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{{short description|Roman adaptation of the Greek divine hero Heracles}}{{About|Hercules in Roman classical mythology|the Greek divine hero from which Hercules was adapted|Heracles|other uses|Hercules (disambiguation)}}{{pp-semi-indef|small=yes}}

by Peter Paul Rubens| god_of = God of strength and heroes | abode = Rome| symbol = Club, Nemean Lion, bow and arrows| consort = Juventas
Jupiter (mythology)>Jupiter and Alcmene| siblings =| children =| mount = | Greek_equivalent = Heracles| Etruscan_equivalent = Hercle}}Hercules ({{IPAc-en|ˈ|h|ɜːr|k|j|u|l|iː|z|,_|-|j|ə|-}}) is a Roman hero and god. He was the Roman equivalent of the Greek divine hero Heracles, who was the son of Zeus (Roman equivalent Jupiter) and the mortal Alcmene. In classical mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures.The Romans adapted the Greek hero's iconography and myths for their literature and art under the name Hercules. In later Western art and literature and in popular culture, Hercules is more commonly used than Heracles as the name of the hero. Hercules was a multifaceted figure with contradictory characteristics, which enabled later artists and writers to pick and choose how to represent him."Hercules," in The Classical Tradition (Harvard University Press, 2010), p. 426. This article provides an introduction to representations of Hercules in the later tradition.


File:Antonio del Pollaiolo - Ercole e l'Idra e Ercole e Anteo - Google Art Project.jpg|thumb|Hercules and the Hydra (ca. 1475) by Antonio del PollaiuoloAntonio del PollaiuoloFile:Heracles and the Erymantian boar.jpg|thumb|upright|220px|Hercules capturing the Erymanthian Boar, by (:es:José Manuel Félix Magdalena|J.M. Félix Magdalena) (b. 1941)]]File:Herakles strangling snakes Louvre G192.jpg|thumb|The infant Hercules (Heracles) strangling the snakes sent by the goddess Hera (a woman protects Iphikles on the right); detail from an Attic red-figured stamnos from Vulci, EtruriaEtruriaHercules is known for his many adventures, which took him to the far reaches of the Greco-Roman world. One cycle of these adventures became canonical as the "Twelve Labours", but the list has variations. One traditional order of the labours is found in the Bibliotheca as follows:Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke 2.5.1-2.5.12.
  1. Slay the Nemean Lion.
  2. Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.
  3. Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis.
  4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
  5. Clean the Augean stables in a single day.
  6. Slay the Stymphalian Birds.
  7. Capture the Cretan Bull.
  8. Steal the Mares of Diomedes.
  9. Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.
  10. Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon.
  11. Steal the apples of the Hesperides.
  12. Capture and bring back Cerberus.

Side adventures

Hercules had a greater number of "deeds on the side" (parerga) that have been popular subjects for art, including:File:Hercules killing Cacus at his Cave.jpg|Killing a fire-breathing Cacus (Sebald Beham, 1545)File:Taten des Herakles dt 16Jh Atlas.jpg|Holding up the sky for Atlas (based on Heinrich Aldegrever, 1550)File:Annibale Fontana - Plaque with Hercules and Achelous - Walters 4171.jpg|Wrestling with Achelous (16th-century plaque)File:Herakles Antaeus Couder decoration Louvre INV3378.jpg|Fighting the giant Antaeus (Auguste Couder, 1819)File:L'Enlèvement, par Paul Cézanne.jpg|Retrieving Alcestis from the underworld (Paul Cézanne, 1867)File:Prometheus and Hercules.jpg|Freeing Prometheus (Christian Griepenkerl, 1878)

