People in the Life of Hercules (Heracles/Herakles)

Index of Hercules' Friends, Family, and Enemies

Hercules encountered many people in his travels and labors. For convenience, I've listed the following as friend, family, or enemy of Hercules. As usual, such labels are simplistic. This list of people in Hercules' life is based on the Loeb edition of the Library of Apollodorus, a 2nd Century B.C. Greek scholar, who wrote a Chronicles and On the Gods. It is thought that the Library (Bibliotheca) was written by someone a few centuries later, but it is still referred to as the Library of Apollodorus or Pseudo-Apollodorus.

See also the Apollodorus Concordance for names and places in Apollodorus' account of the Labors of Hercules.

Birth of Heracles, by Jean Jacques Francois Le Barbier (1738-1826)
Birth of Heracles, by Jean Jacques Francois Le Barbier (1738-1826). Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Alcmene was the mother of Hercules. She was the granddaughter of Perseus and the wife of Amphitryon, but Amphitryon killed her father, Electryon, by accident. The marriage wasn't to be consummated until Amphitryon had avenged the death of Alcmene's brothers. On the night after this was accomplished, Zeus came to Alcmene in the guise of Amphitryon with proofs of the revenge. Later, the real Amphitryon came to his wife, but by this time she was pregnant with her first son, Hercules. Amphitryon fathered Hercules' twin brother, Iphicles. [Apollodorus 2.4.6-8]

Pelops is given as Alcmene's father in Eur. Herc. 210ff.

Rhadamanthys married Alcmene after Amphitryon died. [Apollodorus 2.4.11] More »

Amazons - Friends and Enemies of Hercules

Herakles Fights an Amazon
Herakles Fights an Amazon. CC clairity at Flickr.com

In the 9th Labor, Hercules is to fetch the belt of the Amazon queen Hippolyte. The Amazons become suspicious and they attack Hercules' men. Hippolyte is killed.

Amphitryon, a grandson of Perseus and son of King Alcaeus of Tiryns, was the step-father of Hercules and father of his twin brother Iphicles. He accidentally killed his uncle and father-in-law, Electryon, and was driven out by another uncle, Sthenelus. Amphitryon took his family to Thebes where King Creon purified him. [Apollodorus 2.4.6] More »

Heracles wrestling with the libyan giant Antaeus. 515–510 B.C. Euphronios (painter).
Heracles wrestling with the libyan giant Antaeus. 515–510 B.C. Euphronios (painter). Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Antaeus of Libya wrestled and killed passing strangers. When Hercules came his way, the pair wrestled. Hercules learned that the earth energized Antaeus, so he held him up, drained his strength, and so killed him. [Apollodorus 2.5.11] More »

Heracles and the gathering of the Argonauts
Heracles and the gathering of the Argonauts. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Hercules and his lover Hylas went with Jason and the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece. However, when the nymphs on Mysa carried Hylas off, Hercules left the group to search for Hylas. More »

Augeas - Enemy of Hercules

King Augeas of Elis offered to pay Hercules for cleaning out his stables in a day. Hercules diverted the Alpheus and Peneus rivers to clean the years' worth of filth, but the king refused to pay. Augeas' son Phyleus testified on behalf of Hercules when his father denied he had promised to pay. Hercules later returned and got revenge. He also rewarded Phyleus by installing him on the throne. [Apollodorus 2.5.5]

Autolycus was the son of Hermes and Chione. He was the ancient prince of thieves who taught wrestling to Hercules. More »

Cacus - Enemy of Hercules

Hercules Punishing Cacus by Baccia Bandinelli, 1535-34
Hercules Punishing Cacus by Baccia Bandinelli, 1535-34. CC Vesuvianite at Flickr.com

Cacus is a Roman enemy of Hercules. Livy says that when Hercules passed through Rome with the cattle he had taken from Geryon, Cacus, a thief who lived in a cave on the Aventine, stole some of them while Hercules was napping. Hercules located the missing cattle when the stolen ones lowed and the ones he still had in possession, replied. Hercules then killed Cacus. In other versions, Cacus is a horrible cannibalistic monster.

Castor - Friend of Hercules

Castor. From Heracles and the Gathering of the Argonauts.
Castor. From Heracles and the Gathering of the Argonauts. Attic red-figure calyx-krater, 460–450 BC. From Orvieto. Niobid Painter. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Castor and his brother Pollux were known as the Dioscuri. Castor taught Hercules to fence, according to Apollodorus. Castor was also a member of the Argonauts. Pollux was fathered by Zeus, but Castor's parents were Leda and her husband Tyndareus.

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Hercules encountered many people in his travels and labors. For convenience, I've listed the following as friend, family, or enemy of Hercules. As usual, such labels are simplistic.

See also the Apollodorus Concordance for names and places in Apollodorus' account of the Labors of Hercules. This is based on the Loeb edition of the Library of Apollodorus, a 2nd Century B.C. Greek scholar, who wrote a Chronicles and On the Gods. It is thought that the Library (Bibliotheca) was written by someone a few centuries later, but it is still referred to as the Library of Apollodorus or Pseudo-Apollodorus.

Hercules Fights Achelous
Hercules Fights Achelous. CC dawvon at Flickr.com

Deianeira was Hercules' last mortal wife. She was the daughter of Althaea and Oeneus or Dexamenus, king of Olenus. Hercules defeated the river god Achelous in order to marry Deianeira.

