Hercules Captures Cerberus

Hercules Captures Cerberus - History

Hades was not only the god of the underworld it was also the name of his domain. The underworld existed beneath the surface of the earth, and was where all souls both good and bad would go. It was said that in order to get to the underworld you needed to cross the river Styx. It was believed that no mortal could venture into the underworld and return to the land of the living.

Even though Hercules was half god, he was still mortal. A trip to a realm where no mortal has ever returned seemed like a perfect way to finish the great Hercules. So Hera and King Eurystheus told Hercules he would have to venture down into the underworld and bring back Cerberus.

Hercules left for his last adventure. Hercules went looking for the priest Eumolpus, best known for starting the Eleusinian mysteries. The Eleusinian mysteries were thought to bring happiness in the underworld for those who learned the mysteries secrets. Just a little insurance should Hercules not be able to return back.

Finally Hercules was ready to venture down into the underworld. Hercules found the entrance at a cave in Tanaerum. With the help of Hermes Hercules was able to make it to the deepest depths of the underworld where Hercules meet Hades . Hercules asked Hades if he could take Cerberus back to the surface. Hades agreed to not only give Hercules safe passage back BUT also let him take Cerberus IF Hercules did so without weapons and no harm came to Cerberus. Hercules agreed.

Hercules arrived at the king's castle with Cerberus over his shoulders. Hercules dropped the giant monster at the base of the city gates, when Eurytheus saw the Cerberus he was frightened and begged Hercules to return the beast in exchange the king would release Hercules from his labors. Hercules let the beast go and the Cerberus went back to Hades and the underworld.

With that Hercules, labors were at long last done, after 10 years of serving the king, and narrowly escaping 12 evil plots of Hera .Hercules was forgiven for his crimes was made immortal and went to live on Mount Olympus with his father Zeus . When Hercules got to mount Olympus, Hera announced that she no longer hate Hercules and wanted to make amends for all she had put Hercules through and offered Hercules her daughter Hebe for his wife.

Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus

Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus
The short mythical story of the Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus is one of the famous legends about Hercules, also referred to as Heracles, that feature in the mythology of ancient civilizations. Discover the myths about the ancient gods, goddesses, demigods and heroes and the terrifying monsters and creatures they encountered on their perilous journeys and quests. The amazing story of the Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus really is easy reading for kids and children. Additional facts and information about the mythology and legends of individual gods and goddesses of these ancient civilizations can be accessed via the following links:

The Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus

The mythical story of the Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus
by Gustav Schwab

The Myth of the Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus
Instead of destroying his hated enemy the labors which Eurystheus had imposed upon Hercules had only strengthened the hero in the fame for which fate had selected him. He had become the protector of all the wronged upon earth, and the boldest adventurer among mortals.

But the last labor he was to undertake in the region in which his hero strength so the impious king hoped would not accompany him. This was a fight with the dark powers of the Underworld. He was to bring forth from Hades Cerberus, the dog of Hell. This animal had three heads with frightful jaws, from which incessantly poison flowed. A dragon's tail hung from his body, and the hair of his head and of his back formed hissing, coiling serpents.

To prepare himself for this fearful journey Hercules went to the city of Eleusis, in Attic territory, where, from a wise priest, he received secret instruction in the things of the upper and lower world, and where also he received pardon for the murder of the Centaur.

Then, with strength to meet the horrors of the underworld, Hercules traveled on to Peloponnesus, and to the Laconian city of Taenarus, which contained the opening to the lower world. Here, accompanied by Mercury, he descended through a cleft in the earth, and came to the entrance of the city of King Pluto. The shades which sadly wandered back and forth before the gates of the city took flight as soon as they caught sight of flesh and blood in the form of a living man.

Only the Gorgon Medusa and the spirit of Meleager remained. The former Hercules wished to overthrow with his sword, but Mercury touched him on the arm and told him that the souls of the departed were only empty shadow pictures and could not be wounded by mortal weapons.

With the soul of Meleager the hero chatted in friendly fashion, and received from him loving messages for the upper world. Still nearer to the gates of Hades Hercules caught sight of his friends Theseus and Pirithous. When both saw the friendly form of Hercules they stretched beseeching hands towards him, trembling with the hope that through his strength they might again reach the upper world. Hercules grasped Theseus by the hand, freed him from his chains and raised him from the ground. A second attempt to free Pirithous did not succeed, for the ground opened beneath his feet.

The 12 Labors of Hercules - Picture of Hercules and Cerberus

At the gate of the City of the Dead stood King Pluto, and denied entrance to Hercules. But with an arrow the hero shot the god in the shoulder, so that he feared the mortal and when Hercules then asked whether he might lead away the dog of Hades he did not longer oppose him. But he imposed the condition that Hercules should become master of Cerberus without using any weapons. So the hero set out, protected only with cuirass and the lion skin.

He found the dog camping near the dwelling of Acheron, and without paying any attention to the bellowing of the three heads, which was like the echo of fearful resounding thunder, he seized the dog by the legs, put his arms around his neck, and would not let him go, although the dragon tail of the animal bit him in the cheek.

He held the neck of Cerberus firm, and did not let go until he was really master of the monster. Then he raised it, and through another opening of Hades returned in happiness to his own country. When the dog of Hades saw the light of day he was afraid and began to spit poison, from which poisonous plants sprung up out of the earth. Hercules brought the monster in chains to Tirynth, and led it before the astonished Eurystheus, who could not believe his eyes.

Now at last the king doubted whether he could ever rid himself of the hated son of Jupiter. He yielded to his fate and dismissed the hero, who led the dog of Hades back to his owner in the lower world.

Thus Hercules after all his labors was at last set free from the service of Eurystheus, and returned to Thebes.

