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In Greek mythology, Protesilaus (Ancient Greek: Πρωτεσίλαος, Protesilaos), was a hero in the Iliad who was venerated at cult sites in Thessaly and Thrace. Protesilaus was the son of Iphicles, a "lord of many sheep"; as grandson of the eponymous Phylacos, he was the leader of the Phylaceans.[1] Hyginus surmised[2] that he was originally known as Iolaus,[3] but was referred to as Protesilaus after being the first (πρῶτος, protos) to die at Troy.



Protesilaus was one of the suitors of Helen.[4] He brought forty black ships with him to Troy,[5] drawing his men from flowering Pyrasus, coastal Antron and Pteleus, "deep in grass", in addition to his native Phylace. Protesilaus was the first to land: "the first man who dared to leap ashore when the Greek fleet touched the Troad, Pausanias recalled, quoting "the author of the epic called the Cypria".[6] An oracle had prophesied that the first Greek to walk on the land after stepping off a ship in the Trojan War would be the first to die,[2] and so, after killing four men,[7] he was himself slain by Hector. After Protesilaus' death, his brother, Podarces, joined the war in his place.[8] The gods had pity on his widow, Laodamia, daughter of Acastus, and brought him up from Hades to see her. Another source claims his wife was Polydora, daughter of Meleager.[9] She was at first overjoyed, thinking he had returned from Troy, but after the gods returned him to the underworld, she found the loss unbearable.[10] She had a bronze statue of her late husband constructed, and devoted herself to it. After her worried father had witnessed her behavior, he had it destroyed; however, Laodamia jumped into the fire with it.[11]

Cult of Protesilaus

Only two sanctuaries to Protesilaus are attested.[12] There was a shrine of Protesilaus at Phylace, his home in Thessaly, where his widow was left lacerating her cheeks in mourning him[13], and games were organised there in his honour, Pindar noted.[14] The tomb of Protesilaus at Elaeus in the Thracian Chersonese is documented in the 5th century, when, during the Persian War, votive treasure deposited at his tomb was plundered by the satrap Artayctes, under permission from Xerxes. The Greeks later captured and executed Artayctes, returning the treasure.[15] The tomb was mentioned again when Alexander the Great arrived at Elaeus on his campaign against the Persian Empire. He offered a sacrifice on the tomb, hoping to avoid the fate of Protesilaus when he arrived in Asia. Like Protesilaus before him, Alexander was the first to step foot on Asian soil during his campaign.[16] Philostratus writing of this temple in the early 3rd century AD,[17] speaks of a cult statue of Protesilaus at this temple "standing on a base which was shaped like the prow of a boat;" Gisela Richter noted coins of Elaeus from the time of Commodus that show on their reverses Protesilaus on the prow of a ship, in helmet, cuirass and short chiton.

A founder-cult of Protesilaus at Scione, in Pallene, Chalcidice, was given an etiology by the Augustan mythographer Conon[18] that is at variance with the epic tradition. In this, Conon asserts that Protesilaus survived the Trojan War and was returning with Priam's sister Aethilla as his captive. When the ships put ashore for water on the coast of Pallene, between Scione and Mende, Aethilla persuaded the other Trojan women to burn the ships, forcing Protesilaus to remain and found the city of Scione. A rare tetradrachm of Scione ca. 480 BCE acquired by the British Museum depicts Protesilaus, identified by the retrograde legend PROTESLAS.[19]

Protesilaus, speaking from beyond the grave, is the oracular source of the corrected eye-witness version of the actions of heroes at Troy, related by a "vine-dresser" to a Phoenician merchant in the framing device that gives an air of authenticity to the narratives of Philostratus' Heroicus, a late literary representation of Greek hero-cult traditions that developed independently of the epic tradition.[20]


Among very few representations of Protesilaus,[21] a sculpture by Deinomenes is just a passing mention in Pliny's Natural History;[22] the outstanding surviving examples are two Roman copies of a lost mid-fifth century Greek bronze original represent Protesilaus at his defining moment, one of them in a torso the British Museum,[23] the other at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[24] The Metropolitan's sculpture of a heroically nude helmeted warrior stands on a forward-slanting base, looking down and slightly to his left, with his right arm raised, prepared to strike, would not be identifiable, save by comparison made by Gisela Richter[25] with a torso of the same model and its associated slanting base, schematically carved as the prow of a ship encircled by waves: Protesilaus about to jump ashore.

