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Culture Mythology Eastern Macedonia and Thrace

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Kourtidhs, History of Thrace, 1932, Ancient Thracian Kings and Rulers
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02/12/2007
Rhesus

Aikaterinh Balla
Source: C.E.T.I.
© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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According to mythical traditions, Rhesus was son of the river god Strymon and of a Muse, either Euterpe or Calliope or Terpsichore. It is said that Strymon entrusted the raising of his newborn son Rhesus to the Nymphs of his strings and when his son grew up, he became king of the Thracians.

The kingdom of Rhesus was bigger than that of Lycurgus or of Diomedes, as it extended over the coastal area after Strymon river and near Datos. The Thracian tribes under his dominion were the Odomantes, the Edonoi and the Bisaltians. In the Homeric poems, he appears to be as one of the greatest Thracian men and as one of the most skilled warriors.

Rhesus went to Troy with his Thracian warriors and his famous horses in order to side the Trojans against the Greeks. However, he was murdered the very first night of his stay in the Trojan camp, along with twelve more Thracians, by Ulysses and Diomedes, who managed to exterminate a great enemy of the Greeks, according to the guidance of Athena.

During the roman times, the cult of the Equestrian Hero of Thrace was widespread throughout all the Thracian regions; this hero is usually called “Ήρως” (hero) or “Κύριος” (lord) and is often associated with Apollo, Zeus, Asclepius, Dionysus and Ares. There are many representations in relief with the figure of the equestrian hero in a hunting scene. It is a deity connected with the Underworld symbolizing the rebirth of the nature. The representations of the deity, usually including an altar, a wild boar, a snake coiled up to a tree and a dog, lead to the identification of the equestrian with Rhesus, the mythical king of Thrace, who was idolized, deified and worshipped on the highlands of Rodopi, either as a saviour god or as a chthonian god. According to Philostratus, the wild animals, wild boars and deer went alone to the altar of Rhesus in order to be sacrificed. On the tops of the mountains of Ismaros and Rodopi, sanctuaries of the Hero Rhesus have been traced along with votive gifts of the faithful, like relief plaques, small pointed-bottom amphorae and bronze figurines of the deity as well as other objects that seem to be related with religious ceremonies in honour of the deity.