Today is Hercules’ birthday!
Do you know how I know? Because My Friend the Internet told me so. MFI may or may not be right, but that’s beside the point. Hercules isn’t around to offer cake, but neither is he around to debate his actual natal day, so I say let’s go for it.
Happy Birthday, Hercules!
And so, to a bit about Hercules.
Hercules was a man and a god which made it difficult to decide which department to shop in when buying clothes. His lineage was a bit complicated, but basically he’s his own uncle and his own grandfather. It’s possible he’s also his own niece but there is very little evidence to back that up.
Hercules (or Heracles if you prefer) was quite a ladies man, and he clearly had not read any of the latest college campus materials because he left a lot of baby Herculeses running around. And by “a lot” I mean no one can count that high.
Hercules was by no means dumb, but he did one extraordinarily stoooopid thing in his life—he got Hera mad.
Now, when Greek or Roman gods got mad, they tended to throw a lightning bolt or smote the offender. Quick, easy, done.
Goddess tended to go for the long, drawn out, endless torture. (You may recall that Athena held a grudge or two.) In this case, Hera decided to punish Hercules by sending him to work for King Eurystheys. It was a bit (and by “a bit” I mean waaaaay) more complicated than that, but in the end that’s what it amounted to.
So Hercules went off to do whatever Eurystheys wanted.
What Eurystheys wanted was to make Hercules work (and suffer).
Enter Treachery (stage right), Suffering (stage left), and a bunch of crazy creatures (from all directions).
Eurystheys came up with a bunch of chores for Hercules. These weren’t ordinary please-take-out-the-garbage chores. They were Herculean (as it were).
There are conflicts about which task was first (MFI wasn’t around then to document things precisely), but basically Hercules went around slaying and capturing big, bad, terrifying, mythical (or perhaps not) creatures with an occasional break for cleaning out the stables and stealing things that didn’t belong to him.
One of the creatures he captured was Cerberus, the three-headed dog. This is important because Cerberus shows up (in disguise) in Harry Potter. Remember his pseudonym?
After Hercules had completed 12 of his 10 tasks (it got a little complicated what with Eurystheys saying Hercules couldn’t have help and Hercules needing help for some of the tasks), our hero went on more adventures because that’s basically the job description of a man-god.
He was also one of the first male supermodels and almost always insisted on posing nude while he flexed his muscles. You might see proof of this in your Art History class. When he got tired of posing he became a film star.
Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Dear Hercules, Happy Birthday to You!