Hercules, in Greek mythology, was a hero known for his strength and courage and for his legendary adventures. Hercules is the Roman name for the Greek hero Heracles. He was the son of the god Zeus and a human mother Alcmene, wife of the Theban general Amphitryon. Hera, Zeus' jealous wife, was determined to kill Hercules, and after Hercules was born, she sent two great serpents to kill him. Hercules, while he was still a baby, strangled the snakes. Hercules conquered a tribe that had been demanding money from Thebes. As a reward, he was given the hand in marriage of the Theben princess Megara and they had three children. Hera, still filled hatred of Hercules, sent him into madness, which made him kill his wife and children. In horror and remorse at what he did, Hercules was about to kill himself. But he was told by the oracle at Delphi that he should purge himself by becoming the servant of his cousin Eurystheus, king of Mycenae.
Eurystheus, urged by Hera, planned as a punishment the 12 impossible tasks, the "Labors of Hercules."
The Twelve Labors
The first task was to kill the lion of Nemea, a lion that could not be hurt by any weapon. Hercules knocked out the lion with his club first, then he strangled it to death. He wore the skin of the lion as a cloak and the head of the lion as a helmet, a trophy of his adventure.
The second task was to kill the Hydra that lived in a swamp in Lerna. The Hydra had nine heads. One head was immortal and when one of the others was chopped off, two grew back in its place. Cancer, one of the Hydra's guards, bit Hercules on the foot when he came near,