From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia This article is about the Roman mythological hero. For the Greek mythic hero from which Hercules was adapted, see Heracles. For other uses, see Hercules (disambiguation).Gilded bronze Roman "Hercules of the Theatre of Pompeii", found near the Theatre of Pompeii in 184, (Vatican Museums, Rome)Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus (the Greek equivalent of the Roman god Jupiter) and the mortal Alcmene. Early Roman sources suggest that the imported Greek hero supplanted a mythic Italic shepherd called "Recaranus" or "Garanus", famous for his strength who dedicated the Ara Maxima that became associated with the earliest Roman cult of Hercules. While adopting much of the Greek Heracles' iconography and mythology as his own, Hercules adopted a number of myths and characteristics that were distinctly Roman. With the spread of Roman hegemony, Hercules was worshipped locally from Hispania through Gaul.
Hercules' Latin name was not directly borrowed from Greek Herakles but is a modification of the Etruscan name Herceler, which derives from the Greek name via syncope, Heracles translates to "The Glory of Hera". An oath invoking Hercules (Hercule! or Mehercle!) was a common interjection in Classical Latin.
Hercules, Hatra, Iraq, Parthian period, 1st-2nd century CE.In Roman works of art and in Renaissance and post-Renaissance art that adapts Roman iconography, Hercules can be identified by his attributes, the lion skin and the gnarled club (his favorite weapon); in mosaic he is shown tanned bronze, a virile aspect.
According to mythology, Hercules was the illegitimate son of Jupiter (Zeus) and Alcmene, the wisest and most beautiful of all mortal women. Juno (Hera) was enraged at Jupiter for his infidelity and even more so that he placed the infant Hercules at her breast to feed as she slept. Feeding from Juno caused Hercules to be partially immortal, allowing him to surpass all mortal men in strength, size and skill.
Juno held a grudge against Hercules and sent him into a blind frenzy, in which he killed all of his children and his wife. When Hercules regained his sanity, he sought out the Oracle at Delphi in the hope of making atonement. The Oracle ordered Hercules to serve Eurystheus, king of Mycenae, who sent him on a series of tasks known as the Labors of Hercules. These tasks are told in this order: Main article: Labours of Hercules===To kill the Nemean lion=== The Nemean lion was a ferocious monster with a hide that could not be pierced by any weapon. This made it near impossible to kill, but Hercules managed to strangle the monster with his bare hands, using his unusual strength. After he had strangled the lion, he used one of its claws to skin the monster and he wore the hide, which retained its magical properties, until his death. When Hercules returned, Eurystheus was so terrified that he forbade him access to the city and ordered a large urn to be constructed should he need to hide from Hercules.
To destroy the Lernaean HydraEdit
The Lernaean Hydra was a monster that lurked in the swamps near a small settlement called Lerna and had nine heads. This monster frequently terrorized the nearby countryside. For this labour, Hercules was accompanied by his nephew Iolaus. When they found the Hydra, Hercules soon discovered that if he cut off one head, two more would grow back. Hercules managed to defeat the Hydra when Iolaus held a torch to each of the stumps so that the flames prevented new heads from growing. After he had slain the Hydra, Hercules dipped his arrows in its blood, which was poisonous.
To capture the Ceryneian Hind aliveEdit
Eurystheus and Hera were greatly angered to find that Hercules had managed to escape from the claws of the Nemean Lion and the fangs of the Lernaean Hydra, and so decided to spend more time thinking up a third task that would spell doom for the hero. The third task did not involve killing a beast, as it had already been established that Hercules could overcome even the most fearsome opponents, so Eurystheus decided to make him capture the Ceryneian Hind, as it was so fast it could outrun an arrow.
After beginning the search, Hercules awoke from sleeping and he could see the hind from the glint on its antlers. Hercules then chased the Hind on foot for a full year through Greece, Thrace, Istria and the land of the Hyperboreans. In some versions, he captured the Hind while it slept, rendering it lame with a trap net. In other versions, he encountered Artemis in her temple and she told him to leave the Hind and tell Eurystheus all that had happened and his third labor would be considered to be completed. Yet another version claims that Hercules trapped the Hind with an arrow between the forelegs of the creature.
Eurystheus had given Hercules this task hoping to incite Artemis' anger at Hercules for his desecration of her sacred animal. As he was returning with the Hind, Hercules encountered Artemis and her brother Apollo. He begged the goddess for forgiveness, explaining that he had to catch it as part of his penance, but he promised to return it. Artemis forgave him, foiling Eurystheus' plan to have her punish him.
