In Greek mythology, Alcmene (/ælkˈmiːniː/) or Alcmena (/ælkˈmiːnə/; Ancient Greek: Ἀλκμήνη or Doric: Ἀλκμάνα, Latin: Alcumena means "strong in wrath"[1]) was the wife of Amphitryon by whom she bore two children, Iphicles and Laonome. She is, however, better known as the mother of Heracles whose father was the god Zeus. Alcmene was also called Electryone (Ἠλεκτρυώνην), a patronymic name as a daughter of Electryon.[2]

Birth of Heracles by Jean Jacques Francois Le Barbier
FamilyElectryon and Anaxo (parents)
Significant otherZeus
ChildrenIphicles and Laonome, Heracles



According to the Bibliotheca, Alcmene was born to Electryon, the son of Perseus and Andromeda, and king of Tiryns and Mycenae or Medea in Argolis.[3] Her mother was Anaxo, daughter of Alcaeus and Astydamia.[4] Other accounts say her mother was Lysidice, the daughter of Pelops and Hippodameia,[5] or Eurydice the daughter of Pelops.[6] According to Pausanias, the poet Asius made Alcmene the daughter of Amphiaraus and Eriphyle.[7]

Hesiod describes Alcmene as the tallest, most beautiful woman with wisdom surpassed by no person born of mortal parents. It is said that her face and dark eyes were as charming as Aphrodite's, and that she honoured her husband like no woman before her.[8]

Exile to Thebes

According to the Bibliotheca, Alcmene went with Amphitryon to Thebes, where he was purified by Creon for accidentally killing Electryon. Alcmene refused to marry Amphitryon until he had avenged the death of her brothers.[9] During Amphitryon's expedition against the Taphians and Teleboans,[10] Zeus visited Alcmene disguised as Amphitryon. Extending one night into three, Zeus slept with Alcmene, his great-granddaughter, thereby conceiving Heracles, while recounting Amphitryon's victories against the Teleboans. When Amphitryon finally returned to Thebes, Alcmene told him that he had come the night before and slept with her; he learned from Tiresias what Zeus had done.[11]

Birth of Heracles


In Homer's Iliad, when Alcmene was about to give birth to Heracles, Zeus announced to all the gods that on that day a child by Zeus himself, would be born and rule all those around him. Hera, after requesting Zeus to swear an oath to that effect, descended from Olympus to Argos and made the wife of Sthenelus (son of Perseus) give birth to Eurystheus after only seven months, while at the same time preventing Alcmene from delivering Heracles. This resulted in the fulfilment of Zeus's oath in that it was Eurystheus rather than Heracles.[12]


According to Ovid's Metamorphoses, while in labour, Alcmene was having great difficulty giving birth to such a large child. After seven days and nights of agony, Alcmene stretched out her arms and called upon Lucina, the goddess of childbirth (the Roman equivalent of Eileithyia). While Lucina did go to Alcmene, she had been previously instructed by Juno (Hera) to prevent the delivery. With her hands clasped and legs crossed, Lucina muttered charms, thereby preventing Alcmene from giving birth. Alcmene writhed in pain, cursed the heavens, and came close to death. Galanthis, a maid of Alcmene who was nearby, observed Lucina's behaviour and quickly deduced that it was Juno's doing. To put an end to her mistress's suffering, she announced that Alcmene had safely delivered her child, which surprised Lucina so much that she immediately jumped up and unclenched her hands. As soon as Lucina leapt up, Alcmene was released from her spell, and gave birth to Heracles. As punishment for deceiving Lucina, Galanthis was transformed into a weasel; she continued to live with Alcmene.[13]


In Pausanias' recounting, Hera sent witches (as they were called by the Thebans) to hinder Alcmene's delivery of Heracles. The witches were successful in preventing the birth until Historis, daughter of Tiresias, thought of a trick to deceive the witches. Like Galanthis, Historis announced that Alcmene had delivered her child; having been deceived, the witches went away, allowing Alcmene to give birth.[14]


