View Fullscreen

Glykon, after Lysippos, Farnese Hercules, c. 216 CE, marble, 317 cm, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples

Hercules is the epitome of classical divine heroes.  He was the son of Zeus/Jupiter and Alcemena, and a jealous Hera/Juno attempted to kill him by placing two snakes in his crib.  Though still a baby, he killed the snakes--the first of many feats of remarkable strength.  In a fit of madness, he killed his own children, and to atone he had to perform twelve labors.  As a reward for his heroism, he was brought to Olympus and made immortal.

He is often depicted performing his Twelve Labors, which include:  slaying the Nemean lion (1), Lernean hydra (2), and Stymphalian birds (6), capturing the Ceryneian hind (3), Erymanthian boar (4), Cretan bull (7), and Cerberus (12), cleaning the Augean stables (5), and stealing the Mares of Diomedes (8), girdle of Hippolyta (9), cattle of Geryon (10), and apples of the Hesperides (11).  He is also sometimes portrayed as a baby, strangling the snakes in his crib, and is often shown defeating Antaeus while trying to enter the Garden of the Hesperides.  In this sculpture, the apples are held in his right hand behind his back.