The Legend of the Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus

Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus - The 12 Labors of Hercules
The twelve labors of Hercules, or Heracles, involved dangerous tasks relating to the Nemean lion, the Hydra, the Ceryneian Hind, the Erymanthian Boar, the Augean stables, the Stymphalian Birds, the Cretan Bull, the Mares of Diomedes, the Belt of Hippolyta, the Cattle of Geryon, the Apples of the Hesperides and Cerberus. The mythical story of each of the 12 Labors of Hercules can be discovered via the following articles:

The Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus
The story of the Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus is featured in the book entitled Myths and Legends of All Nations edited by Logan Marshall published in 1914 by the John C. Winston Company, Philadelphia. The stories of Hercules are translated form the the German works of of Gustav Schwab.

Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus - A Myth with a Moral
Many of the ancient Myth Stories, like the legend of the Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus, incorporate tales with morals that provided the old story-tellers with short examples of exciting tales for kids and children of how to act and behave and reflected important life lessons. The characters of the heroes in this type of fable demonstrated the virtues of courage, love, loyalty, strength, perseverance, leadership and self reliance. Whereas the villains demonstrated all of the vices and were killed or punished by the gods. The old, famous myth story and fable, like Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus, were designed to entertain, thrill and inspire their young listeners.

The 12 Labors of the Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus

The Magical World of Myth and Legend

The Short Story and Myth of the Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus
The story of the 12 Labors of the Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus is featured in the book entitled Myths and Legends of All Nations edited by Logan Marshall published in 1914 by the John C. Winston Company, Philadelphia. The stories of the Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus are translated form the the German works of of Gustav Schwab. The stories of the Twelfth Labor of Hercules, Cerberus are translated form the the German works of of Gustav Schwab. Learn about the exciting adventures and dangerous quests undertaken by the mythical characters that feature in the hero myths, fables and stories about the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece and Rome that are available on this website.

It is not entirely clear how many times Hercules went to the Underworld. As the 12th Labor Eurystheus assigned for Hercules' penance, Hercules was to fetch the hound of Hades, Cerberus (usually shown with 3 heads). Hercules was initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries in order to engage in this act, so he wouldn't have descended to the Underworld before this labor, at least within the logic of Greco-Roman mythology. While he was there or, possibly, on another occasion, Hercules saw his friend Theseus and observed that he was in need of rescuing. Since Hercules returned to the land of the living immediately after rescuing Theseus, and no other purpose is assigned Hercules' visit at the time, other than borrowing Cerberus, it makes sense to see this as one and the same visit to the Underworld.

The other occasion when Hercules may have descended to the Underworld is the rescue of Alcestis by wrestling her from Thanatos (Death). This rescue may or may not have occurred in the Underworld. Since Thanatos had already taken Alcestis (the brave woman who was willing to sacrifice herself so that her husband, Admetus, might live), to me it seems more likely that she was in the land of the dead, and so I take this as a second trip to the Underworld. However, Thanatos and Alcestis may have been above ground.

Hercules captures Cerberus

Hercules, covered completely with the skin of the Nemean lion, is tying up the dog Cerberus while Iolaus, as usual, looks on from the margins. Two people stand beneath an arch – which resembles the Gate of Hell, and which was controlled by this fearsome guardian – showing their amazement at the feat.

The monstrous dog of Hell

Eurystheus sent Hercules to hell to capture the dog Cerberus, the monstrous son of Echidna and Typhon, who had three heads – as can be seen in the tapestry – and a serpent for a tail. The “Hound of Hades”, as Homer refers to it, happily let people enter hell, but he would devour them if they tried to leave. There is no agreement as to whether this was the last or second-to-last of the Labours.

Hercules needed the help of Hermes and Athena to complete the task. He was firstly initiated in the Eleusinian Mysteries, which allowed him to reach the other world safely, and he began to descend to the kingdom of the dead. The dead, seeing him arrive, fled in fear, except the Gorgon Medusa and Meleager. The latter told Hercules his story, moving the hero so much that he promised to marry Meleager’s daughter Deianira upon his return.

Hercules fights with his bare hands

Now in Hades’ presence, Hercules asked permission to be taken to Cerberus. Hades agreed, as long as Hercules defeated the dog without using weapons. Although the mace appears beside Hercules, he could not use it and instead strangled the monster, despite the dog inflicting numerous stings with its venomous tail. Later, he freed Theseus and Ascalaphus, the two mean who appear in the tapestry at the Gate of Hell. The hero returned to the land of the living with the dog. Seeing them, Eurystheus hid in panic, and Hercules, not knowing what to do, returned the dog to Hades.

Deianira, Hercules’ wife

In the upper right-hand part of the cloth, two scenes are depicted: one is clear, since Hercules, with his attributes, walks alongside Deianira, who he had promised to marry. The second, a battle, is perhaps a reference to the battle Hercules had with the river-god Achelous before his marriage. Achelous, a suitor to the young woman, was turned into a bull, which Hercules defeated, pulling out one of its horns.

In the selvage of this tapestry we can see the mark of the weaver Willem Dermoyen the border of fruits and flowers with birds largely repeats that of the other tapestries.

How Hercules Totally Nailed His 12 Labors

When you think of Hercules, traits like strength, bravery and virility (rumor has it he fathered more than 50 children by the time he was 19) might come to mind. What you may have missed in the popular, Disney-fied version of Hercules (the Roman version of the Greek hero Herakles) is the tale of his 12 labors, a series of seemingly impossible feats which he had to perform as repentance for murdering his family. Let's unpack that.

Hercules was born a demigod — the son of Zeus, the king of all gods, and the mortal princess, Alcmene. While that may sound like an idyllic domestic unit, Zeus was actually married to someone else: Hera, the goddess of women. Hera wasn't super thrilled with her husband's infidelity, and since Hercules reminded her of Zeus' indiscretions, she did everything she could to eliminate the freakishly strong half-god (in the world of superhuman beings, this included sending snakes into his crib).

"Zeus one time had declared that whichever son of his was going to be born on that day would rule over everything," says Richard P. Martin, Antony and Isabelle Raubitschek professor in Classics at Stanford University. "Hera, who was jealous and angered by her husband's extramarital flings, trickily delayed the birth of Heracles, his son-to-be by the mortal woman Alcmene, so that Eurystheus' mother would give birth first. Hercules came second — the next day — and lost out. Even after his birth and youth, Herakles was always hounded by Hera. It's a surprise then that his name means 'Glory of Hera' — but then again, without her constant prodding and threats, he would not have achieved his own glory."

