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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.

References[edit]

  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.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]


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

Straight.com

Straight.com
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 14:20:33 -0700

Although Janet Glassford, who plays the raffish cutpurse Autolycus, delivers an engaging performance, you'd have to be a genius to really make Autolycus's material work. Still, there's a baseline of emotional truth in this interpretation, so the climax ...

NDTV

The Hindu
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 07:26:15 -0700

Rufus Sewell Dark Cityplays Autolycus, a knife-throwing thief from Team Hercules. Ian McShane as the visionary Amphiaraus has all the good lines. Joseph Fiennes' version of King Eurystheus seems to be inspired by the original Greek myths—one can ...
 
Hollywood.com
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 14:56:15 -0700

British actor Rufus Sewell has become hooked on 'The Rock' diet after using it to help him bulk up to play Autolycus in Dwayne Johnson's new epic Hercules. The Dark City star asked his leading man for tips on how to pile on the muscle and has now ...

IANS

IANS
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 22:37:30 -0700

They are; the mystic fortune teller Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), his oldest friend and fellow orphan Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), warrior Tydeus (Aksel Hennie) who suffers from a post traumatic stress disorder, an ace archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal ...
 
Spencer Daily Reporter
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 18:18:40 -0700

Hercules and his team -- including: Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), a prophet; Autolycus (Rufus Sewell); warrior Tydeus (Aksel Hennie); amazon warrior Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal); and Hercules' nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), along to share the legend ...

Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette

Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 05:00:00 -0700

They include Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), a warrior prophet who provides comic relief when predictions of his own demise prove wrong; Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), a loyal friend handy with flying daggers whose interest in money outweighs all; Tydeus (Aksel ...
 
Northampton Herald and Post
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 02:10:17 -0700

Rufus Sewell as Autolycus also provides comic relief in moments that would otherwise be bogged down by furrowed brows of actors being too serious for their own good. The picture is very down to earth and questions the very essence of Hercules: did he ...
 
London Community News
Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:33:45 -0700

Toss in Rufus Sewell as the Spartan Autolycus, Ingrid Bolso Berdal as the archer Atalanta, Aksel Hennie as the mute but fierce Tydeus, and you've got a very appealing company of companions. John Hurt as Cotys and Joseph Fiennes as the rather prissy ...
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