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Greek Mythology: Hercules




 Hercules is best known as the strongest of all mortals, stronger than many gods. He was the last mortal son of Zeus and was the only man born of mortal woman to become a god upon his death.

Zeus was not always a good husband to his Queen, Hera. He had an affair with a beautiful woman named Alcmene and made her pregnant. She gave birth to Hercules. The infidelity enraged Hera, who would forever despise Hercules. A few months after his birth, Hera put two serpents in his cradle, but the prodigious infant promptly strangled them. When he was a young man, Hercules defended Thebes from the armies of a neighboring city, Orchomenus, and married Megara, daughter of King Creon. But Hera later drove Hercules insane, and in his madness he killed his wife and children.

After he had recovered his sanity, for 12 years he sought purification at the court of King Eurystheus of
Tiryns. During those years, the King instructed Hercules to undertake 12 arduous labors: first he killed the Nemean lion, then killed the Hydra, a serpent with many heads; he caught the Erymanthian boar and the Cerynean hind; drove off the Stymphalian birds; cleaned the stables of Augeas; captured the Cretan bull and the horses of Diomed; stole the girdle of the Amazon queen Hippolyte; killed the winged giant Geryon; captured the beast Cerberus; and for his last labor, took the golden apples of Hesperides.

After his labors were completed, Hercules was involved in many other adventures and combats, including the famous Argonaut expedition.

When the centaur Nessus seized his second wife, Deianira,, Hercules killed Nessus with arrows dipped in the poisonous blood of the Hydra. As he died, Nessus told Deianira that blood from his wound would restore Hercules' love for her if ever it were to die. Years later, Deianira did indeed feel that her husband was growing tired of her and so sought to win back her husband's love. She contrived to have him wear a robe smeared with the blood. The robe stuck to Hercules' skin, burning him unbearably. In agony, he built a huge pyre atop Mt Oite and had it set afire. His mortal parts burned away, but the rest rose to heaven, where he was finally reconciled with Hera and married Hebe.

Although worshipped as a god, Hercules was properly a hero, with people frequently coming to him for protection from various evils. Hercules is often portrayed as a powerful, muscular man wearing a lion's skin and carrying a huge club. Perhaps the most famous statue of him is in the
National Museum in Naples. He is the hero of plays by Sophocles, Euripides, and Seneca.


Why It Is a Myth: The Story of Hercules is a myth since it is a very ancient story that shows the cultural beliefs in a specific civilization, in this case the Greeks. The story of Hercules is also a sort of fictional character that has is seem as a possible hero in the Greek Culture.