The Info List - Heracles

Heracles (/ˈhɛrəklz/ HERR-ə-kleez; Greek: Greek language
Greek language
text" xml:lang="grc">Ἡρακλῆς
, Hēraklēs, from Hēra, "Hera"), born Alcaeus[1] ( Greek language
Greek language
text" xml:lang="grc">Ἀλκαῖος
, Alkaios) or Alcides[2] ( Greek language
Greek language
text" xml:lang="grc">Ἀλκείδης
, Alkeidēs), was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon[3] and great-grandson and half-brother (as they are both sired by the god Zeus) of Perseus. He was the greatest of the Greek heroes, a paragon of masculinity, the ancestor of royal clans who claimed to be Heracleidae ( Greek language
Greek language
text" xml:lang="grc">Ἡρακλεῖδαι
), and a champion of the Olympian order against chthonic monsters. In Rome and the modern West, he is known as Hercules, with whom the later Roman emperors, in particular Commodus and Maximian, often identified themselves. The Romans adopted the Greek version of his life and works essentially unchanged, but added anecdotal detail of their own, some of it linking the hero with the geography of the Central Mediterranean. Details of his cult were adapted to Rome as well.


Many popular stories were told of his life, the most famous being The Twelve Labours
The Twelve Labours
of Heracles; Alexandrian poets of the Hellenistic age drew his mythology into a high poetic and tragic atmosphere.[4] His figure, which initially drew on Near Eastern motifs such as the lion-fight, was widely known.

was the greatest of Hellenic chthonic heroes, but unlike other Greek heroes, no tomb was identified as his. Heracles
was both hero and god, as Pindar says heroes theos; at the same festival sacrifice was made to him, first as a hero, with a chthonic libation, and then as a god, upon an altar: thus he embodies the closest Greek approach to a "demi-god".[4] The core of the story of Heracles
has been identified by Walter Burkert as originating in Neolithic hunter culture and traditions of shamanistic crossings into the netherworld.[5]

or god

Heracles' role as a culture hero, whose death could be a subject of mythic telling (see below), was accepted into the Olympian Pantheon during Classical times. This created an awkwardness in the encounter with Odysseus in the episode of Odyssey XI, called the Nekuia, where Odysseus
encounters Heracles
in Hades:

And next I caught a glimpse of powerful Heracles—
His ghost I mean: the man himself delights
in the grand feasts of the deathless gods on high...
Around him cries of the dead rang out like cries of birds
scattering left and right in horror as on he came like night..."[6]

Ancient critics were aware of the problem of the aside that interrupts the vivid and complete description, in which Heracles
recognizes Odysseus
and hails him, and modern critics find very good reasons for denying that the verses beginning, in Fagles' translation His ghost I mean... were part of the original composition: "once people knew of Heracles' admission to Olympus, they would not tolerate his presence in the underworld", remarks Friedrich Solmsen,[7] noting that the interpolated verses represent a compromise between conflicting representations of Heracles.

Christian chronology

In Christian circles a Euhemerist reading of the widespread Heracles
cult was attributed to a historical figure who had been offered cult status after his death. Thus Eusebius, Preparation of the Gospel (10.12), reported that Clement could offer historical dates for Hercules
as a king in Argos: "from the reign of Hercules
in Argos to the deification of Hercules
himself and of Asclepius there are comprised thirty-eight years, according to Apollodorus the chronicler: and from that point to the deification of Castor and Pollux fifty-three years: and somewhere about this time was the capture of Troy."

Readers with a literalist bent, following Clement's reasoning, have asserted from this remark that, since Heracles
ruled over Tiryns in Argos
at the same time that Eurystheus ruled over Mycenae, and since at about this time Linus was Heracles' teacher, one can conclude, based on Jerome's date—in his universal history, his Chronicon—given to Linus' notoriety in teaching Heracles
in 1264 BCE, that Heracles' death and deification occurred 38 years later, in approximately 1226 BCE.


The ancient Greeks celebrated the festival of the Heracleia, which commemorated the death of Heracles, on the second day of the month of Metageitnion (which would fall in late July or early August). What is believed to be an Egyptian Temple of Heracles
in the Bahariya Oasis dates to 21 BCE. A reassessment of Ptolemy's descriptions of the island of Malta attempted to link the site at Ras ir-Raħeb with a temple to Heracles,[8] but the arguments are not conclusive.[9] Several ancient cities were named Heraclea in his honor.


Greek mythology
Greek mythology
influenced the Etruscans. This vase at Caere shows King Eurytus of Oechalia and Heracles
in a symposium. Krater of corinthian columns called 'Krater of Eurytion', circa 600 B.C.

