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Hercules and Iolaus, Fountain mosaic from the Anzio Nymphaeum, Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome. (Public Domain)

No Happy-Ever-After For The Doomed Lovers Of Hero Heracles


Heracles, born of the mortal woman Alcmene by Zeus, King of the Gods, is the greatest of the Greek heroes, yet he was not fated to an everlasting happy love life, until after his death. His popularity even reached ancient Rome (where he was known as Hercules), as Commodus and Maximian, two of the later Roman Emperors, adopted his likenesses for their official portraits and associated themselves with him. Commodus believed he was a reincarnation of Hercules, and Maximian adopted the moniker Herculius. Maximian's coinage frequently depicts Hercules as an allusion to him taking on the heroic role of Hercules and performing the many imperial tasks that were allotted to him.

Commodus as Hercules. Capitoline Museum (CC0)

Commodus as Hercules. Capitoline Museum (CC0)

Zeus and Alcmene

The animosity that Zeus’ wife, Hera, harbored towards Heracles played a significant role in his life. Although Hera had always been portrayed as the jealous wife of the adulterous Zeus, her animosity for Alcmene and Heracles appears to have been particularly deep and vicious - perhaps because Alcmene was a mortal and not one of the nymphs and goddesses that often comprised Zeus’ mistresses.

As Zeus wanted to spend as much time as possible with Alcmene, he ordered the god of the sun, Helios, to stay asleep for three days to extend one night into three. After posing as her husband Amphitryon who had returned early from his travels, Zeus made love to her.  As it happened, Amphitryon did return later that evening and made love to Alcmene as well. Alcmene then conceived two sons, one divine and one mortal, by Zeus and Amphitryon respectively. This phenomenon is known as heteropaternal superfecundation, when a woman bears twins born of two different fathers (some legends also relate this to the divine twins Castor and Pollux, one of whom were also attributed to Zeus and the other to a mortal man). Heracles’ twin mortal brother was named Iphicles, and he later became the father of Heracles' charioteer Iolaus.


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Martini Fisher is an Ancient Historian and author of many books, including  “Time Maps: History, Prehistory and Biological Evolution” / Check out

Top Image: Hercules and Iolaus, Fountain mosaic from the Anzio Nymphaeum, Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome. (Public Domain)

By: Martini Fisher

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Martini Fisher comes from a family of history and culture buffs. She graduated from Macquarie University, Australia, with a degree in Ancient History. Although her interest in history is diverse, Martini is especially interested in  mythologies, folklores and ancient funerary... Read More

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