Heracles

To Characters

greek border

Hercules Farnese 17 June 2009 Author Paul Stevenson
Hercules Farnese 17 June 2009 Author Paul Stevenson

The son of Zeus and the mortal woman Alcmene, Herakles is strength personified a champion of the Olympian order against chthonic monsters. By conquering dangerous archaic forces he is said to "make the world safer for mankind" and to be its benefactor.While still an infant, he strangled two huge snakes with his bare hands. Zeus' wife, Hera, was jealous of the affair that begot Heracles, and she is always conspiring to bring him harm. is a fearless adventurer whose many escapades are the stuff of legend. A robust, cheerful man, he has an appetite for food and women that almost equals that of his divine father.

Although he visits Olympus from time to time, and has been known to aid the gods in their struggles, Heracles spends most of his time in the world of men. He is a stout man with a long beard, usually wearing a lion's skin for clothing.

Extraordinary strength, courage, ingenuity, and sexual prowess with both males and females were among his characteristic attributes. Although he was not as clever as the likes of Odysseus or Nestor, Heracles used his wits on several occasions when his strength did not suffice, such as when laboring for King Augeias, wrestling the giant Antaeus, or tricking Atlas into taking the sky back onto his shoulders. Together with Hermes he was the patron and protector of gymnasia and palaestrae. His iconographic attributes are the lion skin and the club.

Heracles was both hero and god; at the same festival sacrifice was made to him, first as a hero, with a chthonic libation, and then as a god, upon an altar: thus he embodies the closest Greek approach to a "demi-god".

Heracles' death and deification occurred 38 years in approximately 1226 BC.

Cult of Heracles

The ancient Greeks celebrated the festival of the Herakleia, which commemorated the death of Heracles, on the second day of the month of Metageitnion (which would fall in late July or early August). What is believed to be an Egyptian Temple of Heracles in the Bahariya Oasis dates to 21 BC.

Myths of Heracles

Birth and childhood

A major factor in the well-known tragedies surrounding Heracles is the hatred that the goddess Hera. A full account of Heracles must render it clear why Heracles was so tormented by Hera, when there are many illegitimate offspring sired by Zeus. Heracles was the fruit of the affair Zeus had with the mortal woman Alcmene. Zeus made love to her after disguising himself as her husband, Amphitryon, home early from war (Amphitryon did return later the same night, and Alcmene became pregnant with his son at the same time, a case of superfecundation, where a woman carries twins sired by different fathers). Thus, Heracles's very existence proved at least one of Zeus's many illicit affairs, and Hera often conspired against Zeus's mortal offspring, as revenge for her husband's infidelities.

Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792) Title: The Infant Heracules Strangling Serpents in his CradleJoshua Reynolds (1723–1792) Title: The Infant Heracules Strangling Serpents in his Cradle

On the night the twins sharing the same mother were to be born, Hera, knowing of her husband Zeus's adultery, persuaded Zeus to swear an oath that the child born that night to a member of the House of Perseus would be High King. Once the oath was sworn, Hera hurried to Alcmene's dwelling and slowed the birth causing another boy Eurystheus to be born prematurely, making him High King in place of Heracles.

One of the boys, Iphicles, was Amphitryon's son and a mortal, while the other was the demi-god Heracles. He was named Heracles in an unsuccessful attempt to mollify Hera. A few months after he was born, Hera sent two serpents to kill him as he lay in his cot. Heracles throttled a snake in each hand and was found by his nurse playing with their limp bodies as if they were child's toys.

Youth

After killing his music tutor with a lyre, he was sent to tend cattle on a mountain by his foster father Amphitryon. Here, he was visited by two nymphs - Pleasure and Virtue - who offered him a choice between a pleasant and easy life or a severe but glorious life. He chose the latter. One of Heracles's challenges was put to him by King Thespius of Thespia who wished him to kill the Lion of Cithaeron. As a reward, the king offered him the chance to impregnate each of his 50 daughters. Accordingly, Heracles did this in one night (sometimes referred to as his 13th Labour).

Later in Thebes, Heracles married King Creon's daughter, Megara.

