The return of the Heraclids

Authored by: Robin Hard

The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138652606
eBook ISBN: 9781315624136
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315624136-12

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Abstract

In Chapter 12 the story of the return of the Heraclids is examined: a body of myth of relatively late origin set in the lattermost period of mythical history, it tells how the descendants of Heracles established themselves as rulers of the most important centres of the Peloponnese, at Argos, Sparta, and Messenia; and since they were supposed to have achieved this with the help of Dorian allies, this legend also provided a mythical account of the Dorian migration to the peninsula. The Heraclids who first attempted this were led by Hyllos, son of Heracles, who invaded the Peloponnese after Eurystheus, king of Mycenae, was killed along with his sons when he tried to eliminate the family of Heracles soon after the hero’s death. It is explained why final success was fated to be delayed for three generations until well after the Trojan War, when Teisamenos, Cresphontes, and Aristodemos (or his sons) finally achieved victory and drew lots for the three main kingdoms. The subsequent history of these Heraclid kingdoms is then described, as is the founding of other Heraclid lines in Rhodes, Corinth, Macedonaia, and Thera. The chapter concludes by considering a late body of myth of comparable nature that provided a legendary account of the Ionian settlement of Asia Minor.

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