Melampus

In Greek mythology, Melampus (Μελάμπους), or Blackfoot, was the introducer of the worship of Dionysus, according to Herodotus, who asserted that his powers as a seer were derived from the Egyptians and that he could understand the language of animals. Part of the story of his abilities goes like this:

When Melampus lived with Neleus, he dwelt outside the town of Pylos, and before his house there stood an oak tree containing a serpent’s nest. The old serpents were killed by his servants, and burnt by Melampus himself, who reared the young ones. One day, when they had grown up, and Melampus was asleep, they approached from both sides and cleaned his ears with their tongues. Being thus roused from his sleep, he started up, and to his surprise perceived that he now understood the language of birds, and that with their assistance he could foretell the future. In addition to this he acquired the power of prophesying, from the victims that were offered to the gods, and, after having had an interview with Apollo on the banks of the Alpheius, he became a most renowned soothsayer (Apollod. i. 9. § 11; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1685). During his stay with Neleus it happened that his brother Bias was one of the suitors for the hand of Pero, the daughter of Neleus, and Neleus promised his daughter to the man who should bring to him as a gift for the maiden, the oxen of Iphiclus, which were guarded by a dog whom neither man nor animal could approach. Melampus undertook the task of procuring the oxen for his brother, although he knew that the thief would be caught and kept in imprisonment for one whole year, after which he was to come into possession of the oxen. Things turned out as he had said; Melampus was thrown into prison, and in his captivity he learned front the wood-worms that the building in which he was would soon break down. He accordingly demanded to be let out, and as Phylacus and Iphiclus became thus acquainted with his prophetic powers, they asked him in what manner Iphiclus, who had no children, was to become father. Melampus, on the suggestion of a vulture, advised Iphiclus to take the rust from the knife with which Phylacus had once cut his son, and drink it in water during ten days. This was done, and Iphiclus became the father of Podarces. Melampus now received the oxen as a reward for his good services, and drove them to Pylos; he thus gained Pero for his brother, and henceforth remained in Messenia (Apollod. i. 9. § 12; Paus. iv. 36. § 2; Schol. ad Theocrit. iii. 43).

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