Excavated in the Roman Forum in 1771, this statue of the Greek hero Herakles depicts him in one of his less glorious moments. The son of the god Zeus and the mortal Alcmena, he was famed for his twelve superhuman labors. They are alluded to here by the club and the lion skin on the tree trunk, mementos of his first task, the killing of the monstrous lion of Nemea. Herakles, however, was also noted for his prodigious drinking. The lowered head and advanced right leg suggest that Herakles is feeling his way gingerly, an interpretation enhanced by the balancing positions of the restored arms. His parted lips and aged face depict a hero somewhat worse for wear. There are no clues to the specific adventure from which he is recovering, and his career offers numerous possibilities.
The stories connected with Herakles offered Hellenistic sculptors a wealth of opportunities to experiment with the depiction of the effects of exertion, fatigue, and wine. The hero was popular in Roman times as Hercules, and Roman patrons commissioned numerous copies of the Hellenistic works to decorate their homes, as well as gymnasia and other public places.
tags: proportion, balance, mythology, communication, observation, power, Ancient Rome, narrative, hero