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The Colossal Hand of Hercules, So Where is the Rest of Him?

The Colossal Hand of Hercules, So Where is the Rest of Him?

The Hand of Hercules is the name given to a massive fragment of an ancient statue that was unearthed by archaeologists in Amman, the capital of Jordan. This fragment is believed to have once been a part of a colossal marble statue of the demi-god Hercules, as it was found at the site of the Roman Temple of Hercules. Apart from this hand (or more accurately, three fingers of a hand), the only other piece of the statue that has remained is its elbow. The statue’s hand and its elbow can be seen by those visiting the remains of Amman’s Temple of Hercules today.

Monumental Statues Filled the Ancient City of Amman

During the 1 st century B.C., the area of modern day Jordan came under Roman rule. At that time, Amman was one of the Ten Cities of the Decapolis, and was known by its Greek name as Philadelphia. During the period of Roman rule, which lasted for about four centuries, many public monuments were built in Amman. Some of these, like the Roman Theatre and Roman Odeon can still be seen in the city today.

Temple of Hercules

Another building, the Temple of Hercules, was also built during this time, though it has not been as well preserved as the other two aforementioned structures. Like the Roman Theatre and the Roman Odeon, the Temple of Hercules was constructed during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. It has been suggested that the temple was never completed, as only a part of the structure was adorned with columns, whilst the rest was left bare.

Ruins of the Temple of Hercules in Amman ( CC by 3.0 )

Still, the parts of the temple that have survived through the ages have provided scholars with some information about the monument. For instance, the part of the temple where the columns had been erected is the portico. These columns, six in total, would have originally stood at a height of about 10 m. The columns had fallen over the centuries, and were re-erected in 1993. In addition, the area covered by the temple has been measured. With these pieces of information, a model of the temple has been made, and is today displayed in the American Center for Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman.

A model of the temple of Hercules. Credit: ACOR, Jordan

A Site More Ancient than Ancient!

It has been suggested that the Temple of Hercules was built on the site of an older temple dedicated to a native god. Within the area where the temple’s inner sanctum would have been, there is a bare patch of rock that has been left exposed. It has been postulated that this may have been the sacred rock that was the centrepiece of the 9 th century B.C. Ammonite Temple of Milcom (known also as Moloch or Molech).

Where is the Rest of Hercules?

Apart from the hand and the elbow of the statue, little more was found at the site – just a scattering of coins – which leaves open the question, where is the rest of Hercules? And can we be certain that it even was a statue of Hercules? Even the experts themselves are not entirely certain if the temple in Amman was indeed dedicated to Hercules. Nevertheless, given that a large number of coins bearing the image of Hercules have been found in the city below, it has been speculated that the temple was probably dedicated to him, and the hand most likely was part of a statue of the demi-god.

One of the Largest Known Marble Sculptures

Based on the remaining three fingers and elbow, it has been estimated that the complete statue of Hercules would have stood at a height of 43 feet (13 meters), which would make it one of the largest marble statues to have been sculpted in history. It has been suggested that the statue of Hercules eventually collapsed as a result of a catastrophic earthquake, which would strike the area from time to time. The statue would have probably been fragmented, and the pieces reused by locals for other purposes. Thus, all that remains today of this colossal statue are its three fingers and one of its elbows.

Could the Statue of Hercules in Amman looked like this statue of Hercules currently housed in the Met Museum ?


Gigantic Hand of Hercules could be From the Tallest Marble Statue Ever Made

Amman, the capital of Jordan, is a modern, busy, thriving city. However, on the outskirts of town, there’s a clear reminder of this city’s ancient past. Amman, known as Philadelphia in Greek, was an important ancient hub and has been inhabited for thousands of years, by successive cultures and civilizations.

The city was under Roman rule for four centuries, and this particular ancient civilization left its mark in the form of monumental architecture.

In addition to the bathhouses, villas, and theatres that were built in the Roman city, archaeologists believe that Amman was once the site of an important Roman temple, dedicated to Hercules. Furthermore, there’s even a suggestion that this shrine may once have been the site of a colossal marble sculpture, one of the tallest ever made.

Roman Temple of Hercules on the Amman Citadel in Jordan.

The Temple of Hercules towers over the ancient Roman citadel of Amman, and it appears to have been the most important building in the entire complex. According to the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, it was constructed between 162 and 166 AD, during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and was originally planned to be larger than any temple in Rome itself.

The temple itself measured 98 feet by 79 feet, and the outer sanctum was 397 feet by 236 feet, making for an extremely impressive and imposing building.

Roman-era hand of Hercules at the ancient Citadel in Amman, Jordan. The hand is all that remains of what was once a massive statue.

