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Emperor Commodus, Vladmir Putin and Hercules Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Roman culture

Salvete Omnes,

This week I was torn on what to write about until yesterday. Yesterday was Putin’s birthday and with it an interesting art exhibit in his honor. Thus, this post will be a news jacking post. I do hope you enjoy.

 

Hercules also known as Herakles was a renowned and famous demigod that was originally a Greek hero and later migrated to Roman myth and cults. He was famous for his portrayals within myth as a force of purification, rebirth, and the guardian. He is most famously known for his 12 labors which include feats of struggle via a monster(s), clever opponent, dire situations, or simply him using his logic to outwit an enemy.

Roman relief (3rd century AD) depicting a sequence of the Labours of Hercules, representing from left to right the Nemean lion, the Lernaean Hydra, the Erymanthian Boar, the Ceryneian Hind, the Stymphalian birds, the Girdle of Hippolyta, the Augean stables, the Cretan Bull and the Mares of Diomedes.Courtesy of Wikicommons & Marie-Lan- Nguyen.

Roman relief (3rd century AD) depicting a sequence of the Labours of Hercules, representing from left to right the Nemean lion, the Lernaean Hydra, the Erymanthian Boar, the Ceryneian Hind, the Stymphalian birds, the Girdle of Hippolyta, the Augean stables, the Cretan Bull and the Mares of Diomedes.Courtesy of Wikicommons & Marie-Lan- Nguyen.

Heracles was so popular in antiquity for his feats that cults were established in his honor in both Greece and Rome. One of the most famous followers of his cult would have to be Emperor Commodus.

Commodus as Hercules, Capitoline Museums. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Marie-Lan-Nguyen.

Commodus as Hercules,
Capitoline Museums. Courtesy of WikiCommons and Marie-Lan-Nguyen.

Commodus was extremely proud of his physical prowess and his good looks; thus, he has many statues and busts commissioned (like the one above in the lion skin with a club).  He truly felt that he was a reincarnation of Hercules since he was a leader, skilled warrior and hunter, and being proud of who he was (i.e. that he was proud to be left handed).

Just like Commodus and modern day leader has taken on the approach of identifying and perhaps even propaganda of being a modern day Hercules.

It is an interesting political stance to take for a modern Russian Leader.  More so, I wonder what it invokes in historians and viewers to see a modern leader compare himself  to an ancient mythical figure.  Perhaps more than this being a comparison between Hercules and Putin- it is one of Putin and the prolific leaders of Ancient Rome. Thereby, it is a comparison between Russia and Ancient Rome.

While I am still unsure what the full implications are, I am hopeful to have some awesome comments on your thoughts!

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About the Author: Brittany Britanniae

Hello There! Please feel free to ask me anything about Latin Grammar, Syntax, or the Ancient World.