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Hercules (mythology) - marble statue

Heracles aka Herakles aka Hercules

(Greek mythological version)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

“Guard him well for this child is a child of destiny.”


Context

We have the homemade Marvel-style version and the “Legendary Journeys” version but it would be good to have a write up on the Heracles of the myths. However, there is no one true version of the myths.

From the start, people were slanting the story in different directions. It was happening even when it was still B.C.E. In that respect, today’s variations on the myths are no different than in other eras.

I try to stay with the most classic versions of the myth which tend to be heroic but with things that were probably considered admirable in their day but perhaps not so much today.

I also included a couple of elements of the myth that are usually ignored in modern stories such as how he got his name and how the labors reached the classic 12. On the other hand, when looking at several sources, the challenges he faced and defeated are endless, different versions all selectively including some and excluding others so some things had to be left out.

Well, he’s only quite possibly the most famous hero in all of fiction, almost certainly in the Western world. True we have Beowulf and fragments of the Gilgamesh Epic but in terms of source material on a mythic hero, Heracles is the man whether by his Greek name or Roman version, Hercules.

The best modern comparison may be Superman but even he has not yet stood the test of still being active and relevant in fiction thousands of years after he was created.

In selecting art for this, I chose some classic works and photos of sculptures. I also selected a couple of pieces of modern artwork that were freely displayed in web searches. But, for the most part, I chose some of the better artwork depicting the Marvel Comics Hercules in order to insure that I was not using any artwork that was privately owned and for sale.

I avoided any art that portrayed other Marvel characters and tried to mostly select works that depicted mythical events or had a “mythical” quality to them. I also included some photos of Steve Reeves as Hercules.

While I personally think “The Legendary Journeys” is the ultimate modern take on the myths and I’ve only seen one of Reeves’ Hercules movies, I think he’s got exactly the right look for how I would picture the Heracles of mythology.


Background

  • Real Name: Heracles
  • Other Aliases: Alcides (given name), Hercules (Roman name), Son of Zeus
  • Marital Status: Married more often than not.
  • Known Relatives: Zeus (father), Alcmene (mother), Iphicles (mortal half-brother by Amphitryon and Alcmene), Amphitryon (step-father), Hera (step-mother), Megara (first wife), Deianeira (second wife, deceased), Hebe (immortal wife), among gods and mortals, he has so many half-brothers, half-sisters (his wife, Hebe, is his half-sister), uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, sons, daughters, grand and great grandchildren, and on and on and on, that one could fill a chapter just listing their names alone. For example, with Megara, Deianeira and the fifty daughters of King Thespios alone, he had at least fifty-five sons or more.
  • Group Affiliation: Various armies and kingdoms
  • Base Of Operations: Ancient Mythical Greece circa the 11th century B.C.E.
  • Height: 6’2” Weight: 326 lbs
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Black


Video

1950s trailer for Steve Reeves’ Hercules movies. Granted that’s not… completely mythological, but it has its own charm.


Powers & Abilities

As a demigod (half-god, half human), Heracles possesses vast superhuman strength. In his case, it surpasses most and possibly all of his fellow gods.

There is simply nothing that can be lifted through physical strength that he cannot lift. There is nothing that is breakable by strength alone that he cannot break. His durability is at the peak of human ability and perhaps in that grey area between human and superhuman.

He is also a highly trained and deadly warrior and would be so even without his superhuman strength.


History

Zeus, Father of the Gods of Olympus, received a prophecy, perhaps brought to him by the Three Fates themselves. Just as the Titans fell to the gods, so the gods would one day fall to the Giants, offspring of the Titans just as the gods were, but even larger and more powerful than the Titans.

However, there was a hope. An offspring of god and mortal woman, a demigod with the blood of both deity and man, might succeed and defeat the giants where even the lightning bolts of Zeus would fail.

Zeus knew that his demigod son, Perseus [Purr-see-us], had fathered a son named Electryon [Elek-tree-on]. In turn, Electryon had fathered a daughter named Alcmene [Alk-a-me-nee]. She was, to his eyes, the most irresistibly beautiful of women despite being his great granddaughter.

As she already had some of his blood in her, he decided she would be the one to give birth to the man-god who would save the gods from the giants.