However, archaeologists now believe that the temple may never have been fully completed. The portico has six tall columns, stretching around 33 feet high, but no other columns or decorative features have been found. It is likely, therefore, that the original vision for the temple was never fully realized.

There is very little information, either literary or archaeological, that can help decipher the origins and use of this impressive structure. However, archaeologists have found a number of coins at the site that bear the image of Hercules, leading them to believe that the temple was dedicated to him, according to the American Centre of Oriental Research.

Hercules hand near Temple of Hercules in antique citadel in Amman, Jordan.

In addition, one of the most striking and impressive finds suggests that there may once have been a gargantuan reminder that this was a shrine dedicated to this legendary Greco-Roman god. While digging at the temple, archaeologists unearthed an enormous marble hand or more precisely, three remaining fingers of a hand, curled loosely into a fist.

In addition, they also discovered a huge piece of marble that appears to have been sculpted into an elbow. Based on the size of the elbow and the hand, archaeologists have speculated that the site may once have included a colossal statue of Hercules, designed to dominate the temple complex.

Hand in front of Hercules temple at Citadel Hill in Amman in Jordan, Middle East.

If these assumptions are correct, and extrapolating from the size of the hand, it is estimated that the finished statue would have stretched over 40 feet high, making it one of the largest marble sculptures ever to have been created in history. Such a feat would have required immense technical skill, wealth and resources.

However, no other parts of the statue have ever been recovered at the site. If the temple was indeed dedicated to Hercules, and included such an enormous image of the god, then where is the rest of it?

Although there are no definitive answers, archaeologists at the American Center of Oriental Research have suggested that the statue was destroyed in one of the many earthquakes that have hit the region over the past 2000 years.

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It is likely that this seismic disruption toppled the statue, and the remaining marble was broken down and taken away for use in other building projects in different parts of the city and the wider region. Marble was an expensive and important commodity in the ancient world, and was used for a whole variety of artistic and construction purposes.

This may also explain why the grand temple of the Amman citadel was never fully completed. Perhaps an earthquake struck, and the ancient Romans decided that it was futile to build such an imposing and lavish temple on a site where disaster might strike at any moment.

These ideas, however, remain speculative, and it is likely that the secrets of the Amman citadel will remain a mystery unless further discoveries can affirm or challenge these theories. To date, the complex has only been partially excavated, and so it’s possible that further clues may yet be unearthed. For now, however, this colossal hand, with its curled fingers, are a visceral reminder of this city’s glorious ancient past.


Contents

The rediscovered statue quickly made its way into the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, grandson of Pope Paul III. Alessandro Farnese was well placed to form one of the greatest collections of classical sculpture that had been assembled since antiquity. It stood for generations in its own room at Palazzo Farnese, Rome, where the statue was surrounded by frescoed depictions of the hero's mythical feats that were created by Annibale Carracci and his studio, executed in the 1590s. The Farnese statue was moved to Naples in 1787 with most of the Farnese Collection and is now displayed in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale there.

The sculpture has been reassembled and restored by degrees. According to a letter of Guglielmo della Porta, the head had been recovered separately, from a well in Trastevere, and was bought for Farnese through the agency of della Porta, whose legs made to complete the figure were so well-regarded that when the original legs were recovered from ongoing excavations in the Baths of Caracalla, della Porta's were retained, on Michelangelo's advice, in part to demonstrate that modern sculptors could bear direct comparison with the ancients. The original legs, from the Borghese collection, were not reunited with the sculpture until 1787. [5] Goethe, in his Italian Journey, recounts his differing impressions upon seeing the Hercules with each set of legs, however, marvelling at the clear superiority of the original ones.

Hercules is caught in a rare moment of repose. Leaning on his knobby club which is draped with the pelt of the Nemean Lion, he holds the apples of the Hesperides, but conceals them behind his back cradled in his right hand. Many engravings and woodcuts spread the fame of the Farnese's Hercules. By 1562 the find was already included in the set of engravings for Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae ("Mirror of Rome's Magnificence") and connoisseurs, artists, and tourists gaped at the original, which stood in the courtyard of the Palazzo Farnese, protected under the arcade. In 1590–91, during his trip to Rome, Hendrik Goltzius sketched the statue in the palazzo courtyard. Later (in 1591) Goltzius recorded the less-common rear view, in a bravura engraving (illustration, right), which emphasizes the already exaggerated muscular form with swelling and tapering lines that flow over the contours. The young Rubens made quick sketches of the planes and massing of the statue of Hercules. Before photography, prints were the only way to put the image into many hands.

