Calchas is the seer of untiring voice that the
Achaeans had with them when they sailed against
Troy. He has been called
the best of bird-diviners, knowing past, present
and future. But being somewhat envious, he died of
grief after meeting a superior colleague.
The Family of Calchas
The family's trade.
Almost everybody in Calchas' family was a seer.
His father Thestor 1 was a seer and so was Calchas'
brother Theoclymenus 1, and his sister Leucippe 3
was a priestess of
Apollo, god of prophecy.
His sister kidnapped.
Calchas had yet another sister called Theonoe 1.
It is said that once she was playing by the shore a
band of pirates coming from the sea kidnapped her
and took her to Caria in southwestern Asia Minor.
There she was sold to King Icarus 2, who bought her
to be a concubine.
His father cast into prison.
When Thestor 1 realised that her daughter had
disappeared he went searching for her. And as
things do not happen for nothing, as a result of
shipwreck he landed precisely in Caria. Having thus
become an intruder in a foreign land he was cast
into chains, not in whatever place, but precisely
at the place where his daughter Theonoe 1 was
staying. And there he was kept as a servant.
Another sister becomes priest.
Back home Leucippe 3 found herself without
father and sister, and so she asked the oracle at
Delphi whether she should
search for them. And the oracle replied:
the earth as my priest, and you will find
them." [The oracle to Leucippe 3. Hyginus,
So, on hearing the oracle's answer, she cut her
hair and, following the oracle, went from land to
land searching for her relatives in the attire of a
Sister in love with her own sister.
When she finally arrived to Caria her sister
Theonoe 1 saw her, and believing she was a handsome
priest, she fell in love with Leucippe 3, wishing
to lie with her. But when Leucippe 3, being no
priest and no man, refused, Theonoe 1 gave orders
to shut the love-reluctant priest in a room, giving
instructions to some of the servants to come to the
room and murder him.
Daughter orders her father to kill her sister.
And as things would not happen for nothing they
chose precisely the servant Thestor 1 to perform
the horrible deed. That is how Thestor 1 was sent
unknowingly to slay his own daughter Leucippe 3,
receiving the sword from her other daughter Theonoe
1. And while all these things took place no one
recognise the other, as if seers could see even
less than ordinary people.
Thestor 1 holds the sword.
So Thestor 1 entered the room holding the sword
in his hand, and as things do not happen for
nothing, he had the good idea of uttering his own
name, saying that he was Thestor 1, that he had
lost two daughters named Leucippe 3 and Theonoe 1,
and that he was a miserable man, for now he had
been ordered to commit a crime. In short: he told
the whole story to his own daughter, who was a part
Does not obey criminal orders.
Now, Thestor 1 was not the kind of man who
commit crimes and later excuses himself saying that
he was obeying orders. But instead, seeing himself
in such a terrible circumstance, he had the unusual
courage of turning the weapon against himself.
However, Leucippe 3, having heard her father's
name, wrested the sword from him, and decided,
aided by her father, to go and kill Theonoe 1. But
once again words came before deeds, names were
uttered, and all three discovered who they were.
This is how this family found itself and Thestor 1
could return home, carrying with him the gifts he
received from King Icarus 2. Despite all what
happened there had been those who have counted
Theonoe 1, daughter of Thestor 1, among those women
who were most chaste.
For reasons that have not been reported, the
most influential seer to join the Achaean
expedition against Troy was
Calchas, who was recruited by
Megara, where the seer
dwelt. But nothing is known about his performances
before this time, except that he once said, when
Achilles was nine years
old, that Troy could not be
taken without him.
The serpent and the sparrows.
Six years later, when the
before sailing, gathered the powerful alliance at
Aulis, which is a Boeotian harbour opposite the
large island of Euboea, signs appeared that were
interpreted by Calchas: a serpent darted from the
altar during a sacrifice to
Apollo, and coming to a
nest in a neighbouring plane-tree, it devoured the
eight sparrows in it along with the mother bird.
After the meal the serpent turned into stone, and
so Calchas, counting the number of animals
involved, inferred that
Troy would be taken in a
period of ten years.
The Mysian intermezzo.
Some say these events took place in the second
year after the abduction of
Helen by the seducer
Paris. They add that the
Achaean fleet, having sailed against
Troy, landed by mistake in
Mysia and that, after skirmishing against the
Mysians, they returned home, and only assembled at
Aulis again after an interval of eight years.
