebe Originaltitel: The Royal Couple of Thieves.


Autolycus Video.

1617 videos foundNext > 

972 news items

The Virginian-Pilot
Tue, 18 Nov 2014 09:13:30 -0800

Sewell in particular talks about how he based the knife-throwing Autolycus on James Coburn's Britt. There are 16 deleted scenes, most included in the Extended Cut, including an alternate ending that hints of further adventures. In most recent Hercules ...
Broadway World
Tue, 28 Oct 2014 11:45:00 -0700

... All's Well; Frank Gulick, Tone Clusters; Mangan, Heartbreak House; Wolff, Royal Family; Falstaff, Merry Wives of Windsor (LA Drama Critics Circle Award); Autolycus, Winter's Tale; Matt Friedman, Talley's Folly (with his wife Katherine James); many ...


Thu, 06 Nov 2014 10:00:00 -0800

Herc, accompanied by his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), the amazon Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), and Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), and his own nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). Here's a chance for screenwriters Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos to ...

DVD Talk

DVD Talk
Sun, 02 Nov 2014 05:30:00 -0800

The mighty Hercules (Johnson) now travels with a band of trusted warriors including loyal Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), archer Atalanta (Ingrid Berdal), beast-like Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), oracle Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), and Hercules' nephew Iolaus (Reece ...

Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg Free Press
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 00:03:45 -0800

... surrounded by a loyal entourage of warriors, including the soothsayer Amphiaurus (a very comic Ian McShane), the mute, feral Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), the strapping Amazon Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and his knife-throwing BFF Autolycus (Rufus ...


Tue, 04 Nov 2014 09:13:46 -0800

Along with Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell) and Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Hercules and Atalanta agree to help the King of Thrace defeat a nefarious warlord in director Brett Ratner's epic adventure. I recently had the chance to speak ...
Thu, 27 Nov 2014 08:41:15 -0800

Tutto questo è reso possibile dalla conoscenza futuristica di Raze e dalle invenzioni del Dottor Sale dell'Autolycus, che, grazie a portali dimensionali, è riuscito a rubare brevetti non ancora sviluppati nella nostra Terra 616. I due team di X-Men si ...

New York Times

New York Times
Sun, 07 Sep 2014 09:42:23 -0700

With the move to Bohemia, merry hell breaks loose on the Delacorte's stage, under the delightful supervision (or subversion) of Mr. Fitzgerald's terrific Autolycus, a nimble thief who smoothly separates several members of the audience from their ...

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