Lovers of Herakles

Herakles had what seems like innumerable lovers.  His reputation as a hunky lover probably stems from the many myths about these escapades, including his sleeping with fifty girls in one night.  Here is a brief overview of some of the more significant mythological women that he has been involved with.

Herakles is described as seducing Auge, a priestess of Athena.  She bore Telephus  (Pausanias 8.4.9; Apoll. 2.7.4).  This is interesting because Athena helps Herakles so often, yet he seduces her priestess.  (Athena was a virgin goddess.)  This shows his personality as a casual lover.

Daughters of Thespius
There are various versions of this tale, but the main theme is that Herakles is asked by the King Thespius to sleep with his daughters because he was anxious for them to have children by Herakles.  Apollodorus says that at the age of 18, and during the Cithaeronian lion hunt, Herakles slept with 50 girls in 50 nights.  (This averages out to about seven minutes each.)  He also states that Herakles thought that he was sleeping with the same girl every night.  Pausansias, however, writes that Herakles slept with all of the daughters in one night, except for one that refused.  She was consequently condemned to be a virgin as she was made a priestess in his shrine at Thespiae  (Diodorus Siculus: iv.29, Apollodorus: ii.4.10 and ii.7.8; Pausanias ix. 27. 5-7).  


Deianeira was Herakles' second wife.  She ultimately kills him after taking the advice of the centaur Nessus that Herakles had rescued her from and killed earlier. 

See Heracles as Husband for more.


Herakles rescuing Deianeira from the centaur Nessus

Hebe is the daughter of Zeus and of Hera.  She is regarded as the gods cup bearer and her responsibilities included pouring and bringing wine to the gods.  She is worshipped as the goddess of pardons or forgiveness.  Most primary sources describe Herakles marrying Hebe after he dies and ascends to Olympus.  Apollodorus states that they had two sons together, Alexiares and Anicetus (book 2 7.7).  There is some disagreement as to whether this marriage ends the bitterness between him and Hera, or whether because her resentment had ended, that she allowed this marriage to take place.  This black figure dinos, c. 580 BC, portrays their marriage.

Iole is one of several innocent woman who was taken from her family by Herakles, after watching them be destroyed.  She also happens to inadvertently cause the death of both Deianeira and Herakles. Apollodorus says that Eurytus, the king of Oechalia, promised Iole as a prize for anyone that could defeat him and his sons in archery.  After Herakles won the contest,  Eurytus retracted his promise.  He feared that Herakles would kill Iole just like he did Megara.  Herakles punished them by destroying the city. 

The Capture of Oechalia is an epic tale attributed to Creophylus of Samos.  This work shows the anger of Herakles and the helplessness of Iole.

Megara is the daughter of Creon, the king of Thebes.  She was the first wife of Herakles.  Some myths describe him killing her in a fit of rage brought on by Hera (Euripides, Herakles).  In other versions, Herakles gives her in marriage to Iolaus (Apollodorus 2.6.1).  Her name means a place where they threw meat during a ritual.  It is associated with death, ghosts, the underworld (Harison, 1957, pp. 38, 122-123).  She is an aspect of the Earth – Mother; a duplicate of Hera. 

Apollodorus explains that after killing Iphitus, Herakles is urged by the Delphic oracle to be sold in to slavery.   Hermes then purchases him for Omphale for three years of servitude. Plutarch describes an interesting role reversal between these two.  He describes Omphale as wearing Herakles’ identifying lion skin and club while he donned her attire.  This is a myth that shows him abandoning his masculine identity and playing the servant and buffoon.  They are also said to have been either lovers, or that Herakles acted like a sort of sex slave.  An interesting fact about Omphale’s name is that it means “navel.”  Some scholars believe that this shows Herakles’ symbolic enslavement to the “navel” or women’s womb/sexuality.  This name could also mean a connection between Omphale and the Earth goddess and fertility. Another interesting fact about this myth is that it took place in Lydia, which is known as Turkey today.

Scythia is a half woman, half serpent creature that Herakles slept with so that she would return his mares to him.  This shows the malevolent mother may be benign if her libido is satisfied. (Herodotus iv. 8-10; cf. Fontenrose 1959:97-98).

During Herakles servitude to Omphale, he became involved with Xenodice. According to Apollodorus, Herakles ultimately kills Xenodice and her father’, because her father was forcing people to work in his vinyard.  This adds to his reputation as a woman slayer.  (Apollodorus 2.6.3)  

Further Information
The Greek Mythology Link shows a detailed list of all Herakles' lovers and offspring.