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Everybody knows Hercules was a 'strongman'. But to the ancient Greeks he was much more than that. They worshipped him as a god.

According to legend, Hercules was the son of Zeus and Alcmene. Zeus was a Greek god and Alcmene was a princess from our earth. Zeus had a wife in heaven called Hera. She hated Hercules. While he was still in his cradle, she sent two serpents to kill him, but the infant strangled them. When he grew up, Hercules married Megara, But the evil Hera caused him to be seized with a fit of madness and during the seizure, he killed his wife and children.

To make up for this terrible deed, the oracle at Delphi ordered Hercules to offer his services to King Eurystheus. The king gave him twelve labours to do. They were difficult and fearsome tasks. It is these twelve labours which Hercules undertook that make up most of the legend about him.

First he strangled a fierce lion with his bare hands. Then he was sent to kill the dragon Hydra, a monster which had devoured many beautiful young girls. It had nine heads, eight of which were mortal and one immortal. Every time Hercules struck off a mortal head, two more grew in its place. In the end, Hercules managed to kill the Hydra.

His third labour was to kill the golden-horned stag and after that, he was to slay a wild boar. His next labour was indeed a Herculean task. King Augeas had a stable of 3000 oxen and they had not been cleaned for 30 years. Hercules was ordered to do the job. He directed the courses of two rivers into the stables and completed the task in a day. The way he handled the problem proved that not only had Hercules great strength and courage but he was also a wise man.

His sixth labour was to kill the birds of Stymphalus; his seventh to capture the Cretan bull. Naturally the birds and the bull were no ordinary animals and it took him great effort to finally overcome them. His eighth task was to capture the wild horses of Diomedes, which fed on human flesh. For his ninth labour, he brought back the belt of Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons. For his tenth, he brought hack the oxen of Geryon from a far-western island. On his way he split apart a mountain to form what is known today as the Straits of Gibraltar. His eleventh labour was to secure three golden apples from Hesperides and his twelfth was to bring to King Eurystheus the watchdog of Hades.

     
  1.

Hercules was

       
    (A) an infant.
    (B) a god.
    (C)

a Greek.

    (D) a Greek god.
       
  2.

Hercules first showed his strength when

       
    (A)

he killed two serpents.

    (B) he married Megara.
    (C) he was seized with a fit of madness.
    (D) he killed his wife and children
       
  3.

In the passage, the phrase a Herculean task means a task that is

       
    (A) very exciting.
    (B)

extremely difficult.

    (C) rather dirty
    (D) quite easy.
       
  4.

How many types of animals or monsters did Hercules kill throughout his labours ?

       
    (A)

Five

    (B) Nine
    (C) Ten
    (D) Eleven
       
  5.

What is remarkable about the way Hercules handled his fifth labour ?

       
    (A) He could order the rivers to do as he commanded.
    (B) He could find two rivers hear the stables.
    (C)

He had thought of such a clever idea and finished the job quickly.

    (D) He had shown courage.
       
  6. Among the creatures mentioned in the passage, most of them were monsters except perhaps
       
    (A) the golden-horned stag.
    (B)

the 300 oxen.

    (C) the wild horses.
    (D) the watchdog.
       
  7. Which of his labours involved bringing objects back tot he king ?
       
    (A) The last five
    (B) The ninth
    (C) The eleventh
    (D)

The ninth and eleventh

       
  8. Who were the two immortal beings in Hercules's family ?
       
  9. What was Hercules's punishment for killing his wife and children ?
       
  10. In what way was Hercules's first four labours similar ?
       
           
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  Answers : 1) C    2) A    3) B    4) A    5) C     6) B     7) D

8) Zeus and Hera were the two immortal beings in his family.

9) He had to carry out twelve difficult and fearsome tasks for King Eurystheus

10) The first four labours required him to kill.

 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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