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Heracles-Hercules and Telephus | Greco-Roman marble statue C1st A.D. | Musée du Louvre, Paris
Heracles-Hercules and Telephus, Greco-Roman marble statue C1st A.D., Musée du Louvre

HERAKLES was an Olympian demigod worshipped as the divine protector of mankind.

This page describes his cult in the Greek colonies of Asia Minor and Italy and his adoption by the Romans.



I. EPHESUS (EPHESOS) City in Ionia - Lydia

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4. 10 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to 2nd A.D.) :
"When the plague began to rage in Ephesos . . . [Apollonios of Tyana] called together the Ephesians, and said : ‘Take courage, for I will today put a stop to the course of the disease.’ And with these words he led the population entire to the theatre, where the image of Apotropaios (the Averting God) [Herakles] has been set up [and slew the plague daimon with invocations to Herakles] . . . Accordingly the statue of Apotropaios (the Averting God), namely Herakles, has been set up over the spot where the Phasma (Ghost) was slain."

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 8. 7 :
"[Consider] what took place in Ephesos in connection with that plague. For the Eidos Loimos (genius of the pestilence),--and it took the form of a poor old man,--I both detected, and having detected took it captive: and I did not so much stay the disease as pluck it out. And who the god was to whom I had offered my prayers is shown in the statue which I set up in Ephesos to commemorate the event; and it is a temple of Herakles Apotropaios (Averter of Diseaser), for I chose him to help me, because he is the wise and courageous god, who once purged the plague of a city of Elis by washing away with the river-tide the foul exhalations which the land sent up under the tyranny of Augeas."

II. ERYTHRAE (ERYTHRAI) Town in Ionia - Lydia

Strabo, Geography 13. 1. 64 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"He [Herakles] is worshipped among the Erythraians who live in Mimas as Ipoktonos (Ips-slayer), because he is the destroyer of the vine-eating ips; and in fact, they add, these are the only Erythraians in whose country this creature is not to be found."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 5. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The land of the Ionians [Greek colonies in Asia Minor] has the finest possible climate, and sanctuaries such as are to be found nowhere else . . . You would be delighted too with the sanctuary of Herakles at Erythrai and with the temple of Athena at Priene, the latter because of its image and the former on account of its age. The image is like neither the Aeginetan, as they are called, nor yet the most ancient Attic images; it is absolutely Egyptian, if ever there was such. There was a wooden raft, on which the god set out from Tyre in Phoenicia [N.B. Herakles was identified with the Phoenician god Tammuz]. The reason for this we are not told even by the Erythraians themselves.
They say that when the raft reached the Ionian sea it came to rest at the cape called Mesate (Middle) which is on the mainland, just midway between the harbor of the Erythraians and the island of Khios. When the raft rested off the cape the Erythraians made great efforts, and the Khians no less, both being keen to land the image on their own shores.
At last a man of Erythrai (his name was Phormio) who gained a living by the sea and by catching fish, but had lost his sight through disease, saw a vision in a dream to the effect that the women of Erythrai must cut off their locks, and in this way the men would, with a rope woven from the hair, tow the raft to their shores. The women of the citizens absolutely refused to obey the dream; but the Thrakian women, both the slaves and the free who lived there, offered themselves to be shorn. And so the men of Erythrai towed the raft ashore. Accordingly no women except Thracian women are allowed within the sanctuary of Herakles, and the hair rope is still kept by the natives. The same people say that the fisherman recovered his sight and retained it for the rest of his life."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 27. 8 :
"Herakles called one of the Daktyloi Idaioi, to whom I found the people of Erythrai in Ionia and of Tyre possessed sanctuaries."


