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He is the greatest Hero of Greece He was a personage of quite another orderfrom the great hero of Athens , THESEUS He was what all Greece except Athens mostadmired Hercules embodied what the rest of Greecemost valued His qualities were those the Greeks in generalhonored and admired. Except for unflinding courage, they were notthose that distinguished Theseus. He was the strongest man on Earth and he hadthe supreme self- confidence magnificentphysical strength gives
He considered himself on an “EQUALITYWITH THE GODS” They needed his help to conquer the Giants In the final victory of the Olympians over thebrutish sons of Earth. His arrows played animportant part. He treated the Godsaccordingly. Once when the priestess on Delphi gave noresponse to the question he asked , he seizedthe tripod she sat on and declared that hewould carry it off and have an oracle of hisown. He was willing to fight Apollo but Zeushad to intervene. The quarrel was easilysettled, however.
Throughout Hercules life,he had this perfectconfidence that no matterwho was against him hecould never be defeated,and facts bore him out.Whenever he fought withanyone the issue wascertain beforehand. Hecould be overcome only bya supernatural force. Butnothing that lived in theair, sea or on land everdefeated him.
Once when he was too hot, he pointed anarrow at the sun and threatened to shoot him. There also a time, when that boat he was inwas tossed about by the waves, he told thewaters that he would punish them if they didnot grow calm. His intellect was not strong. His emotionswere. They were quickly aroused and apt to get out ofcontrol, as when he deserted the Agro andforgot all about his comrades and the Quest ofthe Golden Fleece in his despairing grief atlosing his young armor- bearer, HYLAS. (son ofKing Theiodamas of the Dryopians)
Where Hercules came from? Hercules was born in Thebes. He was held to be the son ofAmphitryon, a distinguished general. In those early years, he was calledAlcides, or descendant of Alcaeus, whowas Amphitryon’s father. But in reality, he was the son of Zeus,who had visited Amphitryon’s wifeAlcmena in the shape of her husbandwhen the general was away fighting.
Where Hercules came from?ALCMENA: Mother of Hercules She bore two children:- Hercules to Zeus,- Iphicles to Amphitryon.The difference in the boys’ descent was clearlyshown in the way each acted in face of a greatdanger which came to them before they were ayear old. Hera, as always, was furiously jealousand she determined to kill Hercules
“Hercules, of all of Zeus’sillegitimate childrenseemed to be the focus ofHera’s anger.”
One evening Alcmena gave both the children theirbaths and their fill of milk and laid them in their crib,caressing them and saying, “Sleep my little ones, soulof my soul. Happy be your slumber and happy yourawakening.” She rocked the cradle and in a momentthe babies were asleep. But at the darkest midnightwhen all was silent in the house two great snakescame crawling into the nursery. There was a light inthe room and as the two reared up above the crib,with weaving heads and flickering tongues, thechildren woke…..Next
Iphicles screamed and tried to get out of bed, butHercules sat up and grasped the deadly creaturesby the throat. They turned and twisted and woundtheir coils around his body, but he held them fast.The mother heard Iphicles’ screams and, calling toher husband, rushed to the nursery. There satHercules laughing, in each hand a long limp body.He gave them gleefully to Amphitryon. They weredead. All knew then that the child was destined togreat things.Next
Teiresias, the blindprophet of Thebes, toldAlcmena:“I swear that manyGreek woman as shecards the wool ateventide shall sing ofthis son and you whobore him. He shall bethe hero of allmankind.”
Zeus talked Athena into tricking Hera into sucklingHercules. As the story goes, Athena and Heracame upon a baby abandoned at the walls ofThebes. Athena suggested to Hera to suckle thepoor abandoned baby. Hera did so, but the babysucked so hard that she had to push him away.The force was so strong that the milk from herbreast spurted out and became the Milky Way.**********************************************************************************************
Hercules had several teachers in his youth who taughthim well. Here is a partial list of his teachers and theareas they instructed him in: Amphitrton – chariot driving Autolycus – boxing Castor – art of riding horses in battle Chiron(centaur)- politics, manners, and wisdom Eumolpus – playing the lyre and singing Eurytus – archeryNot only was he well trained, but Hercules also receivedlavish gifts from the gods of Olympus. He was wellequipped with special swords, shields, bows, and horses.
