previous next


After his labours Hercules went to Thebes and gave Megara to Iolaus,1 and, wishing himself to wed, he ascertained that Eurytus, prince of Oechalia, had proposed the hand of his daughter Iole as a prize to him who should vanquish himself and his sons in archery.2 So he came to Oechalia, and though he proved himself better than them at archery, yet he did not get the bride; for while Iphitus, the elder of Eurytus's sons, said that Iole should be given to Hercules, Eurytus and the others refused, and said they feared that, if he got children, he would again kill his offspring.3 [2] Not long after, some cattle were stolen from Euboea by Autolycus, and Eurytus supposed that it was done by Hercules; but Iphitus did not believe it and went to Hercules. And meeting him, as he came from Pherae after saving the dead Alcestis for Admetus, he invited him to seek the kine with him. Hercules promised to do so and entertained him; but going mad again he threw him from the walls of Tiryns.4 Wishing to be purified of the murder he repaired to Neleus, who was prince of the Pylians. And when Neleus rejected his request on the score of his friendship with Eurytus, he went to Amyclae and was purified by Deiphobus, son of Hippolytus.5 But being afflicted with a dire disease on account of the murder of Iphitus he went to Delphi and inquired how he might be rid of the disease. As the Pythian priestess answered him not by oracles, he was fain to plunder the temple, and, carrying off the tripod, to institute an oracle of his own. But Apollo fought him,6 and Zeus threw a thunderbolt between them. When they had thus been parted, Hercules received an oracle, which declared that the remedy for his disease was for him to be sold, and to serve for three years, and to pay compensation for the murder to Eurytus. [3] After the delivery of the oracle, Hermes sold Hercules, and he was bought by Omphale,7 daughter of Iardanes, queen of Lydia, to whom at his death her husband Tmolus had bequeathed the government. Eurytus did not accept the compensation when it was presented to him, but Hercules served Omphale as a slave, and in the course of his servitude he seized and bound the Cercopes at Ephesus;8 and as for Syleus in Aulis, who compelled passing strangers to dig, Hercules killed him with his daughter Xenodoce, after burning the vines with the roots.9 And having put in to the island of Doliche, he saw the body of Icarus washed ashore and buried it, and he called the island Icaria instead of Doliche. In return Daedalus made a portrait statue of Hercules at Pisa, which Hercules mistook at night for living and threw a stone and hit it. And during the time of his servitude with Omphale it is said that the voyage to Colchis10 and the hunt of the Calydonian boar took place, and that Theseus on his way from Troezen cleared the Isthmus of malefactors. [4]

After his servitude, being rid of his disease he mustered an army of noble volunteers and sailed for Ilium with eighteen ships of fifty oars each.11 And having come to port at Ilium, he left the guard of the ships to Oicles12 and himself with the rest of the champions set out to attack the city. Howbeit Laomedon marched against the ships with the multitude and slew Oicles in battle, but being repulsed by the troops of Hercules, he was besieged. The siege once laid, Telamon was the first to breach the wall and enter the city, and after him Hercules. But when he saw that Telamon had entered it first, he drew his sword and rushed at him, loath that anybody should be reputed a better man than himself. Perceiving that, Telamon collected stones that lay to hand, and when Hercules asked him what he did, he said he was building an altar to Hercules the Glorious Victor.13 Hercules thanked him, and when he had taken the city and shot down Laomedon and his sons, except Podarces, he assigned Laomedon's daughter Hesione as a prize to Telamon14 and allowed her to take with her whomsoever of the captives she would. When she chose her brother Podarces, Hercules said that he must first be a slave and then be ransomed by her. So when he was being sold she took the veil from her head and gave it as a ransom; hence Podarces was called Priam.15

1 With this and what follows down to the adventure with Syleus, compare Diod. 4.31 (who seems to be following the same authority as Apollodorus); Tzetzes, Chiliades ii.412-435.

