ALCMENA

Real Name: Alcmena (also spelled Alcmene)

Identity/Class: Normal Human (13th Century BC)

Occupation: Monarch

Group Membership: Member of the House of Perseus of Argos

Affiliations: Hercules, Hyllus

Enemies: Eurystheus

Known Relatives: Electryon (father, deceased), Anaxo (mother), Media (step-mother), brothers (names unrevealed, deceased), Amphitryon (first husband/uncle/cousin, deceased), Hercules, Iphicles (sons), Licymnius (half-brother), Megaera, Deianeira, Hebe (daughters-in-law), Hyllus, Iolaus (grandsons), Rhadamanthys (second husband), Sthenelus, Alcaeus, Mestor, Heleius, Perses (uncles), Gorgophone (aunt), Eurystheus (nephew), Perseus (grandfather, deceased), Andromeda (grandmother, deceased), Acrisius, Danae, Cepheus, Cassiopeia (ancestors, deceased)

Aliases: None

Base of Operations: Mycenae (13th Century BC, now part of modern Greece

First Appearance: Hercules III#2 (June, 2005)

Powers/Abilities: Alcmena possesses the normal human strength of a woman of her size, height and build who engages in extensive physical exercises.

History: (Greek/Roman Myth) Alcmena is the daughter of Electryon, King of Mycenae, and Anaxo, older sister of General Amphitryon of Thebes, and daughter of King Alcaeus of Tiryns. Alcmene was promised to Amphitryon as his wife at an early age, but she would not consent to marry him until he avenged the deaths of her brothers slain in battle against her uncle, King Mestor of the Taphians during a cattle raid. Amphitryon recovered the stolen cattle from his father-in-law's enemies, but Electryon was killed during the bloodshed. Held responsible, Amphitryon was exiled from Mycenae by his Uncle Sthenelus, who then seized Mycenae for himself. Amphitryon, Alcmene and her half-brother Licymnius then fled as suppliants to Thebes where they were warmly received by King Creon, Licymnius's father-in-law. 

In Thebes, Amphitryon raised another army and laid another siege against the Taphians. In his absence, she had a dream she was seduced by Amphitryon returning home early, but this was really Zeus, King of the Olympian Gods, impersonating her husband. Extending the night, Zeus seduced Alcmena in order to sire a son to defend the earth from potential terrors that he had foreseen. When Amphitryon returned home and found her already pregnant, the seer Teiresias relieved his fears by exposing the masquerade upon which Amphitryon took no action.

(Greek/Roman Myth, Incredible Hercules#116 (fb)) - Alcmene eventually gave birth to twins, but not without extreme complications caused by Hera, Queen of the Olympian Gods, who was angry over Zeus's latest covert sexual escapade. Zeus had decreed that whatever descendant of his son Perseus born next would succeed to rule both Mycenae and Tiryns, but Hera dispatched her daughter, Eileithyia, to delay the birth long enough that Sthenelus's son, Eurystheus, could be born first in Mycenae. In Thebes, Alcmena had spent seven arduous days in labor as Eileithyia sat with her legs crossed to delay the birth. Not just contend with depriving Hercules of the throne, she now sought to kill the unborn child, but Alcmena as well. One of Alcmena's attendants named Galanthis, a daughter of Teiresias with similar prophetic skills, however, suspected that the endless labor was being mystically delayed. When she cried out that the baby was born, Eileithyia jumped up to investigate and broke her spell. Alcmena had a son by Zeus and Amphitryon simultaneously. Realizing the deception, Eilethyia transformed Galanthis to a weasel for her deception.

(Greek/Roman Myth) - Amphitryon named the sons, Alcaeus (after his father) and Iphicles, but no one could tell which infant was the divine son of Zeus. Hera meanwhile sent two serpents to slay both of them. While only eight months old, the future Hercules strangled and killed both of the serpents as his half-brother screamed. Further fearful of Hera's wrath, Alcmena took the divine son of the two and exposed him in the wilderness to die without food or shelter. Athena, goddess of wisdom, meanwhile brought Hera down to earth and pretended to discover the lost infant. Not realizing whose infant it was, Hera began tending to him, but as she tried to nurse him, the child bit into her breast trying to nurse. Realizing she had been duped, she fled back to Olympus; Athena meanwhile returned young Alcaeus to Alcmena and renamed him Heracles because he had now earned the eternal wrath of Hera.    

