RI.2-2593: Heracles releasing Hesione. Befreiung der Hesione durch Herakles, Gemme (nach Arch. Ztg. 1849 Taf. 6, 4). Roscher, 1884.
"They are wrong when they call you son of aegis-bearing Zeus: you are nothing like the sons he used to have. How different, by all accounts, from the mighty Heracles, my all-daring, lion-hearted father, who once came here for Laomedon's mares, with only six ships and a smaller force than ours, yet sacked Ilium and widowed its streets." (Tlepolemus 1 to Sarpedon 1, during the second Trojan War. Homer, Iliad 5.635).
"I do not deserve these sufferings; you see here the last gifts of my parents, these rocks covered over with purple and gold." (The bound Hesione 2 to Heracles 1. Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 2.471).
The Trojan princess Hesione 2, sister of Priam 1, was about to be
devoured by a monster when Heracles 1 saved her.
But either because her father refused to reward
him, or because of some marvellous horses, or
because of both, Heracles 1 sacked the city, and having killed the king, gave Hesione 2 to Telamon, who took her to Hellas as a prize. And whereas some see in this story what they fancy to file as the "rescue-of-a-maiden-by-a-hero theme", others assert that it was because of the Achaeans' refusal to gave Hesione 2 back, that Paris was sent to abduct Helen.
Finding good reasons for war
War is never honoured for its own merits, and
those who plead for war usually feel compelled to
call upon other deities, such as Justice or Peace, in whose name
they might fight; and it is not before they have
prayed to these goddesses (or others like them)
that they feel qualified to ask for the favors
that Victory and Fortune may provide. For Fortune, it is believed,
would not help those who give way to wickedness and
greed, and Victory tastes
differently depending on what has been defeated,
either good or bad things. That is why even the
most cruel among men fall on their knees before the
altars of Justice and Peace, pretending or
even wishing to be their worshippers; for they know
that the laws of these goddesses are imperishable,
whereas war is ruled by Necessity, who knows no
law and upon whom alone nothing can be built.
Accordingly, when the Achaeans launched their
expedition against Troy,
they claimed that they had been wronged by the
Trojans in the person of Paris, who breaking all
rules of hospitality, seduced his host's wife, and
took her with him to his city. And so, for the sake
of Helen, many kingdoms from Hellas and from the vast territories of Asia engaged in a huge conflagration that caused permanent disturbances in some of them, and utterly ruined others. For the wounds caused by war sometimes may turn into a cicatrice, but at other times they prove incurable, forcing men to start all over from the beginning. But some say that the Trojans were wronged
first, when Heracles 1 took the city by surprise and abducted Hesione 2, in what may be called the first Trojan war, suggesting that the Trojans' plight concerning Hesione 2, resembles that of the Achaeans with regard to Helen.
First and Second Trojan wars
The second Trojan
War lasted ten years, although the invading
host that had sailed from Hellas in more than one
thousand ships was of an unprecedented size. And
despite many efforts in the fields of military
action, divination, negotiation, and intrigue, Troy could not be taken
during all those years. Yet, only one generation
before, Heracles 1, with a force that could be carried in 6 ships (or 12 as others say), sacked the city, which at the time was ruled by King Laomedon 1. Nevertheless, both times Troy was taken
by the arrows of Heracles 1, as an oracle had declared, even though the
second time it was Philoctetes who held
The trouble with Laomedon 1
King Laomedon 1, whom the Trojan statesman Antenor 1 considered to
be guilty of ill-considered acts, came first into
conflict with the gods. For it was during his time
that Apollo and Poseidon, disguised as
mortal men, came to fortify Troy, being refused their wages when they had completed their work. Or else, as others say, they came as gods, and having performed their task, Laomedon 1 did not offered them, through avarice, the sacrifices he had promised. Whatever the case, in order to punish the king's
dishonesty, Apollo sent a
pestilence, and Poseidon a sea-monster
that snatched away the people of the plain. And it
was Apollo himself, some say, who (angrily) advised Laomedon 1 to bind Trojan maidens, and offer them to the monster as a remedy that would allow deliverance from the calamities.
"Hero rescues maiden"
Following these oracles, Laomedon 1 let many girls be devoured before the lot fell on his own daughter Hesione 2, who was also bound to the rocks to be the prey of the sea-monster. But then the ARGONAUTS, who were on
their way to Colchis, put ashore in the Troad; and Heracles 1, who was among them, killed the monster and delivered Hesione 2, on condition that when they returned they should take her with them to Hellas, along with the mares with which Zeus had compensated Laomedon 1 for having ravished Ganymedes. Wonderful
mares indeed; for they could run over water and
over the heads of standing grain. Others have said
that Heracles 1 just claimed these splendid mares, and that Hesione 2, after having been given the choice to stay with whomever she desired, chose to leave her country (where new monsters might appear). But for the time being, both the girl and the mares remained in the king's keeping, since Heracles 1 and the ARGONAUTS had other
tasks to accomplish.
