Ancient Greece Mythology

HERACLES + 12 LABOURS

Heracles (more commonly known by the Romanized version of his name, Hercules) is the most illustrious hero from Greek mythology, famous for his extraordinary strength, courage and masculinity. He is characteristically portrayed as carrying an olive club as a weapon and wearing a lion's skin. Hercules was the son of a woman names Alcmene, who was seduced by Zeus when he disguised himself as her husband Amphitryon. As an illegitimate son of Zeus, Hercules was the subject of great hatred from Hear, Zeus' wife, as Heracles' existence was proof of her husband's infidelity. Heracles was originally named Alcides by his parents, and his name was only changed later in a vain attempt to please Hera (Heracles meaning 'glory of Hera'). Hera supposedly sent two snakes to kill Heracles in his cot, but Heracles strangled a snake in each hand and played with the dead bodies as though they were toys. In his youth Heracles was sent to tend cattle on a mountain after he killed his music tutor, Linus, with a lyre. According to the sophist Prodicus, he was visited here by the nymphs Pleasure and Virtue who offered him a choice of two lives: either comfortable and easy or glorious and brutal. Heracles chose to suffer to achieve great glory.

Heracles' first wife was Megara, with whom he had several children. However, Hera caused Heracles to lose his mind and kill his wife and children in a frenzy. Some versions of the story say that Megara managed to escape, and Heracles later gave her in marriage to his 'eromenos' (young male lover) Iolaus, as a sign of his passage into manhood. Heracles strived to purify himself of his crimes by asking the Oracle what he should do. Hera guided the Oracle into telling Heracles that he must serve King Eurystheus for 12 years. During these 12 years, Heracles completed his "12 Labours"


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