Amphitryon

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Amphitryon (Greek: Ἀμφιτρύων, gen.: Ἀμφιτρύωνος; usually interpreted as "harassing either side"), in Greek mythology, was a son of Alcaeus, king of Tiryns in Argolis.

Amphitryon was a Theban general, who was originally from Tiryns in the eastern part of the Peloponnese. He was friends with Panopeus.

Having accidentally killed his father-in-law Electryon, king of Mycenae, Amphitryon was driven out by another uncle, Sthenelus. He fled with Alcmene, Electryon's daughter, to Thebes, where he was cleansed from the guilt of blood by Creon, his maternal uncle, king of Thebes.

Alcmene, who was pregnant and had been betrothed to Amphitryon by her father, refused to marry him until he had avenged the death of her brothers, all of whom except one had fallen in battle against the Taphians. It was on his return from this expedition that Electryon had been killed. Amphitryon accordingly took the field against the Taphians, accompanied by Creon, who had agreed to assist him on condition that he slew the Teumessian fox which had been sent by Dionysus to ravage the country.

The Taphians, however, remained invincible until Comaetho, the king's daughter, out of love for Amphitryon cut off her father's golden hair, the possession of which rendered him immortal. Having defeated the enemy, Amphitryon put Comaetho to death and handed over the kingdom of the Taphians to Cephalus. On his return to Thebes, he married Alcmene, who gave birth to twin sons, Iphicles and Heracles. Only the former was the son of Amphitryon because Heracles was the son of Zeus, who had visited Alcmene during Amphitryon's absence.

He fell in battle against the Minyans, against whom he had undertaken an expedition, accompanied by the youthful Heracles, to deliver Thebes from a disgraceful tribute. In the play Heracles by Euripides, Amphitryon survives to witness the murders of Heracles' children and wife.

Dramatic treatments

Amphitryon was the title of a lost tragedy of Sophocles, but most others who have used this story have rendered comic treatments instead. Plautus, the Roman comedian, used this tale to present Amphitryon, a burlesque play. The episode of Zeus and Alcmene similarly forms the subject of comedies by Camões and Molière. From Molière's line "Le véritable Amphitryon est l'Amphitryon où l'on dîne," the name Amphitryon has come to be used in the sense of a generous entertainer, a good host; the French word for "host" is in fact "amphitryon;" its Spanish cognate is "anfitrión".

John Dryden's 1690 Amphitryon is based on Molière's 1668 version as well as on Plautus. Notable innovations include music by Henry Purcell and the character of Phaedra, who flirts with Sosia but is eventually won over by Mercury’s promises of wealth. In Germany, Heinrich von Kleist's Amphitryon (1807) remains the most frequently performed version of the myth, with Kleist using Alkmene's inability to distinguish between Jupiter and her husband to explore metaphysical issues; Giselher Klebe wrote in 1961 his opera Alkmene based on this play. Other German dramatic treatments include Georg Kaiser's posthumously published Double Amphitryon (Zweimal Amphitryon, 1943) and Peter Hacks's Amphitryon (1968).

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