I. THEMISONIUM (THEMISONION) Town near Laodicea in Phrygia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 32. 4 :
"Themisonion above Laodiceia is also inhabited by Phrygians. When the army of the Gauls was laying waste Ionia and the borders of Ionia, the Themisonians say that they were helped by Herakles, Apollon and Hermes, who revealed to their magistrates in dreams a cave, and commanded that in it should be hidden the Themisonians with their wives and children. This is the reason why in front of the cave they have set up small images, called Gods of the Cave, of Herakles, Hermes and Apollon. The cave is some thirty stades distant from the city, and in it are springs of water. There is no entrance to it, the sunlight does not reach very far, and the greater part of the roof lies quite close to the floor."


I. ISLE OF HERACLES Island in the Black Sea

Aelian, On Animals 6. 39 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"There is an island in the Black Sea named after Herakles which has been highly honoured. Now all the Mice there pay reverence to the god, and every offering that is made to him they believe to have been made to gratify him and would not touch it. And so the vine grows luxuriantly in his honour and is reverenced as an offering to him alone, while the ministers of the god preserve the clusters for their sacrifices. Accordingly when the grapes reach maturity the Mice quite the island so that they may not, by remaining, even involuntarily touch what is better not touched. Later when the season has run its course they return to their own haunts. This is a merit in the Pontic Mice."


I. ZANCLE (ZANKLE) & MESSENE Towns in Sicily (Sikelia) (Greek Colonies)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 23. 10 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Mantiklos founded the temple of Herakles [at Zankle, Sikelia] for the Messenians; the temple of the god is outside the walls and he is called Herakles Mantiklos."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 24. 3 :
"Heaven forteold their return to Peloponnese to the Messenians. It is said that in Messene on the Straits the priest of Herakles saw a vision in a dream : it seemed the Herakles Mantiklos was bidden by Zeus as a guest to Ithome."

II. SYRACUSE (SYRAKOUSA) City in Sicily (Greek Colony)

Plutarch, Life of Nisias 25. 1 (trans. Perrin) (Greek historian C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"Presently their diviners announced to the Syrakousans that the sacrifices indicated a splendid victory for them if only they did not begin the fighting, but acted on the defensive. [The god] Herakles also, they said, always won the day because he acted on the defensive and suffered himself to be attacked first. Thus encouraged, they put out from shore . . . [they won the battle against the Athenians and] the Syrakousans were given over to sacrificial revels because of their victory and their festival of Herakles."

Plutarch, Life of Nisias 1. 3 :
"It was fitting that [the god] Herakles should aid the Syrakousans [in an historical battle against the Athenians] for the sake of their goddess Kore [Persephone, patron goddess of Sikelia] who delivered Kerberos into his hands, but should be angry with the Athenians because they were trying to succour the Egestaians although they were descendants of the Trojans, whose city he had once destroyed because of the wrong done him by Laomedon their king."

III. AGYRIUM (AGYRION) Town in Sicily (Greek Colony)

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 24. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Here [at Agyrion in Sicily] he [Herakles] was honoured on equal terms with the Olympian gods by festivals and splendid sacrifices, and though before this time he had accepted no sacrifice, he then gave his consent for the first time, since the deity was giving intimations to him of his coming immortality. For instance, there was a road not far from the city which was all of rock, and yet the cattle left their tracks in it as if in a waxy substance. Since, then, this same thing happened in the case of Herakles as well and his tenth Labour was likewise coming to an end, he considered that he was already to a degree participating in immortality and so accepted the annual sacrifices which were offered him by the people of the city."


Heracles-Hercules and the Hydra | Greco-Roman marble statue | Palazzo Altemps National Roman Museum, Rome
Heracles-Hercules and the Hydra, Greco-Roman marble statue, Palazzo Altemps National Roman Museum

I. SURRENTUM Town in Campania

The following poem describes how a Roman nobleman named Pollius rebuilt anew a temple of Hercules located near his Campanian villa. The god allegedly asisted in the work and the temple was finished with miraculous speed.