Upon bringing the Hind to Eurystheus, he was told that it was to become part of the King's menagerie. Hercules knew that he had to return the Hind as he had promised, so he agreed to hand it over on the condition that Eurystheus himself come out and take it from him. The King came out, but the moment Hercules let the Hind go, it sprinted back to its mistress, and Hercules left saying that Eurystheus had not been quick enough. Eurystheus, upset that Hercules had managed to overcome yet another creature, told him to bring the fearsome Erymanthian Boar back to him alive.
To trap the Erymanthian boarEdit
Hercules was sent to trap Erymanthian Boar. This boar lived on the mountain called Erymanthus. Once a day, the boar would come down from the mountain and attack all the humans and wild animals in the vicinity and destroy everything in its path. While hunting the boar, Hercules stopped at his friend's house. His friend, Pholus, was a centaur. When Hercules asked for wine, Pholus said no because the wine belonged to all of the Centaurs. Hercules waved the warning aside and opened the jar. The Centaurs smelled the wine and were angry to find Hercules drinking all the wine. Hercules attacked the Centaurs with his club. Then he shot arrows at the Centaurs. While Hercules chased the centaurs, Pholus took an arrow from one of his dead fellow centaurs' body and wondered how such a small object could kill such a large being. The arrow slipped and fell on Pholus's foot killing him instantly. Hercules returned to find his friend dead. Hercules buried Pholus and continued his quest. Hercules found the boar by listening to the snorts of the boar while it was eating. Hercules startled the boar and ran after it while it ran around the mountain. Hercules finally trapped it in a thick snow bank. Then Hercules caught the boar in the net and carried it back to Eurystheus. Eurystheus was so scared of Hercules's power that he hid in a bronze jar.
To clean the Augean stablesEdit
Augeas was king of Elis. His stables, which had gone uncleaned for over 30 years, contained over a thousand cattle. To make the labor more challenging, Hercules had to clean the stables in one day. Hercules went to Augeas and told him that he would clean the stables if Hercules could get a tenth of the cattle. Augeas was surprised but agreed. To have proof, Hercules brought Augeas's son with him. He then made two big holes in the walls of the stables that were opposite to each other. Hercules then cleaned the stables by rerouting rivers into the stables. The labor was done. When Hercules returned to Augeas, Augeas found out that Eurystheus was behind this. Augeas refused to give the cattle. He also denied that he even offered an award. Hercules went to a judge and the judge ruled in Hercules's favor. Augeas was enraged and banished both Hercules and Augeas's son, as he was angry at his son for testifying for Hercules. Augeas's son went to his aunt's house and Hercules returned to Eurystheus. Eurystheus said that the labour did not count because Hercules was paid for the job and that it was the rivers, not Hercules, who cleaned the stable.
To butcher of the Stymphalian birdsEdit
After cleaning the Augean Stables, Eurystheus sent Heracles to defeat the Stymphalian Birds. Heracles could not go too far into the swamp, for it would not support his weight. Athena, noticing the hero's plight, gave Heracles bells which Hephaestus had made especially for the occasion. Heracles shook the bells and frightened the birds into the air. Heracles then shot many of them with his arrows. The rest flew far away, never to return. The Argonauts would later encounter them. Heracles then brought some of the birds he had killed to Eurystheus. He then sent Heracles to capture the Cretan Bull and bring it to him.
To capture the Cretan bullEdit
Whistling merrily at his success so far, Heracles was then sent to capture the bull by Eurystheus as his seventh task. He sailed to Crete, whereupon the King, Minos, gave Heracles permission to take the bull away and offered him assistance, which Heracles denied because of pride, as it had been wreaking havoc on Crete by uprooting crops and leveling orchard walls. Heracles snuck up behind the bull and then used his hands to strangle it, and then shipped it back to Athens. Eurystheus, who hid in his pithos at first sight of the creature, wanted to sacrifice the bull to Hera, who hated Heracles. She refused the sacrifice because it reflected glory on Heracles. The bull was released and wandered into Marathon, becoming known as the Marathonian Bull. Theseus would later sacrifice the bull to Athena and/or Apollo. Eurystheus then sent Heracles to bring back the man-eating Mares of Diomedes
To round up the Mares of DiomedesEdit
After capturing the Cretan bull, Heracles was to steal the Mares. In one version of the story, Heracles brought a number of youths to help him. They took the mares and were chased by Diomedes and his men.