Roman era

File:Herakles snake Musei Capitolini MC247.jpg|thumb|upright|right|Baby Hercules strangling a snake sent to kill him in his cradle (Roman marble, 2nd century CE, in the Capitoline Museums of RomeRomeThe Latin name Hercules was borrowed through Etruscan, where it is represented variously as Heracle, Hercle, and other forms. Hercules was a favorite subject for Etruscan art, and appears often on bronze mirrors. The Etruscan form Herceler derives from the Greek Heracles via syncope. A mild oath invoking Hercules (Hercule! or Mehercle!) was a common interjection in Classical Latin.W. M. Lindsay, "Mehercle and Herc(v)lvs. [Mehercle and Herc(u)lus]" The Classical Quarterly 12.2 (April 1918:58).Hercules had a number of myths that were distinctly Roman. One of these is Hercules' defeat of Cacus, who was terrorizing the countryside of Rome. The hero was associated with the Aventine Hill through his son Aventinus. Mark Antony considered him a personal patron god, as did the emperor Commodus. Hercules received various forms of religious veneration, including as a deity concerned with children and childbirth, in part because of myths about his precocious infancy, and in part because he fathered countless children. Roman brides wore a special belt tied with the "knot of Hercules", which was supposed to be hard to untie.Festus 55 (edition of Lindsay); William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (London, 1908), p. 142; Karen K. Hersch, The Roman Wedding: Ritual and Meaning in Antiquity (Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 101, 110, 211. The comic playwright Plautus presents the myth of Hercules' conception as a sex comedy in his play Amphitryon; Seneca wrote the tragedy Hercules Furens about his bout with madness. During the Roman Imperial era, Hercules was worshipped locally from Hispania through Gaul.

Germanic association

File:Hall of the Augustals.jpg|thumb|left|200px|A fresco from Herculaneum depicting Heracles and Achelous from Greco-Roman mythologyRoman mythologyTacitus records a special affinity of the Germanic peoples for Hercules. In chapter 3 of his Germania, Tacitus states:{{bquote|... they say that Hercules, too, once visited them; and when going into battle, they sang of him first of all heroes. They have also those songs of theirs, by the recital of this barditusor, baritus, there being scribal variants. In the 17th century, the word entered the German language as barditus and was associated with the Celtic bards. as they call it, they rouse their courage, while from the note they augur the result of the approaching conflict. For, as their line shouts, they inspire or feel alarm.}}Some have taken this as Tacitus equating the Germanic Þunraz with Hercules by way of interpretatio romana.Simek, Rudolf (2007:140—142) translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer. {{ISBN|0-85991-513-1}}In the Roman era Hercules' Club amulets appear from the 2nd to 3rd century, distributed over the empire (including Roman Britain, c.f. Cool 1986), mostly made of gold, shaped like wooden clubs. A specimen found in Köln-Nippes bears the inscription "DEO HER[culi]", confirming the association with Hercules.In the 5th to 7th centuries, during the Migration Period, the amulet is theorized to have rapidly spread from the Elbe Germanic area across Europe. These Germanic "Donar's Clubs" were made from deer antler, bone or wood, more rarely also from bronze or precious metals. They are found exclusively in female graves, apparently worn either as a belt pendant, or as an ear pendant.{{cn|date=February 2019}} The amulet type is replaced by the Viking Age Thor's hammer pendants in the course of the Christianization of Scandinavia from the 8th to 9th century.{{clear}}

Medieval mythography

File:Histoires de Troyes - Nemeian Lion.jpg|thumb|upright|right|Hercules and the Nemean lion in the 15th-century Histoires de Troyes]]After the Roman Empire became Christianized, mythological narratives were often reinterpreted as allegory, influenced by the philosophy of late antiquity. In the 4th century, Servius had described Hercules' return from the underworld as representing his ability to overcome earthly desires and vices, or the earth itself as a consumer of bodies.Servius, note to Aeneid 6.395; Jane Chance, Medieval Mythography: From Roman North Africa to the School of Chartres, A.D. 433–1177 (University Press of Florida, 1994), p. 91. In medieval mythography, Hercules was one of the heroes seen as a strong role model who demonstrated both valor and wisdom, while the monsters he battles were regarded as moral obstacles.Chance, Medieval Mythography, pp. 168, 218, 413. One glossator noted that when Hercules became a constellation, he showed that strength was necessary to gain entrance to Heaven.Chance, Medieval Mythography, p. 219.Medieval mythography was written almost entirely in Latin, and original Greek texts were little used as sources for Hercules' myths.{{clear}}

