From all the characters in Greek mythology we all remember Hercules. This son of Zeus was raised by human parents to avoid the wrath of Hades, the God of the Underworld. His only power was his incredible strength, which made him an outcast rather than a hero. Once he discovers his true heritage, he receives Pegasus, his loyal companion, and with the help of his trainer Fil he becomes a legend. Well, at least according to the Disney version.
In the actual myth, Pegasus is made out Medusa’s blood after the Greek warrior decapitates her. Hercules isn’t Hera’s child either but the product of his father’s multiple philandering with mortals. In the mythology, the Fates were beautiful winged women who would weave and cut the threads of life, but the animation combined them with the Graeae from the story of Perseus, who were old women who shared one eye and one tooth.
Disney probably did these changes in order to simplify the story and make it G-rated. However, there are several artistic monuments in the movies that are not exactly what they seem.
The Temple of Zeus
When Hercules sings “Go the Distance” and starts his journey to the Temple of Zeus to pray to the Gods, he encounters his true father, who provides him with counsel to find his own path. This colossal statue was one of the wonders of the ancient world. It included 12 metopes to represent the 12 acts of penance Hercules made for killing his wife, children, and nephews. This was brought on by a fit of madness caused by Hera.
Unlike depictions of the real thing, the animated version should be made out of gold. Zeus should also have a scepter in his left hand and the Goddess Nike in the other.
St. Peter’s Square
The market Hercules accidentally destroys is actually Saint Peter’s Square. It was designed by Bernini to appear as two outstretched arms, reflecting the Church’s maternal instinct. Yet the real edifice is in Rome not in Greece. It was also built several centuries after Ancient Greece’s reigning moment.
Venus de Milo
In the film we see the “Venus de Milo” in the middle of the fountain. When Hercules throws a stone in the water, it hits the sculpture making its arms fall off. The real Venus, also known as the “Aphrodite of Milos,” was made between 130 and 100 B.C. and is attributed as the work of the sculptor Alexandros of Antioch. However, her arms were not in the position showed in the animation but as in the picture shown below.
The fresco of Spring
When Hercules’ adoptive parents tell him the truth about his origins, the Spring fresco is part of the wall’s decoration. This painting of Akrotiri is one of the most ancient landscapes, dating around 1650 B.C. However, the shapes that make up the fresco are not entirely right and give the mural a very different look.
When Megara and the Muses sing “I won’t say I’m in Love,” there’s a moment when the muses become part of the Caryatids. These female shaped columns are just some of the most famous sculptures from Ancient Greece. The most notable were those of the temple of Erechtheion at the Acropolis. Despite each muse in the film representing a different Caryatid, the real ones were hard to tell apart.
Translated by María Suárez