The king cheats again
Now Laomedon 1, having already wronged the gods, found no difficulty whatsoever in wronging mortals, and when time came for him to reward the foreigners' services at their return from Colchis, he refused. This broken promise, some say, was the reason of the first Trojan war. A short one, for Heracles 1 easily
sacked the city, killed the king (with arrows some
say), put Priam 1 on the throne, and gave Hesione 2 as a prize to Telamon.
Intermission: A curious case of worship
It has been noticed that the inhabitants of the
Troad offered sacrifices (long after the end of the
war) to several Achaean warriors of the second Trojan War, such as Achilles, Patroclus 1, and Ajax 1, whereas they
refused to honour Heracles 1, giving as their reason his sacking of Troy. But it is argued (for
there are often many controversies about the myths)
that Heracles 1 left Troy still a city, whereas
those who repeated his prowess in the second war
razed it to the ground. Yet the inhabitants of the
Troad thought fit in later times to honour as gods
and worship with sacrifices precisely those who
utterly ruined their city, and not him who left it
standing, though damaged. And since reason is
always looked for when investigating the behavior
of mortals, some have conjectured that the
inhabitants of the Troad acted in such an amazing
way because they thought that Heracles 1, though
sparing their city, waged and unjust war (claiming
possession of the girl he had saved, or waging the
war "on account of the horses
of Laomedon" (Hom.Il.5.640), whereas the Achaeans, though destroying it, waged a just one (since they had been robbed of Helen and the Spartan
According to the mysterious mythographer Dares,
the ARGONAUTS, on their way to Colchis, landed in the Troad merely looking for rest, and were thence expelled by the menacing forces of Laomedon 1, who deemed them to pose a threat to the country. And since this mythographer does not believe in sea-monsters, he says instead that the cause of Heracles 1's punitive
expedition against Troy is to be found in Laomedon 1's disrespect for hospitality, and in his violent threats. On his return to Hellas, Heracles 1 resolved to punish the king for his outrage;
and with this purpose in mind he organized an
expedition, requesting help from the DIOSCURI, Telamon, Peleus, and Nestor (all former ARGONAUTS). Having
then coordinated their forces, they sailed against
the city with 12 ships, arriving to cape Sigeum in
the Troad by night.
Hesione 2 given to Telamon
There Heracles 1 left Nestor and the DIOSCURI to guard the
ships while he himself marched against Troy. Not knowing this, but being warned of the landing, King Laomedon 1 came with an army and attacked those who were in the beach; but in the meantime the city was sacked by the forces led by Heracles 1. When Laomedon 1 learned that he had been the victim of a stratagem, he returned to Troy, but as the enemy met
him on the road, he and his sons were defeated and
killed by Heracles 1. Having pillaged the city, plundered and murdered its citizens, and taken many riches, they went back to the ships, carrying with them Laomedon 1's daughter Hesione 2, whom Telamon received as a prize for having been the first to come into the city.
King Priam 1
Now, some have said that Priam 1 became great and
king of kings from a small beginning, and others
add that he was not killed because he was
campaigning elsewhere in Phrygia, disagreeing
with yet others who say that it was Heracles 1 himself who
put him on the throne. In any case, Priam 1 inherited his
father's throne, and being determined not to let
himself be lured by enemies as his father had been,
walled the city, built a palace, and opened a
number of gates.
Antenor 1 claims Hesione 2 back
And when he had thus restored and strengthened
the city, he sent Antenor 1 to Hellas to demand the restoration of Hesione 2, whom Telamon had taken with him as a prize. Antenor 1 met
several Achaean leaders; yet none of them showed a
conciliatory disposition. Having thus failed in his
purpose, which was to have the girl restored
through negotiation, Antenor 1 returned to Troy disappointed.
Hesione 2's son fights the Trojans
It is now, some say, that the abduction of a
lady from Hellas was planned at Troy, as a way of forcing Telamon to restore Hesione 2. And despite the warnings of the Trojan seers, a fleet was sent, armed with troops commanded by Paris, who seizing
opportunity, abducted or seduced Helen. In the war that
ensued (which is the second and well known Trojan War), Teucer 1, son of Hesione 2 and half brother of Ajax 1, led the
Salaminians against Troy.
After the war, he became king of Cyprian Salamis,
but his mother has not been mentioned ever since.
Others with identical name
- Hesione 1 has been called mother of Palamedes.
- Hesione 3 (or Plesione) is the same as Pleione, mother, by Atlas, of the PLEIADES.