The 12 Labors Of Hercules Part 2
Herding the Cattle of Geryon
For his 10th Labor, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to bring him some cattle. The catch: The cattle were basically located at the edge of the world.
Also, the cattle were owned by Geryon, a three-head, six-armed giant who had no intention of giving them up. But Hercules had a harder time getting to Geryon than Geryon himself.
He had to cross the Libyan desert, where he was so pissed off by the heat he shot an arrow at the sun, which somehow prompted sun-god Helios to give Hercules a boat. Upon finally arriving at Geryon’s island,
Hercules conked his two-headed watch dog on the head, did the same to his herdsman, and then shot a single poisoned arrow into Geryon himself,
killing him pretty much instantly. Getting the cattle back to Eurystheus was also more difficult than seizing them, because an enraged Hera kept sending gadflies to sting them and make them wander off. But this Labor was less a Labor and more… a Hassle.
Stealing the Mares of Diomedes
Unlike Geryon’s cattle, these horses were centrally located and not guarded by a three-headed giant. They were just owned by Diomedes, who was kind of an asshole, but a regular mortal.
The problem with the mares is that Diomedes had bred them to eat human flesh, and would usually feed his guests to them.
But rather than an actually fight with awesome, man-eating horses, Hercules just picked up Diomedes by the scruff of his neck, and tossed him to his own horses to eat.
And then the horses were completely chill after that. Basically, Herc tossed a dude over a fence, and then herd a bunch of essentially normal horses. Even I could probably managed that.
Capturing the Cretan Bull
Last and certainly least was Hercules’ 7th Labor. The Cretan Bull was a bull famous for wreaking havoc across Crete (he was supposedly the father of the minotaur, too), but a ferocious beast he was not.
All Hercules has to do to capture it was sneak up behind it and basically put it into a headlock, and then the bull was done. Here’s how easy this Labor was:
The bull didn’t just go docilely back with Hercules to Tiryns, it let Hercules sit on its back while it swam across the Mediterranean back to mainland Greece
. It gave Hercules a goddamned ride! That’s not a Labor, that’s free transportatio
Heracles, Greek Herakles, Roman Hercules, one of the most famous Greco-Roman legendary heroes. Traditionally, Heracles was the son of Zeus and Alcmene (see Amphitryon), granddaughter of Perseus.
Zeus swore that the next son born of the Perseid house should become ruler of Greece, but—by a trick of Zeus’s jealous wife, Hera—another child, the sickly Eurystheus, was born first and became king
. When Heracles grew up, he had to serve Eurystheus and also suffer the vengeful persecution of Hera; his first exploit was the strangling of two serpents that she had sent to kill him in his cradle.
Having completed the Labours, Heracles undertook further enterprises, including warlike campaigns.
He also successfully fought the river god Achelous for the hand of Deianeira
As he was taking her home, the Centaur Nessus tried to violate her, and Heracles shot him with one of his poisoned arrows.
The Centaur, dying, told Deianeira to preserve the blood from his wound, for if Heracles wore a garment rubbed with it he would love none but her forever
. Several years later Heracles fell in love with Iole, daughter of Eurytus, king of Oechalia.
Deianeira, realizing that Iole was a dangerous rival, sent Heracles a garment smeared with the blood of Nessus. The blood proved to be a powerful poison, and Heracles died.
His body was placed on a pyre on Mount Oeta (Modern Greek Oíti), his mortal part was consumed, and his divine part ascended to heaven, becoming a god. There he was reconciled to Hera and married Hebe.
Hercules Birth and Childhood
A demigod sired by Zeus, Heracles showed immense promise ever since birth: he strangled two snakes sent by Hera in his cradle
. He had the very best teachers in his childhood, and by the time he reached his teenage years, he had already outdone all of them in both stature and strength.
As is almost typical in the case of heroes, Heracles was the product of a union of a mortal woman (Alcmene) and a god (Zeus).
In Heracles’ case, even his mother was of a noteworthy parentage: Alcmene was the granddaughter of Perseus, possibly Greece’s greatest hero before Heracles.
Disguised as her husband Amphitryon, Zeus slept with Alcmene on the same night that Amphitryon himself did.
Nine months later, Alcmene gave birth to twin sons: Iphicles to her husband and Heracles to Zeus.
Angry at Zeus’ infidelity – and not knowing which of Alcmene’s boys was Zeus’
Hera secretly put two snakes in the twins’ cradle; Iphicles started crying at the very sight, but Heracles strangled them in an instant.
Now, it was suddenly obvious who was the god and who the mortal of the two.
Interestingly enough, the sending of the snakes was not the first misdeed of Hera against Heracles – and it would certainly not be the last.
Namely, just before Heracles’ birth, Hera had persuaded Zeus to promise that the next child to be born in the House of Perseus would become a High King – and the following one his servant.
Truth be told, it wasn’t that difficult for Hera to convince the Supreme God to make such an oath since that next-to-be-born child should have been Heracles.
However, once Zeus gave his word, Hera ordered Eileithyia to delay Heracles’ coming to the world until Eurystheus’ premature birth – an event which would eventually lead to Heracles’ celebrated labors.
Heracles had a number of mentors. His father Amphitryon taught him to drive a chariot; Autolycus, Odysseus’ grandfather, tutored him in wrestling; Eurytus, the king of Oechalia, instructed Heracles in archery;
Castor, the mortal Dioscuri twin, trained Heracles in fencing and Harpalycus of Phanotè, a fearsome son of Hermes,
in boxing. He acquired the art of writing and learned the secrets of literature from Linus,
a Muse’s son, who may have as well taught Heracles the lyre; others say that Heracles’ music-teacher had been, in fact,
Eumolpus, the son of Philammon. Either way, Heracles’ education was entrusted to the best of the best; even as a child, Heracles outdid them all.
Hercules Early Adventures
Heracles’ adventures started in the eighteenth year of his life when he killed the Lion of Cithaeron; an exceptional specimen of manhood and virility, by the time he was nineteen, he had already fathered more than fifty children and bested a whole army!
The Lion of Cithaeron
The Lion of Mount Cithaeron preyed on the flocks of both Amphitryon and Thespius, the king of Thespiae; while staying with the latter, Heracles killed the beast after hunting it ferociously for fifty days straight.
Having vanquished the lion, Heracles dressed himself in his skin and ever since then wore the lion’s scalp as his helmet.
Amazed at the boy’s power and determination – and wishing that all of his daughters should have a child by him
– night by night, Thespius managed to send each of his fifty daughters to Heracles’ bed.
Thinking that his bedfellow was always one and the same, Heracles had intercourse with all of them and fathered at least a child to each.
The Heralds of Erginus
Coming back triumphantly from the hunt, Heracles encountered the heralds of Erginus, sent by the Minyan king to collect the annual Theban tribute of one hundred cows.
After learning of their intentions, Heracles – as one of our sources tells us
– “cut off their ears and noses and hands, and having fastened them by ropes from their necks, he told them to carry that tribute to Erginus and the Minyans.”
Furious, Erginus gathered the Minyan army and marched against Thebes
– but instead found his death at the hands of Heracles, who afterward compelled the Minyans to pay double the original tribute to the Thebans
Out of a profound sense of gratitude, Creon, the Theban king, gave Heracles his eldest daughter Megara, with whom Heracles had at least two and as many as eight children.
Either way, after being struck with madness by the jealous Hera, Heracles killed them all. To purify himself from this horrible sin,
he was instructed by the Delphic oracle to serve Eurystheus, the king of Tiryns, for the next twelve years of his life and carry out all of the tasks he would be imposed with. Initially ten, these would eventually become the famous Twelve Labors of Heracles.