Iolaus (i-oh-LAY-uhs), an aged warrior, the former companion and friend of Herakles and the guardian of Herakles’ children in their attempt to escape the efforts of Eurystheus, the king of Argos, to destroy them. At the opening of the play, after long wandering, Iolaus has sought refuge with the children before the altar of the temple of Zeus at Marathon. He pleads successfully for their sanctuary before Demophon, the king of Athens, against the arguments of Copreus, the messenger of Eurystheus. the protection offered by the Athenians means inevitable attack from Eurystheus, and the oracles tell Demophon that for him to be victorious, a maiden of a noble house must be sacrificed to Persephone. Because Demophon will not offer up his own child and cannot expect any other citizen to do so, Iolaus offers to give himself up to Eurystheus if the children can be saved. Although made in vain, the suggestion is sincere. the question is resolved by the sacrifice of Macaria, a daughter of Herakles. When a messenger appears with news of the preparation for battle with the Argive host, Iolaus, whose feebleness has been emphasized repeatedly, suddenly insists that he go with him, and he is led off, stumbling in his weakness. In the course of the battle, however, he is rejuvenated temporarily by special gift of the gods and, with the help of Hyllus, a son of Herakles, he captures Eurystheus. Iolaus’ character is strangely uneven, and he does not develop into the great and tragic figure he might easily have been.
(The entire section is 671 words.)