None of Hera's attempts to off Hercules worked out, so, playing the long game, she waited until he was happily married with kids and then used her powers to make him murder his loved ones in a fit of madness. When he came to his senses, he was so overcome with grief that he asked Apollo, the god of healing, for some guidance. Apollo told Hercules he could make up for his horrendous crimes, but he'd have to do it by serving his cousin, Eurystheus, king of Tiryns. In one last-ditch effort to destroy Hercules, Hera suggested to Eurystheus that he force the demigod to complete 12 unfeasible labors.

"Several of his labors involve trips to the far reaches of the known world, including at least two to the Far West," Martin says. "Because he was thought to have gone farther than any mortal in that direction, the rocky promontories at the straits of Gibraltar (where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean) were called the Pillars of Heracles — that's how far he traveled."

Here are those 12 labors and how they went:

1. Slay the Nemean Lion

The town of Nemea was being terrorized by an invincible lion, so, naturally, Eurystheus demanded Hercules destroy him and bring back his skin. He nailed it. Hercules choked the feline to death and delivered his pelt to the king. "It is interesting that his first labor was another place associated with a well-known athletic event, the district of Nemea in the Northeast Peloponnese," Martin says. "The University of California and a Greek team is still excavating this important competition and festival site, with its stadium, running track and all. Heracles killed a threatening lion there, and thereafter wore its skin as an invulnerable protection."

2. Slay the Nine-headed Lernaean Hydra

Eurystheus then commanded Hercules to take on another creature terrorizing a local town. "The same sort of strategic intelligence is on display when he does away with the Hydra ('water snake') of the swamp near Lerna, a monster that grew two heads every time you cut off one," Martin says. "With the help of his companion Iolaus, Herakles [Hercules] takes a torch and cauterizes the neck-like stump immediately after each beheading — all the while being chased and nipped at by a large crab that Hera sent to annoy him."

3. Capture the Ceryneian Hind

Hercules was then tasked with taking down a sacred female deer (known as a hind) in the Greek town of Ceryneia. "Another surprising thing is that many of his labors involve a kind of catch-and-release tactic," Martin says. "He does not kill the animal, but brings it back alive to his cousin, who is often depicted as being terrified — on some ancient vase-paintings of the episodes, Eurystheus desperately hides in a big pot as Heracles approaches him with the Erymanthian boar or the three-headed hound of Hades, named Cerberus. He drives back a bull from Crete, alive, in this way. Same story with the Ceryneian hind which was sacred to the goddess Artemis and so fast that it could outrun an arrow-shot."

4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar

In the mountains of Erymanthos lived a wild boar that Eurystheus figured Hercules could never capture. But Hercules visited his centaur friend, Pholos, and when they ate and drank together, their festivities attracted other centaurs to the cave. Hercules shot the centaurs with his arrows, Pholos accidentally poisoned himself to death and eventually Hercules captured the boar. That one is a bit of a long, twisted tale, but the point is, he nailed another task.

5. Clean the Augean Stables in One Day

King Augeas had a stable that housed an insane amount of cattle, so cleaning up the mess in a day was another unfathomable task Erymanthos assigned to Hercules. He accomplished it, of course — all he had to do was bore openings in the stables and reroute the two main rivers, Alpheus and Peneus, to rush through the stables and flush out all the junk. "When he cleansed the stables of the king Augeas by redirecting the course of two rivers to wash the accumulated dung of 3,000 cows, Heracles was showing off that kind of 'cunning intelligence' (mêtis) yet again," Martin says.

6. Slay the Stymphalian Birds

"Hercules is not just a brutal hunter or killer when it comes to the animals he faces," Martin says. "He is also a clever strategist. For example, when some magical birds were destroying the crops of people who lived near Lake Stymphalus in Arcadia (central part of the Peloponnese), and were in the habit of firing off their brass feathers against people, Hercules used a bronze clapper (given to him by Athena) to scare the birds and then shoot them on the wing."

7. Capture the Cretan Bull

King Minos of Crete gave Hercules permission to take away a bull that was destroying the city and wreaking havoc on residents. Hercules wrestled the animal to the ground and brought him back to Eurystheus.

8. Steal the Mares of Diomedes

King Diomedes of Thrace had an interesting habit of training mares to eat human flesh, and Hercules was tasked with swiping the scary animals. He brought along his friend, Abderus, who was killed in the process. Hercules buried Abderus and established the city of Abdera in his honor, killed King Diomedes, and simply gave the mares some snacks to satisfy their hunger so he could bring them back to Eurystheus.

9. Obtain the Girdle of Hippolyte

Hercules' ninth labor involved retrieving the belt (or girdle) of Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons. The leather piece of armor was gifted to the queen by the god of war, Ares, for her victories in battle. Hippolyte wasn't really willing to loan out her prized possession, so she commanded the army to charge Hercules on horseback. He drew his sword, killed Hippolyte, and snatched the belt for Eurystheus to give to his daughter.

10. Obtain the Cattle of the Monster Geryon

"On the western trip that led to his reaching Gibraltar, Hercules took a herd of sacred cattle from their triple-bodied giant guardian named Geryon," Martin says. Stealing the cattle wasn't nearly as difficult as getting to the island of Erythea, near the boundary of Europe and Libya. Along the way, he encountered and killed a variety of wild beasts, was attacked by a two-headed dog, and came up against other intense obstacles. Once he got the cattle, he made it all the way to the edge of the Ionian Sea before Hera sent a gadfly to attack them in order to impede his success. Hercules, however, managed to gather the spooked cows and brought them back to Eurystheus.

11. Steal the Apples of the Hesperides

"His other major western journey was to fetch the Apples of the Sun from the daughters of Night called the Hesperides (the name is related to a Greek word for 'evening' which has a Latin equivalent, 'vesper' — that's where we get 'vespers' meaning 'prayers at evening')," Martin says. "He kills a dragon guarding the tree and brings the fruit back home."

