In Greek mythology, Iolaus (in Greek, Ἰόλαος) was a Theban divine hero, son of Iphicles, Heracles's brother, and Automedusa.
He was famed for being Heracles's nephew and for helping with some of his Labors. Through his daughter Leipephilene he was considered to have fathered the mythic and historic line of the kings of Corinth, ending with Telestes.
A species of butterfly has been named after him.
Relationship with Heracles
As a son of Iphicles, Iolaus was a nephew of Heracles. He often acted as Heracles' charioteer and companion. He was popularly regarded as Heracles's lover, and the shrine to him in Thebes was a place where male couples worshiped and made vows.
The Theban gymnasium was also named after him, and the Iolaeia, an athletic festival consisting of gymnastic and equestrian events, was held yearly in Thebes in his honor. The victors at the Iolaea were crowned with garlands of myrtle.
Iolaus provided essential help to Heracles in his battle against the Hydra, his second labor. Seeing that Heracles was being overwhelmed by the multi-headed monster, who grew two heads in place of each one cut off, Iolaus sprang to help, cauterizing each neck as Heracles beheaded it.
Heracles gave his wife, Megara, age thirty three, to Iolaus, then only sixteen years old – ostensibly because the sight of her reminded him of his murder of their three children. They had a daughter, Leipephilene. He was one of the Heraclidae.
Upon Heracles' death, Iolaus lit the funeral pyre, though according to some mythographers, this was Philoctetes instead.
- Iolaus was a major character in Renaissance Pictures' Hercules/Xena franchise.
- Michael Hurst played the character in two TV-Movies (Hercules and the Amazon Women and Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur) and in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (appearing as a recurring character in the first two seasons and a main character for the remaining seasons). Iolaus was not Hercules' nephew, but instead his best friend since childhood and his frequent traveling companion. It was stated that Iolaus (in the TV series) was 2 years older than Hercules. At times, Iolaus felt he was living in Hercules' shadow, but he often proved himself as a hero in his own right. The character was notably killed off several times – only to be eventually revived.
Hurst also played Iolaus 2 (a parallel universe double), who appeared in several episodes. This Iolaus had been a coward and fearfully served as jester to the Sovereign (Hercules' double). Thanks to Hercules, though, he learned self-confidence and became a hero.
- Hurst also played the character in two guest appearances on Xena: Warrior Princess ("Prometheus" and "The Quest").
- In the Young Hercules pilot movie and spin-off, Iolaus was a main character played by Dean O'Gorman. (O'Gorman also played the young version of Iolaus in a few HTLJ flashback episodes.)
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