The sculpture was admired from the start, reservations about its exaggerated musculature only surfacing in the later eighteenth century. [6] Napoleon remarked to Antonio Canova that its omission from the museum he accumulated in Paris was the most important gap in the collection. More than once, the sculpture was crated and made ready for shipment to Paris before the Napoleonic regime fled Naples.

The prominently sited statue was well liked by the Ancient Romans, and copies have been found in Roman palaces and gymnasiums: another, coarser copy stood in the courtyard of Palazzo Farnese one with the feigned (but probably ancient) inscription "Lykippos" has stood in the court of Palazzo Pitti, Florence, since the sixteenth century. Ancient copies of the statue include:

  • Hercules, 2nd century AD, Roman copy, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
  • The “Weary Herakles” is a heavily broken Roman marble statue that was excavated in 1980 in Perge, Turkey. The looted upper torso was sold to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1981. The upper torso was returned to Turkey in 2011 and is now displayed with the rest of the piece at the Antalya Museum. [7]
  • Colossal statue of Hercules, uncovered at the baths in Hippo Regius (Annaba), Algeria.
  • Resting Herakles, Hermitage, Saint Petersburg.
  • Badly damaged late Hellenistic Parian marble headless statue, recovered from the Antikythera Shipwreck in 1901 Athens, National Archaeological Museum.
  • Headless statue at Izmit Archaeology and Ethnography Museum.
  • Broken headless torso found in the bathhouse Roman & Byzantine village in the Jezreel valley.
  • Broken headless torso from the Amphiareion of Oropos, Athens, National Archaeological Museum.
  • Broken headless torso of 2nd or 3rd century AD, in Museum of Saint-Raymond in Toulouse.
  • Statuette of 2nd century AD, in Detroit Institute of Arts.
  • Bronze statuette with silver-inlaid eyes of 40–70 AD, Getty Villa.

After rediscovery of the Farnese Hercules, copies appeared in sixteenth- and eighteenth-century gardens throughout Europe. During construction of the Alameda de Hercules (1574) in Seville, the oldest public garden preserved in Europe, at its entrance were installed two columns from a Roman temple, elements of a building still preserved in the Mármoles, an unquestionable sign of admiration for the Roman archaeological sites. On them were placed two sculptures by Diego de Pesquera, in 1574, recognizing Hercules as founder of the city, and Julius Caesar, restorer of Híspalis. The first was a copy of the Farnese Hercules, nearly the monumental size of the original. [8] At Wilhelmshöhe, near Kassel, a colossal version 8.5 m high produced by Johann Jacob Anthoni, 1713–1717, has become a symbol for the city.

André Le Nôtre placed a full-size gilded version against the skyline at the far end of the main vista at Vaux-le-Vicomte. That at Versailles is a copy by Jean Cornu (1684–86). In Scotland a rare copy in lead, of the first half of the eighteenth century, is sited incongruously in the central Highlands, overlooking the recently restored Hercules Garden in the grounds of Blair Castle. Wealthy collectors were able to afford one of the numerous bronze replicas created in sizes for table-top display.

It is shown in the 1954 film Journey to Italy along with the Farnese Bull.

A replica, titled Herakles in Ithaca, was erected in 1989 on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. The statue was a gift from its sculptor, Jason Seley, a professor of fine arts. Seley made the sculpture in 1981 out of chrome automobile bumpers. [9]

The statue has inspired artists such as Jeff Koons and Matthew Darbyshire to create their own versions in plaster and polystyrene, respectively. [10] Their use of white materials to re-create the sculpture has been interpreted by classicist Aimee Hinds as a perpetuation of colourism in classical art. [10]


The Hand of Hercules – gigantic fingers harking back to the ancient Roman times

At the first glance, three giant fingers abruptly sticking out of the ground may seem like one of those modern, quirky art installations. But when we consider the context of the very site, the history aficionados among us can comprehend and appreciate the sheer scale of this contrivance that harks back to the ancient times. In that regard, the site in question pertains to the mysterious (and massive) presumably Roman-built Temple of Hercules, perched on a hillside overlooking the city of Amman, Jordan.

In terms of the physical evidence of this Hand of Hercules, till now archaeologists have been able to salvage the three fingers (pictured above) along with a portion of the elbow, with both of these segments being currently exhibited at the present site. In essence, the sections most likely belonged to a much larger marble statue of Hercules that adorned the main temple, possibly constructed in circa 162-166 AD, during Marcus Aurelius’ Roman occupation of the area.

