The Origin of the Milky Way

The reason I chose the ‘Origin of the Milky Way’ painting by Jacopo Tintoretto (1518-1594) as my title picture is for the mythological story about the creation of the milky Way.

If you would like to see this painting in the flesh visit the National Gallery in London.

There are two versions of the Greek mythology, I prefer this one!

According to Greek mythology, Heracles was the son of Zeus and Alcmene.  Alcmene was married to Amphitryon, but during her husband’s expedition against the Taphians and Teleboans, Zeus disguised himself as Alcmene’s husband Amphitryon and slept with her making her pregnant with their son Heracles.  Alcmene also conceived another baby by sleeping with her real husband, and gave birth to twins Heracles and Iphicles (a case of Heteropaternal superfecundation in which two different males father fraternal twins in the same cycle).

Before the birth of Heracles, Zeus announced to the gods that a child fathered by him would rule all those around him. Upon this Zeus’ wife Hera descended from Olympus to Argos and tried to delay Alcmene from delivering Heracles so that another would become the ruler, rather than Heracles.

Zeus, who was very fond of his son Heracles, made the baby feed on his divine wife Hera’s milk when she was asleep. When Hera woke up she realized that she was breastfeeding Heracles and she pushed him away. While pushing him suddenly, her breast sprayed milk across the heavens and the droplets of milk formed the Milky Way.


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