1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Epimenides

EPIMENIDES, poet and prophet of Crete, lived in the 6th century B.C. Many fabulous stories are told of him, and even his existence is doubted. While tending his father’s sheep, he is said to have fallen into a deep sleep in the Dictaean cave near Cnossus where he lived, from which he did not awake for fifty-seven years (Diogenes Laërtius i. 109–115). When the Athenians were visited by a pestilence in consequence of the murder of Cylon, he was invited by Solon (596) to purify the city. The only reward he would accept was a branch of the sacred olive, and a promise of perpetual friendship between Athens and Cnossus (Plutarch, Solon, 12; Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 1). He died in Crete at an advanced age; according to his countrymen, who afterwards honoured him as a god, he lived nearly three hundred years. According to another story, he was taken prisoner in a war between the Spartans and Cnossians, and put to death by his captors, because he refused to prophesy favourably for them. A collection of oracles, a theogony, an epic poem on the Argonautic expedition, prose works on purifications and sacrifices, and a cosmogony, were attributed to him. Epimenides must be reckoned with Melampus and Onomacritus as one of the founders of Orphism. He is supposed to be the Cretan prophet alluded to in the epistle to Titus (i. 12).

See C. Schultess, De Epimenide Cretensi (1877); O. Kern, De Orphei, Epimenidis . . . Theogoniis (1888); G. Barone di Vincenzo, E. di Creta e le Credenze religiose de’ suoi Tempi (1880); H. Demoulin, Épiménide de Crète (1901); H. Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (1903); O. Kern in Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie.