Today almost completely forgotten, Omphale - queen of the Iron Age kingdom of Lydia located in the west of contemporary Turkey - is perhaps the subject of a long slow erasure from the canon of Western mythology.
Here Omphale is represented with the symbolic attributes of Hercules who for a period was both her slave and her lover. With his olive-wood club at the ready she stands powerfully wearing only his lion skin cape.
The best known story associated with Omphale describes the nature of her intimate relationship with Hercules. The little known ancient tale describes how as penalty for the murder of Iphitus, Hercules was remanded - by the Delphic Oracle - into three years of slavery to Omphale.
During the period of enslavement Omphale insisted on the reversal of their gender roles, through which she, wearing his Nemean lion skin cape, takes up his olive-wood club and goes hunting while he stays at home naked, spinning wool.
The gender specific role reversal in the relationship between Omphale and Hercules enabled ancient writers and artists to explore public conceptions of gender and the social politics of sexual and erotic themes. Some late Hellenistic and Roman texts and images describe the hyper masculine Hercules being humiliated by being forced to do womens work, while others describe him wearing luxuriant oriental womens clothing.