From Ovid and Virgil to the muscle beaches of Malibu, Hercules has made an indelible impression on Western culture. Hercules is the original hero: half-god, half-man; strong, handsome and virile; triumphant in his twelve labours yet ultimately victim of his tragic destiny. He has been variously portrayed for thousands of years in sculpture, painting and verse, and more recently depicted on stage and screen. Roman emperors, renaissance princes and totalitarian dictators have all attempted to appropriate his image. This unconventional biography of Hercules charts his life from his dramatic birth in Thebes to his agonizing death on a flaming pyre. Along the way, it recounts many long-forgotten yet revealing adventures and shows Hercules to be much more than just a muscle-bound hero. His life story, which mixes elements of tragedy and comedy, often makes uncomfortable reading: a rapist, drunkard and transvestite, Hercules’ excesses explore some of the darkest recesses of human nature.