12. Capture and Bring Back Cerberus

As you might expect, Eurystheus saved the toughest task for last, ordering Hercules to the underworld to kidnap a three-headed dog called Cerberus who guarded the gates of Hades. After battling a long list of beasts and monsters to get to the underworld, Hercules asked Hades if he could take Cerberus back with him. Hades agreed as long as Hercules could do it without weapons. Spoiler alert: he did it.

Following the Labors of Hercules

Statue of Hercules - credits: Climber 1959/

Trace the steps of demigod Hercules and through his Labours, explore Greece like no other!

Table of Contents

Perhaps the most adorned ancient Greek demigod, Hercules incarnated the ideal concept of a man with virtue and courage. Popular throughout the centuries and always operating as a source of inspiration, its memory and deeds survived antiquity and even today, his figure floods pop-culture. Let us present you the most popular myth about Hercules, his Twelve Labours, and introduce you to how you can follow his steps in modern Greece!

Hercules was the son of mighty Zeus and Alcmene, the daughter of Electryon and Anaxo. According to Hesiod, she was the tallest, most beautiful woman ever have walked on earth with wisdom that surpassed both her parents and dark charming eyes that made even goddess Aphrodite jealous. She was married to Amphitryon, king of Tiryns and Mycenae, and according to the standards of that age, she was unconditionally faithful to her husband. Her beauty was not to be ignored by Zeus, who famously used to chase after the most beautiful women of the world. Knowing that Alcmene would never give in to his seduction, he transformed himself into Amphitryon and entered her chambers. Nine months later, baby Hercules was born.

The day before Hercules' birth, Zeus was so excited about the coming of his son that he joyfully announced to all the gods of Olympus that a son of his is about to be born, meant to rule everyone around him. Hera, his rightful wife and Queen of the Gods, trying to process another betrayal from her husband asked him to take an oath. This oath stated that the first baby to be born on that day would rule those around him. Then, she forbade Eileithyia, her daughter, and goddess of childbirth, to allow Alcmene to give birth before she returns to Olympus. Then, she descended on Earth and forced the wife of Sthenelus to give birth prematurely to Eurystheus, taking advantage that way of Zeus' oath and depriving of Hercules his right to rule.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of Hercules' turmoil. Hera was on a wrath path and continuously tried either to kill or torture the illegitimate son of Zeus. When Hercules got older and moved to Thebes, he married the daughter of King Creon, Megara, and had a happy family with her. Hera seized the opportunity of vengeance and drove him mad leading him to kill his own children and wife. After being healed by Antikyreus, Hercules desperate by his own acts tried to find salvation and release himself from the unbearing guilt of Erinyes, the female chthonic deities of vengeance. He decided to take advice from the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, where the Great Oracle told him to put himself in the service of the king of Tiryns, Eurystheus. Collaborating with Hera, Eurystheus took the chance of putting the life of Hercules in danger by assigning him a series of labors that would probably kill every man. In return, if Hercules would pass through all the tasks, Eurystheus would purify him from his sin. The king of Tiryns welcomed Hercules to his palace and announced to him his first task: the slaughter of the Nemean Lion.

The Nemean Lion

Architectural detail of statue depicting Hercules and the Nemean Lion - credits: Lucian Milasan/

The Lion of Nemea used to terrorize the area around the sanctuary, north to Argos. On his quest to locate the lion, Hercules arrived at the small town of Cleonae. The town was continuously harassed by the existence of the lion that was feeding continuously on the livestock of farmers leading them to suffer and poverty. While in town, a small boy reached Hercules, asking him to hunt and kill the lion within 30 days. Otherwise, the boy would offer himself as a sacrifice to the gods, hoping for their mercy. Hercules, inspired by the courage of the young boy, set out to find the beast. He managed to locate the beast lurking inside a cave system. Then, he blocked the entrances, securing that the lion could not escape, and entered it to face the beast. He found it and tried to shoot it down with his arrows but almost immediately, he realized that something was really wrong. The arrows bounced off the skin of the lion and seemed to be useless against it. Its golden fur was so tough that it was practically impenetrable by any weapon. Hercules had no choice but to deal with the animal face to face. He stunned it with his club and strangled it with his bare hands using his supernatural strength. Once dead, Hercules tried to find a way to skin the lion and take its pelt. He tried everything unsuccessfully but then, Athena advised him to use the claws of the beast. Them alone were capable of piercing through the tough hide of the divine lion. Hercules wore its hide and returned to Tiryns to show it to Eurystheus, who -terrified- banned him from entering the city again.

The Lernean Hydra

The area of Lerna with the prehistoric settlement - credits:

Hera, disappointed by the survival of Hercules, ordered Eurystheus to announce him his second task: the slaughter of the Lernean Hydra. Hydra was a vicious beast, offspring of Typhon and Echidna, raised by Hera herself with one mission to kill Hercules. The area that the monster used to dwell in was near the lake of Lerna in Argolis. When Hercules, reached the area, fumes and gases from the swamp made him put a wet cloth on his nose and mouth in order to continue his search for the beast. Then, he found the cave of Amymone, where a spring used to fill the lake with water. Hydra had a terrible form of a serpent-like creature with nine heads. Confident, Hercules chopped down one head of the beast while fighting with it with a sickle, only to discover the regeneration powers it held. Out of one severed head, two others sprout in its place making his efforts futile. Desperate, he calls for his nephew Iolaus to help him find a solution. Led by Athena herself, they used a firebrand to scorch down each neck stump after each decapitation preventing the beast from regenerating. When Hera realized that her plan was in danger, she sent a huge crab from the nearby lake to distract the heroes and give the advantage to the Hydra. Hercules crushed the crab under his foot and tossed it in the sky creating the constellation of Cancer. After the beheading of the last head of the Hydra, he crashed its last still-rattling head under a huge rock putting an end to the terror. Afterward, he dipped the tips of his arrows into the beast's blood, knowing how poisonous it was. He, later on, found Eurystheus announcing the completion of the Labour.