If Euripides' tragedy, Protesilaos had survived, his name would be more familiar today.[26]

Protesilaus is the hero of Jacob M. Appel's romantic anti-comedy, Helen of Sparta.[27]


  1. ^ Homer. Iliad, 2.695.
  2. ^ a b Hyginus. Fabulae, 103.
  3. ^ Not to be confused with Iolaus, the lover of Heracles.
  4. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library, 3.10.8; Hyginus. Fabulae, 97.
  5. ^ Iliad II; Pseudo-Apollodorus. Epitome of The Library E.3.14.
  6. ^ Pausanias, iv.2.5.
  7. ^ Hyginus. Fabulae, 114.
  8. ^ Homer. Iliad, 2.705.
  9. ^ The Cypria, Fragment 17.
  10. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus. Epitome to The Library, E.3.30; Ovid. Heroides, 13.
  11. ^ Hyginus. Fabulae, 104.
  12. ^ Ludo de Lannoy, ed. Jennifer K. Berenson Maclean and Ellen Bradshaw Aitken, trs.,Flavius Philostratus: On Heroes (1977, 2002) Introduction, liii.
  13. ^ Iliad II.
  14. ^ Pindar. First Isthmian Ode, 83f.
  15. ^ Herodotus. The Histories, 9.116-120; see also 7.23..
  16. ^ Arrian. The Campaigns of Alexander, 1.11.
  17. ^ Philostratus. Heroikos ("Dialogue Concerning Heroes"). "Protesilaos" is set in the sanctuary; elms were planted at the sanctuary by the nymphs; the chthonic hero has given advice to athletes in the form of oracular dreams; see Christopher P. Jones, "Philostratus' Heroikos and Its Setting in Reality", The Journal of Hellenic Studies 121 (2001:141-149).
  18. ^ Conon's abbreviated mythographies are known through a summary made by the ninth-century patriarch Photius for his Biblioteca (Alan Cameron, Greek Mythography in the Roman World [Oxford University Press) 2004:72).
  19. ^ G. F. H., "Protesilaos at Scione" The British Museum Quarterly 1.1 (May 1926):24).
  20. ^ See Casey Dué and Gregory Nagy, "Preliminaries to Philostratus's On Heroes", in Maclean and Aitken 2002.
  21. ^ Pausanias, in his travels in Greece at the end of the 2nd century AD saw no statues of Protesilaus, though he appeared among the heroes painted by Polygnotus at Delphi (x.30.3).
  22. ^ 'Historia Naturalis, 34.76.
  23. ^ Found at Cyzicus in Mysia (modern Turkey).
  24. ^ Accession number 1925.25.116: Richter 1929b: Gisela M. A. Richter, "A Statue of Protesilaos in the Metropolitan Museum" Metropolitan Museum Studies 1.2 (May 1929:187-200).
  25. ^ Richter 1929b.
  26. ^ So observed Gisela Richter, discussing the recently-acquired Metropolitan sculpture: Richter 1929a. "A Statue of Protesilaos" The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 24.1 (January 1929:26-29) p. 29.
  27. ^ Ying, Ted.Helen of Sparta, DC Theatre Scene, Nov. 4, 2009

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From Wikispecies


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Protostomia
Cladus: Ecdysozoa
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Hexapoda
Classis: Insecta
Cladus: Dicondylia
Cladus: Pterygota
Cladus: Metapterygota
Cladus: Neoptera
Cladus: Eumetabola
Cladus: Endopterygota
Superordo: Panorpida
Cladus: Amphiesmenoptera
Ordo: Lepidoptera
Subordo: Glossata
Infraordo: Heteroneura
Divisio: Ditrysia
Sectio: Cossina
Subsection: Bombycina
Superfamilia: Papilionoidea
Series: Papilioniformes
Familia: Papilionidae
Subfamilia: Papilioninae
Tribus: Leptocircini
Genus: Protesilaus
Species: P. aguiari - P. earis - P. glaucolaus - P. helios - P. leucosilaus - P. macrosilaus - P. molops - P. orthosilaus - P. protesilaus - P. stenodesmus - P. telesilaus


Protesilaus Swainson, 1832


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