Document Type

Article

Publication Date

7-2014

Abstract

The son of a divine father, Zeus, and a mortal mother, Alkmene, Herakles is often described by ancient sources as the greatest of the Greek heroes. When we think of Herakles (or Hercules, as the Romans called him) in the modern world, we remember primarily his labors, and perhaps a few other legends surrounding him, such as the one about how his supernatural strength allowed him, even as a baby, to strangle the two massive snakes sent to kill him in the cradle by the ever- jealous goddess Hera. The ancient Greeks also thought of Herakles primarily in terms of his extraordinary strength and courage, the qualities he displays in his completion of the twelve labors. Yet for the ancient Greeks, Herakles was a contradictory, even paradoxical figure: a being at once mortal and divine, protector and destroyer, conqueror and slave; an ideal ruler and drunken reveler, a hyper masculine male who sometimes wears the clothing of a woman.

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