The Info List - Philoctetes

(Greek: Φιλοκτήτης, Philoktētēs; English pronunciation: /ˌfɪləkˈtiːtiːz/, stressed on the third syllable, -tet-[1]), or Philocthetes, according to Greek mythology, was the son of King Poeas of Meliboea in Thessaly. He was a Greek hero, famed as an archer, and a participant in the Trojan War. Philoctetes
was the subject of four different plays of ancient Greece, each written by one of the three major Greek tragedians. Of the four plays, Sophocles' Philoctetes
is the only one that has survived. Sophocles' Philoctetes
at Troy, Aeschylus' Philoctetes
and Euripides' Philoctetes
have all been lost, with the exception of some fragments. Philoctetes
is also mentioned in Homer's Iliad, Book 2, which describes his exile on the island of Lemnos, his being wounded by snake-bite, and his eventual recall by the Greeks. The recall of Philoctetes
is told in the lost epic Little Iliad, where his retrieval was accomplished by Diomedes.[2] Philoctetes
killed three men at Troy.[3]


1 The stories 2 Modern depictions

2.1 Drama 2.2 Poetry 2.3 Novels 2.4 Cinema 2.5 Television 2.6 Essays 2.7 Modern art

2.7.1 Painting 2.7.2 Sculpture

3 See also 4 References

The stories[edit]

on the Island of Lemnos, by Guillaume Guillon-Lethière.

was the son of King Poeas of the city of Meliboea in Thessaly. Heracles wore the shirt of Nessus and built his own funeral pyre. No one would light it for him except for Philoctetes, or in other versions his father Poeas. This gained him the favor of the newly deified Heracles. Because of this, Philoctetes
or Poeas was given Heracles' bow and poisoned arrows. Philoctetes
was one of the many eligible Greeks who competed for the hand of Helen, the Spartan princess; according to legend, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. As such, he was required to participate in the conflict to reclaim her for Menelaus
in the Trojan War. Philoctetes
was stranded on the island of Lemnos
by the Greeks on the way to Troy. There are at least four separate tales about what happened to strand Philoctetes
on his journey to Troy, but all indicate that he received a wound on his foot that festered and had a terrible smell. One version holds that Philoctetes
was bitten by a snake that Hera
sent to molest him as punishment for his or his father's service to Heracles. Another tradition says that the Greeks forced Philoctetes
to show them where Heracles's ashes were deposited. Philoctetes
would not break his oath by speech, so he went to the spot and placed his foot upon the site. Immediately, he was injured in the foot that touched the soil over the ashes. Yet another tradition has it that when the Achaeans, en route to Troy
at the beginning of the war, came to the island of Tenedos, Achilles
angered Apollo
by killing King Tenes, allegedly the god's son. When, in expiation, the Achaeans offered a sacrifice to Apollo, a snake came out from the altar and bit Philoctetes. Finally, it is said that Philoctetes
received his terrible wound on the island of Chryse, when he unknowingly trespassed into the shrine of the nymph after whom the island was named (this is the version in the extant play by Sophocles). A modern interpretation of the cause of his wound is that he was scratched by a poisoned arrow. Commonly tips of arrows were poisoned with a combination of fermented viper venom, blood or plasma, and feces. Even a scratch would result in death, sometimes drawn out. A person who survives would do so with a festering wound.[4] Regardless of the cause of the wound, Philoctetes
was exiled by the Greeks and was angry at the treatment he received from Odysseus, King of Ithaca, who had advised the Atreidae
to strand him. Medôn took control of Philoctetes' men, and Philoctetes
himself remained on Lemnos, alone, for ten years.

Marble slab with the Recall of Philoctetes
– Archeological Museum of Brauron

Helenus, the prophetic son of King Priam
of Troy, was forced to reveal, under torture, that one of the conditions of the Greeks' winning the war was that they needed the bow and arrows of Heracles. Upon hearing this, Odysseus
and a group of men (usually including Diomedes) rushed back to Lemnos
to recover Heracles' weapons. (As Sophocles
writes it in his play named Philoctetes, Odysseus
is accompanied by Neoptolemus, Achilles' son, also known as Pyrrhus. Other versions of the myth don't include Neoptolemus.) Surprised to find the archer alive, the Greeks balked on what to do next. Odysseus tricked the weaponry away from Philoctetes, but Diomedes
refused to take the weapons without the man. Heracles, who had become a god many years earlier, came down from Olympus and told Philoctetes
to go and that he would be healed by the son of Asclepius
and win great honor as a hero of the Achaean army. Once back in military company outside Troy, they employed either Machaon the surgeon (who may have been killed by Eurypylus of Mysia, son of Telephus, depending on the account) or more likely Podalirius
the physician, both sons of the immortal physician Asclepius, to heal his wound permanently. Philoctetes
challenged and would have killed Paris, son of Priam, in single combat were it not for the debates over future Greek strategy. In one telling it was Philoctetes
who killed Paris. He shot four times: the first arrow went wide; the second struck his bow hand; the third hit him in the right eye; the fourth hit him in the heel, so there was no need of a fifth shot. Philoctetes
sided with Neoptolemus about continuing to try to storm the city. They were the only two to think so because they had not had the war-weariness of the prior ten years. Afterward, Philoctetes
was among those chosen to hide inside the Trojan Horse, and during the sack of the city he killed many famed Trojans. Modern depictions[edit]

