I have tried to show that Greek epic poetry and the great mythological cycles go back into the Mycenaean age. In order not to be misunderstood I am anxious to stress the fact that the boundaries set for our knowledge in this respect are the same as those which limit the proof that historical elements are contained in heroic myths. To take the standard example, we know that Theoderic of Ravenna and Attila, the king of the Huns, are historical personages and we know their exploits. Hence it is possible to prove that they are the prototypes of Dietrich of Bern and Etzel in the Nibelungenlied. But if we did not have this historical knowledge, we should in no wise be able to prove that Dietrich and Etzel were historical personages. We should perhaps be inclined to surmise it, and we should be able to make it seem probable but never strictly to prove it. It is not possible with certainty to deduce historical facts and events from myths. Moreover, Dietrich and Etzel are represented as living in the same age, whilst their historical prototypes belonged to different generations. We ought to know and fully to realize how freely myths and epic poetry treat and recompose historical events and personages which they have taken over.
The same is true in regard to our contention that the Greek mythological cycles originate in the Mycenaean
age. A strictly logical proof cannot be deduced from the myths themselves; they have preserved few traces which can beyond dispute be referred to Mycenaean conditions. The proof must be deduced from the historical facts, which I have demonstrated, the one that Greek epics originated in the Mycenaean age, and the other that the mythical cycles are constantly connected with Mycenaean sites and in their importance correspond closely to the varying importance of these sites in the Mycenaean age. The conclusions which can be drawn from an analysis of the myths themselves are limited and consist chiefly in proving that the old kernel of a myth is in agreement with our leading principles.
In the foregoing chapter I have treated according to these principles the great mythological cycles and their connections with the Mycenaean sites; in these last two chapters I propose to treat two cycles which are not local but general in character, that of Heracles and that of the Olympian gods. The method must of course be different. We must try to find out what is probable and the connection with Mycenaean conditions in general.
The cycle of Heracles has been treated so frequently that it is almost impossible to survey the vast number of works and papers on the subject; moreover these myths have been judged and explained in very different fashions. 1 Heracles was the most popular mythical hero of the Greeks and
the development of his myths has been accordingly rich and varied. His cycle is of first-rate importance and interest and in spite of its many difficulties cannot be passed over in a discussion of our present subject.
The first difficulty is the name, a much discussed problem. The name is clearly composed of Hera and -kles, which is a frequent compound element of Greek names, although the vowel a presents some difficulty to etymology. 2 The attempt to separate the name Heracles from that of the goddess Hera has been made, but such a theory is without foundation, as the eminent philologist Professor Kretschmer has proved. At the same time he has shown how the name is to be understood rightly. 3 A brief discussion of the principle according to which the heroes of myth and of folk-tale are named will be necessary for a right understanding of the name and is of importance for a right understanding of the myth, too.
There is a characteristic difference between the names of the personages of modern folk-tales and those of Greek myths, and by virtue of this difference the contrast between folk-tale and myth seems to be greater than it really is. 4 Many folk-tales, also, have been incorporated in mythology. The folk-tale gives commonly no individual name to its heroes but only one which denotes his class or social standing; e.g. "the King," "the Princess," etc. Such
names seem to be almost wanting in Greek myths, unless Creon and Creusa are of this kind, as I am inclined to believe, for they are nothing but the masculine and the feminine forms of a participle signifying "ruling."
A second group of names which occur very frequently in the folk-tales of many countries comprises those which may be called "descriptive names"; viz., names which characterize some personage according to a certain peculiarity of his, e.g. Red Riding Hood, Blue Beard, Tom Thumb, Catskin, etc. They are somewhat akin to the names of the first group. In Greek myths such names are rare. I do not of course take into account such descriptive names as were invented by a poet for secondary personages of his own; e.g. Astyanax, Telegonus, Thersites, 5 but only old mythical names. Polyneices, the man who stirred up the great strife of Thebes, is perhaps one; Daedalus, the skilled artisan, and Palamedes, the very artful culture hero, are others. I have already explained the significance of the name of Oedipus, "he with the swollen feet."
The great majority of the names occurring in Greek myths are personal names of the same kind as living men have and are formed in the same manner, according to the well-known system of Greek personal names. In historical times, however, mythical names were not given to living men; they were, so to speak, taboo. But that is a secondary phenomenon due to respect for the heroes of mythology. In the Hellenistic age this respect was no
longer felt, and mythical names were freely given to men. The folk-tale also sometimes gives an individual name to its hero, but this name often receives, especially in certain countries, an addition through which it almost becomes a "descriptive" name; e.g. Jack the Giantkiller. In German folk-tales this is more common; e.g. der dumme Hans, die faule Grethe, etc.
It may perhaps be added that popular tradition of a more recent origin sometimes associates a personage with the name of the place where he lives; e.g. the Pedlar of Swaffham, the Wise Men of Gotham. That is of course something rather modern, but ought not to be overlooked, for the Greek epos has the same manner of denoting personages of secondary importance; e.g. Chryses and Chryseis, the man, the maiden of Chryse, Briseis, the maiden of Brise, etc. To the same category belong the old tribal names which are not merely eponymous, e.g. Danaüs, Danae, the Danaides. 6
This exposition of principles will help us to discover the real nature of the name of Heracles. Because Hera plays such a prominent part in his myth, Heracles has often been thought to be a descriptive name; but if we consider the matter closely, it will be found to be a forced and improbable explanation that Heracles should have been called "the Fame of Hera" or "the Man who became famous because of Hera," while this goddess dealt the severest blows to him and imposed pain, grief, and labor upon him. The connection between the name of the hero and that of the goddess is, however,
a fact and its importance for the myth is not to be overlooked; but the name is the Arius and is not originally derived from the myth in order to characterize the hero. I shall recur to this topic in a later place. The name of Heracles is nothing but a common personal name of the same kind as Diocles, Athenocles, or Hermocles. In historical times it could not be given to living men because of the mythical fame and the cult of the hero--until Alexander the Great called so his son by Barsine; another almost identical compound name took its place, Heracleitus. On the other hand Diocleitus is wanting, because Diocles was used freely. 7
Heracles is a personal name which once was in common use, even though the man may be as fictitious as a folk-tale hero like Jack the Giant-killer. I think it proper to treat him as such a fictitious personage, not because I would be reviled for shallow Euhemerism if I asserted that once upon a time a man called Heracles had lived around whom the myths clustered as time went on, but because the question is idle. If this man really existed his existence is of as little importance for the myth as is that of the real Dr. Faust for the Faust legend.
