Gods and Heroes of the Greeks: The Library of Apollodorus

By Apollodorus; Michael Simpson et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Heracles and the Sons of Heracles
(2. 4. 8-2. 8. 5)1

BOOK 2 When Heracles was eight months old, Hera, wishing to destroy him, sent two huge serpents to his crib. Alcmena cried out for Amphitryon, but Heracles stood up and strangled them to death, one with each hand.2 ∣ Pherecydes says that Amphitryon put the snakes in the crib because he wanted to find out which of the two babies was his. When Iphicles fled but Heracles stood his ground, he realized that Iphicles was his son. ∣

Amphitryon taught Heracles to drive the chariot, Autolycus taught him to wrestle, Eurytus to shoot the bow, Castor to fight with heavy armor, and Linus to play the lyre. Linus was the brother of Orpheus and became a citizen of Thebes. He once struck Heracles, who then killed him in anger by a blow with his lyre.3 When Heracles was tried on a murder charge, he quoted a law of Rhadamanthys which said that a person who defends himself against assault shall be considered innocent, and so was acquitted. Amphitryon, fearing that he would do something similar again, sent him away to tend the cattle. Growing up among the herds, he soon excelled all men in size and strength. It was obvious that he was a son of Zeus for he was eight feet tall, never missed with the bow or the javelin, and fire flashed from his eyes. When he was eighteen and still tending the cattle, he killed the lion of Cithaeron which was ravaging the cattle of Amphitryon and Thespius, king of Thespiae. While trying to catch the lion, Heracles stayed with Thespius for fifty days. The king had fifty daughters, all born to him by Megamede, daughter of Arneus. Being eager for them to conceive children by Heracles, he put a different one into Heracles' bed each night that he went out to hunt the lion. Heracles thought it was the same one in his bed each night and slept with them all. After he killed the lion he wore its skin, using its head with gaping mouth as a helmet.4

9

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