Lycaon | King of Arcadia

Lycaon Greek Mythology

Lycaon or Licaon (from Greek Λυκάων) in Greek mythology was the son of Pelasgo, the first mythical king of Arcadia. According to Pausanias (geographer), Lycaon was king of Arcadia at the time that Cicrope I was king of Athens. He was much loved by his people, for he had abandoned the wild life he had had in the past and had become a cultured and very religious man.

He founded the city of Lycosura, one of the oldest in Greece, and established an altar to Zeus, but his passionate religiosity led him to perform human sacrifices, which degenerated his position. He went so far as to sacrifice all foreigners who came to his house, violating the sacred law of hospitality.

Disapproving of these aberrations, Zeus, the god of the gods, posed as a pilgrim and took up residence in his palace. Lycaon prepared to sacrifice him, as he had done to others in the name of his religiosity.

But, alerted by some divine signs, he wanted to make sure that the guest was not a god as his fearful subjects claimed. To this end, he ordered the meat of a slave to be cooked and served to Zeus. Zeus, enraged, turned Lycaon into a wolf and, witnessing such cruelty, burned down his palace.

Lykon fathered countless children, around fifty. Licaon's sons were as cruel as their father and became famous for their insolence and their crimes. As soon as he heard about the barbarities of Lykon's sons, Zeus disguised himself as an old beggar and went to the palace of the Lykonids to verify the rumors. The young princes had the audacity to murder their own brother, Nictymus, and serve his entrails to their guest, mixed with animal entrails.

Zeus discovered their cruelty and angrily turned them all into wolves and exiled them, sparing only Callisto, the beautiful nymph daughter of Lykon with whom Zeus fell in love and with whom he had a son, Arcas.

However, Zeus' jealous wife Hera transformed Callisto into a bear, and later Zeus transformed her into the constellation Ursa Major and her son into Ursa Minor. Zeus gave life back to Níctimo who succeeded his father in the kingdom of Arcadia. During Níctimo's reign the flood happened, because Zeus was already very saddened and disappointed with human beings.