This fact has a certain importance for the localization of the hero. The localization of myths is often used as a means of mythological research and it has been used as a cornerstone in the foregoing chapter, but I have stressed the restriction that it ought not to be used uncritically or without due regard to other circumstances. Heracles is localized in various places. I shall recur to this subject
later on; here I wish to stress the fact that a mythical figure such as Heracles is not originally limited to one locality, just as e.g. Jack the Giant-killer is not limited to one locality, but that such myths may be localized secondarily. In my opinion there are myths which are not local but are the common property of a people, just as some gods are local, while others on the contrary are the common property of a people. Of these Zeus is an example. Various forms of Zeus are localized but, generally speaking, he is not local, and the same is true of the myths: some are local, others not, but they may be localized, and this is especially true of the myths that are derived from folk-tales. The propensity to localize popular myths in a certain place is too little observed and appreciated. I have already spoken of a clear instance, of Oedipus, a folk-tale hero, who as such cannot of course have had any tomb, but was credited with four. Nor has Heracles any tomb, and he could not have one, because the myth told that he vanquished Death.
Another inference has still greater importance; namely, that all cults of Heracles are added to him secondarily; this is proved if we survey them. They are numerous, but none is of first-rate importance; nor has he any great festival, except perhaps that on Mount Oeta, which is simply an old rite appropriated by Heracles. 8 No cult of Heracles has been associated with the cult of a god; elsewhere such a process is a testimony that a hero is a faded god
who was superseded by a great god. Heracles was the averter of evil (ἀλεξίκακος), the strong and great helper in all difficulties, and according to this conception his cults are to be understood, as Dr. Farnell has shown. 9 There may have been many small and nameless local cults for which the name of the great hero seemed to be appropriate and which he took over, cults both of small local gods and of heroes. The cults of Heracles prove nothing as to the development of his myth; they show only his great popularity.
The problem which will be treated here is whether the Heracles myths originate in the Mycenaean age. It cannot be attacked by the common mythographical method, which only proves that certain myths are late inventions or modifications. Our problem goes back into a time which mythography cannot reach. It can be attacked only through an analysis of the old myths. This method is of course to a certain extent subjective and difficult, but holds a possibility of success.
It has often been asserted that the Heracles cycle was formed by a poet who composed an epos of Heracles. This old epos is quite hypothetical. I do not wish to discuss it, but wish simply to point out that, if it existed, it did not create the myths but only made a choice among already existing myths, a choice which may have determined the contents of the cycle for a later age. I cannot believe that this hypothetical Heracles epos was earlier than Homer. We shall see that the Heracles myths in Homer differ in a remarkable manner from those
current later on. Furthermore, this supposed Heracles epos treated a whole cycle, it belonged to the cyclical epics; and it is obvious that this kind of epic, which collected and arranged the myths belonging to a certain cycle, is later than the Homeric epics. It came into existence because of interest in the myths as such; whilst Homeric poetry chose a single myth or an episode for the basis of the poem. According to the economy of epic poetry this is the earlier manner. All myths were not done into verses. Many of them lived in oral prose tradition and among these were probably the Heracles myths also.
As a survey of the overwhelming mass of the Heracles myths the classification of the ancient mythographers is very much to the purpose. 10 They divide the myths into three classes: 1. the Twelve Labors (athloi or erga) which Heracles performed on the injunction of Eurystheus, alone or with the aid of his charioteer and true friend Iolaus; 2. the Incidentals (parerga) into which he fell while performing his Labors; 3. the Deeds (praxeis), warlike expeditions which Heracles undertook on his own account at the head of an army, and undertakings carried out by Heracles together with a number of other heroes; e.g. the expedition of the Argonauts. Framing these exploits are the myths of his birth and of his death and apotheosis.
Professor Robert, to whom we owe the best treatment of the Heracles myths, says that this classification has no value in regard to the development of the Heracles myths. Some of the Parerga may
not be later than certain of the Labors; the only difference is that they were not received into the cycle of the Twelve Labors. But if we take the Praxeis into consideration, it appears immediately that their character, generally speaking, is different from that of the Labors. Whilst Heracles performs his Labors relying upon his own strength and aided only by his true friend and charioteer, without whom a hero could not be, when performing his Praxeis, he appears accompanied by retainers or comrades, at the head of an army, or in the company of other heroes. This is certainly a later class of myths than those in which Heracles performs his valorous deeds by his own strength. This inference, drawn from general probability, is corroborated if the Praxeis are considered in detail.