2 Compare Scholiast on Hom. Il. 5.392; Soph. Trach. 260ff., with the Scholiast on Soph. Trach. 266; Scholiast on Eur. Hipp. 545.

3 As he had killed the children he had by Megara. See Apollod. 2.4.12.

4 The story is told somewhat differently by Hom. Od. 21.23-30. According to him, Iphitus had lost twelve mares (not oxen) and came in search of them to Herakles, who murdered him in his house and kept the mares. A Scholiast on Hom. Od. xxi.22 says that the mares had been stolen by Autolycus and sold by him to Herakles. Another Scholiast on the same passage of Homer, who refers to Pherecydes as his authority, says that Herakles treacherously lured Iphitus to the top of the wall, then hurled him down. As to the quest of the mares and the murder of Iphitus, see also Soph. Trach. 270-273; Diod. 4.31.2ff. (who says that Herakles himself stole the mares out of spite at Eurytus); Tzetzes, Chiliades ii.417-423; Scholiast on Hom. Il. v.392. Apollodorus seems to be the only writer who substitutes cattle for mares in this story.

5 Compare Diod. 4.31.4ff.; Scholiast on Hom. Il. v.392.

6 As to the attempt of Herakles to carry off the tripod, see Plut. De EI apud Delphos 6; Plut. De sera numinis vindicta 12 (who says that Herakles carried it off to Pheneus); Paus. 3.21.8, Paus. 8.37.1, Paus. 10.13.7ff.; Scholiast on Pind. O. 9.29(43); Cicero, De natura deorum iii.16.42; Hyginus, Fab. 32; Serv. Verg. A. 8.300. The subject was often represented in ancient art; for example, it was sculptured in the gable of the Treasury of the Siphnians at Delphi; the principal pieces of the sculpture were discovered by the French in their excavation of the sanctuary. See E. Bourguet, Les ruines de Delphes (Paris, 1914), pp. 76ff., and Frazer, commentary on Pausanias, vol. v. pp. 274ff.

7 As to Herakles and Omphale, see Soph. Trach. 247ff.; Diod. 4.31.5-8; Lucian, Dial. Deorum. xiii.2; Plut. Quaest. Graec. 45; Tzetzes, Chiliades ii.425ff.; Scholiast on Hom. Od. xxi.22; Joannes Lydus, De magistratibus iii.64; Ovid, Her. ix.55ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 32; Seneca, Herakles Oetaeus 371ff.; Statius, Theb. x.646-649. According to Pherecydes, cited by the Scholiast on Hom. Od. xxi.22, Hermes sold Herakles to Omphale for three talents. The sum obtained by his sale was to be paid as compensation to the sons of the murdered Iphitus, according to Diod. 4.31.5-8. The period of his servitude, according to Soph. Trach. 252ff., was only one year; but Herodorus, cited by the Scholiast on Soph. Tr. 253, says that it was three years, which agrees with the statement of Apollodorus.

8 As to the Cercopes, see Diod. 4.31.7; Nonnus, in Mythographi Graeci, ed. A. Westermann, Appendix Narrationum, 39, p. 375; Tzetzes, Chiliades ii.431, v.73ff.; Zenobius, Cent. v.10; Apostolius, Cent. xi.19. These malefactors were two in number. Herakles is said to have carried them hanging with their heads downward from a pole. They are so represented in Greek art. See W. H. Roscher, Lexikon der griech. und röm. Mythologie, ii.1166ff. The name Cercopes seems to mean “tailed men,” (from κέρκος, “tail”). One story concerning them was that they were deceitful men whom Zeus punished by turning them into apes, and that the islands of Ischia and Procida, off the Bay of Naples, were called Pithecusae (“Ape Islands”) after them. See Harpocration, s.v. Κέρκωψ; Eustathius on Hom. Od. xix.247, p. 1864; Ov. Met. 14.88ff. According to Pherecydes, the Cercopes were turned into stone. See Scholiast on Lucian, Alexander 4, p. 181, ed. H. Rabe. The story of Herakles and the Cercopes has been interpreted as a reminiscence of Phoenician traders bringing apes to Greek markets. See O. Keller, Thiere des classischen Alterthums (Innsbruck, 1887), p. 1. The interpretation may perhaps be supported by an Assyrian bas-relief which represents a Herculean male figure carrying an ape on his head and leading another ape by a leash, the animals being apparently brought as tribute to a king. See O. Keller, op. cit., p. 11, fig. 2; Perrot et Chipiez, Histoire de l'Art dans l'Antiquité, ii.547, fig 254.

