Herakles was a flawed character and it began with his birth, or rather when Zeus impersonated Amphitryon, who happened to betrothed to Herakles’ mother, Alcmene. Zeus, ever with the wandering eye, happen to see Alcmene and was instantly smitten and wanted her. While Amphitryon was away on a mission, being a prince and a warrior, avenging the death of Alcmene’s brothers, Zeus disguises himself as her beloved and nine months later, Herakles was born. What happens next, makes for a great story, as all Greek myths do.
Zeus’ wife, Hera finds out, she was rather upset… well, she was angry. So peeved by Zeus, never mind that Alcmene or Herakles were the innocent victims, that she sent two deadly snakes into Herakles’ cradle. It was then Herakles true parentage was revealed, he was a demi-god. Those two snakes didn’t have a chance in surviving; baby Herakles strangled them.
Instead of making Zeus miserable for his infidelities, Hera took a different approach, and took her vengeance out on Herakles. She manipulated and delayed his birth for that of his brother, Eurytheus, so that he would become king of Mycenae and not Herakles. (Gods and goddesses can do that). However, that wasn’t enough for Hera, she placed a spell on Herakles to induce him into temporary insanity, and while in this fugue, he killed his wife and two sons or three, depending on which myth you read.
As you can imagine, Herakles was devastated and heartbroken by his actions, that he sought out Apollo to punish him. The god of healing and prophecy knew it was Hera’s doing but made Herakles amend for his actions by completing twelve labours as dictated by the Mycenean king, his brother, Eurystheus. The labours were phenomenal feats of courage and heroism, here’s a link to Theoi.com/the twelve labours of Herakles. He also completed minor labours, known as Parerga, and after he died, he was worshipped as a god.
The iconic figure and myth of Herakles, was created to demonstrate what happens to individuals when you go against societal norms. While it wasn’t his fault, the sins of the father do plague their children.
If you are interested on how he died, this article How Did the Greek Hero Hercules Die? is worth reading. Thank you for your continued support and as always, I look forward to your comments and will respond.
Up next, Helen of Sparta.
Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, burnt out but not done… yet.