Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pelops and Hippodamia: A Grateful Dead Tale from Ancient Greece

Time for another Grateful Dead tale found in The Grateful Dead Tales From Around the World (SurLaLune Fairy Tale Series). This one is from Ancient Greece.

The myth of Pelops and Hippodamia as recorded by Theopompus, a Greek historian who lived c. 378 BC–c. 315 BC, provides another instance of a Grateful Dead character. In some of his surviving fragments of writings, Theopompus tells of how Pelops wins Hippodamia’s hand and becomes king of Pisa by defeating her father, Oenomaus, in a chariot race. According to Gordon Shrimpton, in Theopompus the Historian,* Theopompus thus describes Pelops’ experiences on the way to Pisa:

Cillus his driver died. And in a dream he stood over Pelops, who was in great distress over him, and lamented his own death and made requests about a funeral. Therefore, when he awoke, he reduced his corpse to ashes in a fire. Next he buried the ashes of Cillus magnificently, raising a mound over him. Beside the mound he founded a temple which he called the temple of Apollo Cillaeus because of the suddenness of Cillus’ death. What is more, he also founded a city and called it Cilla. Cillus, however, even after death appears to have helped Pelops’ cause in order for him to defeat Oenomaus in the race.

The details of how exactly the deceased Cillus helped his master are lost in antiquity but Theopompus provides enough details to firmly enter this myth in the Grateful Dead canon.

*Shrimpton, Gordon. Theopompus the Historian. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991. p. 265.

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