Amman’s Tapestry of History –

Remnants of the Temple of Hercules. Credit: Sarah Brumble

Amman, the present-day capital of Jordan, boasts its vibrant historical legacy shared by numerous ancient cultures ranging from the Phoenicians, Greeks to Romans and the Ummayads. The L-shaped defensive hill of Amman Citadel (locally known as the Jabal al-Qal’a) stands testament to these flurry of habitation and building patterns that started way back in the Neolithic age – so much so that the elevated neighborhood is often counted among one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places. To that end, many of the ancient ruins are located within the perimeter of the Amman Citadel, including the aforementioned Temple of Hercules, built by the Romans.

It should also be noted that Amman, known in the ancient times as Philadelphia (named so by Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the Greek ruler of Egypt), was one of the cities that joined the famed Decapolis League – an economic federation of numerous towns in Levant that commercially thrived during the Roman occupation in circa 1st century AD. During this epoch, the Romans furnished many buildings inside the settlement of Philadelphia, including the Roman Theatre, the Odeon, and the Nymphaeum.

The Mysterious Temple of Hercules –

Remnants of the Temple of Hercules. Credit: Sarah Brumble

Unlike its Roman structural counterparts, the Temple of Hercules is not well preserved, a condition that rather accentuates the enigma of the structure. In any case, the archaeologists have estimated that the temple sanctum measured 400 by 236 ft (or almost 95,000 sq ft – which is 1.7 times the size of an American football field), while the core building itself was 100 ft long and 85 ft wide, which makes it larger than any comparable temple structure in Rome itself. Furthermore, its eastern portico still flaunts the remnants of six columns that rose to a height of 33 ft.

However, the relatively unadorned nature of the rest of the building, in spite of its great complex, alludes to the hypothesis that the temple was not completed (and even left abandoned). Quite intriguingly, some scholars have suggested that this particular Roman religious building was constructed on the site of a far older precinct dedicated to a native god. A bare rock patch found inside the temple’s inner sanctum hints at such a scenario, with the Amman Citadel possibly also housing the Ammonite Temple of Milcom (known also as Moloch) dating from 9th century BC.

Where is the entire colossal statue of Hercules?

A reconstructed model of the temple of Hercules. Credit: ACOR, Jordan

Other than the aforementioned fingers and elbow sections, researchers have only discovered a few coins that marked the possible spot of the statue. But unfortunately, till now archaeologists have not been able to find another fragment of this massive statue of Hercules. The reasons, according to researchers, could be many. The probable scenario relates to how the area is prone to periodic earthquakes, and one of them could have played its catastrophic role in toppling the statue, thus mirroring the fate of the Colossus of Rhodes. The resulting fragments of the marble Hercules were possibly then used by the locals (during the contemporary period) for other proximate building ventures.

Nevertheless, judging by the sheer size of the fingers alone, the researchers have estimated that this particular ‘lost’ specimen may have accounted for one of the largest marble statues in the world, with its height reaching around a substantial 43 ft.


Hand of Hercules

Towering over Amman’s modern skyline is the Temple of Hercules, located at the peak of a hillside in one of the ancient city’s oldest quadrants.

Constructed between 162-166 CE during Marcus Aurelius’ Roman occupation of Amman’s Citadel, the great temple is larger than any in Rome itself. Its portico faces east and is surrounded by six, 33-foot tall columns. Measuring 100 feet long by 85 feet wide, with an outer sanctum of 400 by 236 feet, the fact that the rest of the temple remained unadorned by columns suggests to scholars that the structure was never completed, for reasons history has yet to reveal.

During the excavation process, few clues were left to help scholars unlock the mysteries of this massive half-finished, abandoned temple. But the ones that did exist were huge—albeit ambiguous. From just three gigantic fingers, one elbow, and a scattering of coins, archaeologists have agreed these marble body parts likely belonged to a massive statue of Hercules himself. Therefore, the theory goes, the temple also must have been dedicated to the half-god known for his feats of strength and far-ranging adventures.

Likely toppled during one of the area’s periodic catastrophic earthquakes, the statue fell to bits, but unlike the temple, all except the hand and elbow disappeared. As one guide put it, “The rest of Hercules became Amman’s countertops.”

Experts’ best guess is that, in its original state, the statue would have measured upwards of 40 feet high, which would have placed it among the largest known marble statues to have ever existed.

Back in the here and now, it makes for a pretty enjoyable time to walk up to a cluster of fat fingers, stare at their well-trimmed nails and cuticles, and walk away giggling that scholars have agreed: Hercules enjoyed a good manicure, just like modern-day demigods.


The Colossal Hand of Hercules, So Where is the Rest of Him? - History

Today, we launch Colossus. Our goal is to become the destination to learn about business building and investing. Our aperture is wide. We will cover everything from network effects to Nintendo, Data Dog to Domino’s Pizza, and cohort retention to the cash conversion cycle. Our focus is to do just two things extraordinarily well: (1) produce the best conversations in the world, and (2) build tools to make learning from these conversations easier and more effective.

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So how did we get here, what is Colossus exactly, and where are we going?

The Origins, by Patrick O’Shaughnessy

I launched my podcast, Invest Like the Best, in 2016 as part of an effort to deepen my understanding of the business and investing worlds. As I began to research new topics, I was disappointed at how hard it was to find good learning material. An MBA would take too much time. Finding good blog posts or podcast episodes was like finding needles in a haystack.

So, I decided to create my own curriculum and began interviewing the smartest people in the world that would agree to speak with me.

I began traveling around the country with a backpack filled with a few days’ clothes and a mobile recording studio. I always wore the same blue blazer to early interviews. I was serious about learning and wanted to be taken seriously, too. Someone joked that I must sleep in that blazer. I nearly did.

Four years later, I’ve had the opportunity to interview more than 200 of the world’s smartest people in business and investing. These people obviously can’t talk to everyone, so we’ve tried to position ourselves as a representative of the audience that would love to sit down for sixty minutes with a Tobi Lutke, a Katrina Lake, a Bill Gurley. I’ve also been lucky enough to amass a large audience of smart and curious people around the world.

More importantly, I’ve learned that conversations are an insanely powerful and efficient tool, both to teach and to learn, and that they represent the opportunity to build something much bigger and more impactful than my simple podcast.

The Power of Conversation

One of my favorite guests, Sarah Tavel, always says she’s looking for businesses that offer solutions that are “ten times better, and cheaper.” Recorded conversation meets those criteria for learning. In sixty minutes, you can capture what might take years to capture in a book. Everyone gets writer’s block, but no one gets talker's block.

A simple example makes the point emphatically. Will and Ariel Durant were the authors of The Story of Civilization. Their 11-volume epic became one of the most prolific sets of books ever produced. Their 4 million words took 5 decades to write. It sold 2 million copies and won the Pulitzer Prize. Now compare that output to the first 200 episodes of Invest Like the Best. It is also 4 million words worth of information, but has only taken me (and our guests) 4 years to produce—as a side project. We’ve had nearly 20 million listeners to date there will be no Pulitzer. 10% of the time, 10 times the reach. That is the game-changing advantage of conversation, and we intend to lean on that advantage.

During the summer of COVID, I met an executive at HBO who told me, in the nicest way possible, that I was foolish for not building more around the podcast. The next day I posted a job description for a partner. I reviewed all 700 applications and hired Damian Brychcy to be the CEO of the new business. Damian stood out because of his intelligence, energy, and curiosity. On every reference call, the reference giver began by saying, “you’d be a fool to hire anyone but him.”

Damian immediately began to push me and the podcast forward. He built partnerships with amazing firms like Canalyst, Microsoft for Startups, Tegus, Klaviyo, and many more. We set a goal to launch a second podcast called Founder’s Field Guide and launched earlier than expected.

Damian and I also built the co-founding team: lead engineer Joe Berg and another person to be named soon. The team shares an insatiable curiosity about business building and investing. We want to know how everything works.

But most importantly, we all agree that not much has changed since my initial frustration with the resources for learning in this field. Those tools—from the content itself to search and discovery—still don’t cut it, so we are going to build them ourselves at Colossus.

What started as a passion project to address a personal frustration now has a great team behind it. I started adding small little blocks of knowledge in 2016 with my podcast, almost by accident. Now I believe we can do much, much more. Early on, we will create definitive conversations on topics across business building and investing (hosted by me and several others). We want to become your favorite place to learn, and the place you start every search. What I promise is that we will always be seeking and probing and challenging ourselves out of our comfort zone, and then sharing what we learn with you all. We hope you’ll join us.

The Future, by Damian Brychcy

In June of this year, Patrick sent a note to his e-mail list saying there was an opportunity to join him to work on Invest Like the Best. I was a bit skeptical at first given my background as a lawyer and operating at a FinTech company. But I was extremely curious about what it might entail.

After a lengthy interview process that I was lucky enough to survive (and which included a surprise celebrity interviewer), Patrick and I sat down and looked at each other, asking…so, how exactly are we going to become the destination for investors, founders, and operators to learn the world’s best information on business building and investing in the most efficient way?

Over the past ten years, there has been an explosion of content. The number of new podcasts, blogs, newsletters, and YouTube channels is staggering. While this content explosion has been incredible, it is now challenging to find and aggregate the best information.

