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Ἡρακλεῖδαι). A name given in ancient legend to a powerful Achaean race or family, the fabled descendants of Heracles. According to the account of the ancient writers, the children of Heracles, after the death of that hero, being persecuted by Eurystheus, took refuge in Attica, and there defeated and slew the tyrant at the Scironian Rock, near the Saronic Gulf. When their enemy had fallen, they resumed possession of their birthright in the Peloponnesus; but they had not long enjoyed the fruits of their victory before a pestilence, in which they recognized the finger of heaven, drove them again into exile. Attica again afforded them a retreat. When their hopes had revived, an ambiguous oracle encouraged them to believe that, after they had reaped their third harvest, they should find a prosperous passage through the Isthmus into the land of their fathers. But, at the entrance of the Peloponnesus, they were met by the united forces of the Achaeans, Ionians, and Arcadians. Their leader Hyllus, the eldest son of Heracles, proposed to decide the quarrel by single combat; and Echemus, king of Tegea, was selected by the Peloponnesian confederates as their champion. Hyllus fell; and the Heraclidae were bound by the terms of the agreement to abandon their enterprise for a hundred, or, according to some accounts, for fifty, years. Yet both Cleodaeus, son of Hyllus, and his grandson Aristomachus, renewed the attempt with no better fortune. After Aristomachus had fallen in battle, the ambiguous oracle was explained to his sons Aristodemus, Temenus, and Cresphontes; and they were assured that the time, the third generation, had now come, when they should accomplish their return; not, however, as they had expected, over the guarded Isthmus, but across the mouth of the western gulf from Naupactus, where the opposite shores are parted by a channel only a few furlongs broad. Thus encouraged, with the aid of the Dorians, Aetolians, and Locrians, they crossed the strait, vanquished Tisamenus, son of Orestes, and divided the fairest portion of the Peloponnesus among them. (See Doris.) For the historical significance of this legend, see Hellas. For the play of Euripides on the subject of the Heraclidae, see Euripides, p. 639.

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