Heracles breaking the horns of the hind of Arcadia, flanked by Athena and Artemis, detail of a —Courtesy of the trustees of the British Museum; photograph, The Hamlyn Group Picture Library
Legendary hero of ancient Greece and Rome. Known for his great strength, he was the son of Zeus and Alcmene, the granddaughter of Perseus. Zeus's jealous wife Hera sent two serpents to kill Heracles in his cradle, but the infant strangled them. He grew up to marry a princess, then killed her in a fit of rage sent by Hera and was forced to become the servant of Eurystheus, ruler of Greece. Eurystheus obliged Heracles to perform the famous 12 labors, including cleansing the Augean stables, fetching the golden apples of the Hesperides, and descending into Hades to bring back the three-headed dog Cerberus. He married Deianeira, who later sent him a shirt smeared with poison, which she mistakenly believed was a love potion. In agony, Heracles burned himself to death on a pyre, and his spirit ascended to heaven. He became an immortal and married Hebe.