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[8]

But before Amphitryon reached Thebes, Zeus came by night and prolonging the one night threefold he assumed the likeness of Amphitryon and bedded with Alcmena1 and related what had happened concerning the Teleboans. But when Amphitryon arrived and saw that he was not welcomed by his wife, he inquired the cause; and when she told him that he had come the night before and slept with her, he learned from Tiresias how Zeus had enjoyed her. And Alcmena bore two sons, to wit, Hercules, whom she had by Zeus and who was the elder by one night, and Iphicles, whom she had by Amphitryon. When the child was eight months old, Hera desired the destruction of the babe and sent two huge serpents to the bed. Alcmena called Amphitryon to her help, but Hercules arose and killed the serpents by strangling them with both his hands.2 However, Pherecydes says that it was Amphitryon who put the serpents in the bed, because he would know which of the two children was his, and that when Iphicles fled, and Hercules stood his ground, he knew that Iphicles was begotten of his body.


1 For the deception of Alcmena by Zeus and the birth of Herakles and Iphicles, see Hes. Sh. 27-56; Diod. 4.9; Scholiast on Hom. Il. xiv.323, and Scholiast on Hom. Od. xi.266; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 33; Hyginus, Fab. 29. The story was the subject of plays by Sophocles and Euripides which have perished (TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), pp. 156, 386ff. The Fragments of Sophocles, ed. A. C Pearson, i.76ff.); and it is the theme of a well-known comedy of Plautus the Amphitryo, which is extant. In that play (Plaut. Amph. 112ff.), Plautus mentions the lengthening of the night in which Jupiter (Zeus) begat Herakles. The Scholiast on Hom. Il. xiv.323 says that Zeus persuaded the Sun not to rise for three days; and the threefold night is mentioned also by Diod. 4.9.2. The whole story was told by Pherecydes, as we learn from the Scholiasts on Hom. Il. xiv.323; Od. xi.266; and it is likely that Apollodorus here follows him, for he refers to Pherecydes a few lines below.

2 As to the infant Herakles and the serpents, compare Pind. N. 1.33(50)ff.; Theocritus xxiv; Diod. 4.10.1; Paus. 1.24.2; Plaut. Amph. 1123ff.; Verg. A. 8.288ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 30. According to Theocritus xxiv.1, Herakles was ten months old when he strangled the serpents.

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