Extraordinary strength, courage, ingenuity, and sexual prowess with both males and females were among the characteristics commonly attributed to him. Heracles
used his wits on several occasions when his strength did not suffice, such as when laboring for the king Augeas of Elis, wrestling the giant Antaeus, or tricking Atlas into taking the sky back onto his shoulders. Together with Hermes he was the patron and protector of gymnasia and palaestrae.[10] His iconographic attributes are the lion skin and the club. These qualities did not prevent him from being regarded as a playful figure who used games to relax from his labors and played a great deal with children.[11] By conquering dangerous archaic forces he is said to have "made the world safe for mankind" and to be its benefactor.[12] Heracles
was an extremely passionate and emotional individual, capable of doing both great deeds for his friends (such as wrestling with Thanatos on behalf of Prince Admetus, who had regaled Heracles
with his hospitality, or restoring his friend Tyndareus to the throne of Sparta after he was overthrown) and being a terrible enemy who would wreak horrible vengeance on those who crossed him, as Augeas, Neleus and Laomedon all found out to their cost.


Birth and childhood

strangling snakes (detail from an Attic red-figured stamnos, c. 480–470 BCE)

A major factor in the well-known tragedies surrounding Heracles
is the hatred that the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus, had for him. A full account of Heracles
must render it clear why Heracles
was so tormented by Hera, when there were many illegitimate offspring sired by Zeus. Heracles
was the son of the affair Zeus
had with the mortal woman Alcmene. Zeus
made love to her after disguising himself as her husband, Amphitryon, home early from war ( Amphitryon did return later the same night, and Alcmene
became pregnant with his son at the same time, a case of heteropaternal superfecundation, where a woman carries twins sired by different fathers).[13] Thus, Heracles' very existence proved at least one of Zeus' many illicit affairs, and Hera
often conspired against Zeus' mortal offspring as revenge for her husband's infidelities. His twin mortal brother, son of Amphitryon, was Iphicles, father of Heracles' charioteer Iolaus.

The Origin of the Milky Way by Jacopo Tintoretto

On the night the twins Heracles
and Iphicles were to be born, Hera, knowing of her husband Zeus' adultery, persuaded Zeus
to swear an oath that the child born that night to a member of the House of Perseus would become High King. Hera
did this knowing that while Heracles
was to be born a descendant of Perseus, so too was Eurystheus. Once the oath was sworn, Hera
hurried to Alcmene's dwelling and slowed the birth of the twins Heracles
and Iphicles by forcing Ilithyia, goddess of childbirth, to sit crosslegged with her clothing tied in knots, thereby causing the twins to be trapped in the womb. Meanwhile, Hera
caused Eurystheus
to be born prematurely, making him High King in place of Heracles. She would have permanently delayed Heracles' birth had she not been fooled by Galanthis, Alcmene's servant, who lied to Ilithyia, saying that Alcmene had already delivered the baby. Upon hearing this, she jumped in surprise, loosing the knots and inadvertently allowing Alcmene
to give birth to Heracles
and Iphicles.

as a boy strangling a snake (marble, Roman artwork, 2nd century CE)

Fear of Hera's revenge led Alcmene
to expose the infant Heracles, but he was taken up and brought to Hera
by his half-sister Athena, who played an important role as protectress of heroes. Hera
did not recognize Heracles
and nursed him out of pity. Heracles
suckled so strongly that he caused Hera
pain, and she pushed him away. Her milk sprayed across the heavens and there formed the Milky Way. But with divine milk, Heracles
had acquired supernatural powers. Athena
brought the infant back to his mother, and he was subsequently raised by his parents.

The child was originally given the name Alcides by his parents; it was only later that he became known as Heracles.[3] He was renamed Heracles
in an unsuccessful attempt to mollify Hera. He and his twin were just eight months old when Hera
sent two giant snakes into the children's chamber. Iphicles cried from fear, but his brother grabbed a snake in each hand and strangled them. He was found by his nurse playing with them on his cot as if they were toys. Astonished, Amphitryon sent for the seer Tiresias, who prophesied an unusual future for the boy, saying he would vanquish numerous monsters.


After killing his music tutor Linus with a lyre, he was sent to tend cattle on a mountain by his foster father Amphitryon. Here, according to an allegorical parable, "The Choice of Heracles", invented by the sophist Prodicus (c. 400 BCE) and reported in Xenophon's Memorabilia 2.1.21–34, he was visited by two allegorical figures—Vice and Virtue—who offered him a choice between a pleasant and easy life or a severe but glorious life: he chose the latter. This was part of a pattern of "ethicizing" Heracles
over the 5th century BCE.[14]

Later in Thebes, Heracles
married King Creon's daughter, Megara. In a fit of madness, induced by Hera, Heracles
killed his children by Megara. After his madness had been cured with hellebore by Antikyreus, the founder of Antikyra,[15] he realized what he had done and fled to the Oracle of Delphi. Unbeknownst to him, the Oracle was guided by Hera. He was directed to serve King Eurystheus for ten years and perform any task Eurystheus
required of him. Eurystheus
decided to give Heracles
ten labours, but after completing them, Heracles
was cheated by Eurystheus
when he added two more, resulting in the Twelve Labors of Heracles.

