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A comparison of achilles and hercules two greek heroes

Alexander the Great's 3 Heroes A bust of alexander wearing a herculean hat, artist unknown Alexander the Great has long been associated with the mythic heroes of ancient Greece.

In many ways, it seems like he was one himself - the only difference being that we have proof Alexander actually lived. Of the many heroes of Greek myth, Achilles is the one most commonly paired with Alexander. But did Alexander really view Achilles as his greatest rival?

Or did other figures of Greek myth loom just as large in his mind? In a previous articleI weigh the evidence for Alexander's alleged emulation of Achilles. At the end, I'll try to present a version of Alexander that incorporates all three of these heroes, as well as his preoccupation with the god known as Zeus-Ammon. Let's start with Heracles. He was the son of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, and a mortal woman.

He had extraordinary strength and intelligence, although he was doomed from birth to be subjected a comparison of achilles and hercules two greek heroes the will of a spiteful king. Homer described him in the Iliad as "mighty, bold, lion-hearted". Heracles is probably best known for his 12 Labors - a series of spectacular undertakings - in which he defeated the Nemean lion, the many-headed hydra serpent, and other foes.

Upon his death, it was believed he was struck by a lightning bolt thrown by his father Zeus, which sent his soul to Mount Olympus instead of the Underworld. He was one of the few men to be rewarded with immortality. By Alexander's time, Heracles was revered as the greatest of all the Greek heroes. He was depicted as a "youthful, unbearded god who wears a lion-skin on his back and has the lion's paws knotted on his chest.

He tends to carry a club, not a bow, and to have one arm raised" Fox, 194. The legends of his exploits placed him at a variety of locations stretching to the eastern and western fringes of the known world. The most direct connection Alexander had to Heracles was through his royal lineage. It was an important belief: Through this connection, the Argead royal family established both its Greek roots and divine pedigree. But Alexander also seems to have had a personal association with Heracles.

A comparison of achilles and hercules two greek heroes his life, Alexander was paired with the symbol of a lion, which was also a symbol of Heracles. A story about Alexander's birth, told by Plutarch, says that Philip II had a dream before his son was born in which Olympias' womb was sealed with the image of a lion. It is unclear whether this story became commonly known before, during, or after Alexander's life.

Alexander was even described in Herculean terms: Here are the other ways Alexander was connected to Heracles, according to the ancient biographies and archaeology: When Alexander first met with the Thessalonians, he reminded them of their common ancestor Heracles Diodorus, 17.

Alexander was associated with Heracles in the art and coinage of his time: On coins, Heracles' standard Macedonian portrait had taken on Alexander's features: Alexander's claims of invincibility harken back to Heracles: When Alexander began to stress this powerful link with Victory Greek goddess and the hero Heracles, whose assistance he constantly recognized, a new concept was born for divine kingship" Fox, 71-72.

Alexander may have named an illegitimate son of his "Heracles", although the identity of Heracles of Macedon has been disputed. Alexander made sacrifices to Heracles during his military campaigns, including after he crossed the Danube River and Hellespont, and when he reached the Indian Ocean Arrian. He also sacrificed to him after the victory at the Battle of Issus Curtius, 3.

Before battle, he told his troops that they "would one day traverse the bounds of set by Hercules Heracles and Father Liber Dionysus to subdue not only the Persians but all the races of the earth" Curtius, 3.

Before assaulting Tyre, Alexander had a dream that Heracles welcomed him into the city Arrian ; after, he pardoned the Tyrians who took refuge in the Temple of Heracles.

He also "offered sacrifice to Heracles and held a ceremonial parade of his troops in full battle equipment; the fleet also took part in the review in the god's honour, and there were athletic contests in the Temple enclosure and a torch-race" Arrian, 143. Alexander also dedicated the siege machine that breached the Tyrian wall and a sacred Tyrian ship to Heracles.

Later, after conquering Egypt, Alexander returned to Tyre and again held religious celebrations and athletic contests in his honor Arrian, 155. Alexander's motivation to visit the Temple of Ammon in Libya was partially attributed to his connection to Heracles.

Arrian writes that "Alexander longed to equal the fame of Perseus and Heracles; the blood of both flowed in his veins, and just as legend traced their descent from Zeus, so he, too, had a feeling that in some way he was descended from Ammon" Arrian, 151.

Some of Alexander's flatterers publicly compared him to Heracles, which bred resentment among other followers Arrian, 214. Anaxarchus allegedly suggested that Macedonians were better off granting divine honors to Alexander than to Dionysus or Heracles, as only Alexander was from Macedon. Callisthenes responded by reminding Anaxarchus and others than not even Heracles was worshipped while he was still alive Arrian, 219-221. According to Curtius, the local rulers in India greeted Alexander as "the third son of Jupiter to have reached them".

Alexander the Great's 3 Heroes

Although Dionysus and Heracles had come in the distant past, Alexander "had come in person and was before their eyes" 8. Alexander captured the Rock of Aornos in India, which had allegedly thwarted the great Heracles. Arrian believes this factored into Alexander's motivation to siege the Rock, although there was also a practical element to the operation. I incline to fancy that he did not; for it seems to me that people like to make difficulties look much more difficult than they really are, and to this end start a legend about Heracles' failure to overcome them.

That, at any rate, in my opinion about this rock: Clearly, even Arrian was suspicious about the origins of this myth.

