Hercules the first superhero – book review

Hercules – The first superhero: by Philip Matyszak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The ancient Greek superhero Hercules always has a status of a modern-day Mount Hollywood celebrity with Paparazzi-conscious showmanship. He also reminds me of an advantaged individual who could get away with wrongdoings. Hercules was an impulsive egoist and an irascible aristocrat for what was worth the ancient Greek superhero, a paragon of masculine heroism with a view to celebrity. This uncommon biography about the superhero whose name still rings red herrings after millennium flows of time evolves around the legendary performance of the Twelve Labors, anchoring them to the historical events of a man with a colossal ego.

With a wealth of knowledge on ancient Greek history and extensive research on the subject, Matyszak puts in the capacity of Hercules’s counsel per se in the tribunal between humanity and divinity, who searches for truth based upon factual findings. Matyszak’s defense for his now divine client Hercules is erudite and comprehensive, with exhibits drawn from classical Greek and Roman historians and writers whose wits and reasons were anything but those of Hercules. In addition, the author’s trademark storytelling narrative makes the story of the ancient Greek killer all the more vivid and engaging that each chapter holds the attention of the reader in the phantasmagorical display of images as depicted in Grecian urns or vases.

Notwithstanding the attractiveness of the narrative and the narrator, there are reasons I disapprove of Hercules as a hero, an antithesis of the other half-god, half-man Jesus of Nazareth in millenniums later. The Labors resulted from his egotistical attempt to free himself from the guilt of killing his family in moments of passion. However, he was neither remorseful nor appropriately punished for killing his music teacher Linus whose head his recalcitrant prince pupil Hercules shattered with a lyre he was trying to teach him how to play the way it should. As a prince of Thebes, Hercules had no qualms of consciousness for killing his elderly music teacher whose social status was beneath him, and gods condoned it because he was a son of Zeus.

His peremptory sense of entitlement knows no boundary because of his arrogance and hubris. For example, during his Fourth labor of capturing Erymanthian Boar, Hercules killed almost the entire race of centaurs, driving them to near extinction. But Hercules himself was the cause of the killing spree because he intimidated Pholus, a wise, kindly centaur, to open a jar of undiluted wine, a gift from Dionysus to centaurs, who became intoxicated and attacked Hercules out of stupor. Yet, his killing of the drunken centaurs was not even a subject of guilt and was regarded as collateral damage because centaurs were known as lustful creatures. But didn’t Hercules also sleep around with women – and only the beautiful – wherever he went to, and sire children, one of whom became the founder of the Scythians?

To summarize, the story of Hercules boils down to a conclusion that Hercules was a representative figure of a human whose essence is both divine and mortal, always on a chariot race with two horses of desire and reason. Some revisionists claim Hercules was an ancient Greek psychopath who took pleasure in killing people, beasts, and demi-gods. To me, a psychopath loses either the shackle of the ego or the supervisor of the superego, running a mind chariot alone even it drives to a pit full of fire. Methinks, Hercules was a cossetted brat without disciplines that controlled his power of reason, which is apart from mental acuteness or ingenuity. Adler’s will to power embodies the figure of BC man-God hero without regard for compassion and charity. Hercules was anything but Samuel Johnson’s conception of a biographic figure who empathizes for the common characteristics of life in the principle of universal judgment and sentiments. I now know why Christianity has won favors from poor and ordinary people and become the subject of persecutions from emperors and kings because Jesus of Nazareth, begotten by God and born of Virgin Mary, is gentle yet strong, kind but firm, which seems simple but divine.

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the golden apples

Maidens of the Evening Star, Daughters of Atlas
Goddesses of the Evening, Children of Nyx
Live far away from here beyond glorious oceans
On the boundary of the Night encircled by stars
with pales hues of sunshine in the land of the Hesperides;

Mirth and music spring from the land of the Hesperides
Where they tend a garden of divine golden apples
Guarded by the faithful dragon Ladon with mighty wings
Swooping four winds, bellowing a crescendo of flames
That envelope the circle of divine parameter against the mortals
Till the impetuous half-man, half-god Hercules darts an arrow
Dipped in the blood of Hydra piercing the heart that dies in sorrow
shedding the tears for love for his goddesses, the Hesperides;

They mourn for the death of their beloved Ladon, whose blood flows
From the still warm heart and meets with tears from the diamond eyes;
And the gods of Olympus bring the slain dragon among the stars
And give him a house of his own named Draco where he can watch always
Over the garden of golden apples in his beloved land of the Hesperides.

Herculean Rhapsody

Courtesy of google.com

Thousands of years ago when gods and goddesses
Lived among the mortal and made love to them,
There lived a man in Greece across the oceans
Whose muscles invincible, confidence supernatural,
His spirit all greatness, all sincerity, all eagerness,
Untainted by the vanity of his divine heritage of Zeus.

A fruit of lustful possession of the mortal beauty
Named Alcmena by Zeus, the god of gods, in slumber,
The son of god, the infant prodigy toying with a snake,
Grew out to be on a par with the strength and esteem of gods
That was the sacred prerogative exclusive to the Olympian.

But lo! It was nothing but the elitism of the gods, for he could
Threaten the Sun to make it cool, waves when his boat’s tossed at seas,
And his music teacher for forcing him to play the lute against his will.
But alas, this man of incorruptible pride, of exceptional valor
Was to be pierced by the unquenchable flame of jealousy and
Hatred of Hera, the wife of Zeus, for his being the love child of
Her ever amorous husband whose objects of passion knew
No boundary between the mortal and immortal evermore,
Which she couldn’t bear at the sight of Heracles, nevermore.

Thus, Hera cast the spell of Madness upon the son of Zeus,
Making him blind with terrible rage, talking sound and fury,
And exciting him to slay his wife and their three sons with a sword
smeared with their blood so crimson, so warm with their last breaths,
Leaving the wretched man in a bottomless pit of guilt and shame
In his awakening from the bewitched madness driven by the sulphurous
Envy of the wife of god, who sired this son of god, who loved his mother.

The great surge of remorse swept over Heracles with wells of tears,
The sublime wish to expiate his sin suddenly urged him to go
To the Oracle of Delphi for Apollo’s guidance for his penance,
Where the sacred priestess in fits of divine frenzy told him to
Eurystheus, King of Mycenae, his cousin, the inferior to his being
To purge out his sins of Matricide, Uxoricide, Prolicide, and Filicide,
Once for all, in the name of Apollo, god of the Sun, Truth, and Healing.

Thus obeyed Heracles, our wretched but genuine man of courage,
Who, at the command of Eurystheus, his loyal cousin, undertook
The Twelve Great Labors so impossible, so unthinkable, so incredible
By himself, alone, in act of penitence that was so brutal, so primordial as thus:

Killing the Lion was met by vanquishing the Hydra;
Then he had to capture the Stag and the Boar;
He even deigned to clean the filthy Stables in a single day
To kill the monster Bids, followed by capturing of the bull;
Thereupon, he rounded up the Mares to steal the Girdle;
Herded the Cattle so unmanageable and untamable;
Went to fetch the Apples and then captured the Dog of the Underworld.

The Greatness of the Spirit, the Purity of the Soul,
Far excellent, far above the Reason clothed in cowardly pride,
Far higher than arrogance and hypocrisy in the guise of intelligence,
Was the name of Heracles to whom no fear and intimidation did appear,
Nor the impossibility, nor injustice did exist in therein eternally evermore
enshrined in the memory of the half-man, half-god who once lived among us.