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"Rhadamanthys" redirect here. For the antagonist character of Saint Seiya, see Wyvern Rhadamanthys.

In Greek mythology, Rhadamanthus (/ˌrædəˈmænθəs/) or Rhadamanthys (Ancient Greek: Ῥαδάμανθυς) was a wise king, the son of Zeus and Europa. Later accounts make him out to be one of the judges of the dead. His brothers were Sarpedon and Minos (also a king and later a judge of the dead).[1]

Rhadamanthus was raised by Asterion. He had two sons, Gortys (associated with Gortyn, Crete) and Erythrus (founder of Erythrae).

Husband of Ariadne

Other sources (e.g. Plutarch, Theseus 20) credit Rhadamanthys rather than Dionysus as the husband of Ariadne, and the father of Oenopion, Staphylus and Thoas. In this account, Ariadne was the daughter of Minos, Rhadamanthys' brother; another Ariadne was the daughter of Minos' grandson and namesake, who features in the Theseus legend, and was rescued by Dionysus.

Although he was frequently considered one of the judges of the dead in the underworld, he was known for few legislative activities. We have a reference to a law of Rhadamanthus ordering the Cretans to swear oaths by animals[2] and to another law of Rhadamanthus saying if a person defends themselves against another who initiated violence then they should suffer no penalty.[3]

Exile from Crete

Driven out of Crete by Minos, who was jealous of his popularity, he fled to Boeotia, where he wedded Alcmene, widow of Amphitryon and mother of Heracles. Also, according to some traditions, he was a tutor to Heracles.[4] This is also mentioned by Tzetzes, a medieval historian.

In general, the particular sphere of activity of Rhadamanthus tends to be the Aegean islands, apart from Crete itself, where Minos was active. He is also often connected by ancient authors with central Greece.[5]

Homer represents him as dwelling in the Elysian Fields (Odyssey iv. 564), the paradise for the immortal sons of Zeus.

According to later legends (c. 400 BC), on account of his inflexible integrity he was made one of the judges of the dead in the lower world, together with Aeacus and Minos. He was supposed to judge the souls of easterners, Aeacus those of westerners, while Minos had the casting vote (Plato, Gorgias 524A).

He is portrayed in Books 4 and 7 of Homer's Odyssey.

Virgil (69–18 BC) makes Rhadamanthus one of the judges and punishers of the unworthy in the Underworld (Tartarus) section of the Aeneid.

Pindar says that he is the right-hand man of Cronus (now ruling Elysium) and was the sole judge of the dead.

Lucian depicts Rhadamanthus as presiding over the company of heroes on the Isles of the Blest in True History.

References in literature

  • In John Milton's Areopagitica (1644), Milton criticizes censorship in which a book must undergo "the judgment of Radamanth and his colleagues, ere it can pass the ferry backward into light".
  • In the fourth book of John Keats' "Endymion" (1818), the title character swears by, among other things, "old Rhadamanthus' tongue of doom..."[6]
  • In James Stephens's The Demi-Gods (1914), in "The Threepenny Piece", Rhadamanthus (portrayed as an immense and terrifying judge of the dead), condemns a man to Hell. But the man, once in Hell, accuses Rhadamanthus of having stolen his threepenny coin. This becomes an immense cause célèbre in Hell, forcing Rhadamanthus to reconsider his verdict.
  • In the E.A. Robinson poem "The Voice of Age" (1916) Rhadamanthus is mentioned in the first line, comparing him to the woman in the poem.
  • In the poem "The Delphic Oracle Upon Plotinus" (1931) by William Butler Yeats, "Bland Rhadamanthus" is depicted as beckoning to Plotinus.
  • In Till We Have Faces (1956) by CS Lewis, a character is talking to a judge of the dead, "Minos, or Rhadamanthus, or Persephone, or by..."(295).
  • He is mentioned briefly in Harlan Ellison's short story "Goodbye to All That," published in McSweeney's Mammoth Treasure of Thrilling Tales. (2002)
  • In John Wright's Golden Age trilogy (2002-2003), the protagonist, Phaeton (see Phaëton), belongs to Rhadamanthus Mansion of the Silver-Gray Manorial Schola. Rhadamanthus is also the name of the resident artificial intelligence, advisor and servant to its house members.
  • In Dan Simmons' Endymion, the ultimate antagonist, a time-wielding agent sent by the AI TechnoCore to kill the deuteragonist, is a woman named Rhadamanth Nemes.


  1. https://archive.org/stream/ageoffableorbeau00bulf#page/330/mode/2up
  2. Porphyry, De Abstinentia III.16.6, on which see Jean Bouffartigue, Porphyre, De l'abstinence, (Paris) 1979, p. 171 n. 2.
  3. Apollodorus Library of Greek Mythology, II.4
  4. John Davidson, Rhadamanthys and the Family of Herakles. L'antiquité classique, 1999, Vol 68, pp. 247-252
  5. John Davidson, Rhadamanthys and the Family of Herakles. L'antiquité classique, 1999, Vol 68, pp. 247-252
  6. http://www.bartleby.com/126/35.html
  7. Mill on the Floss; book 1: "Boy and Girl", 1860, p. 46

External links