ROSSI, Vincenzo de'
(b. 1525, Fiesole, d. 1587, Firenze)

Hercules and Diomedes

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Marble
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

This statue is one of the six monumental marble figure groups depicting The Labours of Hercules. These statues were commissioned from Vincenzo de' Rossi for the Salone dei Cinquecento of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

In Greek mythology, Hercules (Greek Heracles) was a hero and the personification of physical strength and courage. He is one of the most popular figures in classical and later art. Hercules twelve labours were undertaken as a penance for slaying his old children in a fit of madness. He was ordered by the Delphic oracle to serve Eurystheus, king of Tiryns, for twelve years and to undertake any task he might require. Serving a mortal in a menial role was the punishment for a god who offended the Olympians. Originally simple tales of the victory of the strong, they acquired in time a moral symbolism, the triumph of right over wrong.

The eighth labour of the twelve, represented by this group of Rossi, is "The mares of Diomedes". These wild animals lived on human flesh. Hercules, with a brand of friends, seized them, and in the ensuing battle with their owner, King Diomedes, and his men, the king was slain.