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15 Unbelievable Hercules Facts

Here are 15 heroic facts all about the mythical demigod and champion Hercules! Find out all about this ancient hero and his story!

Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  July 20th 2023

How much do you know about mythical strong man and hero Hercules? Or is it Heracles? Let's find out with these 15 facts worthy of the gods! Discover Hercules' origin, his 12 tasks, what Disney changed, and where you can still see him today! Need more myth facts? You're in luck! Check out these 20 amazing facts about Poseidon, god of the sea! Or how about these 15 Pegasus facts about everyone's favourite flying horse? And if you need to find out more about ancient Greece, here are 20 weird and fun facts all about this amazing civilisation!

1. Hercules or Heracles?

First things first - how do you say his name? You're probably used to hearing Hercules, like in the Disney film, but you might also have seen it spelt Heracles. Well, it all depends on whether you're an ancient Greek or an ancient Roman! The Greeks called him Heracles, and the Romans called him Hercules! Not sure why they changed it, but you know the Romans, they loved making it all about them!

2. He's the Son of Zeus

Hercules' dad was a pretty important guy - Zeus, king of the gods! His mum, on the other hand, was a normal woman, called Alcmene, whom Zeus took a liking to (he did this a LOT). This means that although Zeus is Hercules' dad, he's not a god, just a normal human with a couple of extra abilities, like super strength and brains.

3. He Was Sort of Like an Ancient Greek Superhero

Since Hercules was a sort of demi-god, he can be compared to today's superheroes. Like Superman and Captain America, he had a combination of wisdom and strength which made him the perfect candidate for fighting monsters and rescuing babies. Like modern superheroes, ancient Greek and Roman culture also liked to make lots of merch featuring him, like statues, plates, plays and paintings. Basically, he should have his own theme park ride!

4. He Has a Brother

That's right! Hercules actually has a brother called Iphicles, and a sister called Laonome. They didn't share a dad with Hercules, so they didn't get any extra special god powers or anything, but they did have their own adventures, including fighting battles and going on quests. Iphicles was also, weirdly, a day younger than Hercules....we're not sure how that would work!

5. He Married Megara

If you've seen the Disney version, you'll know that Hercules gets together with Megara. While this also happened in the myth, she wasn't his only fact, Hercules had four wives in total! They were Megara, daughter of King Creon, then Omphale, a queen, then Deianira, a princess, and finally Hebe, the goddess of youth. Phew!

6. He Had to Complete 12 Tasks

Of all the stories about Hercules, his 12 tasks, or labours, is probably the most famous. Hercules was set these tasks in order to make up for the fact that he, uh, went mad and killed his family. Hey, we didn't say the Greek myths were nice! Hercules had actually been driven temporarily mad by Hera, wife of Zeus, who was a bit fed up of him.

7. Some of the Tasks Were a Bit Weird

The tasks were, in order: slaying a lion, slaying a monster called a hydra, capture a deer, capture a boar, clean some stables, slay some birds, capture a bull, steal some horses, nick a belt, get some cattle, steal some apples and finally, capture Cerberus, the ferocious guard dog of the underworld. Killing monsters feels pretty heroic, but cleaning out some stables?

8. He Became a Constellation

After Hercules died, the gods made him a constellation, so he could live forever amongst the stars. This was pretty standard for a Greek hero, the ancient equivalent of getting a book token for doing well in school. You can still see the constellation of Hercules today: it's the 5th biggest of the 88 modern constellations, and when you connect the stars together, they sort of look like a man holding a club.

9. He Hung Out With a Lot of Other Greek Heroes

Hercules didn't ride solo - he actually spent quite a bit of time with some of the other big names from Greek mythology. These included Jason, of Jason and the Argonauts; in some retellings, Hercules is one of the Argonauts. His friend, Hylas, wandered off after a nymph though, and Hercules had to go and find him, so they had to sail without him.

10. His Name Has Become Associated With Strength

Nowadays, if someone is referred to as 'A Hercules', we instantly know that that means they're either very strong or brave. Or at least, that they want to be! Katie Sandwina, a 19th century strongwoman who could lift up three grown men at a time, was known as 'The Lady Hercules', and William Bankier, a Scottish strongman from the same time, was known as 'Apollo, the Scottish Hercules', who could hold a man in one hand and juggle plates with the other!

11. The Romans Really Liked Him

The Romans nicked a LOT of Greek culture - their gods, their inventions, their philosophers, and their way of doing government, and Hercules was no exception. The Romans loved him and incorporated him into the myth about Rome's founding. They also liked to say that Hercules had visited Rome and Italy during his lifetime, and there was even a cult of Hercules (which is another word for a very small religion).

12. The Disney Film Makes Some Changes

If you're familiar with Hercules its probably through the Disney classic from the 90s. However, although they got it broadly right, there are a few differences between the film and the original myths. For a start, in the film Hera is Hercules' mother, making him 100% god. There would also have been 9 muses, not the 5 depicted in the film. And Pegasus, Hercules' trusty steed in the movie, didn't actually belong to him at all! He was actually associated with another Greek hero, Bellerophon.

13. The Medieval World Also Liked Hercules

Hercules wasn't just popular with the Greeks and Romans. The Medieval world loved him too. They thought he was a good representation of Christian values like wisdom and bravery. He was also popular during the Renaissance. Greek and Roman myths had a field day during the 15th and 16th centuries, and Hercules pops up in loads of different works of art. Some people (like King Henry IV of France) even dressed up as him for a painting!

14. He Has a Familiar Cousin

It's not official, but it's a fun fact! Hercules is the son of Zeus, king of the gods. Zeus' brother is Triton, King of the sea. And Triton's daughter is...Ariel! Which makes Hercules and Ariel cousins! Will we ever get a cross over movie?

15. You Can See His Statue in Naples

Lots of works of art depicting Hercules still survive today. One of the most famous is the Farnese Hercules, a statue of Hercules now in a museum in Naples, Italy. It's a huge sculpture made of marble, thought to be based on an earlier Greek work, and shows Hercules with his club, lionskin and stolen apples. The statue is nearly 2,000 years old!