Boasting astonishing physical, mental, and sexual prowess, Heracles (his original Greek name) was the paragon of fictional heroism. Over the course of his Twelve Labors he captures and slays a full menagerie of mythical beasts and cleans out the raunchiest stables in all the Mediterranean, then moves on to joining the quest for the Golden Fleece, which he ditches after his love affair with a male companion takes a tragic turn – a common thread in his stories, as curses from the goddess Hera repeatedly force him to kill those he loves the most. (She had ample cause for complaint: he was born after her philandering husband Zeus tricked a mortal woman into sex by pretending to be her husband, and – after another round of trickery, this time from Athena – Heracles nursed from Hera so violently that her breast milk sprayed into the sky and formed the Milky Way.)

Heracles’s legendary accomplishments are far too extensive to list in a short blog post, and his list of lovers poses a similar problem. Following one of his Labors he – no pun intended – impregnated 49 women in a single night. His same-sex affairs were celebrated, to the point where one of his lovers was worshipped alongside him by the Thebans; King Eurystheus, for whom he performed the Labors, is treated in some interpretations as his lover as well.



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