Heracles (or Hercules) is best known as the strongest of all mortals, and even stronger than many gods. He was the deciding factor in the triumphant victory of the Olympians over the giants. He was the last mortal son of Zeus, and the only man born of a mortal woman to become a god upon his death. Hercules was the son of Zeus and Alcmena, the wife of Amphitryon, a distinguished Greek warrior and heir to the throne of Tiryns. One night while Amphitryon was away, Zeus came to Alcmena disguised as her husband. The next day, the real Amphitryon returned and slept with his wife. Concerned that Amphitryon did not remember being with Alcmena on both nights, the couple consulted the blind prophet Tiresias, who told them that Zeus had slept with Alcmena the first night and predicted that she would bear a child who would become a great hero. Alcmena bore twin boys—Hercules, the son of Zeus, and Iphicles, the son of Amphitryon. When the goddess Herat discovered that Zeus had seduced Alcmena and fathered Hercules, she was furious. Hera was fiercely jealous of Zeus’s lovers and children and pursued them mercilessly. She tried to kill the infant Hercules by having two poisonous snakes placed in his crib one night. However, the infant grabbed the snakes and strangled them. Though Hera failed to kill Hercules, she persecuted him throughout his life, causing many of the events that led to his great suffering and punishments. Hercules had many other adventures during his lifetime. He killed other beasts and monsters, engaged in numerous battles against his enemies, joined the expedition of Jason and the Argonauts, and even fought the god Apollo. Throughout, he faced the hatred of Hera, who continued to persecute him because he was the son of Zeus.
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