The expedition against Pylos is a remodeling of an older and more serious myth to which I shall recur below. 11 Upon this expedition the war against the Eleans was modeled, and thus the heroic twins, the Actorione or Molione, were joined with the myth. 12 The expedition against Sparta and that in which Heracles assisted Aegimius were added only after Heracles had become the champion of the Dorians. It would perhaps not be impossible to unravel the threads in this development of the myth. Furthermore, it has long been well known that the myth of his expedition against Troy was enlarged gradually through the accretion of other myths. The starting point is the myth of the capture
of Laomedon's horses, but this old motif seems to have been transferred to the Trojan king only after the Trojan cycle had become so famous that Heracles' glory seemed not to be complete if he had not vanquished the Trojans also. For the capture of Laomedon's horses is only a parallel myth to the capturing of Diomedes' horses, remodeled according to the scheme of the Trojan cycle. I need hardly dwell upon the fact that Heracles' part in the expedition of the Argonauts is a very late myth. The best proof is that the myth is compelled to dismiss him before the expedition attains its goal. This brief survey may accordingly be sufficient so far as the Praxeis are concerned.
In order to proceed further it will be useful to take the testimony of the Homeric poems, although their evidence often is put aside and the hypothesis of a Heracles epos unduly favored. For even if such an epos existed, the Heracles myths in Homer offer most important and interesting variations. As some of them were ousted by later myths or forgotten, they are probably of ancient origin. And Homer is the earliest testimony to which we have access.
Among the Labors Homer mentions only the bringing back of Cerberus, 13 but it appears clearly that the Labors were well-known, although we cannot know which exploits were reckoned among them. For the Labors the word athloi is already in Homer a fixed word, a terminus technicus, and this proves the great antiquity of this cycle. Moreover the Labors are imposed upon Heracles by an inferior man, Eurystheus, and the humorous detail is added
that Eurystheus dared not to impart his commands in person to Heracles but spoke through his herald Copreus. The name designates him the "Dungman." 14 The same passage shows that Eurystheus lived at Mycenae. Athena assisted Heracles through-out and even Zeus gave him aid.
Hera instigated Eurystheus and her wrath was the real reason why Heracles was subject to so much pain and labor. A well-known passage 15 relates at length that Hera induced Zeus to swear that any male child of his kin born on a certain day should rule over all his neighbors, and that she held back the birth of Heracles and hurried on the birth of Eurystheus, so that Heracles became subject to the latter. The quarrel of Zeus and his spouse in regard to Heracles is mentioned repeatedly, e.g., in the story that on the instigation of Hera, Hypnus, the god of Sleep, fettered Zeus whilst Heracles on his voyage back from Troy was driven by storm to Cos. 16 Two myths are especially interesting, because a later age did not receive them. One relates that Heracles wounded Hera in the breast 17 and the other says that Hera's wrath caused the death of Heracles. 18
Among the Praxeis the expedition against Troy is mentioned repeatedly. It is stated that Heracles destroyed Troy because of Laomedon's horses, 19 and the Hesione myth, which clearly is a later accretion, is hinted at in the mention of a wall which the
[paragraph continues] Trojans and Athena built as a protection against the sea monster. 20 Further, Nestor tells of Heracles' war against the Pylians. 21 The Rhodian hero Tlepolemus, a son of Heracles, is mentioned, and in the Catalogue of the Ships even his mother Astyocheia. 22
That Homer relates the myth of the birth of Heracles has been mentioned before. Thebes is said to be his birthplace and Alcmene his mother; 23 he is once even said to be the son of Amphitryon. 24 His wife Megara appears only in the Nekyia. 25 In the end of this book we read the well-known passage which tells that the shadow of Heracles chases wild animals in the Underworld, whilst he himself lives among the gods as the spouse of Hebe. It is interesting that the typical figure of Heracles here is represented as the great hunter.
This brief survey shows that, even if the later parts of the Homeric poems are left out of consideration, the Heracles cycle appears fully developed in Homer; all essential parts and all three categories of myths are present, with the exception only of his death and apotheosis on the pyre of Mount Oeta. It seems impossible to imagine that this development is owed to an epos which was contemporary with Homer or only slightly earlier. For such a development must needs require a much longer time, and the various accretions have taken place at different times. I hope to show this later on.
Very important are the myths which Homer tells about Heracles but which later are forgotten. It must be considered closely whether such myths are inventions due to the Homeric poet himself or are due to an old tradition which was obliterated in a later time.
We may commence with a passage in the Odyssey 26 in which Odysseus boasts that he surpasses all other heroes except Philoctetes in shooting with the bow, but adds that he does not wish to rival earlier heroes, neither Heracles nor Eurytus of Oichalia, whom Apollo killed in wrath because Eurytus challenged him to a competition in shooting with the bow. It follows from this passage that Eurytus had not yet been introduced into the Heracles cycle. This introduction came about because both he and Heracles were famous archers, and quite naturally the myth told at first of a competition between Eurytus and Heracles. Different versions of this competition exist. 27
There is a passage in the Iliad 28 in which Achilles grieves over the early death which is to be his but finds a consolation in the fact that not even Heracles escaped death but was overcome by the Moira and Hera's great wrath. It would perhaps be possible to explain the reference to Heracles' death by the passage in the Nekyia where it is said that Heracles' shadow dwells in the Underworld whilst he "himself" enjoys an eternal life on Olympus, but such an explanation would be too easily reached.
[paragraph continues] To understand the passage we must have due regard for the connection in which it appears. It is caused by the deep grief of Achilles, a casual instance of that humanizing of mythology which is a most prominent feature of Homeric poetry. It seems extremely unlikely that the old myth ended with Heracles' death, an ending which would be quite contrary to its character.
