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Cyprus > Aphrodite’s Cultural Route September 10, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Paphos.
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Cyprus calls itself Aphrodite’s Isle. Cyprus is the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty.

I recently asked George Demetriades, the proprietor of the Seven St Georges taverna at Yeroskipou, Paphos, where the Mighty Aphrodite mystery was all gone.

“You reckon?” he replied, filling a glass with home-made wine. “You should get off your arse and take a look out there.” He pointed in no particular direction. “Aphrodite is here, my friend. This is her home. You just have to know where to find her.”

Fortunately, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation could help. It has created Aphrodite’s Cultural Route, a self-guided tour “in the footsteps of the goddess”. Waymarkers and information boards, have been erected, so that you’ll have some of Europe’s most evocative ancient sites all to yourself. Grabbing a wad of the CTO’s free maps, I set out to explore the Cypriot home of the goddess.

Aphrodite’s Bath lies on the north coast of the Akamas peninsula, which juts out of western Cyprus like a rhinoceros horn. Sparsely populated, bone-dry and dusty, this remote promontory covers just 88 square miles, yet is of archeological and ecological importance out of all proportion to its size. Hundreds of endemic species of flora and fauna thrive in a semi-desert landscape of unspoilt natural beauty, no wonder the area is protected as a National park.

The bathroom lay at the foot of a crag and overlooked the sparkling sea. “Aphrodite’s Bath” announced a guide to a pair of sightseers. “Ladies who drink here lose 20 years of life”. She meant they looked two decades younger, but, studying the bathwater, I couldn’t be sure. Somewhere nearby, Aphrodite’s young lover died in an act of cold-blooded violence. Locals say the killing ended the goddess’s life of carefree abandon, others that the murder robbed her of the only mortal she ever loved,  and they all talk as though it happened yesterday.

The victim’s name was Adonis. Ill-starred from the start, he was conceived after his mother developed an unhealthy interest in her own father. Pregnant and devastated by shame, she begged Aphrodite to turn her into a tree. Ten months later, the trunk split and Adonis was born, and if you think that’s dysfunctional, you haven’t heard Aphrodite’s tale. She emerged from a frothing sea, whipped up by the severed genitals of Uranus, which had been cut off and tossed into the briny by his own son. A plotline worthy of a TV soap, it was the start of a religion that lasted more than 2,000 years.

Her birthplace is half an hour south of Paphos at Petra Tou Romiou, or Aphrodite’s Rock. You’ll know it by the crowds of women stripping off nearby. Legend says if they swim thrice around the rock they’ll find true love, and if they do it beneath a full moon they’ll never age, just like Aphrodite. Eastern Europeans seem particularly enamoured of this story, yet the notes tied to the trees are Greek, Dutch, French and other languages, proving love is a desperate jeu sans frontière.

On the edge of the nearby village of Kouklia lie the ruins of her temple. The sun-blasted remnants of a few columns are still standing, while, underfoot, the white rubble mixes with remains of earthenware offerings brought over 20 centuries.

As temple cults go, Aphrodite’s was benign, a kind of classical mansion that became the leading tourist attraction of the ancient world. Hashish and opium were sold, and every  woman was required to give herself once to the service of Aphrodite, in a custom called temple prostitution. “Tall, handsome women soon manage to get home again,” notes Herodotus, “but the ugly ones stay as much as three or four years.”

While lascivious mortals worshipped their brains out at the temple, the goddess, having just split up with Ares, god of war, was frolicking with new love interest Adonis. Ares was persuaded that his separation from Aphrodite was only temporary and the Adonis kid was getting in the way. By law, gods couldn’t kill mortals… but there was a self-defence loophole. Ares realised that if he just so happened to be a wild boar in the Akamas wilderness, and some pretty boy fancied his chances, then he could defend himself.

Adonis heard about the Akamas boar and planned to bag it. Ovid recorded what happened next: “As the boar broke away, Adonis speared it. The savage beast dislodged the bloody point and charged Adonis as he ran in fear for safety, and sank its tusks deep in his groin and stretched him dying on the yellow sand.”

