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As Herakleiden or Herakliden ( ancient Greek Ἡρακλεῖδαι ) the descendants of Heracles are referred to in Greek mythology . He was a Panhellenic hero ( hero ) who was especially worshiped by the Dorians . In mythological tradition, Heracles had children with different women in different parts of the Greek world.

The Dorians of the Greek Peloponnese traced their origins back to Hyllos , Herakles' eldest son with Deianeira . His sons with the daughters of Thespios are said to have settled the island of Sardinia , his son Tlepolemos allegedly settled on Rhodes .

The hypothesis that the Herakleiden saga is based on memories of an earlier assumed massive, violent Doric immigration around 1200 BC. BC, which mainly fell victim to the Mycenaean palace centers , is now considered refuted.


The children of Heracles

  • he fathered fifty-one sons with Thespios' fifty daughters (except one)
with Prokris, the eldest daughter, the twin sons Anitleon and Hippeus
with the youngest daughter another pair of twins.

After Heracles' death

Heracles, whom Zeus had actually seen as the ruler of Argos , Laconia and the Messenian Pylos , was ousted by a ruse by Hera , whereby the possessions intended for him fell into the hands of Eurystheus , King of Mycenae . After Heracles' death, after a long wandering, his children found refuge from Eurystheus in Athens . Eurystheus, whose claim to extradition was denied, attacked Athens but was beaten and killed. Hyllos and his brothers then invaded the Peloponnese, but were forced to return after a year by an epidemic. They went to Thessaly , where Aigimios , the mythical ancestor of the Dorians , whom Heracles had helped in his war against the Lapiths , adopted Hyllos and gave him a third of his kingdom. After Aigimios' death, his two sons, Pamphilus and Dymas, voluntarily submitted to their adoptive brother (who, according to the Doric tradition of Herodotus v. 72, was actually an Achaean ), who thereby became ruler of the Dorians, whose three tribes are named after these three heroes were.

The return of the Heraclides

Desiring to regain his paternal inheritance, Hyllos asked the Oracle of Delphi , who advised him to wait for “the third fruit” and then to enter the Peloponnese through “a ravine across the sea”. Accordingly, after three years, Hyllos marched across the Isthmus of Corinth to attack Atreus , the successor of Eurystheus, but was defeated in a duel by Echemus , King of Tegea . This second attempt was followed by a third under Cleodaios and a fourth under Aristomachus , both unsuccessful. Finally, Temenus , Kresphontes and Aristodemos , the sons of Aristomachus, complained to the oracle that their instructions had turned out to be ominous, and received the answer that the "third fruit" meant the "third generation" and that the "Hollow road" is not the Isthmus of Corinth, but the Strait of Rhion . Accordingly, they built a fleet in Naupaktos , but before they could leave, it was destroyed by Apollo by a lightning bolt, which also killed Aristodemus because one of the Heraclides had killed an Akarnan soothsayer.

The oracle, questioned again by Temenos, suggested that he make an atonement and banish the murderer for ten years, as well as look for a man with three eyes who could serve as a guide. On his way back to Naupaktos Temenus met Oxylos , a one-eyed Aitolian who was riding a horse (makes three eyes together) and immediately forced him into his service. According to another report, the mule that Oxylos rode had only one eye. The Heraclides repaired the ships, sailed from Naupaktos to Antirrhion and then to Rhium in the Peloponnese. A decisive battle was fought with Tisamenus , the son of Orestes and supreme king of the peninsula, who was defeated and killed. The Herakleiden thus became masters of the Peloponnese and divided the peninsula among themselves by lot. Argos fell to Temenus, Laconia to Prokles and Eurysthenes , the twin sons of Aristodemus, and Messene to Kresphontes. The fertile district of Elis was retained by agreement for Oxylos.

Interpretation / historical background

Originally, the sons of Heracles were seen as princes in the Argolis. According to the older doctrine, the Herakleid saga retains a historical core: from around 1200 BC. The Peloponnese , initially the regions of Argolis and Laconia, was conquered by Doric tribes ( Doric migration ). The Dorians subsequently legitimized their rule by adapting their history to the strong local worship of Heracles. They saw themselves as descendants of (one of) the sons of Heracles. The Doric phyle (tribe) of the Hylleer traced its name back to Hyllos, the eldest son of Heracles and Deianeira. The conquest of the country was thus reinterpreted as the "return of the Heraclides" and legitimate occupation.

This interpretation is based on a. insist that neither Homer nor Hesiod mention the Heraclides or their invasion . Herodotus (VI 52) speaks of poets who glorified their deeds, but these were limited to events immediately following Heracles' death. Extensions of the myth have been handed down from later times by Greek tragedy poets. One of the main sources of the myth, the library of Apollodorus , is much more recent (1st century AD).

The idea of ​​a violent conquest of land by a great Doric invasion around 1200 BC. BC, to which the Mycenaean palaces fell victim, is now rejected by research because the Mycenaean culture is still around 150 years after the destruction at the beginning of the 12th century BC. And new, foreign elements are hardly documented archaeologically. Today the immigration of the Dorians is assumed much later - around the end of the 11th century BC. BC - whereby the view of a rather slow, uncoordinated "infiltration" of small groups into southern Greece is represented. It is now considered very unlikely that the Herakleid saga goes back to historical events.


The Greek playwright Euripides wrote a play in the 5th century BC that he called Herakleidai . In it Makaria and her siblings hide from Eurystheus in Athens, which is ruled by King Demophon . When Eurystheus prepared the attack, an oracle Demophon prophesied victory exactly when a noble woman would be sacrificed to the goddess Persephone . Makaria agrees to do so, and the Makaria fountain is named after her in her honor.

Dynasty of Lydian kings

A dynasty of Lydian kings is also known as the Heraclids , beginning with Agron in 1216 BC. BC to Kandaules (728–711 BC) as the last king to be murdered by Gyges , the founder of the Mermnaden dynasty . Agron traced his descent to Heracles and Omphale (see list of kings of Lydia ).



Individual evidence

  1. z. B. Karl-Wilhelm Welwei : Greek history. From the beginnings to the beginning of Hellenism. Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2011, p. 52ff.