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The legend of Philoctetes
was used by André Gide
André Gide
in his play Philoctète. George Maxim Ross adapted the legend in his play Philoktetes, which was written in the 1950s and performed off Broadway at One Sheridan Square. The East German postmodern dramatist Heiner Müller
Heiner Müller
produced a successful adaptation of Sophocles' play in 1968 in Munich. It became one of his most-performed plays. Philoctetes
appears in Seamus Heaney's play The Cure at Troy, a "version" of Sophocles' Philoctetes. John Jesurun wrote the Philoktetes-variations in 1993 on Ron Vawter's request, it was the actor's last piece of work, considered his artistic testament, being performed while the actor was dying of AIDS. The play has consequently also become a metaphor for AIDS, with Philoktetes as a plagued outcast.


The myth of Philoctetes
is the inspiration for William Wordsworth's sonnet "When Philoctetes
in the Lemnian Isle," though here the thematic focus is not the Greek warrior's magical bow or gruesome injury, but his abandonment. The poem is about the companionship and solace provided by Nature when all human society has been withdrawn. In Richard Aldington's "The Eaten Heart" (1929) the rescue of Philoctetes
by Neoptolemus
becomes a metaphor for the loneliness of the human soul and its release when it experiences love for another human being. Philoctetes
being retrieved by Neoptolemus
is the subject of the Greek poet Yannis Ritsos' long poem "Philoctetes" (1963–1965), a monologue in which the youth Neoptolemus
convinces Philoctetes
to follow him back to the war that will be won by the ruse of the Trojan Horse. Disguise and seeming are the subject of the poem:

"No one will comprehend your freedom's unmarred joy or be frightened by it ever. The mask of action, / which I have brought you hidden in my pack, will conceal your remote, transparent face. Put it on. Let's be going." Translated by Peter Bien)

appears as a character in two Michael Ondaatje
Michael Ondaatje
poems, entitled "The Goodnight" and " Philoctetes
On The Island." Both appear in his 1979 book, There's a trick with a knife I'm learning to do. Derek Walcott's modern Caribbean
epic, Omeros, includes a character named Philoctete; he receives a wound and clearly alludes to the Greek narrative. Philoctetes
is mentioned in Poem VIII of "21 Love Poems" by Adrienne Rich:

"I can see myself years back at Sunion, hurting with an infectedfoot, Philoctetes in woman's form, limping the long path, lying on a headland over the dark sea, looking down the red rocks to where a soundless curl of white told me a wave had struck, imagining the pull of that water from that height, knowing deliberate suicide wasn't my metier, yet all the time nursing, measuring that wound."

Laurence Lerner's poem Philoctetes
is included in his collection The Man I Killed (Secker & Warburg, 1980):

"When the pain strikes, I get no warning. Waves Totter, and overturn; and then my foot Is foaming metal, and a tangled sound Bursts in the air. Salt water in my head, The waves exploding in my foot, then nothing."

Dimitris Lyacos's The First Death
The First Death
is loosely based on Philoctetes's in its recounting of the experiences of a crippled, marooned protagonist abandoned on a desert island.

"too you can no longer speak, you are drowning and the familiar pain touches outlets in the untrodden body now you can no longer walk – you crawl, there where the darkness is deeper more tender, carcass of a disemboweled beast you embrace a handful of bed-ridden bones and drift into sleep."


