HERCULES - This celebrated of mythological romance was at first called Alcides, but received the name of Hercules, or Heracles, from the Pythia of Delphos. Feigned by the poets of antiquity to have been a son of "the Thunderer," but born of an earthly mother, he was exposed, through Juno's implacable hatred to him as the offspring of Alemena, to a course of perils, which commenced whilst he was yet in his cradle, and under each of which he seemed to perish, but as constantly proved victorious.
At length finishing his allotted career with native valor and generosity, though too frequently the submissive agent of the meanness and injustice of others, he perished self-devotedly on the funeral pile, which was lighted on Mount Oeta. Jupiter raised his heroic progeny to the skies; and Hercules was honored by the pagan world, as the most illustrious of deified mortals. The extraordinary enterprises cruelly imposed upon, but gloriously achieved, by this famous demigod, are to be found depicted, not only on Greek coins, but also on the Roman series both consular and imperial. The first, and one of the most dangerous, of undertakings, well-known under the name of the twelve labors of Hercules, was that of killing the huge lion of Nemea; on which account the intrepid warrior is represented, clothes in the skin of that forest monarch; he also bears uniformly a massive club, sometimes without any other arms, but at others with a bow and quiver of arrows. On a denarius of the Antia gens he is represented walking with trophy and club.
When his head alone is typified, as in Mucia gens, it is covered with the lion's spoils, in which distinctive decoration he was imitated by many princes, and especially by those who claimed descent from him - as for example, the kings of Macedonia, and the successors of Alexander the Great. Among the Roman emperors Trajan is the first whose coins exhibit the figure and attributes of Hercules.
On a denarius of this prince (P . M. TR. P. COS. III. P. P.) his image standing on a basis, has a club in the right hand, and an apple in the left (allusive to the Hesperides); the skin of the Nemean lion being thrown, like the pallium, over his shoulders, and falling on his left arm.