The Ceryneian Hind

Hercules capturing the Ceryneian Hind - Adolf Schmidt, Neues Museum, Berlin - credits:

The next task was really a challenge. Eurystheus knew that when it comes to strength Hercules had the upper hand, therefore the third labor was a bit different. He had to capture the hind of Ceryneia, a sacred animal of Artemis. The hind was one of a kind with golden antlers like a stag and bronze hooves which made it run faster than an arrow. It was to be found at the sacred region of Artemis, the goddess of hunting, in Ceryneia at the northern part of Peloponnese. Hercules spotted the hind by its shiny antlers but catching it proved to be more difficult than thought before. He chased the hind throughout Greece for more than a year, reaching as far as the land of Hyperborea. While there, Hercules stealthy waited for the hind to fall asleep and captured it by throwing a magical net on it, given by Artemis herself. He then returned to Eurystheus with the sacred animal. Eurystheus demanded to hand the animal to him to sacrifice it but Hercules, wanting to protect the sacred animal of Artemis, told him: "Here it is. Take it." By the time the king came closer to the animal and Hercules let off its antlers, the hind vanished in a blink of an eye, running back to the sacred forests of Ceryneia.

The Erymanthian Boar

Hercules defeats Erymathian boar - credits:

The fourth Labour was the again about the slaughter of an animal (boar) that caused huge destruction and terror to the area of Erymanthos. The boar's territory extending through the northern mountains of Arcadia, often descending to the plains of the region, destroying crops and killing people. Not being able to track it down, Hercules asked for the help of the famous centaur Chiron. He advised him to wait until mid-winter when the thick snow would give away its trails and constitute it unable to run. So Hercules did, and during winter he captured the animal alive and brought it back to Eurystheus. The king terrified by the sight of the beast jumped shaking inside a storage vessel (pithos) and ordered Hercules to get rid of it. He tossed it into the sea and the beast swam up until it reached Italy. According to ancient travelers, at the temple of Apollo at Cumae, you could see the actual tusks of the Erymanthian Boar on display!

The Augean Stables

Hercules relief, end of 3rd century AD, Musée des Antiques de Toulouse - credits:

Eurystheus then gave another task to Hercules. He had to clean the stables of King Augeas in one day. Even though the task did not seem to be so demanding it was deliberately given because of its humiliating nature and impossibility. Augeas was the king of Elis and his stables were hosting cattle of 3000 in number. These animals belonged to an immortal divine animal species and by being divinely healthy they produced an excess of manure on a daily basis. The stables were impossible to be cleaned so Hercules had to face filth of about 30 years in one day. He asked from the king the 1/10 of the livestock as payment for his service, something that Augeas originally accepted. Thinking that he has found his match, Hercules stayed in Elis trying to figure out what to do. Then, he had an epiphany (possibly with the help of Athena)! He redirected the flow of the two rivers of the area, Peneus and Alpheus sending them through the stables. When Augeas realized that he has lost one-tenth of his divine herd, he refused to honor the agreement and exiled Hercules from Elis. After some years, Hercules returned only to kill Augeas and give his kingdom to Phyleus (Augeas' son) who had supported him against his father. Legend also says, Hercules then founded the Olympic Games.

The Stymphalian Birds

Painting of Hercules and the Stymphalian birds - credits:

The next labor was located at the central part of Peloponnese, at the lake of Stymphalia. The region of the lake was a swamp that was making traveling from one area to another quite an arduous task. In addition, at the densely forested plains of the lake, there used to live a flock of mythical birds, the Stymphalian birds, sacred creatures of Artemis and brought-up by Ares himself. The task of Hercules was to clear the area from those birds. The Stymphalian birds were a source of terror for the region. Often attacking and eating people, destroying crops and killing livestock, they were a force to be reckoned. They had bronze beaks and iron wings with sharp metallic feathers which they could launch at their victims or prey and produced highly poisonous dung. Pausanias describes them: "These fly against those who come to hunt them, wounding and killing them with their beaks. All armor of bronze or iron that men wear is pierced by the birds but if they weave a garment of thick cork, the beaks of the Stymphalian birds are caught in the cork garment, just as the wings of small birds stick in bird-lime. These birds are of the size of a crane and are like the ibis, but their beaks are more powerful, and not crooked like that of the ibis." The vegetation of the area was a huge obstacle to locate the birds. Hercules asked for the help of Athena and she ordered from Hephaestus a small contraption to help her half-brother. Hephaestus made a pair of krotala (rattles) which the hero used when he climbed on top of the nearby mountain. Suddenly, the flock swarmed the air and Hercules started shooting them down by using the poisonous arrows of Hydra. Some of the birds got so scared by the noise that they migrated far to the north, on an island called Aretias close to the kingdom of Colchis. During the coming years, the Argonauts faced them once more on their way to this kingdom of the East. In order to prove his success, Hercules picked up some birds to show them to Eurystheus. The birds were depicted on statues at the temple of Stymphalian Artemis.

The Cretan Bull

The sculpture of "Heracles, the Cretan bull curbing" by sculptor August Kriessmann - credits: Bastian Kienitz/

Disappointed by the so far turning of the events, Eurystheus announced to Hercules his next Labour: the capture of the Cretan Bull. When the king of Crete, Minos wanted to legitimize his rule over his brothers, he asked from Poseidon a sign to mark his reign. Poseidon answered his call by sending him a snow-white bull in the grounds of putting the animal to sacrifice afterward. Minos, amazed by the beauty and divinity of the animal mingled it with his herd and sacrificed another bull to Poseidon. The god, furious, ordered Aphrodite to make Minos' wife, Pasiphaē, madly in love with the bull. After their connection, the terrifying monster, the Minotaur was born. Poseidon passed his rage to the bull and the animal left its herd starting devastating the surrounding lands. Hercules chased the animal from one side of Crete to the other and succeeded in capturing the beast using brutal force. He then shipped it directly to Tiryns to be presented in front of the king where it escaped and headed to the plains of Marathon, where it was renamed into the Marathonian Bull.

