Hercules, Heracles for the Greeks, is not the god of love, but as if he were. Many, but many centuries ago, between the arms of the Guadalquivir River he played the role of celestine. He fell in love with his fertile and rural land, to later present it to the rest of civilizations that did not dare to cross the Atlantic Ocean. He founded and baptized this place with the name of Seville. But how did Hercules and the capital of Andalusia meet?
The voyages of sailors in the Mediterranean were becoming more and more frequent in 1000 BC. The bravest managed to reach the African continent, stopped in present-day Egypt to get rich and a little further West they dared to sail. At this point the hero has to make his appearance. The main character of the story is none other than the demigod of classical culture, Hercules. He is the son of the god Zeus, but he fought to earn his own name and not to be the ‘son of’.
His courage and powers were superhuman. Nothing could stop him when he came face to face with what joins or separates, depending on how you want to look at it, the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea. Legend has it that where there is now water, there was once land. It was Hercules himself who knocked it down with his strength in order to cross to the peninsula. Son of Zeus and with almost unlimited strength, he still found it difficult to cross because of the water flow on which he sailed. The effort soon brought reward.
He continued his journey along the rich coast of the southern peninsula until he reached the mouth of the river that covers Andalusia from East to West, the Guadalquivir. Hercules, where he put his eye, put the bullet, or the mace, because before there were no guns. And there he entered the unknown and mysterious flow. Enraptured by the landscape, he reached a territory located between the arms of the river course. And thus begins this part of the hero’s story.
Hercules ended the life of the king of Tartessos, Geryon, with a poisoned arrow. But it is not of this arrow-strike that we now write. Hercules’ first crush was the one he felt for that land on the edges of the Guadalquivir that he had just discovered. He named it Híspalis, which means plain next to a river, later known as Seville.
According to legends, the King Geryon was also the monarch of these lands. However, Hercules always knew how to take everything from this three-headed giant. The territory was rich in livestock and full of bulls. The hero soon became familiar with the land and its inhabitants. He created in Híspalis such an important commercial industry that he managed to take control of the fur trade in the whole territory of Andalusia. Apart from being the strongest, he was more of a businessman than Wall Street guys.
A very fantastic story at first reading, but it contains some information that may have some historical basis. Not the most important one, that Hercules was actually the founder of the city. Although this is what is expressed on the plaque that Seville has placed in Puerta Jerez. However, the legend tells that the hero did it under the name of Melkart. Later, he was known as Heracles, until finally he was given the title of demigod and his name became Hercules.
From the moment they met, it was clear that their love was going to last. Gifts are not the most important thing in a relationship, but Seville has dedicated many to the demigod. Hercules is still present in many places in the capital and in different ways.
The most remarkable is in the Seville City Hall in Plaza Nueva, which has a statue commemorating the figure of the founder in the arch. In the front also appear the two columns of Hercules. Yes, the ones that point to the location of Atlantis. Finally, the architectural element became a sign of Seville and Andalusia. So important is this demigod in the Andalusian community that it is also represented in its flag.
The Alameda de Hercules is not only named in honor of this heroic navigator who later became a demigod. Among the tribute are the columns that decorate the space. Crowning the top of one of them is Hercules overlooking everything he once saw and fell in love with for the first time. This characteristic square is an must visit if you step on Sevillian territory. It is also a meeting place on terraces or benches for the joy of the inhabitants of the Andalusian capital.
But it does not end there. In this story there is a hero protagonist loved by his city. All that is missing is a wall and dragons. Dragons certainly not, but there was a wall. Seville was surrounded in the Roman period by one, of which there are still remains in the old town next to the Real Alcazar. The gate was located in the mythical Sevillian square of Puerta Jerez. On a plaque on its door, already mentioned, one could read: “Hercules founded me, Julius Caesar surrounded me with walls and high towers and the Holy King won me with Garci Perez de Vargas“. Therefore, the current plaque.
This relationship is the perfect example that myth and reality can go hand in hand. Or that opposites attract. What is a reality is the magic of walking around smelling the orange blossom of Seville. It is not a coincidence. It was founded not by a mortal, but by a hero, and that can be breathed in its streets. A mutual crush, a consolidated relationship.