Iolaus of Thebes is a regular character on the television show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, played by Michael Hurst. He is the best friend of the demigod Hercules, and grew up with him in the same village. They went to Cheiron's Academy together, fought in their first war together, and have been traveling Greece to deal with monsters, warlords, gods and demons together ever since.
By the age of two, Iolaus was stealing cookies from local vendors. This was the start of his boyhood troubles where he broke the law. His past as a thief has, as shown in one episode, kept him from obtaining a job.
As a teenager, Iolaus trained at Cheiron's Academy. It was there that he met Hercules and Jason of Corinth. This training coupled with 'old hunter's tricks' gave him the talents that enabled him to become a hero. The tricks involved things like slowing down his heart beat and picking locks. It became a habit for him to say "old hunters' tricks" after using one of his skills (many times he and Hercules would jinx this since they both knew he would say it).
He was very fond of festivals and women, the latter of which led him into attempting a romantic relationship with Xena; little did he know that she used him only to get to Hercules. In one HTLJ and XWP crossover, Gabrielle and Iolaus both flirted with each other and even kissed, but nothing became of the encounter.
At one point Iolaus was approached by Aphrodite, Athena and Artemis to judge which of the three of them was the most beautiful. Artemis offered to make Iolaus the greatest warrior in the world if he chose her, Athena offered to make him the smartest man in the world, and Aphrodite offered him an apple which would make any woman fall in love with him. He chose Aphrodite but accidentally used the apple to make Thera fall in love with him just before she was to be married. Luckily, Hercules was able to put an end to the spell (HTLJ "The Apple").
Iolaus' great-grandmother Althea had a relationship with King Agoraphobius of Attica. Their union created a new line in Iolaus' family that ended with King Orestes; a cousin of Iolaus' who looked identical to him. Iolaus briefly took his cousin's place as King when his life was in danger, so that he could be crowned king of Attica and marry Niobe. During his short time in Attica, Iolaus and Niobe fell in love. They were unable to remain together but always held a special place for one another in their hearts (HTLJ "King For A Day").
Iolaus was stealing pastries in the village of Thebes two years before Hercules was born. He likely had a troubled childhood given both his difficult relationship with his (dead) father Skouros and the initial awkwardness he felt when he went back home to visit his mother Erythia after several years of absence.
As a teenager, Iolaus went to Cheiron's Academy along with Jason and Hercules, who quickly became his best friends. Their Academy years are covered by the spin-off show Young Hercules.
Iolaus was once married to a woman named Ania, and at the time he amazed Hercules by not giving a damn that she couldn't cook or that the farm animals all ran away from her. However, Ania died, and while Iolaus and Ania had at least one child together, the child is presumed to have died as well as we never hear about him/her again. (The only canon reference made to Ania's fate or the baby's is in "Maze of the Minotaur", where Iolaus talks to Deianeira about having to be a father and a mother.)
After that, he apparently gave up the idea of having a family, and was content to adventure throughout Greece with Hercules and find romance on the way. Unlike Hercules' relationships, Iolaus' were seldom tragic (and all his girlfriends would probably get on well together--even when they weren't being played by the same actress).
He studied fighting both at the Academy and in the East, which made him a formidable opponent. His combat style was fast and furious, and made creative use of anything that came to hand, including fish, frying pans, and other people's fists.
He is a good hunter, tracker and fisherman, and preferred to leave cooking and other domestic arts (including crocheting) to Hercules.
The Many Deaths of Iolaus
Iolaus died four times on the show, but managed to be alive at the end nonetheless.
The first time occurred in the first TV movie, Hercules and the Amazon Women, where he was stabbed by one of the Amazons. However, Hercules convinced Zeus to turn back time so that the whole event never happened. Iolaus should not be able to remember this death, yet he refers to it openly in the TV movie Maze of the Minotaur.
The second time he died is in season one. He was turned to stone by a She-Demon, but was later returned to life when Hercules killed her at the end of the episode.
The third time was also in a single episode, when Iolaus was beaten to death by one of Hera's Enforcers, a creature made of fire. A distraught Hercules carried his body directly into the underworld, then browbeat Hades into making a deal which resulted in Iolaus being brought back to life.
