Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Labors of Heracles ONE The Nemean Lion

The Legend of #Heracles

Apollodorus Hesiod Pindar and many others mention him.

Like Arthur perhaps a real historical person underlies the myths and legends and worship that have centered around this character over the centuries.

There are dozens of stories associated with Heracles but I'm going to focus on the 12 labors and look also at geographical and historical aspects. What they possibly tell us about Mycenaean society at its peak?

Heracles was a descendant of Perseus allegedly a son of Zeus and had a twin brother.

There were several legends about royal twins with claims of one being divine and the other human. Possibly this means one twin the older of a fraternal pair was placed under the special protection of a god. Curiously there is little  mention of female twins?

Most of the stories agree Heracles killed or captured monsters and wild animals who were dangerous to humans and that he fathered a great many children in and outside of his marriages however one aspect overlooked is that he was also a civil works engineer building wells drainage canals fountains for natural springs roads and city walls. He seems to have been seen as a defender of commoners despite his being prone to fits of rage since most of the victims of those psychotic moments were other aristocrats . Possibly he was bipolar which may explain why the Greeks thought his madness was inflicted on him by the gods given the cyclical nature of that illness?


His first official Labor was that of the killing of the nemean Lion a maneater attacking people in the area around Nemea.

I wonder if the last of the Greek lions were possibly cave lions or a different sub species from those of Africa. They are never recorded as living in packs.

Ancient Nemea is near Ayios Yeorgios between Mycenae and Corinth on a plateau and was also the site of the Nemean games and a temple to Zeus.

That temple and the site of the games overlies a Helladic settlement and the cave said to be that of the Lion was the site of discovery of  Neolithic artifacts.

Now this lion it is claimed had an inpenetratable skin that no blade could cut.

At first Heracles is said to have tried to use a sword or spear down its throat then he clubbed it and throttled it choking it to death and using the lions own razor sharp claws to skin the beast and then wearing its head and hide to protect himself.

Despite Greek artists using this as an excuse to depict heracles semi naked I seriouslt doubt whatever species of beast of monster the Nemean lion was that heracles fought him stark naked. 

I note here that Maasai warriors and white hunters try for a frontal chest thrust or shot. Heracles seems to have tried every known method and given his wrestling training and exceptional strength perhaps he really did strangle a lion?

This was the first of 12 labors. 

Next time the Hind with the Golden Horns !

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