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Title: The labours of Heracles : a literary and artistic examination
Author: Gibbons, Susan Estella
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1976
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This thesis is primarily concerned with the documentation of the artistic and literary evidence for each of the traditional twelve labours of Heracles, in the course of which I have made certain discoveries relating to the concept and content of the labours. Heracles is made to perform labours at least as early as the Iliad. The Greeks generally referred to them as, contests in return for a prize, in this case immortality. It is not until the fifth century B.C. that a specific number is defined, namely twelve, by a fragment of Pindar and the metopes of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. The Cerberus, lion, and hind labours and possibly those of Geryon and the hydra were defined as such before the metopes, which provide a very early and isolated appearance of all the twelve labours of the later canon. I believe these metopes show Elis claiming Heracles as her special hero to emphasise her newly-found identity. As regards the myths which became the traditional labours, Cerberus, lion, hydra and Geryon date at least to the eighth century B.C., birds and possibly Amazons to the seventh, and the rest, with the possible exception of Augeas, to c. 550. The characteristic feature of the labours is the exhibition of heroism: most involve fighting, often against monstrous opponents. Sometimes public benefaction is demonstrated but this is developed more by later writers. Many heroic deeds of Heracles could have been made into labours. The choice at Olympia seems to demonstrate Heracles' close connection with the surrounding area highlighted by the labours he performed in the remote corners of the Greek world as a pan hellenic hero. It was not until the local nature of Olympia's interpretation of the individual labours was forgotten that it was adopted as the canon.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Classical Literature