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Who Were the Parents of Hercules?

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Hera Suckling Hercules. Mid-4th century Apulian Painted Vase.

Hera Suckling Hercules. Mid-4th century Apulian Painted Vase.

© Marie-Lan Nguyen
Question: Who Were the Parents of Hercules?
Sometimes it seems that Hera was the mother of Hercules and Zeus his father. At other times, mortals are named. Who were the parents of Hercules?
Answer: The parents of Hercules include the mortal couple who raised him and his divine father Zeus. Hercules was conceived by Alcmene, the wife of Amphitryon, king of Thebes, while Amphitryon was away. Alcmene was not deliberately being unfaithful. Rather, the king of the gods, Zeus, had disguised himself as Amphitryon and had sexual relations with her. Zeus extended the night so that it was much longer than normal. In the course of the night Amphitryon returned. As a result of Amphitryon's also having sexual relations with Alcmene in that extended night, Alcmene gave birth to twin boys Hercules and Iphicles.

Hercules' Greek name Herakles (or Heracles) means "glory of Hera." In addition, Hera suckled Hercules, and she spurred him to greatness, but the general picture of Hera is that she was Hercules' enemy while he remained a mortal.

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