Pedagogical File

Pedagogical File : Hercules and the Nemean Lion
The pedagogical file accompanies the ebook. It is intended for teachers, trainers, cultural workers and speech therapists. It aims to facilitate the design of workshops to discover the digital book Hercules and the Nemean Lion. Target group for the workshop: from <A1.1 to A1/A2 written language.

Table of Contents


‘Hercules and the Nemean Lion’ is considered as one of the most recognized myths of the Ancient Greek mythology. Peisander is the author of Heracleia, the collection of the twelve labours of Hercules. It is said that he is the one who set the number of labours at twelve. This work was chosen because it is a part of the Greek cultural heritage and it is incorporated in the official school curricula in many countries.

The author : Peisander  

The autho, some additional information

Peisander of Camirusin Rhodes was an Ancient Greek epic poet who lived around 640 BC. The Alexandrian grammarians considered him a foremost poet, likeHomer and Hesiod. Peisander was the first who set the profile ofHerculesasholding a club and wearingalion pelt. Although only three versesof Heracleiawere found, it is well-knownthat it had a significant influence back at that time.

The historical and geographical context of the author’s time

Peisander lived during the 7th century BC, known as the Archaic period, following the Greek Dark Ages and succeeded by the Classical period.

During the Archaic period, Greeks spread across the Mediterranean, the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. They settled in two discrete ways: the first form was permanent settlements, colonies, which were independent city-states (poleis), and the second was emporia, meaning trading posts engaging both Greeks and non-Greeks.

Most of the colonies were founded in southern Italy constituting the Magna Graecia, Great Greece. The earliest colony was at the Bay of Naples in Italy, and then followed Syracuse and Megara Hyblaia. By the end of the archaic period, colonies were expanded from Marseille in the west to Trapezus in the east.

The literary context

Archaic period is considered as one of the most significant eras because the Greek alphabet was created. According to the Greek philosopher Plato “Greeks never invented anything, but they borrowed and improved what they took”. In this case, Greeks after their first contact with Phoenicians, found out the Phoenician alphabet. Therefore, they borrowed most of the symbols for their sounds and those that they were not used in Greek, represented the vowel sounds. After this invention, more and more Greeks started to become literate.

In the archaic period, poetry was the predominant form of literature, but intended primarily to be performed in public rather than to be read. In the meantime, tragedy as a genre began to develop alongside poetry. Tragedy borrowed elements from the pre-existing genres of archaic Greek poetry. According to Aristotle, early tragedy developed from the dithyramb, a choral hymn to Dionysius.

The social and political context

During the archaic period, the politics and law of Athens underwent a series of changes. Draco (620/621 BC) was the first democratic legislator requested by the Athenian citizens to be a legislator for the city-state (polis). However, the people of Athens had not expected that he would establish laws characterized –and still are known-for their great severity. As Aristotle says of Draco (Politics 2.1274b).

“There is nothing peculiar in his laws that is worthy of mention, except their severity in imposing heavy punishment.”

More changes were brought about by Solon (c. 594 BC) whose laws were the first to give the lower classes a chance to prosper. The most noticeable change was “seisachtheia”, a set of laws which aimed in rectifying the spread of serfdom and slavery. This order cancelled all the debts, prohibited the human condition as security for loan, and recalled all those who had been sold as slaves and those who had escaped.

It was only after Solon that a sense of precocious democracy in Athens began to develop. Even Peisistratus, a tyrant, confronted the aristocracy, and he reduced their privileges by confiscating their lands and offer them to the poor. During his tyranny, the economy improved and the wealth was spread equally among the Athenians.

As laws evolved, the political system began to change and focus on citizens’ power. The oligarchic regimes and the tyrants weakened and citizens obtained a more active role in society. Actually, the fable of Hercules and the Nemean lion reflects the transition from the oligarchies and tyrants to a tolerant regime. The Nemean lion’s execution symbolizes the victory of the conscious man against his animal instincts and passions (lion) with the power of the mind (bat), assisted by the unshakable mental will. Similarly, people faced oligarchs and tyrants by enacting laws to acquire rights and freedoms.

