In Greek mythology, Aeacus, or Aiakos (Αἴακος) ("bewailing" or "earth borne") was king in the island of Aegina in the Saronic Gulf and was so far-famed for the righteous sense of piety and justice with which he ruled over his people that his judgment was sought all over Hellas, so much so that, that after his death, he was appointed one of the judges of the shades in Erebus, with Cretan Minos and Rhadamanthus. Rhadamanthus judged the souls of easterners, Aeacus judged Hellenes and Minos had the deciding vote, a later elaboration of the myth tells.
Aeacus was the son of Zeus and the Naiad Aegina, daughter of the river-god Asopus. Thus in his birthright he linked the Olympians with the immemorial chthonic water spirits of the land. His mother was carried off by Zeus to the island of Oenone, which was afterwards called by her name.
When Aeacus' kingdom had a horrific plague, he prayed to Zeus for help. The king of the gods changed the local ants into people (Ovid, Metamorphoses vii. 520), who were called Myrmidones. Aeacus was the ancestor of the Aeacidae.
His successful prayer to Zeus for rain at a time of drought (Isocrates, Evagoras, 14) was commemorated by a temple at Aegina (Pausanias ii. 29). He himself erected a temple to Zeus and helped Poseidon and Apollo to build the walls of Troy.
No other of the archaic priest-kings who ruled Aegina are remembered by the mythographers, for the grandsons of Aeacus, Phocus' sons Panopeus and Crisus left Aegina to settle in Phocis, a region bordering the Gulf of Corinth west of Boeotia.
That part of Phocis which is in the neighbourhood of Tithorea and Delphi took its name in very ancient times from the Corinthian Phocus, the son of Ornytion. But not many years afterwards all the country now called Phocis got that name, after the Aeginetans and Phocus the son of Aeacus crossed over there in their ships. Pausanias, Phocis 1
Alexander the Great traced his ancestry (through his mother) to Aeacus.
King Aeacus and the Myrmidons , Frans Francken the younger
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.
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