Whether you paid attention in school or not Greek mythology can be rather confusing! To celebrate the Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray and DVD release of Hercules this week we’ve compiled a ‘cheat sheet’ outlining key facts on the major Greek heroes so you can try your best to blag your way through any conversations on the topic…
Legend says that Hercules was a demi-god (half-human, half-god) and widely considered as one of the greatest of the Greek heroes. His father was Zeus, King of the Gods, and his mother was Alcmene a human princess. Hercules married a princess called Megara but the goddess Hera (Zeus’ wife) disliked Hercules and tormented him into killing his wife and children. Hercules was riddled with guilt and asked advice from the Oracle of Delphi. The Oracle told him to serve King Eurystheus in order to be purified of his sin and granted immortality. Eurystheus asked him to complete the famous ’12 labours’ which included slaying a nine-headed serpent called Hydra.
Zeus was the King of the Gods, father of Hercules and Perseus. He overthrew his father, Cronus, to succeed to the throne. He gave the waters to his brother Poseidon and the underworld to his brother Hades. His weapon was a thunderbolt which he used against anyone who displeased him. Zeus was easily angered and hurled lightning bolts causing violent storms on Earth. He was married to Hera (his sister) but had many affairs.
Jason was the heroic leader of the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece. His father was King Aeson of Iolcus but the king’s half brother Pelias wanted the thrones himself and overthrew Aeson when Jason was young. Jason’s mother feared for his safety and sent him away to be guarded by Chiron, a centaur. When Jason was an adult he returned to Iolcus to regain the throne that rightfully belonged to him. Pelias said that if Jason could bring him the fabled Golden Fleece in Colchis he would make him his heir. Pelias believed Jason would fail in his quest but Jason assembled a brave band of adventurers including Hercules and famous musician Orpheus. The Argonauts completed a series of trials to win the fleece and were aided by Medea, the daughter of the King of Colchis, who fell in love with Jason.
Odysseus (also known by the Roman name Ulysses) was the King of Ithaca. He was a courageous hero in the Trojan War and his famous adventures are detailed in Homer’s The Odyssey. He devised the Trojan Horse, a huge wooden horse which hid a number of elite fighters inside. The Greek army pretended to sail away and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a trophy. That night the Greek force crept out and opened the gates for the rest of the right of the army, which had sailed back under cover of darkness. The Greeks destroyed the city of Troy and won the war.
Achilles was one of the greatest warriors in the Trojan War. He was the son of Peleus, King of the Myrmidons and sea nymph, Thetis. One tale of his childhood suggests that Thetis dipped Achilles in the water of the River Styx and he began immortal, except for the part of his heel by which she held him – his ‘Achilles’ heel’. Achilles fought bravely throughout the war but at the end of the battle he was shot in the heel with an arrow by Paris.
HERCULES is out on Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray and DVD now