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Hercules, the life and labors of the Greatest hero

herculesHercules was born in the imagination of people in a very old time. At that time people hunted wild animals to feed on their meat and to dress on their skin, and they were frightened by lightning, earthquakes and wild storms. So they needed heroes to help them in the difficulties of their lives.

Hercules is the Greatest Hero of Greek Mythology. The son of Zeus and the mortal princess, Alcmene, he was the strongest of all people. Exterminate wild beasts and monsters, drive out tyrants and kill evil kings. He was always fair, kind-hearted and willing to help people. He was indomitable and invincible and his achievements were unforgettable forever.

Hercules depicts the image of the hero in ancient Greece. He was special but at the same time ordinary, God and man destined to be tested more than anyone else, in a timeless history of power, suffering and atonement. Hercules is a myth about a real warrior, full of hidden codes and symbolism for the real world.

Each feat is a scalable test of strength, endurance and intelligence and determination. A fight with nature but also with himself, with the forces that exist within him and even reach the limits of the mortal and of the immortal world. Studying his myths we find in a second reflective reading that he fought with every possible and special animal such as Diomedes’ horses, Erymanthos boar, Nemean lion, Cretan bull, Cerberus, Geryon’s oxen, tamed of nature such as the rivers Alfeios and Pinios to clean the stables of Augeas, or the Lernaean Hydra, traveled a lot but at the same time he fought with himself , selfishness, ingratitude but also social corruption and always with a lot of effort came out the winner.

Its difficult path, the symbolism of life itself begins when a teenager finds himself faced with the dilemma of which path to follow in his life.The way of malice, with intrigues, axioms, the power, illicit wealth and injustice, or the path of virtue, full of adventures, difficulties, obstacles and struggles that would they lead him to immortality?

hercule-and-the-olymic-gamesThe myth of Hercules is also connected with the the first Olympic Games in 776 BC. Impressive similarities have been identified between the exploits of Hercules and the Olympic Games,achievements of strength, endurance and discipline. Hercules, according to the existing information, founded the Olympics after a feat.

So the feats are directly related to the original establishment of the Games. At the stadium of ancient Olympia the track has a length of 600 feet, which according the ancient Greeks are the 600 feets of Hercules who stepped on the stage. In the main church of Olympia, we find frescoes from the twelve feats of Hercules.
Each athlete “compared” himself with Hercules, and they did not give up but continued at the insistence of Hercules regardless of adverse conditions.

The birth of Hercules

birth-of-herculesOnce Aphitryon and his wife, Alcmene, daughter of the king of Mycenae, were forced to leave their homeland and seek refuge in Thebes. There Alcmene gave birth to two children. Hercules, who was the son of Zeus, and Ifiklis.
Hera was jealous of Alcmene and hated Hercules very much. Zeus, however, sent Hermes to bring the baby to Olympus and made him drink some milk from Hera’s breast, while she was sleeping, in order to become invincible. When Hera woke up, she realized who was the baby and she pulled away. Then a little of her milk poured into the sky and became the Galaxy with its thousands of stars.

When the two children were about eight years old, Hera sent two snakes overnight to strangle them. As soon as the snakes approached their crib, Zeus, sent a light and the children woke up. Ifiklis, terrified, wept. Hercules, however, without any fear, snatched the snakes from the neck and strangled them. Everyone then understood that Hercules had a divine origin.
When Hercules grew up, he married the daughter of the king of Thebes, Megara, and became king. He ruled Thebes for several years and lived happily.

Hera, who always hated him, drove him crazy and Hercules hurt his children and his wife, thinking that they were his enemies. However, he came to his senses and realized the evil he had done. He then went to the oracle of Delphi, to ask Apollo what he had to do to be forgiven by the gods. Pythia, the priestess of Apollo, told him that he had to return to Mycenae, the homeland of his Mother, and serve faithfully for twelve years his cousin, Eurystheus, who reigned there. Then he would become immortal and ascend to Olympus.

