Alkmene and Amphitryon (page 377, with art)

Chapter 13: Herakles

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Herodoros 31F15 FGrHDie Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1, pp. 218-19, ed. F. Jacoby. 2d ed. Leiden 1957. 

Greek Text

Σ Lyk 932 – Tzetzes,  Scholia to Lykophron, Alexandra – Lykophronis Alexandra 2, pp. 883-86, ed E. Scheer. Berlin 1908

Greek Text

Ovid, Ibis 361-62

Nor may she be more dutiful and more favorable to her father’s head
than was his  daughter towards Pterelaos, or yours towards you, Nisus. (Transl. E. Bianchelli)  Latin Text

Chest of Kypselos from temple of Hera at Olympia (known through Pausanias’ description and modern reconstructions)

Paus 5.18.3 – Pausanias, Description of Greece

A man wearing a tunic is holding in his right hand a cup, and in his left a necklace; Alcmena is taking hold of them. This scene represents the Greek story how Zeus in the likeness of Amphitryon had intercourse with Alcmena. Greek Text

Zeus in form of Amphitryon and Alkmene, from reconstruction of chest of Kypselos (lost monument once in temple of Hera, Olympia) by W. von Massow, “Die Kypseloslade,” Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteilung vol. 41 (1916), pl. 1.

Nem 10.13-18 – Pindar, Nemean Odes

And Zeus nourished the spear of Amphitryon, who attained the height of prosperity and entered into kinship with that god, when, clad in bronze armor, he slew the Teleboae. Taking on the appearance of Amphitryon, the king of the immortals entered the hall of that hero, bearing the fearless seed of Heracles; whose bride Hebe, the most beautiful of the goddesses, walks forever in Olympus beside her mother Hera, goddess of marriage. Greek Text

Is 7. 5-7Pindar, Isthmian Odes

Or when you received, as a snow-shower of gold in the middle of the night, the greatest of the gods, when he stood in the doorway of Amphitryon, and then went in to the wife to beget Heracles? Greek Text

Nem 1.33-72 – Pindar, Nemean Odes

But as for me, I cling to the theme of Heracles gladly, rousing an ancient story from among the great heights of his excellence, how, when the son of Zeus suddenly came out of his mother’s womb into the brilliant light, escaping her birth-pangs, with his twin brother, he did not escape the notice of gold-throned Hera when he was placed in his saffron swaddling-clothes. But the queen of the gods, stung in her heart, immediately sent serpents. The doors opened, and they crept into the spacious inner-chamber, eager to coil their swift jaws around the babies. But Heracles lifted his head straight up, and had his first experience of battle, seizing the two necks of the serpents in his two irresistible hands. When they were strangled, time squeezed the breath of life out of their unspeakable limbs. Unbearable fear struck the women who were then helping Alcmena at her bedside; for she herself leapt to her feet from her bed, unrobed as she was, and tried to ward off the violent attack of the monsters. And swiftly the chiefs of the Cadmeans rushed in together in their bronze armor, and Amphitryon came brandishing a sword bared from its scabbard, stricken with sharp distress. For each man alike is oppressed by his own trouble, but the heart recovers quickly from someone else’s grief. He stood, possessed by overwhelming astonishment and delight. For he saw the supernatural courage and power of his son; the immortals had turned the story of the messengers to falsehood for him. And he called his neighbor, the outstanding prophet of Zeus the highest, the truthful seer Teiresias. And the prophet told him and all the men what fortunes the boy would encounter: how many he would slay on land, and how many lawless monsters at sea. And he told of a certain one, most hateful, who walked with crooked insolence towards men, whom the boy would send to his doom. For he said that when the gods meet the giants in battle on the plain of Phlegra, the shining hair of the giants will be stained with dirt beneath the rushing arrows of that hero. But he himself will have allotted to him in peace, as an extraordinary reward for his great hardship, continuous peace for all time among the homes of the blessed. He will receive flourishing Hebe as his bride and celebrate the wedding-feast, and in the presence of Zeus the son of Cronus he will praise the sacred law. Greek Text

Paris, Musée du Louvre G192: Attic red-figure stamnos by the Berlin Painter with infant Herakles strangling the snakes while Iphikles flees to the arms of his mother Alkmene; on the right, a frightened Amphitryon; on the left, Athena and behind her, another woman 

Gazette Archéologique 1 (1875), pl. 14


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Perseus Art & Archaeology Artifact Browser

Pherekydes 3F69 FGrH Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1pp. 79-80, ed. F. Jacoby. 2d ed. Leiden 1957. 

Greek Text

p. 130 R – Aischylos, Alkmene – Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta 3, ed. S. L. Radt. Göttingen 1985.

 pp. 154-55 R – Sophokles, Amphitryon – Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta 4, ed. S.L. Radt. Göttingen 1977.

 pp. 386-89 N² – Euripides, AlkmeneTragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, ed. A. Nauck  2nd  ed. Leipzig 1889. 

Greek Text

Taranto, Museo Nazionale Archeologico 4600: Apulian red-figure calyx krater with Alkmene on the altar surrounded by firewood; to the right, Amphitryon with Zeus’ thunderbolt hovering in front of him; to the left of thunderbolt, Eros; on the upper right, Hermes; on the upper left, remains of a seated figure with scepter, who is believed to be Zeus

O. Taplin, Pots & Plays (2007), fig. p. 171

Digital LIMC

London, British Museum F149: Paestan red-figure bell krater by Python, with Alkmene seated on altar surrounded by firewood, while she reaches up to heavens pleading for help from Zeus; on the lower left and lower right, Antenor and Amphitryon attempt to light the firewood with torches while a thunderbolt has been hurled in front of each one; above Alkmene are raindrops enclosed by rainbow; on upper left, Zeus, and on upper right, Eos; in front of Zeus and Eos, Hyades pour water onto the firewood

A.S. Murray, “The Alkmene Vase Formerly in Castle Howard,”  Journal of Hellenic Studies 11 (1890) pl. 6


British Museum

Digital LIMC

London, British Museum F193: Campanian red-figure neck-amphora by the Painter of Louvre K491, with Alkmene seated on altar with arms raised in alarm; above altar is a rainbow; Antenor approaches from the left with two torches; on upper left and right, Hyades pour water to save Alkmene


Brtish Museum

Digital LIMC

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Artistic sources edited by R. Ross Holloway, Elisha Benjamin Andrews Professor Emeritus, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown Univ., and Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, February 2023.

Literary sources edited by Elena Bianchelli, Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, December 2020

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