An old trait appears, on the other hand, in the myths that Heracles wounded Hera in her right breast with an arrow and that "in the Gate, among the Dead," 29 he hit Hades with an arrow. Here Heracles is depicted as the reckless and rough man who relying upon his strength uses violence even against the gods: "Rash man, worker of violence, that recked not of his evil deeds, seeing that with arrows he vexed the gods that hold Olympus." One is reminded of another tale in a late passage of the Odyssey, 30 that Heracles treacherously killed his guest-friend Iphitus and kept his horses. Moral considerations are wanting in this Heracles just as they are wanting in Autolycus whom Hermes taught to steal and to deceive with false oaths. But the two types differ profoundly in all other respects. This Heracles is the strong man relying solely on his strength, whom a rough and lawless age created and even appreciated in a certain degree, a reckless, violent character who proceeds to extremes, even to rivaling the gods and to raising weapons against them. There is an echo of this type in Homer. Such strong heroes were not yet forgotten but belonged
to a bygone age, and the humanized poet disapproved of them, although he could but admire their valiant exploits. "Mightiest were these of all men reared upon earth, mightiest were they and with the mightiest they fought, with the beasts that had their lair among the mountains and in a terrible wise did they destroy them." 31 The Homeric poet is unable to understand how a mortal man can dare to raise weapons against a god. Diomedes does so, of course, but on the command of the Goddess Athena. Other examples belong to a past age and are told to warn someone against wantonness. 32
From such a reckless and savage nature everything might be expected. If he had killed his guest-friend treacherously and violated the unwritten laws, he would be able to lay hands on his own flesh and blood also. The myth that he killed his own children by Megara may be nothing but the extreme consequence of this characterization; but that is only a suggestion of questionable value.
In this aspect of Heracles traces of a primitive savagery appear which should not be overlooked. Homer and after him the late myths have suppressed most of these features, but, remodeled so as to become burlesque, they were preserved in popular conception. The Heracles of popular tales is no late invention. He is the Heracles who is as immoderate in eating as in love, who begets fifty sons by the fifty daughters of Thespius in one night and has innumerable offspring, who takes the oxen away
from the ploughman in order to roast and to consume them--this last a tale of which the popularity is shown by the number of existing versions. This Heracles is the man who relies upon his own strength; but he is regarded from the comic point of view; in both respects he resembles very much certain strong men of modern folk-tales.
The Homeric myth of Heracles' combat with Hades deserves close consideration in another respect also. It took place "in the Gate, among the Dead." The Greek word is νέκυς, "corpse"; this word, however, has in Homer not merely the significance of "corpse" but is used to denote "the Dead," a survival of the old primitive belief in a bodily life of the deceased. The words translated "in the Gate" signify as they stand "at Pylos" and are taken to refer to the city of Pylos, but it has been long recognized that this Pylos is the Gate of the Underworld. This combat is the supreme deed of the strong hero. There are parallels. Sisyphus overcomes Death by ruse; and the myths that Heracles vanquished Old Age and Perdition are modeled upon the story of his victory over Death. The victory over the God of Death is the end of Heracles' career, just as the life of mortal men is ended by death. He wounded Hades and put him to flight.
Homer did not understand the real significance of this myth, for he was completely subject to the fatalistic conviction that Death is unavoidable and that not even the gods are able to protect man against it. To him and perhaps even to his predecessors it was unthinkable that a mortal should vanquish Death. Hence the sense of the myth was obliterated and
the story was remodeled. Pylos became the Peloponnesian city with that name, and through this transference of the myth from the Nether to the Upper World the earliest of the Praxeis, the expedition against Pylos, was created. On the other hand, the combat with the God of Death was superseded by Heracles' overcoming of the guardian of the Underworld; that is, by the bringing back of Cerberus. This myth contains the same idea, the victory over Death, in another setting. It has been suggested that Cerberus is an image of the all-devouring Empire of Death, for Hell is depicted in Medieval art as a monster who swallows the dead; but there is nothing to show that such a belief was current in antiquity.
The significance of the old myths which let Heracles end his strenuous career by overcoming Death was obliterated, and the necessity appeared to find another end for his life on earth in accord with the later conception of him. It is the apotheosis. Heracles was a mortal man and became a god. In Greek mythology this is in fact an exception. The heroes are never made gods. Mortal men are carried off to an eternal life in the Elysian fields, or beneath the earth, 33 but not on Olympus. Eternal life but not a place among the gods was given to Tithonus and promised to Odysseus. The divinity of Heracles appears to be late, perhaps post-Homeric, although the fact that it is not mentioned by Homer is not absolutely certain proof that it was unknown to his age. I think that it can be assumed with certainty
that the divinity of Heracles originated in the cult. Heracles was venerated both as a god and as a hero. This ambiguity is due to the fact that a series of small local cults were attached to him; some of these were cults of gods, others were hero cults. Heracles was too great and too popular to be reduced to the rank of a servant or to a hypostasis of a great god; consequently he appeared as a god in the cults, and for mythology the problem was to harmonize his divinity with his human life.
How this happened is shown by a recent find--the discovery of his cult place on the summit of Mount Oeta, where according to the myth the pyre was lit on which Heracles ended his mortal life and from which he ascended into Olympus. 34 Bonfires kindled on a certain day are a very widespread custom and on these bonfires, offerings, puppets, or even living animals are often burned. The Greek instances have attracted less attention but they are not few and are especially frequent in Central Greece. Such a bonfire was kindled on the top of Mount Oeta and the figure burned on the pyre was called Heracles. This is proved by early inscriptions and statuettes of Heracles. So the myth of Heracles' death in the flames of the pyre on Mount Oeta was created and connected with the magnificent but late myth of Deianeira. On the other hand, fire is, according to certain known myths, a means for acquiring immortality; Achilles and Demophon are purified by fire to this end. From these premisses the myth of Heracles' apotheosis was created and the definitive solution found of the problem how
[paragraph continues] Heracles, born as a mortal man, had acquired divinity. This story is the only late, probably post-Homeric element in the important myths of Heracles.
