Dr. Silvio Bär (University of Oslo), "A Gluttonous Strongman and Irascible Stoic: Heracles in Greek Epic from Homer to Nonnus"
Like no other character from ancient mythology, Heracles embraces various features and character traits that often heavily contradict each other. For example, we can find the type of the furious and irascible Heracles in tragedy, the gluttonous and bibulous Heracles in comedy, and the abstentious, “Stoic” Heracles in philosophy. The focus of this lecture will be on how Heracles appears as a literary character in Ancient Greek epic from Homer to Nonnus, and how these and other character traits are functionalized in these texts. Although Heracles never assumes the role of a protagonist in any of the surviving Greek epics, it can be demonstrated that he serves specific narrative and/or metapoetic purposes in all of them. Based on the method of narratological character analysis, it is argued that the Heracles figure is particularly apt to serve this end precisely because of its decidedly multifaceted and in large parts contradictory character, and that Heracles’ inherent character inconsistency may be viewed as a paradigm of what can be labelled “mythology’s ability to contradict itself”.