Hercules Poisoned by the Shirt of Nessus
Every culture has its own stories and characters. The ancient Greeks and Romans called their stories myths and their characters included gods, monsters and heroes. These myths were so popular that hundreds of years later, in the Middle Ages, people continued to tell them and show them in art.

The most famous of all the Greek heroes was Herakles. He was the son of Zeus, who was the king of the gods, and Alkmene, a mortal woman. In Roman and later times, Herakles was known as Hercules. He had superhuman strength—he was strong enough to carry two building columns! He was known for fighting ferocious animals and monsters.

Hercules is often shown wearing or carrying the skin of a great lion he killed. He may also be shown fighting off mythical creatures like the Hydra, a many-headed snake. This painting is from an illuminated manuscript from the Middle Ages. An illuminated manuscript is a one-of-a-kind book with hand-painted illustrations. Here, Hercules is shown uprooting trees with his bare hands! Hercules isn't strong enough to escape all danger, though. He is wearing a shirt dipped in poison given to him by his wife; the shirt would eventually kill him.

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