In this edition of Myth of the Week we will be focusing on the myth of Ixion as a continuation of our Punishment in Tartarus mini-series. (I was going to combine his myth with Tityus but there’s a bit more meat to the story than I initially thought). The first two articles were about Sisyphus and Tantalus, who were punished in some pretty awesome ways so be sure to check them out!
Ixion was the king of the Lapiths in Thessaly. He was the son of, well, we don’t really know. His mother was definitely Perimela. There are different accounts of who his father was; Phlegyas, Anton, Pasion or the war god Ares. Take your pick. He was also married to Dia and had sons named Peirithoos and…you have to wait. All shall be revealed. Mysterious, isn’t it?
The story goes that Ixion promised to pay a dowry to Dia’s father, Deioneus, in exchange for his daughter’s hand. When he didn’t, Deioneus grew angry and Ixion invited him over to his house, presumably for a bit of a chat. When Deioneus arrived, however, Ixion threw him into a fire and killed him.
Two major problems with this. Firstly, hospitality was held in high regard. Actually, the safety and rights of guests are held sacred. Guests are protected by the gods, and not just any gods, but Zeus himself. Safe to say, Ixion is off to a bad start. The second big no-no is killing your kin, even if it is only an in-law (I say that with all respect to in-laws and hope my sister-in-law isn’t reading this). In The Iliad, we are told that Patroklos also killed someone in his youth and the punishment is a choice between death and exile. Both Patroklos and Ixion chose exile.
You might be thinking that this was the reason for his being punished in Tartarus.
It gets worse. Much worse. Zeus pities on Ixion because the gods are angry with him and no one purified him of murder. Zeus decides to take it upon himself to purify Ixion. Not only that, but he invites him to his table at Olympus! This is where Ixion really messed up.
He took such a liking to Hera that he ended up getting drunk and tried to take Hera by force. Just to sum up how stupid he was, this was THE Hera, Queen of the Gods, sister and wife to Zeus.
Zeus didn’t fly off the handle immediately though. He wanted to see if what Hera claimed was true and fashioned a cloud to look like Hera and put it beside Ixion. To cut a long story short, Ixion slept with the cloud and suffered Zeus cast him down to Tartarus. His punishment?
To be chained by his hands and feet to a fiery, eternal spinning wheel.
But wait, there’s more! (Not much more though, I promise). The cloud that Ixion mated with was named Nephele and as a result of their union, Centauros was born. The name sounds familiar, right? He was the father of the Centaurs (half-man, half-horse creatures) who created them by mating with mares.
The Lapiths (led by Ixion’s son Peirithoos) and the Centaurs would have a great battle against each other which all began because the Centaurs couldn’t hold their drink at a wedding. (They were notorious for it and would act completely inappropriately). The Lapiths were victorious in the end.
Hopefully you enjoyed that. I certainly loved researching it. If you would like me to cover any myth or mythical figure, please let me know. You can contact me through Facebook, Twitter, leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be back next time with our third last figure – Tityus – in the Punishment in Tartarus mini-series.
See you then!