STELNIK E.V. Job Versus Hercules: Virtue in the Articles of the Byzantine Suda Dictionary of the 10th Century


Evgeny V. Stelnik

Candidate of Sciences (History), Associate Professor,

Department of Service and Tourism, Volgograd State University,

Prosp. Universitetsky, 100, 400062 Volgograd, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. In ancient mythology, the image of Hercules is one of the most popular, and his heroic cult is one of the most common. Having emerged from the “conglomerate of folk tales”, the image of Hercules was actively assimilated by the Greek and then Roman literary tradition. Hercules was a very popular hero among Greek tragic and especially comic poets. In Roman times, the final systematization of the image took place. The key role in this process was played by the works of Apollodorus “The Mythological Library” (2nd century BC), “Pictures” by Philostratus the Younger (2nd century BC) and “Description of Hellas” by Pausanias (2nd century BC). Within the framework of the classical tradition, the image of Hercules in Roman times was finally formed and unambiguous. Hercules is a hero, a demigod, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, who possessed amazing strength, who killed his children (and the children of his brother Iphicles) in an act of madness. He performed 12 labours at the request of Eurystheus. Hercules lived with the Lydian queen Omphale dressing in a woman’s dress. He was poisoned by his wife Deianira, burned at the stake on Mount Eta and ascended to Olympus, where he became the spouse of Hebe.

Methods. The hermeneutic methodology, which ensured the correct understanding and interpretation of the text of the Suda dictionary and the ancient texts, on which this “antique” dictionary was based, is used in the article. The toolkit of the hermeneutic circle (pre-understanding and understanding of the text, interpretation of the whole based on knowledge of its parts) made it possible to highlight key elements (plots, signs and symbols) of the philosophical image of Hercules in the entries of the dictionary.

Results. We can see a kind of “muscular Christianity”, when the strength of the body still corresponds to moral perfection and the withdrawal from the world does not contradict the active entry into the still polis institutions of urban life in Byzantine cities, among which the most important was the hippodrome and sports competitions. Christian authors actively used traditional sports metaphors and images of wrestling, but filled them with new Christian content. In the dictionary of the Suda, there is a kind of replacement of images that embody the samples of virtue. Hercules always loses to Job. It is indicative that the Christian rhetoric, relying on the philosophical symbolism of the apotheosis of Hercules, using the “sports” terminology of struggle, ignores the developed philosophical symbolism of Hercules, and fights against the mythological “fables” about Hercules. Using cynical and stoic terminology, Christian rhetoric opposes the comedic and dramatic image of Hercules, as Herodore of Heracles did in the 5th century BC. That is, the enemy is borrowed from Christian rhetoric along with philosophical symbols and terminology describing a difficult life full of trials as a virtue.

Key words: virtue, philosophy, wrestling, athletes, Hercules, Job, Suda dictionary.

Citation. Stelnik E.V. Job Versus Hercules: Virtue in the Articles of the Byzantine Suda Dictionary of the 10th Century. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2020, vol. 25, no. 6, pp. 253-258. (inRussian). DOI:

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Job Versus Hercules: Virtue in the Articles of the Byzantine Suda Dictionary of the 10th Century by Stelnik E.V. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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