The Sons of Odysseus, Part 1: Evidence from Hesiod, Eustathius and Dionysus of Halicarnassos

Odysseus is said to have heard a prophecy that he would be killed by his son. So, according to some (Dictys, Hyginus) he sent Telemachus away. But what Odysseus didn’t know, allegedly, is that it had more than one son. How many? That depends on whom you believe.

What is really in Kirke's cup?
What is really in Kirke’s cup?

I got a bit obsessive about this a few weeks ago and came up with a list of the named sons of Odysseus. Obviously, the full number I have is a little mess up: some names point to the same ‘individuals’. But here’s the list, 17 names for sons (for, I think, 13 individuals) and a daughter:

Telemakhos and Arkesilaos/Ptoliporthes (Penelope) [Eustathius/Pausanias]
Agrios, Latinus and Telegonos (Kirke [Hesiod]) or Auson [Lykophron]
Rhomos, Antias, Ardeas (Kirke) [Dionysus of Halicarnassos]
Nausithoos and Nausinoos (Kalypso) [Hesiod]
Leontophron or Dorukles or Euryalos (Euippê, Epirote Princess) [Eustathius]
Polypoitês (Kallidikê, Thesprotian Princess) [Proklos]
Leontophronos (Daughter of Thoas, Aitolian Princess) [Apollodoros]

And one daughter:
Kassiphone (Kirke) [Lykophron]

Now, it is fair to note that much of the attestation for these children is later. But, with the exception of Lykophron (and more on him later), these are not authors who seem to be in the habit of making things up. For the sake of pure joy, though, I will give a basic summary today, and then start presenting the additional evidence for specific names over the next few weeks.

We can start with the simplest fact: Homer gives Odysseus one son (Telemachus).

Hesiod gives him five, two with Kalypso (Nausithoos and Nausinoos) three with Kirke (Agrios, Latinus, and Telegonos). Although, to be fair, some editors think that the Telegonos passage is interpolated to acknowledge the tradition of Eugammon of Cyrene in the poem the Telegony. Regardless of this, the Telegonos tradition is still probably pre-Classical period. But later, presumably Western Mediterranean Traditions, provide different geographical names for the children of Circe and Odysseus:

“Xenagoras writes that three children were born from Circe and Odysseus, Rhomos, Antias, and Ardias. Because they founded three cities, they gave them their own names…”

Dionys. Hal. A. R. I, 72.: Ξεναγόρας δὲ ὁ συγγραφεὺς, ᾿Οδυσσέως καὶ Κίρκης υἱοὺς γενέσθαι τρεῖς, ῾Ρῶμον, ᾿Αντίαν, ᾿Αρδέαν• οἰκίσαντας δὲ τρεῖς πόλεις, ἀφ’ ἑαυτῶν θέσθαι τοῖς κτίσμασι τὰς ὀνομασίας.

In the tradition, Odysseus has sons with both of the goddesses we see him with in the Odyssey, but they are not the number or the names we find here in this reference to the Greek historian Xenagoras. Hesiod names Odysseus’ sons by goddesses near the end of the Theogony (1011-1018):

“Kirkê, the daughter of Helios,Hyperion’s son,
After having sex with Odysseus, gave birth to
Agrion and Latînos, blameless and strong.
And she also gave birth to Telegonos thanks to golden Aphrodite.
Her sons rule far away in the recess of the holy islands
Among the glorious Tursênians.
Kalypso the shining goddess gave birth as well to Nausithoos
And Nausinoos after having lovely sex with Odysseus.”

Κίρκη δ’ ᾿Ηελίου θυγάτηρ ῾Υπεριονίδαο
γείνατ’ ᾿Οδυσσῆος ταλασίφρονος ἐν φιλότητι
῎Αγριον ἠδὲ Λατῖνον ἀμύμονά τε κρατερόν τε•
[Τηλέγονον δὲ ἔτικτε διὰ χρυσῆν ᾿Αφροδίτην•]
οἳ δή τοι μάλα τῆλε μυχῷ νήσων ἱεράων
πᾶσιν Τυρσηνοῖσιν ἀγακλειτοῖσιν ἄνασσον.
Ναυσίθοον δ’ ᾿Οδυσῆι Καλυψὼ δῖα θεάων
γείνατο Ναυσίνοόν τε μιγεῖσ’ ἐρατῇ φιλότητι.

Note that Odysseus, famous for being an only son of an only son and having only one son of his own, has at least two sons with each goddess, and perhaps three with Kirke (whose company he kept for a much shorter time—only one year!). Note as well the association with toponyms related to Italy and the ‘ship’ names Nausinoos and Nausithoos which may be echoed among the Phaeacian with the princes Nausicaa and the narrator’s reference to the Nausithoos who founded the Phaeacian homeland of Skheria (ἔνθεν ἀναστήσας ἄγε Ναυσίθοος θεοειδής, 6.7;cf. 7.56-63; 8.565)

The Tyrsenians may correlate to (1) pre-Greek inhabitants of the Balkans; (2) Etruscans; (3) Italic peoples. West (Theogony 1966, 435-6) accepts the pairing of Agrios and Latinus with the Tyrsenians as a mythical memory of the Etruscans.

