Who hasn’t heard of the great ancient hero Hercules – or Heracles, as he’s also called. In 2014, no less than two movies were released about Hercules and this is how heroically he’s described:
Hercules (2014) Dwayne Johnson, MGM
Having endured his legendary twelve labors, Hercules, the Greek demigod, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord.
The legend of Hercules (2014) Kellan Lutz, Millennium Films, Nu Boyana Film Studios
The origin story of the mythical Greek hero. Betrayed by his stepfather, the King, and exiled and sold into slavery because of a forbidden love, Hercules must use his formidable powers to fight his way back to his rightful kingdom.
However, if you read the ancient sources, there are a lot of things that don’t match these tributes. Indeed, the sources tell about various stellar myths. But if you take away the stellar myths, you’ll realize that most stories are about murder and rape. Hercules kills and rapes women and boys. How did this happen? Why do we glorify this horrible man? You can’t blame the movie companies. They only build on a long tradition of glorifying a very criminal person (in ancient and prehistoric times you weren’t allowed to murder and rape either, just as it is today). And the ancient sources don’t really glorify him. So why did Hercules get – and maintain – his status as a hero?