Amphitryon (harassing on either side) – In Greek mythology, king of Tiryns, son of Alcaeus and Astydameia, Hipponome, or Laonome; first husband of Alcmena; father of Iphicles; grandson of Perseus.

His father’s brother, Electryon, king of Mycenae, went to war against Pterelaus, king of the Taphians and Teleboans, because their sons had carried off his cattle and slain Electryon’s eight sons except Licymnius.

Electryon left Amphitryon in charge of his kingdom and gave him his daughter Alcmena to be his wife. On Electryon’s return Amphitryon killed him in a quarrel (or by accident). Amphitryon fled with his future wife and her brother Licymnius to Creon, king of Thebes.

Creon was a brother of Amphitryon’s mother. Creon purged Amphitryon of his blood guilt for slaying Electryon and offered him aid against Pterelaus if Amphitryon first would render harmless the Taumessian fox. Alcmena would not wed Amphitryon unless her brothers’ deaths were avenged.

Having rendered the fox harmless with the help of Cephalus, Amphitryon marched against the Taphians, accompanied by Creon, Cephalus, and other heroes and conquered their country. While Amphitryon was away at war, Zeus assumed his likeness for the purpose of seducing Alcmena.

Later the same night, Amphitryon himself slept with Alcmena. Two children were conceived that night, Heracles and Iphicles. Amphitryon was told by a seer what Zeus had done, and he accepted both children as his sons. According to a variant myth, he put two harmless snakes in their crib to see which son was his and which belonged to Zeus. Heracles seized both snakes and killed them.

Amphitryon knew then that Iphicles was his son and Heracles belonged to the god. In a variant account, it was Hera, the wife of Zeus, who placed the snakes in the crib, and they were poisonous and meant to kill Heracles. Amphitryon was killed in a war with Erginus, the Minyan king of Orchomenus.

The seduction of Alcmena by Zeus has had special appeal to playwrights, such as the Roman Plautus, the Frenchman Molière, and the Englishman John Dryden, with music of Henry Purcell. Jean Giraudoux wrote Amphitryon 38, saying it was the 38th version of the story.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante