Battus I., the leader of the colony from Thera to Cyrene, was son
of Polymnestus, a Theraean noble, his mother, according to one account, being
a Cretan princess. (Herod. iv. 150, 155.) By his father's side he was of the blood
of the Minyae, and 17th in descent from Euphemus the Argonaut. (Herod. iv. 150;
Pind. Pyth. iv. 17, 311, 455, &c.; Apoll. Rhod. iv. 1750; Thrige, Res. Cyren.)
He is said to have been first called "Aristoteles" (Pind. Pyth. v. 116; Callim.
Hymn. in Apoll. 76); and we are left entirely to conjecture for the origin of
the name "Battus," which he afterwards received. Herodotus (iv. 155) tells us,
that it was the Libyan word for "king," and believes that the oracle which commanded
the colonization of Libya applied it to him with reference to his future dignity.
Others again have supposed Battos to have been derived from Battarizo, and to
have been expressive of the alleged impediment in his speech. (Suid. and Hesych.
s. v. Battarizein; comp. Thrige; Strab. xiv.); while Thrige considers the name
to be of kindred origin with Bessoi, the appellation of the oracular priests of
Dionysus among the Satrae. (Herod. vii. 111.) No less doubt is there as to the
cause which led to the colonization of Cyrene. According to the account of the
Cyrenaeans, Battus, having gone to consult the Delphic oracle about the removal
of the physical defect above-mentioned, was enjoined to lead a colony into Libya;
while the story of the Theraeans was, that this injunction was laid on their king
Grinus, and that he pointed to Battus as a younger and fitter man for the purpose.
In either case, the command was not obeyed but with reluctance and after a long
delay. (Herod. iv. 150-156.) According, again, to Menecles, an historian, perhaps
of Barca (ap.Schol. ad Pind. Pyth. iv. 10; comp. Thrige), Battus was driven forth
from Thera by civil war, and was ordered by Apollo not to return to his country,
but to betake himself to the continent. Lastly, the account of Justin (xiii. 7)
is a strange mixture of the two stories in Herodotus with the fable of Apollo's
love for the nymph Cyrene. Amidst these statements, the one thing certain is,
that Battus led forth his colonists in obedience to the Delphic oracle, and under
a belief in the protection of Apollo Archegetes. (Callim. Hymn. in Apoll. 65,
&c., 55, &c.; Spanheim, ad loc.; comp. Muller, Dor. ii. 3.1,7; Thrige.) Of the
several opinions as to the period at which the colonists first sailed from Thera,
the most probable is that which places it about 640 B. C. (Muller, Orchom.), and
from this point apparently we must begin to reckon the 40 years assigned by Herodotus
(iv. 159) to the reign of Battus I. It was not, however, till after a settlement
of two years in the island Platea, and between six and seven at Aziris on the
main-land, that Cyrene was actually founded, about 631 B. C. (Herod. iv. 157,158;
Thrige), whence Ovid (Ibis, 541) calls Battus "conditor tardae Cyrrhae."
Little further is known of the life of Battus I. He appears to have
been vigorous and successful in surmounting the difficulties which beset his infant
colony, in making the most of the great natural advantages of the country, and
in subjugating the native tribes, with the assistance, it is said, of the Lacedaemonian
Anchionis. (Pind. Pyth. v. 72, &c.; Aristot. ap. Schol. ad Aristoph. Plut. 925;
Paus. iii. 14.) Diodorus tells us (Exc. de Virt. et Vit.), that he governed with
the mildness and moderation befitting a constitutional king; and Pindar (Pyth.
v. 120, &c.) celebrates his pious works, and especially the road (skurote hodos,
comp. Bockh, Publ. Econ. of Athens, bk. ii. c. 10) which he caused to be made
for the sacred procession to Apollo's temple, also built by him. (Callim. Hymn.
in Apoll. 77.) Where this road joined the Agora, the tomb of Battus was placed,
apart from that of the other kings. (Pind. Pyth. v. 125, &c.; Catull. vii. 6.)
His subjects worshipped him as a hero, and we learn from Pausanias (x. 15), that
they dedicated a statue of him at Delphi, representing him in a chariot driven
by the nymph Cyrene, with Libya in the act of crowning him.
This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Sep 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology (ed. William Smith)