Heracles was not aware that the horses, called Podagros (the fast), Lampon (the shining), Xanthos (the blond) and Deinos (the terrible), were kept tethered to a bronze manger because they were wild; their madness being attributed to an unnatural diet of human flesh. Some versions say that they expelled fire when they breathed. They were man-eating and uncontrollable, and Heracles left his favoured companion, Abderus, in charge of them while he fought Diomedes, and found out that the boy was eaten. In revenge, Heracles fed Diomedes to his own horses, and then founded Abdera next to the boy's tomb.
In another version, Heracles stayed awake so that he didn't have his throat cut by Diomedes in the night, and cut the chains binding the horses. Having scared the horses onto the high ground of a peninsula, Heracles quickly dug a trench through the peninsula, filling it with water, thus making it an island. When Diomedes arrived, Heracles killed him with an axe (the one used to dig the trench), and fed the body to the horses to calm them.
Both versions have eating make the horses calmer and Heracles took the opportunity to bind their mouths shut, and easily took them back to King Eurystheus, who dedicated the horses to Hera. In some versions, they were allowed to roam freely around Argos, having become permanently calm, but in others, Eurystheus ordered the horses taken to Olympus to be sacrificed to Zeus, but Zeus refused them, and sent wolves, lions, and bears to kill them. Roger Lancelyn Green states in his Tales of the Greek Heroes that their descendants were used in the Trojan War. After the incident, Eurystheus sent Heracles to bring back Hippolyta's Girdle.
Hercules had to retrieve the golden girdle of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. In some versions of the myth, Hercules had to kill her to retrieve it, while in others she had already died when Hercules arrived.
Hercules was ordered to fetch the red cattle of Geryon. Geryon lived at the end of the world. Geryon had three bodies that were connected by one waist. Geryon had a cowherd by the name of Eurytion. Hercules heads off to Geryon's island. As he goes there he meets and kills many wild animals. Then he passes the place where Libya meets Europe. Hercules then builds two mountains, one in Europe and one in Libya, to immortalize his journey. These mountains are known as the Gates of Hercules. Hercules reached Geryon's island by sailing in a goblet that the Sun god had given Hercules. Once Hercules reached the island, he was attacked by a two headed dog by the name of Orthus. Hercules hit the dog with his club and continued. Eurytion also attacked Hercules but Hercules won again. A different Cowherd told Geryon that Hercules had beaten Orthus and Eurytion. Geryon attacked Hercules just as Hercules was escaping with the cattle. Hercules shot Geryon with an arrow and escaped with the red cattle.
To fetch the golden apples of the HesperidesEdit
Hercules did not know where to start searching for the garden so he traveled many countries in search of it. While he was searching he was stopped by Kyknos. After the fight was stopped by a thunderbolt, Hercules continued to Illyria where he met Nerus. Nerus knew where the garden was so Hercules grabbed on to him and did not let go till Nerus told him the location. As Hercules continued, he met Anteus, son of Poseidon. Hercules defeated Anteus in a wrestling match. Then Hercules met Prometheus. When Prometheus told Hercules his predicament, Hercules killed the eagle that was eating Prometheus' liver. In turn, Prometheus told Hercules that Atlas, the titan that was holding up the sky, would have to go get the apples. Hercules then reached the garden and convinced Atlas into getting the apples. Hercules took Atlas' burden while Atlas was fetching the apples. Once Atlas returned, Atlas offered to take the Apples straight to Eurystheus. Hercules agreed but asked Atlas to hold the sky while he got supports for his shoulders. Atlas went back under his burden and Hercules ran away with the apples. However the Apples belonged to the gods and Athena took the apples from Eurystheus.
Capturing Cerberus alive, without using weapons, was the final labour assigned to Heracles (Hercules) by King Eurystheus, in recompense for the killing of his own children by Megara after he was driven insane by Hera, and therefore was the most dangerous and difficult. In the traditional version, Heracles would not have been required to capture Cerberus, however Eurystheus discounted the completion of two of the tasks as Heracles had received assistance.
After having been given the task, Heracles went to Eleusis to be initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries so that he could learn how to enter and exit the underworld alive, and in passing absolve himself for killing centaurs. He found the entrance to the underworld at Tanaerum, and Athena and Hermes helped him to traverse the entrance in each direction. He passed Charon with Hestia's assistance and his own heavy and fierce frowning.