The myth of Heracles' birth presents quite a different problem. Homer knows his mother Alcmene, his father Amphitryon, and Thebes, the place of his birth. The myth is in itself of no great importance for our subject and space forbids a discussion of the story; its interest for us lies in its localization, which has presented a great difficulty both to ancient and to modern mythographers.
The Heracles who performed the Twelve Labors had his home at Tiryns, where he lived as a vassal of Eurystheus. He treacherously precipitated Iphitus from the walls of this town, and according to Hesiod 35 he drove the oxen of Geryon to Tiryns. His connection with Tiryns is so firmly established that the poet forgot that Heracles, who had seized them on the command of Eurystheus, ought to drive them to Mycenae. Homer does not mention Tiryns as his city, but as he says that Zeus brought Heracles back to Argos and that Eurystheus ruled at Mycenae, Argos must denote the Province of Argolis. It follows that Heracles as early as in the Homeric poems was at home at Tiryns.
How firmly established was the localization of the Heracles of the Twelve Labors at Tiryns appears most clearly from the difficulties caused by it to the ancient mythographers in their attempts to harmonize this localization with the localization of his birth at Thebes. The manner in which Alcmene and Amphitryon were inserted into the genealogy
of Perseus is known. A poem attributed to Hesiod tells that Amphtryon, having killed his father-in-law, Electryon, fled from Tiryns to Thebes. 36 That is nothing but one of the usual and easily recognized means of harmonizing two contradictory localizations and is of no value. I should rather be inclined to believe that the localization of Alcmene at Midea has something to do with old tradition. 37
Modern scholars have attacked the problem in a different way, putting the question whether Heracles is originally a Theban or a Tirynthian, and the greater number have decided in favor of Tiryns. According to my fundamental view of the problem of localization, to ask the question is in this case wrong. For Heracles is originally as little bound to any locality as, e.g., Jack the Giant-killer. But the common scheme of Greek mythology always tended toward the localization of its heroes, and when a mythical hero was notably popular it is not to be wondered at that he was localized in various places, and that the localizations disagreed but in spite of this were retained. Consequently I think that the localization of Heracles is old both at Thebes and at Tiryns. At Thebes myths were told of his birth, which was not celebrated in the myths of Tiryns, an inconsistency such as sometimes occurred in the case of other Greek heroes. So the story of Heracles was divided between Thebes, where the story of his birth was principally told, and Tiryns, where his
[paragraph continues] Labors were celebrated. There are, however, traces showing that the Theban Heracles also performed labors. It is an idle question whether the Nemean or the Cithaeronian lion is the original one, for the same deed was localized by the Tirynthians at Nemea and by the Thebans on Mount Cithaeron. The wife of Heracles is a Theban, and the myth that he killed his children, which may be old, is also localized in Thebes.
In my opinion it is an idle question whether Heracles is originally at home at Tiryns or at Thebes. For he did not come from the one place to the other but is one of those heroes of whom myths were told everywhere and who were localized in different places. Because the myths at the two different places told of different periods in the life of the hero, this difference of localization was not wiped out.
Both Thebes and Tiryns were great centers of Mycenaean civilization. Thebes was always an important town, but after the downfall of the Mycenaean civilization Tiryns was merely a poor village, even if it was called a town and at times was politically independent. The insignificant remains of the temple to which the ruins of the megaron were adapted shows graphically how really poor it was. It is quite incomprehensible how the tradition that this place was the home of the foremost Greek hero could have come into existence if this localization is ascribed to post-Mycenaean times. In the Mycenaean age, on the contrary, and, as recent research shows, especially in the very latest Mycenaean period, Tiryns was a really important town where mighty princes must have ruled, so that we can
understand why Heracles was localized there. I cannot but think that the localizations of the Heracles myths both in Tiryns and in Thebes belong to the Mycenaean age.
Heracles' localization in Tiryns agrees with the well-known fact, to which I shall recur later, that the first five of his Labors were performed in its neighborhood, in the northeastern Peloponnese. Another feature of the myth is also to be considered in this connection; namely, that Heracles performed his Labors at the command of the king of Mycenae, whom he was obliged to obey. This is an echo of the political conditions of the Mycenaean age; for it is from a geographical point of view unthinkable that the rulers of the different towns or fortresses were quite independent of each other, else Mycenae would have been cut off from the sea. Mycenae was the foremost of the Mycenaean cities in Argolis and its king must have been overlord of the rulers of the other towns, at least in the period of its bloom. Archaeology corroborates the fact, the memory of which was kept by Homer, that the king of Mycenae was the suzerain. The prince of Tiryns was his vassal.
So it is explained why Heracles is the servant of Eurystheus, the king of Mycenae; and the manner in which the demeanor of Eurystheus is described may be understood, his cowardice and his harsh commands and the almost impossible tasks which he imposes upon his vassal. For it is an ever recurring feature in all epics that the suzerain is described as an incapable and imperious coward in sharp contrast to the heroic strength of some vassal.
[paragraph continues] We find this idea in the myth of Bellerophon and in the Homeric description of Agamemnon; it is carried to an extreme point in the abuse which Achilles showers upon his suzerain in the first book of the Iliad. In the chansons de geste it is the more graphic the later they are. Charlemagne, who in the earlier chants figures as an old and venerated emperor, is mistreated in the later chants even more badly than Agamemnon, and his vassals shower abuse upon him as Achilles does upon Agamemnon. In the Russian epics Vladimir the Great is a kind of theatrical king who gives commands to his vassals; sometimes he casts them into prison and lets them come out only to impose difficult tasks upon them. He mistreats a newly arrived hero, but the hero defends his glory by deeds and even defies the king.
