Hercules

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Hercules

, in astronomy
Hercules (hûrˈkyəlēzˌ), in astronomy, northern constellation located between Lyra and Corona Borealis. It is traditionally depicted as the hero Hercules in a kneeling position. There are no very bright stars in Hercules and only three of third magnitude, the brightest of which, Ras Algethi (Alpha Herculis), is a red giant and possibly the largest visible star in the sky. The constellation contains the globular star cluster M13, barely visible to the naked eye but spectacular even in a small telescope. Hercules reaches its highest point in the evening sky in late July.

Hercules

, Greek hero

Hercules (hûrˈkyəlēzˌ), Heracles, or Herakles (both: hĕrˈəklēzˌ), most popular of all Greek heroes, famous for extraordinary strength and courage. Alcmene, wife of Amphitryon, made love to both Zeus and her husband on the same night and bore two sons, Hercules (son of Zeus) and Iphicles (son of Amphitryon). Hercules incurred the everlasting wrath of Hera because he was the child of her unfaithful husband. A few months after his birth Hera set two serpents in his cradle, but the prodigious infant promptly strangled them.

When he was a young man, Hercules defended Thebes from the armies of a neighboring city, Orchomenus, and was rewarded with Megara, daughter of King Creon. But Hera later drove Hercules insane, and in his madness he killed his wife and children. After he had recovered his sanity, he sought purification at the court of King Eurystheus of Tiryns for 12 years. During those years Hercules performed 12 arduous labors: he killed the Nemean lion and the Hydra; caught the Erymanthian boar and the Cerynean hind; drove off the Stymphalian birds; cleaned the stables of Augeas; captured the Cretan bull and the horses of Diomed; made off with the girdle of the Amazon queen Hippolyte; killed Geryon; captured Cerberus; and finally took the golden apples of Hesperides.

After his labors were completed, Hercules was involved in many other adventures and combats, including the Calydonian hunt and the Argonaut expedition. He killed Iphitus, son of the king of Oichalia, because the king would not give him his daughter Iole. When Neleus, king of Pylos, refused him absolution for that crime, Hercules sacked his kingdom and killed all his sons except Nestor. For that outrage the Delphic oracle bade him serve Omphale, queen of Lydia, who, in some legends, dressed him in women's clothes and had him work with her maids spinning wool. He later was her lover, but after he finished his servitude he returned to Oichalia and carried off Iole.

When his second wife, Deianira, daughter of King Oeneus, was seized by the centaur Nessus, Hercules killed Nessus with arrows dipped in the poisonous blood of the Hydra. As he died, Nessus told Deianira that blood from his wound would restore Hercules' love for her if ever it were to wane. Later, when Deianira sought to win back her husband's love, she contrived to have him don a robe smeared with the blood. The robe stuck fast to Hercules' skin, burning him unbearably. In agony, he built a huge pyre atop Mt. Oite and had it set afire. His mortal parts burned away, but the rest rose to heaven, where he was finally reconciled with Hera and married Hebe.

Although worshiped as a god, Hercules was properly a hero, frequently appealed to for protection from various evils. In art Hercules was portrayed as a powerful, muscular man wearing a lion's skin and armed with a huge club. Perhaps the most famous statue of him is the Farnese Hercules in the National Museum in Naples. He is the hero of plays by Sophocles, Euripides, and Seneca.

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Hercules

(her -kyŭ-leez) An extensive but rather faint constellation in the northern hemisphere near Ursa Major. The brightest stars, Beta (β) and Zeta (ζ) Herculis, are of 2nd magnitude with many of 3rd and 4th magnitude. There are several binary stars, including Zeta and Rasalgethi (α) and the X-ray binary Hercules X-1; globular clusters include the Great Cluster in Hercules (M13), visible to the naked eye, and the smaller and slightly fainter M92 (NGC 6341). Hercules A is a distant and very powerful radio galaxy. Abbrev.: Her; genitive form: Herculis; approx. position: RA 17h, dec +30°; area: 1225 sq deg.
Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006

Hercules

[′hər·kyə‚lēz]
(astronomy)
A constellation with no stars brighter than third magnitude; right ascension 17 hours, declination 30° north.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Hercules

completed tasks requiring great bravery, strength, and ingenuity. [Gk. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 448]
See: Heroism

Hercules

rescues Alcestis from Hades after her self-sacrifice. [Gk. Lit.: Alcestis; Ger. Opera: Gluck, Alceste, Westerman, 73–75]
See: Rescue

Hercules

his twelve labors revealed his godlike powers. [Rom. Myth.: Howe, 122]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Knight's Dream (London National Gallery, c.1503) is a misnomer for a painting which should properly be called Hercules at the Crossroads or The Choice of Hercules. The representation of Hercules as a suave, slender knight in Renaissance half-armour and leggings has misled some critics into thinking that it depicts a thinly related incident in Cicero's Dream of Scipio, and the present title is a vague compromise.