Seijo-Richart Abstract Hercules founder of cities

Maria Seijo-Richart

A Coruña, cidade herculina: Hercules as founder of cities

A Coruña (in Galicia, Northern Spain) is known as “cidade herculina”, because of the legend which attributes the founding of the city to hero Hercules. The most iconic monument is the Tower of Hercules, the only Roman lighthouse still in use, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.  The foundation myth of A Coruña, popularised in the 13th century Estoria de España by King Alfonso X the Wise, incorporates elements from the Roman and Celtic traditions. It sets in this place the location where Hercules fought and defeated giant Geryon, later using his head as a foundation on which he erected the Tower (hence the tower on top of a skull in the city emblem).

Hercules then founded a city, which he named after the first settler, a woman called Crunia. The theme of Hercules as founder of cities (by no means exclusive to A Coruña) is indicative of his status as exemplary, an incarnation of virtue. His defeat of Geryon symbolizes the ending of tyranny, while founding the city implies the arrival of civilization. I aim to explore the persistence of this foundation myth in the contemporary history and culture of A Coruña. The Tower of Hercules is considered the symbol of the city and remains an important tourist attraction. The recently built sculptural garden on the site commemorates the history and myths associated to the lighthouse, including and alternative foundational account: the Celtic legend of Breogan.

Provisional content for The Modern Hercules (Volume 1)