These bad relations between the suzerain and his retainers are easy to understand, for their interests were opposed. The king was eager to hold sway over his vassals, and they were equally eager to assert their independence and prowess. Stories were told and epic songs chanted in the many courts of the vassals and retainers, and when the suzerainty of the overlord broke down, their hostile attitude toward the suzerain left its imprint upon the myths. The supposition that conditions in the Mycenaean age were of this kind is well founded; it explains why the better man was obliged to obey the inferior man, and why the suzerain appears in an unfavorable light as an incapable but imperious coward.
In a later age when the Mycenaean kingdom had broken down, when the kingly power had vanished, and the many cities were independent of each other,
this relation of the vassal to his suzerain was no longer understood and it was felt necessary to find a reason which was comprehensible to the new age for the subjection of Heracles to Eurystheus. This reason was not difficult to find. Perhaps it had already been given in another version of the myth. For myths and, even more, folk-tales very often tell of some invidious person who imposes difficult or impossible tasks upon its heroes; the invidious stepmother is especially well-known. The name Heracles was the reason why this rôle was attributed to Hera. Hera was the chief goddess of Tiryns; moreover, she was the stepmother of Heracles, the son of Zeus, and myths had much to relate of her wrath because of the many love affairs of her husband and of her hatred of his illegitimate children. The name Heracles is the starting point for the rôle of Hera in the Heracles cycle.
So much may be said of the myth in which the cycle of the Twelve Labors is framed and which gives the reason why Heracles was obliged to perform his Labors. It must of course be later than the Labors themselves, although this statement implies no judgment concerning the antiquity of any single Labor, or concerning their number. Certain Labors may have been added at a later time. A cycle of Labors; namely, a series of great deeds which are held together by a myth giving the reason why the hero was obliged to perform them, occurs in several other Greek myths, though they all have been obliterated through the fame of the Heracles cycle. Theseus is said to be another Heracles; his cycle was famous because it was enlarged by the Athenians for
patriotic purposes. The myths of Bellerophon form a similar cycle. Both have been treated in the preceding chapter. 38
Very similar is the myth of Phylius. It is, however, related only in late authors, 39 and the reason why Phylius performed his deeds is apparently a Hellenistic invention. He was seized by love for a reluctant boy, Cycnus, who imposed upon him the following tasks: to kill a lion without iron, to capture some vultures alive and bring them to him, and to seize a bull in a herd and bring it to the altar of Zeus. There are many traces of late influence in this myth, which is localized between Calydon and Pleuron. We cannot state anything about its age.
The myth of the eponymous hero of the city of Argos is older, for it is mentioned in the Eoeae of Hesiod. 40 To this Argos the deeds belong which are ascribed to Argus with the hundred eyes in Apollodorus. 41 He killed a bull which ravaged Arcadia and put on its hide; he slew Satyrus, who robbed the herds of the Arcadians; he killed the sleeping Echidna, and he avenged the murder of Apis. The tendency appears clearly to make the eponymous hero of Argos rival Heracles, just as the Athenians created his rival in Theseus; but on the other hand these myths are clearly old, or they would not have been localized in Arcadia.
Fragments of similar cycles occur elsewhere. Alcathoüs is called the Megarian Heracles. He is an old and important mythical personage and had a cult at Megara. He killed a lion which had torn the son of King Megareus into pieces. Heracles' father Amphitryon killed the Teumessian fox.
It would not be impossible to collect more instances of the same kind, but those already mentioned will suffice to show that this type, a series of valorous deeds, especially the killing or capturing of wild animals, is old and widespread. Folk-tales corroborate this statement. Such a series is similar to a string of pearls. Pearls may be exchanged, taken away, or added, and that is also the case with the cycle of the Twelve Labors of Heracles. The canonical cycle of twelve may as such be rather late, but in principle it is old, and as the myth giving the reason why Heracles performed the Labors clearly is proved to belong to the Mycenaean age, the same must be true of the cycle as a whole, but not necessarily true of every Labor.
In order to test how this result attained by general reasoning is borne out by the myths of the Labors themselves, we turn to a brief analysis of these. The scene of the first five was the northeastern Peloponnese: 1. Heracles killed the Nemean lion; 2. he killed the Hydra of Lerna; 3. he caught the Erymanthian boar and brought it living to Eurystheus; 4. he captured the hind of Ceryneia; 5. he drove away the Stymphalian birds; 6. the sixth Labor, however, the cleaning of the stables of Augeias took place in Elis; 7. the seventh Labor took Heracles to Crete, where he captured the bull; 8. the eighth
took him farther abroad, to Thrace, where he killed Diomedes and carried off his horses; 9. the ninth Labor was the fetching of the girdle of the queen of the Amazons; 10. in the tenth he killed Geryon in the far west and possessed himself of his cattle; 11. the eleventh Labor was the fetching of the apples of the Hesperides; 12. finally, the twelfth was the bringing up of Cerberus from the Underworld.
It will be to the purpose to work backwards, commencing with the last Labors. The natural end of the hero's career is his acquiring of immortality, and that is told in doublets. For we have seen that the bringing back of Cerberus has this significance, and the same is true of the fetching of the apples of the Hesperides. The garden of the Hesperides in the farthest west is identical with the Elysian fields to which the favorites of the gods are carried alive to eternal bliss. This idea is pre-Greek. 42 The inference to be drawn from this fact is that a cycle of Labors was already formed and provided with its natural and logical end in the Mycenaean age. As the Greeks had quite a different idea of the Other World, they did not realize that both of these adventures stood for Heracles' victory over Death; and as they wanted a natural and logical end for the cycle, they added the victory over the realm of Death, which we have in doublets also, of which one was received into the cycle, the bringing up of Cerberus; whilst the combat with the God of Death was
almost forgotten and was remodeled so as to become the war against Pylos.
