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Hylas goes to fetch water for the last time. 0834: Painting by Baldassare Franceschini, called J. C. Volterrano, 1611-1689. Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Hylas was the young man whom Heracles 1 loved. He was ravished away by NYMPHS in Mysia on account of his beauty, and was never found again.

One of the ARGONAUTS

Hylas joined, along with his friend Heracles 1, the expedition of the ARGONAUTS that sailed to Colchis, in the eastern coast of what is today known as the Black Sea, in order to fetch the Golden Fleece. Very soon he became famous for having mysteriously disappeared without leaving any trace when the ARGONAUTS came to Mysia in Asia Minor. There he was sent to fetch water, and was ravished by NYMPHS on account of his beauty. But nobody saw anything, and no traces of him were ever found. According to what has been reported, when this happened, the Argonaut Polyphemus 1 heard Hylas cry out. They say that he then took his sword believing that the handsome young man had been attacked by robbers, and went searching for him. Polyphemus 1 did not find Hylas, but instead fell in with Heracles 1, and told him that something had happened to their comrade.

Three ARGONAUTS lost for the expedition

Heracles 1 and Polyphemus 1 started then a fruitless search, for Hylas was never seen again. And as they were busy searching for Hylas, they were themselves lost for the rest of the ARGONAUTS, and the ship put to sea. Others have said that Hylas went to fetch water in the river Ascanius while Heracles 1 was cooking for the ARGONAUTS. As Hylas never returned (and they again say that the NYMPHS of the river captured him), Heracles 1 left the ARGONAUTS, and not knowing why his friend had vanished, went around searching and calling his name aloud.

Turned into an echo

Now, some believe that the NYMPHS, fearing that Heracles 1 would finally find him, turned Hylas into an echo, so that when Heracles 1 called "Hylas", he would hear "Hylas" back. They add that Heracles 1, having done the impossible in order to find his friend, returned and joined the rest of the ARGONAUTS, but that he left Polyphemus 1 in charge of looking for the young man.

"Hylas, Hylas, Hylas ..."

But Polyphemus 1 died an old man without ever finding Hylas, and it is said that later sacrifices were offered by the locals to celebrate Hylas, in which the priest called him thrice "Hylas, Hylas, Hylas ...", receiving, as before, the same answer from the echo: "Hylas, Hylas, Hylas ..."

Hylas made immortal in a cave

Still others have said that Heracles 1 was hunting when Hylas, hiding himself, followed him. However, they say, Hylas lost his way, and wandering through the woods, he came to the cave of the NYMPHS. When these saw the young beauty approaching, they captured him in order to make him immortal and ageless. As the winds were then favorable, the ARGONAUTS decided to sail away, and it was Polyphemus 1, who climbing a rock, called the two absent ARGONAUTS for the last time without receiving any answer.

Hylas was lost when he went to fetch water. 4911: Hermann Wilhelm Bissen 1798-1868: Hylas, 1846. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

Plunged into the spring

It has also been told that Hylas, when he went to fetch water with a pitcher of bronze in hand for the evening meal, came to the spring called Pegae. They said that the dances of the NYMPHS were then just being held when he arrived, and that a naiad, who some call Dryope 4, was just rising from the spring. It was night, for they tell that the full moon beams smote Hylas' face. This naiad, it is told, fell immediately in love with Hylas, and when he dipped the pitcher in the stream, she laid one arm around his neck, yearning to kiss him, and with her other hand she drew him down and plunged him into the water.

Spicy gossip

This is what happened to Hylas. And because he and Heracles 1 were so close friends, they were believed to be lovers, and became the object of all kinds of spicy gossip. For many have thought that Heracles 1's strong complexion fitted perfectly the delicate beauty of Hylas. There have also been those who have found of the utmost interest to know all details about what is really going on in those chambers which they are not allowed to enter. And some, condemning these relationships, have refused to call them love. So, for example, a wise man from Alexandria (not for being born there, but because he was a priest in that city), being in possession of knowledge about the gods, and about the only God, and about the true nature of things, gave his opinion on these matters, more than one thousand years after Hylas' time, with these words:

"For your gods did not abstain even from boys. One loved Hylas, another Hyacinthus, another Pelops, another Chrysippus, another Ganymedes. These are the gods your wives are to worship!" (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks 2.28P).

And he could have added that this was the hate of love, the irreligiosity of religion, the profanation of worship, the shame of pride, the debauchery of abstinence, the scandal of solemnity, the vice of virtue, the adultery of fidelity, and the lasciviousness of decency. But being a better writer, he proceeded instead to demonstrate that women, being no better than men in these tales, rush as eagerly as them, after sexual delights.

Powerful god

Now, Love is a god impossible to catch. For he accepts instructions from nobody and disregards, when he pleases, human wisdom, which is for the gods as that of apes is for men. And Love being everywhere, he assumes different forms. But those who seek to hurt and force others through persecution do worse, and therefore make themselves inferior to those, who accepting the command of Love as they understand it and feel it, live happily themselves in common agreement, neither hurting nor forcing anyone.



Thiodamas 1 & Menodice

Ceyx & Alcyone 2

According to some Thiodamas 1 was killed by Heracles 1 during the latter's campaign against the Dryopians. After slaying him, they say, Heracles 1 carried off Hylas and nurtured him from his first childhood.
Menodice is daughter of Orion.

Related sections

Heracles 1


AO.643; Apd.1.9.19; Arg.1.1210ff.; Hyg.Fab.14; Lib.Met.26; Nonn.11.228; Prop.1.20.6; Stat.Theb.5.443; Strab.12.4.3; Val.3.183, 3.545ff.