In Greek mythology, Iole (Ancient Greek: polytonic|Ἰόλη) was the daughter of Eurytus, king of Oechalia. cite web|url=|title= Apollodorus. "Bibliotece"|accessdate= 2008-08-27] According to the classical tale by Apollodorus, Eurytus had a beautiful young daughter named Iole who was eligible for marriage. The general tale is that Iole was claimed by Heracles for a bride but the monarch refused her hand in marriage. Iole was indirectly the cause of Heracles's death because of his wife's jealousy of her. cite web|url=|title= Apollodorus. The Library Book 2 translation by Frazer|accessdate= 2008-08-25]

There are different versions of the mythology of Iole from many ancient sources. Apollodorus seems to give us the most complete story followed by slight variations of his from Seneca and Ovid. cite web|url=|title= Seneca "Hercules Oetaeus", translation by Frank Justus Miller|accessdate= 2008-08-25] Other ancient sources (i.e. Diodorus Siculus, Gaius Julius Hyginus, and Pseudo-Plutarch) have similar information on Iole with additional variations.

Heracles' love for Iole leads to his death

Apollodorus says one day Eurytus promised Iole to whoever could beat him and his sons in an archery contest. Eurytus was an expert archer and taught his sons his knowledge of the bow and arrow. The sons of the king shot their arrows and hit their targets. In fact, they shot so well that they beat all the others from the kingdom. Heracles heard of the prize and eagerly entered the contest for he very much wanted Iole. Heracles shot and hit the bullseye and even beat Eurytus's scores. The irony is Eurytus years earlier had taught Heracles to become an archer.

When the king realized that Heracles was winning, he stopped the contest and would not allow him to participate. Eurytus was aware that Heracles had killed his previous wife and children. He was afraid that Heracles would very likely kill Iole and any grandsons she may have whenever Heracles would get into a mad rage. Although Heracles had won the contest fair and square, he was not entitled to the prize because of his reputation. Eurytus broke his promise to give the royal daughter to the winner of the archery contest.

Iphitos urged his father to reconsider, but Eurytus did not alter his decision. Heracles had not left the city yet when Eurytus's mares were run off, presumably by Autolycus, a notorious thief. Iphitos asked Heracles to help find them, which he agreed to do. Heracles, in one of his fits, got frustrated with the complete mess and hurled Iphitos over the city walls, murdering him. Diodorus Siculus gives additional at this point that it was Heracles himself that drove off the mares of Eurytus in revenge. cite web|url=|title= Diodorus Siculus. "Library of History", Heracles, Eurytus and Iole [4.31.1 & 2] |accessdate= 2008-08-28] Heracles had failed in his courtship to win Iole.Pseudo-Plutarch, Iola and Clusia.]

After the archery contest, Heracles went to Calydon where on the steps of the temple Heracles saw Deianira, Prince Meleager's sister. Heracles forgot about Iole, at least for the time being, as Deianira was a prospect for his new children that he very much wanted. He wooed her, eventually won her over, and ultimately married her. Heracles acquired a kingdom at this time. He was still angry at Eurytus for not giving up Iole, the promised prize. Heracles was now in control of an army and went about to kill Eurytus in revenge. cite web|url=|title= Apollodorus, Library and Epitome |accessdate= 2008-08-25] Hyginus adds to the story at this point that Heracles not only eventually murdered Iole's father Eurytus, but he murdered Iole's brothers and other relatives as well. cite web|url=|title= The Myths of Hyginus, translated and edited by Mary Grant|accessdate= 2008-08-25]

Heracles ransacked Oechalia and overthrew its walls. Iole threw herself down from the high city wall to escape. It turned out that the garment she was wearing opened up and acted like a parachute which softened her landing. She was not hurt from the descent. Heracles captured and took Iole unwillingly captive as his concubine. While his wife Deianira did not like that Iole had become Heracles's concubine, she forebore to object and tolerated it temporarily.

Deianira feared she would lose Heracles to the younger and more beautiful Iole. Years ago, the centaur Nessus ferried her across the river Evenus and attempted to rape her when on the other side. Heracles saved her from Nessus by shooting him with poisoned arrows.Ovid. "Metamorphoses", 9. 129 & 158 ff (translation Melville).] She had kept some of Nessus' blood, because he had told her with his dying breath that if she were to give Heracles a cloak (chiton) soaked in his blood that it would be a love charm. cite web|url=|title= Ovid. "Heroides", 9 (Deianira).|accessdate= 2008-08-23] Deianira, being insecure, believed Nessus’ lie that Heracles would no longer desire any other woman after he was under the spell of the love philter.Pseudo-Apollodorus. "Bibliotheca", 2.157.] This seemed like the perfect solution to her problem to win him back from Iole, the foreign concubine. The cloak was delivered to Heracles and when he put it on the poison went into his body. Deianira had unwittingly poisoned her husband with this purported love potion because of her jealousy of Iole. Upon realizing the mistake she had made, she ultimately killed herself. Because of his love for Iole, Heracles asked that his eldest son, Hyllus, marry her so that she would be well taken care of. Iole and Hyllus had a son called Cleodaeus, being the grandson of Heracles.