Renaissance mythography

File:Henry IV en Herculeus terrassant l Hydre de Lerne cad La ligue Catholique Atelier Toussaint Dubreuil circa 1600.jpg|thumb|right|King Henry IV of France depicted as Hercules vanquishing the Lernaean Hydra (i.e. the Catholic League), by Toussaint DubreuilToussaint DubreuilThe Renaissance and the invention of the printing press brought a renewed interest in and publication of Greek literature. Renaissance mythography drew more extensively on the Greek tradition of Heracles, typically under the Romanized name Hercules, or the alternate name Alcides. In a chapter of his book Mythologiae (1567), the influential mythographer Natale Conti collected and summarized an extensive range of myths concerning the birth, adventures, and death of the hero under his Roman name Hercules. Conti begins his lengthy chapter on Hercules with an overview description that continues the moralizing impulse of the Middle Ages:Hercules, who subdued and destroyed monsters, bandits, and criminals, was justly famous and renowned for his great courage. His great and glorious reputation was worldwide, and so firmly entrenched that he'll always be remembered. In fact the ancients honored him with his own temples, altars, ceremonies, and priests. But it was his wisdom and great soul that earned those honors; noble blood, physical strength, and political power just aren't good enough.Natale Conti, Mythologiae Book 7, Chapter 1, as translated by John Mulryan and Steven Brown (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2006), vol. 2, p. 566.In 1600, the citizens of Avignon bestowed on Henry of Navarre (the future King Henry IV of France) the title of the Hercule Gaulois ("Gallic Hercules"), justifying the extravagant flattery with a genealogy that traced the origin of the House of Navarre to a nephew of Hercules' son Hispalus.The official account, Labyrinthe royal... quoted in Jean Seznec, The Survival of the Pagan Gods, (B.F. Sessions, tr., 1995) p. 26

In art

In Roman works of art and in Renaissance and post-Renaissance art, Hercules can be identified by his attributes, the lion skin and the gnarled club (his favorite weapon); in mosaic he is shown tanned bronze, a virile aspect.Hercules almost suggests "Hero". The Classical and Hellenistic convention in frescoes and mosaics, adopted by the Romans, is to show women as pale-skinned and men as tanned dark from their outdoor arena of action and exercising in the gymnasium.(See also, jpg file., subject).

Roman era

File:Heracles Pio-Clementino Inv252.jpg|Hercules of the Forum Boarium (Hellenistic, 2nd century BCE)File:Hercules and Iolaus mosaic - Anzio Nymphaeum.jpg|Hercules and Iolaus (1st century CE mosaic from the Anzio Nymphaeum, Rome)File:Hercules Hatra Iraq Parthian period 1st 2nd century CE.jpg|Hercules (Hatra, Iraq, Parthian period, 1st-2nd century CE)File:Muze 001.jpg|Hercules bronze statuette, 2nd century CE (museum of Alanya, Turkey)File:Missorium Herakles lion Cdm Paris 56-345 n3.jpg|Hercules and the Nemean Lion (detail), silver plate, 6th century (Cabinet des Médailles, Paris)File:Affresco romano - eracle ed onfale - area vesuviana.JPG|Heracles and Omphale, Roman fresco, Pompeian Fourth Style (45-79 AD), Naples National Archaeological Museum, ItalyFile:Tesoro di hildesheim, argento, I sec ac-I dc ca., piatto da parata con ercole bambino e i serpenti 01.JPG|A Roman gilded silver bowl depicting the boy Hercules strangling two serpents, from the Hildesheim Treasure, 1st century AD, Altes Museum

