Pontevedra is almost 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) away from Hisarlik, the archaeological site believed to have been Troy, so what could possibly link this city in Spain to one of the heroes of the Trojan War?
According to local legends, Teucer (Greek: Τεύκρος), an ancient Greek hero and skilled archer depicted by Homer in the Iliad, founded the city of Pontevedra in Spain after fighting in the Trojan War.
The legend may reflect an ancient Greek presence in the region, as the Greeks were fond of associating geographical spaces with their mythical heroes and powerful gods. As for Teucer himself, the hero is said to have also founded Salamis, an ancient city on the island of Cyprus.
Who was Teucer in the Iliad?
Teucer is one of the lesser-known characters in the Iliad. Although more famous figures like Achilles, Hector, and Agamemnon tend to take the limelight, Homer nevertheless depicts Teucer as a supremely good archer, and he is certainly one of the most accurate warriors with a bow in the entire story.
Teucer was the son of Telamon, the king of Salamis, and the half-brother of the famous hero Ajax. The pair made for a formidable team during the battles depicted in the Iliad, with Teucer often taking cover behind the giant shield of Ajax as he loosed a hailstorm of arrows at the Trojans.
Teucer slew numerous Trojans, among them Archeptolemus, the charioteer of Hector and son of Iphitos. However, whenever he aimed an arrow at Hector, Apollo, the guardian of the Trojans, would consistently intervene, preventing the shot from finding its mark.
In total, Teucer is said to have slain 30 Trojans during the war. He is also one of the Greek heroes who hid in the Trojan horse cunningly devised by Odysseus.
The travels of Teucer: from the Trojan War to founding a city in Spain
The tale of Teucer’s travels after the Trojan War, eventually leading him to Spain in some versions, has rather sad beginnings.
Following the death of Achilles and a dispute over who should inherit his armor, Ajax committed suicide. Teucer stood guard over the body of his half-brother and ensured he received a proper burial.
After the Trojan War, Teucer returned home to Salamis (the island) but was forced to stand trial for not returning the arms and armor of Ajax. Consequently, Teucer was disowned by his father, denied reentry to Salamis, and forced to embark on a journey in search of a new place to call home.
According to the Roman poet Horace, Teucer addressed his companions who departed with him, saying “Do not despair, tomorrow we shall set out upon the vast ocean.”
Teucer subsequently came into the service of Belus of Tyre, whom he helped to capture the island of Cyprus. After the campaign was fought and won, Belus granted Teucer control over the island to thank him for this aid.
Teucer then established the city of Salamis on the island, which he named in honor of his homeland. He secured his base of power by marrying Eune, the daughter of Cinyras, who was the king of Cyprus. Together, they had a daughter named Asteria.
Curiously, the Trojan War hero did not seem content to stay in Cyprus but voyaged further afield to Spain. This is at least according to a local legend that Teucer founded the city of Pontevedra.
The story may have originated from ancient Greek traders who traveled to the city to sell and buy wares. Similar stories arose about the earlier arrival of ancient Greek gods and heroes when Alexander the Great marched east into regions like Bactria and India, where Heracles and Dionysus had supposedly ventured before him.
Today, there is a statue of Teucer in Pontevedra created by the Spanish sculptor Cándido Pazos that was inaugurated in 2006.