Essay by mrkeresztesiJunior High, 9th gradeA-, March 2004

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Heroes have played important roles throughout the ages. Fictional or real, personal or national, they have inspired us to greater things. They are the embodiment of everyone's hopes and dreams, the pinnacle of human achievement. Traditional heroes set examples of strength and courage. They are role models to a people. Of the traditional heroes, Heracles was the most famed. He had superhuman strength, which was tested in his daunting quest, and his character was tempered by numerous setbacks.

The first time Heracles' strength was revealed was when he was still an infant. Hera, who hated Heracles because he was the product of one of Zeus' many affairs, sent two serpents to kill him in his crib. Heracles was not afraid of these viscous beasts and picked them up to play, and in doing so he strangled them with his tremendous strength. As an adult his strength was proven again when he wrestled, and eventually strangled to death, the fearsome wild bull of Crete.

Heracles' most amazing feat of strength was when he held the entire sky on his shoulders. He had spent much time searching for the garden of Hesperides, which held the golden apple tree presented by Earth to Hera as a wedding present. When Heracles finally found the tree he easily slew the dragon guarding it. However for any but a god to pick the golden apples was certain death. Luckily the Titan, Atlas, stood nearby with the sky on his shoulders. Atlas was happy to pick the apples for Heracles, and be momentarily relieved of his burden. So Heracles took the entire sky on his shoulders. Atlas picked the apples, but once he had them, instead of taking the sky back from Heracles, he said: "I may as well take these back myself." When Heracles saw that...