How Did Hercules Become Immortal?
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Hercules is one of the most popular figures in Greek mythology and much has been written about them. When we think of him, we usually think of his exploits and strength here on earth. What some might not know is that before he was a full god, he was a demigod. Here’s what you need to know about Hercules and how he became immortal:
Hercules was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman named Alcmene. Hercules was born a demigod who had amazing strength and stamina. Hercules was given the name Alcaeus when he was born. Zeus’ wife Hera knew about his illegitimate son and would make the life of Hercules very difficult. She resented him so much that she would go to great lengths to destroy him. Her first attempt to get rid of him was at his own birth. Hera sent witches to prevent the birth from happening, but Alcmene’s servants sent them to a different room.
Hercules as a Demigod
When Hercules was a baby, Hera sent serpents to kill him, but Hercules strangled them. One version of the myth says that Alcmene left Hercules in the woods to protect him from Hera. Goddess Athena found him and took him to Hera as an orphan who needed nourishment. Hera took young Hercules and nursed him until her bit her. She pushed him away quickly and her milked spilled across the night sky to create the Milky Way. Unknowingly, Hera helped to give Hercules with more strength and power by nursing him. Hercules was fascinating to the Greek people as he was like other mortals and could make mistakes and suffer, but he also had powers like no other mortal did.
Hercules Becomes a God
Hercules would get married, have three sons, and be a successful hero. Hera could still not tolerate him and sent him into a madness. The result was Hercules killing his three sons. When it was over and he realized what he had done, he wanted to kill himself, but his cousin Theseus stopped him. Hercules then went to the Oracle at Delphi and she told him to go to his cousin Eurystheus, King of Tiryns and Mycenae.
His cousin gave him twelve labours to atone for his sins. It was around this time that Hercules was no longer known as Alcaeus, but as Herakles (Hercules) meaning “Glory of Hera,” as he had become well-known through his trouble with her. The twelve labors Hercules included tasks that included killing Hydra, the monster with nine venomous heads. He also had to capture the Cretan Bull belonging to King Minos, the Erymanthian Boar, and the Cerynthian Hind.
Hercules had to kill the Nemean Lion who was impenetrable to all weapons. Hercules managed to trap the lion and strangle it with his bare hands. For his final labour, one that seemed impossible, he had to descend to the underworld and capture the three-headed dog Cerberus. With the final task completed, Hercules earned his freedom and his immortality. Hercules would build a funeral pyre and end his life and live eternally among the gods.
Hercules is indeed a unique figure in Greek mythology. While he made mistakes like any other mortal, he also had qualities that deemed him suitable for immortality.
Categorized in: Greek Mythology
This post was written by Greek Boston