n Greek mythology, Tithonus (Ancient Greek: Τιθωνός) was the lover of Eos, Goddess of the Dawn. Tithonus was a prince of Troy, the son of King Laomedon by the Naiad Strymo (Στρυμώ). Tithonus’ siblings thus included Lampus, Clytius, Hesione and Priam. Ancient sources tell of Tithonus founding the city of Susa.
The mythology reflected by the fifth-century vase-painters of Athens envisaged Tithonus as a rhapsode, as attested by the lyre in his hand, on an oinochoe (wine jug) of the Achilles Painter, circa 470–460 BC.
Tithonus was one of the most handsome of all mortals, and his beauty attracted the attention of the goddess Eos, Dawn. Eos carried Tithonus off, and took him to Aethiopia. Living as lovers, Eos and Tithonus would became parents to two sons, Emathion, an Aethiopian king killed by Heracles, and Memnon, a Trojan defender killed by Achilles.
Tithonus though was mortal, and so in order to be with him forever, Eos asked Zeus to make him immortal. Eos’ wish was granted by the supreme god, but Eos had forgotten to ask for eternal youth at the same time.
Thus, whilst Tithonus could not die, he could age, and as the years passed, so Tithonus grew older and older, and more and more infirm. Eventually, Tithonus could but complain and babble incoherently, with no strength in his limbs to even move.
Unable to look after himself, Tithonus asked that he should die, but it was not in the power of Eos to take away his immortality. Some say that Tithonus was then abandoned in a room, but others tell of Eos transformed him into a cicada, whose endless chatter and incoherent babble is still heard today.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, 3.14.3
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, 218 ff.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, 218–238.
Hard, Robin, The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology: Based on H.J. Rose's "Handbook of Greek Mythology", Psychology Press, 2004, p. 47.
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy, ii. 495.
Diodorus Siculus book 4.75, book 2.22.
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