Origin of Spartan kings from Heracles

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The descent of Spartan kings from Heracles is considered to be the secondary myth interpretation about the “Return of the Heracledae”. It was associated with Dorian conquest of the Peloponnese in the ancient tradition (Tyrtaeus, Pindar, Herodotus, Isocrates, Ephor). The myth of the “Return of the Heracledae” is known to be one of the genealogical fiction what was invented in Argos and developed further in Sparta. There was a powerful argument for inheritance the rights of the royal title and performing the functions of the high priest in the community if the person was known as the descendant of Heracles belonging to the royal dynasties (Agiades and Euripontides). Apart from that, the power of Spartan kings outside Sparta could be justified if they were related to Heracles. In addition, this belonging to the descendants of Heraclides was above everything. It was one of the most important propaganda arguments to substantiate the legitimacy of the possession of conquered lands in Laconia and Messenia and provide “pro-Achaean” policy by the authorities of Sparta. However, the image of Heracles and his cult did not have the essential meaning in the religious life of the Spartan polis. The heavenly patrons of the kings were “divine twins” - the Dioscuri (Tindaridae). To conclude, it seems to be very controversial that the philosophical and ethical image of Heracles (as the main cynic hero) had a great influence on the representatives of the royal diarchy of the late classical and hellenistic periods.

About the authors

Alexey Leonidovich Darvin

Saint-Petersburg State University

Author for correspondence.
Email: darvin.aleksey@yandex.ru

postgraduate student

7-9 Universitetskaya Emb., Saint Petersburg, 199034, Russia


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