Making things worse, search engines do a poor job searching across these new content formats. Books are too general and, without a personal recommendation, a high-risk bet. Newsletters are fantastic but exist in a vacuum and have no search between them. Twitter helps, but content recommendations are unorganized and mixed with other irrelevant material. No single tool is good enough.

We believe definitive conversations with the world’s best investors and operators paired with the best curated third-party content is the most impactful way to learn in the rapidly evolving landscape of business building and investing.

Starting today, we are releasing ultra-fast search capability across most of the 200+ Invest Like the Best and Founder's Field Guide episodes (with the rest to be completed soon) replete with full transcripts, show notes, artwork to bring the episodes to life, and links to all books, articles, audio, video, or products mentioned in the episode.

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Over the next few months, we will be releasing new podcasts with new hosts, adding features to make podcast listening and discovery even better, and working with you to make Colossus the destination to learn about business building and investing.

I cannot wait to build and learn with you.

The name and logo are inspired by Tim Urban’s post on the history of human knowledge. In it, he refers to the growing tower of human knowledge as “the human colossus.” We are going to build a tower, too, adding units of knowledge every week, block by block. The Colossus—our collective knowledge—is what makes humans distinct as a species. It is the root of progress. It will be our constant reminder to add blocks to the tower ourselves, and to give others the tools to do so with us.


DLTK's Horoscope Activities Sagittarius: The Archer

Once upon a time in the ancient lands of Greece, long before horses galloped under the weight of humans, there lived the great Chiron, the centaur. Chiron was a kind, talented, and gentle creature. Half-human/ half-horse, Chiron was like other centaurs and could move quickly, think deeply, and act patiently.

Yet, Chiron was also unique because he was an excellent mentor of many men he was independent and sometimes even playful. Over time, Chiron’s uniqueness and love for all things enabled him to work alongside great people—including the well-known Hercules!

Now, over the ages, centaurs acquired the reputation for being big and scary beasts—with whom they were not to be bothered. They were to be killed immediately if they were a threat to the Greeks or the gods. And because centaurs were such large creatures, they found themselves to be the target of many dangers around them.

Fortunately, many Greeks and gods grew to respect centaurs like Chiron. Chiron was graced with immortality and was free to work and learn and study and heal for eternity. Unfortunately, a lot of the respect for Chiron came solely from a fascination surrounding the horse-like qualities of his body. Chiron grew quite bored of such attraction and instead, focused his time on practicing musical instruments and singing, reading and studying the human body, and learning how to shoot arrows from the great bows he created by hand or found along his journey.

Target practice was Chiron’s specialty. He moved with swiftness and could get a bulls-eye every single time he shot. Chiron was a faithful and honorable archer his teachings were sought out by everyone far and wide and he became a voice of equal parts greatness and gentleness and, yes, silliness.

When Hercules arrived at the amphitheater that Chiron spent many of his days, Chiron had already heard of Hercules’ greatness—as stories of the young, fearless Hercules and his abilities to battle even the most horrifying beasts were also spreading far and wide.

The two practiced together, learned together, and healed together for what seemed like ages. Hercules was finally sent on his twelve great tasks by King Eurystheus, and Chiron playfully vowed to stand alongside him from afar. He offered him healing upon return and even crafted a bow and arrow for Hercules to take with him. While Hercules was absent, Chiron continued his life as it was, playing music and games, remaining studious, and practicing his abilities.

After his first expedition, Hercules returned with the hide from a mighty lion, all weapons intact, but no more arrows. Chiron set to work making him more arrows while he continued the other things he enjoyed.

With new arrows crafted and an again journeying Hercules, Chiron trained a man named Jason and two curious twins in the arts, crafts, studies, and skills of all that he knew. By the time Hercules arrived from his second and third tasks, his three new students were well-equipped to join Hercules on his adventures.

Chiron was a hero in his way but indeed received less attention than the colossal Hercules, who had now defeated a lion, a Hydra, and an enormous deer! Hercules didn’t need a stop between the second and third tasks, however, because he had returned with most of his arrows after his battle with the Hydra. He had dropped his quiver earlier and picked it up before his return to the King and encounter with the deer.

Chiron was testing a new arrow design he had recently engineered as Hercules came into the amphitheater’s ring. His third task had gone so swiftly. But as Chiron observed, Hercules return marked a look of great distress in the young hero’s eyes. Hercules was holding his quiver close, and his bow was in his right hand.

“No matter how many men you can train to battle with me, I will need as many arrows of my own for my next task!” his claim echoed. Chiron could feel the young man’s intense energy, and so, he turned from Hercules so he could calculate the number of arrows to make on his own.