9 Compare Diod. 4.31.7; Tzetzes, Chiliades ii.432ff.; Conon 17. Euripides wrote a satyric play on the subject. See TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), pp. 575ff. The legend may be based on a custom practised by vine-dressers on passing strangers. See W. Mannhardt, Mythologische Forschungen, pp. 12, 53ff., who, for the rough jests of vine dressers in antiquity, refers to Hor. Sat. i.8.28ff.; Pliny, Nat. Hist. xviii.26.66(249).

10 That is, the voyage of the Argo. See above, Apollod. 1.9.16ff. As to the hunt of the Calydonian boar, see above, Apollod. 1.8.2ff. As to the clearance of the Isthmus by Theseus, see below, Apollod. 3.16, and the Apollod. E.1.1ff.

11 As to the siege and capture of Troy by Herakles, see Hom. Il. 5.640-643, Hom. Il. 5.648-651; Pind. I. 6.26(38)ff.; Diod. 4.32; Tzetzes, Chiliades ii.443ff.; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 34; Ov. Met. 11.213-217, xiii.22ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 89. The account given by Diodorus agrees so closely in matter, though not in words, with that of Apollodorus that both authors probably drew on the same source. Homer, with whom Tzetzes agrees, says that Herakles went to Troy with only six ships. Diodorus notices the Homeric statement, but mentions that according to some the fleet of Herakles numbered “eighteen long ships.”

12 As to Oicles at Troy, compare Diod. 4.32.3; Paus. 8.36.6, who says that his tomb was shown near Megalopolis in Arcadia. Sophocles seems to have written a play called Oicles, though there is some doubt as to the spelling of the name. See The Fragments of Sophocles, ed. A. C. Pearson, ii.119.

13 This incident is recorded also by Tzetzes (Scholiast on Lycophron 469); but according to him the title which Telamon applied to Herakles at the altar was Averter of Ills (Alexikakos), not Glorious Victor (Kallinikos).

14 Compare Soph. Aj. 1299-1303; Scholiast on Hom. Il. 8.284; Ov. Met. 11.216ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 89.

15 This derivation of the name Priam from the verb πρίαμαι, “to buy,” is repeated, somewhat more clearly, by Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 34, Ποδάρκην ἐπρίατο, ὅθεν καὶ ἐκλήθη πρίαμος. Compare Hyginus, Fab. 89, Podarci, filio eius infanti, regnum dedit, qui postea Priamus est appellatus, ἀπὸ τοῦ πρίασθαι. For the bestowal by Herakles of the kingdom on the youthful Priam, compare Seneca, Troades 718ff.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Sir James George Frazer)
hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide References (23 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Trachiniae, 507
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (22):
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Epitome, e.1.1
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 1.8.2
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 1.9.16
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 2.4.12
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.16
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.21.8
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.13.7
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.36.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.37.1
    • Pindar, Isthmean, 6
    • Sophocles, Ajax, 1299
    • Sophocles, Trachiniae, 247
    • Sophocles, Trachiniae, 252
    • Sophocles, Trachiniae, 270
    • Sophocles, Trachiniae, 260
    • Homer, Iliad, 5.640
    • Homer, Iliad, 5.648
    • Homer, Odyssey, 21.23
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 11.213
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 11.216
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 14.88
    • Servius, Commentary on the Aeneid of Vergil, 8.299
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: