Heracles (mythology)

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Heracles (/ˈhɛrəkliːz/ HERR-ə-kleez; Ancient Greek: Ἡρακλῆς, Hēraklēs, from Hēra, "Hera", and kleos, "glory"[1]), born Alcaeus[2] (Ἀλκαῖος, Alkaios), Alkaios) or Alcides[3] (Ἀλκείδης, Alkeidēs), was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon[4] and great-grandson (and half-brother) of Perseus. He was the greatest of the Greek heroes, a paragon of masculinity, the ancestor of royal clans who claimed to be Heracleidae (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.

Lovers and companions

Hylas

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".[5] 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.

boys work in progress

As 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.[6][7]

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. However it should be noted that there is nothing whatever in Apollonius's account that suggests that Hylas was a sexual lover as opposed to a companion and servant.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

Another myth is that of Iphitus.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13] 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;[14] Adonis;[15] Corythus;[15] 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.[16]

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".[17] Diomus is also mentioned by 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.[18] Perithoas and Phrix are otherwise unknown, and so is the version that suggests a sexual relationship between Heracles and Philoctetes.

References

  1. Becking, Bob, et al.. Dictionary of deities and demons. ed. Toorn, Karel van der. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. 1999
  2. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=encyclopaedia }}
  3. Bibliotheca ii. 4. § 12
  4. . By his adoptive descent through Ampitryon, Heracles receives the epithet Alcides, as "of the line of Alcaeus", father of Amphitryon. Amphitryon's own, mortal son was Iphicles.
  5. Richard Hunter, translator, Jason and the Golden Fleece (Oxford:Clarendon Press), 1993, p 31f.
  6. Plutarch, Erotikos, 761d.The tomb of Iolaus is also mentioned by Pindar.
  7. Pindar, Olympian Odes, 9.98-99.
  8. Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica, 1.1177-1357; Theocritus, Idyll 13.
  9. Sosibius, in Hesychius of Alexandria's Lexicon
  10. Bibliotheca 2.5.8; Ptolemaeus Chennus, 147b, in Photius' Bibliotheca
  11. Ptolemaeus Chennus, in Photius' Bibliotheca
  12. Ptolemaeus Chennus, 147b.
  13. Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7. 17. 8
  14. Plutarch, Erotikos, 761e.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Ptolemaeus Chennus
  16. Ptolemaeus Chennus, 147e; Philostratus, Heroicus 696, per Sergent, 1986, p. 163.
  17. Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1. 1207
  18. Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Diomeia


See also

External links