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One of The 12 Labors of Hercules Featured on Gibraltar Stamps

hercules labors gibraltar stamps
Statue of Hercules at rest, leaning against his club, on which his lion skin is draped. A 216 AD Roman copy of a Greek original from the 4th century BC. Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.5

A new batch of Gibraltar stamps will feature a scene from one of the 12 labors of Hercules as part of the “EUROPA” series of stamps, which are some of the most highly-collected stamps in the world.

EUROPA stamps, specially issued by postal administrations across Europe, all feature the cultures, history, mythology, and traditions of various European nations.

The stamps, which feature an official EUROPA logo, are highly-valued and collected as they are very popular. Each year, a new theme is announced, and each participating country releases a series of stamps that reflects their interpretation of the theme.

The current theme is “Stories and Myths;” Gibraltar imagined the theme through the famous story of the ancient Greek hero Hercules, who has a connection to the British territory located in the south of Spain.

The 12 labors of Hercules are some of the most famous stories in Greek mythology, and one of them involves Gibraltar.

The story of Hercules exemplifies a great many of the ancient beliefs of the Greeks about human nature, and even explains how the constellations and the Milky Way itself were formed.

Many areas in Greece, especially on the Peloponnesian Peninsula and the Mediterranean are mentioned as part of the Labors he performed, and many of them today are recognized for the part they played in Greek mythology.

gibraltar stamps hercules labors
One of the 12 Labors of Hercules featured on the Gibraltar stamps. Credit: Gibraltar Stamps

Gibraltar stamps feature “Pillars of Hercules”

“The Pillars of Hercules” are an ancient name given to two rocky promontories that flank the entrance to Gibraltar. They were given this name due to a reference to the geological formations in Roman retellings of the Twelve Labors of Hercules, specifically in reference to the tenth labor.

The tenth labor was to obtain the Cattle of the three-bodied giant Geryon. In the fullest account in the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus, Heracles had to go to the island of Erytheia in the far west (sometimes identified with the Hesperides, or with the island which forms the city of Cádiz, Spain) to obtain the cattle.

This journey took Hercules to his westernmost destination during his adventures, and there the hero encountered the “Gates of Gades,” according to the ancient Greek poet Pindar, as quoted by later Greek geographer Strabo, who lived under the Roman Empire.

Some ancient sources considered the Pillars of Hercules, which separate the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea, to be the edge of the world, and Renaissance writers claim that the pillars were engraved with the Latin phrase “Non plus ultra,” or “nothing further.”

Some Roman myths state that Hercules, faced with a great mountain, decided to smash through it rather than climb it, thus creating the Strait of Gibraltar and connecting the Mediterranean with the Atlantic.

The Gibraltar stamps depict the Greek hero Hercules looking out over the impressive landscape while grabbing onto an ancient column.

Gibraltar stamps are popular collectibles amongst stamp lovers, and have been issued since 1886.

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