Whilst in the underworld, Heracles met Theseus and Pirithous. The two companions had been imprisoned by Hades for attempting to kidnap Persephone. One tradition tells of snakes coiling around their legs then turning into stone; another that Hades feigned hospitality and prepared a feast inviting them to sit. They unknowingly sat in chairs of forgetfulness and were permanently ensnared. When Heracles had pulled Theseus first from his chair, some of his thigh stuck to it (this explains the supposedly lean thighs of Athenians), but the earth shook at the attempt to liberate Pirithous, whose desire to have the wife of a god for himself was so insulting he was doomed to stay behind.
Heracles found Hades and asked permission to bring Cerberus to the surface, which Hades agreed to if Heracles could overpower the beast without using weapons. Heracles was able to overpower Cerberus and proceeded to sling the beast over his back, dragging it out of the underworld through a cavern entrance in the Peloponnese and bringing it to Eurystheus. The king was so frightened of the beast that he jumped into a pithos, and asked Heracles to return it to the underworld in return for releasing him from his labors.
Death of HerculesEdit
The Immortalization of HerculesHercules was married to Deianeira. One day, long after Hercules' marriage to Deianeira, the centaur Nessus offered to ferry them across a wide river that they had to cross. Nessus set off with Deianeira first, but tried to abduct her. When Hercules realized the centaur's real intention, Hercules chased after him and shot him with an arrow which was poisoned with Hydra's blood. Before he died, Nessus told Deianeira to take some of his blood and treasure it, since it was a very powerful medicine and: if she ever thought Hercules was being unfaithful, the centaur told her, the blood would restore his love. Deianeira kept the vial of blood.
Many years after that incident she heard rumours that Hercules had fallen in love with another woman. She smeared some of the blood on a robe and sent it to Hercules by a servant named Lichas. Lichas spilled some blood on the floor and when the sun's rays fell on it the blood begun to burn. Because of this Deianeira began to suspect Nessus's advice and decided to send another servant to fetch Lichas back before he could hand over the blood soaked robe to Hercules. She was too late. Hercules had already put on the robe and when he did so the blood still poisoned from the same arrow used by Hercules, burnt into his flesh. When he jumped into a nearby river in hope of extinguishing the fire, Furiously, Hercules caught Lichas and tossed him into the sea. After that he told his friend Philoctetes to build him a pyre on the mountain Oata. He was burnt to death on the pyre. Before dying, Hercules offered his bow and arrows as a token of gratitude to Philoctetes. His father Zeus then turned him into a god. Deianeira, after hearing what she had caused, committed suicide.
Germanic association Tacitus records a special affinity of the Germanic peoples for Hercules. In chapter 3 of his Germania, Tacitus states: ... they say that Hercules, too, once visited them; and when going into battle, they sang of him first of all heroes. They have also those songs of theirs, by the recital of this barditus as they call it, they rouse their courage, while from the note they augur the result of the approaching conflict. For, as their line shouts, they inspire or feel alarm. In the Roman era Hercules' Club amulets appear from the 2nd to 3rd century, distributed over the empire (including Roman Britain, c.f. Cool 1986), mostly made of gold, shaped like wooden clubs. A specimen found in Köln-Nippes bears the inscription "DEO HER[culi]", confirming the association with Hercules.
In the 5th to 7th centuries, during the Migration Period, the amulet is theorized to have rapidly spread from the Elbe Germanic area across Europe. These Germanic "Donar's Clubs" were made from deer antler, bone or wood, more rarely also from bronze or precious metals. They are found exclusively in female graves, apparently worn either as a belt pendant, or as an ear pendant. The amulet type is replaced by the Viking Age Thor's hammer pendants in the course of the Christianization of Scandinavia from the 8th to 9th century.
Hercules has been the main motif of many collector coins and medals, the most recent one is the 20 euro Baroque Silver coin issued on September 11, 2002. The obverse side of the coin shows the Grand Staircase in the town palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy in Vienna, currently the Austrian Ministry of Finance. Gods and demi-gods hold its flights, while Hercules stands at the turn of the stairs.