He was dead by the time Aphrodite found him. As she carried his body from the woods, red anemones sprang up where drops of his blood fell. But I found no scarlet flowers. I’d expected her spirit to be here, wandering the groves in grief, but the goddess hadn’t stuck around. I decided to widen the search.

I travelled from Akamas to the capital, Lefkosia (Nicosia), where I saw crosses worn in her honour 3,500 years before Christ’s birth. I visited her sanctuary in the lost city of Amathus and then the ruins of the kingdom of Kition, where an archeologist showed me a gold coin bearing Mighty Aphrodite’s icon.

Finally, I returned to the Seven St Georges, and found the proprietor up to his elbows in wild honey. “Taste this,” he said, handing me a stick coated in gritty nectar. “It’s an aphrodisiac. You find the goddess yet?”

I shook my head. “Go back to Kouklia and look in the church,” he suggested.

The tiny Byzantine chapel at the edge of Aphrodite’s temple site was built with stones originating from the ruins. Childless and lovelorn women come from all over Cyprus to pray here I was explained.

If you go >

Fly with Cyprus Airwayswww.cyprusairways.com to Paphos Airport.

Stay at the Elysium Hotel, 26 844444, www.elysium.com.cy, outside Paphos, doubles from about 200 euro. For a great selection of rustic hotels, contact Cyprus Agrotourism, 22 340071, www.agrotourism.com.cy.

For further information > the trail maps are available from the Cyprus Tourism Organisationwww.visitcyprus.org.cy.


Greek wines from the island of Evia September 10, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Wine And Spirits.
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Let’s travel south to Evia and visit the Avantis Estate. The Mountrihas family has owned the property since 1830 and, as far back as anyone can remember, grapes were grown there and wine was made from them. Only in 1990, however, did things take a serious turn, when Nikos Mountrihas and his son, Apostolos, set about replanting the family vineyards.

At the time Apostolos had just completed a degree in economics. Their goal was to establish a small winery capable of producing wines that would reinvigorate the island’s ancient winemaking traditions. With tradition in mind, they named their venture Avantis, the ancient name of what is now Evia. In a region that gets little respect in Greece – not a single AOC appellation – they far exceeded expectations. With plenty of support from a strong family, Apostolos is the driving force behind the venture. ‘With strong roots grow strong trees,’ says the adage, and so it is with the Mountrihas family.

Cordoned rows of vines surround the winery. Although the Mountrihas family has acquired vineyards at Armadiotia in northern Evia and has contracts with a grower in Viotia, the estate’s three hectares are still a source of the Roditis grape variety, some Savatiano, and, recently, Sauvignon Blanc. Armadiotia, at 450 meters, is the source of the winery’s strong Rhene varieties – Syrah, Petite Syrah and Grenache.

Though the estate, which is practically at sea level, provides no elevation for its white grapes, its wines in no way lack structure. In fact, despite yields that are not exceptionally low, the estate’s wines show remarkable concentration, perhaps attributable in part to a terroir strongly influenced by its proximity to the sea, which is not quite visible from the property itself.

Production can be safely described as artisanal – grapes are harvested by hand, loaded in small grades, destemmed and crushed in the winery’s pneumatic press. Though cold stabilised, no character seems lost in the process. While the strong showing of the Mountrihas white wines is impressive, the reds put them on the A list of Greek producers. As imported varieties go, Rhene cultivars, perhaps not surprisingly, seem generally to have taken better than all others to Greek growing conditions. In support of this the Mountrihas Rose, Syrah and Petite Syrah provide decisive evidence. Few Greek reds would so easily defy any attempt to define their region of origin, a fact that speaks to the uniquely broad range of the Greek vineyard.

Wines of the week

2005 Ktima Avantis Sauvignon Blanc fume, Evia, Central Greece, Alcohol Volume 13.5%

This medium-bodied, young vine Sauvignon Blanc spends about five months in French oak barrels. It has a gold colour with green rim and a nose of citrus, candied fruit and vanilla cake. Chewy palate, intense with lush tropical fruit balanced by a layer of tartar acidity, fresh bread and a hint of wood. The finish is clean and harmonious, showing finesse and some persistence. Serve at 9 degr C strictly with shellfish, smoked fish and asparagus and tomato based sauces with baked fish.

