Omphale, Queen of Lydia

This week we will look at another Classical lady from the myths of Heracles, Omphale.

Who was Omphale?

Omphale was the queen of Lydia, an ancient region of Anatolia (modern day Turkey).

Who were her parents?

Her father was Iardanus, who was either the king of Lydia or a river-god. Her mother isn’t mentioned.

How did she become queen?

There are two ways in which she may have become queen: one would see her father as the previous ruler of Lydia, and when she married Tmolus she and her husband ruled over that country. If her father was not the king (but perhaps a river-god), then Tmolus was king of Lydia by some other manner. When Tmolus was gored to death by a bull, Omphale continued ruling on her own.

What does her name mean?

There is some speculation that her name is connected with omphalos, the world-navel (from early Greek myths about Cronus and Rhea), but nothing conclusive has been found. This might connect her with an earth goddess, but again, hard to say with the current evidence.

What do we know her for?

She was the woman who owned Heracles during his time as a slave to atone for the death of Iphitus (as prophesied by Xenoclea, who we looked at last week). There are varying accounts by playwrights regarding what happened to Heracles during this time of servitude; often it shows a reversal of gender roles between the Queen and the Hero.

What happened after that year?

Omphale freed Heracles and took him as her husband. They apparently had a son, whose name is disputed by authors: Lamos, Ageless, Tyrsenus, and Tylon are all suggested.

What happens to her?

We don’t know in particular what happens to Omphale after this myth. Heracles goes on more adventures and has another wife, Deianira.

Who should we profile next week? Leave suggestions in the comments!

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