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Palinurus

Palinurus

Palinurus, in Roman mythology is the helmsman of a ship of the adventurer Aeneas, whose descendants would one day found the city of Rome. As the price for the safe passage of Aeneas and his people after fleeing from Troy to Italy to escape the devastation of Troy by the Greeks during their victory in the Trojan War, Venus, the mother of Aeneas, offers to Neptune, god of the sea, the death of Palinurus. Somnus causes Palinurus to fall asleep and fall overboard. (Palinurus' own story at Aeneid 6.349 is not quite as reprehensible.) He is then stranded on the coast of Lucania, in southern Italy, where he is killed by a native tribe, the Lucani. When Aeneas and the Sibyl meet Palinurus in the Underworld, the Sybil promises that the local people will be moved by signs to provide the helmsman's body with a proper burial, at what is now Cape Palinuro.

Palinurus is mentioned in Utopia by Sir Thomas More as a type of careless traveller. "'Then you're not quite right,' he replied, 'for his sailing has not been like that of Palinurus, but more that of Ulysses, or rather of Plato. This man, who is named Raphael.'"

Palinurus was the pseudonym chosen by Cyril Connolly for his book The Unquiet Grave:A Word Cycle, and used to refer disparagingly to him by Alaric Jacob in Scenes from a Bourgeois Life.

Singer Peter Hammill recorded a song called "Palinurus (Castaway)" on his 1978 album The Future Now, with lyrics vaguely invoking Palinurus's sea voyage, including the pun "it's all Greek to me".

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