Overall, in Greek mythology, Laertes (Ancient Greek: Λαέρτης) was the father of Odysseus, an Argonaut, and a participant in the hunt for the Calydonian Boar.
His title was King of the Cephallenians, an ethnic group who lived both on the Ionian islands and on the mainland, which he presumably inherited from his father Arcesius and grandfather Cephalus. His realm included Ithaca and surrounding islands, and perhaps even the neighboring part of the mainland of other Greek city-states.
In more detail...
Laertes was the son of Arcesius and Chalcomedusa. Arcesius, was said to be a son of Cephalus, or Zeus; Cephalus who had aided Amphitryon in the war against the Teleboans, and received the island of Same as a war prize, an island renamed Cephalonia. From Arcesius, Laertes would inherit the title of King of the Cephallenians, the people who resided upon Cephalonia, as well as other Ionian Islands, and the nearby Greek mainland.
The heroic nature of Laertes is attested to in several ancient sources, with Homer, in the Odyssey, telling of Laertes having taken the fortress city of Nericum in his youth. Whilst, Laertes is also named as an Argonaut, in the Bibliotheca, and Ovid tells of Laertes being a Calydonian Hunter.
Laertes though is famous today, not for being a king or a hero, but is known as a father. Laertes would marry Anticlea, the daughter of the notorious thief Autolycus; and Anticlea would bear a daughter, Ctimene, and a son, Odysseus.
Some say though, that Laertes was not the father of Odysseus, for they say that Anticlea had been seduced by the cunning Siphylus, from whom Odysseus was thus said to have inherited his deviousness.
When Odysseus was of age, Laertes would abdicate, leaving his kingdom to his son, and Laertes would devote his life to agricultural work on his farm.
The extended absence of his son, during the Trojan War, and the return from Troy, would see Laertes neglect his rustic pursuits, as grief say him become old before his time; and indeed, it was said that Laertes’ wife, Anticlea, died from grief because of Odysseus’ absence.
The condition of Laertes, was also used as an excuse by Odysseus’ wife Penelope, for to delay her potential suitors, Penelope told them that she would not consider marriage until she had woven the funeral shroud of Laertes. Penelope would of course undo her own work each day to put off the decision.
Laertes also appears after Odysseus has returned home from Troy, for having killed Penelope’s Suitors, Odysseus visits his father. Laertes does not immediately recognise his son, but when he hears of what Odysseus has done to the Suitors, Laertes tells of how he wished to have stood by his son in the battle, reminiscing of his time when he was young enough, and strong enough, to have fought.
Athena then rejuvenates Laertes, and Laertes thus returns to Ithaca with his son, to deal with the families of the deceased suitors, who were looking to revolt against Odysseus. In the resulting battle, it was said that Laertes killed Eupeithes, the father of Antinous, the man who had led the Suitors of Penelope.
Entry Κεφαλλῆνες in Homeric Dictionary by Georg Autenrieth.
E.g. Servius on Aeneid 6.529.
Homer (1998). The Odyssey: The Fitzgerald Translation. Translated by Robert Fitzgerald. Macmillan. pp. lx.
Homer. Odyssey. Trans. Stanley Lombardo. Canada: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2000. Print.
Homer, Odyssey XXIV; Ovid, Metamorphoses VIII, 315.
"Greek Legends and Myths"
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