Monday, August 5, 2013

Hercules Part II

The ancient Sumerians who began studying and charting the heavens thousands of years ago thought this kneeling figure represented Gilgamesh, their version of Superman. The epic of Gilgamesh the warrior is one of the oldest surviving texts.

The Greeks had a Superman of their own named Hercules. Hercules started early. At only eight months of age, he strangled two serpents that tried to mess with his teddy bear. He was taught by the greatest teacher in Greece, Chiron the centaur. Chiron can be seen in the constellation Sagittarius low in the southern sky during the summer.

Hercules (or Heracles in Greek) was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, Alcmene. His name was a slap in the face to Zeus' wife Hera (Heracles means, "Glory of Hera"... ouch), and she did everything she could to make young Herc pay. Hera drove him stark raving mad - mad enough to kill his wife and kids. As punishment Hercules was forced to do twelve labors for king Eurystheus. At the completion of these labors, Hercules would achieve immortality. But these labors were not like taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn. Hera made sure they were the most impossible things imaginable.

Hercules’ first job was to slay the terrible Neamean Lion represented by the constellation Leo (see Leo). Another labor involved the slaying of the fierce and deadly Hydra. Hercules was rewarded for his valor and obedience by the god Zeus and was taken up to heaven where he lived happily ever after shining down on us.

Adding to his legend, Hercules was also married four times (once after death).