Chiron realized he would have to journey with the young Hercules on his next task to craft his new arrows as they went—giving Hercules an unlimited supply. Although Chiron dreaded the idea of being on the battlefield, he chose to do this favor for his mentee.

Together, Chiron and Hercules survived the successful defeat of the monumental Erymanthian Boar! But at a party to celebrate their success, they were ambushed by a group of rogue centaurs, who became weary of humans and their ideas of them. In the scramble of the ambush, Hercules grabbed unused arrows from the first quiver he had dropped unknowingly in venomous Hydra blood and shot quickly at his targets. Chiron’s exceptional speed meant that he could scramble at the same pace as the attacking centaurs.

As he ran to grapple an incoming centaur, Hercules shot an arrow in unison. The arrow pierced Chiron’s thigh. Chiron shrieked in agony.

Hercules successfully warded off the danger and took Chiron back to the amphitheater. Chiron, despite all the healing practices he had learned and was continuing to learn, could not heal himself of the first Hydra poison that now coursed his veins.

He knew he was destined to live in immense pain and saw in Hercules a similar shock as he bid farewell to the now guilty young hero who had to continue 8 more tasks still.

Being a kind and gentle person, Chiron grew to understand the agony of a man much like Hercules, who Chiron had studied in books and on the battlefield for ages. One such man, Prometheus, was cursed to have his heart eaten by an eagle every day, only to have it grow back to be eaten again once more.

In a proper fit of pain, Chiron approached Zeus and asked that he take the place of Prometheus, for he knew he could no longer aid Hercules. He also knew that Prometheus could gain freedom this way. His newfound empathy for the man allowed him to reason that if he were already going to be in pain for eternity, he should sacrifice himself for another’s freedom. Zeus agreed.

Zeus had also been observing. His sympathy for Chiron was great, and he saw in Chiron a kindness and a gentleness that went unmatched. And so, Zeus freed Prometheus and granted Chiron a great gift of even greater immortal status.

Chiron became the stars in the sky. The constellation Sagittarius is where Chiron is now. He studies us all from the night sky, playfully twinkling in the warm summer sky, and shooting stars that even Hercules found epic.


The Colossal Hand of Hercules, So Where is the Rest of Him? - History

The Apples of the Hesperides

Poor Hercules! After eight years and one month, after performing ten superhuman labors, he was still not off the hook. Eurystheus demanded two more labors from the hero, since he did not count the hydra or the Augean stables as properly done.

Eurystheus commanded Hercules to bring him golden apples which belonged to Zeus, king of the gods. Hera had given these apples to Zeus as a wedding gift, so surely this task was impossible. Hera, who didn't want to see Hercules succeed, would never permit him to steal one of her prize possessions, would she?

These apples were kept in a garden at the northern edge of the world, and they were guarded not only by a hundred-headed dragon, named Ladon, but also by the Hesperides, nymphs who were daughters of Atlas, the titan who held the sky and the earth upon his shoulders.


The Hesperides in the garden. Here the apples are on a tree, and the dragon Ladon looks more like a single-headed serpent.
London E 224, Attic red figure hydria, ca. 410-400 B.C.
Photograph courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum, London

Hercules' first problem was that he didn't know where the garden was. He journeyed through Libya, Egypt, Arabia, and Asia, having adventures along the way. He was stopped by Kyknos, the son of the war god, Ares, who demanded that Hercules fight him. After the fight was broken up by a thunderbolt, Hercules continued on to Illyria, where he seized the sea-god Nereus, who knew the garden's secret location. Nereus transformed himself into all kinds of shapes,trying to escape, but Hercules held tight and didn't release Nereus until he got the information he needed.


Hercules fighting Kyknos
Toledo 1961.25, Attic red figure kylix, ca. 520-510 B.C.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the Toledo Museum of Art

Continuing on his quest, Hercules was stopped by Antaeus, the son of the sea god, Poseidon, who also challenged Hercules to fight. Hercules defeated him in a wrestling match, lifting him off the ground and crushing him, because when Antaeus touched the earth he became stronger. After that, Hercules met up with Busiris, another of Poseidon's sons, was captured, and was led to an altar to be a human sacrifice. But Hercules escaped, killing Busiris, and journeyed on.


Hercules wrestling Antaeus
Tampa 86.29, Attic black figure neck amphora, ca. 490-480 B.C.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the Tampa Museum of Art

Hercules came to the rock on Mount Caucasus where Prometheus was chained. Prometheus, a trickster who made fun of the gods and stole the secret of fire from them, was sentenced by Zeus to a horrible fate. He was bound to the mountain, and every day a monstrous eagle came and ate his liver, pecking away at Prometheus' tortured body. After the eagle flew off, Prometheus' liver grew back, and the next day he had to endure the eagle's painful visit all over again. This went on for 30 years, until Hercules showed up and killed the eagle.


