Glorious through Hera?
kle-os speech, fame, glory
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hero, aretê, kleos, aristos, timê,
aidos, charis
•Heroes/demi-gods - a peculiarity of Greek religion
two senses: the Homeric figures en masse, or a deceased person who exerts from
his grave a power for good or evil and who demands appropriate honour
the hero cult - the heroon, sacrifices, gifts and grave monument
from 8th century old graves are discovered and attributed to epic heroes
the Nilsson thesis, hero cult a direct continuation of the Mycenaean cult of the dead
contending forces of 1) the aristocratic cult of the dead, 2) claims of the polis, 3)
Homeric epic
heroes are almost always confined to a specific locality: if the same hero is
worshipped in two places, homonyms are assumed, but sometimes disputes break out
the roster of heroes is never fixed: apheroizein in Hellenistic times of the deceased;
heros ktistes of the founder, who is buried in the market place; Cleisthenes (508 BC)
and the ten tribes
heroes are manifest as ghosts, but especially as snakes, and when ignored can bring
plagues through their menima: the honour of an anonymous heros; the benefit from an
appeased hero, especially in battle
heroes are pictured in the full force of youth and worshipped by youth in gymnasia,
each with its own hero
Homeric Hymn 15 I will sing of Heracles, the son of
Zeus and much the best (aristos) of those on earth.
Alcmene bore him in Thebes, the city of lovely
dances, when the dark-clouded Son of Cronos had lain
with her. Once he used to wander over unmeasured
tracts of land and sea [5] at the bidding of King
Eurystheus, and himself did many reckless (atasthala) deeds of and endured many; but now he lives
happily in the glorious home of snowy Olympus, and
has neat-ankled Hebe for his wife.
Hail, lord, son of Zeus! Give me success and
Homer, Iliad 19. 95 Once Hera blinded Zeus, although men say that he is the
greatest among men and gods; yet even him Hera, though feminine, beguiled in
her craftiness on the day when Alcmene in fair-crowned Thebe was to bring
forth the mighty Heracles. [100] Zeus indeed spoke proudly among all the gods:
‘Listen to me, all you gods and goddesses, that I may speak what the heart in
my breast bids me. This day shall Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, bring to
the light a man who shall be the lord (anax) of all them that dwell round
about, [105] even one of the race of those men who are of me by blood.’
But with crafty mind the queenly Hera spoke to him:‘You will play the cheat, and
not bring your word to fulfillment. Come, Olympian, swear to me now a mighty
oath that in very truth that man shall be lord of all them that dwell round about,
[110] whoever this day shall fall between a woman's feet, even one of those
men who are of the blood of your stock.’ So she spoke; and Zeus in no way
noticed her craftiness, but swore a great oath, and in so doing was blinded
But Hera darted down and left the peak of Olympus, [115] and swiftly came to
Achaean Argos, where she knew was the stately wife of Sthenelus, son of
Perseus, that carried a son in her womb, and the seventh month was come.
This child Hera brought forth to the light even before the full tale of the months,
but stayed Alcmene's bearing, and held back the Eileithyia. [120] And she
spoke to Zeus, son of Cronos: ‘Father Zeus, lord of the bright lightning, a word
will I speak for your heeding. Look, even now, there is born a valiant man that
shall be lord over the Argives, even Eurystheus, son of Sthenelus, the son of
Perseus, of your own lineage; not improper is it that he be lord over the
Argives.’ [125] So she spoke, and sharp pain struck him in the deep of his
heart, and he quickly seized Ate by her brightly clad head, angry in his soul,
and swore a mighty oath that never again to Olympus and the starry heaven
should Ate come, she that blinds all. [130] So said he, and whirling her in his
hand flung her from the starry heaven, and quickly she came to the tilled fields
of men. At thought of her would he ever groan, when he beheld his dear son in
unseemly labour beneath Eurystheus' tasks.
Pindar, Nemean 1 But as for me, I cling to the theme of Heracles
gladly, rousing an ancient story from among the great heights of his
excellence, [35] how, when the son of Zeus suddenly came out of his
mother’s womb into the brilliant light, escaping her birth-pangs, with his
twin brother, he did not escape the notice of gold-throned Hera when
he was placed in his saffron swaddling-clothes. But the queen of the
gods, [40] stung in her heart, immediately sent serpents.
Sophocles, Philoctetes [Heracles appears above the stage.]
Know that your ears perceive the voice of Heracles, and that you look
upon his face. For your sake I have left my divine seat and come [1415]
to reveal to you the purposes of Zeus, and to halt the journey on which
you are departing. Hearken to my words.
First I would tell you of my own fortunes — how, by toiling through
and enduring so many toils (ponoi) to the end, I have won immortal
aretê, as you witness. . . . For the healing of your sickness, I will send
Asclepius to Troy, since it is doomed to fall a second time [1440] before
my arrows. But of this be mindful, when you plunder the land — that
you show reverence towards the gods. Do this because Father Zeus
regards all else as of less account, and because Piety does not die along
with mortals. Whether they are alive or dead, their piety does not perish.
Amphitryon, Eurystheus,
Athloi, ponoi
Nemean lion
Lernaean Hydra
Ceryneian hind
Erymanthian boar
Augean stables
Stymphalian birds
Cretan bull
Horses of Diomedes
Girdle of Hippolyta
Cattle of Geryon
Apples of the Hesperides
Heracles I am performing a certain labor for Eurystheus, king of Tiryns.
