ALKYONEUS (or Alcyoneus)

The traditional opponent of the hero Heracles

ALKYONEUS (or Alcyoneus) was the eldest of the Thrakian Gigantes. He was immortal but only within the confines of his homeland of Pallene.

Hercules killed Alcyoneus either when the hero was returning from his 10th Labor for Eurystheus (the kinsman of Hercules who was also king and task master for the 12 Labors) (Pindar, Nemean Ode 4) or during the Gigantomachy. The Gigantomachy was the follow-up (or doublet) battle to the Titanomachy, fought between the gods of Mt. Olympus and their supporters on the one side and the giant children of Gaia on the other.

In the first version of the giganticide, Hercules kills Alcyoneus with his bow after the giant destroys 12 of Hercules' (probably his 1st Trojan War party's) four-horse chariots and the men in them. In the second -- the Gigantomachy version, Hercules kills Alcyoneus in battle.

The gods had been fighting the giants. Since both were immortal, this wasn't easy and epic battles have to go on and on. Inverting the customary idea of omnipotent gods and frail mortals, the Olympians could not kill their equivalent opponents without the help of one or two lesser beings. As you may be aware, some of the male gods, especially Zeus, spent a good deal of time philandering and so had fathered a host of children.

Two of these were the sons of Alcmene and Semele. Hercules (and Dionysus) come to their father's (and aunts' and uncles') aid. Hercules tries in vain to kill Alcyoneus. He fails until Athena gives him a hint: Alcyoneus can not die in the land of his birth; he needs to be taken beyond the borders of Pallene. After dragging him away, Hercules has no further trouble. He kills Alcyoneus.

"But Zeus forbade the Dawn and the Moon and the Sun to shine, and then, before anybody else could get it, he culled the simple himself, and by means of Athena summoned Hercules to his help. Hercules first shot Alcyoneus with an arrow, but when the giant fell on the ground he somewhat revived. However, at Athena's advice Hercules dragged him outside Pallene, and so the giant died."
Apollodorus on the Gigantomachy

Then the gods get their blows in against the other giants, and finally, they let Hercules perform a mopping up operation to make sure all their victims are actually dead. It is also said that the losing giants, being immortal were not really dead and so were later placed under the earth where they make mischief for humans by regularly causing earthquakes and volcanoes.

"The other giants Zeus smote and destroyed with thunderbolts and all of them Hercules shot with arrows as they were dying.."
Apollodorus on the Gigantomachy

Hercules uses a procedure similar to the one he successfully used in the Gigantomachy on Alcyoneus when he kills the son of Poseidon, the half giant Antaeus, but that is in a different and more familiar adventure. Antaeus' strength comes, not from his birthplace, but directly from his mother (Gaia). Hercules kills him by holding him aloft so he can not recharge.



[1] "Ancient History About"

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