Labours of Heracles

The fight of Heracles
and the Nemean lion is one of his most famous feats. (Side B from a black-figure Attic amphora, c. 540 BCE)
His eleventh feat was to capture the apple of Hesperides (Gilded bronze, Roman artwork, 2nd century CE)

Driven mad by Hera, Heracles
slew his own children. To expiate the crime, Heracles
was required to carry out ten labors set by his archenemy, Eurystheus, who had become king in Heracles' place. If he succeeded, he would be purified of his sin and, as myth says, he would be granted immortality. Heracles
accomplished these tasks, but Eurystheus
did not accept the cleansing of the Augean stables because Heracles
was going to accept pay for the labor. Neither did he accept the killing of the Lernaean Hydra
Lernaean Hydra
as Heracles' nephew, Iolaus, had helped him burn the stumps of the heads. Eurystheus
set two more tasks (fetching the Golden Apples of Hesperides
and capturing Cerberus), which Heracles
performed successfully, bringing the total number of tasks up to twelve.

Not all writers gave the labours in the same order. The Bibliotheca (2.5.1–2.5.12) gives the following order:

  1. Slay the Nemean Lion.
  2. Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.
  3. Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis.
  4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
  5. Clean the Augean stables in a single day.
  6. Slay the Stymphalian Birds.
  7. Capture the Cretan Bull.
  8. Steal the Mares of Diomedes.
  9. Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.
  10. Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon.
  11. Steal the apples of the Hesperides (he had the help of Atlas to pick them after Hercules
    had slain Ladon).
  12. Capture and bring back Cerberus.

Further adventures

After completing these tasks, Heracles
joined the Argonauts in a search for the Golden Fleece. He also fell in love with Princess Iole of Oechalia. King Eurytus of Oechalia promised his daughter, Iole, to whoever could beat his sons in an archery contest. Heracles
won but Eurytus abandoned his promise. Heracles' advances were spurned by the king and his sons, except for one: Iole's brother Iphitus. Heracles
killed the king and his sons—excluding Iphitus—and abducted Iole. Iphitus became Heracles' best friend. However, once again, Hera
drove Heracles
mad and he threw Iphitus over the city wall to his death. Once again, Heracles
purified himself through three years of servitude—this time to Queen Omphale of Lydia.


Omphale was a queen or princess of Lydia. As penalty for a murder, imposed by Xenoclea, the Delphic Oracle, Heracles
was to serve as her slave for a year. He was forced to do women's work and to wear women's clothes, while she wore the skin of the Nemean Lion and carried his olive-wood club. After some time, Omphale
freed Heracles
and married him. Some sources mention a son born to them who is variously named. It was at that time that the cercopes, mischievous wood spirits, stole Heracles' weapons. He punished them by tying them to a stick with their faces pointing downward.


While walking through the wilderness, Heracles
was set upon by the Dryopes. In Apollonius of Rhodes' Argonautica it is recalled that Heracles
had mercilessly slain their king, Theiodamas, over one of the latter's bulls, and made war upon the Dryopes "because they gave no heed to justice in their lives".[16] After the death of their king, the Dryopes gave in and offered him Prince Hylas. He took the youth on as his weapons bearer and beloved. Years later, Heracles
and Hylas
joined the crew of the Argo. As Argonauts, they only participated in part of the journey. In Mysia, Hylas
was kidnapped by the nymphs of a local spring. Heracles, heartbroken, searched for a long time but Hylas
had fallen in love with the nymphs and never showed up again. In other versions, he simply drowned. Either way, the Argo set sail without them.

Rescue of Prometheus

Hesiod's Theogony and Aeschylus' Prometheus
Unbound (Aeschylus)"> Prometheus
both tell that Heracles
shot and killed the eagle that tortured Prometheus (which was his punishment by Zeus
for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mortals). Heracles
freed the Titan from his chains and his torments. Prometheus
then made predictions regarding further deeds of Heracles.

Heracles' constellation

On his way back to Mycenae from Iberia, having obtained the Cattle of Geryon as his tenth labour, Heracles
came to Liguria in North-Western Italy where he engaged in battle with two giants, Albion and Bergion or Dercynus, sons of Poseidon. The opponents were strong; Hercules
was in a difficult position so he prayed to his father Zeus for help. Under the aegis of Zeus, Heracles
won the battle. It was this kneeling position of Heracles
when he prayed to his father Zeus
that gave the name Engonasin ("Εγγόνασιν", derived from "εν γόνασιν"), meaning "on his knees" or "the Kneeler", to the constellation known as Hercules
(constellation)">Heracles' constellation. The story, among others, is described by Dionysius of Halicarnassus.[17]

Heracles' sack of Troy

A fresco from Herculaneum depicting Heracles
and Achelous from Greco-Roman mythology, 1st century AD

Before Homer's Trojan War, Heracles
had made an expedition to Troy
and sacked it. Previously, Poseidon
had sent a sea monster to attack Troy. The story is related in several digressions in the Iliad (7.451–453, 20.145–148, 21.442–457) and is found in pseudo-Apollodorus' Bibliotheke (2.5.9). This expedition became the theme of the Eastern pediment of the Temple of Aphaea. Laomedon planned on sacrificing his daughter Hesione to Poseidon
in the hope of appeasing him. Heracles
happened to arrive (along with Telamon and Oicles) and agreed to kill the monster if Laomedon
would give him the horses received from Zeus
as compensation for Zeus' kidnapping Ganymede. Laomedon
agreed. Heracles
killed the monster, but Laomedon
went back on his word. Accordingly, in a later expedition, Heracles
and his followers attacked Troy
and sacked it. Then they slew all Laomedon's sons present there save Podarces, who was renamed Priam, who saved his own life by giving Heracles
a golden veil Hesione
had made. Telamon
took Hesione
as a war prize; they were married and had a son, Teucer.

Other adventures

fighting the servants of the Egyptian King Busiris, Attic Pelike, c.470 BC
killing the giant, Antaeus


Death of Hercules (painting by Francisco de Zurbarán, 1634, Museo del Prado)

This is described in Sophocles's Trachiniae and in Ovid's Metamorphoses Book IX. Having wrestled and defeated Achelous, god of the Acheloos river, Heracles
takes Deianira as his wife. Travelling to Tiryns, a centaur, Nessus, offers to help Deianira
across a fast flowing river while Heracles
swims it. However, Nessus is true to the archetype of the mischievous centaur and tries to steal Deianira
away while Heracles
is still in the water. Angry, Heracles
shoots him with his arrows dipped in the poisonous blood of the Lernaean Hydra. Thinking of revenge, Nessus gives Deianira
his blood-soaked tunic before he dies, telling her it will "excite the love of her husband".[19]

Several years later, rumor tells Deianira
that she has a rival for the love of Heracles. Deianira, remembering Nessus' words, gives Heracles
the bloodstained shirt. Lichas, the herald, delivers the shirt to Heracles. However, it is still covered in the Hydra's blood from Heracles' arrows, and this poisons him, tearing his skin and exposing his bones. Before he dies, Heracles
throws Lichas into the sea, thinking he was the one who poisoned him (according to several versions, Lichas
turns to stone, becoming a rock standing in the sea, named for him). Heracles
then uproots several trees and builds a funeral pyre on Mount Oeta, which Poeas, father of Philoctetes, lights. As his body burns, only his immortal side is left. Through Zeus' apotheosis, Heracles
rises to Olympus as he dies.

No one but Heracles' friend Philoctetes (Poeas in some versions) would light his funeral pyre (in an alternate version, it is Iolaus who lights the pyre). For this action, Philoctetes
or Poeas received Heracles' bow and arrows, which were later needed by the Greeks to defeat Troy
in the Trojan War.

confronted Paris and shot a poisoned arrow at him. The Hydra poison subsequently led to the death of Paris. The Trojan War, however, continued until the Trojan Horse was used to defeat Troy.

According to Herodotus, Heracles
lived 900 years before Herodotus' own time (c. 1300 BCE).[20]




During the course of his life, Heracles
married four times.

  • His second wife was Omphale, the Lydian queen or princess to whom he was delivered as a slave.
  • His third marriage was to Deianira, for whom he had to fight the river god Achelous (upon Achelous' death, Heracles
    removed one of his horns and gave it to some nymphs who turned it into the cornucopia). Soon after they wed, Heracles
    and Deianira
    had to cross a river, and a centaur named Nessus offered to help Deianira
    across but then attempted to rape her. Enraged, Heracles
    shot the centaur from the opposite shore with a poisoned arrow (tipped with the Lernaean Hydra's blood) and killed him. As he lay dying, Nessus plotted revenge, told Deianira
    to gather up his blood and spilled semen and, if she ever wanted to prevent Heracles
    from having affairs with other women, she should apply them to his vestments. Nessus knew that his blood had become tainted by the poisonous blood of the Hydra, and would burn through the skin of anyone it touched. Later, when Deianira
    suspected that Heracles
    was fond of Iole, she soaked a shirt of his in the mixture, creating the poisoned shirt of Nessus. Heracles' servant, Lichas, brought him the shirt and he put it on. Instantly he was in agony, the cloth burning into him. As he tried to remove it, the flesh ripped from his bones. Heracles
    chose a voluntary death, asking that a pyre be built for him to end his suffering. After death, the gods transformed him into an immortal, or alternatively, the fire burned away the mortal part of the demigod, so that only the god remained. After his mortal parts had been incinerated, he could become a full god and join his father and the other Olympians on Mount Olympus
    Mount Olympus
    (Mountain)">Mount Olympus.
  • His fourth marriage was to Hebe, his last wife.


An episode of his female affairs that stands out was his stay at the palace of Thespius, king of Thespiae, who wished him to kill the Lion of Cithaeron. As a reward, the king offered him the chance to perform sexual intercourse with all fifty of his daughters in one night. Heracles
complied and they all became pregnant and all bore sons. This is sometimes referred to as his Thirteenth Labour. Many of the kings of ancient Greece
traced their lines to one or another of these, notably the kings of Sparta and Macedon.

Yet another episode of his female affairs that stands out was when he carried away the oxen of Geryon, he also visited the country of the Scythians. Once there, while asleep, his horses suddenly disappeared. When he woke and wandered about in search of them, he came into the country of Hylaea. He then found the dracaena of Scythia (sometimes identified as Echidna) in a cave. When he asked whether she knew anything about his horses, she answered, that they were in her own possession, but that she would not give them up, unless he would consent to stay with her for a time. Heracles
accepted the request, and became by her the father of Agathyrsus, Gelonus, and Scythes. The last of them became king of the Scythians, according to his father's arrangement, because he was the only one among the three brothers that was able to manage the bow which Heracles
had left behind and to use his father's girdle.[21] In some versions, the Scythian echidna's children by him are known as the Dracontidae and were the ancestors of a House of Cadmus. Template
Template-Fact" style="white-space:nowrap;">[citation needed]


and Iolaus (Fountain mosaic from the Anzio Nymphaeum)

As a symbol of masculinity and warriorship, Heracles
also had a number of male lovers. Plutarch, in his Eroticos, maintains that Heracles' male lovers were beyond counting. Of these, the one most closely linked to Heracles
is the Theban Iolaus. According to a myth thought to be of ancient origins, Iolaus
was Heracles' charioteer and squire. Heracles
in the end helped Iolaus
find a wife. Plutarch
reports that down to his own time, male couples would go to Iolaus's tomb in Thebes to swear an oath of loyalty to the hero and to each other.[22][23]

One of Heracles' male lovers, and one represented in ancient as well as modern art, is Hylas. Though it is of more recent vintage (dated to the 3rd century) than that with Iolaus, it had themes of mentoring in the ways of a warrior and help finding a wife in the end. There is nothing in Apollonius's account that suggests that Hylas
was a sexual lover as opposed to a companion and servant.[24]

Another reputed male lover of Heracles
is Elacatas, who was honored in Sparta with a sanctuary and yearly games, Elacatea. The myth of their love is an ancient one.[25]

Abdera's eponymous hero, Abderus, was another of Heracles' lovers. He was said to have been entrusted with—and slain by—the carnivorous mares of Thracian Diomedes. Heracles
founded the city of Abdera in Thrace in his memory, where he was honored with athletic games.[26]

Another myth is that of Iphitus.[27]

Another story is the one of his love for Nireus, who was "the most beautiful man who came beneath Ilion" (Iliad, 673). But Ptolemy
adds that certain authors made Nireus out to be a son of Heracles.[28]

Pausanias makes mention of Sostratus, a youth of Dyme, Achaea, as a lover of Heracles. Sostratus was said to have died young and to have been buried by Heracles
outside the city. The tomb was still there in historical times, and the inhabitants of Dyme honored Sostratus as a hero.[29] The youth seems to have also been referred to as Polystratus.

There is also a series of lovers who are either later inventions or purely literary conceits. Among these are Admetus, who assisted in the hunt for the Calydonian Boar,[30] Adonis,[31] Corythus,[31] and Nestor who was said to have been loved for his wisdom. His role as lover was perhaps to explain why he was the only son of Neleus to be spared by the hero.[32]

A scholiast on Argonautica lists the following male lovers of Heracles: "Hylas, Philoctetes, Diomus, Perithoas, and Phrix, after whom a city in Libya was named".[33] Diomus is also mentioned by Stephanus of Byzantium
Stephanus of Byzantium
as the eponym of the deme Diomeia of the Attic phyle Aegeis: Heracles
is said to have fallen in love with Diomus when he was received as guest by Diomus' father Collytus.[34] Perithoas and Phrix are otherwise unknown, and so is the version that suggests a sexual relationship between Heracles
and Philoctetes.