Hercule meet Virtue and Evil

Hercule meet Virtue and EvilOne day, when Hercules was still young, he was sitting at a quiet crossroads, thinking about what path to take in his life. The way of fighting and offering to people or the way of fun and enjoyment?
Then it seemed to him that two women had approached him. One was dressed simply without any ornaments, while the other was dressed very casually and had many ornaments. She spoke first to Hercules and said to him:
“Hercules, you are the strongest man on earth. You can grab whatever you want, without ever working. If you do not follow, the path of your life will be very easy and pleasant. You will enjoy effortlessly many joys and entertainments”.
“Who are you”; Hercules asked her.
“My friends call me Happiness and my enemies call me Evil”, he replied.
Then the other woman approached.
“Hercules, she told him, They call me Virtue. If you follow my path, your life will be full of hardships and struggles but also good works. With the power that the gods have given you, you will benefit the people and they will love and honor you.
Hercules decided to use his power to help people. That is why he chose the path of Virtue.

The Labors of Hercules

labors of herculesHercules left Thebes. Together with his nephew, Iolaus, he went to Mycenae to serve Eurystheus. Eurystheus, who was afraid of Hercules, sent him to do twelve deeds, that is, twelve difficult achievements, hoping that in one of them he would be killed.

Neaean lion
Hercules’ first feat was to kill the Neaean lion. This terrible lion had been raised by Hera. His skin was so hard that the iron arrows did not pass him. It had its nest in a cave with two entrances, on the slope of a mountain near Nemea. Every day it went down to the plain and devoured animals and people. The inhabitants were desperate and did not dare to go out into the countryside.

Hercules, going to Nemea, passed through the sacred grove of the city, cut a wild olive tree and made a heavy bat from its trunk. Then he went and waited near the lion’s nest and, when it appeared, hit it first with his arrows. The arrows fell to the ground without injuring it and the lion attacked Hercules. He hit it with the bat. The lion was in pain and hid in his nest. Hercules then picked up large stones, closed the entrance and entered the cave from the other entrance.

The animal roared and shook the whole mountain. It stared at the hero and they fought for an hour. Finally Hercules wrapped his arms around his neck and strangled it. Then he took his skin and used it as his cloth and returned to Mycenae. When Eurystheus saw him, he was very frightened and ordered that a bronze jar must be made for him, so that he could hide when he was in danger.

Lernaean Hydra

In the lake Lerni of the Peloponnese lived a terrible water snake, with a huge body and nine heads. Fire came out of his mouth, burning plants, animals and people. The inhabitants of the area were desperate and no one dared to approach the lake. Eurystheus ordered Hercules to kill this monster.
Hercules went to the lake Lerni with his nephew, Iolaos. He managed to pull the Lernaean Hydra out of its nest and attacked it. With a scythe he began to cut off her heads. As soon as he cut off one head, two sprouted in its place. He then shouted to Iolaus, who lit a torch and as soon as Hercules cut off a head, Iolaus burned the wound. So they stopped sprouting new heads. As the head of Lernaean Hydra was immortal, Hercules, after cutting it, buried it deep in the ground and put a huge stone on it. He also dived his arrows into the poisoned body of Hydra and they became deadly.

The Erymanthian boar

Eurystheus then sent Hercules to bring him alive a terrible wild boar, which lived on Mount Eryanthos in the Peloponnese, wreaked havoc and killed animals and people. Hercules went to Eryanthos and chased the wild boar for a few days. In the end the animal was exhausted from fatigue and Hercules caught it, tied it, lifted it to his shoulders and took it alive to Mycenae. When Eurystheus saw it, he was startled and hid in the jar.

The sacred deer of Artemis

The sacred deer of the goddess Artemis lived on a mountain in the Peloponnese. It had golden horns, bronze hooves and no one could reach it on the run. Eurystheus ordered Hercules to bring this deer alive to Mycenae. For a whole year Hercules chased it in the mountains and forests without result. One day the deer trying to cross into the river Ladon, Hercules struck it lightly with an arrow in the leg. Then he picked it up on his shoulders and took it to Mycenae. After showing it to Eurystheus, he set it free, as he had promised the goddess Artemis.

Stymphalian birds

Then Hercules went to the lake Styfalia. There lived the the Stymphalian birds, large birds, with iron claws and wings, which fed on human flesh. When he arrived, he started hitting two bronze rattles that Athena had given him. The birds came out of the basin where they were hiding and Hercules killed many with his arrows. Those who survived went away and did not appear again.

