Dwayne The Rock “Rock Man” The Rock Johnson has a Hercules movie coming out today. I know very little about it, except that the trailer involves him punching a gigantic Dire Lion in the face, followed by extra-large text explaining that this is the baddest ass movie to feature a man coldcocking a feline of any size directly in the pork chops with a ten-ton knuckle sandwich. But I typically enjoy The Rock’s cinematic performances to the point where my family has a large printed-out photograph of him eating pancakes tacked up in our kitchen, and, honestly, Hercules is the shit and if you made a movie featuring 90 minutes of non-stop endangered species face-punching you’d still honestly only be covering a very small percentage of what makes the Greek and Roman God of Heroes such an all-time epic mythological wrecking ball.
So, to celebrate me mercifully not bolting myself to a tiny desk at San Diego Comic-Con this year, here’s the over-the-top, action-packed, white-knuckled tale of the unstoppable beefed-out ancient hero, which is completely true in the sense that anything involving ancient mythology can be considered true.
Known in Ancient Greece as Heracles, Ancient Rome as Hercules, and by pretentious proto-hipster Classicist douchebags as Herakles, the ultra-strong, club-wielding Gatekeeper of Olympus was one of the most awesome mythological figures to ever crush a giant monsters’ balls with his bare hands and then celebrate by going nuts and banging every human being with a pulse in a ten mile radius. Serving as the ultimate paragon of manliness, strength, humping chicks (and dudes), and killing ferocious man-eating beats with a big fucking wooden club, Hercules was known as the Gatekeeper of Olympus, the Protector of Mankind, and the Patron God of Heroes, Courage, Strength, Gymnasiums, and crushing reps on the deadlift. He’s also the God of Sports, a title that probably comes from the time he challenged the famous boxer Eryx to a match and kicked that guy’s ass so hard he died from it.
Hercules was born a generation before the Trojan War, when notorious super-pimp and mythological date-rapist Zeus came to a woman’s house in the middle of the night, pretended to be her warrior husband returned home early from battle, and subsequently impregnated her with the strongest demigod to ever walk the lands of Ancient Greece. Zeus’s wife Hera was pretty righteously pissed that her husband was an ungrateful two-timing bastard, so she sent a couple gigantic constrictor snakes to crush Baby Herc to death with their ridiculously-powerful torsos. Hercules, probably the most badass eight-month-old baby ever, grabbed one snake in each hand, snapped their necks, and when his nurse came in to check on him she found him swinging them around in his crib like they were snake-chucks.
Why did it have to be snakes?
Even though he’s considered the greatest hero in Greek myth, Hercules was also a psychotic bastard with a pretty out of control temper who was prone to falling into “fits of madness” where he went into fucked-up blood rages and started violently murdering innocent people for little to no reason. Like one time as a boy he was learning how to play the lyre (a dumb-looking harp thing), but when his teacher was like, “hey idiot you screwed up do that part again,” Hercules snapped his lyre in half and beat the music instructor to death with his own instrument. Realizing he probably needed to chill out and get some fresh air, Hercules went into the fields, bought a cattle farm, got married, had a couple of kids, settled down, and then went into another inexplicable berserker rage and murdered his own kids for no reason at all (which isn’t very badass).
Hercules understandably felt pretty shitty about this, so he went to the Oracle of Delphi and asked her what to do. She said the only way he’d ever absolve himself of his crimes was by wandering the land doing heroic deeds like Mr. T from The A Team. Hercules placed his service in the hands of this idiot King named Eurystheus, who forced the Greek hero to perform twelve impossible tasks as penance.
These are known as the Labors of Hercules. And they are insane.
Have you seen my abs?
Hercules’ first mission was to slay the Nemean Lion, a big-ass lion with an arrow-proof hide that eats virgins and then kills the guys that try to avenge them. Confronted with a giant mega-lion that was impervious to sword wounds and could wolf down fools like human jalepeno poppers, Hercules didn’t back down – he cornered the creature in its dark, scary lair, blocked the exit, brained it in the skull it with his club, choked it to death with his bare hands, skinned it with its own claws and then proceeded to wear its pelt around as armor for the rest of his life. A few years later he killed a different giant lion for a different crazy king, and that guy got so pumped he told Hercules that as a reward he could have sex with as many of his daughters as he wanted. So Herc fucked all fifty of them in one night, they all get pregnant, and even up through the days of Alexander the Great the Kings of Macedon and Sparta were claiming descent from the kids that were produced by this epic one-man hump-a-thon.
