Heracles : The Greek Hero
Heracles, also known as Hercules, is one of the most celebrated characters in Greek mythology. He was the son of Zeus and the goddess Hera, and he was regarded as a symbol of bravery and strength. Even today, people still use the word “Herculean” to refer to this mythological hero.
He had many interesting stories to tell, as he appeared in hundreds of myths. Heracles was almost killed after his wife, Deianira, gave him a poisoned shirt, which caused him to experience severe pain. To end his suffering, he built a funeral pyre on Mount Oeta. He climbed on top of the pyre and waited for someone to pass by so it could be set alight.
After his friend Poeas lit the fire, Heracles was then burned to death. He was then taken to Mount Olympus and became an immortal deity where he married the goddess Hebe.
According to Greek mythology, Heracles was the strongest man that ever lived. He was depicted as a large and muscular man, and he could be identified by his various weapons, such as his bow, his club, and the skin of the Nemean Lion.
Heracles was son of Alcmene and Zeus while also being the foster child of Amphitryon. He was a half-brother and great-grandson of Perseus as well as a half-brother of Dionysus. He was regarded as one of the greatest Greek heroes, and he was an Olympian who fought against chthonic monster and also the ancestor of royal clans who claimed to be Heracleidae.
In Greek mythology, Heracles was a promiscuous person like his father Zeus, and took on numerous male and female lovers during his lifetime. His romantic hetrosexual affairs almost always resulted in childern being born which has been estimated to be over 105 which included 50 sons with the 50 daughters of Thespius. He was married 4 times.
After they got married, he killed all his children from his first wife, Megara, who was the daughter of Creon, the king of Thebes. This was due to a fit of madness sent upon him by the goddess Hera. Because of this, he was forced to become Eurystheus’ servant. His second wife, Omphale, was a Lydian queen, while his third wife, Deianira, was the daughter of a river god known as Achelous. His fourth wife, Hebe, was his last wife.
The name Heracles was derived from the Greek word kleos, which literally means “glory,” and the name of the goddess Hera, who was his lifelong enemy and an homage to the goddess. In various languages, Hercules‘ name is used as a male name, such as Hercule in French, Iraklis in Greek, and Irakli in Georgian.
Powers and Abilities
Hercules was known for his incredible feats, such as traveling to the underworld twice and wrestling death. Despite his accomplishments, his life was not easy, as Hera, the wife of Zeus, knew that he was her husband’s illegitimate child and sought to destroy him. He was born with the name of Alcaeus. He then changed his name to Herakles, which literally means “Glory of Hera,” to reflect on his life with the goddess.
The Greek version of Heracles had numerous other tasks and heroic adventures but he is still known for the 12 labours that he had to do as punishment for killing his children.
- To kill the Nemean Lion who was impervious to all weapons.
- To kill the monster known as the Hydra who had nine venomous heads and, when one was cut off, two more would grow in its place.
- To capture the Cerynitian Hind who was sacred to the goddess Artemis.
- To capture the Erymanthian Boar.
- Cleaning the Stables of Augeius in a day.
- To drive away the Stymphalian Birds.
- To bring back the Cretan Bull from Knossos.
- To bring back the Mares of Diomedes.
- To bring back Hippolyte’s Girdle.
- To bring back the cattle of Geryon, king of Cadiz.
- To bring back the Golden Apples of Hesperides.
- To bring back Cerberus, the guard dog of the underworld.
Modern Day Influence
In various parts of Greece, Heracles was regarded as a god and a hero. Festivals celebrating his life and accomplishments were called Heracleia. These festivals were usually held in various regions such as the Peloponnese, the Attica, and the Thebes. In northern Greece, a festival celebrating Heracles was held in Ambracia. Another festival that was held in his honor was called the Iolaia, which was held in Thebes.
Heracles was first introduced to a younger audience in Disney’s 1997 film, which was directed by John Lee. In the 1990s, actor Kevin Sorbo played the role of Hercules in a television series, as well as in various movie projects. In 2014, the film was remade by actor and former professional wrestler, Dwayne Johnson. Heracles also features in Rick Riordan’s young adult book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Heracles is regarded as the mythological equivalent of a demigod or mortal hero, and his larger-than-life exploits are often the focus of his portrayal.