In contrast to the depictions of a difficult labor above, an alternative version is presented in Amphitryon, a comedic play by Plautus. Here Alcmene calls upon Jupiter, who performs a miracle allowing her to give birth quickly and without pain. After a crash of thunder and light, the baby arrives without anyone's assistance.[15]


After the death of Amphitryon, Alcmene married Rhadamanthys, son of Zeus, and lived with him in exile at Ocaleae in Boeotia.[16] It is said that after Heracles was apotheosised, Hyllus, having pursued and killed Eurystheus, cut off Eurystheus' head and gave it to Alcmene, who gouged out the eyes with weaving pins.[17] In Metamorphoses, an aging Alcmene recounted the story of the birth of Heracles to Iole.[13]

There are two accounts of Alcmene's death. In the first, according to the Megarians, Alcmene was walking from Argos to Thebes when she died at Megara. The Heracleidae fell into disagreement about where to take Alcmene's body, with some wishing to take her corpse back to Argos, and others wishing to take it to Thebes to be buried with Amphitryon and Heracles' children by Megara. However, the god in Delphi gave the Heracleidae an oracle that it was better to bury Alcmene in Megara.[18] In the second account given by the Thebans, when Alcmene died, she was turned from human form to a stone.[19]

Pausanias indicated that an altar to Alcmene had been built in the Cynosarges in Athens, alongside altars to Heracles, Hebe, and Iolaus.[20] Pausanias also said that Alcmene's tomb is located near the Olympieum at Megara.[18]


  1. ^ Robert Graves. The Greek Myths (1960)
  2. ^ Hesiod, Shield of Heracles 16
  3. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.25.9
  4. ^ Apollodorus, Library 2.4.5
  5. ^ Plutarch, Lives Theseus 7.1
  6. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4.9.
  7. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 5.17.8.
  8. ^ Hesiod, Shield of Heracles 1 ff.
  9. ^ Apollodorus, Library 2.4.6
  10. ^ Apollodorus, Library 2.4.7
  11. ^ Apollodorus, Library 2.4.8
  12. ^ Homer, Iliad 19.95ff.
  13. ^ a b Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.273ff.
  14. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 9.11.3
  15. ^ Plautus, Amphitryon "The Subject"
  16. ^ Apollodorus, Library 2.4.11
  17. ^ Apollodorus, Library 2.8.1
  18. ^ a b Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.41.1
  19. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 9.16.7
  20. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.19.3


  • 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.
  • Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History, Oldfather, C. H. (Translator) (1935). Library of History: Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Massachusetts.: Harvard University Press.
  • Hesiod. The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. "Shield of Heracles". Cambridge, Massachusetts.,Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.
  • Homer. The Iliad with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, Ph.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, Massachusetts., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1924.
  • Ovid. Metamorphoses. Arthur Golding. London. W. Seres. 1567.
  • Pausanias. Pausanias Description of Greece with an English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, M.A., in 4 Volumes. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1918.
  • Plutarch. Plutarch's Lives with an English Translation by Bernadotte Perrin. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard University Press. London. William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.
  • Plautus. The Comedies of Plautus. Henry Thomas Riley. London. G. Bell and Sons. 1912.
  • Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Alcmene"
Alkmene (opera)

Alkmene (Alcmene), op. 36, is an opera in three acts, with music and libretto by Giselher Klebe. Klebe based the libretto on Amphitryon by Heinrich von Kleist, which in turn was based on Molière's play of the same name. The composer dedicated the work to his mother, the violinist Gertrud Klebe.

The opera was commissioned for the opening of the current building of the Deutsche Oper Berlin where it premiered on 25 September 1961, the second production in that house.


Amphitryon (; Ancient Greek: Ἀμφιτρύων, gen.: Ἀμφιτρύωνος; usually interpreted as "harassing either side", Latin: Amphitruo), in Greek mythology, was a son of Alcaeus, king of Tiryns in Argolis. His mother was named either Astydameia, the daughter of Pelops and Hippodamia, or Laonome, daughter of Guneus, or else Hipponome, daughter of Menoeceus. Amphitryon was the brother of Anaxo, wife of Electryon and Perimede, wife of Licymnius.

