The Labors of Hercules

 Labours of Heracles / Museo nazionale romano di palazzo Altemps, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Known as one of the most famous figures in Greek mythology, Hercules (Heracles( was a demi-god, son of Zeus, and the mortal princess Alcmene. Hera tried to kill Heracles when he was still a baby but failed, so she sent madness on him when he grew older, causing him to kill his wife and children. Heracles turned to the god Apollo for guidance, and he advised him to serve Eurystheus, king of Tiryns, to make up for his wrongdoings. By the order of Hera, Eurystheus orders Hercules to fulfill twelve impossible tasks. Find here the 12 labors of Hercules by chronological order:

The 12 Labors of Hercules

1. Slay the Nemean Lion


For his first labor, Hercules was ordered to slay an invincible lion that brought devastation and fear to the town of Nemea. Hercules was able to use wisely his immense strength and cunning to stun the lion with his club, to choke it to death, and to bring the skin to Eurystheus.

2. Slay the Lernean Hydra

Slay the Lernean Hydra - 12 labours of Hercules

Hercules was then asked to kill the Lernean Hydra, a nine-headed serpent that terrified the area. The Hydra was venomous with one immortal head that could not be killed. Hercules managed to slay the beast with the help of his nephew, Iolaus, who would use a firebrand to scorch the neck stumps after each decapitation made by him. In the end, Hercules cut off the immortal head of Hydra with a golden sword given to him by Athena.

3. Capture the Golden Hind


Eurystheus ordered Hercules to capture the Ceryneian or Golden Hind, which was so fast that it could outrun an arrow. The animal was sacred to Artemis and had golden horns and bronze hooves. After Heracles chased the hind on foot for a full year through Greece, he was finally able to capture it while it slept, rendering it lame with a trap net, thus completing his third labor.

4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar


For his fourth labor, Hercules was asked to capture the Erymanthian Boar alive and return to Eurystheus. With the help of his friend Chiron the Centaur, Hercules drove the boar into thick snow where he was able to capture it with a net.

5. Clean the Stables of King Augeas


The fifth labor was to clean the stables of King Augeas. In the stables dwelled over 1000 cattle, which were immortal and had produced an enormous amount of waste. Although the assignment was intended to be impossible and humiliating at the same time, nevertheless, Hercules managed to clean the stables by rerouting the rivers Alpheus and Peneus to wash out the filth.

6. Defeat the Stymphalian Birds


For this labor, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to defeat the Stymphalian birds. These were man-eating birds with beaks made of bronze and sharp metallic feathers, sacred to Ares, the god of war. In the end, Athena visited Hercules and offered him a noise-making clapper to help him scare the birds away. He then managed to kill many birds with his arrows, while the remainder flew away from the town.

7. Capture the Cretan Bull


The seventh labor was to capture the Cretan Bull, father of the Minotaur, who was uprooting crops and leveling orchard walls in Crete. Heracles managed to sneak behind him, use his hands to wrestle it to the ground, and take him back to Eurystheus. The bull was later released and wandered into Marathon, becoming known as the Marathonian Bull.

8. Bring back the Mares of Diomedes


As the eighth of his Twelve Labor, Heracles was ordered to steal the Mares from Diomedes. These Mares terrorized Thrace due to their madness, which was attributed to their unnatural diet which consisted of the flesh of unsuspecting strangers. Hercules managed to kill Diomedes, feed his body to the horses to calm them, bind their mouths shut, and take them back to King Eurystheus.

9. Obtain the belt of Hippolyta


Hercules was then asked by Eurystheus to bring him the belt of Hippolyta as a gift for his daughter. Hippolyta was the best warrior among all the Amazons and the belt was given to her by her father Ares. After Hera disguised herself as an Amazon and sowed seeds of distrust in the tribe against Hercules, in the end, he was forced to battle with them and kill Hippolyta in order to take the belt.

10. Obtain the cattle of Geryon

Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon. 12 Labours of Hercules

For this labor, Hercules had to travel to the island of Erytheia to retrieve the cattle of Geryon. Along his way, he had to kill many beasts, among them Orthrus, a two-headed dog, and Geryon himself, using one of his poisoned arrows. Hercules then had to face many obstacles thrown in his way by Hera, before bringing the cattle to Eurystheus.

11. Bring the Golden Apples of Hesperides

 Steal the golden apples of the Hesperides. Hercules holds the sky. 12 Labours of Hercules

Hercules was then ordered to steal three of the apples from the garden of Hesperides. In order to do this, he traveled the world in search of them and, at the advice of Prometheus, was told to ask Atlas to steal the apples because he was related to the Hesperides. Hercules agreed to hold up the heavens while Atlas was away to steal the apples. When Atlas requested to take the apples to Eurystheus, Heracles tricked him, asking him to hold the heavens for a moment so that he could adjust his garments. When Atlas took the heavens back, Hercules left to deliver the apples to Eurystheus.

12. Capture Cerberus

Capture and bring back Cerberus. 12 Labours of Hercules

The twelve and final labor of Heracles was to capture Cerberus, a three-headed dog that guarded the gates of the underworld to prevent the living from entering. After facing many monsters on his way to the underworld, he was able to battle and subdue the beast with his bare hands. Back in Tyrins, Eurystheus begged Heracles to take Cerberus back to the Underworld, offering in return to release him from any further labors.

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