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.