Although the Achaean army was chased from Mysia,
the king of this country,
Telephus, son of
Heracles 1, was
wounded by Achilles. As
the wound would not heal
Telephus asked the
oracle which replied that the wound would be cured
when the one who wounded him should turn physician.
That is why Telephus,
in a beggar's attire, sailed to
Achilles was staying,
begging to be healed by him and offering to show
the Achaeans the course to steer for
Troy, as a reward. And
Achilles healed him by
scraping off the rust of his spear. Seeing his
Telephus did as he had
promised, and they say that the accuracy of his
information was confirmed by Calchas by means of
his own splendid art.
Calchas recommends to sacrifice fair
After this the Achaeans gathered for the second
time at Aulis. However, the fleet could not sail
because of unfavourable wind conditions. In front
of this inconvenience Calchas conceived a most
extraordinary idea. He declared that the fleet
would not be able to sail unless the fairest among
were sacrificed to Artemis.
According to Calchas' deep insights, the goddess
was claiming compensation after having heard the
thoughtless words that
Agamemnon had uttered
while hunting a deer:
"Artemis herself could not do it
Apollodorus, Epitome 3.21]
It is also said that Artemis
wished Agamemnon to
pay for the omission of his father
Atreus, who did not
sacrifice to her the golden lamb, as he should have
These are the events that led to the sacrifice
daughter Iphigenia at
Aulis. But others do not charge the goddess with
such absurd demands and say that when the Achaeans
were about to commit this crime based on their own
appeared and saved
Iphigenia, taking her
to Tauris [see also
In any case, the winds became favourable and the
Achaeans, being able to sail through the Egean,
landed in Asia Minor and started the war known as
the Trojan War.
In the tenth year of the war
Apollo, coming down from
heaven darker than night although he is called the
bright one, decimated the Achaean army through
pestilence. This he did in order to punish the
arrogance of Agamemnon
who had dismissed one of his priests with insults,
refusing to give him back his daughter which he,
the king, held captive.
Calchas' revelation and counsel.
Nobody knew the origin of this pestilence,
except Calchas, but being the king himself
responsible for the calamity, the seer was afraid
of talking in the council, and with truthful words
accuse Agamemnon. But
when Achilles promised
him protection, saying that no one, not even the
king, would be ever allowed to lay hands on him,
Calchas declared that
Agamemnon was to
blame, for he had dishonoured
Apollo's priest, and did
not release his daughter nor accept the ransom that
the priest had offered. And consequently he also
recommended to give the girl back to his father.
Reward for accuracy.
And this is how
evil, never yet have you spoken to me a pleasant
thing; ever is evil dear to your heart to prophesy,
but a word of good you have never yet spoken, nor
brought to pass."
[Agamemnon to Calchas,
Homer, Iliad 1.105]
New prophecies of Calchas.
When the war had lasted ten years and
Ajax 1 and
Achilles and many
others had perished, the Achaeans consulted again
their seer Calchas, and now he said that
Troy could not be taken
unless they had the bow and arrows of
Heracles 1 fighting on
their side. As these were held by
Philoctetes, who had
been abandoned by the army in
Lemnos, an embassy was
sent to fetch both the weapons and the archer.
Paris' death ends in
Helenus 1 leaving the
arrived to Troy and, among
others, he killed Paris.
But still it was not possible to take the city and
put an end to the war. When
Paris was dead there was a
dispute among his brothers Deiphobus 1 and the seer
Helenus 1, as to which
of them should marry beautiful
Helen. And when Deiphobus
1 imposed himself, Helenus
1 left the city and retired to Mount Ida.
Helenus 1 captured
At this point Calchas declared that his
colleague Helenus 1 was
in possession of the oracles that protected the
city of Troy. When this was
known Odysseus, for
seers talk and others do, laid and ambush and
captured the Trojan seer, who was forced by his
enemies to tell how the city could be taken, as no
art of divination could reveal what was inside him.
again and dies.
The Achaeans then, using brutality against
Helenus 1 during
interrogation, came to know, about the importance
of Neoptolemus, the
bone of Pelops 1, and
the Palladium. This is
how Neoptolemus was
fetched and joined the war, killing, among many
others, Telephus, the
man who, after being healed by
Argos, had shown to the
Achaeans the course to steer for
Telephus, after those
events, came with great army of Mysians to assist
the Trojans, whom initially he had betrayed.
