(Dis)repute from Hera? Etymologies for Herakles

In a recent post I came across a different etymology for Herakles. Below are the multiple possibilities explored in the Etymologicum Magnum


“Herakles. The hero. His name does not come from “Hera’s fame [Hêras kléos] as many claim, but more likely means’ ignominy thanks to Hera’ [Hêras akleâ]. For there are so many ways he was disreputable because of Hera.  When he was small, for example, Hera sent two snakes bound to kill him. He slaughtered those snakes. Or, perhaps, the name comes from lust and fame [eran kléos], since he was well known for that on the earth too. Or perhaps he was called that from the race of Neilos in the war of the giants, after he killed a nameless fire-breathing giant for Hera, he was named Herakles.

But others claim the name Herakles developed from service [êra], which often functions as a synonym for ‘help’, and fame [kléos]. For this he was called Alkeidês; but he was named Herakles for helping many people—which is what an oracle asserts when it says

Phoibos named you with the name Herakles—
For you will have eternal fame [kléos] for helping men [lit. bringing them êra].

Or the name comes from Hera, which is the goddess’ name and fame [kléos] resulted in Hero-kles like the names Hero-dotus, Hero-philos….[there follows a discussion of vowel reflexes and accent types]

῾Ηρακλῆς: ῾Ο ἥρως· οὐ παρὰ τὸ ἐκ τῆς ῞Ηρας  τὸ κλέος ἐσχηκέναι, ὡς οἱ πολλοὶ λέγουσιν, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον παρὰ τὸ ἀπὸ τῆς ῞Ηρας ἀκλεᾶ εἶναι· ὅσον γὰρ κατὰ τὴν ῞Ηραν, ἄδοξος ἦν· μικροῦ γὰρ αὐτοῦ ὄντος, ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ἔπεμψεν ῞Ηρα δράκοντας ὀφείλοντας ἀνελεῖν αὐτόν· οὕσπερ αὐτὸς ἐφόνευσεν. ῍Η παρὰ τὴν ἔραν καὶ τὸ κλέος, ὁ ἐν τῇ γῇ ἔνδοξος. ῍Η ὅτι Νεῖλος ἐκ γενετῆς καλούμενος, ἐν τῷ κατὰ γιγάντων πολέμῳ, ἀνώνυμον ἕνα τῶν γιγάντων πυρίπνοον ἐπερχόμενον ῞Ηρᾳ φονεύσας, ῾Ηρακλῆς ὠνομάσθη.

῎Αλλοι δὲ, παρὰ τὴν ἦρα, τὴν σημαίνουσαν τὴν μετ’ ἐπικουρίας χάριν, καὶ τὸ κλέος, γέγονεν ῾Ηρακλῆς· πρὸ τούτου γὰρ ᾿Αλκείδης ἐκαλεῖτο· ἀλλ’ ἐκ τοῦ πᾶσι βοηθεῖν ἐκλήθη ῾Ηρακλῆς, ὡς καὶ ὁ χρησμὸς δηλοῖ, λέγων,


῾Ηρακλέην δέ σε Φοῖβος ἐπώνυμον ἐξονομάζει·
ἦρα γὰρ ἀνθρώποισι φέρων κλέος ἄφθιτον ἕξεις.

῍Η ἀπὸ τοῦ ῞Ηρα, ὃ σημαίνει τὴν δαίμονα, καὶ τοῦ κλέος, γίνεται ῾Ηροκλῆς, ὡς ῾Ηρόδοτος, ῾Ηρόφιλος· …

Herakles had a chiseled chin and chest even as an infant.

Advice on Picking a Spouse from Ovid

Ovid, Heroides, 9.26-34

Deianeira addresses Herakles

“But I am considered well-married, because I am called Hercules’ wife
And because my father-in-law is the one who sounds deeply with swift steeds.
Yet, this is how the unequal colts arrive unhappily at the plow,
The way that a lesser bride matches to a great husband.
This isn’t an honor but merely the appearance of it which pains who carries it more;
If you want to be married happily, marry your equal.
My husband is always absent—he’s more famous as my guest than husband
As he pursues is terrible monsters and beasts.”

At bene nupta feror, quia nominer Herculis uxor,
sitque socer, rapidis qui tonat altus equis.
quam male inaequales veniunt ad aratra iuvenci,
tam premitur magno coniuge nupta minor.
non honor est sed onus species laesura ferentes:
siqua voles apte nubere, nube pari.
vir mihi semper abest, et coniuge notior hospes
monstraque terribiles persequiturque feras.