Statius, Silvae 3. 1. 1 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"The Temple of Hercules Built by Pollius Felix at Surrentinus. Pollius renews thy interrupted rites, O lord of Tiryns [Herakles], and makes clear the causes of a year's neglect, seeing that now thou art worshipped beneath a mightier dome, and no longer hast a beggarly home on the naked shore, a shanty where wandering mariners can lodge, but shining portals and towers upheld by Grecian marbles, as though purified by the brands of ennobling fire thou hadst a second time ascended heavenward from Oeta's flames. Scarce can sight or memory be trusted. Art thou verily that inglorious warden of a gateless threshold and puny altar? Whence hath the rustic Alcides this new court and this unwonted splendour? Gods have their destinies and places also! What swift devotion! Here of late could be seen but barren sands, a wave-beaten mountain-side, and boulders rough with scrub, and cliffs that would scarce admit a foothold. What sudden fortune has embellished these stark crags? Did those walls rise to Tyrian music or to the Getic harp? The year itself marvels at the toil, and the months in their twelvefold orbit are amazed to see the work of ages. 'Twas the god that brought and uplifted his own towers, and by might and main moved the resisting boulders, and with huge breast drove back the mountain; you would have thought his cruel stepdame bade him.
Come then, whether free at last from the thraldom thou dwellest in thy ancestral Argos, and spurnest Eurystheus in his grave, or whether the throne of thy father Jove [Zeus] and the stars thy valour won thee are thy abode, and Hebe with robe upgirt, more charming than the banished Phrygian lad [Hylas], hands thee the draught of blissful nectar: hither come, and bring thy presence to the new-born shrine. No harmful Lerna calls thee, nor the acres of poor Molorchus nor Nemea's dreaded field, nor Thracian caves nor the polluted altars of the Pharian prince [Busiris of Egypt], but a blest and innocent home that knows naught of evil fraud, and abode most worthy of a divine guest. Lay aside thy ruthless bow and thy quiver's cruel horde and the club that plenteous blood of kings hath stained; cast off the foe that is spread upon thy stalwart shoulders: here are high-piled cushions for thee, embroidered with acanthus in purple hue, and a lofty couch all rough with ivory carving. Come in a peaceable and gentle spirit, not turbulent with wrath nor suspicious like a slave, but in such mood as when Auge the Maenalian maid detained thee, worn out with revel and drenched with thy brother's wine, or when Thespius, the father of thy many brides, marvelled at thee after the reproach of that roving night. Here has t thou a festal playing-ground, where ungloved youths in innocent rivalry perform the yearly, swift-recurring contests. Here on thy temple is written thy priest's name to the joy of his grandsire: small is he yet, and like to thee when with thy hand thou didst quell the first monsters of thy stepdame [the serpents sent by Hera to his cradle] and weep that they were slain.
But come, august Calliope, tell how the sudden shrine arose; Alcides will bear thee company with ringing voice, and twang his bowstring to imitate thy strains. 'Twas the season when the vault of heaven bends its most scorching heat upon the earth, and Sirius the Dog-star smitten by Hyperion's full might pitilessly burns the panting fields. And now that day had come, when the torch-smoke rises from Trivia's [Artemis'] grove at Aricia, refuge of the runaways who reign there, and lights twinkle on the lake that knew the secret of Hippolytus [resurrected by Asklepios and hidden by Artemis in her precinct by the lake]; Diana [Artemis] herself sets garlands on her faithful hounds, and polishes her darts and lets the wild beasts go free, while at its virtuous hearths all Italia celebrates the Ides of Hecate [Diana identified with Hekate] . . .
There stood a men shanty bearing the name of a sacred shrine, that confined the great Alcides within its humble walls, scarce large enough to house sea-wandering mariners and searchers of the deep. Hither all the crowd of us gather [to escape a rainstorm while out on the beach], hither throng the band of slaves with the costly couches and the feast, and all the pleasant household of elegant Polla. The doors would not contain us, the narrow shrine lacked room. The god blushed and laughing stole into the heart of his beloved Pollius, and with caressing arms embraced his friend : ‘Art thou,’ said he, ‘that lavisher of wealth . . . Scarce can I number all thy works : and to me alone is Pollius needy and in want? Yet even such a shrine I enter cheerfully, and love the shore thou openest to