The Great Vigorous: Heracles

The Mortal Demi God Son of Zues

Personal Information

Heracles 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. Heracles father was Zeus and Mother was Alcmene who which was mortal.


Madness of Heracles

Heracles heard news about the Minyan army from Orchomenus had defeated and disarmed the Theban army. Heracles led a group of Theban youths, armed with old weapons from a temple. Heracles defeated the Minyan army, killing Erginus, king of Orchomenus.

Creon, king of Thebes gave his daughter's hand in marriage to the hero who had saved Thebes from slavery. Megara bore him three sons: Therimachus, Deicoon and Creontiades.

The marriage did not last long. The goddess Hera had inflicted Heracles with sudden fit of madness, causing him murder his own children. Some writers claimed that he had also killed his wife Megara as well.

According to Pausanias (quoting from Stesichoros of Himera), Heracles would have killed his stepfather, Amphitryon as well, but Athena intervened by knocking Heracles unconscious, with a stone; a stone known as the Sober stone.

When he returned to his senses, he suffered from great sorrow and remorse. The king and the Theban citizens were unwilling to punish the hero, so Heracles exiled himself from Thebes. Thespius purified him for the murder. In Euripides' tragedy called the Madness of Heracles, the young hero would have committed suicide, but his cousin and friend, Theseus, persuaded Heracles that suicide would be cowardly act. Theseus took the Heracles to Athens where he was purified for his crime.

Heracles still saw the need to expiate his grave crime or sin, so he went to Delphi to consult with the oracle. The oracle of Delphi told him that he need to serve his cousin, Eurystheus, king of Tiryns and Mycenae, who would devised ten labours (later twelve), as his punishment for his crime of murdering his own family.

I believed that it was in Delphi that he received a new name – Heracles, meaning "Glory of Hera". His name at birth – Alcaeüs – was never used again in his lifetime.

War of the giants

While the god healed him, he was brought to Phlegra, in Thrace (some say in Sicily), where the gods were warring against the Giants, and sprawned by blood of the castrated Uranus that fell to the earth. In order to defeat the Giants, the gods, required by the oracle, the help of a mortal hero.

Heracles killed Alcyoneus by shooting the giant with his lethal arrow, before dragging its body outside of Pallene, where the giant was mortal. Apollo and Heracles each shot one eye of Ephialtes, with their arrows.

Athena killed Pallas and flayed the giant, using its hide for her shield. Athena also killed Enceladus, who had fled west. She crushed Enceladus by throwing the island of Sicily on top of him. Poseidon did the same thing to Polybotes, crushing the giant with the island of Nisyrus.

With Zeus' help, Heracles even killed Porphyrion, who tried to rape Hera; the same goddess who had incessantly persecuted him evens before his birth.

The twelve labours Heracles had performed and aiding the gods in this war, Heracles had earned his place among the gods in Olympus.

Death of Heracles

His last adventure began, when he went to war against Eurytus, whom he never forgave for refusing him his daughter Lole, whom he had won fairly in archery contest. Leaving Deianeira or in Trachis, he raised an army and defeated Eurytus, taking Iole as his concubine.

Heracles may have killed Eurytus and his sons in the war, but according to Homer, Apollo killed Eurytus, when the king challenged the god in an archery contest. Eurytus' son Iphitus gave the bow to Odysseus. Odysseus had used this very bow to kill Penelope's suitors in the palace.

Observing rites of sacrifice for the victory in war, he sent his herald Lichas to get a fresh tunic at home. Deïaneira realising that Heracles may discard her in favour of Iole as his wife, Deïaneira smeared Nessus' supposed love charm on to his tunic.

When Heracles put the tunic on, the Hydra's venom began searing his skin and flesh. In agony, he tore it off, killing the innocent Lichas, who gave him the shirt. Dying, Heracles returned home to Trachis. Learning what she had done to her husband, Deïaneira killed herself.

Building a pyre for himself on Mount Oeta, Heracles asked his son Hyllus to set it alight. But neither his son, nor other mourners would do so, until either Poeas or his son Philoctetes, set the fire to pyre. He rewarded him with his powerful bow, which would later be used by Philoctetes, in the Trojan War. Lightning struck the pyre and when the fire died down; the mourners could not find the great hero's remains.



Mythic Warriors - The Labours of Hercules


Instrumental Music to Relax, Study and Work - Snowy Woods - relaxdaily N°064 by relaxdaily

By Carolyn McCarthy