The fourth time was at the beginning of the fifth season, when Iolaus was killed by Gilgamesh, who in turn was possessed by the demon Dahak. Dahak then took over Iolaus' body, creating havoc throughout Greece and Sumeria, and was finally exorcised by Hercules and Iolaus together at the end of the Dahak Crisis. Iolaus then went to an unspecified afterlife, but one which recognized his service in life "to the light" (on the side of good). At that time, the plan was for Iolaus to remain dead, which caused a great deal of turmoil in the fandom, and many fans stopped watching the show. (It also inspired a large amount of fanfic with alternate realities where Iolaus wasn't killed, and many stories where he was brought back to life.) Michael Hurst returned to the show playing the character of "The Jester" for a few episodes, an alternate version of Iolaus from another dimension who couldn't fight and tended to faint from terror.
In the final episode of the fifth season, the main Iolaus returned to the show. He escaped to the world of the living to warn Hercules about the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. He then finished out the sixth season traveling with Hercules until the show ended.
In the flash forward episode For Those of You Just Joining Us, Hercules says Iolaus lived to be 100.
Mirror versions and lookalikes
Iolaus had both a doppelgänger, his distant cousin Orestes, the King of Attica, and a Strange World counterpart also called Iolaus, who was a jester and an inventor. Iolaus 2 left his life with Hercules so he could become a merman to help Nautica to return to the sea, and he spent the rest of his days with her.
There was also the Widow Twanky, who for some reason has never been seen in the same room with Iolaus.
- He wore an earring starting from season 3 onwards, which constantly changed between it being a single earring and a set of two. It was popular among fans, who found it gave the character an edge.
- Micheal Hurst was given a large and heavy pounamu pendant necklace which he wore on Hercules. During a particularly energetic action scene the pendant bumped his teeth. The producers felt the ornament suited the nature of the programme yet considered it a safety risk, and had it replaced with a latex replica.
- Iolaus was played by Michael Hurst, with appearances made by Dean O'Gorman and Daniel James as younger versions of the character.
- In Greek mythology, Iolaus is the son of Heracles's half/twin brother, Iphicles. He accompanied his uncle on many of his journeys, including some of the famous Twelve Labors (in particular, it was Iolaus who cauterized each neck of the Hydra).
- Iolaus was also the foremost of Heracles' (many) male lovers and many versions of the myth have Iolaus be the one to light Heracles' funeral pyre.
- That Iolaus outlived Heracles makes his many on-screen deaths rather ironic.
- Iolaus was regarded as an ancestor of the Sardinians and the royal house of Corinth (Jason's line having died out). He was venerated by heroic cults in Thebes (as the lover of Heracles) and in Corinth (as a founding hero).
- The Golden Hunter. This epithet was never attached to Iolaus on the show, but it became very popular in fandom, to the extent that Iolaus is often called just 'the hunter' in fanfic. (And never, for example, 'the warrior' or 'the mortal', or even 'the blacksmith'.) The fanon apparently got back to the show's creators, which resulted in official "Iolaus, the Golden Hunter" T-shirts.
- The Pallid Hunter. Cf. We Always Hurt the One We Love, an essay by Helena Handbasket, which describes (and derides) the fanon where Iolaus is a wimpy, pathetic figure who always needs to be rescued, and who is treated appallingly badly by Hercules.
- Iolaus' sons: most fanfic that deals with Iolaus' and Ania's ill-fated offspring suggest one child, almost always a son. Sometimes there are two sons, sometimes three. In an interview, Michael Hurst stated that he was told that Iolaus had two sons, and in Maze of the Minotaur Iolaus refers to the difficulties of being a single parent after Ania's death. The children are never mentioned again. In mythology, Iolaus was noted for his beautiful daughters, not sons.
- A large amount of slash fiction exists in which Hercules and Iolaus are lovers. This is somewhat ironic considering HTLJ contains little subtext, but Heracles and Iolaus were in fact lovers in most versions of the original myth.
- Hercules and the Amazon Women
- HTLJ: "Regrets... I've Had a Few"
- HTLJ: "For Those of You Just Joining Us"
- HTLJ: "Not Fade Away"
- HTLJ: "Armageddon Now"
- HTLJ: "Hero's Heart"
- HTLJ: "Redemption"
- HTLJ: "Darkness Visible"
- HTLJ: "When a Man Loves a Woman"
- HTLJ: "The Warrior Princess"
- XWP: "Prometheus"
- HTLJ: "Cast a Giant Shadow"
- HTLJ: "The Apple"
- HTLJ: "King For A Day"
- HTLJ: "Love Takes a Holiday"
- HTLJ: "The Lady and the Dragon"
- HTLJ: "Faith"
- HTLJ: "A Wicked Good Time"
- HTLJ: "Reunions"