me. But Juno [Hera] hard by scorns my dwelling, and laughs silently at my shrine. Give me a temple and an altar worthy of thy endeavours, an altar such as no vessel would fain neglect though speeding with prosperous sail, one to which the ethereal Sire [Jove-Zeus] and the guests of heavenly banquets and my sister [Minerva-Athena] invited from her lofty shrine might come [there was a temple of Minerva on the promontory above the beach]. Nor be dismayed that a mass of stark, malignant mountain doth confront thee, which unnumbered ages have not worn away; I will myself be present to aid so great an enterprise, and will break through the flinty bowels of the unwilling earth. Begin, and dare the task, trusting in Hercules' encouragement. Amphion's towers will not have risen more swiftly, nor the toilsome walls of Troy.’
He spoke, and went from out his heart. Without delay the design is sketched and the plan shaped. Innumerable workers gather: some have the task of felling trees or planing beams, others sink the foundations in the soil. Moist clay is baked to protect against storm and to keep out frost, and untamed limestone is melted in the round furnace. But the chief labour is to cleave by might and main the opposing rock and the boulders that resist the steel. Hereupon the patron of the place, the Tirynthian [Herakles] himself, lays by his arms and sweats at the work, and himself with strong axe hews at the shapeless mass, when the lowering sky is veiled by the shades of night. Rich Caprae and green Taurubulae resound, and the mighty echo of the sea returns again to the land . . .
The cliffs diminish, and the workmen returning in the rosy dawn marvel at the achievement. Scarce has a second panting summer come, when the Tirynthian enriched by a mighty dome looks down upon the waves and challenges his stepdame's neighbouring abode [the nearby temple of Juno-Hera], and invites Pallas [Athene] to a temple worthy of her. Already the peaceful trumpets give the signal, already the sand smokes and burns with the valiant contests. Such honours would neither Pisaean Jove [Zeus of Olympia] nor the sire of leafy Cirrha [Apollon of Delphoi] spurn. No sadness is here: let tearful Isthmos and cruel Nemea give place; a luckier infant here makes a sacrifice.
The very Nymphae of the green waters leap forth unbidden from their pumice caves; they cling to the streaming rocks nor think shame to gaze unseen on the naked wrestlers. Gaurus too [and the other nearby islands] beholds them . . . while Parthenope [another island] smiles with kindly heart upon the ceremonies of her race and the naked bouts of youths and the humble garlands that imitate her own.
Come now thyself, and graciously deign to honour the feats of thine own festival with thy invincible might: whether is pleas thee to cleave the clouds with the discus, or with thy shaft to outstrip the speedy Zephyrs, or to lock fast thy arms in a Libyan wrestle, grant our rites this boon, and, if thou hast still the apples of the Hesperides, place them in the lap of venerable Polla; for she is worthy to take them, and will not dishonour so great a gift. Nay, might she put recover the charm and beauty of her youth--forgive me, Alcides--perchance for her thou hadst even spun the wool.
Such is the offering I have brought in joyful revelry to the new-born shrine. Lo! Now he himself upon the threshold--I see him opening his mouth and speaking : ‘A blessing on thy spirit and thy wealth, wherewith thou hast imitated my own labours, who canst tame the rugged rocks and the abhorred wastes of barren nature, and turnest to thy use the wild beasts' lairs, and bringest forth my godhead from shameful hiding! What reward shall I now give thee for thy merits? How show my gratitude? I will hold fast the threads of the Parcae [Moirai, fates] and stretch out the wool upon their distaffs--I can subdue remorseless Mortes [Thanatos, death]--I will bid sorrow flee and suffer not sad loss to harm thee, and I will renew thee in a green old age untouched by time, and grant thee long to behold thy growing grandchildren, until the one is ripe for a bride and the other for a husband, and from them a new progeny springs, and a merry band now clambers about their grandsire's shoulders, now run in eager and loving rivalry for the kisses of tranquil Polla. To this shrine shall no term of age be set, so long as the fabric of the flaming sky shall carry me. Not in Nemea or ancient Argos shall I more often dwell, or in my home at Tibur [Rome] or in Gades [in Spain where he had a famous shrine], resting place of the sun.’
So he speaks, and touching the fire that rose upon the altar and nodding his temples white with poplar-leaves he swore by Styx and by the thunderbolt of his ethereal sire."