Chorus-Leader Where are you bound? What is the wandering you are constrained to
Heracles I go in quest of the four-horse chariot of Thracian Diomedes.
Chorus-Leader How can you do that? Do you not know what kind of host he is?
Heracles [485] I do not. I have never yet been to Bistonia.
Chorus-Leader You cannot possess those horses without a fight.
Heracles But all the same, I cannot decline these labors.
Chorus-Leader Then you will either kill him and return or end your days there.
Like the others this labor you name befits my destiny [500] (which is always hard and
steep) since I am fated to do battle with all the sons of Ares: first Lycaon, then Cycnus,
and now this is the third contest I enter, going off to fight horses and master alike.
[505] But no one shall ever see Alcmene's son quake at the hand of an enemy.
Hesiod, Theogony
But Chrysaor was joined in love to Callirrhoe, the daughter of
glorious Ocean, and begot three-headed Geryoneus. Him mighty
Heracles slew [290] in sea-girt Erythea by his shambling cattle on
that day when he drove the wide-browed oxen to holy Tiryns, and
had crossed the ford of Ocean and killed Orthus and Eurytion the
herdsman in the dim stead out beyond glorious Ocean.
Cf. 982.
And again Echidna bore a third, the evil-minded Hydra of Lerna, whom the
goddess, white-armed Hera nourished, [315] being angry beyond measure
with the mighty Heracles. And her Heracles, the son of Zeus, of the house of
Amphitryon, together with warlike Iolaus, destroyed with the unpitying sword
through the plans of Athena the spoil driver.
Echidna was subject in love to Orthus and brought forth the deadly
Sphinx which destroyed the Cadmeans, and the Nemean lion,
which Hera, the good wife of Zeus, brought up and made to haunt
the hills of Nemea, a plague to men. [330] There he preyed upon
the tribes of her own people and had power over Tretus of Nemea
and Apesas: yet the strength of stout Heracles overcame him.
Stymphalian Birds
Cretan Bull
Garden of the Hesperides
[360] My father rages with evil mind, cruel as he is, ever difficult, a
thwarter of my purposes; neither has he any memory of this, that often
I saved his son when he was defeated by reason of Eurystheus' tasks.
For he would make lament toward heaven and from heaven would
Zeus [365] send me forth to rescue him. Had I but known all this in
wisdom of my heart when Eurystheus sent him forth to the house of
Hades the Warder, to bring from out of Erebus the hound of loathed
Hades, then had he not escaped the sheer-falling waters of Styx.
Pholus and the Centaurs
Apollo and the Tripod
Andromache and the Amazons
The Centaur Nessus and Deianeira
Achelous the river god
Aristotle, Poetics 8 A plot does not have unity,
as some people think, simply because it deals
with a single hero.
Many and indeed
innumerable things happen to an individual,
some of which do not go to make up any unity,
and similarly an individual is concerned in
many actions which do not combine into a
single piece of action. [20] It seems therefore
that all those poets are wrong who have written
a Heracleid or Theseid or other such poems.
They think that because Heracles was a single
individual the plot must for that reason have
Homer, Odyssey 11.(717) And after him I marked the mighty
Heracles — his phantom; for he himself among the immortal gods
takes his joy in the feast, and has to wife Hebe, of the fair ankles,
daughter of great Zeus and of Here, of the golden sandals. [605]
About him rose a clamor from the dead, as of birds flying everywhere
in terror; and he like dark night, with his bow bare and with arrow on
the string, glared about him terribly, like one in act to shoot. Awful
was the belt about his breast, [610] a baldric of gold, whereon
wondrous things were fashioned, bears and wild boars, and lions
with flashing eyes, and conflicts, and battles, and murders, and
slayings of men. May he never have designed, or hereafter design
such another, even he who stored up in his craft the device of that
belt. [615] He in turn knew me when his eyes beheld me, and
weeping spoke to me winged words:
“‘Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices, ah,
wretched man, do you, too, drag out an evil lot such as I once bore
beneath the rays of the sun? [620] I was the son of Zeus, son of Cronos,
but I had woe beyond measure; for to a man far worse than I was I
made subject, and he laid on me hard labours. He once sent me off to
fetch the hound of Hades, for he could devise for me no other task
mightier than this. [625] The hound I carried off and led forth from the
house of Hades; and Hermes was my guide, and flashing-eyed Athena.’
Hesiod, Theogony And ready-witted Prometheus he bound with
inextricable bonds, cruel chains, and drove a shaft through his middle,
and set on him a long-winged eagle, which used to eat his immortal liver;
but by night the liver grew [525] as much again everyway as the longwinged bird devoured in the whole day. That bird Heracles, the valiant
son of shapely-ankled Alcmene, slew; and delivered the son of Iapetus
from the cruel plague, and released him from his affliction — not
without the will of Olympian Zeus who reigns on high, [530] that the
glory of Heracles the Theban-born might be yet greater than it was
before over the plenteous earth. This, then, he regarded, and honored his
famous son; though he was angry, he ceased from the wrath which he
had before because Prometheus matched himself in wit with the almighty
son of Cronos.
Aristotle, Politics 3 1284a This is why democratically governed states
institute the system of ostracism, because of a reason of this nature; for
these are the states considered to pursue equality most of all things, [20]
so that they used to ostracize men thought to be outstandingly powerful
on account of wealth or popularity or some other form of political
strength, and used to banish them out of the city for fixed periods of
time. And there is a mythical story that the Argonauts left Heracles
behind for a similar reason; for the Argo refused to carry him with the
others because he was so much heavier than the sailors.