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Heracles and Dionysus

Supplementary lecture material World Mythology

John Kinsey

on 21 February 2014

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Transcript of Heracles and Dionysus

Heracles and Dionysus
Heracles or Hercules?
“Heracles” is the Greek version of his name
The Romans called him “Hercules,” and this form of the name is more common in English
“Heracles,” meaning “Glory of Hera,” seems to have been intended to ward off the anger of Hera, Zeus’s wife, as the result of her husband’s adulterous union with Alcmene, Heracles’s mother
The story of Heracles is, among other things, a standing example of syncretism
A variety of local cults over time became transformed into the worship of Heracles
The simplicity of his character and its appeal to broad audiences allowed Heracles to easily assimilate to numerous other stories
He’s a Joseph Campbell poster boy
At Thasos, he was considered a protector of the city, and his worship was blended with that of the Phoenician god Melqart of Tyre
Worshippers at Melqart’s shrine in Tyre referred to the god they were honoring as both “Heracles” and “Melqart,” as if these were names for the same being
The god Melqart actually had characteristics quite different from Heracles: he was a god of navigation, fertility, and prosperity; the founder of the city of Tyre; and the guardian of its orderly ongoing functioning
Still, Heracles’ masculinity easily steps into other male characters
As a guardian of community life, Heracles was worshipped at a variety of shrines and altars throughout Greece
Typically, his shrine would include a temple, dining facilities, and athletic facilities
Heracles also served Greek youth as a role model
At Athens, Heracles served as a patron and military ideal to the 18-year-old ephebes, who made him a special offering at the ceremony where they cut their hair as a preparation for military service
Heracles was also honored at some important ceremonies that involved people from more than one city, including some of the ceremonies at Eleusis, which drew worshippers from across Greece
According to a story told by the Greek poet Pindar, Heracles founded the Olympic Games using the payment he received from King Augeas for cleaning his stables in his Fifth Labor
So, who is this guy anyway?
Known as Heracles, Herakles, Alcides, Alcaeus, Hercules, Commodos, and Maximian
The son of Zeus
The paragon of masculinity, strength and courage
Thus, he is a man/god
The Labors of Hercules
The establishment of a fixed cycle of twelve labors was attributed by the Greeks to an epic poem, now lost, written by Peisander, dated about 600 B.C.E.
The stories are so intermingled that a clear point of origin (either historically or within the narrative) is difficult to pin down
Essentially, the story is that Eurysthesus challenges Hercules to The 12 Labors as penance for Heracles’ murder of his own family during a fit of madness
This madness was a result of Hera’s deviousness
Full transcript