Hercules, stripped of his armor, fighting the Nemean lion.
Hercules, stripped of his armor, fighting the Nemean lion. Hercules is the most famous member of the Argonauts and perhaps the most famous hero of all time. And, like all heroes, he was given many challenges to overcome to reach his goal. In this case, it was the Twelve Labours of Heracles, a penance for killing his wife and children during a temporary bought of insanity. Original artwork courtesy of Yaroslav Radeckiy

Hercules: The most famous Argonaut

And why he didn’t finish the journey

Hercules (/ˈhɜːrkjuliːz, -jə-/) is a Roman hero and demigod also known in Greek as Heracles. He was the son of Zeus (Roman equivalent Jupiter) and the mortal Alcmene. In classical mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures, including his 12 labors and his voyage on the Argo with Jason and the rest of the Argonauts.

It is worth noting that the details surrounding Hercules’ departure from the Argo, vary widely depending on the specific version of the myth, which shows how much this myth grew and changed over time.

In our version of the myth, Heracles (Hercules) was one of the original Argonauts but got left behind. When the Argo was docked, Heracles went in search of a tall and strong pine tree to replace the oar he had snapped. Meanwhile, his companion, Hylas, was kidnapped. When Heracles returned to the Argo, he was enraged and charged after his lover.

In other versions of the myth, Heracles was needed elsewhere. And others said that Hercules had a disagreement with Polyphemus. Others say it was Tiphys. In some versions, the altercation is described as being more of a verbal disagreement than a physical fight, while in others it is described as a full-blown fight.

Regardless of the specifics of how he left the crew, it is clear that Hercules was a member of the Argonauts at some point during their journey, even if he did not complete the entire voyage with them. And that it was the will of the gods, to be separated so he could complete the Twelve Labours that would secure his immortality.

The twelve labors of Hercules

The labors of Hercules are not part of the myth of Jason and the Argonauts. And it is difficult to determine if these happened before or after Hercules joined the crew of the Argo.

If you are curious about what happened, here is a quick summary: As a result of a curse placed upon him by the god Hera, Hercules was driven mad and killed his own family. As punishment for this crime, he was assigned a series of twelve labors by the king of Mycenae, Eurystheus. These labors were intended to be difficult and dangerous tasks that would test Hercules’ strength and bravery.

  1. Kill the Nemean Lion.
  2. Kill the Lernean Hydra.
  3. Capture the Cerynian Hind.
  4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
  5. Clean the Augean Stables.
  6. Kill the Stymphalian Birds.
  7. Capture the Cretan Bull.
  8. Capture the Horses of Diomedes.
  9. Take the Girdle of the Amazon Queen Hippolyte.
  10. Capture the Cattle of Geryon.
  11. Take the Golden Apples of the Hesperides.
  12. Capture Cerberus.
Hercules movie
In this modern twist, Hercules is a famous but washed-up hero haunted by his tragic past. As a traveling mercenary, he fights only for gold. When he is called to save a kingdom, will Hercules find the true hero within himself once again?

Modern adaptions of Hercules’ story

Hercules’ story has been adapted countless times in popular culture. Today, yet another movie about the myth was released, and I have to say I’m excited to see this movie. Plus, I like the Rock and he is wearing a beard made from yak testicle hair.

We’ll be adding more info soon. In the meantime, if you want to read one of the original stories about Hercules, we suggest The Story of Jason and the Argonauts.

The myth of Hercules.
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Scott Stoll

My claim to fame is that I rode a bicycle around the world and wrote some books. More about me.
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