Modern era

File:Hendrik Goltzius - De reus Hercules.jpg|The Giant Hercules (1589) by Hendrik GoltziusFile:Lucas Faydherbe, Buste van Hercules - Buste d'Hercule, KBS-FRB.jpg|Lucas Faydherbe, Bust of Hercules - collection King Baudouin FoundationFile:Peter Paul Rubens cat01.jpg|The Drunken Hercules (1612-1614) by RubensFile:Brooklyn Museum - Les Écuries d'Augias - Honoré Daumier.jpg|Hercules in the Augean stable (1842, Honoré Daumier)File:Hercules Comic Cover.JPG|Comic book cover (c.1958)File:Bartholomäus Spranger - Hercules, Deianira and the Centaur Nessus - Google Art Project.jpg|Hercules, Deianira and the Centaur Nessus, by Bartholomäus Spranger, 1580 - 1582File:Henry IV en Herculeus terrassant l Hydre de Lerne cad La ligue Catholique Atelier Toussaint Dubreuil circa 1600.jpg|Henry IV of France, as Hercules vanquishing the Lernaean Hydra (i.e. the Catholic League), by Toussaint Dubreuil, c. 1600. Louvre Museum

In numismatics

Hercules was among the earliest figures on ancient Roman coinage, and has been the main motif of many collector coins and medals since. One example is the 20 euro Baroque Silver coin issued on September 11, 2002. The obverse side of the coin shows the Grand Staircase in the town palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy in Vienna, currently the Austrian Ministry of Finance. Gods and demi-gods hold its flights, while Hercules stands at the turn of the stairs.File:Æ Triens 2710028.jpg|Juno, with Hercules fighting a Centaur on reverse (Roman, 215–15 BCE)File:Denarius Publius Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus 1 Obverse.jpg|Club over his shoulder on a Roman denarius (ca. 100 BCE)File:MAXIMINUS II-RIC VI 77-251201.jpg|Maximinus II and Hercules with club and lionskin (Roman, 313 CE)File:5 French francs Hercule de Dupré 1996 F346-2 obverse.jpg|Commemorative 5-franc piece (1996), Hercules in centerFile:Caracalla Denarius Hercules RIC192.jpg|Hercules, as seen on a Denarius of the Roman Emperor Caracalla. Dated 212 AD.{{Clear}}


Six successive ships of the British Royal Navy, from the 18th to the 20th century, bore the name HMS Hercules.In the French Navy, there were no less than nineteen ships called Hercule, plus three more named Alcide which is another name of the same hero.Hercules' name was also used for five ships of the US Navy, four ships of the Spanish Navy, four of the Argentine Navy and two of the Swedish Navy, as well as for numerous civilian sailing and steam ships - see links at Hercules (ship).In modern aviation a military transport aircraft produced by Lockheed Martin carries the title Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

Other cultural references

File:PillarsHerculesPeutingeriana.jpg|Pillars of Hercules, representing the Strait of Gibraltar (19th-century conjecture of the Tabula Peutingeriana)File:Maczuga Herkulesa (background Castle Pieskowa Skała).jpg|The Cudgel of Hercules, a tall limestone rock formation, with Pieskowa Skała Castle in the backgroundFile:Royal Coat of Arms of Greece.svg|Hercules as heraldic supporters in the royal arms of Greece, in use 1863–1973. The phrase "Ηρακλείς του στέμματος" ("Defenders of the Crown") has pejorative connotations ("chief henchmen") in Greek.

In films

{{For|a list of films featuring Hercules|Hercules in popular culture#Filmography}}A series of nineteen Italian Hercules movies were made in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The actors who played Hercules in these films were Steve Reeves, Gordon Scott, Kirk Morris, Mickey Hargitay, Mark Forest, Alan Steel, Dan Vadis, Brad Harris, Reg Park, Peter Lupus (billed as Rock Stevens) and Michael Lane. A number of English-dubbed Italian films that featured the name of Hercules in their title were not intended to be movies about Hercules.

See also



External links

}}{{Twelve tasks of Hercules}}{{Hercules media}}{{Authority control}}

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