Friday, August 28, 2009



There are many stories about Heracles. Most of them begin with the line “Heracles was the greatest of the Greek heroes”. That is true. But what’s his story, what’s behind the Disney version? He is seen over and over again in Greek and Roman art and I therefore want to spend a few weeks going through the myths surrounding him, the labors and some of the other deeds. Remember that there are many different versions of these myths and I will only present one, which might not follow exactly the stores you’ve heard earlier.

The story begins, as it commonly does in Greek myth, with the gods getting involved with mortals. The mortals who played a role in the beginning of this story were Amphitryon, son of Alcaeus, and Alcmene (which both came from the Perseus Family). Among the immortals we find Zeus and Hera to be involved, the former as the father, the later as the constant plague of Heracles.

The story of his birth and how his destiny is complicated, but I’m going to try to make it simple:

Amphitryon killed Electryon (father of Alcmene) and he and his wife Alcmene got expelled from their home city Argos. They then went to Thebes where the king there, Creon, purified them (which was necessary after the murder). Everything was looking good for the couple at this point but Alcmene refused to sleep with her husband until he avenged the deaths of her brothers as he had promised to (how they got killed is another story) and Amphitryon left Thebes to fulfill this promise. It is after this point Zeus makes his appearance, coming to Alcmenes bed disguised as her husband telling her that the promise has been fulfilled. This is the night when Heracles came into being and Hera soon realized what had happened and she was furious...




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