The Mares of Diomedes

Detail of Gustave's Moreau, Diomède dévoré par ses chevaux, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, - credits:

The next Labour of Hercules was located to the northern part of Greece close to the modern city of Xanthi. Eurystheus ordered the seizing of the Mares (horses) of Diomedes, the king of Bistones, a Thracian tribe of northern Greece. Xanthos (the blond one), Podagros (the Swift), Lampon (the Shining) and Deinos (the Terrible) were set free to the plains of Bistonia by Diomedes. Hercules, unaware of the danger, set to find the horses with his lover Abderus, son of Hermes. Little did he know that these horses were vicious creatures with no match, with fiery breath and an appetite for human flesh. Once he found them, he deployed all of his talents to tame them with no harm and eventually succeeded in harnessing them without knowing that Diomedes and his soldiers had already been informed for his actions. Then, the Thracians attacked, and in order to face them, Hercules passed the horses to young Abderus. By the end of the fight, Hercules realized in horror that the horses had killed and devoured his young lover. He immediately turned against Diomedes, killed him and fed him to his own horses. Hercules founded a city at the site of Abderus' tomb which he named after him, Abdera. After having gorged on human flesh, the horses were calm enough to be tamed and tied to a chariot. This is how he returned to Eurystheus who after offering them to Hera, he set them free. The horses made their way towards Mount Olympus, where Zeus sent wild beasts to devour them. According to tradition, the legendary horse of Alexander the Great, Bucephalus, descended from this horse-species.

The Girdle of Hippolyte

Hercules gets the girdle of Hippolyte, Queen of the Amazons - credits:

Being cunning enough, Eurystheus assigned to Hercules another task which probably would guarantee his failure. As a gift for his daughter Admete (a Hera's priestess), the king asked from Hercules to go to the kingdom of the Amazons and retrieve the girdle of Hippolyte, their Queen. The task seemed to be undoable, first because Hercules had to ask for a personal artifact of status from the Queen of the Amazons and second because he had to travel outside of the Greek territory, face the dangers of those barbaric lands and even have the chance of confronting the Amazons themselves. Hence, Hercules decided to head there not alone but with the companion of Theseus, Peleus and Telamon among others. After many adventures and battles, Hercules with his band of friends reached the city of Themyscira, the capital of the Amazons' kingdom. There, Queen Hippolyta welcomed the guests wearing the gift of Ares, the magical girdle. Hercules, after discussing with the Queen the purpose of their visit, convinced her to give him the girdle with no troubles. By the time though Hera realized that things got easy on him, she transformed herself into an Amazon and descended to Themyscira. There she started spreading the rumor that the strange men would abduct their Queen, agitating the rest of the Amazons. Proud enough and willing to die for the safety of their Queen, the Amazons took their arms and attacked Hercules' companions. In the heat of the battle, Hippolyta ran to help her sisters where she died. From her dead body, Hercules took the girdle but before returning to Greece he made a stop to Troy to save the King's daughter, Hesione. She was chained on a rock close to the sea, an offering to praise the angry gods Apollo and Poseidon. A sea monster (Cetus) sent by Poseidon was about to devour her when Hercules confronted the beast. In some versions of the myth, the huge creature swallowed Hercules who spent 3 days in his body, slaughtering the animal from within. Later on, after rescuing Hesione, he gave her to Telamon as his wife.

The cattle of Geryon

Attic amphora carrying a black-figure scene of Hercules fighting against Geryon, 550-530BC, British Museum, London - credits:

Hercules proved to be an unbeatable warrior, therefore Eurystheus sent him to the end of the world for his tenth Labour. His task was to bring back to him the divine cattle of Geryon, located far at the lands of Erytheia (today's Cádiz, Spain). On his way there, he crossed the Libyan desert and frustrated by the heat and the scorching sun, Hercules released an arrow to the Sun, wanting to wound the god. God Sun, impressed by his courage, gave to him a golden cauldron that he used to sail to the lands of Erytheia. Using his supernatural strength, he crushed in half the mountain connecting the Mediterranean to the Atlantic ocean, creating the strait of the Pillars of Hercules, nowadays Gibraltar. By the time he reached the island where the cattle were, Hercules faced Orthrus, a two-headed dog, brother of Cerberus and offspring of Typhon and Echidna. Hercules bashed his mighty olive-wood club on the watchdog killing it, same as the herdsman and son of Ares, Eurytion. Attracted by the sound of battle, Geryon rushed to his herd's protection. Geryon was not an ordinary man. He was the grandson of Medusa, son of Chrysaor and Callirhoe. According to most descriptions, he was a giant having three bodies, six legs, arms and heads able to carry three shields and three spears, making him an unbeatable warrior. After a long chase, Geryon and Hercules fought against each other at the grounds of river Anthemus. There, Hercules succeeded in killing the giant by using his poisonous arrows (the ones dipped in Hydra's blood). Stesichorus describes the moment: ". and Geryon bent his neck over to one side, like a poppy that spoils its delicate shapes, shedding its petals all at once". Undisturbed, Hercules started herding the cattle back to Eurystheus. Passing through Italy, he dealt with Cacus (in Rome there used to be an altar founded by Hercules in the Forum Boarium) but before reaching Greece, Hera sent a gadfly to irritate the animals and scatter them to every corner of the earth. It took one year for Hercules to find all the animals which eventually were led to Eurystheus and sacrificed to Hera.

