Ioalus and Heracles are depicted fighting the Lernaean Hydra on this piece of Greek pottery from the 6th century BCE, now in the Louvre Museum, Paris.

In Greek mythology, Iolaus (Ancient Greek: Ἰόλαος) was a Theban divine hero, son of Iphicles, Heracles's nephew, and brother to Automedusa. He was famed for being Heracles's nephew and for helping with some of his Labors, and also for being one of the Argonauts. Through his daughter Leipephilene he was considered to have fathered the mythic and historic line of the kings of Corinth, ending with Telestes.

A genus of Lycaenid butterfly has been named after him.

Relationship with Heracles

As a son of Iphicles, Iolaus was a nephew of Heracles. He often acted as Heracles' charioteer and companion. He was popularly regarded as Heracles's lover, and the shrine to him in Thebes was a place where male couples worshiped and made vows.[1]

The Theban gymnasium was also named after him, and the Iolaeia, an athletic festival consisting of gymnastic and equestrian events, was held yearly in Thebes in his honor.[2] The victors at the Iolaea were crowned with garlands of myrtle.[3]

Iolaus provided essential help to Heracles in his battle against the Hydra, his second labor. Seeing that Heracles was being overwhelmed by the multi-headed monster (the Lernaean Hydra), who grew two heads in place of each one cut off, Iolaus sprang to help, cauterizing each neck as Heracles beheaded it.

Heracles gave his wife, Megara, age thirty three, to Iolaus, then only sixteen years old[4] – ostensibly because the sight of her reminded him of his murder of their three children. They had a daughter, Leipephilene. He was one of the Heraclidae.[5]

Upon Heracles' death, Iolaus lit the funeral pyre, though according to some mythographers, this was Philoctetes instead.

According to Diodorus Siculus, Iolaus was sent by Heraclesin Sardinia together with nine of the sons that he had fifty daughters of Thespius (the Tespiadi), to colonize the island, giving rise to the people of Iolaensi. .[6]

Iolaus and the Tespiesi were buried in Sardinia.

Aristotlesaid that Sardinia had practiced the rite of incubation, which is the liberation ritual of the people who were affected by nightmares and obsessions. These rituals included that the persons suffering from nightmares should sleep next to the tombs of heroes.[7]

Simplicius addition, the eight books in the Commentaries Aristotle, that "the places where they were deposited and preserved corpses of the nine heroes got from Hercules Tespiesi and came to Sardinia with the colony of Iolaus , became the famous oracles." [8]

Solinus says: "The Iolesi, so named by him (to Iolaus), added a temple to his tomb, because he had freed Sardinia for many ills".[9]


Iolaus was a major character in the Universal Studios/Renaissance Pictures Hercules/Xena franchise. Michael Hurst played the character in two TV-Movies (Hercules and the Amazon Women and Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur) and in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (appearing as a recurring character in the first two seasons and a main character for the remaining seasons). Iolaus was not Hercules' nephew, but instead his best friend since childhood and his frequent traveling companion. It was stated that Iolaus (in the TV series) was two years older than Hercules. At times, Iolaus felt he was living in Hercules' shadow, but he often proved himself as a hero in his own right. The character was notably killed off several times – only to be eventually revived.
Hurst also played Iolaus 2 (a parallel universe double), who appeared in several episodes. This Iolaus had been a coward and fearfully served as jester to the Sovereign (Hercules' double). Thanks to Hercules, though, he learned self-confidence and became a hero. Iolaus 2 later left Hercules' side when he chose to marry Triton's mermaid daughter Nautica and with Aphrodite's help, he became a merman.

Hurst also played the character in two guest appearances on Xena: Warrior Princess ("Prometheus" and "The Quest"), and voiced the character in the animated film Hercules and Xena – The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus. In the Young Hercules pilot movie and spin-off, Iolaus was a main character played by Dean O'Gorman. (O'Gorman also played the young version of Iolaus in a few HTLJ flashback episodes.)


  1. Crompton, Louis, Homosexuality and Civilization, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003, p. 123
  2. Pindar, Olympian Ode, VIII, 84
  3. Pindar, Isthmian Ode IV.
  4. Plutarch, Moralia "The Dialogue on Love / Erotikos / Amatoria" Loeb edition, V. XII P.339
  5. Ovid Metamorphoses IX, 394.
  6. Diodorus Siculus, book IV, 29-30.
  7. Aristotle, Physics, IV.
  8. Simplicius, IV, M. Perra, op. cit.
  9. Solinus, I-16: Iolenses ab eo dicti sepulcro eius templum addiderunt quod ... Malis plurimis Sardiniam liberasset.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Iolaus. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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