Hercules
NOTE: The Grek name of this hero is Herakles, which (oddly enough!) means "Glory of Hera." Since most people are familier with the Roman name, that is the name I will use.
Greek:The Greeks saw this constellation as Hercules, one of the sons of Zeus and classical Greek mythology’s greatest heroes. Like many of Zeus' children, he was not liked by his step mother Hera. When he was a mere babe, she sent two snakes to devour him, but he strangled the two reptiles. Soon afterwards, she tricked his mother into abandoning him in the wildreness. He would have died, but Zeus had Athena trick Hera into breat feeding him. Well, Hercules bit a little too hard, though, and her milk squirted into the sky to form the Milky Way.

The most famous cycle attributed to him are his Twelve Labors. Hera had cast a spell upon him and made him kill his first wife and family. In order to redeem himself, Hercules had to perform these twelve tasks:

1) Slay the Nemean Lion
2) Slay the Lernan Hydra
3) Capture the golden atlered stag sacred to Artemis
4) Capture the boar of Mount Erymanthus
5) Clean the stables of Augeas. Hercules diverted the course of two rivers to accomplish
 this feat.
6) Drive away the birds of Stymphalius
7) Capture the bull of Crete
8) Drive away the man-eating horses of Diomedes
9) Obtain the girdle of the Amazon Queen Hippolyta
10)Obtain the cattle of the three headed monster Geryon
11)Obtain the Golden Apples of the Hesperides. To do this, Hercules had to hold the sky
 up for Atlas so the titan could get the apples. However, Hercules had to trick the titan
 into taking the sky back for him!
12)Capture Cerberus, the three headed hound of Hades

Hercules even accompanied Jason on his quest to find the Golden Fleece and is credited with founding the Olympics. However, the day would come when the hero's life had to end. One day, Hercules and his wife were traveling and they came to a river. A centaur offered to escort them across. First, he took Hercules’ wife. But when he reached the other side, the centaur ran off with her. Hercules drew his bow and killed the centaur. Before he died, the centaur gave the wife a vial of his blood, saying that if she ever thought Hercules was unfaithful, she would only need to pour this vial into his clothes and his love would be renewed. However, when she did this sometime later, Hercules discovered the blood was poison, but since he was part god, he wouldn’t die. So he built a funeral pyre and acceded to the heavens on it’s flames. Once on Mount Olympus, he was reconsiled with Hera and accepted by the gods.

Babylon:The Babylonians saw this constellation as Gilgamesh, king of the ancient city of Uruk. Like Hercules, he was of divine origin and had superhuman strength. However, he was afraid of dying and wished immortality. The story begins in the city state of Uruk. Gilgamesh kept the city in a state of martial law, and the people prayed to the gods for help. So they created Enkidu, a wild man who was Gilgamesh’s physical equal. Enkidu was brought to the city of Uruk by a harlot, and when he found Gilgamesh the two engaged in a wrestling match. Enkidu emerged victorious, but instead of becoming enemies, the two became the best of friends and Enkidu moved in with Gilgamesh. After awhile, Enkidu complained that he was growing weak and restless, so Gilgamesh suggested that they go on an adventure to the great Cedar Forest and slay Humbaba, a fearsome monster who’s utterance was fire, breath was death, and shout was the flood weapon. The two set off with Shamash, the sun god on their side. After a heroic journey, they defeated the monster and built a memorial to their achievement out of the trees that Humbaba was set to guard. This attracted the attention of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war. She proposed to Gilgamesh, but he refused and angered the goddess. Ishtar begged Anu, the supreme sky god of the Babylonians, to use the Bull of Heaven to defeat Gilgamesh. Anu refused, but changed his mind when Ishtar threatened to remove love from the land and granted the goddess her wish . The Bull caused great chaos and killed many people, but Gilgamesh and Enkidu defeated the beast. This made the gods really angry. In punishment, it was decided that Enkidu should die by being inflicted with a wasting disease. After the death of his friend, Gilgamesh wandered the world clothed only in a lion skin, searching for meaning to life. After a long journey, he met up with Atrahasis, the Mesopotamian equivalent to Noah. Atrahasis was rewarded with immortality after saving the animals from a great flood sent by Enlil. He proposed an ordeal to see if Gilgamesh is worthy-he has to stay up for a week. He failed. However, Atrahasis revealed a secret to Gilgamesh-the location of a plant which will make him young again. He recovered this plant from the bottom of a lake and started his journey home. One the way, he stoped to bathe in a stream, but a snake stole and the plant. Crushed, Gilgamesh returned home to realize that his only way to achieve immortality would be through his city and the stories people would tell about him.

Back to Star Lore Directory.
1