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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Heracles January 4, Mythology

Heracles, more familiar under his Roman name, Hercules, was the son of Zeus and the strongest man on earth.  Each culture seems to have its “strongest man on earth” figure; in the biblical tradition, the strongest man on earth was Sampson.1  Heracles was also famous for his bravery, but he was the strongest man on earth so big deal.  Heracles was the son of the god Zeus and Alcmena, the wife of the Tyrinian King, Amphitryon.  One thing many people don’t know about Heracles is that he had a twin, Amphityron’s son, Iphicles.  This is unusual, but it does happen from time to time, and not just in Greek mythology, either.  Not much came of Iphicles; it must have sucked being Heracles’ brother.   Heracles” means “glory of Hera,” which is odd because Hera did everything she could think of to kill him.  When he was still a baby, Hera sent two poisonous snakes into Heracles’ cradle, but Heracles easily strangled these. 2  When Heracles was still a youth, he showed signs of anger management issues that would plague him all his life; frustrated with his music lesson, he threw a harp at his teacher, Linus, and killed him. 3  Later, returning from a battle, he became enraged and killed his wife and sons believing they were wild animals. 4 In punishment, he had to perform twelve labors for the King Eurystheus; there were originally supposed to be only ten labors, but the gods adjudicated he’d cheated on two of the early ones, and so they added an additional two. 5  Heracles was pretty much invulnerable, but his na├»ve wife, Deinera, gave him a cloak soaked in Centaur’s blood.  She thought it would operate as a love potion, but in reality, it was the blood of Heracles’ mortal enemy Nessus, and when Heracles put it on, the robe fixed itself to his skin and began burning his flesh like acid. 6 All Heracles could do was climb onto a funeral pyre and allow himself to be burned alive.  He was welcomed by the gods on Mount Olympus, however, and even Hera forgave him.

1. Some people worry who would win in a fight between Heracles and Sampson. These people have way too much free time.
2. Hera’s problem was she was too fancy. She should have just dropped a big rock on him.
3. He wasn’t much of a harpist, but he had good aim.
4. And yet he had no difficulty remarrying. Go figure.
5. Another possibility is Heracles just couldn’t count.
6.Why would anyone fall for this? Everyone knows you don’t use Centaur’s blood in love potions.

1 comment:

  1. And let's not forget that Heracles (under his Roman name) is responsible for one of the best "Hollywood Square" zingers ever:

    Peter Marshall: Hercules showed his great strength, while still a baby in his crib, by grabbing and squeezing two...WHAT?

    Paul Lynde: Was his mother bending over the crib at the time?