Alcmene

Electryon was the King of Mycenae  [My-see-nee]. When he refused to surrender his kingdom to invaders, they took revenge by murdering his 9 sons while they tended cattle in the fields without any declaration of war. He gathered his army and pursued them to their homeland of Taphos.

Before leaving, he turned temporary leadership of Mycenae over to Amphitryon [Am-fit-ree-on], who was engaged to his daughter, Alcmene.

While King Electryon was gone, some men came to Mycenae from the Land of Elis. They were returning some cattle that had been sold to them by the retreating Taphosians. They had heard what had happened and suspected where the cattle came from. They asked only that Amphitryon give them the money they had paid for the cattle but did not demand it.

Because they could have kept the cattle and said nothing and only asked, not demanded, he returned to them from his own wages the price of the cattle. Days later, when King Electryon returned, Amphitryon thought he would admire a wise political move that insured peace and good relations with their neighbor.

Instead, Electryon called it a foolish choice that showed weakness to his neighbors and said it was Amphitryon’s loss and he would not be reimbursed.

Since there were no witnesses, opinions differ about what happened next. All agree that Amphitryon grew angry and there were harsh words. Some say he threw a weapon in rage. Some say he meant to strike Electryon. Some say he just wildly threw it and did not mean to connect.

Others that it struck another object, bounced back and hit him. Some even say that Electryon attacked him and that Amphitryon either wrested the weapon from him and struck him with it or caught it and threw it back.

Whatever happened, it ended up with Electryon killed and Amphitryon the killer. As there was no certainty that it was intentional, he was banished from Mycenae rather than executed.

Alcmene chose to go with him. But she would not marry him until he saw that her brothers were avenged for what the Taphosians did. They settled for a time in Thebes where he recruited a small army to take revenge for her brothers.

Birth of the son of Zeus

Amphitryon and Alcmene were married at sunrise one morning. He immediately set out to cross the nearby border into Taphos with his army. The intention was that he would make short work of the leaders who had murdered those who would have been his brothers-in-law and be back before sunset for his wedding night.

As it turned out, the Taphosians knew he was attacking and the battle took more than a day. But it was only a few days before the better part of the defending army was slaughtered and the remainder surrendered and turned over the killers of Alcmene’s brothers.

However, on the first night, Alcmene saw that her husband returned to her just as she had hoped, telling her how quickly he had been victorious. Of course, it was Zeus appearing in the form of Amphitryon. He took her to bed, spending the entire night. He departed early in the morning without explanation.

When Amphitryon returned, he did not understand her questions about why he so mysteriously left after the wedding night and stayed away for several days. But he took her to bed. But as the days went on and they spoke, they both began to realize that something incomprehensible had happened.

He went to a seeress to ask and she responded that someone else had taken his form to take his wife. But, she cautioned, no revenge could be had because the perpetrator was no man nor mortal king but the King of the Gods.

Nine months later, Alcmene gave birth to twins. One of them was the son of Zeus and the other the son of Amphitryon. The son of Zeus came out first, making him the older by a matter of seconds. The son of Zeus was given the name Alcides [Al-sid-eez] and the son of Amphitryon was named Iphicles [If-a-klees].

infanthood

When Hera  realized what had happened, she was as furious as was Amphitryon and in a far better position to do something about it. However, while Amphitryon blamed the being actually responsible, Zeus, Hera knew she was in no position to directly hurt her husband anymore than Amphitryon was. Instead, she turned her vengeance on an innocent baby. Still, she had to be subtle.

Zeus could be strangely protective of his mortal children – as he had been with Perseus. She thus waited a few months until he had moved on to another conquest that he thought she did not know about. Then she caused two boa constrictors to appear in the nursery of the two babies. It would look like a natural accident, she thought. Iphicles cried and tried to crawl away.

Alcides sat up and laughed at how the snakes wiggled. Since he was closer, they both wound around him and tried to crush him. At that age, their constrictions hurt so, getting mad, he grabbed them and squeezed. Soon, they just flopped and hung there. He tossed them down and walked over to his brother, trying to convey that it was okay now.

Alcmene came into the room with the intent of comforting a crying baby only to see the two dead snakes. She screamed, which brought her husband running. He soon realized what must have happened though he did not suspect Hera’s involvement.

He knew for sure that this child had taken after his true father’s side of the family and had, at the very least, inherited some of his strength and durability.