I. ROME Imperial Capital

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 21. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Now [the mortal] Herakles received with favour the good-will shown him by the dwellers on the Palatine [the future Rome] and foretold to them that, after he had passed into the circle of the gods, it would come to pass that whatever men should make a vow to dedicate to Herakles a tithe of their goods would lead a more happy and prosperous life. And in fact this custom did arise in later times and has persisted to our own day; for many Romans, and not only those of moderate fortunes but some even of great wealth, who have taken a vow to dedicate a tenth to Herakles and have thereafter become happy and prosperous, have presented him with a tenth of their possessions, which came to four thousand talents. Lucullus, for instance, who was perhaps the wealthiest Roman of his day, had his estate estimated and then offered a full tenth of it to the god, thus providing continuous feastings and expensive ones withal. Furthermore, the Romans have built to this god a notable temple on the bank of the Tiber, with the purpose of performing in it the sacrifices from the proceeds of the tithe."

Strabo, Geography 5. 3. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"There is another legend [concerning the founding of Rome], older and fabulous, in which we are told that Rome was an Arkadian colony and founder by Euandros:--when Herakles was driving the cattle of Geryon he was entertained by Euandros; and since Euandros had learned from his mother Nikostrate (she was skilled in the art of divination, the story goes) that Herakles was destined to become a god after he had finished his labours, he not only told this to Herakles but also consecrated to him a precinct and offered sacrifice to him after the Greek ritual, which is still to this day kept up in honour of Herakles. And Koilios himself [Lucius Coelius Antipater], the Roman historian, puts this down as proof that Rome was founded by Greeks--the fact that at Rome the hereditary sacrifice to Herakles is after the Greek ritual."

Ovid, Fasti 1. 543 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The victor [Herakles after slaying the Latin giant Kakos] sacrifices one bull to you, Jove [Zeus], and calls Evander [an early Latin king] and the country folk. He set up an altar to himself called ‘Maxima’ in the city district named from the cattle."

Ovid, Fasti 6. 209 ff :
"June 4. Hercules Custos (Guardian) protects the Circus' far side [in Rome]; the god owes Euboean song this tribute. The date of the tribute is the day before the Nones. Check the plaque, Sulla sanctioned the work."

Propertius, Elegies 4. 9 (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"After he [Herakles] had slaked his parched throat [at the altar of Bona Dea located at the future site of Rome] and completely drained the stream, with lips hardly dry he pronounces tis stern decree : ‘Let the Mightiest Altar,’ he said, ‘dedicated on the recovery of my cattle, made mightiest by my hands, never be open to the worship of maidens, so that the thirst of the stranger Hercules go not unavenged.’
This hero, since with his hands he cleansed and sanctified the world, Tatius' town of Cures thus installed in his temple as Sancus (the Sanctifier). Hail, sainted Father, on whom even cruel Juno [Hera] now smiles! Sancus, be pleased to dwell propitiously in my book!"

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 36 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"Nor did anyone ever vow to pay a tithe to Hercules if he became a wise man." [N.B. A tenth part of spoils of war and of treasure-trove was devoted to Herakles as god of treasures.]

Statius, Silvae 3. 1. 1 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"Not in Nemea or ancient Argos shall I [Herakles the god] more often dwell, or in my home at Tibur [Rome] or in Gades [in Spain]."


