What Role Does Hercules Have in Greek Life?

by Lindsay Pietroluongo

The Greek demigod Heracles is better known by his Roman name, Hercules. At birth, his name was Alcaeus. Hercules is a demigod, half-human, half-god. This means that he has some powers of a god, but not all of them. Hercules is the son of Zeus, a god, and Alcmene, a mortal. In Greek mythology, Hercules is considered a divine hero. He was a character in Greek mythology and his stories were told by several generations. Hercules has royal ancestors. The royal clan he belongs to is called the Heracleidae.

History

At the beginning of the Renaissance, scholars looked at ancient Greek lore, which had been all but forgotten during the Dark Ages. Mythological creatures and gods, including Hercules, were reintroduced. However, by this point, he was considered a perfect, flawless demigod. While Hercules is a common icon in Roman culture as well as Greek, his roots truly take place in Greece. In Greek mythology, unlike in other cultures, he was not flawless. Instead, he had faults, just as any human does.

Traits

Hercules is considered the greatest Greek hero. He was the archetypical masculine man and has exceptional strength. He was also clever and is skilled when it comes to women. Hercules was also considered fun and playful, often playing games with children and relaxing.

Achievements

Hercules led the Olympian order to combat chthonic monsters. While he isn't considered to be as clever as Nestor or Odysseus, there were many times when he used his ingenuity to get out of situations that called for more than just strength. For example, he had to convince Atlas to take the sky onto his shoulders again. He also protected gymansia, where competitors trained, and palaestrae, where wrestlers trained. Hercules is believed to have made the world a better, safer place, thanks to all of the danger he fought and overcame.

Culture

Greek mythology plays a large role in the Greek culture. Stories of Hercules are a huge part of Greek heritage. Several references from Greek mythology and stories of Hercules are used today in Greek life. For example, the word "Herculean" is in the dictionary, meaning superhuman strength. Hercules isn't just a character in a story -- he has become a Greek icon. Hercules is an extremely common representation in Greek art. His image is on several different pieces of work, from small vases to large architecture.

Labors of Hercules

Hercules' 12 labors were included in a Greek epic poem and recounted several acts of atonement carried out by him. After Hercules killed his own sons, the oracle at Delphi suggested that he serve Eurystheus, the King of Tyrins, for twelve years, during which he would carry out any labor the King asked him to do. In return, Hercules would receive immortality. The labors fell into four categories: Hercules had to kill another, subdue someone, bring back a magical animal or bring a magical plant to the King.

About the Author

As a full-time writer in New York's Hudson Valley, Lindsay Pietroluongo's nightlife column and photos have appeared regularly in the "Poughkeepsie Journal" since 2007. Additional publications include "Chronogram," the "New Paltz Sojourn," "About Town" newspaper and "Outsider" magazine. Pietroluongo graduated from Marist College with a B.A. in English.

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