Growing Up

Thespia

There was a lion preying on the cattle. Alcides started hunting it. Sensing it had become the hunted, it moved on into the nearby land of Thespia. When Alcides pursued it there, he was welcomed when he promised to kill it. It was already well-known that he was the Son of Zeus.

King Thespios had 50 daughters by 50 women but no sons. He thought it would be tremendously likely he could have a male grandchild to eventually take over the kingdom if one of his daughters was to have a child by the Son of Zeus. In fact, the odds would be vastly improved if all 50 of them went to bed with him.

When he explained this proposition to Alcides, the demigod immediately agreed to it. It is unclear precisely how long this took though the implication was that there were no rest periods. The first girl, in fact, supposedly snuck into line a second time at the end. Nine months later, each gave birth to a healthy son.

The morning after meeting the daughters, or maybe the morning after the morning after, Alcides tracked down the lion. Knowing he was getting close, he uprooted a tree, ripped off the branches and used the trunk as a club to kill the lion.

Hercules (Steve Reeves) about to break his chains

Alcides then set out for home to bring the Lion’s pelt to his adoptive father as a gift. On the way, he encountered a group of soldiers from Minos. Their leader was not only rude to him but insulted Thebes and his adoptive father. In a rage, Alcides grabbed the man and crushed him.

The other soldiers attacked but Alcides had, by this time, whittled the tree trunk down into a finely honed weapon, a sturdy club that no other man could have lifted. With one great swing, he killed them all.

He knew that would not be the end of it so he quickly gathered a contingent of the army of Thebes and prepared to meet the attack Minos must make in retribution. His side won almost exclusively because he was there.

Remorse of a god

King Creon of Thebes personally thanked him for the very fact that Alcides made his home in Thebes would make the Minoans think long about launching an all-out attack. As a reward, Creon gave to Alcides his own eldest daughter, the beautiful Megara, in marriage. Alcides was soon the leader of the Army of Thebes and he and Megara had three children, all sons.

But Hera’s rage had grown and grown. Finally, it was unleashed in sheer hatred. She sent madness upon him. In one moment, from loving husband and father, he went into a berserk rage killing everyone around him. Unfortunately, those around him were his own sons and two of the sons of his half-brother, Iphicles.

When he regained his wits, he remembered what happened but as though in a nightmare. He left the land of his own free will and, wracked by guilt, not knowing it was Hera’s doing, he went to the Oracle at Delphi and asked what he might do to gain redemption for his crimes.

The Oracle told him first to cast aside his given name and take the name “Heracles” which means “To the Glory of Hera”. This might give her pause and cause her to think twice about further revenge.

He was also told to go to the City of Tiryns in Argos. There he should ask King Eurystheus to set for him 10 labors he must complete. When done, his redemption would be complete.

The Labors begin

The newly named Heracles found King Eurytheus to be irritating, the sort he inherently disliked. He quite frankly reminded Heracles of his old music teacher: small, thin, having no concept of battle or physical toil and yet smugly pompous and arrogant. It galled him to have to take orders from such a man.

For his part, Eurytheus saw this as a form of personal entertainment. For his first labor, he sent Heracles into nearby Nemea to the west to slay a marauding lion.

This time, it was not a normal beast. Some say it was the offspring of the monster Typhon who was the “child” of the Goddess Gaia and of the Primal Force known as Tartarus (which was also the name of where the evil went after death). Some rumors were even that it was a sphinx from Egypt.

Whatever the truth, its hide was absolutely invulnerable to any force known to man. Neither fire, sword, arrow or boulder from catapult could harm it in the slightest. When he finally found it, Heracles fired arrows from a distance to no effect. As it closed in, he swung the tree trunk he had turned into a club. He was shocked as even that weapon bounced harmlessly off.

But, as it lunged, he dodged to the side, avoiding its claws, and then leaped. He landed on its back and locked his arms around its neck. It leaped about and rolled, slammed him into boulders, but could not dislodge him. Its fighting gradually became slower and slower until it collapsed and he continued to squeeze until it suffocated.

He used its own claws, which he discovered it was not invulnerable to, to skin it. He took the head and the skin back as proof of his success.

Eurytheus was terrified at the very sight and did not want the pelt. So Heracles cleaned it and used it as armor, the head of the lion used as a helmet and the pelt draped over his shoulders and body down to about midway on the upper legs. He was then sent to the swamps of Lernia to slay the Hydra, a reptilian beast like a dragon except with nine heads on long necks, each head and neck able to regrow if cut off.

