Side note: All right, I promised my friend and stalwart reader Jay that I’d would do some Arthurian legend. I will. I’m working towards it. It’s just that, in deciding to do this, I realized how many mythologies I need to give some kind of background on because they tie directly to Arthur in some way. So, bear with me. We’ve still got some mileage to put on our coconut shells.
Zeus, as everyone knows, sleeps around. Shamelessly. Incest is no barrier to this. He would have been perfect to appear on Jerry Springer or some other daytime talk-show. Moreover, he was completely unrepentant in how he had these affairs, often assaulting women to get what he wanted. That’s just who he was.
However, he did stop cheating, eventually. And here is the story of his last affair. Zeus disguised himself (not the only time he’s pulled this trick) as King Amphitryon to sleep with his wife, Alcmene. This particular night, thanks to Zeus’s meddling, lasted three times as long as normal (somewhere in the range of 24 hours; Zeus and Alcmene made love the entire time. Greek gods, or at least Zeus, have staying power. The warning on little blue pills says to consult a physician after 4 hours. I’m just saying.
The result of this night of pleasure is, dun dun dun: Hercules!
All right, fine, for those who are sticklers for accuracy, Hercules is the Roman version of his name. The Greek is most commonly transliterated as Heracles (though Herakles is more accurate). This actually is important since his name literally means Glory of Hera. This is an odd choice since Hera wants him dead. For, y’know, being a child resulting from yet another of Zeus’s affairs. She will be a constant thorn in Herc’s side, too, causing him his greatest grief, but that comes later, this is about the last affair.
Zeus, upon seeing Hercules, looked down, and said: “Good enough.” Okay, no, he didn't say it that way. It was more along the lines of "[Zeus] saw no prospect of begetting a hero to equal Heracles." After Herc was born, he had no more affairs. There was no need..
We need to know the why behind all this. First, for Zeus to proclaim (and follow-through) with saying he’s done having affairs means that he was after something, and it wasn’t just sex. Yes, he had sex aplenty, racking up more conquests than Barney Stinson by far. But sex wasn’t the goal, it was the means. Zeus had something in particular in mind with each mortal woman he slept with. And whatever that was, Hercules is what he was looking for. We’ll get more into that next week.