Copyright © 2000, Joseph J. Hughes
Last reviewed: 13 August 2001

I.   Concept of the Heroic
     A. Appeal of the heroic
        1. bridge between the human and the divine
        2. wish fulfillment
        3. we love to watch the rich and famous suffer
     B.	The dreaded HEROMETER
        1. of partially DIVINE descent
        2. STRANGE EVENTS from childhood on
        3. faced with OPPOSITION
        4. identifiable BAD GUY
        5. has a LOOOVE INTEREST
        6. HELPER, divine or human
        7. one or more MAJOR labors
        8. confronts DEATH may become divine or semi-divine	

II.  The Birth of Heracles
     A.	Electryon (son of Perseus), king of Mycenae
        1. Mycenae attacked by Teleboans; sons of Electryon killed
        2. Alcmena, daughter of Electron, entrusted to Amphitryon, her cousin
           a. Amphitryon kills Electryon and is exiled
           b. tragic cattle herding accident
        3. Amphitryon purified at Thebes; marries Alcmena
           a. no sex until the deaths of her brothers are avenged
           b. Zeus assumes Amphitryon's form; sleeps with Alcmena
           c. real Amphitryon returns and also sleeps with her
           d. twins born: Iphicles and Heracles
     B.	Hera's deception
        1. Zeus' oath about the next king of Mycenae
        2. Eurystheus, Heracles' cousin, fulfills the conditions of the oath
        3. Heracles must always serve an inferior
     C.	twins and divine birth
        1. good brother, bad brother: e.g., Acrisius and Proetus
        2. best of friends: e.g., Heracles & Iphicles
III. Young Heracles
     A.	Hera sends the serpents: divinity revealed
     B.	Heracles's education
        1. raised as an aristocrat: all the usual skills
        2. homicidal tendencies revealed: kills Linus, his music teacher
     C.	Daughters of Thespius: sexual prowess
        1. sent to Mt. Cithaeron for his crime
        2. hunts & kills an enormous lion
        3. mated with Thespius' 50 daughters
           a. extreme sexual prowess shows his bestial side
           b. begets many, many sons (Heraclids

IV.  Heracles's Greatest Hits: the 12 Labors
     A.	Heracles's first marriage
        1. marries Megara, daughter of Creon, king of Thebes
	2. Hera, patroness of wives and marriage, strikes him mad
	3. wife and children killed (MIASMA)
     B.	Heracles repents
        1. consults Delphi: must leave Thebes for Tiryns to serve Eurystheus
        2. the twelve athloi, "contests" or labors
           a. the labors proper
           b. the parerga, "side-deeds"
           c. the praxeis, military-like "deeds"
           d. Eurystheus the whining, sniveling turd
        3. earliest listing of 12 labors from a temple carvings
        4. number 12 arbitrary, but significant (e.g., 12 Olympians, 12 apostles; 12 months)
     C.	the first six labors: in the Peloponnesus; man vs. animal
        1. Nemean Lion: provides his armor
        2. Lernaean Hydra: provides poison for his arrows
        3. Ceryneian Hind: sacred to Artemis; not killed
        4. Erymanthian Boar
           a. parergon: Heracles and the Centaurs, Pholus, Chiron and Nessus
           b. Heracles interaction with the beasts/Centaurs
        5. Augean Stables: aetiology of janitors
           a. Heracles returns to collect his payment
           b. kills Augeus and in celebration establishes the Olympic Games
        6. Stymphalian Birds
     D.	next three labors: outside of Greece
        1. Cretan Bvll: Minos' bull captured and released at Marathon
        2. Horses of Diomedes: man-eaters
           a. entertained by his guest/friend, Admetus
           b. in gratitude wrestles Death and saves Alcestis
        3. Girdle of Hippolyta: Amazon queen gives herself to Heracles
           a. sexual labor; Hera causes strife and death to Hippolyta
           b. parergon: Heracles sacks Troy
              1) rescues daughter of King Laomedon from sea monster
              2) Laomedon refuses payment; all major Trojan males killed except Priam
     E.	last three labors: Katabasis
        1. Cattle of Geryon: Far West (land of the dead)
	   a. sets up the Pillars of Heracles
           b. travels via Helius' cup
           c. parergon: kills the monster cattle thief, Cacus, near the future site of Rome
        2. Apples of the Hesperides: apples from the Tree of Life
           a. apples represent immortality; again in the Far West
           b. captures Nereus, who then instructs him
           c. Atlas helps; Heracles tricks him
           d. parerga:
              1) wrestles with Antaeus
              2) kills Busiris
              3) rescues Prometheus
        3. Cerberus: descent to the underworld
           a. first is initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries
           b. allowed to take Cerberus, but no weapons to be used
           c. rescues Theseus
           d. promises Meleager he will marry his sister, Deianira
     G.	various other parerga and praxeis
        1. competes with his archery instructor (Eurytus) for his daughter, Iole
           a. wins the contest, but denied the prize
           b. treacherously kills Eurytus's son Iphitus, in anger
           c. consults Delphi for purification procedure
              1) Apollo denies advice to the repeat offender
              2) two sons of Zeus fight; Zeus breaks it up
        2. Heracles's servitude to Omphale for 3 years
           a. Heracles made effeminate
           b. Cercopes and "black-butt"
        3. kills Cycnus, son of Ares; wounds Ares himself in the thigh
        4. helps Zeus and the Olympians win the battle against the Giants

V.   The Death of Heracles and Aftermath
     A. Deianira, "man-killer"
	1. wrestles and defeats her river god suitor, AcheloŁs
        2. Nessus makes a pass at Deianira
           a. shot by Heracles
           b. the so called loooooooooooove potion
     B.	the consort, Iole
        1. Heracles kills Eurytas and takes Iole as his rightful prize
        2. Deianira uses "love potion" to win Heracles back
     C.	Heracles killed by the dead
        1. Deianira hangs herself in grief
        2. Philoctetes lights his funeral pyre; gets the bow
        3. Heracles taken up; no bones found
     D.	Heracles as an Olympian
        1. becomes immortal
        2. takes Hebe ("Youth") as his third wife
     E.	the Heraclids
        1. Eurystheus pursues the sons of Heracles
        2. sons defended by Athens; Eurystheus killed
        3. Heraclids eventually come to power in the Peloponnesus

Return to LLT 121 Notes Table of Contents