By the time he waseighteen he was full-grown and he killed ,alone by himself, agreat lion which livedin the woods ofCithaeron, theThespian lion. Everafter he wore its skinas a cloak with thehead forming a kindof hood over his ownhead.
His next exploit was to fight and conquer theMinyans, who had been exacting a burdensometribute from the Thebans. The grateful citizens gavehim as a reward the hand of the Princess Megara.When he married Megara, she had borne him threesons, Hera drove Hercules to madness. He killed hischildren and Megara too, as she tried to protect theyoungest. Then his sanity returned. He found himselfin his bloodstained hall, the dead bodies of his sonsand his wife beside him. He had no idea what hadhappened, how they had been killed. He consulted theOracle of Delphi to see how he could purify himself.The oracle instructed him to complete the 12 laborsthat King Eurystheus set before him, and he could bepurified and also attain immortality.
The 12 Labors of Hercules1. To kill the Nemean lion.2. To destroy the Lernaean Hydra.3. To capture the Ceryneian Hind.4. To capture the Erymanthian Boar.5. To clean the Augean Stables.6. To kill the Stymphalian Birds.7. To capture the Cretan Bull.8. To round up the Mares of Diomedes.9. To steal the Girdle of Hippolyte.10. To herd the Cattle of Geryon.11. To fetch the Apples of Hesperides.12. To capture Cerberus.
Labor One: The Nemean LionAs his first Labor, Heracles was challenged tokill the Nemean lion. This was no easy feat, forthe beasts parentage was supernatural and itwas more of a monster than an ordinary lion. Itsskin could not be penetrated by spears orarrows. Heracles blocked off the entrances to thelions cave, crawled into the close confines whereit would have to fight face to face and throttled itto death with his bare hands. Ever afterwards hewore the lions skin as a cloak and its gapingjaws as a helmet.
Labor Two: The HydraKing Eurystheus was so afraid of his heroiccousin that when he saw him coming with theNemean lion on his shoulder, he hid in a storagejar. From this shelter he issued the order for thenext Labor. Heracles was to seek out anddestroy the monstrous and many-headed Hydra.The mythmakers agree that the Hydra lived inthe swamps of Lerna, but they seem to have hadtrouble counting its heads. Some said that theHydra had eight or nine, while others claimed asmany as ten thousand. All agreed, however, thatas soon as one head was beaten down orchopped off, two more grew in its place.
To make matters worse, the Hydras very breathwas lethal. Even smelling its footprints wasenough to kill an ordinary mortal. Fortunately,Heracles was no ordinary mortal. He sought outthe monster in its lair and brought it out intothe open with flaming arrows. But now the fightwent in the Hydras favor. It twined its manyheads around the hero and tried to trip him up.It called on an ally, a huge crab that also lived inthe swamp. The crab bit Heracles in the heeland further impeded his attack. Heracles was onthe verge of failure when he remembered hisnephew, Iolaus, the son of his twin brotherIphicles.
Iolaus, who had driven Heracles to Lerna in achariot, looked on in anxiety as his uncle becameentangled in the Hydras snaky heads. Finally hecould bear it no longer. In response to his unclesshouts, he grabbed a burning torch and dashedinto the fray. Now, as soon as Heracles cut offone of the Hydras heads, Iolaus was there tosear the wounded neck with flame. This keptfurther heads from sprouting. Heracles cut offthe heads one by one, with Iolaus cauterizing thewounds. Finally Heracles lopped off the one headthat was supposedly immortal and buried it deepbeneath a rock.