The literary work: Hercules

Its place in the author’s bibliography

The epic of Peisandros ‘Heracleia’ praises in 12 rhapsodies, the labours of Hercules. Although only three verses were found from this work, it is known that it had a significant influence in ancient times. Peisandros formed Hercules’ legend, making a coherent narrative from previous narratives, which has since become the authentic one.

The literary genre 

Epic is a long narrative poem whose main theme is the heroic deeds of a person or a group of people. In literary usage, the term includes both oral and written forms. The epic was an oral tradition used by people to transmit their traditions without the aid of writing. It appeared in the Heroic Age to stimulate the warriors’ spirit by praising their illustrious ancestors’ heroic behavior. During the first half of the 7th century, aoidoi (skilled oral epic poets) created a new type of oral reciters called rhapsodes or “stitchers songs” which were presented to large audiences with the use of staff (rhabdos) to emphasize the words. Aoidoi in order to compose and memorize the long narrative poems like the Iliad and the Odyssey, they used an extremely elaborate technical language with a great store of traditional verbal formulas. In this way, they could describe recurring ideas and situations in ways that suited metre requirements. Typical scenes in the heroic life were the preparation of meal, a sacrifice, the launching or the bleaching of a ship comprising several lines used by rote every time the events are narrated.

Its European dimension 

Hercules and his twelve labours have been a popular subject in art and literature throughout time. In Roman works of art and Renaissance and post-Renaissance art, Hercules is recognized by his attributes, the lion pelt and the gnarly club. In literature, several myths were written in Latin about Hercules, such as Hercules’ defeat of Cacus. In medieval times, Hercules’ myths were often reinterpreted as allegory and he was considered as a strong role model who demonstrated both bravery and wisdom. In modern times, several movies and series were produced about Hercules.

Among these movies and series are:

  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-1999), starring Kevin Sorbo
  • Hercules (1997), theatrical animated production by Walt Disney Pictures
  • Young Hercules (1998-1999), starring Ryan Gosling
  • Hercules (2014), starring Dwayne Johnson
  • The Legend of Hercules (2014), starring Kellan Lutz

Major issues/problems of the time addressed

The primary issue of Peisander’s time is the changes in the political arrangements. The first political system was oligarchy formed from a select group of the wealthiest citizens of the state. Even though they shared the powers among them, the oligarchic regime was notably totalitarian. Oligarchs were overthrown by tyrants who came to power without a constitutional right. The philosophers Plato and Aristotle defined a tyrant as a person who rules without law, using extreme and cruel methods against his supporters and others. Oligarchies and tyrannies ruled in this way until democracy emerged, meaning “ruled by the demos (people)”. This new political system was based on fair laws that enforced equality between the citizens.

The eBook: Hercules and the Nemean lion 

The gallery of characters 

  • Hercules was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene. He was the greatest of the Greek heroes and a paragon of masculinities.
  • Nemean lion was a brutal monster in Greek mythology that lived in Nemea. Because of its invulnerable fur, it was not possible to be killed with normal weapons.    

The location 

Nemeais a village about 27km southwest of Corinth in Greece. 

Iconography in the ebook 

The iconographic material was enhanced with paintings illustrating elements which are associated with the story e.g.Hercules, lion, cave etc.

Gabriel Salmon was a French painter and engraver. Salmon worked mainly with religious themes but also with more secular topics. Therefore, mythology was a great source of inspiration for his works, such as The Labours of Hercules, which he seems to have engraved himself.

Hans Sebald Beham was a German engraver. He was one of the most significant of the “Little Masters”, the group of German artists creating prints in the generation after Dürer. His engravings include biblical and mythological subjects, genre, allegories, ornaments and scenes.

François Lemoyne or François Le Moine was a French rococo painter. He was influenced by the Flemish artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens, particularly in his use of color. Over the years, his style shifted more in favor of the Italian influence.

