Myths are representations of culture and tradition of people.Scholars have different theories about myths, Euhemerus for example believed that myths are perversions of traditions that actually happened in the past; Roman Stoics on the other hand described that myths are allegories, used as a way of conveying moral lessons; Herbert Spencer stated that they originated from ancestral worship; Max Muller conclude that they were misunderstandings of metaphors while Grimm believed them to be the works of all the people in the society, in a such a way that their culture, beliefs and way of life are reflected although sometimes in exaggerated manner (www.
about. com). Greek mythology has been fabricated, fused and combined by cultures through the times, a product of rationalization and historification by the logographers, they may be false and untrue nonetheless they are works of art that has in it a very rich culture and tradition (Nilsson, 1932). Heracles is one of the most known Greek heroes. He is an icon of strength and courage that has transcended past to the present modern generations. The myth of Heracles can be dated back at the pre-Minoan-Mycenaean culture which existed from the Greece to central Europe at an early period (www.
about. com). It is believed that the myth was conceived at the Neolithic Period between 8000 BC- 5000 BC, where stone implements are used and the start of settled agricultural development. However, Williams (2007) supposed that it would be earlier than that, some time at 9th century BC. He also alleged that Heracles represents the physical and social type of barbarized Hellene, those with Heracles characteristics- masculine, bearded people who used the club as primary weapon and the lion skin as garment.
The Hellene migrated from Greece to the wooded north at the time of Aegean desiccation and eventually return to Greece after the drought. This event can be reflected in the myth where they named Heracles as the “rainmaker”, for when he did come back the drought was finally over. The migration of this particular culture to the west is also reflected in one of the seven labors of Heracles particularly when he went to gather the “apples” (www. essortment. com). At this particular time in Ancient Greek history, where civilization was not well established yet, it is apparent that there is little socialization among them.
This can be traced on the character of Heracles. He is a strong man who has accomplished great labors, however, not once in his exploits does he use an accomplice, it was stated that he has a friend name Hylas, albeit his appearance is so minute that he died so soon in the story. Heracles underwent his adventures all by himself. This might reflect that barbaric men are not friendly individuals. On the other hand, all throughout Heracles story, he was doomed by his stepmother Hera.
From the time of his conception, childhood and adulthood, Hera never misses the chance to destroy him for the causes he was not responsible at all (www. messagenet. com). In addition, he was always found in dispute with other men Nessus; these fights might depict the rivalry between cultures at those times. Conversely, Heracles is viewed as a demi-god, with such courage and strength that he was considered equals even stronger than many Gods. However some cultures believed that Heracles did exist, a manifestation of very strong real man that once lived, a legend.
As a matter of fact, many claimed that he could be the chieftain of Tyrins in Mycenaean times and a vassal to Argos, he was a strong man highly regarded by the Gods for he was considered to have “the ear of God’s themselves” (www. essortment. com). Scholars believed that the myths of Hercules today has been highly fabricated, owned and given different alterations by those who has gained knowledge of it. Nevertheless, the different versions of the myth have the same veneration for the Greek hero Hercules, a man with wisdom and strength to defy all the odds, a man who used his knowledge when his strength doesn’t suffice.
In fact he has outwitted Atlas to carry back the earth (www. essortment. com). Although he also has his weaknesses, brutal and easily offended, and often he suffers the consequences of his acts brought about by carelessness and anger (www. essortment. com). The 12 labors of Heracles are great representations of culture and way of life among of the Hellene. It is assumed that his labors are performed by various men over a long period of time (William, 2007). William has the following assumptions on how his labors reflected the early man’s way of life.
The first labor of Heracles is the story of the Nemean Lion. In this story, he strangled the lion and used the lions own claws to remove its skin, this particular labor of Heracles can be a representation of the life of early men, where they used stick or antelope bone to kill their prey and used stone implements to cut up an animal, however based on anthropologist man cannot rip of bigger animals other than rabbits, also based on accounts the used of such stone implements are common in Neolithic times at every part of Europe (William, 2007).
His second labor is the “Destroy of the Lernaean Hydra”, here a story of the water snake with several heads, Williams supposed that the creature is based on octopus. However, it is not only the octopus that he encountered in the story, there is also the crab, both are animals can be found in brackish areas. Williams further elaborated these areas a: A location somewhere in the Euphrates valley near the marshlands where the river empties into the sea. Clearing wetlands of any dangerous animals would be an early activity.
. . derived from the experiences of NearEastern history at a time when the Euphrates valley was being drained and productively irrigated. . . the fifth millennium B. C. might be a good rough date for this sort of feat, presumably with an Eastern locale. Heracles third labor, to trap the Erymanthian Boar, depicts a life in deep forest and middling highlands. An activity of driving the boars into the snow to let its short legs sink into it is stated by Carpenter-theory as done by the Hungarians and Germans (Williams, 2007).
The fourth labor of Heracles which is the capture of the Ceryneian Hind is a manifestation of a forest activity in the north; it is also associated with the boar. In his fifth labor, where he pursued and killed the Stymphalian Birds, it is depicted the bird are migratory ones located in Arcadia at the Peleponnese (Williams, 2007). It is also assumed that the birds are vultures feeding on dead man, since there are no accounts which proved that birds capable of carrying a man have ever lived.
On the other hand the task of cleaning the Augean Stables showed that that part of the myth depicted the lives of people in the early development of civilization. It is a representation of animal breeding, it is possible that at this time people have already found ways to rear animals, so advanced that they even used draining systems that lead straight to the farms. Also it is presented in this myth that the people are simultaneously rearing animals and planting crops, they have found the importance of animal manure to the faster plant growth.
Illustrated on the ninth labor of Heracles is the expansionism of the Greeks to the Euxine Basin (William, 2007). The Amazons described in his labor are presumed to be primitive tribes in the southern plains of Russia. However, it is argued that they are not actually women but men who grew their hair long and their garments are like the female dress of Greeks, and so they are mistaken to be women. The Greeks believed that the amazons are women, and assumed that the reason why these tribes has flat chest is because they cut or burned their breast for purposes of having advantage at times of war (William, 2007).
Although not well documented, it is also argued the encounter of Heracles with the Amazons represents the possible existence of primitive wild warrior women societies in the pre-Hellenic age (William, 2007). His tenth labor, to herd the Cattle of the Sun God stolen by Geryon, depicts the movement of colonization in the west which can be dated back on the later parts of the second millennium B. C. It is also associated with Rys Carpenters theory, as stated in the earlier sections of this essay, the desiccation has led the Dorian’s to Hungary where the rainclouds are.
Therefore, Heracles represents some Dorians who went to the west to escape drought. In addition, the 11th labor of Heracles is another representation of Greeks adventure in the West. Finally, the 12th labor of Heracles, which is to capture Cerberus stated that Heracles went to the Underworld to seize the three headed dog which is Cerebrus, William (2007) associated this particular quest to the epic of Gilgamesh dated before the second millenium B. C. He also presumes that this story in particular represents a much earlier period of NearEast.
From this we can predict that Greek mythology is indeed derived from other social cultures specifically the NearEastern culture. Also, the myth of Heracles is a collection of the works of different man, from different periods, a clear representation of culture and tradition of the Greeks from the early ancient Neolithic ancestors to the men of settled civilizations (William, 2007). Heracles myth lived until today, apparently considered to have unparalleled strength and courage, that some highly regarded him, in fact a cult venerated him as God and celebrated the Herakleia festival as a commemoration of his death (www. messagenet. com).