The Choice of Hercules

Hercules is a popular fictional figure in literature, often portrayed as an ideal hero who made difficult choices to overcome adversity and achieve greatness. His story exemplifies the importance of making sacrifices for the greater good.

The “The Choice of Hercules” is a novel that follows the life of Hercules from his birth to death. The book is written in third person and is told through the narrator’s perspective.

Choice of hercules painting story in memorabilia by xenophon.

Note from the editor: Xenophon (430–354 B.C.) was a Greek historian and a disciple of Socrates, the philosopher. His Memorabilia is a collection of Socratic dialogues that claims to be a chronicle of Socrates’ defense before the Athenians during his trial. Socrates used a narrative recounted by the Sophist Prodicus, The Choice of Hercules, to argue against indolence and for the benefits of effort.

Throughout the eighteenth century, this narrative was popular, and it was extensively studied by young men and represented by artists. John Adams used it to guide his life, and he wanted an image of the story to be the design for the new nation’s Great Seal. The allegory’s strength resides in its capacity to express a basic truth: there can be no sweetness without bitterness, no progress without virtue, and no genuine enjoyment without work.

Hercules’ Selection from Xenophon’s Memorabilia, c. 371 B.C.

When Hercules was at that stage of his life when it was normal for him to wonder what path he should take in life, he went to a desert one day, where the calm and seclusion of the area greatly aided his musings.

He was contemplating on his current situation, and he was concerned as to which stage of life he should pick, when he saw two ladies of greater size approaching him. Her beauty was natural and easy, her body pure and unspotted, her movements and manner full of humility, and her raiment was white as snow. The other desired all of the former’s natural beauty and proportion; her person had been bloated by affluence and comfort to an unattractive size. She had painted her skin to make it look fairer and ruddier than it was, and she tried to appear more elegant than average in her manner by using a combination of affectation in all her actions. She gazed at herself a lot, then moved her gaze to people around her to check whether anybody was looking at her, and sometimes looked at the figure she created in her own shadow.

As they got closer, the former maintained her calm demeanor, while the latter, eager to go ahead of her, rushed up to Hercules and addressed herself to him:

“My darling Hercules,” she adds, “I perceive you to be extremely split in your views about the path of life you should choose; be my buddy, and follow me; I will lead you into the possession of pleasure, out of the reach of suffering, and away from all the clamor and disquietude of work.” You will not be disturbed by matters of peace or conflict. Your whole job will be to make your life easier and to satisfy each sense with its appropriate gratifications. Sumptuous dinners, rose beds, clouds of scents, music concerts, and throngs of beautiful people are all waiting to welcome you. Come with me into this land of joys, this paradise of pleasure, and say goodbye to sorrow, misery, and business for all time.”


Hearing the woman speak in this way, Hercules inquired about her name, to which she replied, “My friends and acquaintances call me Happiness; but my enemies and those who would harm my reputation have given me the moniker of Pleasure.”

By this time, the second woman had arrived, and she greeted the young hero in a completely different way.

“I offer myself to you, Hercules,” she adds, “because I know you are sprung from the gods, and you prove it by your love of virtue and commitment to the studies appropriate for your age.” This gives me hope that you will achieve immortality, both for yourself and for me. But, before I welcome you into my company and friendship, I must be forthright and honest with you, and must state unequivocally that there is nothing genuinely precious that can be obtained without suffering and work. Every genuine and noble pleasure has a cost determined by the gods. If you want the Deity’s favor, you must take efforts to adore him; if you want decent men’s friendship, you must learn to please them; if you want your nation to respect you, you must take care to serve it. In summary, if you want to be a leader in war or peace, you must master all of the characteristics that may help you achieve that goal. These are the only terms and circumstances under which I am willing to provide happiness.”

“You see,” she replied, “Hercules, by her own admission, the route to her joys is lengthy and difficult; nevertheless, that which I offer is fast and simple.” “Alas!” said the other woman, whose expression was a mix of derision and sympathy, “what joys do you propose?” Eat before you’re hungry, drink before you’re thirsty, and sleep before you’re exhausted; satiate your cravings before they’re aroused. You’ve never heard the most delectable music, which is one’s own praise; nor have you ever seen the most lovely item, which is one’s own handiwork. Your devotees waste their youth in a fantasy of erroneous pleasures, while saving agony, misery, and regret for old age.”

“As for me, I am a god’s and good man’s friend, a pleasant companion to the craftsman, a domestic guardian to the fathers of families, a patron and defender of servants, and a comrade in all real and kind friendships.” My votaries’ dinners are seldom expensive, but always wonderful, since no one is invited to them unless they are hungry or thirsty. Their sleeps are restful, and their awakenings are joyful. My young men like hearing themselves complimented by the older generation, and the older generation enjoys being recognized by the younger generation. In a nutshell, my disciples are favored by the gods, cherished by their acquaintances, respected by their nation, and honored by posterity at the end of their labors.”




Hercules is a demigod in Greek mythology who was the son of Zeus. He was known for his immense strength and being able to perform many impossible tasks such as killing the Nemean Lion, capturing Cerberus, and cleaning out the Augean stables in one day. The “Choice of Hercules” is a story that takes place at the crossroads where Hercules must make a choice between continuing on his path or returning home to help his family. Reference: hercules at the crossroads.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the story of the choice of Hercules?

A: In Greek mythology, Hercules was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman named Alcmene. He is also known as Heracles or Iolaus. Hera sent two eagles to kill him at birth because his father had cheated on her but they were killed by Artemis who saved his life in return for one favor which would be that he would help her destroy some snakes she had caused trouble with (this story was retold in modern times by William Shakespeare).

Does Hercules choose Vice or Virtue?

A: Herculess choice will depend on the players decisions.

Who wrote the choice of Heracles?

A: The choice of Heracles was not written by a specific author. Instead, it is an amalgam of Greek mythology and classical myths that has been passed down through the centuries.

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