In Greek mythology, Cretheus (Ancient Greek: Κρηθεύς) was the king and founder of Iolcus, the son of Aeolus (son of Hellen) by either Enarete or Laodice.
In the time after the Deluge, Aeolus, son of Hellen, grandson of Deucalion, came to rule the land of Aeolia (Thessaly).
Aeolus, and his wife Enarete, would then become parent to a number of children, dozens of different children are named across the ancient sources, but most prominently were four sons, who became the ancestors of the four main branches of the Aeolic race; these sons were, Athamas, Salmoneus, Sisyphus and Cretheus.
In Thessaly, on the Gulf of Pegasae, Cretheus would build a new city to rule over; this city was Iolcus.
Cretheus would then marry his own niece, Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus.
Tyro would give birth to three sons for Cretheus, Aeson, Amythaon and Pheres, whilst Cretheus was also named as father of two daughters, Hippolyte, who would become wife of Acastus, and an unnamed daughter who married Tectamus.
Some also call Neleus and Pelias sons of Cretheus, though more traditionally, these two are called sons of Poseidon, born to Tyro when she still lived in Salmoneus' household.
It was Cretheus’ death that proved to be a far more important event in Greek mythology, then anything the king of Iolcus had done his lifetime.
Pelias, having already sacrilegiously killed Sidero in the temple of Hera, came to Iolcus, when he learned of Cretheus’ death, and seized the throne for himself. In doing so, Pelias usurped the rightful rule of Aeson.
Aeson and his wife would be imprisoned, whilst Cretheus’ other sons were exiled; Pheres would go elsewhere in Thessaly and found the city of Pheres, whilst Amythaon would reside in Pylos.
Aeson’s wife would give birth to a son whilst in prison, with this baby secretly given into the protection of the centaur Chiron. This baby, when grown up, would cause the downfall of Cretheus’ successor, for this baby was Jason.
Hesiod, Catalogue of Women fr. 10(a)
Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, 1.7.3
Scholia on Homer. Odyssey, 11.235
Hyginus, Astronomica, 2. 20; she unsuccessfully tried to seduce Phrixus and falsely accused him of an attempt to rape her, cf. the stories of Phaedra and Hippolytus, Stheneboea and Bellerophon, Astydameia and Peleus, Phthia/Clytia and Phoenix, Philonome and Tenes, Ochne and Eunostus
Homer, Odyssey, 11. 259
Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, 1.9.11
Tzetzes on Lycophron, 175
Pindar, Nemean Ode, 4. 57
Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, 3.13.2
Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 601
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 4. 60. 2
"Greek Legends and Myths"
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