Twelve Labors

"Hercules and the Hydra" c. 1475 Tempera on wood, 17 x 12 cm Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence Artist - Antonio Pollaiuolo (c.1432-1498) "Hercules and the Hydra" c. 1475 Tempera on wood, 17 x 12 cm Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence Artist - Antonio Pollaiuolo (c.1432-1498)

In a fit of madness induced by Hera, Heracles slew his own and his brother's children. To expiate the crime, Heracles was required to carry out ten labors set by his arch-enemy, Eurystheus, who had become king in Heracles' place. Heracles accomplished these tasks, but Hera ordered Eurystheus to give two more tasks to Heracles, which he then carried out.

1. The Nemeian Lion .
2. The Hydra of Lernaean.
3. The Ceryneian Hind.
4. The Erymanthian Boar .
5. The Augean Stables.
6. The Stymphalian Birds.
7. The Cretan Bull .
8. The Mares of Diomedes.
9. The Girdle of Hippolyte.
10. The Cattle of Geryon.
11. The Apples of the Hesperides.
12. The Capture of Cerberus, the guardian dog of Hades.

Further adventures

After completing these tasks, Heracles joined the Argonauts in the Search of the Golden Fleece. They rescued heroines, conquered Troy, and helped the gods fight against the Gigantes. He also fell in love with Princess Iole of Oechalia. Heracles' advances were spurned by the king and his sons, except for one - Iole's brother Iphitus. Iphitus became Heracles best friend. But once again, Hera drove Heracles mad and he threw Iphitus over the city wall to his death. Once again, Heracles purified himself through servitude - this time to Queen Omphale of Lydia.

Omphale

Omphale was a queen or princess of Lydia. As penalty for a murder, Heracles was her slave. He was forced to do women's work and wear women's clothes, while she wore the skin of the Nemean Lion and carried his olive-wood club. After some time, Omphale freed Heracles and married him. Some sources mention a son born to them who is variously named. It was at that time that the cercopes, mischievous wood spirits, stole Heracles' weapons. He punished them by tying them to a stick with their faces pointing downward.

Hylas

While walking through the wilderness, Heracles was set upon by the Dryopians. He killed their king, Theiodamas, and the others gave up and offered him Prince Hylas. He took the youth on as his weapons bearer and beloved. Years later, Heracles and Hylas joined the crew of the Argo. As Argonauts, they only participated in part of the journey. In Mysia, Hylas was kidnapped by a nymph. Heracles, heartbroken, searched for a long time but Hylas had fallen in love with the nymphs and never showed up again. The ship set sail without them.

Iole

King Eurytus of Oechalia promised his daughter, Iole, to whoever could beat his sons in an archery contest. Heracles won but Eurytus abandoned his promise. Heracles killed him and his sons–excluding Iphitus–and abducted Iole.

Laomedon of Troy

Before the Trojan War, Poseidon sent a sea monster to attack Troy. The story is related in several digressions in the Iliad (7.451-453, 20.145-148, 21.442-457) and is also found in Apollodorus' Bibliotheke (2.5.9). Laomedon planned on sacrificing his daughter Hesione to Poseidon in the hope of appeasing him. Heracles happened to arrive (along with Telamon and Oicles) and agreed to kill the monster if Laomedon would give him the horses received from Zeus as compensation for Zeus' kidnapping Ganymede. Laomedon agreed. Heracles killed the monster, but Laomedon went back on his word. Accordingly, in a later expedition, Heracles and his followers attacked Troy and sacked it. Then they slew all Laomedon's sons present there save Podarces, who saved his own life by giving Heracles a golden veil Hesione had made. Telamon took Hesione as a war prize; they were married and had a son, Teucer.