Enters Iolaus

It was at this time that Heracles was visited by Iolaus, the eldest son of his half-brother, Iphicles. Iolaus had not been there when Heracles had killed the children in a rage and offered to help in this endeavor. Heracles attacked the Hydra with club and sword, crushing some heads and severing others. He likewise crushed the body.

But then the body suddenly regenerated and, from the severed remains of each head, two sprouted. The crushed heads and necks not only healed but divided. Now he was facing a renewed monster with eighteen heads.

Suspecting its weakness, he called to Iolaus to prepare two torches. As he crushed or severed each head, Iolaus ran in and burned it. This was the one thing the monster could not heal from and it eventually collapsed, dead. Herakles then dipped his arrows into its blood, which was a deadly poison.

But, upon returning, he found the labor was disqualified because he had help to accomplish it. So an extra labor would be added bringing the total to 11 labors.

The hind and the boar

He was then sent to capture the golden hind – with the restriction that he could not kill it nor spill any of its blood. This was thought an impossible task as he could not outrun it and, with these restrictions, he could not bring it down with bow and arrows.

This deer was a doe sacred to Artemis and he well understood the folly of harming her. Herakles tracked the doe for over a year before he finally had a clear shot.

He took careful aim with an arrow that was not coated with poison and fired, penetrating between the bones of the front legs precisely where there was no tissue to damage. The deer was hobbled without bleeding or being killed or harmed in any way.

On the way back with the beast, he was confronted by Artemis and Apollo. But they were satisfied that he had done it no harm and was fulfilling destiny. Removing the arrow after Artemis spoke to the beast, it willingly accompanied him back to the city. It moved away to graze at times but always returned to him.

Once he showed it in the city as proof of the task, he spent months to return it to the forests it was native to as he had promised Artemis he would do.

His next task was to hunt and capture a huge boar, also bringing it back alive. He did so, tying it and carrying it back. But on the way, he heard about the voyage of the Argonauts. Alas he was to miss out on most of the journey.

When a young friend of his got separated from the group on a stop on shore, Heracles went to make sure he was okay and the Argo had to set sail in an emergency. So Heracles was not involved in the finding of the Golden Fleece but returned to King Eurytheus to complete his labors.

A stable job

For the fifth labor, he was told he had to clean the stables of King Augeas and he had to do it in one day. Eurytheus was sure this was a task for which Heracles’ fabled strength would be useless and the task impossible. But, when he arrived, Heracles simply offered to clean the stables and did not mention that it was one of his labors.

When King Augeas asked how much pay he wanted for the task, Heracles suddenly realized he could earn a living performing these labors so he asked for one cow out of each ten Augeas had in return for this task nobody would do. He spent the day damming two rivers with boulders to divert the rivers to the stables.

He also tossed boulders, building a funnel behind the city to divert the waters back to the rivers. He thereby washed the stables clean.

But Augeas had heard about the Labors by this time and also had no idea Heracles would actually succeed. Not wanting to lose ten percent of his cattle and backed by an army, he refused to pay Heracles his wages. Strong as he was, the Son of Zeus knew even he had not the durability to stand against an entire army. He had to back down for the moment.

Upon returning to Eurytheus, he was further enraged as the King had heard he tried to accept payment for the labor and used that as an excuse to disqualify it and add another labor to replace it, bringing the grand total to 12 labors.

Monster animals

His next labor was to go to the land of Stymphalos where there were dozens of marauding birds with feathers like bronze daggers and beaks and claws that could rend armor.

Heracles knew they could not rend the pelt of the Nemean lion but there were too many of them and the pelt did not cover everything. He knew he could not approach them and grab them and they would attack when they saw him in the vicinity.

But Athena gave him the solution. By bringing a large gong and metal bar with which to strike it, he set off a clamor that caused the birds to leap into the air and stay their distance. He then picked them off with arrows, making more clamor anytime they started to approach again.

For his seventh labor, Heracles was sent to Crete where he had to capture a magnificent white bull and bring it back alive. This was no ordinary bull but the father of the minotaur. Heracles bound it and carried it back on his shoulders. When the terrified Eurytheus demanded he take it away from the city and let it go, Heracles grinned and carried it just outside the city.