The Apples of Hesperides

The golden apples of Hesperides - credits: julia kobzeva/

The next labor of Hercules was the retrieving of the golden apples of Hesperides . The apple trees that produced those apples of immortality were the wedding gift of Gaia to Hera when she married Zeus. These trees were planted to a garden close to the ends of the world that no one knew its exact location except for the shapeshifter sea god, Proteus , known as the Old Man of the Sea . After locating him and fighting against him, Hercules forced Proteus to reveal to him the location of the garden. He set out to find the garden and reached the highest point of a mountain range located in the northwestern part of Africa. There, he met Atlas , a Titan that was sentenced by the gods to hold the skies on his shoulders after Titanomachy. Hercules asked him whether he could help him locate the garden. Atlas knew exactly its location and in addition, he was the father of Hesperides , the three divine guardians of the garden. Hercules, acknowledging the fact that he couldn't pass through the guardians and the fierce dragon Ladon protecting them, proposed to hold the skies in the place of Atlas while he would retrieve the apples for him. When Atlas returned with some apples in his hands, he told Hercules that he could bring the apples to King Eurystheus himself and then return to take the heavens on his back. Hercules, realizing that Atlas wanted to trick him and abandon him there holding up his punishment, falsely agreed to the plan but asked Atlas to switch for a bit to make his cloak padding for his shoulders. Then he grabbed the chance of taking the apples and left Atlas holding up the dome of Heaven.

Whether you know this Greek Hero as Herakles, Heracles, or Hercules, and whether you picture him as played by Arnold Schwarzenneger or Kevin Sorbo, this man who has come to symbolize all that is strong and heroic did not always have it so good himself.

Digging Deeper

Born of the God Zeus and a mortal mother, this demi-god was hated by Hera, Queen of the Gods and wife of Zeus, although at first his true identity was hidden from Hera, who nursed him as a baby. Possessing incredible strength even then, the little Hercules sucked so hard that Hera’s milk spewed across the heavens to form the Milky Way.

Growing into a strong, witty, and attractive man, Hercules took a wife and had children, but in a fit of madness put upon him by the vengeful Hera murdered his entire family. When free of the madness, Hercules consulted the Oracle at Delphi to find out how he could atone for so grave a sin. Again, with Hera’s influence, Hercules was given to King Eurystheus to serve at the King’s pleasure. Hercules was to be given 10 tasks known as The Labours of Hercules. Each of these labours was either incredibly difficult, dangerous, or both, and would require all of Hercules intellect as well as strength. Hercules was cheated out of credit for 2 of the tasks and therefore had to complete a total of 12 Labours. These labours are:

1. Slay the Nemean Lion.

Unable to penetrate the lion’s magical hide with his arrows, Hercules clubbed it senseless and strangled it with his tremendous strength.

2. Slay the Lernaean Hydra.

Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra

Using a golden sword given to him by Athena, as Hercules cut off each head of the multi-headed monster 2 new ones would grow back. He then used a burning torch to burn each neck stump as he cut each head off to keep it from regrowing extra heads. Hercules finally cut off the last, immortal head. Just for good measure, Hercules dipped his supply of arrows in the poisonous blood of the Hydra to create poisoned arrows for use in later tasks.

3. Capture the Ceryneian Hind.

Faster than an arrow, this female deer owned by Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt. After chasing the Hind for over a year, Hercules captured it either while sleeping, or with a net, or with an arrow shot between both forelegs. An angry Artemis agreed to allow him to take the Hind back to Eurystheus as long as it would be released. Hercules brought the Hind back, but made sure it could escape when he handed it over to the King.

4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar.

Heracles and the Erymanthian Boar

This next monster to be conquered was kept by bloodthirsty Centaurs, who Hercules killed with his poisoned arrows. He then captured the boar by driving it into deep snow where it struggled helplessly.

5. Clean the Augean Stables.

Not exactly dangerous, but a daunting task nonetheless, these stables were home to over 1000 cattle (and perhaps other critters) and had not been cleaned for over 30 years. The accumulated filth would have taken years to clean by any normal methods. Hercules used his ingenuity to divert a river through the stables to wash away the filth and complete the task. Hercules has wisely bargained with Augeas for a tenth of the cattle if Hercules could complete the task.

6. Kill the Stymphalian Birds.

These man eating bird with metallic feathers that protected them and could be flung at people like arrows were sacred to Ares, God of War, and had highly toxic dung as well. Hercules tricked them into flight with a magic rattle and shot his arrows into their unprotected parts as they flew, killing many and driving the rest away. (These surviving birds would later battle Jason and the Argonauts.)

7. Capture the Cretan Bull.

Heracles forces the bull to the ground (engraving by B. Picart, 1731)

This giant, rampaging creature was devastating the countryside of King Minos realm. Hercules captured it by sneaking up behind it and choking it just short of death. On return with his prize, Hercules gave it to a cowering King Eurystheus who let it loose where it became the Marathon Bull. (There is no record of Schlitz Brewing ever to have taken ownership.)

8. Bring Back the Mares of Diomedes.

Firebreathing, man-eating horses owned by the King of Thrace, Hercules isolated them by digging a ditch around them effectively putting them on an island. After killing Diomedes, Hercules bound the mouths of the mares and drove them back home where Eurystheus wanted to sacrifice them to Zeus, who refused the sacrifice and sent wolves, bears, and lions to kill them instead.

9. Retrieve the Belt of Hippolyta.

Sent on a perilous journey to bring back the belt of the Amazon Queen for the daughter of Eurystheus, Hercules established a cordial relationship with the warrior Queen who agreed to just give him the belt. Hera got up to her tricks, and sowed discontent among the Amazons who then confronted Hercules. Our hero then killed the Amazons, including Hippolyta who he wrongly thought had plotted against him and took her belt.

10. Bring Back the Cattle of Geryon.

On another epic journey far across the Libyan desert, Hercules traveled to steal the cattle of the monster Geryon. In a tremendous battle, Hercules prevailed by using his poisoned arrows to kill the giant. Just to make things harder for Hercules, Hera sent biting flies to torment the cattle as Hercules drove them back to Eurystheus causing him extra time and effort in this task.

11. Steal the Apples of the Hesperides.

Eurystheus declared the 10 labours incomplete, claiming that Hercules had profited by the cleaning of the Augean Stables (and the river did the work, anyway) and that killing the Hydra did not count because Hercules had the help of a boy to burn the neck stumps. Hercules convinced Atlas to retrieve the apples for him, by offering to hold up Atlas’s massive burden of the Heavens while Atlas got the apples. Of course, Atlas laughed at Hercules once the switch was made, and had no intention of resuming his eternal role of supporting the Heavens. Hercules tricked Atlas by agreeing to take over the task permanently, but could Atlas please take the load for a minute while Hercules adjusted his cloak to pad his shoulders? Atlas fell for the trick, and Hercules left with the apples.