I didn’t get all the sons of Odysseus. Here’s a Byzantine commentary passage on his family that lists another lover and more children. The big surprise? Telemachus has a brother!

Eustathius on the Sons of Odysseus, Commentarii ad Homeri Od 2.117

“It is known that Arkesios descends from Euryodia and Zeus. In turn, Laertes was born from him and Khalkomedousê. He sired Odysseus with Antikleia. And Odysseus gave birth to Telemachus with Penelope. Telemachus then, with Nestor’s daughter Polycastê, gave birth to Perseptolis, according to Hesiod (fragment):

And the well-girdled daughter of Nestor, the son of Neleus,
the youngest daughter Polycastê gave birth to Perseptolis
after having sex with Telemachus, thanks to golden Aphrodite

Aristotle in Constitution of the Ithakans and Hellanicus say that Telemachus married Nausikaa, Alkinoos’ daughter, and that they were the parents of Perseptolis. Some others chime in with these sort of words. According to Hesiod, Odysseus also had sons with Kirke: Agrios and Latinos; and also Nausithoos and Nausinoos from Kalypso. The Cyrenaion poet who wrote the Telegony claimed that Odysseis gave birth to Telegonos or Teledamos with Calypso and that he had Telemachus as well as Arkesilaos with Penelope. According to Lysimachos, Odysseus’ son with Euippes the Thesprotian was named Leontophron, one others call Dorucles; and Sophocles says that Euryalos was born from her, the man Telemakhos killed. The Kolophonian poet who composed the Nostoi says that Telemakhos later married Kirke, and that Telegonos married Penelope as an exchange. These things are extraordinary and empty titillation. If they are considered narrowly, however, the harm is small.”

᾿Ιστέον δὲ ὅτι γενεαλογοῦσι Διὸς μὲν καὶ Εὐρυοδίας ᾿Αρκείσιον• αὐτοῦ δὲ καὶ Χαλκομεδούσης Λαέρτην• τοῦ δὲ καὶ ᾿Αντικλείας ᾿Οδυσσέα• οὗ καὶ Πηνελόπης Τηλέμαχον• αὐτοῦ δὲ καὶ Πολυκάστης τῆς Νέστορος Περσέπτολιν, ὡς ῾Ησίοδος.

Τηλεμάχῳ δ’ ἂρ ἔτικτεν ἐΰζωνος Πολυκάστη
Νέστορος ὁπλοτάτη κούρη Νηληϊάδεω
Περσέπτολιν μιχθεῖσα διὰ χρυσῆν ᾿Αφροδίτην. ᾿

Αριστοτέλης δὲ ἐν ᾿Ιθακησίων πολιτείᾳ καὶ ῾Ελλάνικος δὲ Τηλέμαχόν φασι Ναυσικάαν γῆμαι τὴν ᾿Αλκινόου καὶ γεννῆσαι τὸν Περσέπτολιν• τινὲς δὲ καὶ τοιούτοις λόγοις ἐνευκαιροῦσιν. ἐκ Κίρκης υἱοὶ καθ’ ῾Ησίοδον ᾿Οδυσσεῖ ῎Αγριος καὶ Λατῖ-νος, ἐκ δὲ Καλυψοῦς Ναυσίθοος καὶ Ναυσίνοος. ῾Ο δὲ τὴν τηλεγόνειαν γράψας Κυρηναῖος ἐκ μὲν Καλυψοῦς Τηλέγονον υἱὸν ᾿Οδυσσεῖ ἀναγράφει ἢ Τηλέδαμον• ἐκ δὲ Πηνελόπης Τηλέμαχον καὶ ᾿Αρκεσίλαον• κατὰ δὲ Λυσίμαχον υἱὸς αὐτῷ ἐξ Εὐίππης Θεσπρωτίδος Λεοντόφρων, ὃν ἄλλοι Δόρυκλόν φασί. Σοφοκλῆς δὲ ἐκ τῆς αὐτῆς Εὐρύαλον ἱστορεῖ, ὃν ἀπέκτεινε Τηλέμαχος. ὁ δὲ τοὺς νόστους ποιήσας Κολοφώνιος Τηλέμαχον μέν φησι τὴν Κίρκην ὕστερον γῆμαι, Τηλέγονον δὲ τὸν ἐκ Κίρκης ἀντιγῆμαι Πηνελόπην. περιττὰ ταῦτα καὶ κενὴ μοχθηρία. εἰ δ’ οὖν στενῶς φράζοιντο, μικρὸν τὸ βλάβος.

8 thoughts on “The Sons of Odysseus, Part 1: Evidence from Hesiod, Eustathius and Dionysus of Halicarnassos

  1. As though the political system in Ithaka were not fragmented enough! What if all of these sons tried to make some claim upon the “sceptre and the isle”? Perhaps the Odysseus we are most familiar with is little more than an Odyssean fiction, one of the countless series of lies which he tells about his identity when asked by strangers. Indeed, why do we take the story which Odysseus tells to the Phaiakians about his wanderings as the canonical tale, while dismissing his other, less elaborate stories as manifest lies?

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