Heracles, better known by his Roman name Hercules, is a hero in Greek mythology who is known for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures. He is the son of Zeus, the king of the gods, and a mortal woman named Alcmene. Because of his half-god, half-human status, Heracles lived both among the gods and on earth, a theme common in many Greek myths.
Heracles is perhaps best known for the Twelve Labours, tasks that he was forced to complete as penance for killing his wife and children in a fit of madness, which was induced by the goddess Hera. Hera, the wife of Zeus, was known for her vengeful nature towards Zeus’s illegitimate children and used her power to make life difficult for Heracles throughout his life.
The Twelve Labours of Heracles were:
- Slay the Nemean Lion.
- Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.
- Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis.
- Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
- Clean the Augean stables in a single day.
- Slay the Stymphalian Birds.
- Capture the Cretan Bull.
- Steal the Mares of Diomedes.
- Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.
- Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon.
- Steal the apples of the Hesperides.
- Capture and bring back Cerberus, the three-headed dog guarding the Underworld.
After his death, Heracles was granted immortality and a place among the gods on Mount Olympus. His myths have had a significant influence on Western culture and he is a prominent figure in literature and art.