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In Greek mythology, Iole (Ancient Greek: Ἰόλη) was the daughter of Eurytus, king of Oechalia.[1] According to the brief epitome by the so-called Apollodorus, Eurytus had a beautiful young daughter named Iole who was eligible for marriage. Iole was claimed by Heracles for a bride, but Eurytus refused her hand in marriage. Iole was indirectly the cause of Heracles's death because of his wife's jealousy of her.[2]

There are different versions of the mythology of Iole from many ancient sources. The pseudo-Apollodorus gives the most complete story followed by slight variations of his from Seneca and Ovid.[3] Other ancient sources (i.e. Diodorus Siculus, Gaius Julius Hyginus, and Pseudo-Plutarch) have similar information on Iole with additional variations.


Heracles' love for Iole leads to his death

Apollodorus says one day Eurytus promised Iole to whoever could beat him and his sons in an archery contest. Eurytus was an expert archer and taught his sons his knowledge of the bow and arrow. The sons of the king shot their arrows and hit their targets. In fact, they shot so well that they beat all the others from the kingdom. Heracles heard of the prize and eagerly entered the contest for he very much wanted Iole. Heracles shot and hit the bullseye and even beat Eurytus's scores. The irony is Eurytus years earlier had taught Heracles to become an archer.[1]

When the king realized that Heracles was winning, he stopped the contest and would not allow him to participate. Eurytus was aware that Heracles had killed his previous wife, Megara, and their children. He was afraid that Heracles would very likely kill Iole and any grandsons she may have should Heracles get into a mad rage again. Although Heracles had won the contest fair and square, he was not entitled to the prize because of his reputation. Eurytus broke his promise to give the royal daughter to the winner of the archery contest.

Iphitos urged his father to reconsider, but Eurytus did not alter his decision. Heracles had not left the city yet when Eurytus's mares were run off, presumably by Autolycus, a notorious thief. Iphitos asked Heracles to help find them, which he agreed to do. Heracles, in one of his fits, got frustrated with the complete mess and hurled Iphitos over the city walls, murdering him.[1] Diodorus Siculus gives additional at this point that it was Heracles himself that drove off the mares of Eurytus in revenge.[4] Heracles had failed in his courtship to win Iole.[5]

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