Was Hercules real?

Apr 2017
681
Lemuria
Hmm, I looked into a possible connection between Samson and Heracles a while ago, but I couldn't find many similarities beyond the generic traits of having superhuman strength and fighting a lion. I started a thread about it ages ago, but it never really got anywhere: http://historum.com/ancient-history/100559-what-extent-samson-hercules-similar.html
Well fighting lions is not generic. Of course the tales are recycled, re-adapted and vastly distorted in the process but they all have the same origin.

For example Tablet nine of the Epic of Gilgamesh (note where Gilgamesh wears the lion skin)

Tablet nine

Tablet nine opens with Gilgamesh roaming the wild wearing animal skins, grieving for Enkidu. Fearful of his own death, he decides to seek Utnapishtim ("the Faraway"), and learn the secret of eternal life. Among the few survivors of the Great Flood, Utnapishtim and his wife are the only humans to have been granted immortality by the gods. Gilgamesh crosses a mountain pass at night and encounters a pride of lions. Before sleeping he prays for protection to the moon god Sin. Then, waking from an encouraging dream, he kills the lions and uses their skins for clothing. After a long and perilous journey, Gilgamesh arrives at the twin peaks of Mount Mashu at the end of the earth. He comes across a tunnel, which no man has ever entered, guarded by two terrible scorpion-men. After questioning him and recognizing his semi-divine nature, they allow him to enter it, and he passes under the mountains along the Road of the Sun. In complete darkness he follows the road for 12 "double hours", managing to complete the trip before the Sun catches up with him. He arrives at the Garden of the gods, a paradise full of jewel-laden trees.
 
Jan 2015
875
England
Well fighting lions is not generic. Of course the tales are recycled, re-adapted and vastly distorted in the process but they all have the same origin.

For example Tablet nine of the Epic of Gilgamesh (note where Gilgamesh wears the lion skin)

Tablet nine

Tablet nine opens with Gilgamesh roaming the wild wearing animal skins, grieving for Enkidu. Fearful of his own death, he decides to seek Utnapishtim ("the Faraway"), and learn the secret of eternal life. Among the few survivors of the Great Flood, Utnapishtim and his wife are the only humans to have been granted immortality by the gods. Gilgamesh crosses a mountain pass at night and encounters a pride of lions. Before sleeping he prays for protection to the moon god Sin. Then, waking from an encouraging dream, he kills the lions and uses their skins for clothing. After a long and perilous journey, Gilgamesh arrives at the twin peaks of Mount Mashu at the end of the earth. He comes across a tunnel, which no man has ever entered, guarded by two terrible scorpion-men. After questioning him and recognizing his semi-divine nature, they allow him to enter it, and he passes under the mountains along the Road of the Sun. In complete darkness he follows the road for 12 "double hours", managing to complete the trip before the Sun catches up with him. He arrives at the Garden of the gods, a paradise full of jewel-laden trees.
How many similarities between Gilgamesh and Heracles do you glean from that?
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,398
Portugal
@Sum of One:

You know, I'm actually going to agree with you on this point. I do believe that many (though by no means all) Greeks gods (and the gods of various different cultures, for that matter) were deified people. The people here on this thread should be more open to that possibility than they seem to be.

However, for the record, I disagree with your conclusions in all the details.
Didn’t saw many people here dismissing that possibility. Underlining “possibility”.

You'd be surprised as to how open people are to that possibility. The issue isn't about speculating as to the idea that actual heroes or kings became deified. The point however is that while its a valid sort of speculation, we do not infact have the sort of details that are being thrown around here. Nobody says definitively that Achilles or Heracles did not exist. But if they did, we cannot know what the historical individuals were like given the known weaknesses of the ancient sources. Nor can we rule out the idea of different historical personae being amalgamated into these heroic beings (Heracles for instance), which is also a relatively logical idea and for which there is some evidence - the description of Indian gods in Greek terms by Greek authors such as Megasthenes provides insight into the compounding of deities as an example.
I have to agree with you… again…

Well fighting lions is not generic.
I don’t like to disagree just for the sake of it. But in a timeline when lions were much more common, fighting lions is pretty generic. Lions were and are a symbol of strength. Defeating a lion is a symbol of strength and power. This is absolutely generic.

In my region, still today, when there are hunting parties to the boars you can’t handle the hunters bragging. Even the fishermen are annoying with the talk “who cached” the bigger one! It seems a thread in a forum. Today they just don’t talk about lions because they are extinct here.
 
Apr 2017
681
Lemuria
How many similarities between Gilgamesh and Heracles do you glean from that?
1.Gilgamesh was two-third a god while Heracles was a demi-god.
2. Heracles wrestled/fought Eryx. Gilgamesh wrestled Enkidu. Both Eryx and Enkidu were heroes as well.
3. Gilgamesh wore lion skin. Same with Heracles.
4. Heracles killed Cretan bull. Gilgamesh killed bull.
5. The golden apple (Heracles) and the forbidden flower (Gilgamesh).

I'm sure there are many others.
 
Last edited:
Apr 2017
681
Lemuria
Didn’t saw many people here dismissing that possibility. Underlining “possibility”.



I have to agree with you… again…



I don’t like to disagree just for the sake of it. But in a timeline when lions were much more common, fighting lions is pretty generic. Lions were and are a symbol of strength. Defeating a lion is a symbol of strength and power. This is absolutely generic.

In my region, still today, when there are hunting parties to the boars you can’t handle the hunters bragging. Even the fishermen are annoying with the talk “who cached” the bigger one! It seems a thread in a forum. Today they just don’t talk about lions because they are extinct here.
It's not about killing lions but about wearing the skin that's important. It is something so memorable that all derivatives of the original should at least include an element of this.
 
Feb 2017
425
Minneapolis
Wrong. Xenophanes believed in Gods. Even the Epicureans believed in the Gods. Read Epicurus letter to Menoeceus.

What he ridicolued, were the attributes ascribed to them by poets like ascribing them powers like thunder, Zeus appearing in the form of someone else..
It's pretty clear to me that the quoted passage from Xenophanes means something other than that. What I said is Xenophanes "didn't believe in the literal reality of the Gods." The passage is quite explicit and unambiguous in that regard. Clearly he believed that assigning human characteristics to the divine was silly. So clearly he believed thinking about Zeus as a man-like figure with human attributes was silly.

Personally, I think your insistence that the ancient Greeks were universally and without exception credulous with regard to their myths is an insult their intelligence.