Trophonius (the Latinate spelling) or Trophonios (the transliterated Greek spelling of Τροφώνιος) was a Greek hero or daimon or god - it was never certain which one - with a rich mythological tradition and an oracular cult at Lebadaea in Boeotia.
Etymology and parallel cults
The name is etymologically derived from trepho, "to nourish". Strabo and several inscriptions refer to him as Zeus Trephonios. Several other chthonic Zeuses with similar titles are known from the Greek world, including Zeus Meilikhios ("honeyed" or "kindly" Zeus), and Zeus Chthonios ("Zeus beneath-the-earth").
Similar constructions are also found in the Roman world: for example, a shrine at Lavinium in Lazio was dedicated to Aeneas under the title Iuppiter Indiges (Jupiter in-the-earth).
Trophonius in myth
In Greek mythology, Trophonius was a son of Erginus. According to the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, he built Apollo's temple at the oracle at Delphi with his brother, Agamedes. Once finished, the oracle told the brothers to do whatsoever they wished for six days and, on the seventh, their greatest wish would be granted. They did and were found dead on the seventh day. The saying "those whom the gods love die young" comes from this story.
Alternatively, according to Pausanias they built a treasure chamber (with secret entrance only they knew about) for King Hyprieus of Boeotia. Using the secret entrance, they stole Hyprieus' fortune. He was aware but did not know who the thief was; he laid a snare. Agamedes was trapped in it; Trophonius cut off his head so that Hyprieus would not know who the body in the snare was. He then fled into the cavern at Lebadaea, and disappeared forever.
The cave of Trophonius was not discovered again until the Lebadaeans suffered a plague, and consulted the Delphic Oracle. The Pythia advised them that an unnamed hero was angry at being neglected, and that they should find his grave and offer him worship forthwith. Several unsuccessful searches followed, and the plague continued unabated until a shepherd boy followed a trail of bees into a hole in the ground. Instead of honey, he found a daimon, and Lebadaea lost its plague while gaining a popular oracle.
The childless Xuthus in Euripides's Ion consults Trophonius on his way to Delphi.
Apollonius of Tyana, a legendary wise man and seer of Late Antiquity, once visited the shrine and found that, when it came to philosophy, Trophonius was a proponent of sound Pythagorean doctrines.
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