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Mythology/Why is Heracles the greatest hero in Greek Mythology?


Hello Sir,
I have read many stories about Heracles. They say his journey to fame began when he killed his own family. But even after the Twelve Labours, Heracles never learnt anything at all. He killed people just because they offended him, even for the right reasons. He cheated on his spouse several times. Heracles was even bisexual. Why is he even deemed as the greatest hero, the paragon of masculinity? Was it just because he had super strength and killed dozens of monsters?

Another question: Perseus, Bellerophon, Cadmus, Theseus, Jason and Odysseus were all kings, atleast at some point of their lives. If Heracles was so great, why was he never a king? I find it very ironic.
Thank You

Hercules was a great hero because he suffered for the sins of his past. He didn't just kill his family, he was stricken with madness by Hera and thought his sons coming to greet him returning from war were really enemy soldiers.

Hercules was the son of Zeus, and Zeus's wife, Hera, hated all of his illegitimate children. She delayed Hercules's birth that his cousin, Eurystheus, would inherit the throne of Mycenae over him (which answers your last question). Fearing her wrath, Hercules's mother, Alcmena, tried to abandon him as a baby on a mountaintop, but the goddess Athena took Hera to find Hercules and she tricked Hera to nurse him from her breast. Realizing she had been tricked, Hera flung Hercules away, but Athena returned him to Alcmena and told her to name him Heracles because he had earned the wrath of Hera.

Alcmena was the grand-daughter of Perseus, so was Leda, the mother of Helen of Troy. This makes Hercules and Helen cousins and descendants of Perseus.

Hera sent serpents to kill the infant Hercules, but he slew them with his great strength. As a youth, Hercules was taller and stronger than other boys his age. He accidentally killed Linus, his music teacher, for having no patience for music. As a man, Hercules was a soldier under King Creon of Thebes, and as he was returning from war, Hercules was cursed by Hera. Hercules saw his sons racing to greet him and confused them for enemy soldiers, killing them with his bare hands. His wife who survived could not absolve of his sins so Hercules served ten years of servitude under his cousin, King Eurystheus of Mycenae, although he had two years added on for having help killing the Hydra and for trying to get payment for cleaning the Augean Stables.

I guess you could say Hercules was not so much a heroes for being strong and powerful but for taking it on himself to atone for his mistakes. I hope that answers your questions


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William C. Uchtman


I have done research into gods and goddesses and have written brief descriptions of them. I have attempted to scale out family trees as I have already seen with the Olympian gods. I have tried to condense entire pantheons by attributing extra names or aliases to one deity. I have also made efforts to parallel myths with ancient history. I am not an expert nor do I hold any degrees. I am a self-taught person with a lot of otherwise useless information.


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Former Mythology Expert to the Marvel Comics Appendix, former researcher to the Marvel Universe Handbooks

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