The three Labors just mentioned take place in far-off countries. The expedition against Geryon and his cattle is especially rich in parerga, which for want of space must be passed over. I observe only that Antaeus is by his name shown to be a specter. For the word antaios is used of specters meeting men, and the goddess of specters, Hecate, is especially surnamed antaie. The feature that Heracles, in order to overcome Antaeus, must lift him up from the ground is explained through the idea that a specter sinks down into the ground and escapes his antagonist. The myth of Geryon was gradually moved westward; it was perhaps in early times localized in Epirus. Some scholars think that Geryon is a figure of the Underworld and his dog Orthrus identical with Cerberus, but I cannot see sufficient reason for this view, though it may be possible.
It is uncertain what real fact underlies the myth of the race of warlike women, the Amazons. The opinion has been brought forward that they are a reminiscence of the Hittite empire, 43 but that cannot be proved conclusively, though it may be possible. If this is so, the myth originated in the Mycenaean age. I am not able to make any decision, but I should like to observe that this myth was so famous that inevitably it was sooner or later applied to the most famous hero, Heracles.
King Diomedes, the possessor of the man-eating horses, lived in Thrace, but the opinion is well founded that the myth was transferred thither from
[paragraph continues] Greece. For the Thracian Diomedes is certainly identical with the Argive king of that name who has a prominent place in Homer. Diomedes was one of the heroes to whom a long series of adventures on the way back from Troy was attributed; he occurs also very often as the founder of Greek colonies. The fame of Thrace as a horse-breeding country, known as early as in the Homeric poems, may have aided the relocalization of the adventure. Professor Robert has given the opinion that this deed superseded an older one of similar character, viz., the capturing of the first horse, Arion; but he has not proved his point. 44 On the contrary, it ought to be observed that the Homeric as well as the Mycenaean knight needs not one horse but a team, for he does not ride but drives in a chariot. The myth telling how Heracles won his horses seems to me to be old, and we recognized its double in the myth of the seizing of the horses of Laomedon. 45
If we look away from the details of the myths of Geryon and of Diomedes, their kernel is solely the capture of a famous team of horses or of a herd of cattle, a very common motif of mythology, and merely an echo of the life of a primitive people breeding cattle and horses. Such deeds are sure to be included in the career of a hero created among such a people and in such an age.
The seventh Labor, the capturing of the Cretan bull, is essentially similar to the first five, which are
simple deeds of prowess against wild animals; the difference is only that this adventure is localized in a country farther off. I have already said 46 that I cannot see the reason why the myth of the capture of a wild bull should have been transferred from Theseus to Heracles. The Cretan localization is very well understood as a reminiscence of the Cretan bull-ring, and consequently this Labor probably goes back to the Mycenaean and even to the Minoan age.
The opinion has been advanced that the cleaning of the stables of Augeias, which. takes place in Elis, is a late addition, but I am not sure that this view is right, for the myth has a folk-tale motif which agrees very well with a humorous conception of Heracles. The first five Labors take place in the northeastern Peloponnese and by reason of this localization they are generally and justly considered to be the earliest of all.
It has been observed that it is difficult and often impossible to prove that a single Labor is of Mycenaean origin, but that on the other hand there are proofs showing as conclusively as is possible in such a matter that the cycle originated in this age. But even if that is true, it ought not to be forgotten that adventures may have been left out or added in later times. The canonical cycle of twelve may in its present form be late, but from the point of view of the principles underlying this discussion, that does not impair its Mycenaean origin.
To finish our exposition we turn to the character of the cycle as a whole. Six Labors are the killing or capturing of wild animals or monsters. Such
exploits are really quite primitive in character, much more primitive than the fighting through which Homeric heroes gain fame and glory. Their character thus agrees in a remarkable manner with the customs of primitive peoples, of which for want of space only very few examples can be quoted. If a Wintun Indian has contrived to kill a black bear, a special dance is performed in his honor. A similar custom is found in Central Africa among the Beli when a young man has killed a lion, a leopard, a buffalo, or an elephant. A Hottentot who has killed big game alone is considered to be a hero and claims the right to be treated as such.
Representations of hunting in the art of the historical age of Greece are usually mythological, with one notable exception, the hare-hunting so frequently occurring on proto-Corinthian vases. Hunting of boar, deer, and other animals was a favorite pastime of the Greeks but was not considered heroic. It was otherwise in the Mycenaean age; the Mycenaean gems show very often a man struggling with a lion or a bull, and hunting scenes are not rare in Mycenaean art; e.g. the lion hunt on the inlaid dagger from the fourth shaft-grave at Mycenae and the boar hunt on a wall painting from Tiryns. Mycenaean art corresponds so well to the exploits of Heracles that this coincidence strongly corroborates their Mycenaean origin. 47
It appears that tales of cattle-lifting agree very well with the life and the customs of this time, although it occurred at other times also. Nor is the humorous myth of the cleaning of the stables filled
with dung inappropriate to this age, although the time of the insertion of this myth into the cycle is uncertain, as is also the time of the insertion of the myth concerning the fetching of the girdle of the queen of the Amazons. The result of this survey is the conclusion that a number of the Labors and perhaps the majority show Mycenaean connections. As the myth giving the reason why Heracles performed the Labors is of Mycenaean origin, this result is only natural.
