Megara was the eldest daughter of Creon, King of Thebes, who was possibly the brother of Jocasta and uncle of Oedipus. If Creon is the same figure, Megara's mother is likely Creon's wife Eurydice, and she would be the sister of Menoeceus (Megareus), Lycomedes, Haemon, and Pyrrha.
Accounts of the names and number of Megara and Heracles' children vary based on the author. According to the mythographer Apollodorus, Megara was the mother of three sons by Heracles named Therimachus, Creontiades, and Deicoon. Dinias the Argive included the three children named by Apollodorus, however, he also added a fourth named Deion. Theban poet Pindar states that Megara bore Heracles eight sons. Alternatively, the Roman mythographer Hyginus named their sons as Therimachus and Ophites.
Megara was married to Heracles by her father as a reward for the hero after he led the defense of Thebes against the Minyans at Orchomenus, and the couple had several sons together. Hera sent Heracles into a fit of temporary madness due to her hatred for him. In his madness, Heracles killed their children either by shooting them with arrows or by throwing them into a fire. Whether Megara also died as a result of this attack depended on the author. In some sources, after Heracles completed his Twelve Labours, Megara married Heracles' nephew Iolaus and became the mother of Leipephilene by him.
Heracles' desire to atone for the murders of his wife and children is typically cited as the catalyst for becoming a slave to his cousin Eurystheus and performing the Twelve Labours. Euripides presents an alternative order of events in his tragedy, Heracles, as it was the completion of the twelfth labour (retrieving Cerberus from Hades) that begun the agon. The play begins with Megara, her children, and Amphitryon as suppliants at an altar seeking refuge from the tyrant Lykos who threatens them as Heracles is in the underworld. Heracles returns to save his family, but Iris and the spirit of madness, Lyssa, cause him to go mad and kill Megara and their children since he believes he is attacking Lykos. Roman playwright Seneca the Younger retells a similar story in his play Hercules Furens.
While in the underworld, Odysseus sees Megara, but does not elaborate on her mythology beyond stating she was the daughter of Creon and the former wife of Heracles. The Hellenistic poem Megara by an unknown author, presented a dialogue at Tiryns between a mournful Megara and Heracles's mother Alcmene, as the former grieves her children and Heracles's absence during his labours.
Cult dedicated to Megara's children
The sons of Heracles appear to have been incorporated into Heracles hero cult at Thebes who were celebrated at a festival known as the Herakleia where a feast was prepared in honour of Heracles above the “Elektran Gates” and sacrifices were made. The hero-tombs of the children of Heracles and Megara in Thebes they were venerated as the Chalkoarai.
- Apollodorus, Library, 2.4.11, 2.7.8
- The number of Megara's sons varies according to the source; the Theban tradition made them eight (Kerényi, pp. 185–186, notes Pindar's Fourth Isthmian Ode) but Euripides' Heracles reduced them to three, possibly, according to Kerényi, p. 186, for the exigencies of his stage tradition.
- Frazer, note 3 to 2.7.8, which notes that "other writers gave different lists".
- Stafford, Emma (2012). Herakles. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 182–183. ISBN 978-0415300681.
- Hyginus, Fabulae 31, 32, 72.
- Apollodorus, Library, 2.4.11
- Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 4.11.1
- Apollodorus, Library, 2.4.12
- Euripides, Heracles 1001; Hyginus, Fabulae 31.8, 241.
- Apollodorus, 2.6.1.
- Plutarch, Moralia "The Dialogue on Love / Erotikos / Amatoria", Loeb, V. XII, p.339
- Silk, Michael Stephen (1985). "Heracles and Greek tragedy". Greece & Rome. 32 (1): 1–22. doi:10.1017/S0017383500030096. JSTOR 642295.
- Homer, Odyssey, 11.265
- Anonymous, Megara
- "Those on whom fell a curse of bronze" (Kerényi, p. 186).
- Apollodorus, Apollodorus, The Library, with an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Euripides, Heracles, translated by E. P. Coleridge in The Complete Greek Drama, edited by Whitney J. Oates and Eugene O'Neill, Jr. Volume 1. New York. Random House. 1938. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Homer, The Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, Ph.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library. Greek text available from the same website.
- Kerényi, Carl, The Heroes of the Greeks, Thames and Hudson, London, 1959.
- Pindar, Odes translated by Diane Arnson Svarlien. 1990. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Pindar, The Odes of Pindar including the Principal Fragments with an Introduction and an English Translation by Sir John Sandys, Litt.D., FBA. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1937. Greek text available at the Perseus Digital Library.
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