All about Acestes: Forgotten Greek Mythology Hero in Aeneid

Acestes, a son of the Sicilian river-god Crimisus and of a Trojan woman of the name of Egesta or Segesta (Vergil, Aeneid. 1.195, 550, 5.36, 711, &c.), who according to Servius was sent by her father Hippotes or Ipsostratus to Sicily, that she might not be devoured by the monsters [Greek invaders], which infested the territory of Troy, and which had been sent into the land, because the Trojans had refused to reward Poseidon and Apollo for having built the walls of their city.

When Egesta arrived in Sicily, the river-god Crimisus in the form of a bear or a dog begot by her a son Acestes, who was afterwards regarded as the hero who had founded the town of Segesta. (Comp. Schol. ad Lycophr. 951, 963.)

The tradition of Acestes in Dionysius (1.52), who calls him Aegestus (Ἄιγεστος), is different, for according to him the grandfather of Aegestus quarrelled with Laomedon, who slew him and gave his daughters to some merchants to convey them to a distant land.

A noble Trojan however embarked with them, and married one of them in Sicily, where she subsequently gave birth to a son, Aegestus. During the war against Troy, Aegestus obtained permission from Priam to return and take part in the contest, and afterwards returned to Sicily, where Aeneas on his arrival was hospitably received by him and Elymus, and built for them the towns of Segesta and Elyme.

The account of Dionysius seems to be nothing but a rationalistic interpretation of the genuine legend. As to the inconsistencies in Virgil’s account of Acestes, see Heyne, Excurs. 1, on Aen. v.

Source stories mentioning Acestes

Vergil, Aeneid, 1.195:

Hither Aeneas of his scattered fleet
saving but seven, into harbor sailed;
with passionate longing for the touch of land,
forth leap the Trojans to the welcome shore,
and fling their dripping limbs along the ground.
Then good Achates smote a flinty stone,
secured a flashing spark, heaped on light leaves,
and with dry branches nursed the mounting flame.
Then Ceres’ gift from the corrupting sea
they bring away; and wearied utterly
ply Ceres’ cunning on the rescued corn,
and parch in flames, and mill ‘twixt two smooth stones.
Aeneas meanwhile climbed the cliffs, and searched
the wide sea-prospect; haply Antheus there,
storm-buffeted, might sail within his ken,
with biremes, and his Phrygian mariners,
or Capys or Caicus armor-clad,
upon a towering deck. No ship is seen;
but while he looks, three stags along the shore
come straying by, and close behind them comes
the whole herd, browsing through the lowland vale
in one long line. Aeneas stopped and seized
his bow and swift-winged arrows, which his friend,
trusty Achates, close beside him bore.
His first shafts brought to earth the lordly heads
of the high-antlered chiefs; his next assailed
the general herd, and drove them one and all
in panic through the leafy wood, nor ceased
the victory of his bow, till on the ground
lay seven huge forms, one gift for every ship.
Then back to shore he sped, and to his friends
distributed the spoil, with that rare wine
which good Acestes while in Sicily
had stored in jars, and prince-like sent away
with his Ioved guest;—this too Aeneas gave;
and with these words their mournful mood consoled.

Vergil, Aeneid, 1.550:

A king we had; Aeneas,—never man
in all the world more loyal, just and true,
nor mightier in arms! If Heaven decree
his present safety, if he now do breathe
the air of earth and is not buried low
among the dreadful shades, then fear not thou!
For thou wilt never rue that thou wert prompt
to do us the first kindness. O’er the sea
in the Sicilian land, are cities proud,
with martial power, and great Acestes there
is of our Trojan kin. So grant us here
to beach our shattered ships along thy shore,
and from thy forest bring us beam and spar
to mend our broken oars. Then, if perchance
we find once more our comrades and our king,
and forth to Italy once more set sail,
to Italy, our Latin hearth and home,
we will rejoicing go. But if our weal
is clean gone by, and thee, blest chief and sire,
these Libyan waters keep, and if no more
Iulus bids us hope,—then, at the least,
to yon Sicilian seas, to friendly lands
whence hither drifting with the winds we came,
let us retrace the journey and rejoin
good King Acestes.” So Ilioneus
ended his pleading; the Dardanidae
murmured assent.

Vergil, Aeneid, 5.36:

From a far hill-top having seen with joy
the entering ships, and knowing them for friends,
good King Acestes ran to bid them hail.
Garbed in rough pelt of Libyan bear was he,
and javelins he bore, in sylvan guise:
for him the river-god Crimisus sired
of Trojan wife. Remembering in his heart
his ancient blood, he greeted with glad words
the wanderers returned; bade welcome to
his rude abundance, and with friendly gifts
their weariness consoled.

Vergil, Aeneid, 5.711:

But smitten sore
by this mischance, Aeneas doubtfully
weighs in his heart its mighty load of cares,
and ponders if indeed he may abide
in Sicily, not heeding prophet-songs,
or seek Italian shores. Thereon uprose
Nautes, an aged sire, to whom alone
Tritonian Pallas of her wisdom gave
and made his skill renowned; he had the power
to show celestial anger’s warning signs,
or tell Fate’s fixed decree. The gifted man
thus to Aeneas comfortably spoke:
“O goddess-born, we follow here or there,
as Fate compels or stays. But come what may,
he triumphs over Fortune, who can bear
whate’er she brings. Behold, Acestes draws
from Dardanus his origin divine!
Make him thy willing friend, to share with thee
thy purpose and thy counsel. Leave with him
the crews of the lost ships, and all whose hearts
repine at thy high task and great emprise:
the spent old men, the women ocean-weary,
whate’er is feeble found, or faint of heart
in danger’s hour,—set that apart, and give
such weary ones within this friendly isle
a city called Acesta,—if he will.”

Atlas Mythica
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