Hercules

Hercules is an icon of Greek mythology. What made him so strong though, and why is he always thought of as a super-god?

Think of the name "Hercules", and you'll likely draw up the modern day connotation of a very strong man. We all know that Hercules was a figure in Greek mythology, but who was this heroic god?

Hercules is arguably greatest hero of Greek mythology. Although he was orignally named "Heracules" by the Greeks, the Romans dubbed him "Hercules" and that name has stuck.

Hercules had an interesting beginning. His father, Zeus, the king of gods, was married to Hera. Hera wanted vengeance, as her husband had fathered Hercules with the beautiful and young Alcmene, who was both a princess and a mortal. Hera spent the rest of her life trying to make the young boy's life miserable by trying very hard to kill him. She started her quest very early in the boy's life, sending two serpents to bite and kill the tiny infant. Hercules was able to strangle both of the vipers before they were able to hurt him.

Hercules married Megara, and had a family with her. Hera continued her quest to distress Hercules by sending him into a phase of madness. During that time Hercules killed his beloved wife and their children. After a trial at Delphi, the edict stated that Hercules was forced to serve the King Eurystheus at Tiryns for a period of 12 years to repent for his crimes. At the end of that period of time, Hercules would be purified.

As Hercules' service, King Eurystheus ordered him to perform 12 duties, which were called "labors." To begin, his first labor dictated that Hercules kill a lion near the place of his birth, Thebes. Wearing the skin as a trophy, people were impressed that Hercules was able to mortally wound the savage beast.

Hercules' second labor meant killing the feared serpent, Hydra of Lerna. Hydra had various heads, which frustrated Hercules because they were able to regenerate almost instantly after they were cut off. He realized that he was getting nowhere with the dreaded Hydra. Hercules enlisted the help of his nephew Iolaus, whom he had brought with him, to burn each neck of the Hydra with fire immediately after each head was cut off. Hercules would cut off a head, and Iolaus would set out to disable it. This worked until they both realized that one of Hydra's heads was not to be stopped by the fire. Hercules buried this particular head underneath a rock and took his arrows out of his pouch, dousing them all with Hydra's blood. The poisoned arrows would be invaluable to Hercules as he pursued his labors, but they would also lead to his undoing.



Hercules was able to capture the giant boar of Erymanthus as his third labor, and the golden-horned stag of Arcadia for this fourth labor. Now over a third of the way finished with his gigantic labor burden, he was able to remove a flock of birds with arrows for feathers from a woods near Lake Stymphalus. This birds had the capability to shoot people with their arrow-feathers and Hercules successfully drove them from the populated area. For his sixth labor, Hercules was able to construct two rivers to flow through King Augeas' stables. These rivers cleaned the stables, and this labor was the last of the first six labors of Hercules. The following six labors took him far from his homeland, and once completed, would grant him immortality.

Hercules had to travel all the way to Crete to perform his seventh labor: to capture the bull belonging to King Minos. After that success, he herded the human-eating horses of King Diomedes all the way from Thrace to Eurytheus, feeding the stunned King Diomedes to them along the way. This meal rendered them unable to eat humans again.

To complete his ninth labor, Hercules got the belt belonging to the queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta, as a reward for prevailing in a battle with her. For his tenth labor, Hercules stole the animals belonging to Geryon, an especially feared monster. He completed his eleventh duty by stealing the wonderful Golden Apples of Hesperides from the Tree of Life. He completed his labors by actually going into the feared underworld of the dead and catching the three-headed watchdog Cerberus. He brought the watchdog to the upperworld.

After fully successfully completing the 12 assigned labors, Hercules got married again, this time to the princess Deiaira. When she was threatened and harassed by Nessus, Hercules shot the perpetrator with one of his poisoned arrows. As Nessus lay dying, he advised Deiaira that if she were ever to lose Hercules' love, she could put some of Nessus' blood on Hercules' robe and she would be able to have him back. Hercules did fall in love with Iola, another princess, and Deiaira remembered the dying Nessus' advice. She did not know, though, that the blood of Nessus' had been poisoned by the same poisoned arrow that killed him, and Hercules became burned over almost his entire body when he put the robe on. In terrible agony, he begged to be put onto a funeral fire to be relieved of his misery. In no time, his body was incinerated, and was taken to the home of the gods, Mount Olympus, where Hercules became a god.

Hercules' twelve labors were successfully carried out, which solidified his place in Greek mythology. The mighty Hercules could not be stopped, and in modern times, his name represents extreme strength.

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