2005 Ktima Avantis Grenache Rouge, Syrah Rose, Evia Central Greece, Alcohol Volume 13%

A blend of two Rhene varietals with a deep strawberry red colour, its complex nose features strawberry marmalade, dried red fruit, tomato and yeast. In keeping with the tendency among Greece’s serious producers, it has very little residual sugar. Its palate shows unripe plum and barely noticeable tannin and stem flavours. Served at 11 degr C, this wine tends to match red wine food (roast meat) served with tomatoes. Excellent for Greek cuisine’s Dolmades and Yemista (stuffed vegetables).

2005 Ktima Avantis Syrah, Evia, Central Greece, Alcohol Volume 13.7%

Medium to full bodied Syrah with a garnet red and purple rim colour. Enticing nose of dark plum, candy and wood. Its grapey palate balances cocoa, jam and soft tannins. Full, concentrated and very well balanced, it has classic Syrah character. Serve at 17 degr C with spin-roast red meat especially lamb and game.

2003 Mountrihas Vineyards Petite Syrah, Evia, Central Greece, Alcohol Volume 13.5%

Dark with purple rim, this medium to full-bodied varietal has complex nose of plums, mushrooms and fresh wood. On the palate, it has rich and long-lasting flavours of dark plum, chocolate and coffee. Excellent balance, first class structure and a long, consistent finish. Serve with roast red meat, game and smoked cheeses.

Taste also the 2003 Avantis Collection Syrah (limited edition) pricey but outstanding.

Ballet with no limits > Kypria 2006 Festival September 10, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus.
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A striking performance of dance for the 21st century is brought to Cyprus by Boris Eifman

A man with a tale to tell brings his story to Cyprus to give audiences a taste of ballet with no limits. Known as ‘the man who dared’, Boris Eifman is acknowledged as a legend in the dance world and soon arrives with his ballet company of St Petersburg to put on a show in Nicosia and Limassol.

The performance, based on Mozart’s Requiem, brings trademark stunning choreographies to life that show remarkable grace and energy on stage. Highly acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, his work has come to be hailed as the ‘Ballet of the 21st Century’.

Born in 1946, Eifman didn’t have an easy start in life. He spent his early childhood in an underground building, where his family shared living space with other engineers summoned by the Stalin government to help Soviet war efforts. He began his artistic journey at the age of seven, when, after Stalin’s death, the family was able to move to Kishinev in Moldavia and the young Eifman began to study dance. When he was only 13 he wrote in his diary that he wanted to be a choreographer. It was a dream he was determined would one day become reality.

He went on to study at the famous choreography school of the Leningrad Conservatory in 1972 and a few years later, founded his very own ballet company. Having neither stage nor permanent rehearsal space and with only a small group of dancers, the theatre group managed to produce the strongest impressions with its very first programme. His work received recognition in the West as early as 1978, when The New York Times reviewed one of his company’s Moscow recitals. Using the music of Pink Floyd, Mc Laflin and Wakeman caused a riot, and combining this music with strikingly emotional and overwhelmingly free choreography brought Eifman the reputation of a revolutionary dance genius.

Today, he is one of the most successful Russian choreographers, praised worldwide for his talent and vision. He has so far created more than 40 original theme ballets. Works include The Red Giselle, Russian Hamlet, Karamazov brothers, Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, Mozart’s Requiem, Mousaget composed by Bach, Tchaikovsky, and Anna Karenina. Eifman has also been honoured with the highest Russian distinctions for his great contribution to art and culture, as well as receiving the Knight of Art medal in France.

All of his shows are extremely theatrical as he mixes interesting elements of reality and fantasy. “My theatre is a theatre of open emotional experience,” says Eifman. “Creating my mystery where the characters live by my rules, I’m creating my own world with its catastrophes. This is my own cardiogram, the rhythm of my pulse, its eruptions, shocks, culminations, ups and downs”.

Not just a simple choreographer, Eifman contemplates life through his works, deeply worried by the problems of our time. His shows touch the human soul, human passions and weaknesses, as well as their inner desires. Deeply concerned about the subject matter of his ballets, he uses performances to explore philosophical issues through emotionalism and theatricality by fusing the expressiveness of modern dance with the language of classical ballet.

