The Strongman of Ancient History Uncovered

Rare Hercules statue unearthed in Jezreel Valley

By ARIEH O’SULLIVAN / THE MEDIA LINE
08/16/2011

Naked, his muscles bulging as he leans on a club, a lion skin draped over his shoulder, the hero Hercules, son of Zeus, has reappeared in a Roman-era bathhouse in northern Israel.

Archaeologists uncovered the beautifully preserved white marble remains of the mythological hero in an emergency dig at Horvat Tarbenet in the biblical Jezreel Valley. Government archaeologists rushing to excavate the site to build a rail road line unearthed what they believed to be a large pool that was probably part of a Roman bathhouse.

“This is a rare discovery. The statue, which probably stood in a niche, was part of the decoration of a bathhouse pool that was exposed during the course of the excavations. It is a half-meter tall, is made of smoothed white marble and is of exceptional artistic quality,” said Dr. Walid Atrash of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Although Hercules was considered the strongest man in the world, this statue was found without his head. Atrash dated the statue to the second century CE. Benches were found on two sides of the pool, which had a sophisticated pumping system to fill it with water.

Horvat Tarbenet is located in the Jezreel Valley, about four kilometers (2.5 miles) northwest of the town of Afula. Atrash said it was a Jewish settlement in the third century CE which was mentioned in the Talmud as a site of learning.

Peter’s Comments:

Known as Hercules by the Romans or Heracles by the Greeks, the strongman of mythology was known to slay vile enemies, fight off multiple headed vipers (Hydra) and journey throughout the world completing tests or labors which would earn him recognition and glory. Hercules is an image of the classic Greek ideology of obtaining glory and power unto oneself and entering into the realm of being known as, “legendary.” Hercules was known to be partially immortal, thus he could surpass mortal men in size and strength, and yet retain a connection to the gods that only he could fully comprehend apart from mortal man. Hercules was a champion among warriors as he was revered by soldiers throughout the Greek world. However, the character of Hercules was the model in which men would have aspired to emulate as the Greek male would strive to develop the attributes of Hercules which were seen as: strength, beauty, courage, loyalty, and dedication. 

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