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The Pillars of Heracles

21 Mar 2021 | Greek

One of the most fascinating stories of the Greek Mythology is the battle of the hero Heracles (the original Greek name of the Roman Hercules) against nature and his own guilt, to redeem himself and achieve the ultimate glory as the most celebrated man in the ancient world.

The Labours of Hercules – as it is most known – represent the impossible made possible, mostly the overcoming of humankind over nature and itself in the broadest sense of it.

Perhaps his greatest act – and our favourite – is when King Eurystheus sent the hero to the unknown with the mission to retrieve the Cattle of Geryon, far beyond the west. By that time, going so far from everything was a terrifying thought, but somehow his deed defined the Greeks as a nation of great explorers.

Besides the mythical tales, there is one physical place that is forever related to Hercules tale and his tenth labour: the mighty Pillars of Hercules.

There are many versions of its mythical origin. In our favourite amongst them, the Pillars originated when, in search for the Cattle of Geryon, Hercules found himself in front of a huge mountain and, instead of going around wasting his time, he decided to use his strength to smash the rock, forming what we know today as Strait of Gibraltar. On another version, the – later – god narrowed the Strait to prevent monsters of the Atlantic from haunting Greek waters.

For many centuries, the pillars were used as reference to describe something far beyond, almost out of reach. Plato, the philosopher, wrote that the legendary city of Atlantis was located beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which could be described as today’s Southern Spain. A very mystical place, with caves and offerings to the demigod, forever connected to one of the most stunning tales ever told.

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