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Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology/Alcestis

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ALCESTIS or ALCESTE (Ἄλκηστις or Ἀλκέστη), a daughter of Pelias and Anaxibia, and mother of Eumelus and Admetus. (Apollod. i. .9, §10, 15.) Homer (Il. ii. 715) calls her the fairest among the daughters of Pelias. When Admetus, king of Pherae, sued for her hand, Pelias, in order to get rid of the numerous suitors, declared that he would give his daughter to him only who should come to his court in a chariot drawn by lions and boars. This was accomplished by Admetus, with the aid of Apollo. For the farther storj', see Admetus. The sacrifice of herself for Admetus was highly celebrated in antiquity. (Aelian, V. H. xiv. 45, Animal. i. 15; Philostr. Her. ii. 4; Ov. Ars Am. iii. 19; Eurip. Alcestis.) Towards her father, too, she showed her filial affection, for, at least, according to Diodorus (iv. 52; comp. however, Palaeph. De incredib. 41), she did not share in the crime of her sisters, who murdered their father.

Ancient as well as modern critics have attempted to explain the return of Alcestis to life in a rationalistic manner, by supposing that during a severe illness she was restored to life by a physician of the name of Heracles. (Palaeph. l. c.; Plut. Amator. p. 761.) Alcestis was represented on the chest of Cypselus, in a group shewing the funeral solemnities of Pelias. (Paus. v. 17. §4.) In the museum of Florence there is an alto relievo, the work of Cleomenes, which is believed to represent Alcestis devoting herself to death. (Meyer, Gesch. der bildend. Künste, i. p. 162, ii. 159.)

[L. S.]