MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF HERCULES


Heracles (or
Hercules) is best known as the strongest of all mortals,
and even stronger than many gods. He was the deciding factor in the triumphant
victory of the Olympians over
the giants.
He was the last mortal son of Zeus,
and the only man born of a mortal woman to become a god upon his death.
Offsetting
his strength was a noticeable lack of intelligence or wisdom. Once, when the
temperature was very high, he pulled his bow out and threatened to shoot at
the sun.
This, coupled with strong emotions in one so powerful, frequently got Heracles in
trouble. While his friend and cousin Theseus ruled AthensHeracles had
trouble ruling himself. His pride was easily offended. He took up grudges
easily and never forgot them. His appetites for food, wine, and women were as
massive as his strength. Many of Heracles
great deeds occurred while doing penance for stupid acts done in anger or
carelessness.
It would
be easy to view Heracles as
a muscle-bound buffoon. Indeed, many of the Greek comedy playwrights used his
character this way. Even among serious critics, he was often seen as a
primitive, brutal, and violent man. There is much evidence to support this
view; his weapon of choice was a massive club; his customary garment was a lion
skin, with the head still attached; he impiously wounded some of the gods; he
threatened a priestess of Apollo at Delphi when
an answer to his questions was not forthcoming. He created most of his own
problems.
However,
viewing Heracles as
simply a strong buffoon is unfair. He may have held grudges, but he would also
do anything to help a friend. Once his anger passed, he was the most critical
judge of his own actions. He was too strong for anyone to force a punishment on
him. That he willing did severe penance shows a fundamental sense of justice.
During his punishments he showed patience, fortitude and endurance that were as
heroic as his strength. Terrible things happened to him because of Hera‘s
hatred, a hatred that he was not responsible for. That he persevered through it
all was a moral victory beyond simple strength.
The view
of Heracles shifted
considerable over time. The early view focused on how badly he managed despite
his obvious gifts. As time passed the focus shifted to his virtues. The Romans
valued him highly as he best fit their idea of a hero.
He eventually had a fair sized cult that worshiped him as a god.

HAVE YOU READ:  ATHENA

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