The Library of History

Page 131

Page 131 to calumniate him, whom our Ancestors with unanimous Consent for his eminent Virtue honour'd with divine Honours.

And what can be more impious, than not to preserve and defend that Religious Respect to this God, which they by their Example have recommended to us? But letting these things pass; we shall relate the things done by him from the beginning, according as the Poets and the most ancient Mythologists have handed them down to us.

Perseus (they say) was the Son of Jupiter by Danae, the Daughter of Acrisius, and that Perseus begat Electryo of Andromeda, the Daughter of Cepheus, and that Electryo begat Alcmenes of Eurydice the Daughter of Pelops, and that Jupiter (deceiving Alcmenes) lay with her and begat Hercules: So that by this Genealogy Hercules descended from the chiefest of the Gods, both immediately by his Mother, and more remotely by his Great-Grand-Father Perseus. His Virtue and Valour were not only evident from his Acts, but might be concluded and foreseen by what happen'd before he was born: For when Jupiter lay with Alcmenes, he lengthen'd the Night threefold, so that spending so much time in procreating this Child, was a Sign how extraordinary strong he was like to be. They say that Jupiter lay not with her out of any amorous Pang of Love, as with other Women, but meerly for Procreation sake: And therefore willing that his Embraces at this time should be lawful, he forbore all Violence; and knowing that the Woman's Chastity was such, that no Arguments would prevail with her, he deceiv'd her by taking upon him the Shape of Amphitryo.

And now the Time of her Delivery drew nigh, when Jupiter full of thoughts concerning the Birth of Hercules, in the presence of all the Gods declar'd, that he would make him King of the Persians, who was to be born that that day. Whereupon Juno inrag'd with Jealousie, with the assistance of Ilithyia her Daughter, gave a Check to the delivery of Alcmenes, and brought forth Eurystheus before his full time. But though Jupiter was thus outwitted by Juno, yet that he might perform his Promise, he took care to preserve the Honour and Reputation of Hercules. And therefore its reported that he prevail'd with Juno to consent, that Eurystheus being made King according to his Promise, Hercules (who should be subject to him) performing Twelve Labours (such as Euristheus should impose upon him) should be taken into the Society of the Immortal Gods.

Alcmenes being deliver'd (out of fear of Juno's Jealousie) expos'd the Child in a place which is now from him call'd Hercules's his Field. About which time Minerva, together with Juno, walking Abroad, found the Infant, and much admiring his Beauty, Minerva persuaded Juno to give it suck: The Child drawing the Breast with more violence than at his Age was usual, Juno not able to indure the pain, cast away the Infant; whom Minerva took up, and brought Home to his Mother to be nurs'd by her. The Accident here seems very strange and remarkable. For the Mother, who ow'd a natural Affection to her own Child, expos'd him to Destruction; but she who hated him, as a Stepmother (unknowingly) preserv'd her natural Enemy.

Afterwards Juno sent two Serpents to devour the Child: But he took them with both his Hands by their Throats and strangl'd them. Upon which account the Argives (coming to understand what was done) call'd him Hercules, because Juno was the Occasion of his Glory and Fame; for he was before call'd Alcaeus. Others are nam'd by their Parents, but he gain'd his Name by his Valour.

In After-times it happen'd that Amphitrio, being banish'd from Tyrinthe, settl'd himself in Thebes; here Hercules was educated, here he was instructed and greatly improv'd in all laudable Exercises, in so much as he excell'd all others in Strength of Body, and also in the excellent Endowments of his Mind.

Being now grown up to Man's Estate, he first freed Thebes from tyrannical Slavery, and thereby made a grateful Return to the Country where he was bred. The Thebans at that time were under the Tyranny of Erginus, King of the Menyans, who every year exacted Tribute from them, not without Scorn and Contempt. Hercules therefore not at all discourag'd with the Greatness of the Bondage they labour'd under, attempted a glorious Piece of Service. For when those who were sent from the Menyae to collect the Tribute, carry'd it * insolently towards the People, he cut off their Ears, and cast them out of the City, whereupon

Bibliotheca Historica

The first five books