Mythological Heroes: Achilles and Hercules


The subject of mythology deals mainly with the notion of battle, or good
versus evil. In this struggle many individuals are singled out for either the
evil they cause, or from the good they bring to people. When you mention heroes
in mythology, there are two distinct names that a majority of people bring up,
those names are Achilles and Hercules.

Achilles was born to King Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis. Soon after
Achilles was born his mother dipped him in the River Styx, she was told, by
doing this, that the water would make every part of his body that it touched
invincible. Little did she know that the one part of his heel which he was
held by would not touch the water.

When Achilles mother found out about the war in Troy between the Greeks
and the Trojans she did not want her son to fight because she knew that he
would eventually be killed there. The way that she tried to prevent him from
going into the army was to hide him among the women of the court so that he
could not be persuaded by his close friend Odysseus to join the Greek forces.
While trying to find Achilles, Odysseus easily spotted him among the women, and
persuaded him to join the Greek army.

After many years of battle with the Trojan forces, Achilles ended up in
a famed duel with Trojan hero Hector, over the slaying of Achilles close friend
Patroclus. After killing Hector, Achilles tied his dead body behind a chariot
and dragged around the walls of Troy seven times to show his hatred and anger
towards the Trojans and their hero. Shortly after the famed battle, Achilles
was killed when he was struck, with a poisonous arrow, in the one small spot on
his heel which was vulnerable. The arrow was fired by the Trojan prince Paris
and was guided by the sun god Apollo.

Hercules was the strongest and swiftest man ever to walk the earth. As
the son of Zeus and mortal woman Alcmene, Hercules was destined to be a hero.
This destiny was shown before he was one year old. Enraged at his affair with
a mortal woman, Zeus\' wife Hera set out on a plot to kill Hercules.

One night after Alcmene put her children to bed, Hercules\' twin brother
Iphicles was awoken by two huge serpents that were sent by Hera to kill the son
of Zeus. When Hercules awoke he grasped the two snakes in order to play with
them, and squeezed the life right out of them. When Alcmene awoke to see what
all the commotion was about, she was amazed at the sight of her infant son
holding two snakes that he had killed with his bare hands.

When Hercules grew to manhood, he married and had six sons, and again
fell victim to Hera\'s hatred towards him. What Hera did was send a fit of
madness upon Hercules who mistook his wife and children for enemies and killed
them. When his sanity returned he realised what he had done he shut himself up
from the world for a long time. After a long time in seclusion Hercules finally
emerged and went to the Oracle of Delphi to beg for punishment for his crime.
Hercules was sent to King Eurystheus and told that the king would assign a
punishment to Hercules. The punishment was to perform twelve nearly impossible
tasks which are known as the twelve labours of Hercules.

The first of these tasks was to kill and skin the Nemean Lion, whose
skin could not be punctured by any weapon. His second labour was to kill the
Hydra of Lerna which had numerous heads, one of which was immortal. Every time
one of the mortal heads was cut off two or three new heads would grow in its
place. The third of his tasks was go to the Ceryneian Hill and capture a
beautiful bronze-hoofed hind without spilling one drop of its blood. For his
fourth task Hercules was to capture alive a huge wild boar which often killed
humans and lived on Mount Erymanthus. The fifth task assigned to Hercules was
to clean the filth of many years out of the stables of King Augeias of Elis.
The sixth labour of the great Greek hero was to get rid of a flock of birds
which resided in the Stymphalian Marsh. The birds had long straight bronze
beaks, sharp bronze claws, and a taste for human flesh. For his next labour,
Hercules was to capture the wild bull