Achilles Biography

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Heracles

The hero of Greek mythology I would like to address is Heracles the Lionheart, as he is referred to in The Homeric Hymns. I want to demonstrate how Heracles is loved and hated for his god-like strength and how his aggressiveness and rashness get him and others into bad situations. Heracles is the son of Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmene. As stated in Homeric Hymn 15, “Alkmene bore, having joined with Kronos’ black-clouded son” (Homeric Hymn 15.8). Heracles family tree goes back to Perseus and Andromeda, who bore three children named Alcheus, Electryon, and Sthenhelos. Alcheus’ son is Amphitryon, Electryon’s daughter is Alcmene, and Sthenhelos’ son is Eurystheus. All of these names are important to Heracles’ lineage because Amphitryon is Alcmene’s husband who raises Heracles as his own. Eurystheus is an important person in the life of Heracles because Hera knew that Zeus had cheated on her and made Zeus swear an oath that a son born into the house of Perseus would be high king. Hera did this knowing that she could delay the birth of Heracles so that Eurystheus would be born first and become king. Eurystheus became king and Heracles, later, does 12 labors for him. Now that his basic family tree has been laid out I would like to focus on Heracles’ spectacular feats and also his rash actions.

From a very young age Heracles showed amazing feats of strength and his mortal parents, Alcmene and Amphitryon, could tell that he was the son Zeus. His first feat of strength was mentioned in Heracles and the Sons of Heracles. Hera sent two snakes to kill Heracles when he was eight months old, however her plans turned out quite differently. In Heracles and the Sons of Heracles, Apollodorus writes,” Amphitryon put the snakes in the crib because he wanted to find out which of the two babies was his. When Iphicles fled but Heracles stood his ground, he realized that Iphicles was his son”(Heracles and the Sons of Heracles 91). Heracles not only stood his ground, but he, “stood up and strangled them to death, one with each hand”(Heracles and the Sons of Heracles 91). Thus Heracles demonstrated the strength bequeathed to him by his father Zeus. This story is one of the instances in which Heracles’ great strength was a helpful attribute as opposed to causing more destruction than needed.

Heracles’ first action that proved his rashness and underestimation of his strength is also explained in Heracles and the Sons of Heracles. This rash action was the murder of his lyre teacher with his lyre. In the text it says, “Linus was the brother of Orpheus and became a citizen of Thebes. He once struck Heracles, who then killed him in anger by a blow with his lyre”(Heracles and the Sons of Heracles 91). This overreaction shows that Heracles strength can also be a bad thing for himself and others because he was tried for murder after his actions. However, when Heracles was tried he believes he did nothing wrong and was simply defending himself. This also shows that Heracles is not only rash and strong, but he also does not like to admit that he reacts to strongly and aggressively to trivial actions.

After Heracles’ rash murder of Linus, Amphitryon sent Heracles away to tend cattle out of fear that he would kill someone else. While tending cattle, Heracles accomplished his second great feat that demonstrated his great strength and skill at slaying beasts. This feat was, “When he was eighteen and still tending the cattle, he killed the lion of Cithaeron which was ravaging the cattle of Amphitryon and Thespius, king of Thespiae”(Heracles and the Sons of Heracles 91). Heracles skinned the lion and proceeded to wear its skin and head as a helmet. While this victory over the beast was a good thing, it also shows that Heracles does not show mercy to his enemies and may even wear them as trophies. Thus showing his ego growing in size, leading to more foolish actions.

The next situation in which Heracles’ strength works against him, is when...
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