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I know Achilles was born around 1200-1100 BC because he participated in the Trojan War, but I do not know when Hercules was born, nor Theseus for that matter.

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Chronologically, it goes Hercules/Heracles, Theseus, and then Achilles in the main mythological accounts.

Achilles is last. Hercules older by far because he's the one who placed child Priam on the throne, and Priam was far older than Achilles in the Iliad. Achilles was essentially the baby of the Greek kings, likely younger even then Priam's son Hector. So Hercules is far, far older than Achilles.

With regards to Theseus, Heracles is still older. Pausanias has this story about them both going to the house of Pittheus. Heracles is a grown man, and Theseus is 7 years old.

[1.27.7] One of the Troezenian legends about Theseus is the following. When Heracles visited Pittheus at Troezen, he laid aside his lion's skin to eat his dinner, and there came in to see him some Troezenian children with Theseus, then about seven years of age. The story goes that when they saw the skin the other children ran away, but Theseus slipped out not much afraid, seized an axe from the servants and straightway attacked the skin in earnest, thinking it to be a lion.

[1.27.8] This is the first Troezenian legend about Theseus. The next is that Aegeus placed boots and a sword under a rock as tokens for the child, and then sailed away to Athens; Theseus, when sixteen years old, pushed the rock away and departed, taking what Aegeus had deposited. There is a representation of this legend on the Acropolis, everything in bronze except the rock.

Of course, Greek mythical figures aren't real (as depicted), so you might find some inconsistencies in accounts, but I think other stories can fit well with the chronology. For example, in Sophocles Oedipus goes to Athens to see King Theseus. Well, Oedipus' kids fought each other in the war of the Epigoni, which was the war right before the Trojan War. If Achilles was a child or even not born yet during the Epigoni, that would also confirm Theseus' seniority over him.

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  • It’s real enough in its own way, but not in the way that Parmenides of Elea defined reality, with his radical claim that truth is one. Greek myth routinely traffics in multiple contradictory versions. And the dating of Theseus, relative to other mythic heroes, is very much a case in point. Some make him an Argonaut, but Euripides’ Medea presents Aegeus complaining of lifelong infertility after the Argonautic Quest. And relative to archaeology (though that is always a problematic relation), the Labyrinth story seemingly evokes Minoan neopalatial (~C18–15 B.C.). Nov 20 at 16:39
  • @BrianDonovan I would consider the origin of the heroes in Greek mythology to be a separate question from what OP asked, at least how it's worded now, so I wouldn't exactly consider the Minoan provenance of the Minotaur story (which may not even have originally included Theseus!) as relevant. But you're right that Theseus is very much difficult to pin down, since Attic writers tried to shoehorn him in every event, even where he clearly doesn't belong.
    – cmw
    Nov 20 at 23:35
  • I once called BS on a lecturer who claimed that Horatio Nelson (1758–1805) played a commanding role in a certain naval action of the early 1760s; but I would never similarly presume to tell ancient Attic writers in which myths Theseus does or doesn't belong. Pace Schliemann et al., myth is not history; it is not obliged to conform to actuality, consistency, or probability. Nov 21 at 13:59
  • Also, the sons of Oedipus fought and killed one another during the war of the Seven Against Thebes; among the Epigoni, Oedipus's bloodline is represented by his grandsons (though his sons are also his half-brothers, and his grandsons thus also his nephews). Nov 21 at 14:09
  • @BrianDonovan I do think even the ancients had a difficult time grasping that, although it's unfortunately impossible to reconstruct exactly what they were thinking when they wrote a story that contradicted another or denied a story altogether. I do know that, especially the later we go, the more the poets' tales are considered historical yet heavily embellished. So you may not have told an Attic writer that Theseus wasn't around for Oedipus, but Greeks were fine doign so. Cf. e.g. Pindar Olympians 1 in which he denies the older stories of Tantalus' sacrifice of his son.
    – cmw
    Nov 21 at 14:20

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