Idomeneus of Crete

In Greek mythology, Idomeneus (/ˈdɒmɪnjs/;[1] Greek: Ἰδομενεύς) was a Cretan commander, father of Orsilochus, Cleisithyra and Iphiclus, son of Deucalion and Cleopatra,[2][3] grandson of Minos and king of Crete. He led the Cretan armies to the Trojan War [4] and was also one of Helen's suitors as well as a comrade of the Telamonian Ajax. Meriones was his charioteer and brother-in-arms.

Idomeneus coming back, Palais Niel, France


In Homer's Iliad, Idomeneus is found among the first rank of the Greek generals, leading his troops and engaging the enemy head-on, and escaping serious injury. Idomeneus was one of Agamemnon's trusted advisors. He was one of the primary defenders when most of the other Achaean heroes were injured, and even fought Hector briefly and repulsed his attack.[5] Like most of the other leaders of the Greeks, he is alive and well as the story comes to a close. He was one of the Achaeans to enter the Trojan Horse. Idomeneus killed twenty men and at least three Amazon women, including Bremusa,[6] at Troy.[7]

A later tradition, preserved by the mythographer Apollodorus of Athens,[8] continues the story as follows: after the war, Idomeneus's ship hit a terrible storm. He promised Poseidon that he would sacrifice the first living thing he saw when he returned home if Poseidon would save his ship and crew. The first living thing was his son, whom Idomeneus duly sacrificed. The gods were angry at the murder of his own son and sent a plague to Crete. The Cretans sent him into exile in Calabria (ancient name of the Salento in Apulia), Italy[9] and then Colophon in Asia Minor where he died.[10] According to Marcus Terrentius Varro, the gens Salentini descended from Idomeneus, who had sailed from Crete to Illyria, and then together with Illyrians and Locrians from Illyria to Salento, see Grecìa Salentina.[11]

Alternatively, Idomeneus was driven out of Crete by Leucus, his foster son, who had seduced and then killed Idomeneus' wife Meda and usurped the throne of Crete.[12]

The tale is also covered by the fourth-century Italian writer Maurus Servius Honoratus, and the French 17th century writer François Fénelon. According to the hypothetical reading of Achterberg et al. (2004), Idomeneus may be mentioned on the Phaistos Disk (spelled i-du-ma-na, word B.IX) as the governor of Mesara.

Italian and German title pages of the original libretto of Mozart's opera, Idomeneo

Idomeneo, a 1781 opera seria by Mozart, is based on the story of Idomeneus's return to Crete. In this version, Poseidon (Neptune in the opera) spares Idomeneo's son Idamante, on condition that Idomeneo relinquish his throne to the new generation.


  1. John Walker & William Trollope, 1830, A key to the classical pronunciation of Greek, Latin, and scripture proper names, p 68;
    Robert Palfrey Utter, 1918, Every-day pronunciation, p 127
  2. Tzetzes, Homeric Allegories Prologue 587
  3. Tzetzes on Lycophron, 431
  4. Iliad 2.645
  5. Iliad, repeated appearances
  6. Quintus Smyrnaeus, The Fall of Troy, Book I.
  7. Hyginus, Fabulae 114.
  8. Encyclopædia Britannica
  9. Virgil. Aeneid. Book III, 400.
  10. Scholiast on Homer Odyssey ν 259
  11. Operum quae exstant, p. 174, Marcus Terentius Varro, printed by Christophorus Raphelengius, 1601.
  12. Bibliotheca, Epitome of Book 4, 6. 10


  • Achterberg, Winfried; Best, Jan; Enzler, Kees; Rietveld, Lia; Woudhuizen, Fred, The Phaistos Disc: A Luwian Letter to Nestor, Publications of the Henry Frankfort Foundation vol XIII, Dutch Archeological and Historical Society, Amsterdam 2004.