Megara in Greek Mythology: History, Facts & Quotes

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

There are many tragic figures in Greek mythology, but Megara's story is somewhat unique. In this lesson, we'll explore her role in Greek mythology and see what she represented.

Megara

The great hero Hercules (aka Herakles) is one of the most famous figures of Greek mythology. You may know about his strength and bravery, but have you ever wondered about his love life? Was Hercules married? Those who have seen the Disney animated film Hercules (1997) might be tempted to say that Hercules fell in love with a woman named Megara. Well, you'd be right.

In Greek mythology, Megara was the wife of Hercules. Of course, her story in Greek mythology (which is notoriously tragic in an almost cruel fashion) is a little different than what's remembered in modern society. For the Greeks however, she was as much a part of the legend of Hercules as his twelve labors. She was an important figure in her own right as well, and a symbol of undeserved tragedy.

Megara was a tragic figure in Greek mythology
megara statue

Megara and Hercules

Greek mythology is famously inconsistent, so we need to first acknowledge that there are several versions of Megara's story. The most famous, and those which we'll be focusing on, are those of the 5th century BCE playwright Euripides. This is seen as the definition iteration of the tale.

Megara was married to the Greek hero Hercules, seen here fighting a lion
hercules

In Euripides' tale, Megara was a princess and the daughter of Creon, king of the Greek city-state Thebes. That's all we know about her life before Hercules enters the picture.

Thebes was invaded by a rival people called the Minyans. Hercules, who had been raised in Thebes, rushed to the city's defense. Leading Theban warriors into battle, he defeated the Minyans and restored Creon to the throne.

As thanks, Creon offered his daughter, Megara, to be Hercules' bride. The two were married and started a family of their own, having 3-8 children (depending on the version of the story). By all accounts, they have a very happy marriage, which in Greek drama is always a pretense for horrible things to come.

The Fate of Megara

Before we move on, we have to understand another character. Hera was Zeus' wife, who became very jealous with her husband's affairs. Traditionally, she responds in Greek mythology by punishing the unsuspecting mortal woman or the children of this union.

Well, Hercules was the son of Zeus and an unsuspecting mortal woman named Alcmene. Zeus disguised himself as Alcmene's husband, Alcmene became pregnant with Hercules, and Hera decided that she needed to make Hercules' life as miserable as possible. So, she pops up in the Hercules myth whenever he's feeling happiest, just to mess things up.

Hera (left) on a Greek ceramic piece
hera

So, what's this have to do with Megara? Hercules was happy in his marriage, and that was a problem for Hera. Hercules leaves his family to go and complete the last of his twelve labors (according to Euripides), and returns to find that Creon has been murdered and Thebes taken over by a usurper named Lycus.

Lycus is just about to murder Megara and her children when Hercules shows up (just as all good heroes do) and saves them at the last minute.

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