Misconceptions of Herakles

Although the myth of Hercules, or as he is known in Greece Herakles, have become popular because of Disney's animated film, the truth about him is quite different. Demi-God, and the son of Zeus and Alceme, Herakles is subject to the wrath of Hera, Queen of the Gods and wife to Zeus. For all of Zeus' pandering with mortals, Hera curses each of Zeus' demi-god children. In Herakles' story, he is cursed to murder his wife and children, and he must complete twelve labors given to him by King Eurytheus, who commands him to complete these tasks as penance for his wrong-doings. This is in severe contrast to Disney's and other common perception of Herakles, where he kills or defeats each of the predators: the Cretan Bull, The Lernaean Hydra, the Stymphalian Birds, and Cerberus. These tasks are not heroic or to regain divinity but to pay for his and Zeus' wrong-doings.                                                                   All written and stories about Herakles are taken from www.theoi.com or perseus.tufts.edu

This Roman copy of a Greek statue depicts Herakles in his most common form. Throughout most imagery of the hero, he is adorned with a lion skin, carrying a club, and nude. This reflect the Greek ideal of strength and masculinity.
After being cursed by Hera, Herakles is forced to undergo twelve labors. The first of which is to kill the Nemean Lion, a large lion with an impenetrable hide. Herakles suffocates the lion, and wins his pelt for protection.
Next, Herakles faces the Lernaean Hydra. This multi-headed snake resided in the coastal town of Lerna, and may have represented the multiple mouths of the river, the multiple invaders, or the different aspects of sickness present in this geographic location. The only way to defeat the hydra is to cut and burn it's heads and wounds.
Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, used the labors of Hercules on his coins, as propaganda for strength. This coin depicts the capture of the golden-antlered deer, sacred to the goddess Artemis.
The fourth labor of Herakles focused on the capture of the Erymanthian Boar, a gigantic boar which ravished the country side like a plague, was to be brought back to king Pholos alive. The sight of the boar scared the king into hiding within a pot (as depicted on the right bottom corner of the coin.)
The fifth task set forth for Herakles was to clean the Augean stables. King Augeas owned the most cattle in the surrounding country, and Herakles as told to clean the stables in one day. In order to do this, Herakles made a hole in a stable wall and diverted a river through the stable, effectively removing all the waste from the stable at once.
This coin for Antoninus Pius displays an image of Herakles preparing to shoot down the man-eating Stymphalian birds. These birds are said to have been commemorate in the stars, a fate which befell many heroes and victims of tragedy.
Tied to the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, the Cretan bull was the sire of the minotaur. Herakles was sent to fetch the bull for another king of Greece. Unlike this image, Herakles allowed the bull to go free, so that it rampaged the country side until Theseus kills it in his story.
The 8th task given to Herakles is to fetch one of the flesh-eating mares of Diomedes, their master.
Herakles' ninth task was to get the belt from the Amazonian queen, Hippolyte. This belt was given to the queen by Ares, the god of war, for her superiority in battle. Herakles' was to fetch this belt for king Eurystheus' daughter.
In this labor, Herakles was sent to capture the cattle of Geryon. However, Geryon is a three-bodied (three heads and three sets of legs joined at the waist), four-winged giant.
The golden apples of Hesperides was the eleventh task taken on by Herakles. This task had many steps, the most well know was Herakles holding up the world for Atlas, while the god fetched the apples from his nymphs. Atlas did not want to take back the world from Herakles, and was tricked into relieving Herakles from this task.
The final task set forth for Herakles was to kidnap Cerberus, the three-headed canine guardian of the underworld. While the task of capturing and subduing Cerberus seems daunting, the more serious problems arose from entering and exiting the Underworld, a domain which no human had successfully left, due to an inability to listen to rules.
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