Relief from Giotto's Campanile.

In Greek mythology, Phoroneus (/fəˈrɒn.js/; Ancient Greek: Φορωνεύς means 'bringer of a price'[1]) was a culture-hero of the Argolid, fire-bringer, primordial king of Argos.


Phoroneus was the son of the river god Inachus and either Melia, the Oceanid[2] or Argia,[3] the embodiment of the Argolid itself: "Inachus, son of Oceanus, begat Phoroneus[4] by his sister Argia".

He was said to have been married to Cinna,[5] or Cerdo, a nymph,[6] or Teledice[7] (or Laodice)[8] also a nymph, or Perimede,[9] or first to Peitho and second to Europe,[10] and to have fathered a number of children, some of whom are dealt with below; others include Apis, Car,[11] Chthonia, Clymenus,[12] Sparton,[13] Lyrcus[14] and Europs, an illegitimate son.[15] An unnamed daughter of his is said to have consorted with Hecaterus and became the mother of the five Hecaterides, nymphs of the rustic dance.[16]

In Argive culture, Niobe is associated with Phoroneus, sometimes as his mother, sometimes as his daughter, or else, likely, as his consort (Kerenyi). In another story, according to Hellanicus of Lesbos, Phoroneus had at least three sons: Agenor, Jasus and Pelasgus, and that after the death of Phoroneus, the two elder brothers divided his dominions between themselves in such a manner that Pelasgus received the country about the river Erasmus, and built Larissa, and Iasus the country about Elis. After the death of these two, Agenor, the youngest, invaded their dominions, and thus became king of Argos.[17][18]

The Clementine Recognitions mentions Phthia, a daughter of Phoroneus, who became the mother of Achaeus by Zeus.[19]

Comparative table of Phoroneus' family
Relation Names Sources
Hellanicus Scholia on Pindar Scholia on Euripides Parthenius Strabo Apollodorus Pausanias Hyginus Clement Tzetzes
Parents Inachus
Inachus and Melia
Inachus and Argia
Wife Perimede
Children Agenor
Niobe or Nioba
wife of Hecaterus


Hyginus' genealogy expresses the position of Phoroneus as one[20] of the primordial men, whose local identities differed in the various regions of Greece,[21] and who had for a mother the essential spirit of the very earth of Argos herself, Argia. He was the primordial king in the Peloponnesus, authorized by Zeus: "Formerly Zeus himself had ruled over men, but Hermes created a confusion of human speech, which spoiled Zeus' pleasure in this Rule".[22] Phoroneus introduced both the worship of Hera and the use of fire and the forge.[23] Poseidon and Hera had vied for the Argive when the primeval waters had receded, Phoroneus "was the first to gather the people together into a community; for they had up to then been living as scattered and lonesome families". (Pausanias).

Phoroneus' successor was Argus, who was Niobe's son, either by Zeus or Phoroneus himself. He was also the father of Apis, who may have also ruled Argos (according to Tatiānus[24]). He was worshipped in Argos with an eternal fire that was shown to Pausanias in the 2nd century CE, and funeral sacrifices were offered to him at his tomb-sanctuary.[25]

Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Argos Succeeded by
Kings of Argos Regnal Years Castor Regnal Years Syncellus Regnal Years Apollodorus Hyginus Tatian Pausanias
Precessor 1677 50 winters & summers Inachus 1677.556 winters & summers Inachus 1675 Inachus -do- -do- -do-
Phoroneus 1652 60 winters & summers Phoroneus 1649.5 60 winters & summers Phoroneus 1650 Phoroneus -do- -do- -do-
Successor 1622 35 winters & summers Apis 1619.5 35 winters & summers Apis1625 Apis-do--do- -do-

Argive genealogy

Argive genealogy in Greek mythology
Colour key:



  1. ^ Graves, Robert (1960). The Greek Myths. Harmondsworth, London, England: Penguin Books. pp. s.v. Phoroneus. ISBN 978-0143106715.
  2. ^ Apollodorus, 2.1.1
  3. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 143
  4. ^ The Argive myth was reported to Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.15.5
  5. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 145
  6. ^ Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.21.1.
  7. ^ Apollodorus, 2.1.1
  8. ^ Tzetzes on Lycophron, Alexandra 177
  9. ^ Scholia on Pindar, Olympian Ode 3.28
  10. ^ Scholia on Euripides, Orestes 932
  11. ^ Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio [1.39.5.
  12. ^ Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.35.4.
  13. ^ Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.16.4.
  14. ^ Parthenius, Erotica Pathemata 1
  15. ^ Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.34.4.
  16. ^ Strabo, Geographica 10.3.19
  17. ^ Hellanicus of Lesbos, Fragm. p. 47, ed. Sturz.
  18. ^ Schmitz, Leonhard (1867), "Agenor (2)", in Smith, William (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, p. 68
  19. ^ Pseudo-Clement, Recognitions 10.21
  20. ^ In the Argolid, of course, he displaced Prometheus as the primordial fire-giver and the originator of kingship (Yves Bonnefoy and Wendy Doniger, eds. Greek and Egyptian Mythologies, "Myths of Argos and Athens" [University of Chicago 1992:124]).
  21. ^ See Karl Kerenyi, The Gods of the Greeks, 1951 (1980), p. 222, for other primordial men: Prometheus and Epimetheus, and, in Boeotia, Alkomeneus.
  22. ^ Karl Kerenyi, The Gods of the Greeks 1951 (1980), p. 222.
  23. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 143. Compare Prometheus.
  24. ^ James Cowles Prichard : An Analysis of the Egyptian Mythology. 1819. p. 85
  25. ^ Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 2.20.3.


  • Apollodorus, The Library with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. ISBN 0-674-99135-4. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library. Greek text available from the same website.
  • Gaius Julius Hyginus, Fabulae from The Myths of Hyginus translated and edited by Mary Grant. University of Kansas Publications in Humanistic Studies. Online version at the Topos Text Project.
  • Parthenius, Love Romances translated by Sir Stephen Gaselee (1882-1943), S. Loeb Classical Library Volume 69. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press. 1916. Online version at the Topos Text Project.
  • Parthenius, Erotici Scriptores Graeci, Vol. 1. Rudolf Hercher. in aedibus B. G. Teubneri. Leipzig. 1858. Greek text available at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Pausanias, Description of Greece with an English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A., in 4 Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1918. ISBN 0-674-99328-4. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library
  • Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio. 3 vols. Leipzig, Teubner. 1903. Greek text available at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Pseudo-Clement, Recognitions from Ante-Nicene Library Volume 8, translated by Smith, Rev. Thomas. T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh. 1867. Online version at
  • Strabo, The Geography of Strabo. Edition by H.L. Jones. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. 1924. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
  • Strabo, Geographica edited by A. Meineke. Leipzig: Teubner. 1877. Greek text available at the Perseus Digital Library.

External links

  • Mahanas, Dictionary of Greek Mythology; "Phoroneus"