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In myth leader of seven ships to Troy, but left behind on Lemnos suffering from a snakebite. The Epic Cycle adds that while the Greeks were sailing to Troy they sacrificed in Tenedos, and there Philoctetes was bitten and left behind on Lemnos because of the stench of his festering wound. Ten years later Odysseus captured Priam's son Helenus, the Trojan seer, and learned from him that Troy could be taken only if Philoctetes was present; so Diomedes fetched him from Lemnos. He was healed by Machaon, then fought a duel with Paris and killed him. Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides each wrote a Philoctetes, but only Sophocles' play survives. Sophocles adds that Philoctetes had the bow and inescapable arrows of Heracles given to him for lighting the pyre on Mt. Oeta. Without the bow Troy would not fall; so Neoptolemus is ordered by Odysseus to obtain it by trickery. But Neoptolemus' basic honesty causes complications, and the play ends with Heracles ex māchinā ordering Philoctetes to Troy. Homer's Odyssey says that Philoctetes returned safely home after the war.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

Reference entries

Sophocles (496—406 bc)

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