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Electryon, High King of Mycenae and son of Perseus (yes, THAT Perseus), was boiling with rage. Those pilfering cattle rustlers, the dastardly Taphians and Teleboans, had joined forces and successfully raided his herd. In the ensuing skirmish, eight of Electryon's sons had died.

Up in arms over this unspeakable crime, King Electryon mobilized his formidable army and set off to teach the thieves a lesson: Nobody steals his cattle!

"Rule well, and when I return victorious, you shall marry my daughter Alcmene!" he said to his nephew, King Amphitryon of Troezen, leaving him in charge as he rode off to round up the scoundrels.

When Amphitryon discovered that the King of Elis had bought his uncle's stolen cattle for a song, he paid a large ransom and recalled Electryon to identify them, pleased that he had recovered the herd, albeit for a price.

Imagine his surprise when tightwad Electryon tossed a fit!

"What right had the Eleans to sell stolen property, and why did Amphitryon condone this swindle?" he asked, but in more colorful terms.

Miffed at Electryon's ingratitude, Amphitryon angrily tossed his club at one of the cows which had wandered away from the herd. The club, as if guided by divine force, struck the cow's horns, rebounded and killed Electryon.

Oh my. Amphitryon was banished from the land and, accompanied by Alcmene, fled to Thebes, where King Creon purified him - after first making him promise never to throw a club at a cow in his presence, no doubt.

But Alcmene refused to lie with her new husband until he had avenged the death of her eight brothers.

"Dear, we've been married for six months now, and I've yet to taste the fruits of marital bliss," would complain Amphitryon to Alcmene.

"Yeah, well bliss this!" she would retort. "You think you ain't getting any now, stick around, pal! Last time I checked, my eight brothers were still dead, and nary a hero to avenge them!"

"Well, what can I do, sweetie? I'm a stranger in a foreign land, with no soldiers, no gold, and a real serious case of pent-up sexual frustration," would moan Amp.

"What can you do? I suggest that you raise a herd of cows, wait till the enemy is in sight, then start heaving clubs at the poor animals. The enemy should all be dead in no time!"

Ouch! Low blow or what? Alcmene would never let Amphitryon forget that his errant toss had killed her father. Hey, it wasn't like he meant it...

Hearing of this dilemma, hospitable King Creon took pity on him and permitted Amphitryon to raise an army. Aided by Athenian, Argive, Phocian and Locrian troops, Amphitryon trounced the Teleboans and Taphians and bestowed their islands on his allies.

Miraculously, not a single cow was harmed in the process.

Yeah, so what's all this cow manure got to do with Hercules, you're thinking. Well, meanwhile, back at Rancho Olympus, King of the Olympians Zeus had observed the unfolding events with curious (and lascivious) interest. Guess what happened next.

Yup. Taking advantage of Amphitryon's absence, Zeus assumed his appearance and, impersonating her husband, "returned" home and assured Alcmene that her eight dead brothers were now avenged.

It wasn't a lie, because just that morning Amphitryon and his troops had routed the killer cattle rustlers, exacting revenge.

Disguised as husband Amphitryon, mighty Zeus then lay with the grateful Alcmene all night, which actually was three nights. You see, under Zeus' command, Hermes had ordered Helios, the sun god, to quench the solar fires, have the Hours unyoke his team, and "take the next couple of days off, go work on your tan or something."

Horny Zeus knew that the procreation of so great a champion as he had in mind could not be accomplished in haste. Man, was he ever full of himself, three full nights of erotic merriment...

Well at least Hera still held the Olympic record of wedding night bliss, with her and Zeus' 300-year marathon...

"I don't want to make light of the matter, but back in my youth, day was day and night was night!" I heard Helios muttering as he parked his golden chariot. "Cronus never cavorted all over Thebes with other men's wives! Get a tan indeed! How in Hades can I get a tan in the dark?"

But that wasn't all: Ever the romantic, Hermes added his own small touches by directing the Moon (Selene) to go slowly, and Sleep (Hypnos) to make mankind so drowsy that no one would notice what was happening.

It worked. Alcmene delighted in hearing Zeus' account of the crushing defeat of her brothers' killers, and loved him passionately for the whole thirty-six hours. The next day, when her real husband returned, full of victory stories and pent-up lust for her, the exhausted Alcmene wasn't as responsive as he had hoped.

"Dear, last night was wonderful, but it seemed to last forever and we didn't sleep a wink," she told him, walking with great effort. "Besides, you already told me all about your battle exploits."

Utterly confused, Amphitryon the next day consulted the oracle Teiresias, who told him how Zeus in his guise had deceived and seduced Alcmene. Adding insult to injury, poor Amphitryon never again dared sleep with his own wife Alcmene, lest he incur the wrath of Zeus.

Nine months later, Hercules was born. And that's when things got real funky.

Why don't you grab your favorite beverage, curl up in your most comforatble spot, and join me as we marvel at the astonishing accomplishments of mighty Hercules, son of Zeus and Alcmene.

March Myth of the Month continues here: Hercules Chapter Two