Hercules in Greek Mythology is the most famous and beloved hero in Greek Mythology. There are more stories about him in Greek mythology than that of any other hero or legend. In Greek Mythology his real name is Herakles but he is famous by his Roman name, Hercules.
Despite his so much popularity, some people wonders who is Hercules in Greek Mythology and are still confused about the idea of that is Hercules a god or not in Greek religion.
The cause of this confusion is the fact that in some myths Hercules is dealt with as a demigod, while in others he has been given the status of a god in Greek mythology.
So, if you are sometimes caught in confusion about the correct status of Hercules in Greek Mythology and ought to know a clear answer to the question that who is Hercules in Greek Mythology, you are on the right page.
In this article, we will not only tell you about the status of Hercules at his birth in detail but also inform you whether things changed after his death or not.
First of all, let’s clarify the difference between a god and a demigod in Greek religion.
Difference between a god and a demigod in Greek Mythology:
Who is a god in Greek Mythology?
In Greek belief, a god is a deity or spirit who controls this world or some part of it and who stands for a specific quality. It means there are different gods and goddesses for different things.
For example, Ares is the god of war and Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty.
Who is a demigod in Greek Mythology?
On the other hand, a demigod is a being whose one parent is mortal and the other is divine. It means that a demigod is partially god and partially human. Almost all the demigods are males.
For example, Perseus was a demigod. His father was Zeus while his mother was a mortal lady named Danae.
So, is Hercules a god or not?
In the light of above definitions, Hercules in Greek Mythology is not an actual god but a demigod. Because according to Greek mythology Hercules mother was a mortal being, while his father was a god.
Who was Hercules’ Mother?
Hercules’s mortal mother Alcmene, was the queen of Thebes and the wife of king Amphitryon.
(Fun fact! Alcmene is the granddaughter of legendry demigod Perseus. The same Perseus who killed the famed monster Medusa.)
Who was Hercules’ actual Father?
So, here is the question. Why not Amphitryon is Hercules’ actual father? The answer of the question is one word. ZEUS!
Zeus who is the king of all gods and goddess prepared a plan. To create an all-powerful child with Alcmene. In fact, Alcmene was Zeus’ great granddaughter as Zeus is the father of Alcmene’s grandfather Perseus.
To fulfil his plan, Zeus disguised himself as Alcmene’s husband Amphitryon, went to her bedroom and seduced her.
The result of this intercourse was the birth of our hero, Hercules. But circumstances began to change after his birth. And due to these circumstances, he transformed from a demigod to finally a god.
The Transformation of Hercules in Greek Mythology from a demigod to a god:
So, why and how this all happened? To answer this question, we have to look into some incidents of Hercules’ life.
Hercules in Greek Mythology was very brave and courageous even as a child. When Hera, the queen of all gods and goddesses and Zeus’ actual wife came to know about his existence, she was very furious.
Hera sent two snakes to kill Hercules in his childhood. But to everyone’s surprise, he killed both of the snakes even before they could strangle him.
But Hera kept up her cunning and dirty acts. After Hercules’ marriage, she cast such a spell on him that drove Hercules crazy. In his madness, Hercules kills not only his pretty wife but also two beloved children.
When Hercules comes to his senses, he was heartbroken. He felt guilty about his terrible act of murdering his own family.
Hercules went to Apollo, the god of cure, and begged for punishment for his horrible action. So, Apollo instructed him that if he completes twelve labours for the king Eurystheus, he would be forgiven.
Hercules’ Twelve Labours:
For your interest, those twelve labours were these;
- To kill the Nemean Lion
- To kill the Lernaean Hydra
- To capture the Ceryneian Hind
- To capture the Erymanthian Boar
- To clean the Augean Stables
- To kill the Stymphalian Birds
- To capture the Cretan Bull
- To capture the Horses of Diomedes
- To take the Gridle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons
- To capture the Cattle of Geryon
- To take the Golden Apples of the Hesperides
- To capture Cerberus
There are some other tasks completed by Hercules himself, but they are not that important.
Hercules’ Marriage and Death:
After completing these twelve labours, Hercules in Greek Mythology married another woman named Deianira. With this marriage also came Hercules’ death and his changing into a god.
It all began when a centaur (a creature whose half body is of man and half of a horse), tried to kidnap Deianira. But Hercules killed that centaur with an arrow that was soaked in Hydra’s poison.
When the centaur was about to die, he realized that his blood is now become poisoned. So, he played a trick.
He gave his tunic (a piece of loose garment) to Deianira and lied to her that this tunic will forever bind Hercules to her.
After many years, Deianira heard a rumour of Hercules’ affair. So, she gave that poisoned tunic to Hercules and hoped that it will bring Hercules back to her.
But when Hercules wore that tunic, it started to burn his flesh. Hercules realized that he has been poisoned. After this realization, he built a funeral pyre by himself and then burnt himself to death on it.
Hercules in Greek Mythology finally becoming a god:
When Hercules’ mortal part was burning on that funeral pyre, Hera took pity on him and ended her anger. After that Zeus ordered Athena to bring the divine part to Olympus.
Hercules’s divine part was taken to Mount Olympus, where he transformed into an immortal deity, a god. On Mount Olympus, Hercules married Heba, the goddess of youth.
So, Hercules in Greek Mythology abandoned this world to live with the gods on Mount Olympus forever. Even though his father was a god, his life was not a bed of roses. His great strength did not help him in his relationships.
He accomplished great things but he was not immune to those dark times that are part of every human life.
The myth of Hercules depicts the world as it is. This is the reason that ancient Greek people were so much keen to hear the stories of Hercules.
Even in modern times, novels, comic books, movies and series featuring Hercules are very popular.
The reason is that everyone can relate to Hercules, as his life was not perfect and he was not an ideal person.
So, when someone faces any difficult situation in his life, he can take relief in the notion that if Hercules in Greek Mythology could undergo his sufferings, he can endure his difficulties too.