by CHARLIE PURCELL
Hercules was the world’s first superhero. He had a tragic backstory, the body of a Greek god (literally), and enough super-strength to destroy entire cities. He was tough. Any character that’s been played by both The Rock AND Arnold Schwarzenegger is certainly not a weakling. When people think of Hercules (or Heracles, as the Greeks called him), they think of muscles and strength and manliness. They don’t usually think of his boyfriends.
Hercules, it must be noted, had boyfriends. Lots of them. He was Greek at a time when Greek heroes (fictional and real) had totally normal romantic relationships with much younger men. It was as Greek as pita. Of course, none of the movies have shown this side of him. The Disney cartoon certainly didn’t include a song about the many twinks in his life. And that’s a damn shame. So without further ado, here are Hercules’ three most important boyfriends.
Hylas was a much younger prince who grew to know and love Hercules after training under him for years. Lots of sweaty, Greco-Roman training, it must be assumed. After whipping him into shape, the two tough guys became Argonauts and sailed across the Mediterranean.
Their relationship ended prematurely, however, when Hylas was kidnapped by water nymphs who were also drawn to his boyish good looks. Hercules was heartbroken, and spent a long time sailing the ocean trying to find his lost love. He never did. Most sources say Hylas chose to stay with the beautiful nymphs instead.
Abderos was the son of Hermes, another god who himself had a gay relationship or two. He stuck by Hercules during the 12 Labors, which are basically twelve heroic acts that Hercules had to do to redeem himself for accidentally killing his own children (it was an interesting time back then).
Abderos was a loyal friend and lover, but unfortunately Hercules couldn’t stop him from getting eaten by horses. As far as Greek tragedies go, his death is probably the funniest. Once again, Hercules was heartbroken, which is why the locals decided to set up a wrestling festival in Abderos’ honor. Why not?
It should be noted, though, that men didn’t just wrestle with each other in honor of the fallen hero. They also engaged in “pancratium,” which is like wrestling, except there are only two rules: no biting, and no eye-gouging. Unfortunately, pancratium was not chosen to be included in the modern Olympics.
Like Abderos, Iolaus also helped Hercules with the 12 Labors. His big contribution was during the hydra fight. Hercules would cut off the monster’s many heads, and Iolaus would rush into battle and cauterize the stumps. They had, as you can probably tell, a love to last the ages.
In addition to his hydra assistance, Iolaus also drove Hercules’ chariot. Some people say he was actually Hercules’ lover AND his nephew, but we can probably skip over that part. Unlike the other boyfriends, this guy didn’t die tragically. Instead, he lived a long, healthy life, he had a butterfly named after him, and there was a shrine built in his honor that lots of male couples visited to do their worshipping. There was even a gymnastics festival in his honor. Eye-gouging was, presumably, still not allowed.
Their story gets a little weird, though, when Hercules decided to give Iolaus a thank you gift for all the monster-killing assistance. Rather than a nicely written card, Hercules “gives” him his wife, Megara, (something that was most definitely ignored in the Disney movie). His wife was mid-30s. Iolaus was 16.
Hylas, Abderos, and Iolaus were just three of the handsome young men in Hercules’ life. They fought side-by-side, and they loved each other in real, romantic, non-platonic ways. It was thousands of years ago, but people accepted their relationships. They didn’t have to worry about people judging them or persecuting them. All they had to worry about was getting eaten by horses.
Charlie Purcell is an American living and working on beautiful Zanzibar Island off the coast of Tanzania. When he’s not swimming or eating too much of the local food, he teaches English and drama at an international school. He’s a movie reviewer for Slickster Magazine, as well as the writer of several young adult adventure stories. For updates on his novels and short stories, visit ThisIsCharliePurcell.blogspot.com.