Most people know the story of Hercules (Heracles) and his twelve labors. These were tasks that he was charged with by King Eurystheus, which were meant to test his strength, courage, and perseverance. The labors were incredibly difficult, and many of them required Hercules to face off against some of the most fearsome creatures in Greek mythology.
In this article, we will take a closer look at each of these labors and learn what we can about strength, courage, and perseverance from this legendary hero.
Heracles was born to the mortal woman Alcmene and ZEUS, who disguised himself as her husband Amphitryon home early from the war. Heracles’ existence was proof of Zeus’ illicit affairs and HERA, his wife, enraged by this conspired against him as revenge for her husband’s infidelities.
When Heracles was eight months old, Hera sent two giant snakes to their chambers. Heracles, even at a young age, was, able to grab and strangle the snakes.
In Thebes, Heracles married King Creon’s daughter Megara.
Hera, still spiteful, induced a fit of madness in Heracles and he killed his children. After his madness had been cured by hellebore, he fled, ashamed, to the Oracle, of Delphi.
Unfortunately for Heracles, Hera guided the Oracle, and he was directed to serve his sworn enemy, King Eurystheus for ten years and perform any task asked of him in repayment for his crime of killing his children.
1. The First Labor: Killing the Nemean Lion
The first labor that Hercules was tasked with was to kill the Nemean lion. This lion was said to be impervious to mortal weapons, so Hercules had to use his own strength to choke the life out of it.
2. The Second Labor: Slay the Hydra
The second labor was to slay the hydra. This nine-headed beast could regenerate two new heads for every one that was cut off.
Hercules enlisted the help of his nephew, Iolaus, to cauterize the necks with a burning torch after he cut them off. In this way, they were finally able to defeat the hydra.
3. The Third Labor: Capturing the Golden Hind
The third labor was to capture the golden hind. This was a deer that was said to be as fast as an arrow.
The deer had shining golden horns and feet the color of bronze. It was a sacred creature to Artemis, the goddess of hunting and animals. So instead of killing it, Hercules hunted the deer every day for a year. Eventually, he got his chance to capture it.
On his way home, Hercules ran into Artemis and Apollo. He explained to them why he was taking the deer with him. Hercules told them of his servitude to Eurystheus. Artemis and Apollo agreed that as long as the deer wasn’t harmed, it was okay for him to take it with him.
Hercules was able to track it down and capture it with his bare hands, showing us that sometimes we must be willing to go the extra mile to achieve our goals.
4. The Fourth Labor: Capturing the Erymanthian Boar
The fourth labor was to capture the Erymanthian boar. This giant boar lived on Mount Erymanthos and was terrorizing the people who lived nearby.
Hercules tracked the boar down and was able to capture it with his bare hands, just as he had done with the golden hind. He then brought it back to King Eurystheus, who was so terrified of the beast that he hid inside a large storage jar.
5. The Fifth Labor: Cleaning the Augean Stables
The fifth labor was to clean the Augean stables. These stables had not been cleaned in over 30 years and were filled with the waste of 1,000 cattle.
Hercules was able to accomplish this task by diverting a nearby river so that it would flow through the stables and wash away all of the filth.
6. The Sixth Labor: Defeating the Stymphalian Birds
The sixth labor was to defeat the Stymphalian birds. These birds were said to be so vile that they would even eat human flesh.
Athena visited Hercules and gave him a noise-making clapper to help scare the birds away. As the birds flew, Hercules shot them with his bow and arrow, while the remainder flew away from town.
7. The Seventh Labor: Capturing the Cretan Bull
The seventh labor was to capture the Cretan bull. This bull was said to be so fierce that it would terrorize anyone who came near it. Hercules travelled to Crete and agreed with Minos that he would take the creature away.
Hercules was able to capture the bull by luring it into a cave with some food. Once inside, he chained the bull to a rock so it couldn’t escape.
8. The Eighth Labor: Obtaining the Mares of Diomedes
The eighth labor was to obtain the mares of Diomedes. These mares were said to be so wild that they would eat human flesh.
Hercules was able to tame the mares by feeding them a mixture of wine and human blood. After Hercules’s friend Abderus was killed by one of the mares, he buried him and established the city of Abdera in his honor.
He would later kill King Diomedes and feed his body to the horses to calm them. He then took them back to King Eurystheus.
9. The Ninth Labor: Obtaining the Belt of Hippolyta
The ninth labor was to obtain the belt of Hippolyta. This belt was said to be a gift from Ares, god of war, as she was the best warrior among all the Amazons.
Eurystheus wanted the belt as a gift for his daughter, Admete. When Hercules arrived at the land of the Amazons and met Hippolyta, he told her that he needed her belt to take back to Eurystheus.
After Hippolyta agreed to let Hercules borrow the belt, Hera–disguised as an Amazon warrior–informed the tribe of his presence. The Amazonians hesitated and donned their armor before approaching him. Once he saw them and their weaponry, Hercules believed that they meant to kill him on behalf of Hippolyta.
Hercules was able to obtain the belt by defeating the Amazon queen Hippolyta in single combat. He then took her belt and returned it to King Eurystheus.
10. The Tenth Labor: Stealing the Cattle of Geryon
The tenth labor was to steal the cattle of Geryon. These cattle were said to be guarded by a three-headed dog named Orthrus and a giant named Eurytion.
Hercules was able to kill both Orthrus and Eurytion with his club. He then drove the cattle back to King Eurystheus’s palace. The King then sacrificed the cattle to Hera.
11. The Eleventh Labor: Obtaining the Golden Apples of the Hesperides
The eleventh labor was to obtain the golden apples from the garden of Hesperides. These apples were said to be a gift from Gaia, goddess of the earth.
Hercules was able to obtain the apples by holding up the sky while Atlas went and got them. Atlas requested that he should take the apples to Eurystheus, and Hercules agreed. However, before he could leave, Hercules asked him to hold up the heavens and earth while he adjusted his garments.
When Atlas took back the responsibility of holding up the skies and earth again, Hercules had tricked the God and left. Hercules then gave the apples to King Eurystheus.
12. The Twelfth Labor: Capturing Cerberus
The twelfth and final labor was to capture Cerberus. Cerberus was the three-headed guard dog of the Underworld.
Hercules fought and defeated many beasts and monsters throughout the underworld until he reached Hades. Hercules asked Hades if he could take Cerberus to the surface. Hades agreed, only if Hercules used his bare hands to restrain the beast with no weapons. With great difficulty, Hercules was able to subdue Cerberus successfully without any weaponry.
He then took him back to King Eurystheus, who was so terrified of the beast that he immediately released it back into the Underworld.
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