Heracles is best known as the strongest of all mortals, semi-Gods and even among Gods. So strong that he was the leader among the Gods in the battle against the giants . He was the last mortal son of Zeus. He is the only man born of mortal woman and to become a god upon his death.
Offsetting his strength was a noticeable lack of intelligence or wisdom. Once when he became too hot he pulled his bow out and threaten to shoot the sun. This coupled with strong emotions in one so powerful frequently got Heracles in trouble. While his friend and cousin Theseus ruled Athens, Heracles had trouble ruling himself. His pride was easily offended. He took up grudges easily and never forgot them. His appetites for food, wine, and women were as massive as his strength. Many of Heracles great deeds occurred while doing penance for stupid acts done in anger or carelessness.
His chosen weapon was a massive club. His customary garment was a lion skin with its head still attached. He impiously wounded some of the gods. He threatened Apollo's priestess at Delphi when a answer to his questions was not forthcoming. He himself created most of his own problems.
However, if he held grudges, he would also do anything to help a friend. Once his anger passed he was the most critical judge of his own actions. He was too strong for anyone to force a punishment on him. That he willingly did severe penance shows a fundamental sense of justice. During his punishments he shows patience, fortitude and endurance that are as heroic as his strength. Terrible things happen to him because of Hera's hatred, a hatred that he is not responsible for. That he perseveres through it all is a moral victory beyond simple strength.
The view of Heracles shifted considerable over time. The early view focused on how badly he managed despite his obvious gifts. As time passed the focus shifted to his virtues. He eventually had a fair sized cult that worshiped him as a god.
The most popular story was his twelve tasks.
1 Kill the Nemean Lion
This monster of a lion had a hide was so tough that no arrow could pierce it. Hercules stunned the beast with his olive-wood club and then strangled it with his bare hands. It is said that he skinned the lion, using the lion's sharp claws, and ever after wore its hide.
2 Kill the Lernean Hydra
The evil, snakelike Hydra had nine heads. If one got hurt, two would grow in its place. But Hercules quickly sliced off the heads, while his charioteer, Iolaus, sealed the wounds with a torch. Hercules made his arrows poisonous by dipping them in the Hydra's blood.
Three: Capture the Cerynian Hind
3 Capture the Golden horned deer
The goddess Artemis loved and protected this stubborn little deer, which had gold horns. Hercules found it a challenge to capture the delicate hind without hurting it (and making Artemis angry). After following the hind for an entire year, he safely carried it away.
4 Capture the Erymanthian Boar
The people of Mount Erymanthus lived in fear of this deadly animal. Hercules chased the wild boar up the mountain and into a snowdrift. He then took it in a net and brought it to King Eurystheus, who was so frightened of the beast that he hid in a huge bronze jar.
5 Clean the Augean Stables
Thousands of cows lived in these stables belonging to King Augeas. They had not been cleaned in 30 years, but Hercules was told to clean them completely in a single day. To do so he made two rivers bend so that they flowed into the stables, sweeping out the filth.
6 Kill the Stymphalian Birds
These murderous birds lived around Lake Stymphalos. Their claws and beaks were sharp as metal and their feathers flew like darts. Hercules scared them out of their nests with a rattle and then killed them with the poison arrows he had made from the Hydra's blood.
7 Capture the Cretan Bull
This savage bull, kept by King Minos of Crete, was said to be insane and breathe fire. Hercules wrestled the mad beast to the ground and brought it back to King Eurystheus. Unfortunately, the king set it free, and it roamed Greece, causing terror wherever it went.
8 Capture the Horses of Diomedes
King Diomedes, leader of the Bistones, fed his bloodthirsty horses on human flesh. Hercules and his men fought and killed King Diomedes and fed the king to his horses. This made the horses tame, so that Hercules was able to lead them to King Eurystheus.
9 Take the Girdle of the Amazon Queen Hippolyte
Hercules went to the land of the Amazons, where the queen welcomed him and agreed to give him her girdle for Eurystheus's daughter. But Hera spread the rumor that Hercules came as an enemy. In the end he had to conquer the Amazons and steal the golden belt.
10 Capture the Cattle of Geryon
Geryon, a winged monster with three human bodies, had a herd of beautiful red cattle. He guarded his prized herd with the help of a giant and a vicious two-headed dog. Hercules killed Geryon, the giant, and the dog and brought the cattle to King Eurystheus.
11 Take the Golden Apples of the Hesperides
The Hesperides were nymphs. In their garden grew golden apples protected by Ladon, a dragon with a hundred heads. Hercules struck a bargain with Atlas, who held up the earth. Hercules shouldered the earth while Atlas, the nymphs' father, fetched the apples.
12 Capture Cerberus
Hercules was ordered to capture Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of the underworld, without using weapons. Hercules wrestled down the dog's wild heads, and it agreed to go with him to King Eurystheus. Cerberus was soon returned unharmed to the underworld.