Episode #1 of the course “Heroes of Greek Legend”
Known as one of the greatest heroes of all time, the Greek half-god half-man named Heracles is also commonly known by the Roman version of his name, Hercules. According to legend, Heracles’ father was Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, and his mother was a mortal woman named Alcmene who was seduced by Zeus. The goddess Hera, Zeus’ wife, was jealous of Heracles’ birth and sent two snakes to kill him in his cradle. However, the infant Heracles demonstrated the legendary strength he would portray as a man when he was discovered using the snakes as playthings.
Heracles is most well-known for the 12 labors he performed for his cousin King Eurystheus. The series of tasks sent him around Europe and into the underworld, where he outsmarted and overpowered some of the most ferocious beasts of Greek mythology. He defeated the Hydra, a multi-headed and venomous snake monster, banished the Minotaur, a half-man half-bull creature, and tamed Cerberus, the guard-dog at the gates of the underworld.
Although Heracles is often acclaimed as one of the greatest heroes in history, his character was often portrayed by playwrights and critics over time as a brute. In fact, his famous 12 labors were deeds done to repay the fact that Zeus’ wife tricked Heracles, making him so enraged that he killed his children. For his extraordinary accomplishments, Heracles was named as a god and given a place on Mount Olympus, the home of the gods. However, because half of him was mortal, that half was sent to the mortal underworld where it resides with other ancient and legendary heroes.
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