History of the ancient sarcophagus depicting the 12 labors of Hercules

(ORDO NEWS) — The Museum of Archeology in Konya, Turkey, has exhibited a sarcophagus depicting scenes known in mythology as the “Twelve Labors of Heracles” and is known as the best piece of high relief ever found.

The sarcophagus was accidentally found by a farmer in the village of Yunuslar in the Beysehir district of Konya in 1958.

Two skeletons belonging to a woman and a man were found inside the sarcophagus, which were dated to the Roman period (between 220-260 AD), but no information was found about the owner of the sarcophagus.

The sarcophagus weighing 8 tons is 250 cm long, 130 cm wide and 170 cm high. It belongs to the Sidamar type sarcophagi and is one of the most valuable artifacts in the Konya Archaeological Museum.

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12 works of Hercules, which are dedicated to such sarcophagi, which are rare in Anatolia, are mentioned in mythology as follows.

Hercules appears in countless myths of Greek mythology. Unlike most demigods, Hercules was elevated to the rank of god. Many of the great families of Greece and Rome traced their lineage back to Hercules.

The father of Hercules/Hercules was Zeus, and his mother was the daughter of King Mycenae, the mortal princess Alcmene. Zeus was married to the goddess Hera when he conceived Hercules with Alcmene.

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Hera was vengeful and hated Hercules because he reminded Hera of her unfaithful husband Zeus.

Hera, unable to withstand the strong character of Hercules and the fact that he was a very popular child among people, sends snakes to Hercules, but Hercules somehow gets rid of them.

Hercules grew up, married and had many children. Knowing how much Hercules loves his wife and children, Hera sends Hercules into a frenzy that forces him to kill his wife and children, taking everything Hercules loved.

Hercules, who was born as the fruit of Zeus’s dream of creating a hero who would help suffering people and gods, when he suffered a nervous breakdown from this madness that Hera sent against him, could become a complete monster.

So much so that in one of these crises he killed his teacher, who taught him to play the lyre; in another crisis, he hacked to death his children and wife with arrows.

As Hercules regains his sanity, he realizes what he has done to his family and is overcome with grief. Hercules turned to Apollo, a god who could offer healing, knowledge, and prophecy. Apollo told Heracles that he should serve Eurystheus, king of Tirin, to make amends.

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King Eurystheus was the one who seized the throne of Hercules by playing with the goddess Hera. And he fears that Hercules, who has been assigned to serve him for 10 years, will one day seize his throne.

In order not to lose the throne, Eurystheus decides to send him on tasks that will end in death, but he cannot prevent Hercules from successfully completing the 12 tasks he ordered.

These 12 works were depicted on sarcophagi built by wealthy people who held a prominent position in Roman society. We can list the 12 jobs that Eurystheus entrusted to Hercules as follows.

1. Kill the Nemean Lion.

2. Kill the Lernaean Hydra.

3. Catch a golden deer.

4. Catch an Erymanthian boar.

5. Clear the stables of King Augeas.

6. Defeat the Stymphalian birds.

7. Catch a Cretan bull.

8. Return the mares of Diomedes.

9. Get Hippolyta’s belt.

10. Get Geryon’s cattle.

11. Bring the golden apples of the Hesperides.

12. Catch Cerberus.


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