No Happy-Ever-After For The Doomed Lovers Of Hero Heracles

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Hercules and Iolaus, Fountain mosaic from the Anzio Nymphaeum, Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome. (Public Domain)

No Happy-Ever-After For The Doomed Lovers Of Hero Heracles

Heracles, born of the mortal woman Alcmene by Zeus, King of the Gods, is the greatest of the Greek heroes, yet he was not fated to an everlasting happy love life, until after his death. His popularity even reached ancient Rome (where he was known as Hercules), as Commodus and Maximian, two of the later Roman Emperors, adopted his likenesses for their official portraits and associated themselves with him. Commodus believed he was a reincarnation of Hercules, and Maximian adopted the moniker Herculius. Maximian's coinage frequently depicts Hercules as an allusion to him taking on the heroic role of Hercules and performing the many imperial tasks that were allotted to him.

Commodus as Hercules. Capitoline Museum (CC0)

Commodus as Hercules. Capitoline Museum (CC0)

Zeus and Alcmene

The animosity that Zeus’ wife, Hera, harbored towards Heracles played a significant role in his life. Although Hera had always been portrayed as the jealous wife of the adulterous Zeus, her animosity for Alcmene and Heracles appears to have been particularly deep and vicious - perhaps because Alcmene was a mortal and not one of the nymphs and goddesses that often comprised Zeus’ mistresses.


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