and his child Telephus. (Marble, Roman copy of the 1st or 2nd century CE)

All of Heracles' marriages and almost all of his heterosexual affairs resulted in births of a number of sons and at least four daughters. One of the most prominent is Hyllus, the son of Heracles
and Deianeira or Melite. The term Heracleidae, although it could refer to all of Heracles' children and further descendants, is most commonly used to indicate the descendants of Hyllus, in the context of their lasting struggle for return to Peloponnesus, out of where Hyllus and his brothers—the children of Heracles
by Deianeira—were thought to have been expelled by Eurystheus.

The children of Heracles
by Megara are collectively well known because of their ill fate, but there is some disagreement among sources as to their number and individual names. Apollodorus lists three, Therimachus, Creontiades and Deicoon;[35] to these Hyginus[36] adds Ophitus and, probably by mistake, Archelaus, who is otherwise known to have belonged to the Heracleidae, but to have lived several generations later. A scholiast on Pindar' s odes provides a list of seven completely different names: Anicetus, Chersibius, Mecistophonus, Menebrontes, Patrocles, Polydorus, Toxocleitus.[37]

Other well-known children of Heracles
include Telephus, king of Mysia (by Auge), and Tlepolemus, one of the Greek commanders in the Trojan War (by Astyoche).

According to Herodotus, a line of 22 Kings of Lydia descended from Hercules
and Omphale. The line was called Tylonids after his Lydian name.

The divine sons of Heracles
and Hebe are Alexiares and Anicetus.

Consorts and children

  1. Megara
    1. Therimachus
    2. Creontiades
    3. Ophitus
    4. Deicoon
  2. Omphale
    1. Agelaus
    2. Tyrsenus
  3. Deianira
    1. Hyllus
    2. Ctesippus
    3. Glenus
    4. Oneites
    5. Macaria
  4. Hebe
    1. Alexiares
    2. Anicetus
  5. Astydameia, daughter of Ormenius
    1. Ctesippus
  6. Astyoche, daughter of Phylas
    1. Tlepolemus
  7. Auge
    1. Telephus
  8. Autonoe, daughter of Piraeus / Iphinoe, daughter of Antaeus
    1. Palaemon
  9. Baletia, daughter of Baletus
    1. Brettus[38]
  10. Barge
    1. Bargasus[39]
  11. Bolbe
    1. Olynthus
  12. Celtine
    1. Celtus
  13. Chalciope
    1. Thessalus
  14. Chania, nymph
    1. Gelon[40]
  15. The Scythian dracaena or Echidna
    1. Agathyrsus
    2. Gelonus
    3. Skythes
  16. Epicaste
    1. Thestalus
  17. Lavinia, daughter of Evander[41]
    1. Pallas
  18. Malis, a slave of Omphale
    1. Acelus[42]
  19. Meda
    1. Antiochus
  20. Melite (heroine)
  21. Melite (naiad)
    1. Hyllus (possibly)
  22. Myrto
    1. Eucleia
  23. Palantho of Hyperborea[43]
    1. Latinus[41]
  24. Parthenope, daughter of Stymphalus
    1. Everes
  25. Phialo
    1. Aechmagoras
  26. Psophis
    1. Echephron
    2. Promachus
  27. Pyrene
    1. none known
  28. Rhea, Italian priestess
    1. Aventinus[44]
  29. Thebe (daughter of Adramys)
  30. Tinge, wife of Antaeus
    1. Sophax[45]
  31. 50 daughters of Thespius
    1. 50 sons, see Thespius#Daughters and grandchildren
  32. Unnamed Celtic woman
    1. Galates[46]
  33. Unnamed slave of Omphale
    1. Alcaeus / Cleodaeus
  34. Unnamed daughter of Syleus (Xenodoce?)[47]
  35. Unknown consorts
    1. Agylleus[48]
    2. Amathous[49]
    3. Azon[50]
    4. Chromis[51]
    5. Cyrnus[52]
    6. Dexamenus[53]
    7. Leucites[54]
    8. Manto
    9. Pandaie
    10. Phaestus or Rhopalus[55]

around the world


In Rome, Heracles
was honored as Hercules, and had a number of distinctively Roman myths and practices associated with him under that name.


Herodotus connected Heracles
to the Egyptian god Shu. Also he was associated with Khonsu, another Egyptian god who was in some ways similar to Shu. As Khonsu, Heracles
was worshipped at the now sunken city of Heracleion, where a large temple was constructed.

