Greek Hero Reborn: Heracles Versus Dartmouth Greek Life

by Cristian Cano | 4/25/18 2:20am

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by Amanda Zhou / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Thousands of years ago, legend says that the Greek hero Heracles, having killed his own family in an act of madness, traveled to the Oracle of Delphi to learn how he could atone for his wrongdoings. The Oracle instructed him to serve King Eurystheus for 12 years, completing any tasks that the king requested.

Despite Heracles’ successes, 12 years of servitude were not enough. Now, in 2018, Heracles has been ordered to face new challenges, inspired by some of his original trials of millennia past.

Only this time, Heracles will not traverse the ancient Greece he once knew. Instead, he must navigate an even trickier landscape, one that no hero has ever before conquered: Dartmouth Greek Life.

Will the timeless champion succeed in the face of unprecedented difficulty? Let’s see what it takes to become a modern-day Greek hero.

The Nemean Lion

Back in the day, Heracles’ first task was to slay the Nemean Lion, a dangerous beast notorious for bringing its hostages back to its cave. Thanks to its impenetrable golden coat, Heracles’ efforts to shoot arrow after arrow proved futile. In some versions of the tale, he finally succeeded with an arrow to the lion’s furless mouth; in others, he strangled the lion with his bare hands.

There may not be lions on Dartmouth’s campus, but you can find something else golden and impenetrable in the depths of fraternity basements: The Golden Tree. Heracles’ first trial in Hanover is to face the Golden Tree head-on, playing pong against the best pong players on campus. Just as the Nemean Lion’s fur deflected Heracles’ arrows, the pong players’ paddles infallibly deflect even the most well-arced balls.

Serve after serve, rally after rally, neither side seems to ever detect an opening. Suddenly, with a perfect combination of luck, reflex and spin — he sinks! Heracles’ opponents sink to their knees in despair, oblivious to the filth of the basement floor. Heracles, on the other hand, raises his arms in a stance of victory. He has, at long last, triumphed over the Golden Tree.

Who knows what cruel punishment he has just avoided — the kind only whispered about in the legends of old? Thank the gods, he will never have to find out.

Amanda Zhou | The Dartmouth Senior Staff

The Lernaean Hydra

According to legend, Heracles was tasked with slaying the Lernaean Hydra, a nine-headed water monster who grew back two heads for every one cut off. Eventually, with the help of his nephew Iolaus, Heracles discovered that fire could cauterize the Hydra’s necks, preventing the regeneration of new heads. With this strategy, he sliced off the beast’s last head and won the fight.

This time around, Heracles’ mastery of water and heat again proves useful. Instead of killing a monster, he simply must make his way into the Chi Gamma Epsilon Fraternity hot tub. Not unlike the Hydra’s regeneration, it seems like one person always leaves the hot tub only for two more to enter (usually a brother and his romantic interest.)

So, how will Heracles make his way into the crowded space? Perhaps he will once again take advantage of scorching temperatures, discreetly raising the temperature until no student can stand it anymore. Our Greek hero, however, is accustomed to extreme conditions, so sitting in scalding water is nothing more than a relaxing experience.

The Augean Stables

Another of Heracles’ original tasks was to clean the Augean Stables in one day, inhabited by immortal livestock known for producing plentiful amounts of waste. The clever Heracles rerouted the two rivers to flood the stables, cleaning them instantly — albeit at the cost of some serious water pollution.

The modern-day equivalent, some might say, is cleaning every single fraternity house in a single day. Unfortunately, the only rivers he’ll be finding this time are those arising from overflowing toilets and urinals, so he’ll have to do things the old-fashioned way. With trash bags in one hand and a mop in the other, our hero will zip through each house, placing each discarded beer can where it belongs and doing his best to cut through the suspiciously sticky layer of grime coating the floor.

Although, let’s be honest, even Heracles can’t completely get rid of the stickiness. Having done his best, Heracles moves on to his next assignment, blissfully oblivious to the fact that after this weekend, each house will be just as bad as before.

Amanda Zhou | The Dartmouth Senior Staff

The Stymphalian Birds

Heracles was ordered to defeat bronze-beaked metallic-feathered birds with a hunger for human flesh. Unable to venture into the swamp where the birds dwelled, Heracles received help from the goddess Athena. The goddess gave Heracles a rattle that could scare the birds into the air. Then, he could shoot down the birds with his arrows.

Heracles’ next task is to empty a crowded, totally-not-over-maximum-capacity basement dance party. Shoving his way through the crowd is probably worse for his health than traversing a poisonous swamp, so that strategy won’t work. Without Athena’s help, what can he do?

Fortunately, Heracles soon learns an important weakness of crowded basements: warnings of Safety and Security. So, Heracles starts spreading the word that S&S is coming, maybe even flickering the lights for dramatic effect. Sure enough, the cautious crowd soon disperses.

According to myth, the frightened birds would eventually run into the Argonauts, proving to be a nuisance once again. Perhaps the frustrated partiers will also relocate and continue their night of revelry in another basement. For once, it’s not Heracles’ problem.

The Apples of the Hesperides

Heracles was asked to perform a seemingly impossible task: steal the apples from the garden of the Hesperides. He eventually did so by offering to momentarily switch places with Atlas, the Titan responsible for holding up the heavens. Atlas, free from his burden, grabbed the apples but then decided that he didn’t want to return to his previous life. Heracles had to trick him back into his original place, leaving with the apples in hand.

Now, Heracles’ power of persuasion will be even more essential as he completes yet another seemingly-impossible task: persuade the workers at Collis Late Night to let him grab some food after closing time. Late Night workers have heard it all, and Heracles’ insistence that he knows exactly what he wants and it will only take a minute isn’t likely to work.

He could try to run past the worker at the entrance, but that’s just rude — and our hero refuses to practice bad character. Instead, he will again have to ask for help, this time by screaming to a student still inside to grab him what he wants. After a few loud, simple exchanges with the likely-intoxicated student, he will leave victoriously with his six mozzarella sticks.

Heracles promises to pay back his new friend eventually, although he’s still not sure what this “DBA” phenomenon is — perhaps it is some form of currency? In any case, isn’t the entire world already indebted to our hero for all the times he saved the world? For his sake, let’s hope so.

Cerberus

Heracles’ final task was to make his way to the Underworld, where no mortal dared venture, and return with Cerberus, the three-headed canine that guarded the Underworld’s entrance. According to legend, Heracles had encountered the Underworld’s ruler, Hades, along the way. Hades agreed to let our hero face the three-headed beast only if he did not use any weapons. Heracles proceeded to defeat Cerberus by wrestling him with his own two hands, carrying it all the way back to Eurystheus.

Dartmouth’s Greek houses are home to many furry friends, and though they may not be as monstrous as Cerberus himself, some of them can get feisty. Heracles’ final task is to walk all of the fraternity and sorority dogs on campus … simultaneously. Weapons are of no use to him here. He can only use his two hands and some treats to make sure that the canines stay calm and the sidewalks stay clean.

Dartmouth dogs are energetic — some more than others — and it will take all of Heracles’ might to keep them from wrestling with each other. At times, our hero may even want to join in the wrestling himself, but in the end, he resists the temptation.

With his final task completed, Heracles is finally free to depart from Hanover. Whether he’s saving Ancient Greece from evil or just kicking it back with his friends on Webster Avenue, Heracles has once again proven himself to be a true Greek hero.