Heracles (Hercules) and Adoption

Heracles as a boy strangling a snake. Marble, Roman artwork, 2nd century CE.


One of several versions of his life states that Heracles was adopted by Hera, wife of the god Zeus. Another version of his life states that he was the son of Zeus and Alkmene (wife of Amphitryon), and the twin of Iphicles.

When he was a baby he was attacked by two serpents, but he strangled them. To encourage his obvious gifts he was sent to Rhadamanthys and Linus to be raised and taught wisdom, virtue and music. He killed Linus in a fit of temper and was sent then to be fostered by some shepherds in the mountains, where he further developed his incredible strength. At 18 he killed a lion which was attacking some of Amphitryon's herds.

He married Megara, daughter of King Creon, but went mad (the madness was sent by Hera) and killed her and all their children. As penance he went into exile for 12 years, during which he undertook the 12 Labors of Hercules (the Nemean lion, the hydra of Lerna, the boar of Erymanthus, the hind of Ceryneia, the birds of Stymphalus, the stables of Augean, the Cretan bull, the horses of Diomedes, the girdle of the Amazon, Geryon, Cerberus, and the apples of the Hesperides).

He was revered for his tremendous strength and courage. His legend is possibly based on the life of a real person, possibly a Tirynthian prince or noble.


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