Heracles (Part 2)

October 7, 2009

CC 303 Intro to Classical Mythology - Fall 2009
Department of Classics, University of Texas at Austin, Prof. Lawrence Kim

Deianira, Achelous, Iole, Nessus, Omphale, Chiron
Sophocles, Lichas, Trachis, Mt. Oeta, Centaurs

  1. Labors
    1. Atonement for murdering his family (taming the beast within)
    2. An ever widening circle of areas 'civilized' and wandered over
      • Peloponnese, Four corners of the Earth, Paradise/Underworld
    3. Predominance of Beasts (Lions, Boars, Deer, Birds, Bulls, Horses), Monsters (Geryon), and Anti-social People (Diomedes, Antaeus, Augeus, Amazons)
  2. Women of Trachis: Deianira, Nessus, Iole, Omphale, and Death
    • Hercules interested in Iole, princess of Oechalia; rejected by her dad
      • Later goes crazy and kills Iole's brother Iphitus, his guest in Thebes
      • Sold as slave to the Lydian Queen Omphale for 3 years
        • The two switch roles - he dresses as woman, she as a warrior
    • Hercules battles the river-god Achelous for Deianira, an Aetolian princess
    • Deianira and Nessus - the Evenus river crossing - the poisoned shirt
      • H. and D. reside in Trachis, where H. is exiled after killing Iphitus
    • H. attacks and conquers Oechalia; he sends Iole as a prisoner home to Trachis
      • Deianira, jealous, sends the shirt to Heracles via the herald Lichas
      • Heracles, poisoned, enraged, kills Lichas
    • H. returns to Trachis; D. kills herself
      • H. burns himself to death on pyre, on Mt. Oeta
      • H. rises to Olympus and becomes immortal
  3. Hercules' Wild Side
    1. Lone Mountain Man; Gets into Trouble in Society
    2. Clothing and Accessories associated with Beasts and the Primitive
      • Lion Skin, Club, Hairy, Sometimes Naked, Wrestling
    3. Characterized by excess
      • Big Appetites: Food, Drink, Sex
        • Daughters of Thespius, Pholos and Centaurs, Alcestis (see later lecture)
      • Passions, Lack of Emotional Control: Murderous Rages
        • Megara and Children; Linus; Iphitus; Lichas
  4. The Other Sides of Hercules
    1. The Civilizing and Culture-Hero
      • Rids the world of monsters, outlaws, and sociopaths
      • Uses cleverness and skill instead of brawn
      • Frees Prometheus, the bringer of fire and civilization
      • Uses the bow and arrow
    2. Object of ridicule
      • Serves the coward Eurystheus and the woman Omphale
      • Often portrayed as dimwitted, a brute, and a drunk
  5. Force of Nature and Larger than Life
    1. Greek Hero
      • Not someone you look up to, and try to emulate
      • Pushes at the limits of humanity
    2. H. is a figure of excess; goes well beyond other Greek heroes
      • H. is stronger, crazier, more accomplished, etc.
      • H. eventually goes beyond humanity; he becomes a god

Return to Syllabus
  1. Heracles Fighting Achelous. Attic Vase.
  2. Hercules and OmphaleFrançois Lemoyne, 1724. Musée du Louvre, Paris.
  3. Hercules and Omphale. Bartholomäus Spranger, c. 1600. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
  4. Heracles, Nessus, and Deianeira. Attic amphora, c. 570-550 BCE. Staatliche Antikensammlung, Munich.
  5. Deianeira Abducted by the Centaur Nessus. Guido Reni, 1621. Musée du Louvre, Paris.
  6. Heracles shooting Nessus. Engraving.
  7. Heracles and Deianeira. Attic Red-figure pelike from Nola, c. 420 BCE. British Museum, London.
  8. Hercules and Lichas. Antonio Canova, 1795-1825. Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Rome.
  9. Heracles on his pyre. Attic Red-figure psykter, c. 460 BCE. Private Collection, New York.
  10. Drunken Heracles. House of the Stags, Herculaneum.