THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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AUTOLYCUS, in Greek mythology, the son of Hermes and father of Anticleia, mother of Odysseus. He lived at the foot of Mount Parnassus, and was famous as a thief and swindler. On one occasion he met his match. Sisyphus, who had lost some cattle, suspected Autolycus of being the thief, but was unable to bring it home to him, since he possessed the power of changing everything that was touched by his hands. Sisyphus accordingly burnt his name into the hoofs of his cattle, and, during a visit to Autolycus, recognized his property. It is said that on this occasion Sisyphus seduced Autolycus's daughter Anticleia, and that Odysseus was really the son of Sisyphus, not of Laertes, whom Anticleia afterwards married. The object of the story is to establish the close connexion between Hermes, the god of theft and cunning, and the three persons—Sisyphus, Odysseus, Autolycus—who are the incarnate representations of these practices. Autolycus is also said to have instructed Heracles in the art of wrestling, and to have taken part in the Argonautic expedition.

Iliad, x. 267; Odyssey, xix. 395; Ovid, Metam. xi. 313; Apollodorus i. 9; Hyginus, Fab. 201.


Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Sections in Greek will yield a transliteration when the pointer is moved over them, and words using diacritic characters in the Latin Extended Additional block, which may not display in some fonts or browsers, will display an unaccented version.

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