Herakles was the greatest and most
celebrated hero in ancient Greece. He was born at Thebes and was the child
of Zeus and Alkmene. Before his birth, Zeus announced to the gods,
that a descendant of Perseus would be born, a hero destined to rule over
the Perseides. Hera, the wife of Zeus, hating the unborn, delayed
his birth and hastened the birth of Eurystheus, who inherited the
throne of Perseus. Later when Herakles was born, she sent two snakes to
his crypt, which Herakles struggled them.
When Herakles reached manhood, he waged war against the kingdom of
Orchomenos in Boeotia, to whom Thebes was paying heavy tributes. Herakles
won the war and in gratitude king Creon of Thebes gave him his daughter,
Megara. For many years Herakles lived happily with his wife and had
three children with her, but in a fit of madness, which Hera sent to him,
he killed them all.
To expiate himself from this horrible act, he visited Delphi and God
Apollo ordered him to go to the king of Tiryns, Eurystheus
and perform ten heroic feats. When his last labor ended (he actually made
twelve), Apollo declared that he would be immortal.
Herakles had many other adventures and among them was the battle of
Giants, in which he helped his father Zeus to defeat the Giants, in the
battle for the control of mount Olympus.
Herakles married again later, with the beautiful
Deianira, keeping the promise to her brother Meleager, when he
met him in Hades. Deianira, afraid that she might lose him, smeared a
cloak she had weaved, with the blood of centaur Nessus, who had
given her before he was killed by Herakles, with the promise that whoever
wears it, he would love her for ever.
When Herakles wore the cloak Deianira gave him, the balm burnt his flesh
and in order to end his suffering, he ordered his friend to prepare a big
pile of wood, on top of the mount Oete. He went by himself in his
funeral pyre, when a cloud with lightning descended from the sky and
Athena with her chariot carried him to Olympus, where he was welcomed as
one of the immortals.