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The Children of Heracles in Greek Mythology

Updated on June 7, 2015
Colin Quartermain profile image

Having travelled through Italy, Greece and the Aegean in his youth, Colin quickly became interested in the ancient mythology of the region.

In Ancient Greece it was important to many cities to have a founding myth, a story about the foundation of the city; and if that founding myth linked the city to a famous Greek hero so much the better. So, in Greek mythology, Perseus was linked with the founding of Mycenae and Cadmus was said to have founded Thebes. These founding myths did much to increase the prestige of the city.

Many Ancient Greeks also increased their own prestige by tracking their ancestors to the same heroes, but the greatest prestige would come from being a descendent of the greatest of Greek heroes, Heracles.

Thankfully, in Greek mythology, Heracles was said to have had almost as many lovers as his father, Zeus, and had numerous children.

The Wives and Lovers of Heracles

The most comprehensive surviving account of the children of Heracles comes from the Bibilotheca (Pseudo-Apollodorus); but the Heracles myth was widespread, and many writers in antiquity told his story, so numbers and names of children vary greatly between sources.

Generally speaking though, Heracles was said to have had four wives, although this number of wives was greatly added to by the Greek hero’s numerous lovers.

Heracles Life and Lovers

Heracles and a Muse - Eberhard von Wächter (1762–1852) - PD-art-100
Heracles and a Muse - Eberhard von Wächter (1762–1852) - PD-art-100 | Source

Megara – First Wife of Heracles

The first named wife of Heracles was Megara, a princess of Thebes, given to the hero by King Creon. Megara was said to have provided Heracles with a number of children, and anywhere between two and eight children are named.

Most commonly, three sons are named as children of Heracles and Megara; these being Herimachus, Creontiades and Deicoon. It is these three sons, along with Megara, who are normally said to have been killed by Heracles when Hera sent madness down upon the son of her husband.

It was penance for these murders that would see Heracles travel to the court of King Eurystheus in order to undertake the famous Labours.

Some writers in antiquity would also name Ophites as a son of Heracles by Megara; but this son was killed by Heracles when the son himself went mad.

Lovers of Heracles

Heracles and the Hesperides - Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675–1741) - PD-art-100
Heracles and the Hesperides - Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675–1741) - PD-art-100 | Source

Omphale – Second Wife of Heracles

Omphale was the second named wife of Heracles; Omphale was the Lydian queen whom Heracles had to serve as penance for another murder. Heracles would become father to two sons by Omphale, Agelaus, also known as Lamus, and Tyrsenus.

Tyrsenus was said by some ancient writers to have been the inventor of the trumpet, whilst Agelaus would be named as an ancestor of a family of Lydian kings, including King Croesus. King Croesus would give rise to the phrase “as rich as Croesus”.

Deianera

Deianera Wife of Heracles - Evelyn De Morgan (1855–1919) - PD-art-100
Deianera Wife of Heracles - Evelyn De Morgan (1855–1919) - PD-art-100 | Source

Deianira – Third Wife of Heracles

The third wife of Heracles is arguably the most famous, for this was Deianira, a sister of Meleager, and the woman who would ultimately cause the death of the Greek hero.

Deianira would provide Heracles with a string of children including, Hyllus, Ctesippus, Glenus, Oneites, and Macaria.

It is through Hyllus that the long line of Heraclidae were born. The Heraclidae was the collective name for the children of Heracles. King Eurystheus, in Greek Mythology, would attempt to kill all of the Heraclidae, but would himself die in battle outside of Athens. The victory of the Heraclidae at Athens though was only assured when Macaria sacrificed herself for her brothers.

In antiquity, the supposed lineage to Hyllus would see the Dorians claim the thrones of Mycenae, Sparta, Argos and Corinth.

Hebe

Hebe Wife of Heracles - Francisco Javier Ramos y Albertos (1744-1817) - PD-art-100
Hebe Wife of Heracles - Francisco Javier Ramos y Albertos (1744-1817) - PD-art-100 | Source

Hebe – Fourth Wife of Heracles

Upon his funeral pyre, Heracles was immortalised and became a god of Mount Olympus, Zeus would then provide his son with a wife for eternity; this wife being the daughter of Zeus and Hera, Hebe.

Hebe bore two more sons for Heracles, Alexiares and Anicetus; these two sons, along with their father, would become the physical protectors for Mount Olympus thereafter.

Children Born out of Wedlock

Heracles would also be father to many other children.

The Thespiades

There is a famous story in Greek mythology of Heracles and the Thsepiades. The Thespiades were the 50 daughters of King Thespius of Thespiae. Thespius wanted grandchildren sired by Heracles, and so he offered up his own daughters as prize when the Greek hero killed a rampaging lion.

Thus, for 50 consecutive nights Heracles slept with each daughter in turn, and subsequently 51 grandsons were provided to Thespius. The reason for the 51 children, was that Procis, the eldest of the Thespiades, gave birth to twins.

Echidna

An occasional told Greek myth sees Heracles meeting a woman who was half serpent and half female; a woman sometimes named as Echidna. This woman would hold the horses of Heracles captive, and would not release them until Heracles provided her with children.

So, Heracles slept with the woman, and three sons were born; Agathrysus, Gelonus and Scythes. In the end though only Scythes gained a name for himself for it was this son of Heracles would was said to have been the ancestor of all of the Scythians.

Famous Children

Some other offspring and descendants of Heracles also became famous. In some cases this fame was because of their name, with Celtus, a son of Heracles and Celtine, who herself was daughter of Bretannus , giving his name to the Celts. Similarly, Galates, a son of Heracles would become a renowned fighter, and the man who have his name to the Gauls.

Other children of Heracles were said to have fought during the Trojan War. Telephus, the king of Mesia was said to have been a commander of the Achaean forces at Troy, whilst another son, Tlepolemus would die by the sword of Sarpedon at Troy.

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