Deianeira thought she was losing Hercules to Iole, so she put what she thought was a love potion on a garment which she sent to Hercules. When he put it on, the potent poison that had been called a love potion took ​effect. Hercules wanted to die, so he built a pyre and persuaded someone to light it. He then ascended to become one of the gods and married the goddess Hebe. More »

Eurystheus hiding in a jar as Heracles brings him the Erymanthian boar.
Eurystheus hiding in a jar as Heracles brings him the Erymanthian boar. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Eurystheus is Hercules' cousin and king of Mycenae and Tiryns. After Hera had tricked an oath out of Zeus that the boy born that day who was his descendant would become king, she caused Eurystheus to be born early and Hercules, who was due, was held back until Eurystheus was born. It was for Eurystheus that Hercules performed the 12 labors. More »

Hesione was a sister of King Priam of Troy. When their father, Ling Laomedon, ruled Troy, Hesione was exposed to a sea monster. Hercules rescued her and gave her as a concubine to his follower Telamon. Hesione was ​the mother of Telamon's son Teucer, but not Ajax. More »

Hylas - Friend of Hercules

John William Waterhouse - Hylas and the Nymphs (1896)
John William Waterhouse - Hylas and the Nymphs (1896). Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Hylas was a beautiful young man whom Hercules loved. They joined the Argonauts together, but then Hylas was taken by nymphs.

Iolaus - Friend and Family of Hercules

Hercules and Iolaus - Fountain mosaic from the Anzio Nymphaeum
Hercules and Iolaus - Fountain mosaic from the Anzio Nymphaeum. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Iolaus, son of Iphicles, was a charioteer, companion, and favorite of Hercules. He may have married Hercules' wife Megara after Hercules killed their children in one of his fits of madness. Iolaus helped Hercules in the labor to destroy the Lernaean Hydra by cauterizing the neck after Hercules severed the head.

Iphicles - Family of Hercules

Iphicles was the twin brother of Hercules. He was born of Alcmene and his father was Amphitryon. Iphicles was the father of Hercules' favorite, Iolaus.

Hercules offered to save King Laomedon's daughter from the sea monster if Laomedon would give him his special horses as a reward. Laomedon agreed, Hercules rescued Hesione, but Laomedon reneged on the deal, so Hercules took revenge. More »

Pediment of Temple of Olympian Zeus Depicting the Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths, with Apollo.
Pediment of Temple of Olympian Zeus Depicting the Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths, with Apollo. CC Flickr User miriam.mollerus

Hercules came to the aid of a grandson of Hellen, King Aegimius of the Dorians, in his boundary conflict with King Coronus of the Lapiths. King Aegimus promised Hercules a third of the land, so Hercules killed the Lapith king and won the conflict for the Dorian king. Keeping his part of the bargain, King Aegimius adopted Hercules son Hyllus as heir. More »

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People in Hercules' Life Page 3

Hercules encountered many people in his travels and labors. For convenience, I've listed the following as friend, family, or enemy of Hercules. As usual, such labels are simplistic.

Linus - Enemy of Hercules

Linus was the brother of Orpheus and taught Hercules writing and music, but when he struck Hercules, Hercules retaliated and killed him. Hercules was excused, by Rhadamanthys, for the murder because he was retaliating against an act of aggression. Nonetheless, Amphitryon sent him away to a cattle farm. [Apollodorus 2.4.9]

Megara - Family of Hercules

For saving the Thebans from the tribute to the Minyans, Hercules was awarded Megara, daughter of King Creon for his wife. They had three children. [Apollodorus 2.4.11] In Apollodorus 2.4.12 Hercules was driven mad after defeating the Minyans. He threw his children and two of Iphicles' children into a fire. Other stories put the madness after Hercules' return from Hades. Hercules may have married his wife to a surviving nephew, Iolaus.

Minyans - Enemy of Hercules

The Minyans were collecting a tribute from the Thebans under King Creon for 20 years. One year when they sent out their tribute collectors, Hercules apprehended them and cut off their ears and noses and sent them back to their king, Erginus. The Minyans retaliated and attacked Thebes, but Hercules defeated them. His step-father Amphitryon may have been killed in this battle.

Hercules and Omphale. Roman mosaic from Valencia, Spain.
Hercules and Omphale. Roman mosaic from Valencia, Spain. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Lydian Queen Omphale bought Hercules as a slave. They traded clothing and had a son. Omphale also sent Hercules off to do services for the people in the area. More »

Theseus - Friend of Hercules

Theseus. From Heracles and the Gathering of the Argonauts. Attic red-figure calyx, 460–450 B.C.
Theseus. From Heracles and the Gathering of the Argonauts. Attic red-figure calyx, 460–450 B.C. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Theseus was a friend of Hercules who had helped another friend of his, Pirithous, on the absurd attempt to abduct Persephone. While in the Underworld, the pair was chained. When Hercules was in the Underworld, he rescued Theseus. [Apollodoru 2.5.12]

Thespius and His Daughters - Friends and Family of Hercules

Hercules went hunting with King Thespius for 50 days and each night he slept with one of the king's 50 daughters because the king wanted to have grandchildren that were fathered by the hero. Hercules didn't realize it was a different woman each night. [Apollodorus 2.4.10] He impregnated all or all but one of them and their offspring, sons, under ​the leadership of their uncle Iolaus, colonized Sardinia.

Tiresias appears to Ulysses during the sacrificing, by Johann Heinrich Füssli
Tiresias appears to Ulysses during the sacrificing, by Johann Heinrich Füssli. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

The transgendered seer Tiresias of Thebes told Amphitryon about Zeus' encounter with Alcmene [Apollodorus 2.4.8] and prophesied what would become of his infant child Hercules. More »