hercules_mythology

Hydras, Hercules, and Poison

Written by Hank Martin in W. Europe

Several miles south of Argos, Greece lies an ancient little city with a big mythology. In ancient days, when Zeus’s son Hercules, walked the Earth the city of Lerna became a battleground of epic proportions. In Lerna there is a lake fed from the Lernaen Spring, a gift left by Poseidon when he slept with Amymore, daughter of Danaus.

The lake of Lerna was so deep that reaching the bottom is impossible. But, reaching the bottom would bring untold reward. At the bottom of the lake was the entrance to the underworld, and guarding this entrance was a 9 headed hyrda, the Learnaean Hydra.

The Myth of Hercules:

Lernaean Hydra

Created by the offspring of Gaia, Mother Earth, the Lernaean Hydra was a terrifying beast. It would crawl out of its cave, buried deep in the Lerna Lake, at night and terrorize nearby villages. The monster guarded the entrance to the underworld and was considered impossible to kill. Although the water looks blue and peaceful beneath its surface lies a hideous, dangerous creature.

Hercules:

A woman’s scorn can ruin a life. Just ask Hercules.

Driven to insanity by the goddess Hera, the queen of all Gods, Hercules kills his sons and wife. (Backstory: Hera hates Hercules because he is the Ill-conceived son of her husband Zeus and another woman.) Upon recovering from his fit of madness he sought out penance for his actions. For immortality he was told to serve King Eurystheus for 12 years and complete any labors requested of him. This period became immortalized as the 12 labors of Hercules. The second of these labors tasked to him by the king was to kill the Lernaean Hydra.

Hera rallied the monster, willing it to kill Hercules. Taking on the 9 headed beast with a sickle Hercules soon discovered that each time he cut off a head, two more took its place. But, legend had it that the only way to kill the best was  by cutting off its one immortal head. Hercules needed a better way, and the task seemed futile in all other men’s eyes. But, not for a hero.

Cut off one of its heads and two more shall take its place.

Hercules called for his nephew’s help. Each time Hercules would cut off a head his nephew would cauterize the wound shut with a branding iron and prevent the monster from growing any more heads. Seeing that Hercules was winning Hera sent a massive crab out to distract Hercules, but Hercules crushed it with his foot.

Finally cleaving off the immortal head Hercules slew the hideous beast with a golden sword given to him by Athena, goddess of wisdom. He dipped his arrow tips in the Hydra’s poisonous blood, arrows he would use later to complete other tasks assigned to him by King Euryshtheus.

According to myth Hera was so upset over Hercules’ victory that she placed the Hydra into the sky as a constellation, beside the crab (constellation Cancer)

The Peloponese

The Peloponnese is a peninsula in southern Greece famous for many wars, including the Greek war for independence. The cities listed below are all located in the Peloponnese region of Greece and relate to the area of the above myth.

Nafplio

Nafplio is the favored child. It lies in the same region as Lerna and Argos, near both of them, but gets all the fame these days. In fact, Nafplio is considered the prettiest and most romantic town of all in Greece. Location sets this place apart from its siblings. Located on a small port beneath a great fortress its narrow streets feature Venetian house, mansions, and fascinating museums. Economics has also set this port town apart from others, as it has served as a major connecting port for the past 2,000 years.

Proof of this is located in the wealthy city itself, the houses and streets, and the three fortresses, some of which are only remains now, that once guarded this important port city. This place has everything, from beaches, to the old medieval town to the Palamidi Castle which has 999 steps carved into stone.

Use Nafplio as your home base as your experience the tip of this Grecian peninsula, but be sure to also visit some of the nearby, historically important and fascinating cities.

Lerna

Today, although the spring still runs, the lake of Lerna is all dried up. Lerna was founded in 2500 BCE, and today is filled with archeological digs. For over 5,000 years Lerna thrived in peace, and today is one of the most important prehistoric sites in Greece. As explorers pull layer and layer of dirt and rock away they uncover the different periods in Lerna’s history, like a great picture story book giving insight into culture and history through houses, pottery, stoneware, and more.

Argos:

While the lake of Lerna has dried up, and the city of 5,000 years has vanished the nearby city of Argos is arguably the oldest city still thriving in Greece. While tourism isn’t a huge part of their economy here, taking a trip here will give you a chance to see 6,000 years of change and progress. Visit the archeological museum, and wander the streets, through the squares and open markets and visit the various ruins, remnants of ancient times.

Learning From Myth to Reality

From the great Lernaean Hydra slayed by Hercules, to the streets of Greece’s 6,000 year old city Argos the Peloponnese region of Greece has everything you need to stay entertained, intrigued, and dazzled. Here you will find a combination of education and relaxation. Learn about the people from 5,000 years ago, the lives they lived and their way of life one day, and enjoy the sparkling water and clean beaches that Greece is so famous for. When you return from the mythical, larger than life world, you’ll have more than just a sun tan to show for your trip abroad- you’ll have life lessons garnered from thousands of years of practice and a heart filled with happiness.

 

About the Author

Hank Martin

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Traveling for a world education and writing about the life lessons learned.

 

 

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