Labor Three: the Cerynitian HindThe third Labor was the capture of theCerynitian hind. Though a female deer, thisfleet-footed beast had golden horns. It wassacred to Artemis, goddess of the hunt, soHeracles dared not wound it. He hunted it for anentire year before running it down on the banksof the River Ladon in Arcadia. Taking careful aimwith his bow, he fired an arrow between thetendons and bones of the two forelegs, pinning itdown without drawing blood. All the same,Artemis was displeased, but Heracles dodged herwrath by blaming his taskmaster Eurystheus.
Labor Four: the Erymanthian BoarThe fourth Labor took Heracles back to Arcadiain quest of an enormous boar, which he waschallenged to bring back alive. While tracking itdown he stopped to visit the centaur Pholus.This creature -- half-horse, half-man -- wasexamining one of the heros arrows when heaccidentally dropped it on his foot. Because ithad been soaked in poisonous Hydra venom,Pholus succumbed immediately. Heracles finallylocated the boar on Mount Erymanthus andmanaged to drive it into a snowbank,immobilizing it. Flinging it up onto his shoulder,he carried it back to Eurystheus, who cowered asusual in his storage jar.
Labor Five: The Augean StablesEurystheus was very pleased with himself fordreaming up the next Labor, which he was surewould humiliate his heroic cousin. Heracles wasto clean out the stables of King Augeas in asingle day. Augeas possessed vast herds of cattlewhich had deposited their manure in suchquantity over the years that a thick aroma hungover the entire Peloponnesus. Instead ofemploying a shovel and a basket as Eurystheusimagined, Heracles diverted two rivers throughthe stableyard and got the job done withoutgetting dirty. But because he had demandedpayment of Augeas, Eurystheus refused to countthis as a Labor.
Labor Six: The Stymphalian BirdsThe sixth Labor pitted Heracles against theStymphalian birds, who inhabited a marsh nearLake Stymphalus in Arcadia. The sources differas to whether these birds feasted on humanflesh, killed men by shooting them with feathersof brass or merely constituted a nuisancebecause of their number. Heracles could notapproach the birds to fight them - the groundwas too swampy to bear his weight and toomucky to wade through. Finally he resorted tosome castanets given to him by the goddessAthena. By making a racket with these, hecaused the birds to take wing. And once theywere in the air, he brought them down by thedozens with his arrows.
Labor Seven: the Cretan BullQueen Pasiphae of Crete had been inspired by avengeful god to fall in love with a bull, with theresult that the Minotaur was born -- a monsterhalf-man and half-bull that haunted theLabyrinth of King Minos. Pasiphaes husbandwas understandably eager to be rid of the bull,which was also ravaging the Cretan countryside,so Hercules was assigned the task as hisseventh Labor. Although the beast belchedflames, the hero overpowered it and shipped itback to the mainland. It ended up near Athens,where it became the duty of another hero,Theseus, to deal with it once more.
Labor Eight: the Mares of DiomedesNext Heracles was instructed to bringEurystheus the mares of Diomedes. Thesehorses dined on the flesh of travelers who madethe mistake of accepting Diomedes hospitality.In one version of the myth, Heracles pacified thebeasts by feeding them their own master. Inanother, they satisfied their appetites on theheros squire, a young man named Abderus. Inany case, Heracles soon rounded them up andherded them down to sea, where he embarkedthem for Tiryns. Once he had shown them toEurystheus, he released them. They wereeventually eaten by wild animals on MountOlympus.
Labor Nine: Hippolytes BeltThe ninth Labor took Heracles to the land of theAmazons, to retrieve the belt of their queen forEurystheus daughter. The Amazons were a raceof warrior women, great archers who hadinvented the art of fighting from horseback.Heracles recruited a number of heroes toaccompany him on this expedition, among themTheseus. As it turned out, the Amazon queen,Hippolyte, willingly gave Hercules her belt, butHera was not about to let the hero get off soeasily. The goddess stirred up the Amazons witha rumor that the Greeks had captured theirqueen, and a great battle ensued. Heracles madeoff with the belt, and Theseus kidnapped anAmazon princess.