Other adventures

* Heracles defeated the Bebryces (ruled by King Mygdon) and gave their land to Prince Lycus of Mysia, son of Dascylus.
* He killed the robber Termerus.
* Heracles visited Evander with Antor, who then stayed in Italy.
* Heracles killed King Amyntor of the Dolopes for not allowing him into his kingdom. He also killed King Emathion of Arabia.
* Heracles killed Lityerses after beating him in a contest of harvesting.
* Heracles killed Poriclymenus at Pylos.
* Heracles founded the city Tarentum in Italy.
* Heracles learned music from Linus (and Eumolpus), but killed him after Linus corrected his mistakes. He learned how to wrestle from Autolycus. He killed the famous boxer Eryx of Sicily in a match.
* Heracles was an Argonaut. He killed Alastor and his brothers.
* When Hippocoon overthrew his brother, Tyndareus, as King of Sparta, Heracles reinstated the rightful ruler and killed Hippocoon and his sons.
* Heracles slew the giants Cycnus, Porphyrion and Mimas. The expedition against Cycnus, in which Iolaus accompanied Heracles, is the ostensible theme of a short epic attributed to Hesiod, The Shield of Heracles.
* Heracles went to war with Augeias after he denied him a promised reward for clearing his stables. Augeias remained undefeated due to the skill of his two generals, the Molionides, and after Heracles fell ill, his army was badly beaten. Later, however, he was able to ambush and kill the Molionides, and thus march into Elis, sack it, and kill Augeias and his sons.
* Heracles visited the house of Admetus on the day Admetus' wife, Alcestis, had agreed to die in his place. By hiding beside the grave of Alcestis, Heracles was able to surprise Death when he came to collect her, and by squeezing him tight until he relented, was able to persuade Death to return Alcestis to her husband.

Marriage, liaisons and death

Heracles had numerous liaisons with women. Some of these were linked with later dynasties which claimed descent from his offspring, collectively referred to as the Heracleidae.

Heracles' women

During the course of his life, Heracles married four times. His first marriage was to Megara, whose three children he murdered in a fit of madness and whom he later gave in marriage to his beloved Iolaus, because the sight of her was too painful. His second wife was Omphale, the Lydian queen to whom he was delivered as a slave.

His third marriage was to Deianira, for whom he had to fight the river god Achelous. (Upon Achelous' death, Heracles removed one of his horns and gave it to some nymphs who turned it into the cornucopia.) Soon after they wed, Heracles and Deianira had to cross a river, and a centaur named Nessus offered to help Deianira across but then attempted to rape her. Enraged, Heracles shot the centaur from the opposite shore with a poisoned arrow (tipped with the Lernaean Hydra's blood) and killed him. As he lay dying, Nessus plotted revenge and told Deianira to gather up his blood and spilled semen and, if she ever wanted to prevent Heracles from having affairs with other women, she should apply them to his vestments. Nessus knew that his blood had become tainted by the poisonous blood of the Hydra, and would burn through the skin of anyone it touched.

Later, when Deianira suspected that Heracles was fond of Iole, she soaked a shirt of his in the mixture. Heracles' servant, Lichas, brought him the shirt and he put it on. Instantly he was in agony, the cloth burning into him. As he tried to remove it, the flesh ripped from his bones. Heracles chose a voluntary death, asking that a pyre be built for him to end his suffering. After death the gods transformed him into an immortal, or alternatively, the fire burned away the mortal part of the demi-god, so that only the god remained. Because his mortal parts had been incinerated, he could now become a full god and join his father and the other Olympians on Mount Olympus. He then married Hebe.

No one but Heracles' friend Philoctetes would light his funeral pyre. For this action, Philoctetes received Heracles' bow and arrows, which were later needed by the Greeks to defeat Troy in the Trojan War. Philoctetes confronted Paris and shot a poisoned arrow at him. The Hydra poison would subsequently lead to the death of Paris. The Trojan War, however, would continue until the Trojan Horse was used to defeat Troy.

Another episode of his female affairs that stands out was his stay at the palace of King Thespios, who encouraged Heracles to make love to his daughters, all fifty of them, in one night. They all got pregnant and all bore sons. Many of the kings of ancient Greece traced their lines to one or another of these, notably the kings of Sparta and Macedon.

