Pamina Fernández Camacho
What Identity for Hercules Gaditanus? The Role of the Gaditanian Hercules in the Invention of National History in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain
Hercules Gaditanus was a popular incarnation of the hero/god in Classical Antiquity. Widely recognized as a Hellenized, and then Romanized version of the Phoenician god Melqart, he was worshipped at the temple of Gades, Spain´s most ancient known city. In the late medieval period, when the first attempts were made to write a national history of Spain, he became a key figure, connecting Spanish ancestry with the prestige of Classical Antiquity, and acquiring the role of a prestigious founder. And still, there were a number of problems with this Hercules: the inconvenient idea of conquest by a foreigner, the many contradictions about his nationality and ethnicity, and the persistent notion of the coexistence of more than one Hercules in the area, transmitted by both Pagan and Christian authors. The solutions found for these problems show a remarkable amount of creativity on the part of Spanish historians, and a study of the sources, the chronology and the rationale behind those solutions is crucial to understanding how the Spanish past took shape around the figure of our hero.
The Exemplary Hercules – chapter 6