The stables of King Augeus

Later Eurystheus sent him to clean the stables of King Augeus. Augeuss lived in Ilida and had countless herds given to him by his father, Helios. The animals were too many and his shepherds did not have time to clean the stables. So many piles of manure had been collected and smelled very bad . Hercules dug two deep ditches, which passed through the stables and reached the rivers Alfeios and Pinios. Then he turned the streams of the rivers into the ditches. The waters fell into the stables, swept away the manure and threw it into the sea. So Hercules cleaned the stables of Augeus.

hercules

The bull of king Minos

After all these achievements, Eurystheus sent Hercules to more distant places. Thus, Hercules went to Crete and caught the wild bull of Minos, whose flames came out of his mouth and caused many destructions. Mounted on his back, he crossed the Aegean and reached Mycenae.

The man eating horses of Diomedes

Hercules then went to Thrace, where King Diomedes, the son of the god Mars, lived. He had four wild horses, which fed on human flesh. He killed Diomedes, captured the horses and brought them to Mycenae.

The beld of the queen of the Amazons and the oxen of Geryon

The Amazons were all handsome and famous in archery and horseback riding. Hercules fought with them, defeated them and took the belt of their queen, Hippolyte, and brought it to Eurystheus. Later he traveled to the West, beyond the edge of the earth, to bring to Mycenae the oxen of Geryon.

Geryon was a monster that had three bodies from the middle up. His oxen were guarded by his dog, Orthos, who had two heads and his tail was a snake. Hercules killed them both, and brought the oxen to Eurystheus who sacrificed them to the goddess Hera.

The Cerberus

On earth, Hercules was invincible. So Eurystheus decided to send him to the Underworld to bring him Cerberus, a formidable three-headed dog guarding the entrance to Hades. Hercules went to Hades and, with the permission of Pluto and Persephone, fought with Cerberus, defeated him, tied him up and brought him to Mycenae. When he saw him, Eurystheus panicked and hid in the jar again. Hercules returned Cerberus to Hades, as he had promised Pluto.

The golden apples of Hesperides

Eurystheus asked Hercules to do one last feat. He wanted to bring him the golden apples of Hesperides. The garden of Hesperides was located on the edge of the earth. There was the tree that made the golden apples. Whoever ate them was forever young. It was guarded by the Hesperides brides and a sleepless dragon. Nearby was the titan Atlas holding the sky on his back.

Hercules traveled a long way to get there. He went through many countries. He also crossed the Caucasus where he released Prometheus, who in order to thank him, showed him the way to reach the Garden of Hesperides and advised him to send Atlas to get the Golden apples. Hercules found Atlas and he agreed to go to the Garden of Hesperides. Hercules, however, was forced to hold the sky on his back until he returned.

Atlas, with the help of Hesperides, who made a magic drink so the dragon fall asleep and Atlas slaughtered him and took the golden apples. Returning to Hercules, he did not want to take the sky on his back again and said that he would go the apples to Eurystheus himself. Hercules agreed and made a trick, he asked him to help him by keeping the sky for a while so he can put a pillow on his back in order to hold the Sky, Atlas approached to help him and Hercules put the sky on the back of Atlas again. Achieving this feat, he was finally free.

The end of Hercules

herculesFree at last, Hercules married Dianeira, daughter of the king of Aetolia, Oeneas. One day they went to cross the Evinos river. There they met the Centaur Nessos. Nessos took Dianeira on his back to cross it. He wanted to take her as his own and started running but Hercules struck him with one of his poisoned arrows. Before he died, Nessos said to Dianeira: If you smear “this tunic of Hercules, he will love you forever”.

So, once Hercules asked Dianeira for a clean tunic to wear and sacrifice to Zeus, she smeared a tunic with Nessus’ poison and gave it to him. Hercules wore it and the tunic stuck to him. He immediately began to feel unbearable pain. He then realized that his end had come. He climbed Mount Oiti, made a pile of wood, lay on it and asked to light the fire. No one agreed to do that. Only Philoctetes, who was passing by, agreed to light the fire and Hercules, to thank him, gave him his poisoned arrows.

Suddenly it began to sparkle and thunder. A cloud descended, took Hercules and ascended him to Olympus. There he reconciled with Hera and lived forever with the gods of Olympus.