October 2011: Turkey is displaying a full statue of Hercules (museum of Alanya, Turkey) for the first time since a U.S. museum returned the top half after two decades of negotiations. Turkey alleges the top piece was stolen from an archaeological site in Turkey in 1980 and smuggled to the U.S.
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts last month returned the top half of Weary Heracles, Greek for Hercules.
Turkey Displays Its Hercules Statue
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew the 1,900-year-old statue back with him at the end of a trip to the U.S. in September. Turkish Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay inaugurated the display of the statue with both parts rejoined at a museum in Antalya on Sunday. Gunay stated Turkey was determined to retrieve other artifacts believed to be smuggled out of the country.
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus (the Greek equivalent of the Roman god Jupiter), and the mortal Alcmene. Early Roman sources suggest that the imported Greek hero supplanted a mythic Italic shepherd called “Recaranus” or “Garanus”, famous for his strength who dedicated the Ara Maxima that became associated with the earliest Roman cult of Hercules.
According to mythology, Hercules was the illegitimate son of Jupiter and Alcmene, the wisest and most beautiful of all mortal women. Juno was enraged at Jupiter for his infidelity with Alcmene, and even more so that he placed the infant Hercules at Hera’s breast as she slept and allowed him to feed, which caused Hercules to be partially immortal, thus, allowing him to surpass all mortal men in strength, size and skill.
Juno held a spiteful grudge against Hercules and sent him into a blind frenzy, in which he killed all of his children and his wife. When Hercules regained his sanity, he sought out the Oracle at Delphi in the hope of making atonement. The Oracle ordered Hercules to serve Eurystheus, king of Mycenae, who sent him on a series of tasks known as the Labors of Hercules. These tasks are told in this order:
Labours of Hercules
To kill the Nemean lion
To destroy the Lernaean Hydra
To capture Ceryneian Hind alive
To trap the Erymanthian boar
To clean the Augean stables
To get rid of the Stymphalian birds
To capture the Cretan bull
To round up the Mares of Diomedes
To fetch Hippolyte’s girdle, or belt
To fetch the cattle of Geryon
To fetch the golden apples of the Hesperides
To bring Cerberus from Tartarus.
While he was a champion and a great warrior, he was not above cheating and using any unfair trick to his advantage. However, he was renowned as having “made the world safe for mankind” by destroying many dangerous monsters. Although he was a famous demigod, he still could not prevent his death.
Hercules was married to Deianeira. Long after their marriage, one day the centaur Nessus offered to ferry them across a wide river that they had to cross. Nessus set off with Deianeira first, but tried to abduct her. When Hercules realized the centaur’s real intention, Hercules chased after him and shot him with an arrow which was poisoned with Hydra’s blood. Before he died, Nessus told Deianeira to take some of his blood and treasure it, since it was a very powerful medicine and: if she ever thought Hercules was being unfaithful, the centaur told her, the blood would restore his love. Deianeira kept the vial of blood.
Many years after that incident she heard rumours that Hercules had fallen in love with another woman. She smeared some of the blood on a robe and sent it to Hercules by a servant named Lichas. Lichas spilled some blood on the floor and when the sun’s rays fell on it the blood begun to burn. Because of this Deianeira began to suspect Nessus’s advice and decided to send another servant to fetch Lichas back before he could hand over the blood soaked robe to Hercules. She was too late. Hercules had already put on the robe and when he did so the blood still poisoned from the same arrow used by Hercules, burnt into his flesh. When he jumped into a nearby river in hope of extinguishing the fire, it only made it worse. When he tried to rip off the robe from his body his organs were also ripped off with it.
Furiously, Hercules caught Lichas and tossed him into the sea. After that he told his friend Philoctetes to build him a pyre on the mountain Oata. He was burnt to death on the pyre. Before dying, Hercules offered his bow and arrows as a token of gratitude to Philoctetes. His father Zeus then turned him into a god. Deianeira, after hearing what she had caused, she committed suicide.