Greeks of the sixth century BCE, who had established colonies along the coast, located Antaeus in the interior desert of Libya.
He would challenge all passers-by to wrestling matches, kill them, and collect their skulls, so that he might one day build out of them a temple to his father Poseidon. He was indefatigably strong as long as he remained in contact with the ground (his mother earth), but once lifted into the air he became as weak as other men. Heracles, finding that he could not beat Antaeus by throwing him to the ground as he would regain his strength and be fortified, discovered the secret of his power and, holding Antaeus aloft, crushed him in a bearhug. The story of Antaeus has been used as a symbol of the spiritual strength which accrues when one rests one's faith on the immediate fact of things. The struggle between Antaeus and Heracles is a favorite subject in ancient and Renaissance sculpture.
A location for Antaeus somewhere beyond the maghreb might be quite flexible in longitude: when the Roman commander Quintus Sertorius crossed from Hispania to North Africa, he was told by the residents of Tingis (Tangier), far to the west of Libya, that the gigantic remains of Antaeus would be found within a certain tumulus; digging it open, his men found giant bones; closing the site, Sertorius made propitiatory offerings and "helped to magnify the tomb's reputation". In Book IV of Marcus Annaeus Lucanus' epic poem Pharsalia (c. 65-61 CE), the story of Hercules' victory over Antaeus is told to the Roman Curio by an unnamed Libyan citizen. The learned client king Juba II of Numidia (died 23 BCE), husband of the daughter of Antony and Cleopatra, claimed his descent from a liaison of Hercules with "Tinga", the consort of Antaeus.
In popular culture
- In Dante Alighieri's Inferno, Antaeus is shown among the giants half-frozen up to their torsos at the edge of the Circle of Treachery.
- In the made for TV movie Hercules and the Circle of Fire, Hercules fights Antaeus.
- In the TV miniseries Hercules, Antaeus is one of the hero's main aantagonists.
- The story is used in Seamus Heaney's poem "Hercules and Antaeus", published in "North" (1975).
- ↑ I. Malkin, Myth and Territory in the Spartan Mediterranean, 1994:181-87, giving sources, noted in Robin Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer, 2008:182 and note 51.
- ↑ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke ii. 5; Hyginus, Fabula 31.
- ↑ Fox 2008:182, noting Plutarch, Sertorius9.3-4.Fox 2008:182
- ↑ Pliny, Natural History,v.2-3; Strabo xvii.3.8 noted in D.W. Roller, The World of Juba II and Kleopatra Selene, 2003:54 and 154, and by Fox 2008:182.
- Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Antaeus" 1.
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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