Labor Ten: the Cattle of GeryonIn creating monsters and formidable foes, theGreek mythmakers used a simple technique ofmultiplication. Thus Geryon, the owner of somefamous cattle that Heracles was now instructedto steal, had three heads and/or three separatebodies from the waist down. His watchdog,Orthrus, had only two heads. This Labor tookplace somewhere in the country we know asSpain. The hound Orthrus rushed at Heracles ashe was making off with the cattle, and the herokilled him with a single blow from the woodenclub which he customarily carried. Geryon wasdispatched as well, and Heracles drove the herdback to Greece, taking a wrong turn along theway and passing through Italy.
Labor Eleven: the Apples of the HesperidesThe Hesperides were nymphs entrusted by thegoddess Hera with certain apples which she hadreceived as a wedding present. These were keptin a grove surrounded by a high wall andguarded by Ladon, a many-headed dragon. Thegrove was located in the far-western mountainsnamed for Atlas, one of the Titans or firstgeneration of gods. Atlas had sided with one ofhis brothers in a war against Zeus. Inpunishment, he was compelled to support theweight of the heavens by means of a pillar on hisshoulders. Heracles, in quest of the apples, hadbeen told that he would never get the themwithout the aid of Atlas.
The Titan was only too happy to oblige. He toldthe hero to hold the pillar while he went toretrieve the fruit. But first Heracles had to killthe dragon by means of an arrow over thegarden wall. Atlas soon returned with the applesbut now realized how nice it was not to have tostrain for eternity keeping heaven and earthapart. Heracles wondered if Atlas would mindtaking back the pillar just long enough for himto fetch a cushion for his shoulder. The Titanobliged and Heracles strolled off, neglecting toreturn.
Labor Twelve: the Capture of CerberusAs his final Labor, Heracles was instructed tobring the hellhound Cerberus up from Hades,the kingdom of the dead. The first barrier to thesouls journey beyond the grave was the mostfamous river of the Underworld, the Styx. Herethe newly dead congregated as insubstantialshades, mere wraiths of their former selves,awaiting passage in the ferryboat of Charon theBoatman. Charon wouldnt take anyone acrossunless they met two conditions. Firstly, they hadto pay a bribe in the form of a coin under thecorpses tongue. And secondly, they had to bedead. Heracles met neither condition, acircumstance which aggravated Charons naturalgrouchiness.
But Heracles simply glowered so fiercely thatCharon meekly conveyed him across the Styx.The greater challenge was Cerberus, who hadrazor teeth, three (or maybe fifty) heads, avenomous snake for a tail and another swarm ofsnakes growing out of his back. These lashed atHeracles while Cerberus lunged for a purchaseon his throat. Fortunately, the hero was wearinghis trusty lions skin, which was impenetrable byanything short of a thunderbolt from Zeus.Heracles eventually choked Cerberus intosubmission and dragged him to Tiryns, where hereceived due credit for this final Labor.
Further AdventuresFurther Adventuresof Herculesof Hercules…………………………………………
After completing these tasks, Hercules joined the Argonauts in asearch for the Golden Fleece. They rescued heroines, conqueredTroy, and helped the gods fight against the Gigantes. He alsofell in love with Princess Iole of Oechalia. King Eurytus ofOechalia promised his daughter, Iole, to whoever could beat hissons in an archery contest. Heracles won but Eurytusabandoned his promise. Heracles advances were spurned bythe king and his sons, except for one: Ioles brother Iphitus.Heracles killed the king and his sons–excluding Iphitus–andabducted Iole. Iphitus became Heracles best friend. However,once again, Hera drove Heracles mad and he threw Iphitusover the city wall to his death. Once again, Heracles purifiedhimself through three years of servitude — this time to QueenOmphale of Lydia.
