Heracles and Iolaus against the Lernean Hydra

In Greek mythology, Iolaus (gr. Iolaos, Ιόλαος) was a son of Iphicles and thus a nephew of Heracles. When Heracles was having trouble slaying the Hydra because of the regeneration of its many heads, Iolaus cauterized each neck as Heracles beheaded it, and enabled the Hydra to be killed.

Hercules and Iolaus, Fountain mosaic Anzio Nymphaeum

Iolaus often acted as Heracles' charioteer and companion, and was thought to have also been Heracles' eromenos (beloved).

Plutarch reports that down to his own time male couples would go to Iolaus' tomb in Thebes to swear an oath of loyalty to the hero and to each other.[1] This initiatory myth is believed to be of ancient origin. The tomb of Iolaus is also mentioned by Pindar.[2] 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.[3]

Heracles married his ex-wife Megara to Iolaus because the sight of her reminded him of his murder of their three children. Iolaus and Megara had a daughter, Leipephilene. He was one of the Heraclidae.[4]

Upon Heracles' death, Iolaus lit the funeral pyre. Note: sometimes, this was Philoctetes instead.

Heracles killing his children , Megara ,his wife, Iolaos and Alcmene as witnesses

Heracles Iolaus and Athena

Minerva between Heracles and Iolaos


  • Apollodorus, Bibliotheke (II, 4, 11 ; II, 5, 2).
  • Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library (IV).
  • Euripides, Herakleides
  • Hygin, Fables (XIV ; CLXXIII ; CCLXXIII).
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses (IX, 394-417).
  • Pausanias, Description of Greece] (I, 19, 3 ; I, 44, 10 ; V, 8, 3 ; V, 17, 11 ; IX, 23, 1 ; IX, 40, 6 ; X, 17, 5 ; X, 29, 7).
  • Strabo, Geography [ (V, 2, 7).

Mythology Images

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