I. MONOECUS (MONOIKOS) Town in Gaul (Greek colony)

Strabo, Geography 4. 6. 3 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The Port of Monoikos (Solitary) [Monaco] affords a mooring-place for no large ships . . . and it has a temple of Herakles Monoikos, as he is called; and it is reasonable to conjecture from the name that the coastal voyages of the [Greek] Massiliotes reach even as far as the Port of Monoikos." [N.B. Monoikos is now Monaco.]

II. ISAR R. River in Gaul

Strabo, Geography 4. 1. 11 :
"Where the Isar River and the Rhodanos and the Kemmenos Mountain meet [modern-day South of France], [the Roman general] Quintus Favius Maximus Aemilianus, with less than thirty thousand men all told, cut down two hundred thousand Keltoi; and on the spot he set up a trophy of white marble, and also two temples, one in honour of Ares [Mars], the other in honour of Herakles."


Heracles Hercules Fulgor | Greco-Roman bronze statue | Pio-Clementino Museum, Vatican Museums
Heracles "Hercules Fulgor", Greco-Roman bronze statue, Pio-Clementino Museum, Vatican Museums

I. GADES Town in Iberia (Greek Colony)

Strabo, Geography 3. 5. 3 :
"The city of Gades is situated on the westerly parts of the island [of Gades off the coast of southern Iberia]; and next to it, at the extremity of the island and near the islet, is the temple of Kronos; but the temple of Herakles is situated on the other side, facing towards the east, just where the island runs, it so happens, most closely to the mainland, thus leaving a strait of only about a stadium in width. And they say that the temple is twelve [Roman] miles distant from the city, thus making the number of the miles equal to that of the Labours; yet the distance is greater than that and amounts to almost as much as the length of the island; and the length of the island is that from the west to the east.
By ‘Erytheia,’ in which the myth-writers place the adventures of [Herakles and] Geryon, Pherekydes seems to mean Gades."

Strabo, Geography 3. 5. 5 :
"In telling stories of the following sort about the founding of Gades, the Gaditanians recall a certain oracle, which was actually given, they say, to the Tryrians, ordering them to send a colony to the Pillars of Herakles [modern day Gibralta] : The men who were sent for the sake of spying out the region, so the story goes, believed, when they got near to the strait at Kalpe, that the two capes which formed the strait were the ends of the inhabited world and of Herakles expedition, and that the capes themselves were what the oracle called ‘Pillars’ . . . But the men who were sent at a later period went on outside the strait, about fifteen hundred stadia, to an island sacred to Herakles, situated near the city of Onoba in Iberia, and believing that this was where the Pillars were they offered sacrifice to the god, but since again the sacrifices did not prove favourable they went back home; but the men who arrived on the third expedition founded Gades, and placed the temple in the eastern part of the island but the city in the western. For this reason some are of the opinion that the apes at the strait are the Pillars; other, Gades; and others that they lie on ahead still father outside the strait than Gades. Again, some have supposed that Kalpe and Abilyx are the Pillars, Abilyx being that mountain in Libya opposite Kalpe."

Strabo, Geography 3. 5. 6 :
"The argument that refers those Pillars which are in the temple of Herakles is less reasonable still, as it appears to me. For it is plausible that the fame of the name ‘Pillars of Herakles’ prevailed because the name originated, not with merchants, but rather with commanders, just as in the case of the Indian pillars; and besides that, ‘the inscription’ [on the bronze pillars] which they speak of, since it does not set forth the dedication of a reproduction [a copy of the original Pillars] but instead a summary of the expense, bears witness against the argument; for the Herakleian Pilalrs should be reminders of Herakles' mighty doings, not of the expenses of the Phoinikes (Phoenicians)."

Strabo, Geography 3. 5. 5 :
"The Iberians and Libyans say that the Pillars [of Herakles] are in Gades, for the regions in the neighbourhood of the strait in no respect, they say, resemble pillars. Others say that it is the bronze pillars of eight cubits in the temple of Herakles in Gades, whereon is inscribed the expense incurred in the construction of the temple, that are called the Pillars; and those people who have ended their voyage with visiting these pillars and sacrificing to Herakles have had it noisily spread abroad that this is the end of both land and sea. Poseidonios, too, believes this to be the most plausible account of the matter."