The Death of Hercules, by Francisco de Zurbarán

The Death of Hercules, by Francisco de Zurbarán

Heracles' eromenoi

As paragon of masculinity and warriorship, Heracles also had a number of pederastic male beloveds. Heracles' male lovers were beyond counting. Of these, the one most closely linked to Heracles is the Theban Iolaus. Their story, an initiatory myth thought to be of ancient origin, contains many of the elements of the Greek pederastic apprenticeship in which the older warrior is the educator and the younger his helper in battle. Thus, Iolaus is Heracles's charioteer and squire. Also in keeping with the initiatory pattern of the relationship, Heracles in the end gave his pupil a wife, symbolizing his entry into adulthood. Iolaus's ritual functions paralleled his relationship with Heracles. He was a patron of male love—Plutarch reports that down to his own time, male couples would go to Iolaus's tomb in Thebes to swear an oath of loyalty to the hero and to each other—and he presided over initiations in the historical era, such as the one at Agyrion in central Sicily.

One of Heracles's best known love affairs, and one frequently represented in ancient as well as modern art, is the one with Hylas. It too exemplifies in detail the normal cycle of a youth's initiatory process, consisting of education through service to a warrior, including sexual relations, and concluding with promotion to adult status and marriage.

Sparta, as a warrior city where pederastic pedagogy—ostensibly of a chaste nature—was enshrined in the laws given by Lycurgus, the legendary legislator, also provided Heracles with an eromenos—Elacatas, who was honored there with a sanctuary and yearly games. The myth of their love is an ancient one. Abdera's eponymous hero, Abderus, was another of Heracles' beloveds. In what is considered to be initiatory myth, he was said to have been entrusted with—and slain by—the carnivorous mares of Thracian Diomedes. Heracles founded the city of Abdera in Thrace in his memory, where he was honored with athletic games. The topos of death in such stories is thought to symbolize the passage from one stage of life to another.

Among the lesser-known myths is that of Iphitus. Heracles' subsequent murder of Iphitus is held to be evocative of an initiatory ritual. Another such story is the one of his love for Nireus, who was "the most beautiful man who came beneath Ilion". Philoctetes. He is also heir to the hero—and thus surely his disciple—and is the one who lights his pyre. Later he is the initiator of Neoptolemus, son of Achilles.

Heracles' children

Telephus is the son of Heracles and Auge. Hyllus is the son of Heracles and Deianeira or Melite. The sons of Heracles and Hebe are Alexiares and Anicetus.

Role-playing Notes

Herakles is a dangerous fellow to have dealings with, for he will take offense at the slightest insult. Anyone tricking, deceiving, or failing to express the proper gratitude is placing his life in Herakles hands, for the demigod has a violent temper. Heracles will never have anything to do with wizards or priests, as he has a profound distrust of magic.

Duties of the Priesthood

Although Herakles has plenty of admirers, he disdains those who lower themselves enough to worship him

