According to Pausanias, Aetolus' mother was called Asterodia, Chromia, or Hyperippe. He was married to Pronoe, by whom he had two sons, Pleuron and Calydon. His brothers were Paeon, Epeius, Eurycyda, and Naxos. In one account, Aetolus was the son of Protogenia by Zeus and the brother of Aethlius, Opus and possibly Dorus. Another myth, also described Aetolus as the son of Amphictyon and father of Physcius, father of Locrus.
Aetolus father compelled him and his two brothers Paeon and Epeius to decide by a contest at Olympia as to which of them was to succeed him in his kingdom of Elis. Epeius gained the victory, and occupied the throne after his father, and on his demise he was succeeded by Aetolus. During the funeral games which were celebrated in honor of Azan, he ran with his chariot over Apis, the son of Jason or Salmoneus, and killed him, whereupon he was expelled by the sons of Apis. The kingdom then passed to Eleius, son of his sister Eurycyda. After leaving Peloponnesus, he went to the country of the Curetes, between the Achelous and the Corinthian gulf, where he slew Dorus, Laodocus, and Polypoetes, the sons of Apollo and Phthia, and gave to the country the name of Aetolia. This story is only a mythical account of the colonization of Aetolia.