Amphitryon (Molière play)

Amphitryon is a French language comedy in a prologue and 3 Acts by Molière which is based on the story of the Greek mythological character Amphitryon as told by Plautus in his play from ca. 190-185 B.C. The play was first performed at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal in Paris on 13 January 1668. A whiff of scandal surrounded the play, with some claiming that Molière was criticizing the amorous affairs of Louis XIV of France in the guise of Jupiter. It was performed again three days later at the Tuileries Garden in the presence of Louis XIV.

Amphitryon was an immediate success with the French aristocracy and the play was performed a total of 29 times by Easter 1668. The popularity of the work was such that one of the names of the characters became a part of the everyday French language. The word 'Sosie' in French now means look-alike, a reflection of the events in the play where the character Sosie (a part which was portrayed by Molière himself in the comedy's first production) is a doppelgänger of the God Mercury.

The plot can be summarized as follows. After his wedding night with beautiful Alcmene, Amphitryon leaves to participate in a war. Jupiter, who is fascinated by Alcmene's beauty, comes to earth under the appearance of Amphitryon, accompanied by Mercury who has taken the appearance of Amphitryon's servant Sosie. Amphitryon is successful in war and sends Sosie back home to report this. Sosie is greeted by his look-alike Mercury, who beats him and convinces him that he Mercury is the real Sosie. The real Amphitryon meets Alcmene and is naturally confused and shocked by her account of an amorous night. Various other confusing episodes of the same type take place, including a confrontation between the two Amphitryon's. In the end, Jupiter assumes his real aspect and tells Amphitryon that his wife was faithful, since he had to take on Amphitryon's aspect in order to seduce her. He informs Amphitryon that his wife will bear Jupiter's child, the demi-god Hercules.

Richard Wilbur translated the play for the work's first professional production in the English language which was directed by Darko Tresnjak and presented by the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston in March 2001. However, Australian poet W. J. Turner had already written an English adaptation of the play in 1933, known as "Jupiter Translated", and which was performed with music composed by Anthony Bernard.

Archelaus (play)

Archelaus (Ancient Greek: Ἀρχέλαος, Archelaos) is a drama written and performed in Macedonia by Euripides honouring Archelaus I of Macedon on a par with king Caranus. There is no doubt that Euripides transformed Caranus to Archelaus (meaning "leader of the people") in the play, in an attempt to please Archelaus I of Macedon. In the play, Archelaus son of Temenus was exiled from Argos by his brothers and went to Thrace, to king Cisseus who happened to be at war with neighbouring people and promised Archelaus his kingdom and daughter if he could protect him against the enemies. Archelaus did it and went to ask the king for his promised reward. The king however broke his promise and decided to kill Archelaus by treachery. He therefore gave orders to prepare a pitfall to trap him. But a slave of the king told Archelaus about the plot and the hero asked for a secret interview with the king: when alone he threw him inside the pitfall. He then fled to Macedonia, led by a goat, according to some command of Apollo, and founded the city of Aigai after the goat.

From the main play only fragments have been saved. The works Alcmene, Temenus, Temenidai and Archelaus were part of the Macedonian tetralogy of Euripides.

Calliclava alcmene

Calliclava alcmene is a species of sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Drilliidae.

French frigate Alcmène (1811)

The French frigate Alcmène was an Armide-class frigate of a nominal 44 guns, launched in 1811. The British captured her on 1814. The Royal Navy named her HMS Dunira, and then renamed her HMS Immortalite but never commissioned her nor fitted her for sea. In March 1822 she became a receiving ship at Portsmouth. She was sold in January 1837.

In 1813, along with Iphigénie, she served at Cherbourg, in the squadron of contre-amiral Amable Troude, to protect the harbour.

French frigate Iphigénie (1810)

The French frigate Iphigénie was a Pallas-class frigate of a nominal 44 guns, launched in 1810. The British captured her in 1814. The British named her HMS Palma, and then renamed her HMS Gloire. She was sold in 1817, never having been commissioned into the Royal Navy.

