The Last Mythic Hero

Pausanias, 6.9.6-9

“In the Olympiad before that one they say that Kleomêdês the Astupalaian killed the Epidaurian Hippos while boxing him. When he was charged by the referees with cheating and was deprived of the victory, he went out of his mind with grief and returned to Astupalaia.

There, he attacked a school there which held as many as sixty children and knocked down the pillar which supported the roof. After the roof fell on the children, the citizens threw stones at Kleomêdês and he fled into the Temple of Athena. Inside, he climbed into a chest and closed the lid over him.

The Astupalaians wore themselves out trying to open or break the chest. When they finally broke open the chest and did not find Kleomêdês there dead or alive, they send representatives to Delphi to ask what kind of thing had happened with Kleomêdês. The Pythia is said to have given the oracle that:

Kleomêdês the Astupalaian was the last of the heroes—
Honor him with sacrifices since he is no longer mortal.”

For this reason the Astupalaians have honored Kleomêdês as a hero since that time.

τῇ δὲ Ὀλυμπιάδι τῇ πρὸ ταύτης Κλεομήδην φασὶν Ἀστυπαλαιέα ὡς Ἴκκῳ πυκτεύων ἀνδρὶ Ἐπιδαυρίῳ τὸν Ἴκκον ἀποκτείνειεν ἐν τῇ μάχῃ, καταγνωσθεὶς δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν Ἑλλανοδικῶν ἄδικα εἰργάσθαι καὶ ἀφῃρημένος τὴν νίκην ἔκφρων ἐγένετο ὑπὸ τῆς λύπης καὶ ἀνέστρεψε μὲν ἐς Ἀστυπάλαιαν, διδασκαλείῳ δ᾽ ἐπιστὰς ἐνταῦθα ὅσον ἑξήκοντα ἀριθμὸν παίδων ἀνατρέπει τὸν κίονα ὃς τὸν ὄροφον ἀνεῖχεν. ἐμπεσόντος δὲ τοῦ ὀρόφου τοῖς παισί, καταλιθούμενος ὑπὸ τῶν ἀστῶν κατέφυγεν ἐς Ἀθηνᾶς ἱερόν: ἐσβάντος δὲ ἐς κιβωτὸν κειμένην ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ καὶ ἐφελκυσαμένου τὸ ἐπίθημα, κάματον ἐς ἀνωφελὲς οἱ Ἀστυπαλαιεῖς ἔκαμνον ἀνοίγειν τὴν κιβωτὸν πειρώμενοι: τέλος δὲ τὰ ξύλα τῆς κιβωτοῦ καταρρήξαντες, ὡς οὔτε ζῶντα Κλεομήδην οὔτε τεθνεῶτα εὕρισκον, ἀποστέλλουσιν ἄνδρας ἐς Δελφοὺς ἐρησομένους ὁποῖα ἐς Κλεομήδην τὰ συμβάντα ἦν.  τούτοις χρῆσαι τὴν Πυθίαν φασίν:“

ὕστατος ἡρώων Κλεομήδης Ἀστυπαλαιεύς,
ὃν θυσίαις τιμᾶθ᾽ ἅτε μηκέτι θνητὸν ἐόντα.

”Κλεομήδει μὲν οὖν Ἀστυπαλαιεῖς ἀπὸ τούτου τιμὰς ὡς ἥρωι νέμουσι:

Plutarch, Life of Romulus 4-7

“This is, then, similar to those stories told by the Greeks about Aristeas of Prokonnesos and Kleomêdês of Astupalaia. For they claim that Aristeas died in a fuller’s shop and his body disappeared when his friends came to get it. Soon after, people who were returning from abroad said that they met Aristeas travling towards Croton.

Then there was Kleomêdês who had extreme strength and size but was easily enraged and like a crazy person. They claim he did many violent things and then finally went into a school for children and punched the pillar which supported the roof and broke it in the middle which made the roof collapse. Because the children were killed, he was pursued and he hid in a giant chest. He closed the lid and held himself inside so that many people struggling together were not able to lift it. After they broke the chest apart they found no one alive or dead inside. In their shock, they sent people to consult the Delphic oracle. The Pythia responded: “Kleomêdês the Astupalaian is the last of the heroes.”

