Who was Hercules?


Everybody knows Hercules was a “strong man”. But to the ancient Greeks he was much more than that. They worshiped him as a god. According to legend, Hercules was the son of Zeus and Alcmene, a mortal princess. Hera, the divine wife of Zeus, hated Hercules.

While he was still in his cradle, she sent two serpents to kill him, but the infant strangled them. Hercules married Megara, but Hera caused him to be seized with a fit of madness. During the seizure, he killed his wife and children.

To make up for this terrible deed, the oracle at Delphi ordered Hercules to offer his services to King Eurystheus, who gave him twelve labors to do. It is these twelve labors which Hercules undertook that make up most of the legend about him.



First he strangled a fierce lion. Then he was sent to kill the Hydra, a monster with nine heads, eight of which were mortal and one immortal. Every time Hercules struck off a mortal head, two more grew in its place.

But Hercules finally killed the Hydra. His fifth labor was to kill the golden-horned stag and a wild boar. His fifth labor was to clean the stables off 3,000 oxen belonging to King Augeas. They had not been cleaned for 30 years.

Hercules directed the courses of two rivers into stables and cleaned them in a day. His sixth labor was to kill the birds of Stymphalus; his seventh to capture the Cretan bull. His eight task was capture the wild horses of Diomedes, which fed on human flesh.

For his ninth labor he brought back the belt of Cretan bull. His eight task was to capture the wild horses of Diomedes, which fed on human flesh. For his ninth labor he brought back the belt of Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons. For his tenth, he brought back oxen of Geryon from a far-western island.

On his way he split apart a mountain to form the strait of Gibraltar. His eleventh labor was to secure three golden apples from Hesperides. His twelfth was to bring to Eurystheus the watchdog of Hades, Cerberus.

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