In the tenth year of the war, as Calchas had
prophesied, the Achaeans took
Troy through the stratagem
of the WOODEN HORSE,
inside which Calchas himself was hidden together
with other warriors.
Many crimes committed.
The victors were ruthless against the defeated,
perpetrating many crimes against defenceless
And the reason why bloody murders are often,
under this kind of circumstances, accompanied by
sexual abuses and rapes, will probably remain an
enigma only partially explained. For it is a great
perversion and one of the worst offences that can
be conceived to combine sexual activity with the
spilling of blood and thus attempt to humiliate the
defeated and deprive them of their dignity.
However, it is not the victims who lose their
dignity, for they cannot help to be abused, but
instead the perpetrators are degraded by their own
deeds. And this sickness of the soul, which affects
soldiers who do not deserve that title, corrupts
their own bravery and makes them appear as
The cowardice of Ajax
And this is what happened to
Ajax 2, who found the sack
of Troy to be a sexually
exiting experience. For he, who had shown to be a
brave man, erased with one single act all his
deeds, revealing himself as a bandit instead of a
soldier when he raped the Trojan seeress
Cassandra in the midst
of the confusion created by the battle.
Calchas warns the army.
So when the fleet was about to sail back home,
Calchas detained it saying that
Athena was angry on
account of the impiety of Ajax
2, who had dragged his victim out of the
Gods punish Ajax 2 and
those who ignored his crime.
And some Achaeans said that
Ajax 2 should be punished
for his crime, but at the end no tribunal found him
guilty, and for that reason both
Ajax 2 and destroyed him,
and they punished the Achaeans too, turning their
return home into a catastrophe. For the gods
repudiate Ajax 2's way of
"sleeping with the enemy" and despise those who are
reluctant to lawfully punish these outrages.
Calchas wanders in Asia Minor.
After the end of the
Trojan War the Achaean
army was dispersed and many of their leaders took
different ways to return home [see Map:
The Returns]. Calchas
journeyed southwards through Asia Minor in company
of Amphilochus 2, Polypoetes 1, and Leonteus 1.
Amphilochus 2, who is said to have founded
Amphilochian Argos in Aetolia, arrived late to the
war at Troy. He was the son
of Alcmaeon 1 & Manto 1, although some say that
this was Amphilochus 1, the son of Amphiaraus &
Eriphyle. Alcmaeon 1 was himself son of Amphiaraus
& Eriphyle, and Manto 1 was the seeress and
priestess of Apollo
daughter of the seer
Polypoetes 1 and Leonteus 1.
Polypoetes 1 led the Gyrtonians against
Troy and was the son of
notorious friend of
Theseus. Leonteus 1 led
the LAPITHS against
Troy and was the son of
Coronus 1, son of Caeneus 1 who, having being the
woman Caenis, was turned into an invulnerable man
by Poseidon, and later
buried alive by the
The seer Mopsus 2.
When this group arrived to Colophon they were
received by the seer Mopsus 2, who, as Amphilochus
2, was son of Manto 1, although by a different
father, either Apollo or
Rhacius, the Cretan who conquered Caria.
Now, an oracle had said that Calchas was
destined to die when he met a seer superior to
himself and this seer proved to be Mopsus 2. When
these two men met they naturally began to dispute,
for colleagues often look at each other with
envious eyes, putting their own personal prestige
in the first place and the science they practise in
a subordinate position.
Dispute between seers: figs.
So Calchas, wishing to test the colleague he
already regarded as a kind of foe, asked him about
the number of figs on a wild fig tree. Mopsus 2
answered that they were ten thousand, specifying
the measure that would hold them all, except one
fig at the top of the tree. And when his words were
proved Calchas closed his eyes and died.
Dispute between seers: pigs
But others have said that Calchas instead asked
how many pigs a pregnant sow carried. To this, they
say, Mopsus 2 answered that they were three and
that one of them was female. In the same way, the
story goes, when this proved to be true Calchas
died of the grief that caused him the superiority
of a colleague. Yet others say that both answered
this question, but only Mopsus 2's answer proved to
be true, and that the answer was that the number of
pigs were nine, instead of eight as Calchas had
said, and that they, being all male, would be
farrowed the next day at the sixth hour.
Calchas buried at Notium.
Still others have combined the pigs and the figs
in the dispute between the two seers, but all have
said that Calchas lost the contest and died of
grief, being buried at Notium, which is between
Ephesus and Colophon.