Most often the Egyptians identified Heracles
with Heryshaf, transcribed in Greek as Arsaphes or Harsaphes (Ἁρσαφής). He was an ancient ram-god whose cult was centered in Herakleopolis Magna.

Other cultures

Hellenistic-era depiction of the Zoroastrian divinity Bahram as Hercules
carved in 153 BCE at Kermanshah, Iran.
The protector Vajrapani of the Buddha is another incarnation of Heracles
(Gandhara, 1st century CE)
The Mathura Herakles, strangling the Nemean lion.[56] Also: [1]. Today in the Kolkota Indian Museum.

Via the Greco-Buddhist culture, Heraclean symbolism was transmitted to the Far East. An example remains to this day in the Nio guardian deities in front of Japanese Buddhist temples.

Herodotus also connected Heracles
to Phoenician god Melqart.

Sallust mentions in his work on the Jugurthine War that the Africans believe Heracles
to have died in Spain where, his multicultural army being left without a leader, the Medes, Persians, and Armenians who were once under his command split off and populated the Mediterranean coast of Africa.[57]

Temples dedicated to Heracles
abounded all along the Mediterranean coastal countries. For example, the temple of Heracles
(i.e. the lone dweller), built far from any nearby town upon a promontory in what is now the Côte d'Azur, gave its name to the area's more recent name, Monaco.

The gateway to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean, where the southernmost tip of Spain
and the northernmost of Morocco face each other is, classically speaking, referred to as the Pillars of Hercules/Heracles, owing to the story that he set up two massive spires of stone to stabilise the area and ensure the safety of ships sailing between the two landmasses.

Uses of Heracles
as a name

In various languages, variants of Hercules' name are used as a male given name, such as Hercule in French, Hércules in Spanish, Iraklis (Greek: Ηρακλής) in Modern Greek and Irakliy in Russian.

Also, there are many teams around the world which have this name or have Heracles
as their symbol. The most popular in Greece is G.S. Iraklis Thessaloniki.



Three Children

See also

Other figures in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
punished by the gods include
Figures resembling Heracles
in other mythological traditions


  1. ^ Schmitz, Leonhard (1867). "Alceides". In William Smith. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 1. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 98. Archived from the original on 2008-05-27. 
  2. ^ Bibliotheca ii. 4. § 12
  3. ^ a b By his adoptive descent through Amphitryon, Heracles
    receives the epithet Alcides, as "of the line of Alcaeus", father of Amphitryon. Amphitryon's own, mortal son was Iphicles
  4. ^ a b Burkert 1985, pp. 208–9
  5. ^ Burkert 1985, pp. 208–212.
  6. ^ Robert Fagles' translation, 1996:269.
  7. ^ Solmsen, Friedrich (1981). "The Sacrifice of Agamemnon's Daughter in Hesiod's' Ehoeae". The American Journal of Philology. 102 (4): 353–358 [p. 355]. JSTOR 294322. 
  8. ^ Ptol. iv. 3. § 37
  9. ^ Ventura, F. (1988). "Ptolemy's Maltese Co-ordinates". Hyphen. V (6): 253–269. 
  10. ^ Pausanias, Guide to Greece, 4.32.1
  11. ^ Aelian, Varia Historia, 12.15
  12. ^ Aelian, Varia Historia, 5.3
  13. ^ Compare the two pairs of twins born to Leda and the "double" parentage of Theseus.
  14. ^ Andrew Ford, Aristotle as Poet, Oxford, 2011, p. 208 n. 5, citing, in addition to Prodicus/Xenophon, Antisthenes, Herodorus (esp. FGrHist 31 F 14), and (in the 4th century) Plato's use of " Heracles
    as a figure for Socrates' life (and death?): Apology 22a, cf. Theaetetus 175a, Lysis 205c."
  15. ^ Pausanias Χ 3.1, 36.5. Ptolemaeus, Geogr. Hyph. ΙΙ 184. 12. Stephanus of Byzantium, s.v. «Ἀντίκυρα»
  16. ^ Richard Hunter, translator, Jason
    and the Golden Fleece
    (Oxford:Clarendon Press), 1993, p 31f.
  17. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus, i. 41
  18. ^ Ptolemy
    Hephaestion, New History Book 5 " Heracles
    did not wear the skin of the Nemean lion, but that of a certain Lion, one of the giants killed by Heracles
    whom he had challenged to single combat."
  19. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses, IX l.132–3
  20. ^ Herodotus, Histories II.145
  21. ^ Herodotus, Histories IV. 8–10.
  22. ^ Plutarch, Erotikos, 761d.The tomb of Iolaus
    is also mentioned by Pindar.
  23. ^ Pindar, Olympian Odes, 9.98–99.
  24. ^ Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica, 1.1177–1357; Theocritus, Idyll 13.
  25. ^ Sosibius, in Hesychius of Alexandria's Lexicon
  26. ^ Bibliotheca 2.5.8; Ptolemaeus Chennus, 147b, in Photius' Bibliotheca
  27. ^ Ptolemaeus Chennus, in Photius' Bibliotheca
  28. ^ Ptolemaeus Chennus, 147b.
  29. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7. 17. 8
  30. ^ Plutarch, Erotikos, 761e.
  31. ^ a b Ptolemaeus Chennus
  32. ^ Ptolemaeus Chennus, 147e; Philostratus, Heroicus 696, per Sergent, 1986, p. 163.
  33. ^ Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 1207
  34. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Diomeia
  35. ^ Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, 2. 4. 11 = 2. 7. 8
  36. ^ Fabulae 162
  37. ^ Scholia on Pindar, Isthmian Ode 3 (4), 104
  38. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Brettos
  39. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Bargasa
  40. ^ Servius on Virgil's Georgics 2. 115
  41. ^ a b Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, 1. 43. 1
  42. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium
    Stephanus of Byzantium
    s. v. Akelēs
  43. ^ Solinus, De mirabilia mundi, 1. 15
  44. ^ Virgil, Aeneid, 7. 655 ff
  45. ^ Plutarch, Life of Sertorius, 9. 4
  46. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 5. 24. 2
  47. ^ So Conon, Narrationes, 17. In Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 6. 3 a daughter of Syleus, Xenodoce, is killed by Heracles
  48. ^ Statius, Thebaid, 6. 837, 10. 249
  49. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Amathous
  50. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Gaza
  51. ^ Statius, Thebaid, 6. 346
  52. ^ Servius on Virgil's Eclogue 9. 30
  53. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, 1. 50. 4
  54. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae, 162
  55. ^ In Stephanus of Byzantium
    Stephanus of Byzantium
    s. v. Phaistos, Rhopalus is the son of Heracles
    and Phaestus his own son; in Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2. 6. 7, vice versa (Phaestus son, Rhopalus grandson)
  56. ^ The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent, James C. Harle, Yale University Press, 1994 p.67
  57. ^ Sallust
    (1963). The Jugurthine War/The Conspiracy of Catiline. Translated by S.A. Handford. Penguin Books. p. 54.
  58. ^ Morford, M. P. O.; Lenardon R. J. (2007). Classical Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 865.


