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Storytelling in Miniature

Heinrich Aldegrever
German, 1502–about 1561

Hercules Carrying the Columns of Gaza, from “The Labors of Hercules”

Engraving, 1550
4 1/8 x 2 5/8 in.
Museum purchase, 1923.3215

On his way to complete his 10th Labor, stealing the cattle of the monster Geryon, Hercules marked the place where Libya met Europe with two mountains, which were traditionally referred to as the Columns of Gaza or the Columns of Hercules. These mythological columns also marked the fabled westernmost point where the sun sinks into the sea. They are thought by some scholars to be metaphorical representations of the promontories that border the Strait of Gibraltar, which separates present day Morocco and Spain. In this print Hercules is represented carrying two architectural columns crossed on his shoulders.