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Historically Accurate Hercules

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Being the history geek that I am, I guess it is kind of surprising that I haven't really done a "historically accurate" animation series before, but after seeing that awesome Buzzfeed Disney Princess video, and of course all the amazing art on here, I was inspired to make my own.  I guess it is better late than never!

As I've said before elsewhere, from an artistic standpoint, I'm not at all bothered by the animated designs of the characters in Disney and Dreamworks films. They weren't documentaries after all so in most cases they didn't need to be accurate, and in animation in particular, it is more important to convey character and style in the designs.  I am not trying to "fix" anything because I don't think there is anything to fix!  That being said, it can still be fun to learn how your favorite characters might have looked if they had existed in real life.  :) (Smile)  

For my series, I am trying to be as accurate as I possibly can.  I'm taking the country of origin, the social class, the culture, and the specific decade into mind (instead of just a general sweep of multiple decades), and also adapting the colors and styles to fit what was available and worn everyday.  I will try to keep the characters recognizable where I can, but I want to make my pictures realistic and so some elements of the original designs might be altered in the process.

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When I first decided to draw Hercules (who, in all accuracy, would have been named Herakles), I was just going to put him in accurate Classical Greek Hoplite clothing, since he is wearing a stylized version of a Hoplite's armor in the movie.  But  when I started looking at the movie, I realized something – it is actually supposed to be taking place during the Mycenaean period of Greek culture, not the classic period, like the art would suggest.  Now of course the Disney version does not equal the mythological version in the majority of ways, so I would have been fine assuming this was just a Classic Era re-telling, but even the Disney movie is placing the action, by its own account, in the “Age of Heroes,” which roughly corresponds to the historic Bronze Age.  It is apparently supposed to be occurring in a timeline soon after the Trojan War, since the Disney version of Philoctetes (who is mortal) trained heroes like Achilles and Odysseus (in the TV series Hercules also went to school with Helen of Troy and Cassandra).  This actually fits in fairly nicely with the “historical” periods when some scholars suggest Hercules/Herakles would have lived, in the 13th century BC.   So like a lot of Hollywood “Greek” movies, there is  a completely Classical-style art design, with a Bronze Age story – the historic equivalent of dressing the Egyptians in medieval fashion. XD  So for this one, I would just have to ignore the clothing and general art style to create something that Hercules would actually wear if the timeline in the movie were historically accurate.  After all, it had lots of 1990s fashion too, but that didn’t mean it was taking place in the 90s.

In doing the research for this drawing this website was a TON of help - it has literally everything you need to know about Bronze Age Greek armor, and I needed to know a lot!  It also has some pretty cool reconstructions of the type of armor the heroes of the  Iliad would have worn, based on real archaeological finds combined with the detailed descriptions from Homer.  Anyway, since Hercules is famous, rich, and a hero, I decided it would make sense to put him in more elaborate armor.  Honestly, since Hercules is so strong, he probably wouldn't even need to wear armor, but I think he would anyway as a status symbol, like the way real historical figures did - only wealthy men could afford full suits of bronze armor.  On a daily basis, Herc would just wear a linen tunic.

Based on the typical artistic depictions of Trojan War heroes as well as the Mycenaean Warrior Vase, I drew Hercules wearing a bronze cuirass, shoulder guards, shin greaves, and lower protection plates with leather trim.  The protection plates and collared cuirass design were probably inspired by the Dendra panoply.  His bronze shin greaves are strapped on top of linen guards - when sewn in several layers, linen can actually be fairly effective armor, and are commonly seen in Mycenaean art, along with the woven boots.  He is carrying a large round body shield, also inspired by the Warrior Vase - I drew it with a blue background, as some historians believe the interior of a shield, which could be made of wood, could also be painted, and I thought it brought in some of the blue from the cape in his original design.  I gave him a typical Bronze Age sword (this one is called a "Naue" and would have been the latest style in Hercules' time), and a scabbard based on the ones in the Mykonos Vase, the earliest depiction of the Trojan Horse.  

Hercules' helmet is based on the Pass Lueg helmet which, while not found in Greece, is considered a style possible for Greek warriors anyway (similar ones are depicted on the Mykonos vase).  The helmets identified as definitely Greek were all pretty goofy looking, a lot of them were covered with boars' tusks or featured horns kind of like a stereotypical Viking helmet, and I thought this one looked the most regal, and like the Greek helmets most of us are familiar with.  The plume on top would be made of dyed horsehair.  

Anyway, I hope you like my take on Hercules!  Be sure to also check out my version of a Bronze Age Megara .  Next up will be another villain - Frollo!

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KalahariMeerkatfan's avatar

OMG thank you! I've been looking for that one picture of the Trojan heroes for years...and this looks neat, but I find the Disney timeline for Hercules to be kind of tricky?