In the first throes of madness Seneca's Hercules declares, ‘I shall be borne aloft to the world's high spaces’ (in alta mundi spatia sublimis ferar, HF 958). To Amphitryon these are the unspeakable thoughts of a mind that is hardly sane, but nevertheless great (pectoris sani parum, / magni tamen, 974f.). For Gilbert Lawall, writing the first essay in the 1983 collection of Ramus essays on Senecan tragedy, the fundamental question of the play is the moral quality of its hero, who in his madness becomes a ‘caricature of his real self’. John Fitch, writing just a few years later, argued for a continuity of characterization between the hero of the labours and the murderer of his family. My own essay is concerned less with the morality of Hercules’ character and actions than with the poetics of sublime aspiration and the imagery of grand literary endeavour. Seneca's conception of sublime poetry, as embodied in the figure of tragic Hercules, I discuss through his reception of Lucretius, Virgil, and Horace. The ambivalence Fitch and others have observed in this tragedy of Herculean overreaching I interpret first in the light of a plurality of literary models of transgressive poetics. Juno and the chorus both see violence and danger in the figure of Hercules, but yet do not see the same figure. This difference is located to some degree in the different genres and particular texts which define their perspectives. The Hercules who makes war on the heavens and commits the drama's primary action is very much the creation of Juno and the tragic energies of famous programmatic passages of Aeneid 1 and 7. Lyric offers an alternative conception of sky-towering fame. In the latter part of the article I consider the Lucretian paradigm of heroic rebellion against tradition and Hercules’ failure to break the pattern of Junonian madness. Finally I reflect on the tensions of the Georgics—ars and labor holding ingenium and furor in fragile balance—and see them overwhelmed in the civil war which Hercules Furens, a more powerful Orpheus, wages with himself.