The Heracleidae (in ancient Greek Ἡρακλεῖδαι Hêrakleĩdai ) were the sons of Heracles ( Hercules ) and his descendants. The term is applied in a stricter sense to the descendants of Hilo , the eldest of the four children Heracles had with Deianira (although Hilo’s mother was sometimes considered Metallite).

Other Heraclids were Macaria , Agelao , Manto , Tlepólemo , Telefo and Bianor. These Heraclids were a group of Dorian kings who conquered the Peloponnesian kingdoms of Mycenae , Sparta and Argos, claiming, according to legend , their right to rule over them for their ancestors. Their rise to power is often called the ” Dorian invasion .”

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Heracles , whom Zeus had originally destined to be King of Argos , Laconia and the Messinian Pylos , had been supplanted by a ruse of Hera , falling these kingdoms into the hands of Euristeo , king of Mycenae . After the death of Heracles, his sons, after many wanderings, found refuge in the court of Theseus in Athens . Eurystheus, seeing his demands for surrender refused, attacked Athens, but was defeated and killed. Hilo and his brothers then invaded the Peloponnese, but after a year of rule they were forced to retreat by a plague . Withdrew toThessaly , where Egimius , the mythical ancestor of the Dorians, whom Heracles had aided in their war against the Lapiths , adopted Hilo and gave him a third of their territory.

After the death of Egimius, two of his sons, Pamphilus and Dimante , voluntarily submitted to Hilo (who was, according to the Dorian tradition recorded in Herodotus v. 72, really an Achaean ), who thus became ruler of the Dorians, the three branches of the Dorians are named after these three heroes, in his honor.

Desiring to regain his paternal inheritance, Hilo consulted the oracle at Delphi , who told him to wait for the “third fruit” (or harvest) and then enter the Peloponnese through “a narrow sea passage.” Thus, three years later, Hilo marched across the Isthmus of Corinth to attack Atreus , Eurystheus’s successor, but died in combat against Echemus , the king of Tegea . This second attempt was followed by a third by Cleodeo and a fourth by Aristomachus , both equally failing.

The conquest of the Peloponnese by the Dorians , commonly called the ” Dorian invasion ” or “return of the Heracles”, is represented as the recovery by the descendants of Heracles of the legitimate inheritance of their heroic ancestor and his children. The Dorians followed the custom of other Greek tribes in claiming one of the legendary heroes as the ancestor of their ruling families, but the traditions should not in this sense be regarded as entirely mythical.

They represent a joint invasion of the Peloponnese by the Aetolians and the Dorians, the latter having been pushed south from their original northern home by pressure from the Thessalians . It is noteworthy that these Heraclids or their invasion are not mentioned in the works of Homer and Hesiod .

Herodotus (vi. 52) speaks of poets who had celebrated his exploits, but these were limited to events just after the death of Heracles. The story was first amplified by Greek dramatists, who were probably inspired by local legends glorifying the services rendered to Athena by the rulers of the Peloponnese.

In the literature

The Heraclids are the main theme of Euripides’ work called thus: The Heraclids . In it, Macaria, his brothers and sisters hide from Eurystheus in Athens, under the rule of Demophon . When Eurystheus prepares to attack, an oracle tells Demophon that he would win if only a noble woman was sacrificed to Persephone . Macaria volunteered for the sacrifice, so a font was baptized in her honor.


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