Eagle with wings outstretched.
Philadelphia MS553, Corinthian alabastron, ca. 620-590 B.C.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the University of Pennyslvania Museum

In gratitude, Prometheus told Hercules the secret to getting the apples. He would have to send Atlas after them, instead of going himself. Atlas hated holding up the sky and the earth so much that he would agree to the task of fetching the apples, in order to pass his burden over to Hercules. Everything happened as Prometheus had predicted, and Atlas went to get the apples while Hercules was stuck in Atlas's place, with the weight of the world literally on his shoulders.


Woman juggling apples.
Toledo 1963.29, Attic red figure, white ground pyxis, ca. 470-460 B.C.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the Toledo Museum of Art

When Atlas returned with the golden apples, he told Hercules he would take them to Eurystheus himself, and asked Hercules to stay there and hold the heavy load for the rest of time. Hercules slyly agreed, but asked Atlas whether he could take it back again, just for a moment, while the hero put some soft padding on his shoulders to help him bear the weight of the sky and the earth. Atlas put the apples on the ground, and lifted the burden onto his own shoulders. And so Hercules picked up the apples and quickly ran off, carrying them back, uneventfully, to Eurystheus.

There was one final problem: because they belonged to the gods, the apples could not remain with Eurystheus. After all the trouble Hercules went through to get them, he had to return them to Athena, who took them back to the garden at the northern edge of the world.


Hercules in the garden of the Hesperides.
Sometimes the hero is portrayed in the garden, even though the story we have from Apollodorus is that he sent Atlas there instead of going himself.
London E 224, Attic red figure hydria, ca. 410-400 B.C.
Photograph courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum, London

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Ancient Greece

Hercules was the greatest of the mythological Greek heroes. He was famous for his incredible strength, courage, and intelligence. Hercules is actually his Roman name. The Greeks called him Heracles.


Statue of Heracles
Photo by Ducksters

Hercules was a demigod. This means that he was half god, half human. His father was Zeus, king of the gods, and his mother was Alcmene, a beautiful human princess.

Even as a baby Hercules was very strong. When the goddess Hera, Zeus' wife, found out about Hercules, she wanted to kill him. She snuck two large snakes into his crib. However, baby Hercules grabbed the snakes by the neck and strangled them with his bare hands!

Hercules mother, Alcmene, tried to raise him like a regular kid. He went to school like mortal children, learning subjects like math, reading, and writing. However, one day he got mad and hit his music teacher on the head with his lyre and killed him by accident.

Hercules went to live in the hills where he worked as a cattle herder. He enjoyed the outdoors. One day, when Hercules was eighteen years old, a massive lion attacked his herd. Hercules killed the lion with his bare hands.

Hercules married a princess named Megara. They had a family and were living a happy life. This made the goddess Hera angry. She tricked Hercules into thinking his family was a bunch of snakes. Hercules killed the snakes only to realize they were his wife and kids. He was very sad and riddled with guilt.

Hercules wanted to get rid of his guilt. He went to get advice from the Oracle of Delphi. The Oracle told Hercules that he must serve King Eurystheus for 10 years and do any task the king asked of him. If he did this, he would be forgiven and wouldn't feel guilty any more. The tasks the king gave him are called the Twelve Labors of Hercules.

The Twelve Labors of Hercules

  1. Slay the Lion of Nemea
  2. Slay the Lernean Hydra
  3. Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis
  4. Capture the Boar of Erymanthia
  5. Clean the entire Augean stables in one day
  6. Slay the Stymphalian Birds
  7. Capture the Bull of Crete
  8. Steal the Mares of Diomedes
  9. Get the girdle from the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta
  10. Take the cattle from the monster Geryon
  11. Steal apples from the Hesperides
  12. Bring back the three-headed dog Cerberus from the Underworld

Another example of Hercules using his brain was when he was tasked with cleaning the Augean stables in a day. There were over 3,000 cows in the stables. There was no way he could clean them by hand in a day. So Hercules built a dam and caused a river to flow through the stables. They were cleaned out in no time.

Hercules went on a number of other adventures throughout Greek mythology. He was a hero who helped people and fought monsters. He continuously had to deal with the goddess Hera trying to trick him and get him into trouble. In the end, Hercules died when his wife was tricked into poisoning him. However, Zeus saved him and his immortal half went to Olympus to become a god.


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