Heracles

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One of the most famous depictions of Heracles, originally by Lysippos (Marble, Roman copy called Hercules Farnese, 216 CE)

Heracles:1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracles (/ˈhɛrəklz/ herr-ə-kleez; Ancient Greek: Ἡρακλῆς, Hēraklēs, from Hēra, “Hera”, and kleos, “glory”, born Alcaeus (Ἀλκαῖος, Alkaios) or Alcides (Ἀλκείδης, Alkeidēs), was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson/half-brother (as they are both sired by the god Zeus) of Perseus.

He was the greatest of the Greek heroes, a paragon of masculinity, the ancestor of royal clans who claimed to be Heracleidae (Ἡρακλεῖδαι) and a champion of the Olympian order against chthonic monsters. In Rome and the modern West, he is known as Hercules, with whom the later Roman Emperors, in particular Commodus and Maximian, often identified themselves.

The Romans adopted the Greek version of his life and works essentially unchanged, but added anecdotal detail of their own, some of it linking the hero with the geography of the Central Mediterranean. Details of his cult were adapted to Rome as well.

Extraordinary strength, courage, ingenuity, and sexual prowess with both males and females were among the characteristics commonly attributed to him. Heracles used his wits on several occasions when his strength did not suffice, such as when laboring for the king Augeas of Elis, wrestling the giant Antaeus, or tricking Atlas into taking the sky back onto his shoulders.

Together with Hermes he was the patron and protector of gymnasia and palaestrae. His iconographic attributes are the lion skin and the club. These qualities did not prevent him from being regarded as a playful figure who used games to relax from his labors and played a great deal with children.

By conquering dangerous archaic forces he is said to have “made the world safe for mankind” and to be its benefactor. Heracles was an extremely passionate and emotional individual, capable of doing both great deeds for his friends (such as wrestling with Thanatos on behalf of Prince Admetus, who had regaled Heracles with his hospitality, or restoring his friend Tyndareus to the throne of Sparta after he was overthrown) and being a terrible enemy who would wreak horrible vengeance on those who crossed him, as Augeas, Neleus and Laomedon all found out to their cost.

Heracles:2)http://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Heroes/Heracles/heracles.html (or Hercules) 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.

Offsetting his strength was a noticeable lack of intelligence or wisdom. Once, when the temperature was very high, he pulled his bow out and threatened to shoot at the sun. This, coupled with strong emotions in one so powerful, frequently got Heracles in trouble. While his friend and cousin Theseus ruled Athens, Heracles had trouble ruling himself. His pride was easily offended. He took up grudges easily and never forgot them. His appetites for food, wine, and women were as massive as his strength. Many of Heracles’ great deeds occurred while doing penance for stupid acts done in anger or carelessness.

It would be easy to view Heracles as a muscle-bound buffoon. Indeed, many of the Greek comedy playwrights used his character this way. Even among serious critics, he was often seen as a primitive, brutal, and violent man. There is much evidence to support this view; his weapon of choice was a massive club; his customary garment was a lion skin, with the head still attached; he impiously wounded some of the gods; he threatened a priestess of Apollo at Delphi when an answer to his questions was not forthcoming. He created most of his own problems.

However, viewing Heracles as simply a strong buffoon is unfair. He may have held grudges, but he would also do anything to help a friend. Once his anger passed, he was the most critical judge of his own actions. He was too strong for anyone to force a punishment on him. That he willing did severe penance shows a fundamental sense of justice. During his punishments he showed patience, fortitude and endurance that were as heroic as his strength. Terrible things happened to him because of Hera’s hatred, a hatred that he was not responsible for. That he persevered through it all was a moral victory beyond simple strength.

The view of Heracles shifted considerable over time. The early view focused on how badly he managed despite his obvious gifts. As time passed the focus shifted to his virtues. The Romans valued him highly as he best fit their idea of a hero. He eventually had a fair sized cult that worshiped him as a god.

More Details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracles

References   [ + ]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracles
2. http://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Heroes/Heracles/heracles.html

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