To sum up: In Mycenaean times people told of a strong man, who was called by a common name, Heracles. Exploits which corresponded to the ideas and life of this age and were admired most highly were ascribed to him, and around him clustered many tales of the killing or seizing of wild and dangerous animals and monsters, and probably of cattle-stealing, too. The economy of the folk-tale required a reason for these exploits and a motif through which the deeds could be held together so as to form a series. This motif was found in his being a vassal of the Great King of Mycenae, and his name, Heracles, gave the reason for connecting his myths with Hera, who became his stepmother and the foe of her stepson. His career required an end, and this end was the greatest deed of all, the overcoming of Death; this was told in different versions but one of these, the fetching of the apples from the Gardens of the Hesperides, is clearly of Minoan origin.
People liked, however, to know and to tell something not only of the life and end of the hero but of his birth also. All these myths were developed in the Mycenaean age, for the myth of his birth is
firmly bound up with Thebes, and the myth of his Labors with Tiryns, two of the most important centers of Mycenaean civilization. It is just as impossible to discern the reasons for these localizations as to find out why the hero was called Heracles, but they prove that the cycle of Heracles' life was already developed in the Mycenaean age. That is certain so far as the underlying principles are concerned, but details are uncertain and often dubious. In this discussion there is no reason to dwell upon the varied later development of the Heracles cycle.
188:1 I mention here only some great works on Heracles: U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Euripides' Herakles (ed. 2, 1895); P. Friedländer, Herakles (1907); B. Schweitzer, Herakles (1922); C. Robert, Die griechische Heldensage, II (1921) pp. 422 et seq.
189:2 We should expect o, as e.g., in Herodotus, but see the article of P. Kretschmer quoted in the next note.
189:3 P. Kretschmer in the periodical Glotta, viii (1917), p. 121 et seq.
189:4 I have to thank Dr. Halliday for useful hints in regard to this subject.
190:5 There are many such names in Homer; see P. Cauer, Grundfragen der Homerkritik (ed. 3, 1921), p. 543 et seq.
191:6 Cp. above pp. 42 and 65.
192:7 The observation is due to Kretschmer loc. cit.
193:8 See my papers "Der Flammentod des Herakles auf dem Oite," Archiv für Religionswissenschaft, XXI (1922), p. 310 et seq.; and "Fire-Festivals in Ancient Greece," Journal of Hellenic Studies, XLIII (1923), p. 144 et seq.
194:9 L. R. Farnell, Greek Hero Cults, p. 95 et seq.
195:10 Cp. Robert, loc. cit. p. 428 et seq.
196:11 Below p. 203; cp. also above p. 89.
196:12 Professor Schweitzer errs certainly in supposing that this episode is an old element of the Heracles myth; cp. my review of his above-mentioned book in Deutsche Literaturzeitung, 1922, p. 833 et seq.
197:13 Il. viii. v. 368, and in the Nekyia, Od. xi. v. 623.
198:14 Il. xv. v. 639.
198:15 Il. xix. v. 98 et seq.
198:16 Il. xiv. v. 649 et seq., and xv. v. 25 et seq.
198:17 Il. v. v. 392.
198:18 Il. xviii. v. 117 et seq.
198:19 Il. v. v. 640, and xiv. v. 250.
199:20 Il. xx. v. 145.
199:21 Il. xi. v. 690 et seq.
199:22 Il. v. v. 638, and ii. v. 658 resp.
199:23 Il. xix. v. 99, and in the interpolated passage, xiv. v. 323.
199:24 Il. v. v. 392.
199:25 Od., xi. v. 269.
200:26 Od. viii. v. 223 et seq.; cp. xxi., v. 32 et seq.
200:27 Cp. Robert, loc. cit., p. 582.
200:28 Il. xviii. v. 115 et seq.
201:29 Il. v. v. 319 et seq. The Greek words are: ἐν Πύλῳ ἐν νεκύεσσιν.
201:30 Od. xxi. v. 25 et seq.
202:31 Il. i. v. 266.
202:32 With the exception of the story of Idas related Il. x. v. 558 et seq. The instances are collected by R. Oehler, Mythologische Exempla in der älteren griechischen Dichtung (Dissertation, Basle, 1925).
204:33 This point of view is especially brought forward by E. Rohde in his famous book Psyche.
205:34 See p. 193, n. 8.
206:35 Hesiod, Theogony, v. 292.
207:36 Hesiod, The Shield of Heracles, v. 79, et seq.
207:37 The tradition of the residence of her father Electryon is very varying and little to be relied upon: Midea, Theocritus, xiii. 20, and xxiv. 1; Paus. ii. 25, 9; Tiryns, Euripides, Alc., 838; Mycenae, Apollod. ii. 4, 6, 1.
212:38 Above pp. 51 et seq. and 163 et seq. resp.
212:39 Ovidius, Metamorphoses, vii. 372 et seq.; Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses, chap. 12.
212:40 Hesiod, frag. 137, Rzach ed. 3, according to Paus. ii. 26, 2, where he is said to be father of Epidaurus.
212:41 Apollodorus, ii, 1, 2, 2.
214:42 Malten, "Elysion and Rhadamanthys," Jahrbuch des deutschen archäolog. Instituts, XXVIII (1912), p. 35 et seq. See also my Minoan-Mycenaean Religion, p. 542 et seq. For the opposite view see P. Capelle, "Elysium and die Inseln der Seeligen," Archiv fir Religionswissenschaft, XXV (1927), p. 245 et seq., and XXVI (1928), p. 17 et seq.
215:43 W. Leonhard, Hettiter and Amazonen (1911).
216:44 C. Robert, loc. cit., p. 437. The argument that Heracles appears with only one horse on the metopes from the temple of Zeus at Olympia and from the so-called Theseion in Athens is not sufficient. That may be due to considerations of artistic order.
216:45 Above p. 197.
217:46 Above p. 169.
218:47 Cp. above p. 75.