Hercules is a mythological figure that impacts our contemporary culture as much as it did ancient ones. Through his triumph over the 12 Labors, Hercules has come to symbolize masculinity, strength, and courage, which many individuals want to embody for themselves.
Because of the power associated with Hercules, Hercules tattoos have become very common, especially among men. Men look up to this demigod as an example of strength, courage, and determination, all characteristics that many people idolize.
To learn more about the symbolism behind Hercules tattoos, keep reading.
What Is the History of Hercules Tattoos?
Artists for centuries have been fascinated by Hercules and used him as inspiration for their art. Because he faced insurmountable trials and got through them with his determination and strength, artists have loved to depict his masculinity and ability to beat the odds.
Naturally, tattoo artists have been inspired by Hercules as well. Hence, these tattoos have been popular for years. Especially during the tattoo renaissance, tattoo artists love to depict Hercules in action.
What Does Hercules Symbolize?
In order to understand the symbolism of Hercules, you have to go back to Greek myth.
The History of Hercules
Hercules, sometimes called Heracles, was a demigod, meaning he was the son of a mortal and a god, Zeus.
Zeus’ wife Hera became jealous and tried to kill Hercules with a serpent at a young age.
Because he had god-like strength, Hercules fought off the serpent but could not kill his stepmother, which caused him to go insane. This insanity continued into his adult life, causing him to kill his wife Megara and their three children. Hercules exiled himself as a result.
To escape the shame and cycle, Hercules went to the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle recommended Hercules to serve the King of Mycenae for 12 years.
During this time, Hera pretended to help the king by recommending he assign Hercules to do extremely grueling tasks, called the 12 Labors.
Some of the labors include slaying a lion with impenetrable fur, slaying a 9-headed hydra (a type of serpent monster), and capturing the giant boar of Arcadia.
These are just a few of the tasks Hera and the king had for Hercules, but they are some of the most relevant for tattoos. Despite how impossible these tasks seemed, Hercules was able to slay the monsters.
Having the strength of a god but the body of a mortal causes Hercules to be most often associated with bodily strength.
Furthermore, Hercules often represents determination and hard work. After all, the 12 Labors required indescribable effort, even for a demigod like Hercules, to finish.
Hercules is always associated with extreme courage too. Being put up against a giant lion, 3 headed dog, or giant boar is enough to scare mortal men away. However, Hercules was determined to face the challenges head-on, proving his extreme courageousness.
Because Hercules is associated with strength, hard work, and courage, he is typically the symbol of ideal masculinity. Although he is not without his faults, Hercules is one of the best representations for mortal men trying to embody the masculine ideal because he is strong, determined, and brave.
What Do Hercules Tattoos Mean?
Hercules tattoos are almost always associated with strength, determination, courage, and masculinity that Hercules himself embodies.
Although women can certainly wear Hercules tattoos to represent strength and courage, it is particularly a favorite tattoo for men because of Hercules’ association with the masculine ideal.
The tattoo symbolizes the power that can come from their masculinity and everything they can accomplish when backed with courage.
Hercules is almost always associated with positive meanings. These tattoos typically represent the positive understanding of masculinity, with its strength, determination, and courageousness. Here are some of the most positive meanings related to these tattoos:
- Self will
- Overcoming insurmountable odds
Because Hercules does have a dark side, namely the murder of his wife and children, these tattoos aren’t always positive. Most importantly, these tattoos may symbolize a lack of emotion, lack of intimacy, and insanity, all of which Hercules was plagued with.
In many ways, these negative attributes are explained as being examples of unfettered masculinity or completely lacking femininity.
Even though the masculine ideal is strong and something to work towards, it must be paired with the feminine ideal in some way.
It’s important that you avoid these negative meanings and associate your tattoo with the positive attributes of the demigod. Here are the most common negative meanings ascribed to the tattoos:
- Rash action
- Murderous power
- Lack of emotional intimacy
To avoid these negative meanings, you want the power to demonstrate the strength and power of Hercules matched with wisdom and discernment.
Characteristics and Styles of Hercules Tattoos
Hercules tattoos are meant to show the masculinity, strength, and muscles of the demigod. In order to do this, Hercules tattoos use the stories of the 12 Labors and detail.
Often, Hercules tattoos show him facing one of the 12 Labors. His slaying of a lion, hydra, boar, and 3-headed dog are the most popular scenes.
These scenes are obviously recognized as being one of the Labors of Hercules and demonstrating his extreme strength, determination, and masculinity.
Since the purpose of these tattoos is to show the strength and masculinity of Hercules, he often is adorned with rippling muscles and extreme detail on the face and body. This detail work is meant to emphasize the good qualities of Hercules.
Where Do Hercules Tattoos Usually Go?
Hercules tattoos can go almost anywhere, but they are most popular on major body muscles. For example, they are famously on arms and thighs. This placement of the tattoo mimics the strength symbolized in Hercules.
Hercules tattoos typically symbolize unadulterated strength, determination, courage, and masculinity. By selecting detailed tattoos that show him defeating one of the 12 Labors, your tattoos can embody these principles. Make sure that the strength is not unfettered and is matched with wisdom and restraint as well.