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Proteus 3

Proteus 3 was the king of Egypt, who not seldom is identified with the god Proteus 2. For, among other things, both are connected to the island of Pharos, where Proteus 3 lived and Proteus 2 came to rest every day. Proteus 3 is remembered for having received Dionysus 2, and for keeping Helen in Egypt while Paris went to Troy with a phantom of her fashioned out of clouds. For those who tell this story affirm that Helen never reached Troy.

Times of Proteus 3

It is told that when Egypt had gone through a period of five generations without a ruler, Proteus 3, an obscure man in the sense that nothing is known about his origin, came to the throne. Proteus 3, they say, ruled in Egypt at the time of the Trojan War, but this assertion is inconsistent with the account that affirms that he received the roaming Dionysus 2, who after discovering the vine, was driven mad by Hera and came to Egypt. For this happened several generations before that great war. But if, as some believe, Proteus 2 and Proteus 3 are one and the same, then it would be possible for him, being an immortal god, both to receive Dionysus 2 and later rule Egypt at the time of the Trojan War, as it was also possible for him to change his shape into that of an animal, a tree, or even fire. It is also asserted that Proteus 3, as king of Egypt, gained much experience through his association with astrologers. But then again, if he is a god, then he does not need astrologers in order to know anything, but instead the astrologers would be there in order to learn from him.

Greeks believed to be childish

Now, some have thought that the Greeks, being so childish as to imagine and create fantastic tales out of everyday occurrences, conceived the idea of Proteus 2 changing his shape for the following reason: Proteus 3, they say, obeying a practice among the Egyptian rulers, wore upon his head now the forepart of a lion, now that of a bull, now a serpent, now trees or fire, as symbols of his sovereignty. And for this reason, some believed that the Greeks, unable to grasp what they had in front of their eyes, thought that Proteus 3 was changing his form when he just changed his crown.

Straight version

As it has been told many times, Eris threw an apple as a prize of beauty during the wedding party of Peleus and Thetis. As a result, the three goddesses who contested the prize were judged by the shepherd Paris on Mount Ida. But he, nurturing a strange notion about his role as a judge, let himself be bribed, so that Aphrodite received the award, and he was given in exchange the hand of the Helen, queen of Sparta. Next, Paris came to that city, fetched his bride and took her to Troy, and as the Trojans refused to restore her to her husband Menelaus, a terrible war ensued, and Troy was destroyed.

Protean version

However, others affirm that Helen never reached Troy, and that the seducer Paris was accompanied by a phantom fashioned out of clouds, which Hera fashioned. For the sake of this phantom, they assert, Achaeans and Trojans slaughtered each other during ten years, and the city was destroyed. But in the meantime, Hermes carried the real Helen to Egypt, giving her to King Proteus 3, so that he would guard her. And that is what Helen herself claimed:

"To Troy I went not: that a phantom was." (Helen to Menelaus. Euripides, Helen 582).

The Phantom

As there is no great achievement in believing something which is perfectly ordinary, some have found that the account of the phantom, which is sometimes said to have been fashioned and sent to Troy by Zeus himself, deserved more credibility than the more common tale of the Achaeans and Trojans slaughtering each other during a decade for the sake of a real woman. So when Menelaus, they say, came to the court of Proteus 3 in Egypt after the Trojan War, he discovered there the real Helen and got rid of the phantom that accompanied him.

Paris' servants revolt

The Egyptian priests have told that when Paris and Helen sailed from Sparta to Troy as lovers, they were caught by severe winds, and were forced to land in Egypt, coming to one of the mouths of the river Nile. On the coast, there was a temple for the protection of runaway servants. If a servant took refuge there delivering himself to the god, he could not be touched. So when some of Paris' servants heard about the temple, they took their chances, not only seeking refuge but also bringing an accusation against their master.

Paris reported to Egyptian authorities

This is how the Egyptian priests, and also the warden of the Nile, called Thon or Thonis, learned the whole story about the abduction of Helen, and the wrong done to Menelaus. Thonis reported, as it was his duty, everything to Proteus 3, saying that a Trojan stranger had come to Egypt after committing a crime in Hellas, which was that, defrauding his host, he had stolen both wife and property. Being thus informed, King Proteus 3 gave orders to arrest Paris, and bring him to the court for interrogation.

Proteus 3's ultimatum

Thonis then arrested everybody including the suppliant servants, and after confiscating all values, sent the prisoners to Memphis, where Proteus 3 had his palace. When questioned, Paris was evasive, but his own servants having testified against him, Proteus 3 accused him of having broken the laws of hospitality, adding abduction and theft as well. Having thus judged, Proteus 3 decided to let Paris go, although without Helen and the property, and he gave him three days to leave Egypt for another country, or otherwise he would treat him as if they were at war.

Disbelieving the Trojans

This is how Proteus 3 came to guard Helen and Menelaus' property. And it is said that when the Trojans were asked to restore Helen and the property, they told the truth when they denied having them, adding that Proteus 3 had them. The Achaeans, believing they were being mocked, laid siege to the city until they took it, but they heard as victors the same account as before. So finally, crediting what had been declared from the beginning, they sent Menelaus to King Proteus 3 in Egypt. How the story came about

All this, they say, has been told because a poet Stesichorus in the sixth century before our era became blind. Being persuaded that Helen had caused his blindness in order to punish him for having written a poem against her, he retracted himself, writing a new version which restored that woman's virtue. And after restoring her virtue, he had his own sight restored, or so they say, for protean versatility may affect all accounts, those held to be true and those regarded as fictitious.

Others with identical name

Proteus 1 is son of Aegyptus 1 and Argyphia. He married one of the DANAIDS, either Gorgophone 1 or Scylla 3, and was murdered by his bride during the wedding night.
Proteus 2 is the god who changes his shape.

Additional note

Some have told that Proteus 3 succeeded Pheros, son of Sesostris, as king of Egypt. Pheros is said to have become blind, and to have attempted to recover his sight by washing his eyes with the urine of a woman who had never had intercourse with any man but her own husband. He tried first his own's wife urine with no result, and after her that of many other women until he was cured. Then he gathered all women in one place, except the one who had made him see again, and burned them all, marrying afterwards the one who had cured him of his blindness (Hdt.2.111ff.).







Psamathe 1

Theoclymenus 2

For Psamathe 1 see NEREIDS.

Theoclymenus 2 succeeded his father in the throne. He is known for having wished to marry Helen.

Theonoe 2

Theonoe 2 (also called Eido) became a priestess in Egypt. It is told that she fell unsuccessfully in love with Canobus, pilot of Menelaus. Canobus was bitten by a snake, and died soon when his leg became gangrenous.

Some have said that Proteus 3 was the father of Remphis or Rhampsinitus, also known as Ramses III.

Related sections Proteus 2  

Apd.3.4.1; Apd.Ep.3.5; Con.8; Dictys 6.4; Dio.1.62.1ff.; Eur.Ele.1280; Eur.Hel.4-11, 31, 582, 669, 1643ff. and passim; Hdt.2.113.1ff.