Larger than life, Hercules (Heracles) the demi-god surpasses the rest of the heroes of Greek mythology in almost everything he tries. While he became an example of virtue, Hercules also made serious errors. In the Odyssey, attributed to Homer, Hercules violates the guest-host covenant. He also destroys families, including his own. Some say this is the reason Hercules undertook the 12 labors, but there are other explanations.
Why Did Hercules Perform the Labors?
• A later historian, referred to as Apollodorus (fl. second century A.D.), says the 12 labors are a means of expiation for the crime of murdering his wife, children, and the children of Iphicles.
• In contrast, for Euripides, a dramatist of the Classical period, the labors are much less important. Hercules' motive for performing them is to gain permission from Eurystheus to return to the Peloponnesian City of Tiryns [see map].
• More on why Hercules performed the 12 Labors.
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