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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hercules was a Greek mythological hero of great strength and courage who performed twelve extraordinary tasks.  His great valor earned him a position among the gods and he was given a position on Mt. Olympus, the dwelling of the gods.  Of course, Hercules was part-god since he was the son of Zeus, an unfaithful husband of Hera, who fell in love with Alcmene, wife of Amphitryon.  The birth of Hercules angered Hera who made a vow to trouble Hercules throughout his lifetime.  After Hercules married Megara and had a happy life with her and their children, Hera tricked Hercules into killing them all in a rage.

When Hercules returned to his right state of mind, he prayed to Apollo to rid him of his crime.  Apollo, then, assigned Hercules the twelve tasks to perform in order to purify his soul.  However, Hera continued to plague Hercules.  In one of his greatest tasks, the eleventh, Hercules was asked to obtain the golden apples given to Zeus by Hera.  A difficult task, Hercules learned from Prometheus that he would have to help Atlas retrieve the apples.  He agreed to hold the sky and the earth while Atlas retrieved the apples.  But, Hercules fooled Atlas by getting him to hold the earth until he padded his shoulders while he then picked the golden apples.

Hercules went on to perform other heroic deeds such as rescuing the princess of Troy from a sea-monster.  In gratitude the princess gave Hercules a "love-potion" cloak which, instead, burned the skin of Hercules.  He asked that he be burned alive to end the pain.  Zeus asked Hera to end her tortue and had Hercules rescued and brought to Olympus in Athena's chariot.