Hercules’ second labor was to slay the Hydra, a big horrible dragon/snake creature with multiple heads, each of which spit out venom, and a foul murderous swamp beast with blood so poisonous it killed you as soon as it touched you. Hercules was like whatever and started lopping off heads left and right with a rusty sickle, but for each Hydra head he cut off two more popped up in its place. So eventually Athena, the Heroic Goddess of Awesome Shit, came down with a gold head-cleaving sword and a big-ass flaming iron rod for branding cattle, and told Hercules to burn the head stumps closed before new ones grow back on. Herc started decapitating everything like a madman and then burning the heads shut with fire. Hera got all pissed that the giant murderous monster was getting beat like a lump of pizza dough and sent a big angry crab to try and distract Hercules, but he just stomped its head for massive damage and exploded that dumb monster so hard that it’s crab meat flew up into the heavens and became the constellation Cancer. So if you’re born in July, your horoscope is to avoid having big sweaty hairy Greek guys Super Mario your skull into a flat chunk of organic matter roughly the size of a 40-pound barbell weight.
The third task was to capture a deer that ran as fast as an arrow, which seems way less exciting than the first two labors. I don’t know, maybe the Labors jumped the shark at this point, because Hercules just strapped on his high-tops, ran after it and captured it, because this guy had blazing foot speed even though he was lugging around like six hundred pounds of raw muscle.
Later on Hercules fought the Erymanthian Boar, this big giant Hakuna Matata pig that laid waste to fields and farmlands across Greece and had farmers everywhere angrily shaking their fists to the sky in distain. Hercules casually sauntered over to Erymanthia, but decided to take brief pit stops along the way to murder a bunch of drunk centaurs and save the Titan Prometheus from the evil eagle that ate his guts out every single day. Then Hercules wrestled the evil razor-tusked hog to the ground, hoiseted the unconscious pig on his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, and carried it back home to the King, who shit a brick when he saw it and hid inside a giant King-shaped flower pot until Hercules threw the pig in the ocean (it swam to Italy).
I won’t list them line-by-line, but for the next decade Hercules performed a grand total of twelve epic feats of manly strength. He killed a bunch of man-eating metallic birds by shooting them with hydra-poisoned arrows. He strangled an oversized rampaging bull that belonged to King Minos, the creator of the Minotaur. He stole a belt from the Queen of the Amazons, ripped off some horses from an evil king, herded some epic cattle, tricked the Titan Atlas into stealing golden apples from some sexy forest nymphs, and then went down into the underworld to beat the shit out of Cerberus, the three-headed hound of Hades, and drag it back to the surface world.
Yo check out this dog I found.
During his travels Hercules ran into Antaeus, the super-bastard little asshole son of Poseidon and Gaia. Antaeus lived in Libya and used to kill passersby in wrestling matches and keep their skulls, which he was thinking would be cool to maybe to build into a temple for Poseidon some day. Antaeus tried to fuck with Hercules, which was a mistake, and even though Hercules beat his ass up and down the coastline, every time the Son of Zeus bodyslammed Antaeus face-first into the turf that jerkwad would be instantly healed by the power of the goddess Gaia. So Hercules was like, fuck it, picked the dude up, and Zangiefed him to death with an EPIC BEAR HUG that liquefied his organs and snapped his ribs like a rack of popsicle sticks. Then Hercules fucked Antaeus’ wife and their kid became the King of Libya.
I need to stress that I’m not making these stories up.
He is depicted performing many of his labors
while naked, because Hercules was balls-out.
