Proetus (son of Abas)

In Greek mythology, Proetus (Ancient Greek: Προῖτος), the son of Abas, was a king of Argos and Tiryns.


Proetus' father was Abas, son of the last surviving Aegyptiad Lynceus and the Danaid Hypermnestra, had ruled over Argos and married Aglaea or Ocalea, who bore him twin sons, Proetus and Acrisius. Proetus had also an illegitimate brother named Lyrcus, son of his father by an unknown woman.

By his wife, Antea or Stheneboea, Proetus became the father of three daughters (the so-called Proitides) and a son Megapenthes. The daughters' names are Lysippe, Iphinoe, and Iphianassa in the Bibliotheca; Servius calls the last two Hipponoe and Cyrianassa, whereas Aelian only mentions two, Elege and Celaene.


Rivalry of twins

Proetus and Acrisius quarreled continually ever since they still were in the womb that they even carried on with the rivalry into their adult years, inventing shields or bucklers in the process.

In one tradition, the conflict was reiterated when Proetus seduced Acrisius' daughter (and his own niece) Danae. Proetus started out as king of Argos, and held the throne for about seventeen years, but Acrisius defeated him on the war and exiled him.

Proetus then fled to King Jobates (Iobates) or Amphianax in Lycia, and married his daughter Antea or Stheneboea. Jobates, thereupon, attempted to restore Proetus to his kingdom by armed force. After the war had gone on for a while the kingdom was divided in two.

Acrisius then shared his kingdom with his brother, surrendering to him Tiryns and the eastern half of Argolis, i.e. the Heraeum, Midea and the coast of Argolis. Tiryns was said to be fortified by the Cyclopes (Scholia, ad Euripides, Orestes 953; Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.16.4).


When Bellerophon came to Proetus to be purified of a murder which he had committed, the wife of Proetus fell in love with him, and invited him to come to her: but, as Bellerophon refused to comply with her desire, she charged him before Proetus with having made improper proposals to her.

Proetus then sent Bellerophon to Iobates in Lycia, with a letter in which Iobates was desired to murder Bellerophon. Iobates challenged Bellerophon to several seemingly impossible tasks which Bellerophon did complete.

Madness of Proetides

When Proetus' daughters arrived at the age of maturity, they were stricken with madness, the cause of which is differently stated by different authors; some say that it was a punishment inflicted upon them by Dionysus, because they had despised his worship.

Others have assumed the troubles arose by Hera, because they presumed to be more beautiful than the goddess, or perhaps because they had stolen some of the gold off her statue. In this state of madness they wandered through Peloponnesus.

Melampus promised to cure them, if Proetus would give him one third of his kingdom. As Proetus refused to accept these terms, the madness of his daughters not only increased, but was communicated to the other Argive women also, so that they murdered their own children and ran about in a state of frenzy.

Proetus then declared himself willing to listen to the proposal of Melampus; but the latter now also demanded for his brother Bias an equal share of the kingdom of Argos. Proetus consented and Melampus, having chosen the most robust among the young men, gave chase to the mad women, amid shouting and dancing, and drove them as far as Sicyon.

During this pursuit, Iphinoe, one of the daughters of Proetus, died, but the two others were cured by Melampus by means of purifications, and were then married to Melampus and Bias. There was a tradition that Proetus had founded a sanctuary of Hera, between Sicyon and Titane, and one of Apollo at Sicyon.

The place where the cure was effected upon his daughters is not the same in all traditions, some mentioning the well Anigros, others the well Cleitor in Arcadia, or Lusi in Arcadia. Some even state that the Proetides were cured by Asclepius or that they were cured in the Cave of the Lakes.

Other tales

In one account, Proetus had yet another daughter, Nyctaea, who fled from her own father's attempts of violation and was changed by Athena into an owl (Lactantius Placidus on Statius' Thebaid, 3. 507); her story is a variant for that of Nyctimene.

According to Ovid, Proetus ended up changed into stone by Perseus, the grandson of Acrisius (who had eventually got expelled by Proetus), upon being made by him to see the head of Medusa (Ovid, Metamorphoses 5.238 ff.).

Later Proetus' son, Megapenthes, exchanged kingdoms with Perseus (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.4.4; Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.16.3).

The name Proetus in Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Proetus may refer to the following personages:

Proetus, king of Argos and Tiryns, son of Abas and twin brother of Acrisius.

Proetus, son of Thersander, son of Sisyphus. He was the father of Maera who died a maiden. Scholiasts on the Odyssey confound him with the Argive Proetus.

Proetus of Thebes, eponym of the Proetid Gates, and father of Galanthis.

Proetus, a son of Nauplius I and father of Lernus. His mother was either Clymene, or Philyra, or Hesione.

Proetus, a son of Agenor. It is unclear whether Stephanus is referring to a son of Agenor named Proetus, or to the Argive Proetus as a descendant of Agenor.


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.4.1

Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 10.30.5

Scholia on Homer, Odyssey 11.325

Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 9.8.4

Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 29

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1.136

Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Thasos

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.2.1

Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.25.5

Scholia called in Homer, Iliad 6.160

Hyginus, Fabulae 57

Servius on Virgil, Eclogue 6.48

Aelian, Varia Historia 3.42

Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.25.7

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.4.1

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.2.1

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.16.2

Scholia, ad Euripides, Orestes 953

Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.16.4

Homer, Iliad 6.155 ff. with scholia

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.3.1

Tzetzes on Lycophron, 17; Chiliades, 8.810

Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica 4.68.4

Herodotus, The Histories 9.34

Scholia, ad Pindar, Nemean Ode 9.30

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.2.2

Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.7.8 & 2.12.2

Strabo, Geographica 8

Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.325

Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 8.18.8

Pindar, Pythian Odes 3.96

Lactantius Placidus on Statius' Thebaid, 3. 507

Ovid, Metamorphoses 5.238 ff.

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.4.4

Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.16.3


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