Autolycus , the Ancient Greek Trickster

Renowned for his cunning nature and cleverness, Autolycus appears in ancient Greek myths as a trickster. He is also known for being the son of the messenger of gods. In this article, you will learn more about Autolycus.

His Family Ties

Autolycus was the son of Chione , the attractive daughter of Daedalion. The beauty of Chione attracted two of the great gods , Apollo (god of light and the sun) and Hermes (messenger of the gods). They both vied for her affections and body. Apollo decided to wait until nightfall to sleep with her, while Hermes used a magical wand to put Chione to sleep. It was he who came to the girl first while it was still the daytime.

Chione did not give birth to just one child from these acts, but a son to both of the gods. With Apollo, she had Philammon who inherited the talent of music from his father. With Hermes, she had Autolycus who gained the skill of trickery. With these skills, it was said that he could not be caught by those he stole from. He was also good with the lyre and could sing. Interestingly, it was stated in Ovid that Autolycus was conceived when Hermes touched his mother’s face.

As Autolycus became a man, he took Neaera as his wife , although Homer acknowledges Amphithea as his wife. While he was the father of many sons, only one is named. Aesimus
Autolycus also fathered a daughter named Anticlea, who married Laertes of Ithaca and gave birth to Odysseus.

Claim to Fame

In ancient Greek myths, Autolycus is the grandfather of Odysseus (who later becomes the ruler of the island called Ithaca and one of the most well known of the Trojan War myths), but what he is most remembered for is the many thefts that he committed. We also know that he was good at wrestling and played a role in teaching Heracles the art of the sport.

Myths with Hermes

Autolycus is at the center of a lot of thefts in ancient Greek mythology, including the following references to him:

·    Autolycus was also responsible for the theft of cattle belonging to Sisyphus, who had a reputation for being a shrewd king that killed his guests, seduced his niece, and stole the thrown from his brother. Eventually, the gods banished the king to Tartarus for his actions.

·    A helmet that eventually found its way to Odysseus at Troy was stolen by Autolycus. It gave the wearer the ability to become invisible. The reason why he took the helmet from his grandson was stated by Homer, who stated: “he had broken into the stout-built house of Amyntor, son of Ormenus; and he gave it to Amphidamas of Cythera to take to Scandeia, and Amphidamas gave it to Molus as a guest-gift, but he gave it to his own son Meriones to wear; and now, being set thereon, it covered the head of Odysseus.”