After the death of Heracles, his children were persecuted by his enemy Eurystheus, King of Argos, who had imposed Twelve Labours on Heracles. They sought protection at Athens from King Demophon, son of Theseus, who initially agreed to defend them but later was informed by an oracle that they could not defeat Eurystheus unless they sacrifice a child of noble birth. Macaria, Heracles’ daughter, offered to sacrifice herself to save her brothers and the city. Ioclaus, Heracles’ nephew and companion, miraculously regained his youth at the battle between Eurystheus’ army and Athens, and subdued Eurystheus.
Quotes of Characters:
For I am ready of my own accord and unbidden, to appear for sacrifice and be killed. For what shall we say if this city is willing to run great risks on our behalf, and yet we, who lay toil and struggle on others, run away from death when it lies in our power to save them? It must not be so, for it deserves nothing but mockery if we sit and groan as suppliants of the gods and yet, though we are descended from that great man who is our father, show ourselves to be cowards. How can this be fitting in the eyes of men of nobility?
I offer my life freely and without constraint, and for my brothers and myself I undertake to die. For I, by loving not my life too well, have found a treasure very fair, a glorious means to leave it.
My death shall no chance lot decide; there is no graciousness in that;
Eurystheus, A Coward and Murderer
When I had taken up a quarrel with Heracles and realized that this was the struggle I would be engaged in, I became the inventor of much grief, and staying awake constantly in the night I thought up many ways to thrust off and kill my enemies so as not to live the rest of my life a companion to fear. I knew that your son was no cipher but a true man—for though he is my enemy, he shall at all events have good things spoken of him as befits a noble man. But now that he is out of the way, should not I, who am hated by these children and aware of their inherited hatred of me, have left no stone unturned in machinations to kill or exile them? If I did so, my interests were likely to be safe.