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Heracles at the Crossroads The gods had given Heracles every grace of body and mind, but there was one thing he must do for himself: choose how to use them. Music: Elias Parish Alvars

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About this picture …

The Woman in White... ‘Elegant Young Woman’ by Artúr Lajos Halmi (1866-1939), painted in 1909.

Heracles at the Crossroads
Heracles, a child of Zeus, is endowed with astonishing physical strength and skill, but does he also have strength of character to match?

HERACLES’S stepfather Amphitryon trained his boy in all the warlike arts, and did not forget music and letters.

But knowledge does not always confer wisdom, and after Heracles, blinded by rage, had killed his over-critical music tutor with a single blow, he took himself deep into the forest to think.

To his surprise, there two ladies found him. Both were dazzlingly beautiful. One stood before him in sensuous colours and glittering jewellery, but the other was clad in simple white.

The first was Vice, and she said: “Choose me, and your life shall be ceaseless pleasure, and no effort of mind or body will be demanded of you.”

But other was Virtue, and she said: “Choose me, and you will have the honour of your countrymen, but I cannot promise a life without labour, for no man may reap where he does not sow.”

And Heracles chose the path of Virtue — both the sweet, and the bitter.


After one criticism too many from his music tutor, Heracles snapped, and struck him down dead with a single blow. Appalled, he went to the forest to think, and there was met by Vice and Virtue, in female form. Vice offered him a life of ease and pleasure, but Heracles chose Virtue: a life of honour, but great hardship. (59 / 60 words)


Based on Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece by E. M. Berens.

Suggested Music

Harp Concerto in E-flat major, Op. 98

2: Andante

Elias Parish Alvars (1808-1849)

Performed by Marielle Nordmann (harp) and Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, conducted by Theodor Guschlbauer.

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