- Ancient interpretations
- Hercules and the Nemean Lion(detail), silver plate, 6th century (Cabinet des Médailles, Paris)
*Hercules frescoes in the collegiumat Herculaneum *Hercules and his nephew, helper and eromenos Iolaus
1st century CE mosaic from the Anzio Nymphaeum, Rome
*Hercules bronze statuette, 2nd century CE (museum of Alanya,Turkey) *Hercules sculpture in Behistun,Iran carved 139 BCE
*Rococo sculpture of Hercules, 1758. Branicki Palace in Białystok. *Comic book cover (c.1958) *The Cudgel of Hercules, a talllimestone rock and Pieskowa Skała Castle in the background *Hercules used as a heraldic supporter in the Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Greece, in use from 1863 to 1973. Greek royalists were sometimes mockingly called "Ηρακλείδες" ("the Herculeses")
A series of nineteen Italian Hercules movies were made in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The actors who played Hercules in these films were Steve Reeves, Gordon Scott, Kirk Morris, Mickey Hargitay, Mark Forest, Alan Steel, Dan Vadis, Brad Harris, Reg Park, Peter Lupus (billed as Rock Stevens) and Michael Lane. The films are listed below by their American release titles, and the titles in parentheses are the original Italian titles with English translation.
- Hercules (Le Fatiche di Ercole/ The Labors of Hercules, 1957) starring Steve Reeves
- Hercules Unchained (Ercole e la regina di Lidia/ Hercules and the Queen of Lydia, 1959) starring Steve Reeves
- Goliath and the Dragon (La Vendetta di Ercole/ The Revenge of Hercules, 1960) (this Hercules film had its title changed to Goliath when it was distributed in the U.S.)
- The Loves of Hercules (Gli Amori di Ercole/ The Loves of Hercules, 1960) a.k.a. Hercules vs The Hydra, co-starring Mickey Hargitay & Jayne Mansfield
- Hercules and the Captive Women (Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide/Hercules at the Conquest of Atlantis, 1961) starring Reg Park (alternate U.S. title: Hercules and the Haunted Women)
- Hercules in the Haunted World (Ercole al centro della terra/Hercules at the Center of the Earth) 1961, starring Reg Park, directed by Mario Bava
- Hercules in the Vale of Woe (Maciste contro Ercole nella valle dei guai/Maciste Vs. Hercules in the Vale of Woe) 1961
- Ulysses vs. the Son of Hercules (Ulisse contro Ercole/Ulysses Vs. Hercules) 1962
- The Fury of Hercules (La Furia di Ercole/The Fury of Hercules) 1962 (a.k.a. The Fury of Samson)
- Hercules, Samson and Ulysses (Ercole sfida Sansone/Hercules Challenges Samson) 1963
- Hercules vs. the Moloch (Ercole contro Molock/Hercules Vs. Moloch, 1963) (alternate U.S. title: The Conquest of Mycene)
- Son of Hercules in the Land of Darkness (Ercole l'invincibile/Hercules, the Invincible) 1964 (this was originally a Hercules film that was retitled to "Son of Hercules" so that it could be included in the "Sons of Hercules" TV syndication package)
- Hercules vs. the Giant Warrior (il Trionfo di Ercole/The Triumph of Hercules, 1964) (alternate U.S. title: Hercules and the Ten Avengers)
- Hercules Against Rome (Ercole contro Roma, 1964)
- Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun (Ercole contro i figli del sole, 1964)
- Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon (Ercole contro i tiranni di Babilonia, 1964)
- Samson and the Mighty Challenge (Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus: gli invincibili, 1964) (a.k.a. Combate dei Gigantes)
- Hercules and the Princess of Troy (no Italian title) 1965 (a.k.a. Hercules vs. the Sea Monster) This 48-minute U.S./ Italian co-production was made as a pilot for a Charles Band-produced TV series that never materialized; it was later released as a feature film.
- Hercules, the Avenger (Sfida dei giganti/Challenge of the Giants, 1965) This film was composed mostly of stock footage from the two 1961 Reg Park Hercules films, made to be released directly to U.S. television
A number of English-dubbed Italian films that featured the Hercules name in their title were never intended to be Hercules movies by their Italian creators.
- Hercules, Prisoner of Evil was actually a retitled Ursus film.
- Hercules and the Black Pirate and Hercules and the Treasure of the Incas were both retitled Samson movies.
- Hercules and the Masked Rider was actually a retitled Goliath movie.
- Hercules Against the Moon Men, Hercules Against the Barbarians, Hercules Against the Mongols and Hercules of the Desert were all originally Maciste films.
None of these films in their original Italian versions were connected to the Hercules character in any way. Likewise, most of the Sons of Hercules movies shown on American TV in the 1960s had nothing to do with Hercules in their original Italian incarnations.