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 5. 4 - 5 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"The city of Gadeira [in Hispania] is situated at the extreme end of Europe, and its inhabitants are excessively given to religion; so much so that they have set up an altar to . . . Herakles Aigyptios (of Egypt), and there are others of Herakles Thebaios (of Thebes). For they say that the latter penetrated as far as the neighbouring city of Erytheia, on which occasion he took captive Geryon and his cows; and they say that in his devotion to wisdom he traversed the whole earth to its limits . . . They say also that they saw trees here [at Gadeira in Hispania] such as are not found elsewhere upon the earth; and that these were called trees of Geryon. There were two of them, and they grew upon the mound raised over Geryon : they were a cross between the pitch tree and the pine, and formed a third species; and blood dripped from their bark, just as gold does from the Heliad poplar.
Now the island on which the shrine [of Herakles] is built is of exactly the same size as the temple, and there is not a rough stone to be found in it, for the whole of it has been given the form of a polished platform. In the shrine they say there is maintained a cult both of one and the other Herakles, though there are no images of them; altars however there are, namely to Herakles Aigyptios (of Egypt) two of bronze and perfectly plain, to Thebaios, one of stone; on the latter they say are engraved in relief Hydras and the mars of Diomedes and the twelve labours of Herakles. And as to the golden olive of Pygmalion, it too is preserved in the temple of Herakles, and it excited their admiration by the clever way in which the branch work was imitated; and they were still more astonished at its fruit, for this teemed with emeralds. And they say that the girdle of Teukros Telamonion was also exhibited there of gold . . .
He [Damis, the scribe of Apollonius of Tyana] says that the pillars in the temple were made of gold and silver smelted together so as to be of one colour, and they were over a cubit high, of square form, resembling anvils; and their capitals were inscribed with letters which were neither Egyptian nor Indian nor of any kind which he could decipher. But Apollonios, since the priests would tell him nothing, remarked : ‘Herakles Aigyptios does not permit me not to tell all I know. These pillars are ties between earth and ocean, and they were inscribed by Herakles in the house of the Moirai (Fates), to prevent any discord arising between the elements, and to save their mutual affection for one another from violation.’"
[N.B. Gadeira was formerly a Phoenician colony, and the "Egyptian Herakles" was actually the Phoenician god Tammuz, who the Greeks identified with the hero.]

Statius, Silvae 3. 1. 1 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"Not in Nemea or ancient Argos shall I [Herakles the god] more often dwell, or in my home at Tibur [Rome] or in Gades [in Spain]."

II. Near GADES Town in Iberia

Strabo, Geography 3. 1. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"As for Herakles, he [Artemidoros] says, there is neither a temple of his to be seen on the cape [the Sacred Cape, the most westerly point in Iberia] (as Ephoros wrongly states), nor an altar to him, or to any other god either, but only stones in many spots, lying in groups of three or four, which in accordance with a native custom are turned round by those who visit the place, and then, after the pouring of a libation, are moved back again. And it is not lawful, he adds, to offer sacrifice there, nor, at night, even to set foot on the place, because the gods, the people say, occupy it at that time; but those who come to see the place spend the night in a neighbouring village, and then enter the place by day, taking water with them, for there is no water there."


Aelian, On Animals 17. 46 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Mnaseas in his work On Europe says that there is a temple to Herakles and to his spouse [Hebe] whom poets celebrate as the daughter of Hera. Now they say that in the precincts of these temples a large number of tame birds are kept, adding that these birds are cockerels and hens. They feed and consort together according to their sex, are fed at the public expense, and are consecrated to the aforesaid gods. The hens feed in the temple of Hebe while their mates feed in the temple of Herakles. And a never-failing channel of clear water flows between them. Now on the one hand not a single hen ever appears in the temple of Herakles. On the other hand at the season of mating the cockerels fly across the channel and after consorting with the hens return to their own quarters at the side of the god whom they serve, cleansed by the water that separates the sexes. And so to begin with, as a natural result of this union eggs are laid; later on when the hens have warmed them and hatched the chicks, the cockerels carry off the male birds to rear them, while the hens make it their business to rear their daughters."