There, he untied it and, with a slap to the rump, said, “Take your freedom” and sent it on its way. It proceeded to lay waste to the Kingdom of Eurytheus for years to come.

He was then sent to Thrace to bring back four man-eating horses owned by King Diomedes, who threw his captured enemies to these mares. Careful to avoid their teeth, Heracles was overpowering and harnessing them when Diomedes and some of his men attacked.

Heracles grabbed Diomedes and threw him into the stall where he was ripped to pieces by his own horses as his men fled. ”A just fate for a king who would see men devoured alive,” he said. He then brought the horses back and, again, King Eurytheus demanded he get them out of the city but, in his panic, not specifying out of the kingdom.

So, again, Heracles laughed and released them just outside the city. However, they made the mistake soon of attacking a certain white bull and themselves became the devoured.

The Amazons

Determined to be rid of Heracles for good, Eurytheus next sent him to the land of the Amazons to get the belt of Hippolyta, their Queen. They were reputed to be the greatest of warriors though all women and to hate men.

Herakles took a ship there. Upon arrival, Hippolyta greeted him in the harbor. He was quite attracted to her but she demanded he state his business. He explained his quest and that he must get the belt she wore. She laughed that this was all he wanted, took it off and gave it to him.

But Hera was aghast. She had relented until now after he took a new name that glorified her. But when she saw even the amazons beginning to be charmed by him, she was enraged. Even these women admired him?

She moved among the amazons, whispering into their minds, warning them that it was a trick and that Heracles intended to lull them into a sense of security and murder them all. Now Heracles had the standard ideas of his time about women but murdering and abusing them was not one he shared. Even when he had killed his sons in a berserk madness brought on by Hera, he managed not to harm Megara who had also been there.

But now he saw the amazons moving into an attack formation and charging. Thinking Hippolyta had lied and was setting him and his men up to be slaughtered after being lulled into dropping their guards, he lashed out with a backhand much as he had once done to his music teacher and with the same results. Neck broken, she fell dead. In the confusion, the men retreated into the ship.

Hercules (Steve Reeves)

Some of the men had been holding ropes ready to tie it to the docks but they leaped aboard and they rowed away as fast as possible. As years, decades, centuries and even millennia went by, there were slight variations of this event told but no version ever involved Heracles raping Hippolyta until a comic book company eventually presented such a variation of the events.

Herakles was then sent for his tenth labor to an island far to the west to retrieve a herd of cattle colored red. Capturing them was easy. The hard part was defeating their guardian, an ogre-like creature. But Heracles simply brought him down at a distance by putting an arrow completely through him.

The Hesperides and Prometheus

For his eleventh labor, he was sent to the Garden of the Hesperides, far away. Herakles was to get one of the golden apples that Zeus and Hera had been given on their wedding day by Gaia.

On his way there, he was confronted by Zeus and asked to go to the Caucasus Mountains where Prometheus was chained and free him. Prometheus had agreed to reveal secrets about Zeus’s downfall and how to avoid it in return for his freedom.

When Heracles broke the chains, Prometheus stood up and asked where the hero was headed next. Prometheus suggested that Heracles get Prometheus’s brother, Atlas, to get an apple for him. The apples were guarded by the daughters of Atlas so he could just walk in and take one. Upon arrival, Heracles asked Atlas to do it but the Titan was doomed forever to hold up the sky.

Heracles agreed to take his place if Atlas would get the apple and take it to King Eurytheus. However, he then asked Atlas to hold the firmament for a moment while Heracles adjusted the pelt of the Nemean lion as padding on his back. As soon as Atlas took the heavens back, Heracles picked up the apple and walked away.

It is unclear if the deal was that Heracles would only hold the sky while Atlas retrieved the apple and Atlas tried to make it permanent OR if that was the deal all along and Heracles lied and went back on his word.

King Eurytheus lived in fear of the day that Heracles would return free of any divine injunction to be sent on another labor. He knew on that day Heracles would take his revenge. But there was nothing on Earth that Heracles proved incapable of doing.

So the King, for the final labor, sent him into the underworld to bring back Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates to the realm of Hades.

Go straight to Hell

Guided into the Underworld by Hermes, god of messengers and travelers, Heracles encountered the great hero, Theseus. He was bound into a chair of forgetfulness in Hades’ realm. With his great strength, Heracles tore the bounds and lifted him free of the chair.

