Herakles now went for revenge to Pylos, because its king Neleus had refused to purify him after the murder of Iphitos, or because Neleus had been an ally of Augeias, or because Neleus had stolen the cattle of Geryones from him. In the battle at Pylos Herakles killed Neleus and eleven of his twelve sons; only Nestor, the youngest, was spared, since he had been sent away from home to be raised by the Gerenians.
One of Neleus’ sons, Periklymenos, had received from his grandfather Poseidon the ability to change himself into any kind of animal or tree; another source limits his choices to an eagle, ant, bee, or snake. Herakles swatted him with his club when he was a bee or a fly, or shot him with an arrow when he took the shape of an eagle.
During the same war Hera, Poseidon, and Hades were allies of Neleus, while Athena and Zeus helped Herakles. Ares fought on the side of Neleus until Herakles wounded him in the thigh with a spear thrust and forced him to withdraw. Herakles also wounded Hades in the shoulder with an arrow, and he shot Hera in the right breast with a three-pronged arrow that caused her “incurable pain.” The intensity of her suffering was due to the fact that Herakles tipped his arrows with the poison of the Hydra, the monster which Hera herself had raised against Herakles. By wounding Hera in the breast Herakles gained symbolic revenge for her rejection of him from her breast when he was an infant; his “retroactive” poisoning of her breast appropriately punishes her refusal to give him the nurturance he desired.
Herakles’ next foes were king Hippokoon of Sparta and his sons, who had
been allies of Neleus and also had killed Herakles’ cousin Oionos, son of
Alkmena’s brother Likymnios. While Oionos was looking at the palace of
Hippokoon, a dog ran out and bit him; when he threw a stone at the dog, the sons
of Hippokoon beat him to death with clubs. In one version Herakles was with
Oionos in Sparta; the Spartans wounded him in the hollow of the hand or the
thigh, but the legendary surgeon Asklepios cured him and he returned with an
army. First, however, he went to Tegea in Arcadia and asked king Kepheus and
his twenty sons to help him; Kepheus refused, afraid that in his absence the
Argives would invade his country. Herakles gave Kepheus’ daughter Sterope a
lock of Medousa’s hair which he had received from Athena, and told her she could
defeat her enemies by holding it up three times from the walls without looking
at it. Kepheus then agreed to help Herakles but in the battle at Sparta he and
all his sons were killed along with Hippokoon and his sons and Herakles’ brother
Iphikles. Herakles now brought back Tyndareos, who had been expelled by his
brother Hippokoon, and gave him the kingdom.
ALEOS AND AUGE
Kepheus had a sister named Auge; both were the children of Aleos, king of
Arcadia, and his niece Neaira. While Herakles was in Tegea he seduced Auge, who
had a baby son and hid him in the precinct of Athena. When a plague afflicted
the land of Aleos, he entered the precinct and there found the baby. He exposed
the infant on Mount Parthenios and gave Auge to Poseidon’s son Nauplios with
orders to drown her or sell her to a foreigner. The baby was saved by a doe
which found and nursed him, and shepherds who discovered him named him Telephos
(or gave him to king Korythos, who named him). As for Auge, Nauplios gave her
to Teuthras, king of Teuthrania (another name for Mysia in Asia Minor), and
Teuthras married her.