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3 Heracles

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Chapter Summary

The idealization of Heracles reached a new stage with the Sophists of the fourth century. Among Stoics, Heracles remained a moral hero, but they made personal religious use of him. Epictetus, in contrast to the free-willed Cynic Heracles, stresses his obedience as son to God while performing his Labors. The popular, especially Stoic, views of Heracles's divinization because of his beneficia were subjected to Euhemeristic criticism. Latin literature treated Heracles with great seriousness. His early popularity is evident in the comedies of Plautus, in which "mehercle" is a stock expression and the deeds of Heracles are frequently used as metaphors, as well as in the way he is rated in Amphitryo, where he is already being compared with Scipio. Heracles served as a representation of apotheosis in sepulchral art. Allegorization provided a special way in which Heracles could be appropriated by Christians. Nevertheless, skepticism is also expressed toward it.

Keywords: Epictetus; God; Heracles; Plautus



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