The reading workshop 


Activity:  What’s the story?  

Entry activity in eBook 

  • A stuffed lion/ or animal plastic toy/ or picture of lion
  • A picture of Greece’s map
  • A picture of a club
  • A picture of a strong man
  • Three envelops
Terms and Conditions

Before the session: 

  • Place the lion in the middle of the room.
  • Put the pictures separately in the envelopes.

In the workshop:

  • Divide the participants into three groups. Suggest them to take a look at the stuffed lion.
  • After a few minutes, give each group an envelope without sharing its content with the other groups. Let them share in groups their assumptions for the ebook’s subject.
  • After they finish, tell them to put the picture again in the envelope and give it to the group sitting on their right hand (or in front, or any other pattern that works to make sure all the groups see all envelopes).
  • In the end, ask each group to choose a spokesperson to present the group’s assumptions of the story. Encourage the students to use words such as ‘perhaps’, ‘maybe’, ‘I believe it is about….’.


Activity 1:  Guess what’s next?  

Preparation activity for general understanding 

  • Map of Greece
  • Ribbons
Terms and Conditions

Before the session: 

  • Place the map on a wall or the blackboard

In the workshop:

  • Ask participants to take a look at the map.
  • Then invite some of them to tie a ribbon around their head.
  • In the meantime, you show the rest of the participants where Nemea is on the map.
  • Now those who know, they have to guide the participants whose eyes are closed by using words such as up, down, left right, east, west, north, south in order to reach Nemea.
  • Every participant has only one minute to find the place.
  • Whoever finds it wins a small prize.

Activity 2:  First reading  

Global understanding activity 

  • Blank papers
  • Colour pencils
Terms and Conditions

In the workshop:

  • Explain that they will read the eBook individually until the point where the lion goes inside the cave. (You could show the slide they need to reach).
  • After they finish, ask them to find a pair and discuss how the story may  end.
  • Then invite them to draw on a paper their thoughts.
  • Stick the papers on the wall/ room space dedicated to the Hercules and the Nemean lion ebook.
  • You can reuse the assumptions vocabulary used in Activity 1.

Activity 3:  Hangman  

Fine-grained comprehension activity

Associated practical sheets (if relevant)

  • Blackboard or whiteboard
  • Chalks or markers
  • Small papers
  • Big box
Terms and Conditions

Before the session: 

  • Print on a big paper the alphabet of the target language and place it next to the board.
  • Write on the small papers some words from the ebook
  • Fold them and put them in the box

In the workshop:

  • Ask the students to reread the eBook individually.
  • After they finish, ask one of them to be the host and choose a small paper from the box.
  • Then tell him to write only the first letter of the word and draw a blank line for each letter in the word.
  • The others have to choose a letter from the alphabet by asking if it is in the word.
  • Whenever the players guess a letter that is in the word, the host fills it into the blank where it occurs.
  • Whenever the players guess a letter that is not in the word, they get a strike that brings them closer to losing. To show this, the host draws a simple stick figure of a man being hung, adding a new part to the drawing with every wrong answer.
  • The players win when they guess the correct word. If the players get every letter of the word before the host finishes drawing then they win. At any point a player can try to guess the entire word instead of a single letter, but if they guess the wrong word then the host should treat it as if they guessed a wrong letter.


Activity: The 13th labour  

Activity of appropriation of the reading experience

Associated practical sheets (if relevant)

  • A camera
  • Costume elements
  • Decorative elements  
Terms and Conditions

Before the session: 

  • Make sure each group has one A3 sheet of paper and several A4 sheets to draft and make the props for their play

In the workshop:

  • Ask them to divide into groups of 4-5
  • Each group will have to imagine and write a 13th labour of Hercules
  • Once the groups have created a short script (no more than one page), tell them to perform and take pictures of them if they agree.
  • In the end, you can stick all the pictures on the wall/ room space dedicated to Hercules and the Nemean lion ebook.