In 1813, along with Alcmène, she served at Cherbourg, in the squadron of contre-amiral Amable Troude, to protect the harbour.

French frigate Topaze (1805)

Topaze was a Gloire-class 44-gun frigate of the French Navy. The British captured her in 1809 and she the served with the Royal Navy under the name Jewel, and later Alcmene until she was broken up in 1816.


In Greek mythology, Galanthis or Galinthias was the woman who interfered with Hera's plan to hinder the birth of Heracles in favor of Eurystheus, and was changed into a weasel or cat as punishment for being so insolent as to deceive the goddesses of birth that were acting on Hera's behalf.

HMS Alcmene

Three ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Alcmene. In Greek mythology, Alcmene or Alcmena (Greek: Aλκμήνη) was the mother of Heracles:

HMS Alcmene (1779) was a 32-gun fifth rate captured from the French in 1779 and sold in 1784.

HMS Alcmene (1794) was a 32-gun fifth rate launched in 1794 and wrecked in 1809.

HMS Alcmene (1809) was a 38-gun fifth rate, formerly the French frigate Topaze. She was captured in 1809 and commissioned as HMS Jewel. She was renamed HMS Alcmene later that year and was broken up in 1816.

HMS Alcmene (1794)

HMS Alcmene was a 32-gun Alcmene-class fifth rate of the Royal Navy. This frigate served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars under the command of several notable officers. Alcmene was active in several theatres of the war, spending most of her time cruising in search of enemy vessels or privateers, and escorting convoys. She fought at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 and served in the blockade of the French coasts during the later Napoleonic Wars until she was wrecked on the French coast in 1809.

HMS Venerable (1808)

HMS Venerable was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 12 April 1808 at Northfleet.


Hercules () is a Roman hero and god. He was the equivalent of the Greek divine hero Heracles, who was the son of Zeus (Roman equivalent Jupiter) and the mortal Alcmene. In classical mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures.

The Romans adapted the Greek hero's iconography and myths for their literature and art under the name Hercules. In later Western art and literature and in popular culture, Hercules is more commonly used than Heracles as the name of the hero. Hercules was a multifaceted figure with contradictory characteristics, which enabled later artists and writers to pick and choose how to represent him. This article provides an introduction to representations of Hercules in the later tradition.

Hercules (1995 film)

Hercules is a 1995 film about the story of the Greek demigod Hercules, the son of Zeus and Alcmene.

Hercules (miniseries)

Hercules is a 2005 American television miniseries chronicling the life of the legendary Greek hero, Heracles, called Hercules in this series. It is most often aired on television as a two-part miniseries: the first part documents his early life in Tiryns and his desire and marriage to the lady Megara; the second part follows the more widely recognised part of his life, in seeking redemption for the madness-induced murder of his family.

The series incorporates Hercules's murder of his family—usually not included in modern interpretations of the character—and includes five of his twelve labors from Greek mythology. The series alters some of the elements of the myths including placing the giant Antaeus as his father while in Greek myths his father was the king of the gods, Zeus.

Hélas pour moi

Hélas pour moi (English: Alas for Me or Oh Woe is Me) is a 1993 French film directed by Jean-Luc Godard and starring Gérard Depardieu. This film is inspired by the legend of Alcmene and Amphitryon and attempts to show the desire of a god to experience the truth of human desire, suffering and pleasure.

The Legend of Hercules

The Legend of Hercules is a 2014 American 3D action fantasy film directed by Renny Harlin, written by Daniel Giat and Sean Hood, and starring Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins, Roxanne McKee, and Liam Garrigan. It was one of two Hollywood-studio Hercules films released in 2014, alongside Paramount Pictures' and MGM's co-production Hercules, released six months earlier on January 10, 2014. The Legend of Hercules was a box-office bomb and received extremely negative reviews, unlike Hercules, which was a modest box-office success and opened to far stronger reviews.

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