Demigods were brave men, who had rendered themselves famous in life by illustrious actions. After their death, their countrymen believed that they were admitted among the gods, and gave them divine honors. The circumstance of a mortal taking his place among the gods, was called an Apotheosis.
Hercules, the son of Jupiter and Alcmena. Juno hated him on his mother’s account, and resolved upon his destruction. For this purpose she sent two monstrous serpents to kill him as he was sleeping in his cradle. The infant hero awoke, and seizing the serpents in his hands, strangled them both. Juno was not discouraged, and when Hercules was grown up, devised new means to destroy him. She persuaded Jupiter to put Hercules under the authority of Eurystheus, king of Mycenæ, who imposed upon the hero twelve Labors, or tasks, of great danger and difficulty. Hercules was in doubt as to whether he should submit to this injustice, and consulted the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. The oracle told him that he must obey Eurystheus, which he accordingly did. Hercules had been carefully instructed by the Centaur Chiron, and he was now equipped for his labors by the liberality of the gods. He received a sword from Mercury, a bow from Apollo, a golden breastplate from Vulcan, horses from Neptune, and a robe from Minerva.