In the upcoming show, Eifman builds a performance in three parts with no break, where the subject of death is continuous and repetitive through various forms. “Listening to Mozart’s Requiem you can feel eternity. All worries disappear and man is filled with the unconscious feeling of the divine secret,” Eifman says. “Where do I come from? Why do I exist? What am I? How do we come to the world, what awaits for us, how do we leave the world?”

Expect figures to appear on stage in white sacks, a rather dramatic image representing tilted tombstones in a cemetery. They preface the beautiful image through which the serene mother figure of Requiem dies and then reappears in an illuminated doorway, beckoning her son into a consoling afterworld.

Eifman explains that through this ballet he expresses his innermost thoughts as he tells his own story in a sober stage vision of light and dark. “For me, it’s the past, the present and a feeling about my future. It is my memory of a helpless, young man entering the world, reviving the ordeals of maturity, the memory of the wisdom and weakness of old age. So much malice, so many lies, so much hatred and violence in my memory but also so many moments of love and happiness… everything is inside me and inside each one of us”.

Eifman has said that after his mother died when he was 26, he thought he could be reunited with her in a spiritual sphere. It may be that this very personalised vision rules the performance. “I have never been this sincere or able to express my innermost feelings as much as in Mozart’s Requiem. A ballet you can either accept or reject”.

Boris Eifman Ballet
Dance based on Mozart’s Requiem. Within the framework of Kypria 2006 Festival.
September 20.
Strovolos Municipal Theatre, Nicosia. Tel: 22-442226
September 21. Rialto Theatre, Limassol. Tel: 22-442226

What’s On > In Larnaca September 10, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Cyprus.
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The work of two British based artists who have a love and understanding of Cyprus goes on show in Larnaca

Over the last two decades the art world has split into two irreconcilable, and often hostile, camps. One of these attends all the art fairs, fills the mainstream galleries and glossy art magazines with a bland international style of faux neo-Dada. The other has to fight to be seen, is far more diverse in its use of materials, and, most importantly of all, is founded on intimate relationships to specific locations. To put it briefly, one camp is rootless and dead, the other in a living communion with a spirit of place. It is in this latter camp I would locate Harding and Rigden.

At first sight this might appear a strange statement. Looking at the works of Harding and Rigden it is easy to see the influence of international modernism. Both artists clearly enjoy abstraction, and seem willing to draw on various modernist traditions when forming their paintings. Yet I would suggest they also root themselves in a specifically English cultural environment that results in a series of dialectical tensions. Harding and Rigden make work in a specific place, a ‘here and now’, but they also pull against a knowledge of art made elsewhere and at other times, a ‘there and then’.

This can be seen in Harding’s 2000 painting ‘Ibelin’ and Rigden’s 2006 work ‘Nude going down stairs’. In ‘Ibelin’ the flat red and black abstract shapes have an echo of New York modernism, but this has been filtered through the sensibility of an English mind. Similarly in ‘Nude going down stairs’ there is what appears to be a conscious reworking of Marcel Duchamp’s quasi-cubist painting ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’, painted in 1912. Yet it too has passed through the filter of an English mind, so that any conscious reference to Duchamp is counterbalanced by colours and forms that are decidedly English, what we might call the English tradition.

Marx once wrote that tradition is a burden that ‘weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living’, but to escape from this nightmare one should not reject the traditions of one’s birth. That can only lead to falsehood. Instead one has to transcend tradition by juxtaposing it with other forms and experiences in a dialectical tension.

That this happens in the works of Harding and Rigden is perfectly clear in their Cyprus paintings. Look at Harding’s ‘Black Ships at Limassol’, of 2003, and you will see a dominant colour from Cyprus, the flat cerulean blue of our sky. Perhaps too there is an echo of Cyprus in Harding’s artistic references, so that the work might vaguely remind us of the paintings of Stelios Votsis or Andreas Ladommatos.

Yet there is something more painterly and rougher in the treatment of the trees and boats, something that seems to come out of an English romantic tradition. Harding has a deep and long-standing knowledge of Cyprus that allows her to fuse Cypriotness and Englishness so successfully, holding the two together, but in tension. Harding’s ‘Linear C’ and ‘Walleye’, both 2001, also make the point, with the colours of Cyprus used again, and perhaps the forms of Cypriot plants, but juxtaposed with an English sensibility, an English handling of paint and an English construction of picture space.