Roleplaying Notes

Trojan War: Roleplaying in the Age of Homeric Adventure

A Mythic Vistas Sourcebook for the d20 System
Written by Aaron Rosenberg

Used with permissiom from Paolo

As seen in Paolo's thread at Dicefreaks

Hercules
fighter 38, ranger 12
DvR0 (hero-deity)
Medium humanoid  
Hit Dice 38d10 +12d8 + 1000 (1319 hp)
Initiative +11 (+4,+7 Dexterity)
Speed 40 feet
AC 28 (+7 Dexterity, +6 ac, +5 natural), touch 21, flat-footed 21
Base Attack/Grapple +35/82
Attack + 69 Greatclub (1d10 + 34, x2) or + 69 unharmed strike (1d3 +1d6 +34), or +68 touch (grapple) attack melee, or + 48 shortbow (1d6 +6, 19-20x3)
Full Attack + 69/64/59/54 Greatclub (1d10 +34, x2) or +69/64/59/54 unharmed strike (1d3 +1d6 +34) melee, or +48/43/38/33 shortbow (1d6 +6,19-20x3) ranged
Space/Reach 5 ft. x 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks Archery prowess, Epic DR bypassing, Favoured enemy (magical beast, Giant, monstrous humanoid)
Special Qualities Divine bloodline, Evasion, Extra toughness, Fast movement, Swift tracker, Woodland stride, damage reduction 20/bludgeoning.
Saves Fort +48, Ref +31, Will +21.
Abilities Strength 67, Dexterity 25, Constitution 50, Intelligence 12 , Wisdom 11, Charisma 26
Skills Climb +43, Craft (bowmaking) +10, Escape artist 15, Handle Animal +23, Intimidate +25, Heal +8, Hide +10, Jump +40, Knowledge (Geography) +13, Knowledge (nature)+10, Listen +10, Move Silently +10, Search +11, Spot +15, Survival +20, Swim +30, Rope Use+37
Feats Cleave, Clever wrestling, Combat Reflexes, Combat Expertise, Earth’s embrace, Endurance, Fists of iron, Improved Bull Rush, Improved critical (shortbow), Improved grapple, Improved Initiative, Improved Trip, Improved Overrun, Improved Precise Shot, Improved Sunder, Improved unharmed strike, Manyshot , Mobility, Monkey grip, Power Attack, Rapid Shot, Stunning Fists, Track , Weapon Focus (shortbow), Weapon Focus (unharmed strike), Weapon Focus (Greatclub), Weapon specialisation (Greatclub), Weapon specialisation (unharmed strike), Weapon specialisation (shortbow),
Epic feats Damage reduction, Epic Endurance, Epic Prowess x5, Epic Reputation, Epic weapon specialisation (Greatclub), Epic weapon specialisation (unharmed strike), Epic weapon specialisation (shortbow), Fast healing, Legendary Wrestler, Swarm Of Arrows
Climate/Terrain wandering in mythic mediterranean lands
Organization Usually solitary
Challenge Rating 55
Treasure see possessions
Alignment Chaotic good

Archery prowess: Hercules has the Distant Shot epic feat even if he doesn't qualify for it.

Divine bloodline: +1 hp per HD (es, 6,5 instead of 5,5 on a d10), immune to polymorphing, petrification or any form-altering attack, energy drain, ability drain and ability damage; +15 vs poison, Paralysis, death effects, disintegration; +10 vs binding, soul bind, Temporal Stasis, Trap the Soul; Spell Resistance 35

Epic DR bypassing: Any weapons held by Hercules, and his unharmed attacks, are considered epic for damage reduction bypassing

Evasion: If Hercules makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, he instead takes no damage. Evasion can be used only if Hercules is wearing light armor or no armor.

Extra toughness: Due to the extreme strenght of his muscles, Hercules has a natural +5 bonus to his AC

Fast movement: when wearing medium armor or lighter, Hercules' speed is +10 feet

Favored enemy: Hercules has a +6 bonus on Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot and Survival, and a +6 bonus on damage rolls, against magical beasts. Those bonuses are at +4 versus Giants and at +2 versus Monstruous humanoinds.

Swift tracker: Hercules can move at his normal speed while following tracks without taking the normal –5 penalty. He takes only a –10 penalty (instead of the normal –20) when moving at up to twice normal speed while tracking.

Woodland stride: Hercules may move through any sort of undergrowth (such as natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain) at his normal speed and without taking damage or suffering any other impairment. However, thorns, briars, and overgrown areas that have been magically manipulated to impede motion still affect him.

Possession:

Greatclub

Heracles’ Cloak (Skin of the Nemean Lion)

Heracles’ cloak is the skin of the Nemean lion, a beast invulnerable to weapons, grappled to death by the hero in his first labor. The cloak grants its wearer a +6 deflection bonus AC, and has grants its wearer damage reduction 20/bludgeoning.

Strong abjuration; CL 20th; Weight 10 lb.

Poisoned arrows: Hercules’ arrows were dipped in the horribly virulent poison of the Hydra’s internal organs. The poison is mortal even in a minimum dose, and doesn’t lose anything of his power with time. Type: contact, 62 fortitude DC, main damage 3d8 Dexterity, secondary 3d8 Dexterity

Tv and film

Hercules the legendary journeys

Young Hercules

greek border

To Characters

The Worlds of Mankind is owned and created by Mark John Goodwin

The text on this page is Open Game Content, and is licensed for public use under the terms of the Open Game License v1.0a.

‘d20 System’ and the ‘d20 System’ logo are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
and are used according to the terms of the d20 System License version 6.0.
A copy of this License can be found at www.wizards.com/d20.