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Places of the Myth of Hercules

Places indicated in the IWB register of the Sicily Region (Places of Identity and Memory) - Sector "Places of gods and minor divinities:

  • Erice (province of Trapani)
  • Sources of Hot Water of Imera (Termini Imerese - province of Palermo)
  • Sources of Hot Water of Segesta (Calatafimi - province of Trapani)
  •  Case del biviere (Lentini - province of Syracuse)
  • Scilla and Cariddi (Strait of Messina)

Origins of the Myth

Heracles is undoubtedly the most popular hero in all of Greek mythology. The Latins called him Hercules and it can be said that almost all the peoples of the Mediterranean area tried to take possession of his glory, claiming that he had passed through their territory or identifying him with one of the indigenous heroes, as a local incarnation of the Greek Heracles.

Heracles is the son of Alcmene and Amphitryon, even if the real father is Zeus who, taking advantage of Amphitryon's absence, assumed his appearance, thus managing to deceive Alcmena and spent a night of love with her, the duration of which was, by order of Zeus, of three days and three nights, during which Heracles was conceived. Yet another betrayal by Zeus made Hera, the official wife of Zeus, very angry, who persecuted Heracles for life. The name Heracles means: "glory of Hera", meaning with ironic connotations, given the relationship between the two, unless it is understood as "glory through Hera", since most of the heroic deeds of Heracles were precisely due to the difficulties he had to face due to the tireless Era.

Many writers of antiquity spoke of Heracles, and among these Diodorus Siculus could not be missing who, being Sicilian by name and in fact, more than the others narrated about the exploits of Heracles in Sicily.

The legendary exploits of this hero were many. Still in swaddling clothes, he strangled the two snakes sent by Hera to kill him, famous are those known as the "twelve labors of Heracles", and other exploits that saw him at the head of armies, and many other secondary adventures, which occurred during the completion of the labors .

Front of sarcophagus with the labors of Hercules Rome, National Roman Museum in Palazzo Altemps

Hercules in Sicily

Once the oxen were stolen from Geryon, Heracles embarked on the way back which took him to Sicily, where he swam along with his herd. As soon as he arrived he had to clash with the voracity of Charybdis, daughter of the earth and of

Poseidon, who stole some of Heracles' sacred oxen and devoured them. The gesture of Charybdis did not please Zeus very much, who struck her with a lightning bolt making her fall into the sea in the guise of a monster that swallowed the ships that passed in that point [2].

Heracles decided to make the circumnavigation of the island, then he headed towards the region of Erice but, when he arrived near Imera, he was welcomed by the nymphs, who made springs of hot water gush out, so that he could reassure himself from the fatigue of the journey. After being the first guest of what became the thermal baths of Termini Imerese, he left for Erice, where he faced and won in combat Erice, the son of Aphrodite who had founded the homonymous city. Arriving in Syracuse, he took one of the most beautiful bulls, placed it in the source of Ciane and sacrificed it in honor of Persephone, ordering the inhabitants to annually perform ceremonies and sacrifices in honor of Persephone and Ciane. After Syracuse, Heracles headed towards the interior of the island where he had to face a group of Sican natives who opposed him in battle. He won them by killing many, among them, some important strategists who later received the honors attributed to the heroes by the Sicans. It was also in Lentini and Agirò where he built a sanctuary in honor of Iolao, his companion in arms in the twelve labors and a favorite friend. Since then, sacrifices were offered annually to Iolaus, who in Agirò was venerated as a god and to whom young people sacrificed their hair, after having grown from birth.

Detailed information and bibliographic information on our page taken from the study of Ignazio Caloggero (Cults and Myths of Ancient Sicily): 

Heracles (Hercules)

Card insertion: Ignazio Caloggero

Photo: web

Information contributions: Ignazio Caloggero, Region of Sicily

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