Zeus soon delivered Heracles (later Hercules) to his half-brother, the Centaur Chiron, to hide him from Hera. Hercules would grow up alongside Chiron's other students, Theseus, Peleus, Castor, Pollux and Jason, all future heroes and adventurers of Ancient Greece. After Amphitryon was killed in war, Alcmene became the wife of Cretan lawgiver Rhadamanthys, a brother of King Minos of Crete, both divine sons of Zeus by the Phoenician princess, Europa.

(Greek/Roman Myth, Hercules III#2 (fb)) Alcmene saw Hercules briefly at times during his exploits and adventures, but Iphicles stayed by her side and begrudgingly served King Eurystheus who sent Hercules on twelve labors. Alcmene survived her son, but Eurystheus sent armies to slay all of Hercules's sons and descendants for fear that they would remove him from his throne which was rightly theirs. Alcmene and Rhadamanthys lead them to refuge in Marathon. Hyllus, the son of Hercules, and his cousin, Iolaus, the son of Iphicles, while supported by Athenian armies captured Eurystheus and deposed him of the throne of Mycenae. Alcmene, however, had insisted on his execution, and with her hated nephew brought to her, she gouged out his eyes just before Hyllus severed his head.

After years of bloodshed, the House of Perseus lost control of Mycenae to the House of Pelops whose daughters had married sons of Perseus. Alcmena and Rhadamanthys retired to Haliartus where they died, but their bodies were returned to be buried in Thebes.

Comments: Adapted by Frank Tieri, Mark Texeira and James Palmiotti

If the relationship with Alcmene to General Amphitryon seems a little weird beyond being just her husband, here's the thing: he was her cousin because he was the son of Alcaeus, her uncle who was also her maternal grandfather, but he was also her uncle because he was her mother Anaxo's younger brother. This is the traditional family tree although the poet Asius claimed her parents were Amphiaraus and Eriphyle of Argos, but this would make her a descendant of King Proetus of Tiryns, the brother of King Acrisius of Argos, which would no longer make her the grand-daughter of Perseus. Her relationship to Perseus is the more recognized version. They obviously wanted to keep the power in the family, but they would not yet know anything about genetics.

The names of Alcmena's brothers are unrevealed. There is no record of how many brothers she allegedly had, but since they are insignificant to her role as mother of Hercules, none of the Greek or Roman storytellers have revealed what they were named.

According to the myths, Hercules was seventeen years old and already six feet tall when he killed the Cithaeron Lion and twenty years old when he married Megaera during the ten year reign of King Creon of Thebes (c. 1270 BC?). When Zeus seduced Alcmene, he is said to have "extended the night," which sounds like a lunar eclipse. Figuring the cycles of lunar eclipses over Greece and assuming my mathematical equations are correct, Hercules was born in 1276 BC (February 13 and October 31 have both been mentioned as his birthdays). Using this date, the Twelve Labors began in 1259 BC and ended 1247 BC or thereabouts.

According to Hercules III#2, Eurystheus hunted down Hercules' ancestors. That's an obvious clerical error; it was meant to say descendants.

In the myth, Hyllus delivered Eurystheus's severed head as proof of his death and then she gouged out the eyes. In the MU version, it's the other way around. Creative license.........

The myths aren't certain where Alcmena was buried: Thebes, Marathon or Haliartus, but most versions agree with Thebes.

Alcmena hasn’t been portrayed very often in the movies, but in “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” she was played by actress Liddy Holloway. In the recent and largely contradictory Hercules (2005) movie with Paula Telfer as Hercules, Alcmena was played by Elizabeth Perkins from The Flintstones (1994). That movie even erroneously portrays Deianeira as a nymph, but at least she’s played by Leelee Sobrieski which almost makes up for the truck-sized plot-holes in the movie. Creative license!

Profile by: WillU

CLARIFICATIONS: Alcmena is not to be confused with:

 


Images:
Hercules III#2 pg4
Hercules III#2 pg6


Appearances:
Hercules III#2 (June, 2005) - Frank Tieri (writer), Mark Texeira (pencils), Jimmy Palmiotti (inks), Axel Alonso (editor)
Incredible Hercules#116 (June, 2008) - Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente (writers), Rafa Sandoval (penciler), Roger Bonet (inker), Mark Paniccia (editor)

Last updated: 11/20/05

Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.

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