And so we have reached our penultimate entry in our Punishment in Tartarus mini-series. I know, I know, I hear you sigh. But don’t worry because I have some really fun and interesting – at least they are in my mind – articles planned. The figures to have already featured in the series are Sisyphus, Tantalus, Ixion and Tityos. This time it’s the turn of Salmoneus.
Salmoneus was the son of Aeolus and Enarete and the brother of a rather familiar figure…Sisyphus! We have seen some interesting family ties throughout this mini-series. Salmoneus and Sisyphus are brothers, two of Tantalus’ children – Broteas and Niobe – were punished by the gods and Ixion’s descendants go to war with one another.
He initially lived in Thessaly but left and founded his own city named Salmone. He was arrogant though and tried to compare himself with Zeus. As we know, that’s one hell of a mistake to make. (Get it? Hell…Underworld…no?…oh nevermind). He compared himself to the king of the gods, refused to sacrifice to him and ordered that the sacrifices should be offered to him instead. He also went around in a chariot and dragged animal skins and kettles behind him to mimic thunder and hurled flaming torches into the sky to mimic thunder.
The gods can be angered at the smallest of indiscretions so imagine how ticked off Zeus was when he saw all this. He hurled a thunderbolt at Salmoneus, killing him, and destroyed the city that he had founded along with everyone who lived there.
I think now is a good time to point out that the gods weren’t good guys. They were vengeful, spiteful and incredibly human in their emotions. Modern day religions worship gods who they maintain are nothing short of perfect. The Greek gods on the other hand, were a long way from perfection.
After he had killed Salmoneus, Zeus sent him down to Tartarus. Virgil who puts him there with the Aeneid – the Roman Epic – stating, “I saw too Salmoneus suffering cruel punishment, still miming the flames of Jupiter and the rumblings of Olympus.” Homer includes nothing about it when Odysseus journeys to the Underworld in the Odyssey so this seems to be an addition completely of Virgil’s making.
Unfortunately, I leave you without a specific punishment but this is another instance of a mortal challenging or mimicking a god. Our final instalment in the ‘Punishment in Tatarus’ mini-series is about the Danaides, the fifty daughters of Danaus.
Until next time,