The Golden Age of Denial: Hercules, the Bisexual Demigod

Hercules has been the icon of alpha-masculinty for centuries — do you know about his gay love life?

BY Christopher Harrity

August 14 2013 6:05 AM ET


Above: John William Waterhouse, Hylas and the Nymphs, Manchester Art Gallery, 1896

In Greek mythology, Hylas was the son of King Theiodamas of the Dryopians. Roman sources such as Ovid state that Hylas' father was Hercules and his mother was a nymph. In other versions Hylas is not his son, making their legendary relationship a bit more palatable.

At left: Hylas being abducted by some fairly formidable nymphs.

The poet Theocritus (c. 300 B.C.) wrote about the love between Hercules and Hylas: "We are not the first mortals to see beauty in what is beautiful. No, even Amphitryon's bronze-hearted son, who defeated the savage Nemean lion, loved a boy — charming Hylas, whose hair hung down in curls. And like a father with a dear son he taught him all the things which had made him a mighty man, and famous."

While traveling for battle Hylas was kidnapped by nymphs in a spring. The nymphs fell in love with him — a scene that has been depicted in many artistic renderings. He vanished without a trace.

Tags: Bisexuality, Art

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