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N.S. Gill

Myth Monday - Hercules Hurls His Guest

By April 16, 2012

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Hercules and Omphale mosaic detail
Transvestite pair: Queen Omphale and Hercules Exchange Clothing
CC Flickr User Zaqarbal

The god Apollo was an expert archer who passed on his skill and gave a bow to his grandson Eurytos of Oichalia, a town in Messenia ... and also Thessaly, Aitolia, Euboia, and Trachis. Eurytos lived in only one of them, but which it was is not known, according to C. Kerenyi, the important twentieth century Hungarian classical philologist and authority on mythology.

Apollo was forced to strike down his top archery student, Eurytos, when the mortal foolishly challenged the god to a shooting contest, but that is only one version of how Eurytos met his end. It is also told that Eurytos reneged on a promise to Hercules.
[See Hercules at Troy for another instance of what happens when Hercules doesn't get what he is promised.]

How Hercules repaid Eurytos and family for the broken promise includes murder and abduction. Hercules did more than was justified when he killed a son who was supposed to be a guest by hurling him from the palace walls. Because of this or another flagrant act, Hercules wound up as a servant to a queen in Lydia. This is very similar to the way King Admetus acquired Apollo as servant, a story told in connection with Admetus' noble wife, Alcestis, whom Hercules felt obliged to rescue from death.

Admetus gained the service of Apollo when Zeus sentenced Apollo to mortal servitude to expiate the crime of challenging the authority of Zeus. Zeus had killed Apollo's son Asclepius, so Apollo got revenge by attacking the makers of the thunderbolts Zeus had hurled at Asclepius.
[Read more about Asclepius, Admetus, and Alcestis.]

Omphale gained the service of Hercules as a result of another order of Zeus. This came after either Hercules killed his guest or stole Apollo's tripod and cauldron from Delphi.

Apollo, the hero's half brother, had twice hindered Hercules in the pursuit of his 12 labors. So when the Delphic oracle wouldn't prophecy for him (because Hercules was stained with the guilt of murder), Hercules decided to steal the trappings of prophecy and set up his own oracle. The bickering brothers Apollo and Hercules fought, helped by various other deities, until Zeus broke them up and sent Hercules on his atoning way, led by Hermes, who sold him on the slave market for 3-years service to Queen Omphale of Lydia.

The bow Apollo gave Eurytos passed to his son Iphitus, who gave it to Odysseus, while in Messenia, in a gift exchange for a sword and spear. Odysseus put the bow to good use disposing of the suitors at the end of the Odyssey.

Read more about why Hercules Hurled His Guest.

2010 Myth Mondays

2012 Myth Mondays:

  1. Hercules Hurls His Guest
  2. Scylla
  3. Olympics Origins II: Myrtilos
  4. Hercules the Giant-Killer
  5. The First Tyrant
  6. The King and the Harpies
  7. The Dawn Goddess Loves a Mortal
  8. Vediovis
  9. Even a Boar Wishes to Kiss Adonis
  10. Hero and Leander
  11. Who Were the Argonauts?
  12. The Chimera
  13. Narcissus and Echo
  14. How Perseus Fits In
  15. Hesiod and the Bestiary
  16. The First Olympics Origins I
  17. Dionysus and the Return of Hephaestus
  18. Zeus, the Recent Victor of the Titanomachy, Wins Once More in Hesiod's 'Theogony'
  19. Atlas, the Titan Who Didn't Shrug
  20. Troilus and ... Polyxena

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