In George Eliot's novel The Mill on the Floss, Philip Wakem tells Maggie and Tom the story of Philoctetes
after Tom injures his foot.[5] In Iris Murdoch's novel The Green Knight, Harvey Blacket said that to say he was like Philoctetes
was a perfectly beastly comparison. The legend of Philoctetes
was, in part, the inspiration for Robert Silverberg's science fiction novel The Man in the Maze. In the novel, A Division of the Spoils, the last part of The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott, filmed as the TV series The Jewel in the Crown (TV series) in 1984, "Philoctetes" is used as his pen name by Hari Kumar for his articles in the Ranpur Gazette. In Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano, Hugh Firmin escapes his British upbringing by enlisting as a sailor on the ship Philoctetes. In the 1998 novel Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli, Philoctetes
is included as a main character. Mark Merlis features a version of Philoctetes
in his 1998 AIDS-themed novel An Arrow's Flight. Philoctetes
makes several appearances in the 2007 French novel/collection of linked short stories La chaussure sur le toit by Vincent Delecroix. In "L'élément tragique", Philoctète is a character who has been abandoned with a weapon and a festering leg wound on the roof of Parisian apartment building; a Ulysse and a young Néoptolème are also part of the story. In another related story,"Caractère de chien", a dog narrates the story of his master, a writer so obsessed with the story of Philoctéte and overcome by the notion of abandonment that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.


A character named Philoctetes
makes an appearance in the 1997 animated movie Hercules, although the character is largely based on the centaur Chiron
in the original Greek mythology. In it, Philoctetes
(usually referred to simply as "Phil") is a satyr and Hercules' trainer. He is voiced by Danny DeVito, and by Robert Costanzo in the follow-up TV series and the Kingdom Hearts
Kingdom Hearts
video games.


The Torchwood
episode "Greeks Bearing Gifts" has the alien serial-killer Mary (played by Daniella Denby-Ashe) refer to herself as Philoctetes, in reference to his exile on Lemnos. She was transported to Earth for crimes which she described as "political" but her testimony is probably untrustworthy. Unlike classical Philoctetes, she is not recalled to her home but, rather, consigned by Captain Jack to the center of the Sun.


Sophocles' play forms the basis of an essay by Edmund Wilson
Edmund Wilson
The Wound and the Bow, in the book of the same name.

Modern art[edit] Painting[edit]

on the Island of Lemnos
by James Barry, 1770, From A Series of Etchings by James Barry, Esq. from his Original and Justly Celebrated Paintings, in the Great Room of the Society of Arts (Image). The Wounded Philoctetes
by Nikolaj Abraham Abildgaard, 1775, now in the Statens Museum for Kunst
Statens Museum for Kunst
in Copenhagen, which is also used as the front cover for the Penguin Classics edition of the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. (Image). Philoctetes
on Lemnos
by Jean Germain Drouais, 1788, now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Chartres
(Image). Dying Philoctetes
by Vincenzo Baldacci, 1807, now in the Pinacoteca Comunale in Cesena


Wounded Philoctetes
by Herman Wilhelm Bissen, now in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen

See also[edit]

Pythagoras (of Rhegium)


^ John C. Wells, Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, 3rd edition (2008), entry Philoctetes. ^ Proklos. p. 3.2.  Missing or empty title= (help) ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 114. ^ Mayor, Adrienne (2008). Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs: Biological & Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World. New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 1-58567-348-X. Retrieved December 17, 2012.  ^ The Mill on the Floss, Book Second, Chapter 6

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Characters in the Iliad


Acamas Achilles Agamemnon Agapenor Ajax the Greater Ajax the Lesser Alcimus Anticlus Antilochus Arcesilaus Ascalaphus Automedon Balius and Xanthus Bias Calchas Diomedes Elephenor Epeius Eudoros Euryalus Eurybates Eurydamas Eurypylus Guneus Helen Ialmenus Idomeneus Leitus Leonteus Lycomedes Machaon Medon Meges Menelaus Menestheus Meriones Neoptolemus Nestor Nireus Odysseus Palamedes Patroclus Peneleos Philoctetes Phoenix Podalirius Podarces Polites Polypoetes Promachus Protesilaus Prothoenor Schedius Stentor Sthenelus Talthybius Teucer Thersites Thoas Thrasymedes Tlepolemus


Aeneas Aesepus Agenor Alcathous Amphimachus Anchises Andromache Antenor Antiphates Antiphus Archelochus Asius Asteropaios Astyanax Atymnius Axylus Briseis Calesius Caletor Cassandra Chryseis Chryses Clytius Coön Dares Phrygius Deiphobus Dolon Epistrophus Euphemus Euphorbus Glaucus Gorgythion Hector Hecuba Helenus Hyperenor Hypsenor Ilioneus Imbrius Iphidamas Kebriones Laocoön Lycaon Melanippus Mentes Mydon Mygdon of Phrygia Othryoneus Pandarus Panthous Paris Pedasus Peirous Phorcys Polites Polydamas Polybus Polydorus Priam Pylaemenes Pylaeus Pyraechmes Rhesus of Thrace Sarpedon Theano Ucalegon

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