12. Capture Cerberus.

The ferocious 3 headed monster dog that guarded the entrance to the Underworld, Cerberus was owned by Hades, God of the Underworld. Hades agreed to let Hercules take the Hell Hound only if Hercules could subdue the creature without using weapons. The might Hero managed to do just that, and returned triumphantly with his last prize. The coward Eurystheus was so afraid of Cerberus, that he begged Hercules to return the monster to the Underworld.

After fulfilling his obligation by successfully completing each task, Hercules was free to go about his heroic life, and he joined with Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece.

Today Hercules has become synonymous with “strong man” and has been the subject of numerous television and movie characters, even cartoons, as well as appearing in many written stories over the centuries. He even had a thirteenth and final labor in God of War III (2010). Watch the following video to see if he succeeded:

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Marie-Lan Nguyen of the front panel from a sarcophagus with the Labours of Heracles (from left to right, the Nemean Lion, the Lernaean Hydra, the Erymanthian Boar, the Ceryneian Hind, the Stymphalian birds, the Girdle of Hippolyta, the Augean stables, the Cretan Bull and the Mares of Diomedes), has been released by the copyright holder of this work into the public domain worldwide.

About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.

Community Reviews

Poirot is lamenting how young women do not fit his fancy when he sees Countess Rossakoff, a woman who (although a thief) does fit his fancy. Passing each other on the escalator, she tells him he may find her "In Hell"

After ascertaining where such a place may be, he procures dinner invitations and meets the woman of his fancy. She introduces him to several people, including Alice - the fiancee of her Niki. Poirot notices a policeman.

. so he approaches Scotland Yard to find out what investigat Poirot is lamenting how young women do not fit his fancy when he sees Countess Rossakoff, a woman who (although a thief) does fit his fancy. Passing each other on the escalator, she tells him he may find her "In Hell"

After ascertaining where such a place may be, he procures dinner invitations and meets the woman of his fancy. She introduces him to several people, including Alice - the fiancee of her Niki. Poirot notices a policeman.

. so he approaches Scotland Yard to find out what investigation is being done. Scotland Yard believes that a drug ring is being operated out of the nightclub and Poirot volunteers his help (because he does not believe the Countess is wrapped up in such things).

Poirot hires a man to take the guarddog (named Cerberus) out of the nightclub and presents his dramatic reveal to the Countess.

Who was running the drug ring? (view spoiler) [ Alice. She tried to frame the Countess for stealing jewels (which didn't work because the Countess mistook the Professor for Poirot). She was also able to train Cerberus to hide the drugs in his mouth. The Countess was appalled but Niki found a new woman. (hide spoiler)]
. more

The last of The ‘Trials of Hercules’ Collection. In this story, Poirot bumps into an old friend, a Russian Countess on the tube who invites Poirot to her nightclub. Hell is a nightclub the bored Toff’s go to to hang out with criminals for fun. Poirot and Inspector Japp then turn their eye to a drug smuggling ring and try to figure out who is financing the club.

For Poirot’s last case, it was pretty darn boring to say the least.

Dibanding beberapa buku Christie sebelumnya, yang ini agak datar. Tokoh utama, seperti judulnya, adalah Hercule Poirot. Buku ini berisi 12 cerita pendek, yang kalau dirangkum jadi satu berkaitan dengan tugas-tugas yang diemban oleh Hercules, dewa dalam mitologi Yunani. Hanya saja, kalau menurut Poirot, tugas yang diemban oleh Poirot sebagai seorang Hercules, adalah tugas-tugas di abad modern. Masih ada benang merahnya dengan tugas di zaman Yunani klasik, cuma aja dalam pengertian kiasan.

Ada bebe Dibanding beberapa buku Christie sebelumnya, yang ini agak datar. Tokoh utama, seperti judulnya, adalah Hercule Poirot. Buku ini berisi 12 cerita pendek, yang kalau dirangkum jadi satu berkaitan dengan tugas-tugas yang diemban oleh Hercules, dewa dalam mitologi Yunani. Hanya saja, kalau menurut Poirot, tugas yang diemban oleh Poirot sebagai seorang Hercules, adalah tugas-tugas di abad modern. Masih ada benang merahnya dengan tugas di zaman Yunani klasik, cuma aja dalam pengertian kiasan.

Ada beberapa cerita yang menarik, sisanya ya.. kalau menurut gue so-so lah. Entah kenapa, beberapa cerita membahas seputar hal yang sama, yaitu penyelundupan narkoba. Kok kayaknya Christie jadi kurang kreatif ya di buku yang satu ini.

Penggunaan kiasan tugas2 Hercules juga terkadang rada-rada maksa. Beberapa cerita bisa ditebak siapa penjahatnya. Intinya sih, maraton gue berakhir agak mengecewakan. . more

The Labors Of Hercules

Hera’s vengeance upon Hercules was no longer a secret. And Apollo understood that he was just a victim of her manipulation and he’s not responsible for what happened. But to reduce Hercules’ sufferings, Apollo decided to send him to King Eurystheus where he had to serve the king for 12 years.

During these 12 years, he went to several mind-boggling adventures that are famous as the 12 great labors. Here are 2 of the most famous labors you need to know.

Killing The Lion Of Nemea

For his first labor, this great Greek hero was ordered to kill the fierce Nemean lion that had skin so hard that even arrows couldn’t pierce it. So, he had to come up with another way to kill the giant lion. Finally, after a fierce battle, he grabbed the neck of the lion and choked to death. That’s how he killed the lion.

Capturing Cerberus

For his last labor, he had to bring Cerberus, Hades’ monster dog with three heads to the king Eurystheus. Thanks to this Greek legend’s brute strength, he managed to capture Cerberus and brought it to his king. The monster dog was promptly sent back to the Underworld afterward.

Watch the video: Hercules - The Titans (January 2022).