|© 1998 Bernard SUZANNE
|Last updated December 13, 1998
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This page is part of the "tools" section of a site, Plato and his dialogues, dedicated to developing a new interpretation of Plato's dialogues. The "tools" section provides historical and geographical context (chronology, maps, entries on characters and locations) for Socrates, Plato and their time. By clicking on the minimap at the beginning of the entry, you can go to a full size map in which the city or location appears. For more information on the structure of entries and links available from them, read the notice at the beginning of the index of persons and locations.
Region of central Greece north of the Gulf of Corinth,
around Mount Parnassus (area 2).
Phocis was the district in which the most famous sanctuary of Delphi was located, a source of wealth which led the Phocidians to several wars with nearby Thessalia.
Phocis owed its name to the mythological hero Phocus, son of Ornytus, himself a son of Sisyphus, king of Corinth. Ornytus earned himself a kingdom in a war with the Locrians but left it to his son Phocus before returning to Corinth with his second son Thoas. Phocus later healed and married Antiope, the mother by Zeus of Amphion and Zethus, the Theban heroes, after she had been struk with madness by Dionysus in punishment for the murder of Dirce and was wandering all through Greece.
There exists another version of Phocus' story, in which he was said to be the son of Æacus, king of Salamis, and of the Nereid Psamathe who, to try and escape Æacus' attentions, had, to no avail, taken the form of a seal (whose name in Greek is phôcos, the Greek form of the name Phocus, which explains the name of his son). Thus, Phocus was the half-brother of Telamon (the father of the great Ajax, one of the heroes of the Trojan war) and Peleus (king of Phthia and father of Achilles). After growing up in Salamis at the court of his father, Phocus left the island and conquered the region of central Greece which took his name. He married Asteria, a daughter of Diomede, herself a sister of Ion and Achæus and a daughter of Xouthus, a son of Deucalion. They had twins, Crisus and Panopeus, who gave their names to two cities of Phocis, Crisa and Panopeus. Later, Phocus tried to return to Salamis, but there, he was killed by his half-brothers Telamon and Peleus. To avenge him, his mother Psamathe sent a monstruous wolf in the region of Thessalia where Peleus had seeked refuge, which started destroying Peleus' herds, until his wife Thetis, another Nereid, and thus one of Psamethe's sisters, convinced her to turn the monster into stone.
Panopeus had a son named Epeius but, because he had perjured himself when taking part with Amphitryon in his expedition against Taphians (the offspring of Mestor settled in the island of Taphos, a small island northeast of Ithaca, who were claiming the throne of Mycenæ), pledging that he wouldn't steal anything from the spoils but failing to hold to his word, he was punished through his son, who turned out a bad warrior. Epeius took part in the Troyan War and is the one who built the wooden horse that helped the Greeks take the city. He had also scupted there a wondrous statue of Hermes, which, taken away by a flood of the Scamandrus, had found its way to the Thracian city of Ainos. Though the statue was made of wood, the fishermen who dragged it in their nets and hoped to use it as heating fuel couldn't cut it with an ax and it wouldn't burn when put in a fire. And when they threw it back to the sea, it came back in their nets, so that they finally understood that it was the statue of a god and built a temple to host it. This is probably the story Plato had in mind when he mentions, at Ion, 533a-b, "Epeius, son of Panopeus" alongside "Dædalus, son of Metion" as famed sculptors.