Further reading

  • Brockliss, William. 2017. "The Hesiodic Shield of Heracles: The Text as Nightmarish Vision." Illinois Classical Studies 42.1: 1–19. doi:10.5406/illiclasstud.42.1.0001. JSTOR 10.5406/illiclasstud.42.1.0001.
  • Burkert, Walter. 1982. " Heracles
    and the Master of Animals." In Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual, 78–98. Sather Classical Lectures 47. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
  • Haubold, Johannes. 2005. " Heracles
    in the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women." In The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women: Constructions and Reconstructions. Edited by Richard Hunter, 85–98. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Karanika, Andromache. 2011. "The End of the Nekyia: Odysseus, Heracles, and the Gorgon
    in the Underworld." Arethusa 44.1: 1–27.
  • Padilla, Mark W. 1998. "Herakles and Animals in the Origins of Comedy and Satyr
    Drama". In Le Bestiaire d'Héraclès: IIIe Rencontre héracléenne, edited by Corinne Bonnet, Colette Jourdain-Annequin, and Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge, 217–30. Kernos Suppl. 7. Liège: Centre International d'Etude de la Religion Grecque Antique.
  • Padilla, Mark W. 1998. "The Myths of Herakles in Ancient Greece: Survey and Profile". Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America.
  • Papadimitropoulos, Loukas. 2008. " Heracles
    as Tragic Hero." Classical World 101.2: 131–138. doi:10.1353/clw.2008.0015
  • Papadopoulou, Thalia. 2005. Heracles
    and Euripidean Tragedy.
    Cambridge Classical Studies. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Segal, Charles Paul. 1961. "The Character and Cults of Dionysus
    and the Unity of the Frogs." Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 65:207–242. doi:10.2307/310837. JSTOR 310837.
  • Stafford, Emma. 2012. Herakles. Gods and Heroes of the Ancient World. New York: Routledge.
  • Strid, Ove. 2013. "The Homeric Prefiguration of Sophocles' Heracles." Hermes 141.4: 381–400. JSTOR 43652880.
  • Woodford, Susan. 1971. "Cults of Herakles in Attica." In Studies Presented to George M. A. Hanfmann. Edited by David Gordon Mitten, John Griffiths Pedley, and Jane Ayer Scott, 211–225. Monographs in Art and Archaeology 2. Mainz, Germany: Verlag Philipp von Zabern.

Primary sources

External links