OmphaleOmphale was a queen or princess of Lydia. As penaltyfor a murder, imposed by Xenoclea, the DelphicOracle, Heracles was to serve as her slave for a year.He was forced to do womens work and to wearwomens clothes, while she wore the skin of theNemean Lion and carried his olive-wood club. Aftersome time, Omphale freed Heracles and married him.Some sources mention a son born to them who isvariously named. It was at that time that the cercopes,mischievous wood spirits, stole Heracles weapons. Hepunished them by tying them to a stick with theirfaces pointing downward.
HylasWhile walking through the wilderness, Heracles was set upon bythe Dryopes. In Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica it is recalledthat Heracles had mercilessly slain their king, Theiodamas, overone of the latters bulls, and made war upon the Dryopes"because they gave no heed to justice in their lives". After thedeath of their king, the Dryopes gave in and offered him PrinceHylas. He took the youth on as his weapons bearer and beloved.Years later, Heracles and Hylas joined the crew of the Argo. AsArgonauts, they only participated in part of the journey. InMysia, Hylas was kidnapped by the nymphs of a local spring.Heracles, heartbroken, searched for a long time but Hylas hadfallen in love with the nymphs and never showed up again. Inother versions, he simply drowned. Either way, the Argo set sailwithout them.
Rescue of PrometheusHesiods Theogony and AeschylusPrometheus Unbound both tell that Heraclesshot and killed the eagle that torturedPrometheus (which was his punishment byZeus for stealing fire from the gods and givingit to mortals). Heracles freed the Titan fromhis chains and his torments. Prometheus thenmade predictions regarding further deeds ofHeracles.
Hercules was married to Deianeira. One day, longafter Hercules marriage to Deianeira, the centaurNessus offered to ferry them across a wide river thatthey had to cross. Nessus set off with Deianeira first,but tried to abduct her. When Hercules realized thecentaurs real intention, Hercules chased after himand shot him with an arrow which was poisonedwith Hydras blood. Before he died, Nessus toldDeianeira to take some of his blood and treasure it,since it was a very powerful medicine and: if she everthought Hercules was being unfaithful, the centaurtold her, the blood would restore his love. Deianeirakept the vial of blood.
Many years after that incident she heard rumoursthat Hercules had fallen in love with another woman.She smeared some of the blood on a robe and sent it toHercules by a servant named Lichas. Lichas spilledsome blood on the floor and when the suns rays fellon it the blood begun to burn. Because of thisDeianeira began to suspect Nessuss advice anddecided to send another servant to fetch Lichas backbefore he could hand over the blood soaked robe toHercules. She was too late. Hercules had already puton the robe and when he did so the blood stillpoisoned from the same arrow used by Hercules,burnt into his flesh. When he jumped into a nearbyriver in hope of extinguishing the fire, it only made itworse. When he tried to rip off the robe from his bodyhis organs were also ripped off with it.
Furiously, Hercules caught Lichas and tossedhim into the sea. After that he told his friendPhiloctetes to build him a pyre on themountain Oata. He was burnt to death on thepyre. Before dying, Hercules offered his bowand arrows as a token of gratitude toPhiloctetes. His father Zeus then turned himinto a god. Deianeira, after hearing what shehad caused, committed suicide.
Hercules was the only hero to become a full-fledgedgod upon his demise, but even in his case there washis mortal aspect to be dealt with. By virtue of hisspectacular achievements, even by heroic standards,he was given a home on Mount Olympus and agoddess for a wife. But part of him had come notfrom his father Zeus but from his mortal motherAlcmene, and that part was sent to the Underworld.As a phantasm it eternally roams the Elysian Fieldsin the company of other heroes.He was taken to heaven, where he was reconciled toHera and married her daughter Hebe.