Ἔοικε μὲν οὖν ταῦτα τοῖς ὑφ᾿ Ἑλλήνων περί τε Ἀριστέου τοῦ Προκοννησίου καὶ Κλεομήδους τοῦ Ἀστυπαλαιέως μυθολογουμένοις. Ἀριστέαν μὲν γὰρ ἔν τινι κναφείῳ τελευτῆσαί φασι, καὶ τὸ σῶμα μετιόντων αὐτοῦ τῶν φίλων ἀφανὲς οἴχεσθαι· λέγειν δέ τινας εὐθὺς ἐξ ἀποδημίας ἥκοντας ἐντυχεῖν Ἀριστέᾳ τὴν ἐπὶ Κρότωνος πορευομένῳ· Κλεομήδη δέ, ῥώμῃ καὶ μεγέθει σώματος ὑπερφυᾶ γενόμενον ἔμπληκτόν τε τῷ τρόπῳ καὶ μανικὸν ὄντα, πολλὰ δρᾶν βίαια, καὶ τέλος ἔν τινι διδασκαλείῳ παίδων τὸν ὑπερείδοντα τὴν ὀροφὴν κίονα πατάξαντα τῇ χειρὶ κλάσαι μέσον καὶ τὴν στέγην καταβαλεῖν. ἀπολομένων δὲ τῶν παίδων διωκόμενον εἰς κιβωτὸν καταφυγεῖν μεγάλην, καὶ τὸ πῶμα κατακλείσαντα συνέχειν ἐντός, ὥστε ἀποσπάσαι μὴ δύνασθαι πολλοὺς ὁμοῦ βιαζομένους· κατασχίσαντας δὲ τὴν κιβωτὸν οὔτε ζῶντα τὸν ἄνθρωπον εὑρεῖν οὔτε νεκρόν. ἐκπλαγέντας οὖν ἀποστεῖλαι θεοπρόπους εἰς Δελφούς, οἷς τὴν Πυθίαν εἰπεῖν·

Ἔσχατος ἡρώων Κλεομήδης Ἀστυπαλαιεύς.

λέγεται δὲ καὶ τὸν Ἀλκμήνης ἐκκομιζομένης νεκρὸν ἄδηλον γενέσθαι, λίθον δὲ φανῆναι κείμενον ἐπὶ τῆς κλίνης. καὶ ὅλως πολλὰ τοιαῦτα μυθολογοῦσι, παρὰ τὸ εἰκὸς ἐκθειάζοντες τὰ θνητὰ τῆς φύσεως ἅμα τοῖς θείοις.

Plutarch’s account does not specify the lost boxing match or mention the temple of Athena. While some of the diction is shared with Pausanias’ account, most of the common words are nouns for specific objects. The only real echo may be οὔτε ζῶντα τὸν ἄνθρωπον εὑρεῖν οὔτε νεκρόν for ὡς οὔτε ζῶντα Κλεομήδην οὔτε τεθνεῶτα εὕρισκον

The Suda’s version has many of the same phrases and is likely drawn from Pausanias. The comparison of the three makes me think that while Plutarch and Pausanias are drawing on the same story, they are not likely drawing on the same textual tradition.

Suda, Kappa 1725

“Kleomêdês, an Astupalaian, he killed the Epidaurian Kikkos in a boxing match. But when he was stripped of the victory, he went out of his mind because of grief and returned to Astupalaia. He fell upon a school there which held 80 students and he knocked down the pillar which was supporting the roof. After the roof collapsed and killed everyone, he was pelted with stones by the citizens and fled to a temple where he put himself into a chest and made hard work for the Astupalaians by holding down the lid. After they finally broken the wood of the chest, they found no one there.”

Κλεομήδης, ᾿Αστυπαλαιεύς, Κίκκον τὸν ᾿Επιδαύριον ἀπέκτεινεν ἐν τῇ πυγμῇ καὶ ἀφῃρημένος τὴν νίκην ἔκφρων ἐγένετο ὑπὸ τῆς λύπης καὶ ἀνέστρεψεν εἰς ᾿Αστυπάλαιαν. διδασκαλείῳ δὲ ἐπιστάς, ἐν ᾧ παῖδες ἦσαν ξ′, ἀνατρέπει τὸν κίονα, ὃς τὸν ὄροφον εἶχεν. ἐμπεσόντος δὲ τοῦ ὀρόφου καὶ πάντας ἀποκτείναντος, καταλιθούμενος ὑπὸ τῶν ἀστῶν κατέφυγεν ἐς ἱερὸν καὶ ἐμβὰς ἐς κιβωτὸν καὶ τὸ ἐπίθεμα ἐφελκυσάμενος κάματον τοῖς ᾿Αστυπαλαιεῦσι παρεῖχε. τέλος τὰ ξύλα τῆς κιβωτοῦ καταρρήξαντες οὐδένα εὗρον.

Thanks to Aislinn Melchior for bringing this story to my attention.

Orestes Delphi BM GR1917.12-10.1.jpg
Orestes at Delphi. Paestan red-figured bell-krater, ca. 330 BC.