Other versions


Ovid's version of this story ("Heroides" 9) has Heracles under the erotic control of Iole. She specifically has Heracles wear women's clothing and perform women's work. Heracles at this time all the while is bragging about his heroic deeds. However, Deianira reminds him how he is dressed in feminine attire and Iole is wearing his clothing while carrying his club. Deianira ultimately urges silence from him. The same version shows the disgrace and shame of Heracles, who was once a strong warrior fighter, outwitted by Iole in being made to do effeminate acts. In this skillful crafty manner, she had avenged her father's death. cite web|url=|title= Metmorhoses book 9, trans. by Brooks More|accessdate= 2008-09-11]


According to Sophocles's play of The Trachiniae Iole's mother was Antiope and her siblings were Iphitus, Clytius, Toxeus, Deioneus, Molion, and Didaeon. [ Trach. 266 ] In the play Iole is described as the daughter of King Eurytus, the royal princess of Oechalia. [ Trach. 382 ] She is among the captive maidens of Oechalia when Hercales ransacks the city. She is to become the concubine of Heracles. [ Trach. 460-490 ] Toward the end of the play Hercales asks his son Hyllus to marry her when he dies, so she will be well taken care of. Hyllus agrees to do this for his father. [ Trach. 1249-1288 ]


According to Seneca, Deianira is concerned if the captive Iole that Heracles took as his concubine will give brothers to her sons. She fears that Iole will become daughter-in-law of Jove. He explains how Deianira thinks of the possible children of Hercules by Iole and her chance for vengeance on them. He shows the same jealousy Deianira has of Iole as does Apollodorus. cite web|url=|title= Seneca, Hercules Oetaeus 1|accessdate= 2008-09-11]



Primary sources

*Ovid, "Metamorphoses 9."
*Ovid, " [ Heroides ix.73-134] "
*Apollodorus, "Bibliotheke" - [ Iole]
*Apollodorus' "Library" at Perseus Tuft's: [ 2.6.1] , [ 2.7.7]
*The Trachiniae By Sophocles, Kessinger Publishing (2004), ISBN 1419185470
*Plutarch. "Moralia" Vol. IV. Translated by Babbitt, Frank C. Loeb Classical Library Volume 305. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press. 1936.
*Seneca. "Tragedies." Translated by Miller, Frank Justus. Loeb Classical Library Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1917.
*"The Myths of Hyginus," translated and edited by Mary Grant. University of Kansas Publications in Humanistic Studies, no. 34. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1960.
*Apollodorus. "The Library." Translated by Sir James George Frazer. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 121 & 122. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921.
*Diodorus Siculus. "Library of History (Books III - VIII)." Translated by Oldfather, C. H. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 303 and 340. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1935.
*"Euripides." Translated by Kovacs, David. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 9, 10, 11, 12, 484 & 495. Cambridge, MA. Harvard Universrity Press. 1912. " Hippolytus" mytheme: Iole, daughter of the king of Oechalia, was beloved by Heracles, sacked her city, killed her family, and took her away by force as his concubine.

econdary sources

* Campbell, Lewis, "Sophocles", Appleton (1879), Original from Harvard University.
* Harvey, Elizabeth D., "Ventriloquized Voices", Routledge (1992). ISBN 0-4150673-2-4
* Laurin, Joseph R., "Women of Ancient Athens", Trafford Publishing (2006). ISBN 1-4122340-5-0
* Grant, Michael et al, "Who's Who in Classical Mythology", Routledge (2001). ISBN 0-4152604-1-8
* Lefkowitz, Mary R., "Greek Gods, Human Lives", Yale University Press (2003). ISBN 0-3001076-9-2
* Gregory, Justina, "A Companion to Greek Tragedy", Blackwell Publishing (2005). ISBN 1-4051077-0-7
* Winterson, Jeanette, "Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles", Canongate U.S. (2005). ISBN 1-8419571-8-6
* Baldwin, James, Pyle et al, "A Story of the Golden Age", Scribner (1888), Original from the University of California.
* Fowler, Harold North, "A History of Ancient Greek Literature", D. Appleton (1902), Original at University of Michigan.
* Colum, Padraic et al, "The Golden Fleece and the Heroes who Lived Before Achilles", The Macmillan Company (1921).
* March, Jenny, "Cassell's Dictionary of Classical Mythology", Sterling Publishing Company (2001). ISBN 0-3043578-8-X

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