Indo-European Guide to Presidential Elections (excerpts, #5)

The continuation of the previous part…

Heracles and Hera

…This story begins when Zeus decides to give people a great ruler, the ruler they’ve never seen before. The ruler who would possess traits of Zeus himself, of course scaled down to capabilities of the earthly King. Obviously, he should be Zeus’s son. However, the choice of mother is also important. She should a woman of noble, heavenly descent, and the process of an inception of the future King should not be tainted by violence acts, which Zeus allowed himself to commit in relationships with other earthly women.

 Zeus chooses Alkmene, descendant of Perseus, and taking the form of Alkmene’s husband Amphitryon, thus makes sure that she shares nights with him voluntary. Zeus invests triple efforts, to make him perfect, in begetting the child – a future High King:

“…when Zeus lay with Alkmene he made the night three times its normal length and by the magnitude of the time expended on the procreation he presaged the exceptional might of the child which would be begotten.

And, in general, he did not effect this union from the desire of love, as he did in the case of other women, but rather only fir the sake of procreation. Consequently, desiring to give legality to his embraces, he did not choose to offer violence to Alkmene, and yet he could not hope to persuade her because of her chastity; and so, deciding to use deception, he deceived Alkmene by assuming in every respect the shape of Amphitryon.” (Diodorus IV, 9, 2-3)

When all things looked like on the right track, Zeus, the master of fates and lawgiver of heavenly and earthly order, declares before the gods that the person who will be born on Heracles’s due date will be the High King.

However Zeus, preoccupied with his grandiose plans of the world importance, forgets to take into account more elemental and individualistic motives of actions of other gods, and in particular his wife Hera.

Hera was jealous (sic!), “ζηλοτυπουσαv”, of Zeus’s sexual adventures with other women, and she did all what she can to make his project fail. She tempered with the pregnancy of Eurystheus mother, and he was born just before Heracles. That made all Zeus’s plans to go awry. Even the very name of the hero, Heracles, comes from that enmity, and means “fame from (struggling with) Hera”. The fame, for example, which came from killing two snakes sent by Hera, by baby Heracles.

Now, bound by his own promises, Zeus can’t make Heracles a king, the only thing he can do for Heracles is to evacuate Heracles to Olympus. However, Hera, before giving her consent to Zeus, makes sure that Heracles looses also his moral rights to be a king. She makes a condition that Heracles should serve a prematurely born, grotesque and ridiculous king Eurystheus, who occupies Heracles’s promised throne. Of course Heracles’s pride makes him disobey Zeus’s orders, and now Hera can rightfully punish him for the first Indo-European sin of hero, sin of sacrilege. Hera sends madness on Heracles, and in the eclipse of consciousness he kills his wife and children.

Gravely punished, Heracles, at last, goes into the service of king Eurystheus and performs those famous,  but pointless and worthless Twelve Labors. To make this work bearable, he sometimes allows himself to have a bit of fun along the way, like during the Fourth Labor Heracles literally follows the task description, and brings the Erymanthian Boar alive just before the Eurystheus’s throne, and the former takes a refuge from the Boar in a barrel.

The second sin of the warrior, when Heracles treacherously murdered unexpected Iphitos by surprisingly throwing him off the walls, is also inducted by Hera’s spells. After being done with Labors in service of Eurystheus, Heracles continues pursuing the search of throne, now through a marriage. He downgraded his ambitions, and the throne in a small kingdom would be enough. Conveniently, Eurytus, king of the city Oechalia, holds an archery contest which prize is his daughter Iole as a bride for a winner. Heracles, whom Eurytus taught archery many years ago, beats all contestants. However, Eurytus remembers the fate of Heracles’s first wife Megara and her and Heracles’s children, and, fearing for his daughter to suffer similar fate, stops the contest and refuses Heracles to get the prize. As a result Heracles dishonorably kills Eurytus’s son Iphitos and leaves the city.

Heracles doesn’t give up neither the idea of a royal marriage, or the memory of Iole, and he finds another, less picky Calydonian king Oeneus, who gives his daughter Deianara as a bride to Heracles. Now, as a prince, he has an army and uses it to conquer city Oechalia. Heracles kills stubborn Eurytus and his other sons, while Iole tries to throw herself off the city’s walls, but her garments work as a parachute and she safely lands on Heracles’s hands, and he makes Iole a concubine.

This is the third and last sin of a King. The problem here is not in a sexual violence and adultery in itself. This type of a behavior is natural for the third, Wellbeing-Fertility caste, typical representative of which, like Centauri, Pans or Gandharva, are half-men, half-beasts, and they are excused for such a behavior while they bring life-forces of nature to the human world. It’s the use of such behavior to get personal advantages in the world of petty, artificially made up ranks of civilization (from the point of view of the third caste) what makes this type of conduct venal and punishable for a King.

No surprise that Deianara, who were a mere tool for Heracles to satisfy his lust for power,  were also a tool for delivering his punishment. At the beginning of their marriage, Heracles saved Deianara from the rape by centaurs Nessus by killing him with poisoned in the Hydra blood arrow. When dyeing, Nessus gave Deianara his last gift – he told her to collect his blood, the blood of the ultimate creature of third function, which carries secrets of passion and procreation. When and if Heracles in the future decides to leave Deianara, she could use the centaur’s blood as a love potion. She probably forefelt that the moment will come, so Deianara collects the blood.

Now, being afraid that Heracles will forget her in favor of Iole, Deianara soaks Heracles’s cloak in Nessus’s blood and sends it to Heracles with a servant. When Heracles puts it on and the body heat warms the cloak, the second, personal “gift” from Nessus to Heracles turns on. Nessus’s blood was tainted with the Hydra’s poison, so it’s not only centaury magic of a love potion starts to work, but the Hydra’s destructive magic, too. Heracles is not only hyperbolically burned by the newly awakened passion to Deianara, but also literally burned by the magical flames of Hydra’s poison.

Not after Heracles has committed all three sins of a Hero and is completely destroyed by them, Hera gives her permission to Zeus to bring Heracles back to Olympus and adopt him as her own son. Heracles, suffering from never-healing burns consults the Oracle, and it tells Heracles he had to ascend to a pyre. When Heracles obeyed and the wood is ignited, a lightning strikes the pyre, instantly consuming it. Friends of Heracles can’t find his bones in the ashes after the lightning strike, so it was decided he was ascended to heavens and joined the gods…

To be continued…

Dumezil, Georges, 1983. The Stakes of the Warrior. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA

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