As Theseus staggered from the Underworld, Hades agreed that Heracles could take the dog if he could defeat him without using any weapons.

Since nothing was said about armor, Heracles wrapped the pelt of the Lion around one arm and the belt of Hippolyta, which was also highly resistant to harm, around the other forearm. Getting the dog’s left and right heads to clamp onto these, he grabbed the middle head and eventually wrestled the dog into submission until it became tame and accepted him as its master.

It then followed him out of the Underworld and back to King Eurytheus. Despite the King’s certain fears, Heracles did not murder Eurytheus. He was more preoccupied with facing his wife, Megara, now that his labors were done. But he could not. For once, he backed down from a confrontation.

In the years that had passed, Megara and his nephew, Iolaus, had grown to love each other and he stepped aside so they could be together.

Meeting his wife

In Calydon, Heracles met Deianeira [Dee-a-near-a], the beautiful daughter of the king. The ruler knew having Heracles as his son-in-law would make other kingdoms think twice about encroaching on his land. But a river god also desired her and battled Heracles.

He withstood the hero’s strikes as water. Then it shapeshifted into the forms of various powerful animals. But every one of them Heracles had fought before, all of them more powerful than the ordinary versions the god could change into. Finally, the river god accepted defeat and Deianeira was married to Heracles.

Heracles and Deianeira were married for several years and had sons. One day, the couple reached the bank of a river. Heracles swam and waded across looking for a shallow area for her to cross. He heard her screams for help and saw a centaur, Nessus, trying to rape her.

He fired an arrow that pierced his body and the centaur fell. He felt the poison of the arrow mixing with his own blood. Wanting revenge, Nessus told Deianeira that his blood was a powerful love potion. If ever in the future, she felt her husband’s love for her was waning she need merely touch his skin with the blood and let it seep in. He would be enraptured by her for life.

Heracles still went on several campaigns, even avenging himself on Augeas for his lies. He finally returned home and settled down. As he drew near, word of his approach reached Deianeira. She was not so young anymore and she remembered the blood which she had kept in a container.

She soaked a cloak with it, wrapping it in a sack, had a messenger carry it to Heracles as a welcome home gift. When he put it on, the poison seeped into his body and he was wracked with agony, slowly dying.

When word reached Deianeira, she realized that she had been deceived. She was the cause of Heracles’ death where all his enemies had failed. She grabbed a dagger and plunged it into her own heart, dying before her husband did.

Death and godhood

Heracles begged his son, Hylos, to draw sword and slay him. But his son could not. He then asked him to build a pyre of wood and Heracles would then lie upon the burning wood. There would be no difference in pain for he already felt like he was burning alive. The only difference was that the real fire would end his suffering.

It did more than that. It burned away his mortality and he emerged a full god, ascending into Olympus – and just in time.

The giants were finally marching on Olympus. Only one who had been born mortal but was a god could defeat them. All other blows against them would be ineffective. Whether by hand, club or arrows fired by him, the blows of Heracles killed them.

He even saved Hera from being raped by one of them. Zeus would down them with his thunderbolts but they would rise up again. But each of the gods would down one of them and Heracles would leap in with the final blow until they were all killed

In the aftermath, Heracles was finally reconciled with Hera who repented of her hatred for him. He was given Hebe, a goddess and the daughter of Zeus and Hera, to be his wife for all time. He finally took his place among the gods.

But that was not the last that mortals ever saw of him. Great heroes such as Odysseus were visited by him when they were close to despair and encouraged to always fight on as Heracles himself had done.


Description

In a world where the average man was about five feet tall, Heracles towered over his peers if he truly had any peers. Even today, he would be a tall man. His physique is massive, a naturally large man augmented by thick muscle atop muscle. One can easily believe his listed weight of over 300 pounds is accurate.

He is usually bearded, either close-cropped or long and shaggy depending upon whether he is living a “civilized” lifestyle or tracking his quarries through the wilderness at the time. Likewise, his hair may be short or long and shaggy. He wore whatever armor was available until he acquired the Pelt of the Nemean Lion. Then he was usually adorned in it.

He carries a knife and a shortsword in sheathes on his belt. After his encounter with Queen Hippolyta, the belt and sheathes are high quality leather gifted to Hippolyta by Ares that are highly resistant to damage. However, his preferred melee weapon is a stripped tree trunk that has been filed to smoothness and treated to preserve it. It is 10 feet long.

