The Real Glaucus

Many a hardcore North American birder has braved cold temps, usually awful weather to try and find one of the gems of the Gull world, the mighty Glaucous Gull.

The standard definition of Glaucous is, or at least as it is applied to the bird, means frosted or powdered.  As the Glaucous Gull is in a group of Arctic Gulls collectively known as the “White-winged Gulls“, the name fits.

Yet the name Glaucus (the Greek uses the -ous) is important in the Ancient world, with 5 important people share that name, some were real others are part of mythology.  Most of the people mentioned, died horrible deaths, so maybe the name isn’t as a regal sounding anymore.

1.  Glaucus son of Hippolochus, with his cousin Sarpedon led the Lycians at Troy.  He was killed fighting over the body of Achillies.

2.  Glaucus son of Sisyphus (name your kid that today and see what happens) of Ephyre.  He had it rough too, as he was eaten by his horses at the funeral games for Pelias!

3.  Glaucus infant son of Minos and Pasiphae, who fell into a jar of honey and was drowned.  His body was recovered by the seer Polyeidus, who revived him, game him the gift of prophecy, but later revoked it.

4.  Glaucus Pontius or Thalassius, a sea-demon with prophetic powers.  He seemed to have had a minor cult following in the area of Pontus, modern day Istanbul in Turkey.

5.  Glaucus of Rhegium (Circa 410 BC), was one of the first historians on Ancient Poets and Musicians, following the origins of Poetry and Music and was a major commentator on Homer’s Iliad.  For a considerable amount of time, Antiphon the sophist was considered the author of these works, but it is now thought that he stole it from Glaucus.

(Oxford Classical Dictionary pp 638-639)

So the next time you are standing at a dump or shoreline or frozen river and a birder turns to you and says, “Hey there’s a Glaucous Gull!” you can respond with “Did you know the name Glaucus…”


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