Herakles had a number of cult titles. Most of these derived from towns where he was worshipped, or local myths about the hero:--

Greek Name










Latin Spelling






Of Thebes (Boeotia)

Of Tiryns (Argolis)

Of Bura (Achaea)

Of Thasos (Aegean)

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Latin Spelling






Of Manticlus (hero)

White Dog


Comrade, Assister

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Latin Spelling








Locust Scarer

Killer of Vine Worms

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Bright Eyed

Averting God



Some general cult terms include:--

Greek Name






Latin Spelling




Temple of Heracles

Festival of Herakles


Herakles had a variety of poetic epithets and titles:--

Greek Name






Latin Spelling







ALEXI′CACUS (Alexikakos), the averter of evil, is a surname given by the Greeks to several deities, as--Zeus (Orph. De Lapid. Prooem. i.),--to Apollo, who was worshipped under this name by the Athenians, because he was believed to have stopped the plague which raged at Athens in the time of the Peloponnesian war (Paus. i. 3. § 3, viii. 41. § 5),--and to Heracles. (Lactant. v. 3.)

BURA′ICUS (Bouraïkos), a surname of Heracles, derived from the Achaean town of Bura, near which he had a statue on the river Buraïcus, and an oracle in a cave. Persons who consulted this oracle first said prayers before the statue, and then took four dice from a heap which was always kept ready, and threw them upon a table. These dice were marked with certain characters, the meaning of which was explained with the help of a painting which hung in the cave. (Paus. vii. 25. § 6.)

CHAROPS (Charops), bright-eyed or joyful-looking, a surname of Heracles, under which he had a statue near mount Laphystion on the spot where he was believed to have brought forth Cerberus from the lower world. (Paus. ix. 34. § 4.)

[MENUTES or] INDEX, the indicater or denouncer, is a translation of Mênutês, a surname of Heracles. Once, the story runs, a golden vessel had been stolen from the temple of Heracles at Athens. Heracles repeatedly appeared to Sophocles in a dream, until the latter informed the Areiopagus of it, and the thief was arrested, and confessed his crime. From this circumstance the temple was afterwards called the temple of Heracles Menytes, or Index. (Cic. de Div. i. 25; Hesych. s. v. mênutês; Sophokleous genos kai bios.)

MACISTUS (Makistos). A surname of Heracles, who had a temple in the neighbourhood of the town of Macistus in Triphylia. (Strab. viii. p. 348.)

MECISTEUS (Mêkisteus). Mecisteus occurs as a surname of Heracles. (Lycoph. 651.)

MONOECUS (Monoikos), a surname of Heracles, signifying the god who lives solitary, perhaps because he alone was worshipped in the temples dedicated to him. (Strab. iv. p. 202; Virg. Aen. vi. 831; Plut. Quaest. Rom. 87.) In Liguria there was a temple called Monoecus (now Monaco; Strab. Virg. ll. cc. ; Tacit. Hist. iii. 42; Steph. Byz. s. v.).

OLY′MPIUS (Olumpios), the Olympian, occurs as a surname of Zeus (Hom. Il. i. 353), Heracles (Herod. ii. 44), the Muses (Olympiades, Il. ii. 491), and in general of all the gods that were believed to live in Olympus.

PALAEMON (Palaimôn), signifies the wrestler, as in the surname of Heracles in Lycophron (663).

PRO′MACHUS (Promakhos). The name Promachus, that is, "the champion," also occurs as a surname of Heracles at Thebes (Paus. ix. 11. § 2), and of Hermes at Tanagra (ix. 22. § 2).

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.






A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.