The legend of Hercules

Of all the legends that have reached us about the Tower, this has been the most influential. In fact we all know this legendary lighthouse as the Tower of Hercules, although the origins of this monument have nothing to do with this classical figure.

The author of this legend was King Alfonso X (1252-1284), known as the Wise, who in his Estoria de Espanna tells how the hero Hercules built a huge lighthouse to celebrate his victory over Giant Geryon.

Recovering the tradition of Isidore, Alfonso X linked the figure of Hercules to Spain and more specifically to the city of A Coruña. Legend has it that the legendary Greek hero came in search of Giant Geryon, who ruled over the lands between the Douro and the Tagus, to free the people from his unbridled power. Their struggle lasted three days and their corresponding nights, after which time Hercules defeated the giant, beheaded him and buried his head by the sea. To celebrate his victory, he erected over the burial mound a tower-lighthouse and, in the vicinity of it, he founded a city he named Crunia – after the first woman who inhabited this place and with whom the hero fell in love.

When Hercules left, Hispan, his nephew was appointed lord of Spain and he populated villages and cities. He finished the construction of the Lighthouse Tower his uncle had commenced and as he was a wise man he added a beacon to it with a fire that never went out. He also made a great mirror so that enemy ships could be spied from a great distance.

The account by King Alfonso X, had an influence on later works such as Crónica Abreviada by Don Juan Manuel or the Crónica General de Espanha of 1344, in which the myth was elaborated. Licenciado Molina introduces this legend in the Descripción del Reino de Galicia (1550). The same does Florián Ocampo in the Crónica General (1544), where he tries to tell history from legend.

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