However, he did believe that Alexander bought into it: Alexander and his troops are said to have believed Heracles visited India after finding cattle that had been branded with the image of a club; they also thought they had discovered the cave of Prometheus, where Heracles was believed to have visited Arrian, 258-259.

Arrian acknowledges that the traveling Greeks seemed to have made mistakes about the placement of various mythical landmarks and taken liberties in interpreting these legends. At the Hyphasis River, where Alexander's troops refused to march any farther east, Alexander allegedly invoked the example of Heracles, saying, "Are you not aware that if Heracles, my ancestor, had gone no further than Tiryns or Argos - or even than the Peloponnese or Thebes - he could never had won the glory which changed him from a man into a god, actual or apparent?

Even Dionysus, who is a god indeed, in a sense beyond what is applicable to Heracles, faced not a few laborious tasks; yet we have done more: In Curtius, Alexander also compares himself to Dionysus and Heracles at multiple inflection points of their campaign: There was a story about Alexander encountering the legendary tribe of Amazon women, whom Heracles had also met. Arrian mentions that this was not included in the account of any "reliable" biographer.

It is well attested that Alexander believed, or at least claimed, that he was a son of Zeus-Ammon. This would have made Alexander a half-brother of Heracles. Alexander's future plans, which he died too early to pursue, may have included heading west from Asia toward the Pillars of Heracles Curtius, 10. In one account of Alexander's final days, he first became ill while drinking wine in honor of Heracles' death Diodorus, 17.

A mortal a comparison of achilles and hercules two greek heroes, an Olympian god, or both? According to Greek myth, Dionysus was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman. As an infant, he was killed by the Titans but reincarnated by his immortal father. Dionysus was sent to a foreign land called Nysa, believed to have been either far south or east of Greece, in order to escape the wrath of Zeus' jealous wife Hera. In his youth he learned to make wine from grapes and later travelled across the known world teaching these skills.

For this reason, he was often depicted as a foreigner in ancient Greek myth and art. Upon his death, Dionysus joined the Twelve Olympians on Mount Olympus, becoming the only major god to have been born to a mortal mother.

He was worshipped as the god of wine, religious ecstasy, and rebirth. For these reasons, many festivals were held in his honor. Personality-wise, Dionysus was a god of the extremes. He could be both generous and kind, but also vengeful and cruel. This contradiction stemmed from his association with alcohol. It appears that the cult of Dionysus was more prominent, or at least slightly different, in classical Macedon than elsewhere in Greece.

Some historians believe that the Dionysus of Macedon religon was heavily influenced by the indigenous religious beliefs of the peoples of northern Greece. For that reason, their Dionysus may have been much different than the Dionysus of the Athenians and other peoples to the south.

Here is a passage from the Encyclopedia Mythica: He Dionysus is hardly mentioned at all in the Homeric epics, and when he is it is with some hostility.

  • It even drove him to surpass the gods themselves;
  • Even when Achilles had long been overshadowed by Heracles, Dionysus, and Zeus-Ammon in Alexander's campaign, the king still returned to the example of Achilles after Patroclus' death;
  • Although Achilles was believed to be descended from Zeus, he was removed by at least one generation;
  • According to Curtius, the local rulers in India greeted Alexander as "the third son of Jupiter to have reached them";
  • For this reason, the myth of Achilles was most useful to Alexander in the early stages of his campaign, when he visited Troy and began his own version of the Trojan War - Greece vs.

A number of his stories are tales of how Dionysus moved into a city, was resisted, and then destroyed those who opposed him. The most famous account of this is that of Euripides in his play the Bacchae. He wrote this play while in the court of King Archelaus of Macedon, and nowhere do we see Dionysus more destructive and his worship more dangerous than in this play. Scholars have speculated not unreasonably that in Macedon Euripides discovered a more extreme form of the religion of Dionysus being practiced than the more civil, quiet forms in Athens.

Through his mother Olympias, Alexander may have also had a personal connection to Dionysus. She was an initiate to the cult of Dionysus, which involved secretive "orgiastic" rituals. Intoxication, snake-handling, and animal sacrifices were often part of these practices. According to Plutarch, Olympias was a devoted member of this cult and even kept serpents in her private quarters. Philip allegedly saw Olympias lying in bed with one of these snakes once, which terrified him.

To signify the significance of Dionysus, Philip II had symbols of the god added to his coins, which primarily featured the image of Heracles - the ancestor of the royal family of Macedon.

Dionysus was also featured prominently on a pebble mosaics in a palace in Pella, the capital of Macedon. Dionysus riding a cheetah in a mosaic from Pella, Macedon, 4th century BCE Clearly, Alexander was familiar with the hero-god Dionysus from an early age. Here are the ways he was connected to Dionysus later in life: The Greek playwright Euripides probably composed the Bacchae, the most famous depiction of Dionysus, while in Macedon. A young Alexander would have likely known this play, possibly in great detail: Alexander began wearing a diadem, a kind of crown or headband denoting royalty, during his campaign in Asia.

It is unclear whether this part of his royal dress was meant to invoke a comparison to the god Dionysus. Some historians believe Alexander intended a comparison of achilles and hercules two greek heroes mimic the god, while others suggest that this was merely his way of trying to mix elements of both Median and Greek clothing.