What Is A Myth?
A myth is a purely fictional story that has been passed on for generations, usually involving supernatural persons, actions or events. Hercules (also called Herakles), is one of the strongest and most celebrated mythical heroes. These myths were made up thousands of years ago and have acquired more details as they have been passed down. The story of Hercules is one of a man who was so strong and courageous, whose deeds were so mighty, and who so endured all the hardships that were given to him, that when he died, Hercules was brought up to Mount Olympus to live with the gods.
Hercules was both the most famous hero of ancient times and the most beloved. More stories were told about him than any other hero. He was worshipped in many temples all over Greece and Rome.
Birth of a Hero
The legacy of Hercules began when Zeus, the chief god, fell in love with a mortal woman named Alcmene. When Alcmene?s husband, Amphitryon, was away, Zeus made her pregnant. This made the goddess Hera so angry that she tried to prevent the baby from being born. When Alcmene gave birth to the baby, she named him Herakles (Romans pronounced it "Hercules"). The name Herakles means "glorious gift of Hera". This made Hera even angrier. When Hercules was an infant, Hera sent two serpents to destroy him in his cradle. However, Hercules strangled them, one in each hand, before they could bite him.
When Hercules grew up and had become a great warrior, he married a young woman named Megara. They had two children together and lived very happily. However, things didn?t turn out as they do in the movie. One day, Hera sent a fit of madness to Hercules that put him into so great a rage, that he murdered his wife and both children. When Hercules regained his senses and realized what he had done, he asked the god Apollo to rid him of his sins. Apollo commanded that Hercules do certain tasks as punishment for his wrongs, so that evil might be cleansed from his spirit.
Apollo was a god of prophecy and the Greeks believed that Apollo knew what would happen in the future, and that he could advise people how to act. Hercules hurried to the temple where Apollo gave such advice. It was in the town of Delphi and was called the Delphic oracle. Apollo told Hercules that in order to purify himself for the spilling of his family?s blood, he had to perform 10 heroic labors (this number would soon be increased to 12). Even worse, Hercules had to perform these labors for his cousin, King Eurystheus. Eurystheus was the king of Tiryns and had a reputation for being mean. Hercules knew the king would give him a hard time. For 12 years Hercules would have to perform these labors.
Hercules did receive some good news from Apollo. He told Hercules that after these tasks were completed, Hercules would become immortal. Unlike other men, he would become a god.
The 12 Labors Of Hercules
THE NEMEAN LION When Hercules arrived at the palace of King Eurystheus, his first task was to bring the king the skin of a lion which terrorized the hills around Nemea. When Hercules arrived at Nemea, he tracked the lion to a cave with 2 entrances. His arrows were useless against the beast. Hercules decided to block one of the doorways and then approach the fierce lion through the other. Grasping the lion in his mighty arms, Hercules held it tightly until the lion choked to death. Hercules then returned to Mycenae, carrying the dead lion in his arms. King Eurystheus was amazed that Hercules was able to accomplish this task. From this point on, the king became afraid of Hercules and forbade him from entering the city. The king also began sending his commands through a herald, refusing to see the hero face to face.
THE LERNEAN HYDRA The second labor of Hercules was to kill the Lernean Hydra. The creature lived in the swampy waters near the city of Lerna. Once in a while, the serpent would rise from the murky waters and terrorize the countryside. This serpent had nine heads, one of which was immortal, and attacked it?s victims with poisonous venom.
When Hercules set off to hunt this nine headed serpent, he brought his trusty nephew