Contemporary art does not have an international style and if it ever looks like it does then it means an artist has failed to engage with the physical and cultural environment in which he or she is working. Recent events in Cypriot art have taught the island a lesson in remaining true to its own environmental values, and not to attempt to reject and replace them with imported cultures that have nothing to do with this particular place and even despise it. Yet that does not mean Cyprus should retreat into insular parochialism. Harding and Rigden show us an alternative.

They are London-based English artists who love Cyprus and know its history, culture and environment probably better than most people who are born here. Through their art they show us that it is possible to bring together different cultural experiences in a creative fusion, a dialectics of place, through which oppositional elements are forced together, like male and female participles, to give birth to a vital and living art. It is a paradox, but true, the work of artists such as Harding and Rigden is the true international art of Cyprus.

Jennifer Harding and Geoffrey Rigden > Painting exhibition. Opens September 14, 8pm, until September 30. Kypriaki Gonia Gallery, 45 Stadiou St, Larnaca. Monday to Saturday 10am-1pm and 4.30pm-8pm, and Sunday 11am-3pm. Tel: 24-621109

Books > Plato’s Republic: A Biography September 10, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life.
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Plato’s Republic: A Biography
By Simon Blackburn
Allen & Unwin, 2006
181 pages, $22.95 

Has all European philosophy been nothing but a series of footnotes to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato and his book, The Republic, written in 375 BC? Maybe, says Simon Blackburn with philosophical equivocation, in his history of Plato’s book.

Plato is not, says Blackburn, an attractive figure we would want to emulate, the political implications of The Republic are “mainly disagreeable and often appalling”, with its advocacy of totalitarianism, militarism, nationalism, hierarchy and censorship. Plato was an aristocrat, profoundly out of joint with the Athens of antiquity that was a (limited) democracy, centuries ahead of its time. Direct participatory democracy was a right for citizens (not including slaves and women) who had the right to speak and vote in the law-making governing assembly and to sit as judges in jury courts. Major state officials were elected and, in some cases, chosen by lot so as to increase popular participation in government. Plato, however, disagreed with these democratic principles.

The Republic spelt out Plato’s anti-democratic utopia. Society should be organised around three classes, the “philosopher-kings” or “guardians” (the elite few of “philosophers or lovers of knowledge”) who had absolute power; a standing army (“auxiliaries”) who would enforce the rule of the guardians; and, last and least, “the one that works for a living” (artisans, labourers, slaves).

Plato’s contempt for democracy and egalitarianism pervades The Republic. Plato, says Blackburn, is everywhere “sneering at labouring people”, hankering after the military despotism of Athens’ rival city-state, Sparta, and wanting to banish artists because they question the social order.

Underpinning Plato’s politics is a strong philosophical animosity to materialism. The concept of so-called “platonic love” as a non-sexual, spiritual communion of souls surpassing the sweaty appetites of the unwashed is the prime example of Plato, the otherworldly dealer in transcendental abstractions. For Plato, there is a higher reality than the everyday world and, crucially for Plato’s politics, only the elite few (philosopher-aristocrats) can ascend these metaphysical heights, glimpse “The Truth” and thus earn the right to rule.

Blackburn, from “the sceptical, scientific, enlightenment tradition”, is not friendly to the political content of Plato’s philosophy, but he retains a respect for Plato’s philosophical method, embodied in the “dialogues” in The Republic between Socrates (Plato’s teacher, who shared Plato’s contempt for democracy) and a varied cast of interlocutors.

Blackburn also celebrates Socrates, the star of The Republic, as a liberal hero and courageous opponent of the state, but Socrates was opposed to only a particular type of state, a democratic one. His followers were the idle aristocratic youth (like Plato) who, with Spartan help, twice overthrew Athenian democracy and established oligarchic reigns of terror in 411 BC and 404 BC and threatened to do so again in 401 BC, a context (about which Plato has nothing to say, and Blackburn not much more) that makes Socrates’ execution in 399 BC understandable (if not defensible).