If he gets bored with carrying it, he has been known to throw it a hundred yards ahead and pick it up when he gets there, possibly tossing it again. He carries a bow (unstrung typically) with 12 arrows dipped in the poisoned blood of the Hydra in a quiver on his back, outside of the Pelt of the Nemean Lion. He is not a particularly handsome man. He has more of a gruff, rugged look.


Personality

Heracles is the sort that wants to have a congenial demeanor but prefers solitude. Hence, he can be gruff. He does not suffer insults or perceived betrayal lightly and can be quick of temper and to lash out.

Not realizing his own strength compared to the mortals around him, that temper has more than once proven fatal and, when fanned and manipulated by Hera, caused the whole direction of his life. The only time he seems to fit in with other men is as a military leader where his interactions with others are regulated by a strict code.

He is softer in his relationships with women but tends to perceive them as objects, wanting them for their beauty and for sex and procreation. He doesn’t quite know what to say or do with them the rest of the time, leading to prolonged campaigns and short visits home.

When not being driven mad by Hera, he seems to be a decent father and good with children. He had sons who were very loyal to him and in no way seemed afraid of him. Even his nephews wanted to be around him. He seemed a good teacher of what he knew and patient with young children, a patience he seldom displayed with other adults.


Quotes

“Let me go from here. Into some distant land let me go. My friends, my wife must never look again upon my cursed face. This city must not harbor the guilt of one who murdered flesh of his own flesh. Henceforth must I be banished and, if I live, live elsewhere.”

(To King Augeas when he refused to pay Heracles the wages he had promised for cleaning the Augean Stables): “Some more manure needs to be removed from this land. Not today but I swear to you the day will come.”


DCU History

We already know that history. It might be interesting if the mythical Heracles wandered into the DCU and encountered their Heracles. Except for his dealings with Hippolyta, there is not a huge difference between them.


MU History

Marvel already has a “Hercules”. But their histories are very different in essence though similar in outline. Hercules is far more of a true “good guy” despite his gruffness. These two would not get along.


Hercules the Legendary Journeys History

This Hercules (or Sorboclese) would find the Heracles of myth to be reprehensible. Heracles would not comprehend the attitudes and morals of this Hercules, largely because they are essentially late 20th century attitudes and morals transposed into the ancient past.

Not that there is anything wrong with that but they would not understand each other. Hercules has already met an alternate reality version, “the Sovereign”, from a “Mirror” universe. He would not find Heracles to be that bad but bad enough.


Mythical Heracles Variable History

With the countless variations of the myths, both subtle and extreme, it is quite possible for various versions of the Heracles of mythology to meet each other. For instance, some versions of the myth have Heracles and Hippolyta spending a night together and when he leaves, she is very much alive.

Some versions have Heracles participating in and winning an archery contest while others do not. Some have him trained by Chiron the Centaur while, in other versions, Chiron trained Jason but not Heracles. In other versions, he trained Achilles, not Jason or Heracles.

In some versions, Heracles was enslaved to Queen Omphalia for a time and did “women’s work” and wore women’s clothes with the implication of whips and chains just “off-screen”.

Other versions conveniently leave this chapter out which is fair because any one part may or may not have been in the oldest oral traditions. Some ancient writers (Prodicus among them) had Heracles offered an easy life but without the accomplishments and he chose his destiny. Others go into minute details about his life and everything the gods were thinking about him or doing in the background.

In sum, there is a Heracles for just about everyone’s tastes and a Heracles that someone will despise.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Heracles

Dex: 08 Str: 27 Bod: 06 Motivation: Unwanted Power
Int: 03 Wil: 09 Min: 08 Occupation: Legendary Hero
Inf: 10 Aur: 13 Spi: 09 Resources {or Wealth}: NA
Init: 23 HP: 200

Powers:
Density Increase: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Density Increase adds to Strength and is already factored in (FC +3),
  • Density Increase is Power Always On (FC -1)

Skills:
Acrobatics*: 08, Animal Handling*: 10, Charisma (Intimidation, Persuasion): 06, Martial Artist*: 08, Military Science*: 03, Weaponry (Melee, Missile)*: 08

