Although he was seen as the champion of the weak and a great protector, Hercules' personal problems started at birth. Hera sent two witches to prevent the birth, but they were tricked by one of Alcmene's servants and sent to another room. Hera then sent serpents to kill him in his cradle, but Hercules strangled them both. In one version of the myth, Alcmene abandoned her baby in the woods in order to protect him from Hera's wrath, but he was found by the goddess Athena who brought him to Hera, claiming he was an orphan child left in the woods who needed nourishment. Hera suckled Hercules at her own breast until the infant bit her nipple, at which point she pushed him away, spilling her milk across the night sky and so forming the Milky Way. She then gave the infant back to Athena and told her to take care of the baby herself. In feeding the child from her own breast, the goddess inadvertently imbued him with further strength and power.
Hercules is known for his many adventures, which took him to the far reaches of the Greco-Roman world. One cycle of these adventures became canonical as the "Twelve Labours", but the list has variations. One traditional order of the labours is found in the Bibliotheca as follows:
1. Slay the Nemean Lion.
2. Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.
3. Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis.
4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
5. Clean the Augean stables in a single day.
6. Slay the Stymphalian Birds.
7. Capture the Cretan Bull.
8. Steal the Mares of Diomedes.
9. Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.
10. Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon.
11. Steal the apples of the Hesperides.
12. Capture and bring back Cerberus.
After completing the 12 labours, Hercules was free to leave the life that he pleased. Trickeries of Hera or his own temper would cause more troubles such as killing innocent people (by accident or Hera’s trickery), living as a slave, or going into war again. He got married again, with Deianira, who later accidentally killed him with a shirt that was soaked in the blood of a centaur. That centaur wanted to rape Deianira and got killed by one of Hercules’ poisoned arrows. Before the centaur died he told Deianira that if Hercules would wear this blood-soaked shirt he would be crazy in love with her forever.
After Hercules's death, Zeus was so impressed by his greatness of mind that he elevated him to the status of a God.