After finally being released from his Labors, Hercules continued having awesome/crazy adventures. It’s basically impossible to organize this, so I’m just going to list them out here for your enjoyment. Like one time Hercules beats a king in an archery contest, but is stiffed on the prize (the king’s daughter’s hand in marriage) so he steals the guy’s cattle instead because that’s almost as good as a Princess anyway. When the guy’s son comes by to see what’s up, Hercules – look out folks – has another one of his “fits of madness” and throws that guy off a the top of a tower for basically no reason. Herc feels bad about this, so he goes to the King of Sparta and asks for forgiveness, but the King of Sparta is like, “well you totally did throw a guy off a tower so I don’t think so.” Naturally, Hercules gets so pissed he kills the King and all of his sons, gives the throne of Sparta to Helen of Troy’s dad, then goes off to do penance by performing “women’s work” as the slave of some Queen for a year. The Greeks say this was a terrible year that involved very little killing, but Hercules and that Queen ended up having ten kids so it probably wasn’t all that bad.
Hercules briefly joined up with the Argonauts on the mission to find the Golden Fleece, although he only appears in one of the two versions of the story. During the journey he killed a bunch of guys known as Bebryces in hand-to-hand combat by grabbing their feet, swinging them over his head like a sledgehammer and pounding their heads into the ground, but eventually bailed from the mission when his favorite servant ditched the party to go live with some hot naked sea nymphs he met.
I love the look on that poor bastard's face.
Hercules once killed a couple brothers who were supposedly conjoined twins with two heads, four arms, and four legs. I don’t remember why he did this. He also beat up Lityerses, the Reaper of Men, a mythological supervillain who challenged random people to a harvesting contest (!) and beheaded those who failed to defeat him. Hercules, whose agricultural skills were rivalled only by his uncontrollable propensity to murder people, beat this idiot at harvesting somehow, then kicked his ass with raw physical violence and drowned him in a river. In a similar agrarian vein, Syleus was a guy who used to force passersby to work as slaves on his vineyard, so Hercules cracked the dude repeatedly in the face with his own hoe and burned his vineyard to the ground to teach him a lesson. Another time Hercules was having dinner at a buddy’s house and the guy was like dude my wife is gonna die, so Heracles got drunk and fought Thanatos, the Greek personification of death. The Greek Grim Reaper was like what the fuck is going on dude this is bogus, but Hercules grabbed that asshole in a full nelson, choked him out for a bit, sent him back to the underworld, and saved the guy’s wife literally from death itself by beating up the goddamn Grim Reaper.
On yet another occasion Hercules was hanging out around the city of Troy and saw that the King put his daughter out on a boat in the middle of the ocean so she could get eaten by a sea monster. Well, as soon as the big ferocious sea beast showed its scaly face Hercules flew in out of nowhere, bopped it on the head with a gigantic fucking club, and beat it repeatedly about the face until it forgot how to play the piano and drowned. The King, who was totally pretending it wasn’t his fault that the Princess was out there on a boat to begin with, was all like “oh yeah I’ll totally give you guys some magic horses to say thanks for saving my daughter,” but when that didn’t happen Hercules besieged Troy, sacked it, and killed the king and all of his kids except King Priam, the dude who ruled Troy during the Trojan War.
Hercules eventually died when his third wife accidentally poisoned him with Centaur semen. Apparently Hercules’ third wife Deiandra was hanging out in the forest when she was attacked by a Centaur (a half-man, half-horse), but Hercules saved her and killed that stupid horse-man by breaking him in half at the waist with a move that kind of looks like Chris Jericho’s Liontamer submission hold. Before the Centaur died, however, he leaned in and whispered to Deiandra, “hey rub my jizz on Hercules’ clothes, will ya? It’ll totally, uh, keep him from ever cheating on you and stuff.” Then he died without elaborating. A little while later Hercules started banging some other chick so Deiandra soaked his clothes in horse cum, and the second that stuff touched his skin Hercules’ flesh was burned off his skin and he set himself on fire to escape the pain. The gods took the Patron Saint of Murderous Bloodlust up to heaven, made him a full-god, and now he spends eternity guarding Mount Olympus and sleeping his goddess wife Hebe, the deity who delivers ambrosia to the gods.
Hero Cults were devoted to the worship of Hercules across Ancient Greece and Rome for centuries, and world leaders from Alexander the Great to the Emperor Commodus would claim to be either descendants or reincarnations of the epic hero.
I don’t know, I have nothing else to add here.