The first half of the volume is devoted to the exposition of the ancient evidence, literary and iconographic, for the traditions of Heracles’ life and deeds. After a chapter each on the hero’s childhood and his madness, the canonical cause of his Twelve Labors, each of the Labors themselves receives detailed treatment in a dedicated chapter. The “Parerga” or “Side-Labors” are then treated in a similar level of detail in seven further chapters. In the second half, the Heracles tradition is analyzed from a range of thematic perspectives. After consideration of the contrasting projections of the figure across the major literary genres, epic, tragedy, comedy, philosophy, and in the iconographic register, a number of his myth-cycle’s diverse fils rouges are pursued: Heracles’ fashioning as a folkloric quest-hero; his relationships with the two great goddesses, the Hera that persecutes him and the Athena that protects him; and the rationalization and allegorization of his cycle’s constituent myths. The ways are investigated in which Greek communities and indeed Alexander the Great exploited the figure both in the fashioning of their own identities and for political advantage. The cult of Heracles is considered in its Greek manifestation, in its syncretism with that of the Phoenician Melqart, and in its presence at Rome, the last study leading into discussion of the use made of Heracles by the Roman emperors themselves and then by early Christian writers. A final chapter offers an authoritative perspective on the limitless subject of Heracles’ reception in the western tradition.
|Title of host publication
|The Oxford Handbook of Heracles
|Oxford University Press
|Number of pages
|Published - Sept 2021