Plato’s snobbish disdain for the sophists (working philosophers who were rivals and often political opponents of the anti-democratic Plato) is uncritically echoed in Blackburn’s derogatory portrayal of them as the mercenary “spin doctors” of their age. The sophists, however, found their paying market amongst the skilled workers and traders in Athens where learning how to debate was necessary to be effective in politics and court. The class prejudice of the independently wealthy Plato has blackened the reputation of the sophists for charging fees for “dispensing their wisdom” (as Blackburn derisively puts it with the unconscious hypocrisy of generations of classics scholars who are quite happy to be paid for their services).

For two-and-a-half thousand years, anti-democrats have cheered Plato’s philosophy and politics. Blackburn, alas, despite being no friend to Plato’s ideas for this or a “higher” world, has rather missed an opportunity to take them on in a Platonic dialogue that turns the tables on the old aristocratic-stringer for despotism.

UK migrants with the mostest September 10, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Living.
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Survey pinpoints ethnic winners and losers in ‘melting pot’ Britain
For origins of your surname visit www.originsinfo.com/Origins/Default.aspx

Armenian immigrants and their descendants are the most successful ethnic group in the country, according to an analysis of “melting pot” Britain.

They are followed by the Japanese, Dutch and Greek Cypriots among the groups who are economically and socially most successful. Bangladeshi Muslims and migrants from Sierra Leone and Syria have fared worst.

The new analysis places the 42.2m adults registered to vote in mainland Britain in 200 ethnic groups, on the basis of a person’s surname and first name.

The information is linked to a marketing database to rank the socioeconomic status of each group. The system, Origins Info, is used by hospitals, retailers and charities to tailor their services to individual ethnic groups.

Its developers claim it is reliable even though most married women adopt their husband’s name and some immigrants may have changed their surname to avoid discrimination.

The analysis shows the persistence of ethnic clusters decades after the group first arrived in Britain. Greek Cypriots are concentrated in Broxbourne and Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire and Margate in Kent, Italians can be found in Bedford and Waltham Cross and the Dutch in Plockton in the Scottish Highlands and Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales.

Cardiff has a high concentration of Maltese residents because it was the port where many disembarked after naval service during the 1940s and 1950s. The Chinese are in Oxford, Harlow and Milton Keynes and Hispanics in Eastbourne, Crawley and Ascot. In Wales, English border areas have been colonised by those with a Welsh background.

Overall, there is a disproportionately high number of immigrants in business, law and medicine. An analysis of doctors, using data provided by the Medical Directory, found the proportion of medics with northern Indian roots is more than 10 times higher than for the population as a whole. Spaniards and Romanians are also significantly “over-represented” as doctors.

Similarly, Russians, the Dutch and Nigerians are over-represented among barristers.

Read the rest of this article > Found: migrants with the mostest

Mythology > Hercules September 10, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology.
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Hercules is the figure of a mighty hero in Greek mythology

In Greek mythology, Hercules was all muscle, but he also had a big heart for most of his life. When he was a teenager, he fell in love with the beautiful but conniving Princess Megara. They were married soon after they met, but the honeymoon didn’t last very long.

Arguments were easy to come by, and it seemed to Hercules that there was nothing he could do to please his new bride. She nagged at him until Hercules blew his stack and temporarily lost his sanity. With his mighty hand, he choked Princess Megara and all her attendants.

Immediately after the murders, Hercules came to his senses and realized the extent of his horrible deeds. Sick with guilt and shame, he turned himself in, leaving his fate up to Eurystheus, the king of Mycenae.

The wise and just king was devastated by the loss of his daughter, Megara, but believed his son-in-law was truly sorry for his crime. Nonetheless, Hercules had to be punished. So, Eurystheus assigned Hercules to perform 12 great labors to atone for his crime.

The first task was to slay Leo, the lion, the king of the king of all beasts. Using all his strength and brains, Hercules killed the monster lion. Then, he went on to complete all his other labors.

Eventually, Zeus, king of the gods, and all his buddies on Mount Olympus rewarded Hercules at the time of his death by placing his body in the heavens as the constellation we see through the summer and early fall.

They didn’t want Hercules to receive full honors, though, because of his murderous past, so they hung his body upside down in the heavens.