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The Heraclides (also known as Heraclids or Heracleidae) were an ancient Greek people who claimed that they were descended from the mythological Herakles. According to myth, the three sons of Herakles were from a region in Greece called Doris. They were exiled from their homeland after their father's death, but they eventually returned to win their territory back. This is mentioned in Herodotus' The History, when he says that the Athenians claim that they, along with the Heracleidae, "abolished the insolence of Eurytheus and conquered all those who then held the Peloponnese." This mythological explanation refers to what is now known as the Dorian Invasion.

Carlyle's reference to the Heraclides comes toward the end of “Signs of the Times,” when, after criticizing what he sees as an age of Mechanism, he speaks of a faith that humanity has continuously been on a path toward improvement, even from its ancient, mythological origins:

However it may be with individual nations, whatever melancholic speculators may assert, it seems a well-ascertained fact, that in all times, reckoning even from those of the Heraclides and Pelasgi, the happiness and greatness of mankind at large have been continually progressive.

After arguing that the current age of Mechanism is greatly detrimental to society, in part because it stops people from looking inside themselves and examining the things in the world that cannot be easily or scientifically explained, it is interesting that Carlyle shifts his tone as his piece ends. He seems to be saying that, despite the fact that society has recently become preoccupied with simple facts, machines, and sciences, it will nevertheless continue to grow and improve. Perhaps his current age therefore only represents a temporary decline in metaphysical thought and is just a necessary step on the path to a greater, more intelligent society. Similar to the way in which the Heraclides reclaimed their homeland, Carlyle seems to be suggesting that there is hope for humanity to reclaim their brilliant intellectual and philosophical beginnings before the age of machines.

Bibliography

"Dorians." Minnesota State University, Mankato. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.

Herodotus. The History. Trans. David Grene. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. 623-625. Print.


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Last modified 24 March 2010