Advantages
Buddy (his squires), Iron Nerves, Leadership, Lightning Reflexes, Omni-Connection, Popularity, Schtick (Lightning Release)

Connections:
Zeus (Low), Athena (Low), Hermes (Low), Argonauts (Low)

Drawbacks:
Exile (Forced), Guilt, Married, Minor Rage, Nemesis (Hera)

Equipment:

  • Club/ Tree Trunk [BODY 12, EV 10 (11 w/STR, 12 w/Martial Artist), Rec. Str 10 (the club extends the wielder’s reach to ten feet and is often used for Sweep Attacks; the club is ineffective in places with lots of obstacles but is used most often on an open plain or field against multiple opponents with swords or against animals that have teeth and claws)]
  • Bow [BODY 05, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 01, Rec. STR: 04, R#02, Bow Advantage (effective EV is 05, effective Range is 08), Limitation : Low Penetration]
  • Quiver [BODY 02, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 20, Limitation : Ammunition load for the bow]
  • Arrows coated with poison Hydra blood [BODY 02, Projectile weapon: 04, Poison Touch: 22, Ammo: 12, Bonus: Poison Touch can be Combined w/Projectile Weapons. Twelve arrows each coated with poison and retrievable after being fired; effect is instant if all layers of skin are pierced though mere contact requires one minute (4 APs) to cause damage and damage can be prevented by washing before the minute is up)]
  • Knife [BODY 05, EV 03]
  • Sword [BODY 06, EV 04 (05 w/STR, 06 w/Martial Artist)]
  • Armor/ Belt [BODY 20, Miscellaneous: Can be wrapped around the forearm and used to block at no penalty like a small shield]
  • Armor/ Pelt of the Nemean Lion [BODY: 25, Skin Armor: 25, Partial Coverage: Long coat level]

Design notes

Regarding the height and weight of Heracles, I could choose anything from about 6 feet to 9 feet and there would probably be a version of the myths that would support my claim. Likewise I could likely go with anything from 200 pounds to a ton.

In Classical Greece, he could probably have been thought of as 5’9” and 160 lbs. and that would have seemed big to them. But people today are not going to accept that. So I just go with something that feels right to me without going over the top into eight or nine feet tall.

Wealth is not applicable because almost everywhere he goes, he is provided with whatever he needs for the asking or without asking in return for the benefits of having him on the side of that kingdom. If he is not welcome, he most likely conquers the kingdom so the end results are the same.

Not surprisingly, nowadays, it is quite possible to estimate the weight of the sky. The weight of the Earth is 6000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons (that’s a six followed by twenty-one zeroes). The weight of all the Earth’s air is roughly a millionth of that or 6000,000,000,000,000 tons (a six followed by fifteen zeroes).

To lift the sky would require a minimum Strength of 53 or 27 with lots of Hero Points if it was an extremely short term task though I did not know that when I gave him a 27 Strength. That was just luck. The very concept that someone has to hold up the sky indicates a “reality” where the Earth is flat and is at the base with everything else above it.

It is also probably a world with much more limited geography than the one we know. The Greeks knew thousands of years ago that the Earth was not flat but they probably did not know that when the myths were first being formed and elements of the beliefs of that era remained.

While I give Heracles a 27 Strength, if you prefer him as existing in a world a bit more reflective of what we know, I can see three possibilities though the third is the one I prefer.

  1. He could be given a strength of 53.
  2. He could be given Gravity Decrease at 53 with limitations.
  3. With a sort of nod to the Percy Jackson books, there is something mystical about the place itself where someone has to stand to lift the sky. Anyone standing in that spot effectively has an endless supply of Hero Points to double their strength indefinitely.
    So Heracles’ 27 is a 54 indefinitely in that spot. Also while standing in that spot, a person has no need of sleep nor of food or drink and is ageless regardless of whether they otherwise have those abilities. Of course, the person can never leave that spot unless replaced or the world ends.

By Doug Mertaugh

Source of Character: Greek Mythology.

Helper(s): Hercules and other Legends of Gods and Heroes by Donald Richardson was of great help as were The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer and Wikipedia were all helpful. So were GURPS Greece and Iron Crown’s Mythic Greece role-playing world books. Roger (capita_senyera) also provided help on Advantages, Connections and Drawbacks. Sébastien Andrivet and Adam Fuqua also provided useful information.

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