Philoctetes in Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
（Φιλοκτήτης), a son of Poeas (whence he is called
Poeantiades, Ov. Met. 13.313) and Demonassa, the most
celebrated archer in the Trojan war (Hom. Od. 3.190, 8.219 ;
Hyg. Fab. 102). He led the warriors from Methone, Thaumacia,
Meliboea, and Olizon, against Troy, in seven ships. But on
his voyage thither he was left behind by his men in the
island of Lemnos, because he was ill of a wound which lie
had received from the bite of a snake, and Medon, the son of
Oileus and Rhene, undertook the command of his men (Hom. Il.
2.716, &c.). This is all that the Homeric poems relate of
him, with the addition that he returned home in safety (Od.
3.190); but the cyclic and tragic poets have spun out in
various ways this slender groundwork of the story of
Philoctetes. He is said to have been the disciple, friend,
and armour-bearer of Heracles (Philostr. Imag. 17), who
instructed him in the art of using the bow, and who
bequeathed to him his bow, with the never-erring poisoned
arrows (Philostr. Her. 5). These presents were a reward for
his having erected and set fire to the pile on mount Oeta,
where Heracles burnt himself (Diod. 4.38; Hyg. Fab. 36; Ov.
Met. 9.230, &c.). According to others, however, it was
Poeas, Morsimus, Hyllus, or Zeus himself who performed that
service to Heracles (Apollod. 2.7.7; Tzetz. ad Lyc. 50;
Soph. Trch. in fin.). Philoctetes also was one of the
suitors of Helen, and, according to some traditions, it was
this circumstance that obliged him to take part in the
Troian war (Apollod. 3.10.8). On his journey thither, while
staying in the island of Chryse, he was bitten by a snake.
This misfortune happened to him as he was showing to the
Greeks the altar of Athena Chryse, and approached too near
to the serpent which was guarding the temple of the goddess
(Soph. Phil. 1327; Philostr. Imag. 17; Eustath. ad Hom. p.
330; Tzetz. aa Lyc. 911), or while he was looking at the
tomb of Troilus in the temple of Apollo Thymbraeus, or as he
was showing to his companions the altar of Heracles
(Philostr. l.c. ; Schol. ad Soph. Phil. 266), or lastly
during a sacrifice which Palamedes offered to Apollo
Sminthius (Dict. Cret. 2.14). Hera, it is said, was the
cause of this misfortune, being enraged at Philoctetes
having performed the above-mentioned service to Heracles
(Hyg. Fab. 102), though some related that the snake's bite
was the consequence of his not having returned the love of
the nymph Chryse (Tzetz. ad Lyc. 911). According to some
accounts, moreover, the wound in his foot was not inflicted
by a serpent, but by his own poisoned arrows (Serv. ad Aen.
3.402). The wound is said to have become ulcerated, and to
have produced such an intolerable smell, and such
intolerable pains, that the moanings of the hero alarmed his
companions. The consequence was, that on the advice of
Odysseus, and by the command of the Atreidae, he was exposed
and left alone on the solitary coast of Lemnos (Ov. Met.
13.315; Hyg. Fab. 102). According to some he was there left
behind, because the priests of Hephaestus in Lemnos knew how
to heal the wound (Eustath. ad Hom. p. 330), and Pylius, a
son of Hephaestus, is said to have actually cured him
(Ptolem. Heph. 6), while, according to others, he was
believed to have died of the wound (comp. Paus. 1.22.6).
According to the common tradition, the sufferer remained in
Lemnos during the whole period of the Trojan war, until in
the tenth year Odysseus and Diomedes came to him as
ambassadors, to inform him that an oracle had declared that
without the arrows of Heracles Troy could not be taken. The
tradition which represents him as having been cured, adds
that while the war against Troy was going on, he, in
conjunction with Euneus, conquered the small islands about
the Trojan coast, and expelled their Carian inhabitants. As
a reward for these exploits he received a part of Lemnos,
which he called Acesa (from ἀκέομαι, I heal), and at the
request of Diomedes and Neoptolemus, he then proceeded to
Troy to decide the victory by his arrows (Philostr. Her. 5;
comp. Hygin. Fub. 102; Q. Smyrn. 9.325, 460; Tzetz. ad Lyc.
911; Schol. ad Pind. Pyth. 1.100). According to the common
story, however, Philoctetes was still suffering when the
ambassadors arrived, but he nevertheless followed their
call. After his arrival before Troy, Apollo sent him into a
profound sleep, during which Machaon (or Podalirius, or
both, or Asclepius himself) cut out the wound, washed it
with wine, and applied healing herbs to it (Tzetz. ad Lyc.
l.c.; Schol. ad Find. Pyth. 1.109; Propert. 2.1. 61; Q.
Smym. 10.180; Soph. Phil. 133, 1437). Philoctetes was thus
cured. and soon after slew Paris, whereupon Troy fell into
the hands of the Greeks (Soph. Phil. 1426 ; Apollod. 3.12.6;
Tzetz. ad Lyc. 64; Hyg. Fab. 112; Conon, Narr. 23). On his
return from Troy he is said to have been cast upon the coast
of Italy, where he settled, and built Petelia and Crimissa.
In the latter place he founded a sanctuary of Apollo Alaeus,
to whom he dedicated his bow (Strab. vi. p.254; Tzetz. ad
Lyc. 911 ; Serv. ad Aen. 3.402). Afterwards a band of
Rhodians also came to Italy, and as they became involved in
war with the colonists from Pallene, Philoctetes assisted
the Rhodians, and was slain. His tomb and sanctuary, in
which heifers were sacrificed to him, were shown at Macalla.
(Tzetz. ad Lyc. 911, 927.) - A Dictionary of Greek and Roman
biography and mythology, William Smith, Ed.