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Hercules and Sampson: A Comparison

This research will compare and contrast the mythic figures Hercules, from Greek mythology, and Samson, from the Hebrew Bible. The research will discuss how each can be interpreted in terms of heroic tragedy. The narrative lines of Hercules (Heracles/Herakles) and Samson are strikingly similar. Both are heroes of their respective cultures, both are distinguished chiefly by their great physical strength, and both are flawed as human beings, superhuman as they are. The flaws figure prominently into their individual experience, but their behavior and growth over the period of their lives are implicated in the culture of which they are each representative.

There appears to have been rough equivalence in the time period that the stories of Samson and Hercules first emerged. The Samson narrative, which takes up four chapters of Judges (13-16), focuses on the exceptionalism of Samson within the community of the people of Israel in the period between the death of Joshua, Moses's legatee, and the onset of the so-called historical period of Israel, which includes the reigns of David and Solomon (Hartman, et al. 215), the division of Israel into north and south kingdoms in Palestine, the Babylonian captivity, and the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC. The time of the Samson story is positioned at about 1200 BC; the Trojan War is positioned at 1193-1184 (Hartman, et al. 23-4), and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey have been dated at 850 BC at the latest ("Homer" 425-6). Given the flowering of Aegean and Mycenaean civilization after 1500 BC, the Hercules story, which is cited by Homer (Rose 210), predates that of Samson. This does not mean that the Samson story is derived from that of Hercules; however, the correspondence between the heroic narratives of Greek myth and Hebrew tradition is difficult to ignore.

Mythographers identify Samson and Hercules as the heroic figures of their respective cultures, and although Graves says that Hercules is equiva...

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Hercules and Sampson: A Comparison. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:31, November 29, 2021, from